Qala'id Al-Jawahir - 3

Necklaces of Gems

Part 3

It was Ibrahim ibn Sa'd ad-Dari who said: "Our Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) used to dress in the clothing of the scholars ['ulama'], wearing a hood and gown. He used to ride a mule, with the pommel of the saddle pointing up in front of him. He used to speak on a high lectern, and his speech was both rapid and highly audible. His word had only to be heard to be obeyed, and whenever he gave a command, it would meet with immediate compliance. Whenever a hard heart beheld him, it would be reduced to humility."


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's outspokenness in enjoining what is right and fair, and forbidding what is wrong and unfair [al-amr bi'l-ma'ruf wa 'n-nahy 'ani 'l-munkar].

According to al-Hafiz 'Imadu 'd-Din ibn Kathir, in his Ta'rikh [History]:

"Shaikh Muhyi 's-Sunna wa 'd-Din 'Abd al-Qadir ibn Abi Salih Abu Muhammad al-Jili entered Baghdad, where he attended lectures on the Prophetic Tradition [Hadith], and concentrated on the subject until he became extremely proficient in it."

Further along in the same work, we read:

"He occupied a commanding position in the fields of Prophetic Tradition [Hadith], Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh], and religious exhortation [wa'z], and in the sciences concerned with the facts of real experience ['ulum al-haqa'iq]. He had an excellent bearing [samt], and he normally maintained a dignified silence [samt], except when it came to enjoining what is right and fair, and forbidding what is wrong and unfair [al-amr bi'l-ma'ruf wa 'n-nahy 'ani 'l-munkar]. He never restrained his tongue from enjoining what is right and fair, and forbidding what is wrong and unfair, whether his targets were the Caliphs, the Viziers, the Sultans, the judges, the privileged few, or the people at large. He used to address them openly and frankly on such matters, in public situations, from the pulpits [of the mosques], and at special gatherings and receptions. He would rebuke anyone who made friends with tyrannical oppressors, and, since he was acting entirely for the sake of Allah, he was unaffected by the censure of any critic.

"He was noted for a considerable degree of pious abstinence [zuhd], and he was endowed with supernatural spiritual states [ahwal khariqat al-'adat] and revelatory disclosures [mukashafat]. All in all, he was one of the leaders of the great Shaikhs. May Allah sanctify his innermost being, and may He illuminate his mausoleum!" (This concludes the abridged excerpt from the work cited above.)


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's generous hospitality and his remarkable patience.

Every night, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) would order the spreading of the table mat. He would eat with guests, and sit in the company of the handicapped. He was very patient with seekers of knowledge, so that no one who sat with him could imagine himself being treated more generously by anyone else. He would miss any friends who were absent, and would make enquiries about their situation, preserving his affection for them, and pardoning their bad deeds. If someone made him a solemn assurance, on oath, he would take him at his word, while concealing what he actually knew about him.

He had a supply of wheat, cultivated as lawful food [halal] by one of his companions from the rural outskirts, who planted it for him every year. Another friend of his used to grind it and bake it for him, producing four or five flat loaves of bread, which he would bring to him at the end of each day. The Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him) would then distribute some of the bread among those present in his company, piece by piece. Then he would store the rest for his own purposes. His manservant, Muzaffar, would stand at the door of his house, holding the bread on a tray in his hand, and calling out: "Who would like some bread? Who would like to eat supper? Who would like a place to shelter for the night?" If the Shaikh received a gift, he would distribute it, or part of it, among those present in his company, and he would find some way to compensate the giver. He would also accept a votive offering, and eat some of it himself. May Allah be well pleased with him.

In his Ta'rikh [History], the highly erudite scholar Ibn Najjar informs us that it was al-Jubba'i who said:

"Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir once told me: 'I made a thorough scrutiny of all human actions, and I did not find any deed amongst them more meritorious than the providing of food, nor anything more noble than good moral character. I would love to hold this world in my hand, so that I could feed it to the hungry!' He also said to me: 'All I need is a sieve that keeps nothing from passing through. If a thousand dinars [gold coins] came my way, they would not even spend the whole night in my company.'"

