Qala'id Al-Jawahir - 4

Necklaces of Gems

Part 4

Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir meets al-Khidr, though without knowing who he is, and then spends several years amid the ancient ruins of 'Iraq, intensely engaged in the struggle with his lower self [nafs].

It was Abu 's-Sa'ud al-Huraimi who said: "I once heard our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), say:

"'I stayed in the deserts and ruined areas of 'Iraq for twenty-five years, as a solitary wanderer. I did not get to know my fellow creatures, and they did not get to know me. My only visitors were groups of the men belonging to invisible realm [ghaib], as well as some of the jinn. I used to show them the way to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).

"'I was also escorted by al-Khidr (peace be upon him), when I entered 'Iraq for the very first time, though I did not then know who he was, and he stipulated that I must never contradict him. When we reached a certain spot, he said to me: "Sit down and stay here," so I sat down and stayed where he told me to stay, for three whole years. He would come to see me once each year, and he would tell me: "Stay here in your place, until I come to you again! " "'The charms of this world, its ornaments, and its desires kept coming to me, in all their shapes and forms, but Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) would always shield me from being influenced by their attraction. The devils [shayatin] would also come to me in various disturbing guises, and they would engage me in combat, but Allah would always strengthen me against them. My own lower self [nafs] would adopt a certain attitude toward me: at one time it would humbly beseech me to let it have what it wanted, then at another time it would engage in a fight with me, but Allah would always help me to keep it under control. I took my lower self sternly to task, and whenever a particular method [tariq] of spiritual discipline proved effective for this purpose, at an early stage, I would embrace it, grasp it firmly with both my hands, and continue to apply it on a regular basis.

"'I stayed for a long period of time in the ruined areas of the big cities, taking my lower self sternly to task by applying the method [tariq] of spiritual discipline. Thus I spent one year eating food from the dumps, without drinking any water, and one year drinking water. Then I spent a whole year drinking water, but without eating food from the dumps, and another year without eating, drinking, or sleeping. I did fall asleep once, in the Great Porch of Chosroes [Iwan Kisra], on a bitterly cold night. I experienced a seminal emission in my sleep, so I got up and went to the bank of the river, where I performed a major ritual ablution. In the course of that night, I experienced forty seminal emissions, and I performed the major ritual ablution forty times on the bank of the river. Then I climbed back up to the Porch, afraid of falling asleep yet again. I also stayed for two years in the ruins of al-Karkh [an ancient suburb of Baghdad], where my only source of nourishment was the papyrus plant [bardi]. At the beginning of each year, a man would come to me with a jubba made of wool.

"'I entered into a thousand different states of being [alf fann], in order to obtain relief from this world of yours, and my condition could only be diagnosed as dumbness [takharus], craziness [balam] and insanity [junun]. I used to walk barefoot amid the thorns and other hazards. If anything scared me, I would venture straight into it. Never did my lower [nafs] prevail upon me, in the effort to get what it wanted, nor did anything ever seduce me with its worldly charm.'

"May Allah be well pleased with him!"

Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir covers an enormous distance, quite unaware that he is running at high speed.

Shaikh 'Umar said: "I once heard our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), say: 'Spiritual states [ahwal] used to come upon me unexpectedly, in the early stage of my wandering, so I would adapt to them, take possession of them, and disappear into them, away from my ordinary existence. I would run at high speed, though quite unaware that I was doing so, and then, when the unusual condition left me, I would find myself in a place far removed from the place where I had been at the outset.

"'On one such occasion, the spiritual state [hal] came upon me while I