It was Ahmad ibn al-Mubarak ar-Marfa'ani who said: "Among those who took tuition in Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh] from Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, there was a Persian called Ubayy. He was totally absentminded, devoid of intellectual capacity, and he could hardly understand a thing, except after wearisome trouble and toil. He was there in our class one day, reading aloud to the Shaikh, when in came Ibn as-Samhal, who had just arrived to pay the Shaikh a visit. The visitor was amazed at the Shaikh's patience with his student, and as soon as Ubayy had got up and left the room, Ibn as-Samhal turned to the Shaikh and said: 'I am truly astonished by your patience with this would-be jurist [mutafaqqih]!' To this the Shaikh replied: 'My tiresome labor with him will be soon be over. Before the week is out, he will have passed on to Allah (Exalted is He).' We were so surprised to hear him say such a thing, that we took to counting the days, one by one, until Ubayy died, on the last day of the week. Ibn as-Samhal was in attendance that day, in order to join his funeral prayer, and he expressed his amazement at the Shaikh's announcement of his death, before the arrival of his appointed term. May Allah bestow His mercy upon him, and may He be well pleased with our Shaikh!"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's paternal aunt, 'A'isha Umm Muhammad bint 'Abdi'llah is asked to pray for relief from the drought afflicting Jilan.

We owe this next report to the two Shaikhs, Abu 'l-'Abbas Ahmad and Abu Salih al-Mutbaqi, who said:

"The land of Jilan was once suffering from drought, and its inhabitants offered a prayer for rain. They received no answer to their prayer, however, and obtained no relief from the drought, so they went to call upon the maternal aunt of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him). She was a righteous woman, endowed with obvious charismatic talents [karamat]. Her personal name was 'A'isha, and her surname [kunya] was Umm Muhammad bint 'Abdi'llah (may Allah be well pleased with her). They asked her to offer a prayer for relief from drought [istisqa'] on their behalf, so she went into the courtyard of her house, swept the ground, and said: 'O my Lord, I have done the sweeping, so now it is Your turn to do the sprinkling!' They did not have long to wait, before the sky poured forth rain like the mouths of waterskins. As they made their way back to their homes, the people found themselves wading through water. May Allah be well pleased with that lady!"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir bids his mother farewell, after promising to commit himself to truthfulness [sidq].

It was Shaikh Muhammad ibn Qa'id al-Awani (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said: "I was once in the company of my master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), so I asked him a number of questions, one of them being: 'Upon what foundation have you built this business of yours?' To this he replied: 'On the basis of truthfulness [sidq].' I have never told a lie, not even when I was at the elementary school.' Then he went on to say: 'While I was still a youngster in our home country [of Jilan], I went out to the rural area on the edge of town, on the Day of 'Arafa, and I followed a cow as it was plowing the fields. Another cow turned to me, and it said: 'O 'Abd al-Qadir it is not for this that you have been created!' I promptly ran back to our house, feeling utterly terrified, and climbed up onto the roof of the house.

"'From up there on the roof, I could actually see the people performing the Pilgrim rite of standing at 'Arafat [thousands of miles away, in the neighborhood of Mecca]. So I went to find my mother, and I said to her: "Give me as a present to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and grant me your permission to make the journey to Baghdad, where I shall strive to acquire knowledge, and where I shall visit with the righteous." Needless to say, she asked me to explain the reason for this request, so I told her my story. She burst into tears, then went and fetched eighty dinars [gold coins], which my father had left her as an inheritance. She set forty dinars aside for my brother, then stitched the other forty dinars inside the lining of my coat, and gave me permission to travel abroad. She also made me promise to commit myself to truthfulness [sidq], in whatever circumstances and conditions I might find myself. When she stepped out of doors to bid me farewell, she said: "O my son, away you go, for I have detached myself from you for the sake of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), knowing that I shall not see this face of yours again, until the Day of Resurrection [Yawm al-Qiyama]."


How seasoned highway robbers were moved to repentance at the hands of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir.

"'I traveled with a small caravan, bound for Baghdad. When we had reached the vicinity of Hamadhan, and found ourselves in a stretch of rugged terrain, sixty men on horseback suddenly attacked us from an ambush, and seized the caravan. None of them took the slightest notice of me personally, until one of the brigands turned to me in passing, and said: "Hey there, poor beggar, what do you have with you?" So I told him: "Forty dinars," and he said: "Where are they?" "Stitched in the lining of my coat," I replied, "underneath my armpit." He assumed that I was testing his sense of humor, so he left me alone and moved elsewhere. Then a second brigand passed by me, and when he asked me the same question, exactly as the first had asked it, I repeated the answer I had given the first time, and so he also left me alone.

"'Then the pair of them got together in the presence of their leader, and they told him what they had heard from me. "Bring him here to me," said the leader, so they brought me to him. They were up on a hill, sharing out the goods they had robbed from the caravan. "What do you have with you?" he asked me, so I said: "Forty dinars." He then asked: "Where are they?" and I told him: "Stitched in the lining of my coat, underneath my armpit." So he commandeered my coat, ripped the stitching apart, and discovered that it did indeed have forty dinars inside the lining. "Whatever prompted you to make this confession?" he wanted to know, so I told him: "My mother made me promise to commit myself to truthfulness, and I would never betray my binding covenant with her."

"'As soon as he heard these words, the chief brigand began to weep, and he said through his tears: "You did not betray your mother's covenant, whereas I, for so many years up to this present day, have been betraying the covenant of my Lord!" He thereupon repented at my hands, and his fellow brigands said to him: "You have been our leader in highway robbery [qat' at-tariq], and now you shall be our leader in repentance [tawba]." So they all repented at my hands, and they restored to the caravan whatever items they had seized from the travelers. They were thus the very first of all those sinners who have by now repented at my hands."'


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's answer to the question: "When did you first become aware that you were the saintly friend of Allah (Exalted is He)?"

"Another question put to the Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him) was this: 'When did you first become aware that you were the saintly friend [wali] of Allah (Exalted is He)?' To this he responded by saying: 'I was just a ten-year-old boy at the time, still in our home country [of Jilan]. I used to leave our house to go to the elementary school, and I could see the angels (peace be upon them) walking along all around me. Then, when I arrived at the school, I heard the angels say: "Clear a space for the saintly friend [wali] of Allah, so that he can sit himself down!" One day, a man passed by us on the road, someone I did not recognize on that occasion, and I heard the angels saying something of that sort to him. The man asked one of them: "Who is this boy?" So one of them told him: "This is a member of the House of the Nobles," and he said: "A role of tremendous importance lies in store for this young fellow. This is someone who will give and not withhold, who will enable and not raise obstacles, who will be close [to the Truth] and not prone to being cheated or deceived." Not till forty years later did I finally recognize that man, and then I realized that he was one of the spiritual deputies [abdal] of that historical time.'

"The Shaikh also said (may Allah be well pleased with him): 'I was a youngster in my family, and whenever I went outside, intending to play with the other boys in the neighborhood, I would hear a voice telling me: "[Come] toward Me, O blessed one [ilayya ya mubarak] !" I would run away in a panic from that sound, and hurl myself into my mother's lap. How should I not hear this now, in my moments of private retreat?'"


As a young man newly arrived in Baghdad, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir faces a hard struggle for bare survival.

To quote the words of Shaikh Talha ibn Muzaffar al-'Althami: "Our Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) once said: 'I stayed in Baghdad for twenty days, but I could not find the means to sustain my survival. I could not find permissible food to eat, so I went out to the Great Porch of Chosroes [Iwan Kisra], searching for permissible subsistence. There I encountered seventy men from among the saints [awliya'], all of them searching for the same thing. I said to myself: "It is not in keeping with chivalry [muru'a], for me to compete with them." I therefore returned to Baghdad, where I met a man whom I did not recognize, though he was an inhabitant of my own hometown. He gave me some clippings and filings of precious metal, and he told me: "Your mother sent these to you, with me as the carrier." I paused long enough to take out a portion, and set it aside for myself, then I hurried off to the wasteland around the Great Porch, where I distributed the rest among those seventy. "What is this?" they asked, so I explained: "This just came to me as a present from my mother, and I did not see fit to keep it all for myself, instead of sharing it with you." Then I went back to Baghdad, and used the portion I still had with me to buy some food. I invited the poor folk to join me, and we ate together.'"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir is on the brink of death from starvation, when he meets another young man from Jilan...

It was Abu Bakr at-Taimi who said: "I once heard our master, Shaikh Muhyi 'd-Din ['Abd al-Qadir] (may Allah be well pleased with him), say:

"'I found myself in a truly critical predicament, due to the extremely high cost of living in Baghdad. I spent several days there without having any food to eat. As a matter of fact, I resorted to scavenging for bits of food that had been thrown away. On one particular day, since my hunger was terribly acute, I went out of town to the river bank, in the hope of finding some lettuce-leaves and herbs, and maybe some other footstuffs dumped out there, on which I could nourish myself. I soon arrived at a likely spot, but only to find that others had beaten me to it. If I came across something worth picking up, I immediately found myself rubbing shoulders with a bunch of paupers, and I did not feel good about competing with them for the item concerned. I therefore retreated, walking through the center of the city, but I failed to notice any site where food had been dumped, apart from the one to which other folk had beaten me.

"'By the time I arrived at a mosque [masjid] in the perfume-sellers' bazaar, my hunger had reduced me to complete exhaustion, and I was simply too weak to stay on my feet any longer, so I entered the mosque and sat down to one side of it. Just when I was at the point of shaking hands with death, in came a young fellow, clearly a non-Arab, who brought with him a stick of bread and a helping of grilled meat. He sat down and started to eat, and each time he raised a morsel with his hand, I almost opened my mouth, my hunger being so intense. I managed to check myself, however, saying: "What is this? What have we here, except Allah and whatever He has decreed in the way of death?" At that very moment, the young foreigner turned toward me, and noticed my presence. "In the Name of Allah, O my brother," he said [meaning, "Please share my meal with me!"], but I showed him no immediate reaction. He became insistent, however, so my appetite responded to his invitation, and I ate a few bites.

"'He then started asking me questions, like: "What is your occupation? Where are you from? With whom are you well acquainted?" I answered by telling him: "As for my occupation, I am an aspiring jurist [mutafaqqih]. As for where I am from, I am from Jilan." "Well I never," he exclaimed, "I am also from Jilan! Do you happen to know a young man, a fellow Jilani, by the name of 'Abd al-Qadir?" "Yes indeed," said I, "for I am he!"

"'This left him utterly dumbfounded, and his complexion became completely altered. "By Allah, O my brother!" he gasped, as he began to tell me his tale: "When I arrived here in Baghdad, I still had some funds left over from my travel expenses, so I made enquiries about you. I met no one who could direct me to your whereabouts, and I eventually ran out of funds. For three days after reaching that point, I could not find the price of my basic sustenance, apart from something belonging to you, which I still had with me. When this day came, the third of the three, I finally said: 'I will soon have spent three whole days without eating any food, and that will mean that the Lawgiver [Shari'] has given me permission to eat carrion [maita].' I then took from your deposit the price of this bread and grilled meat. So eat and enjoy, for it actually belongs to you, while I am your guest, although it would appear to be mine, and you would seem to be my guest!"

"'"What on earth are you talking about?" I asked him, so he explained: "Your mother entrusted me with eight gold dinars, for delivery to you, so I took enough out of them to pay for this meal. I am now referring to it as your own, as a way of apologizing for my having betrayed you, for I admit to feeling guilty, even if the Sacred Law [Shar'] does exonerate me, at least to a certain extent!"

"'I made him feel comfortable, and set his mind at rest. He really enjoyed the rest of our meal, which I gave him to him as a present. I also offered him part of the gold, so he accepted it and then went on his way.'"


A hungry Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir finds himself on a strange paper trail.

As we are told by Shaikh 'Abdu'llah as-Silmi: "I once heard our master Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir say: 'I had spent several days there [in Baghdad] without finding any food to eat. Then, while I was in the quarter known as the Aristocratic Fiefdom [al-Qati'at ash-Sharifa], I was suddenly approached by a man who thrust a bound sheaf of paper into my hand, before making an equally sudden departure. I kept the paper with me for awhile, as I strolled on through the streets, then I handed it over to one of the local grocers, in exchange for a cake of semolina, or maybe a mixture of dates and clarified butter. Then I went to an out-of-the-way mosque, in which I used to seek seclusion, in order to go over my lessons. I set the cake down in front of me, in the niche marking the Qibla [direction of the Ka'ba in Mecca], while I pondered the question: "Shall I eat it, or not?"

"'It was then that I noticed a rolled-up sheet of paper, in the shadow of the wall, so I picked it up and examined it. Lo and behold, it had these words written upon it: "In one of His earlier Books of Scripture, Allah said:

What have the strong to do with passionate appetites? I have only assigned passionate appetites to the weak among the believers, so that they may use the energy they provide for acts of worshipful obedience."

"'I promptly picked up the handkerchief [in which the cake was wrapped], and left its contents in the niche marking the Qibla. I performed two cycles of ritual prayer [rak'atain], and then off I went.'

"May Allah be well pleased with him!"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir finds relief from almost unbearable pressures, by repeating two verses from the Qur'an.

It was Shaikh Abu 'Abd'illah an-Najjar who said: "Our master Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir once told me: 'I would sometimes feel the weight of many burdens, heavy enough to make the mountains disintegrate, if they had been laid upon them. So, when those pressures multiplied upon me, I would set my forehead on the ground, and say [in the words of the Qur'an]:

So truly with hardship comes ease: Truly with hardship comes ease.  (94:5,6)
[fa-inna ma'a 'l-'usri yusra, inna ma'a 'l-'usri yusra.]

"'Then I would raise my head, and to my great relief, I would always find that those heavy pressures had been chased away from me.'"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir experiences a spiritual crisis.

Shaikh Abu 'Abd'illah an-Najjar went on to say: "He once told me: 'During the time when I was engaged in the study of Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh], attending the classes held by the Shaikhs, I would go out into the desert, instead of lodging in Baghdad. I would sit in the wasteland by night and by day. I used to wear a jubba made of wool [suf], to cover my body, and on my head I wore a cap like a miniature patched cloak [khuraiqa]. I used to stroll barefoot among the thorns and other hazards. For nourishment, I used to eat carob beans, plucked from the thornbushes, as well as vegetable waste and lettuce leaves, collected from the side of the stream and the bank of the river. If anything scared me at all, I would venture into it. I would subject my lower self [nafs] to strict discipline, until an unseen visitor [tariq] came from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) to visit me, and I would experience such visitations by night and by day. I would go into the desert, utter loud screams, and feel a glowing sensation on my face. My condition could only be diagnosed as a form of dumbness [takharus] and insanity [junun]. I was carried off to the hospital [bimaristan], where I experienced strange states of being, until I died. Then they came to me with the shroud and the ritual washer of corpses, and set me on the washing bench to give me my final ablution. Then the visitation went away and left me.'"


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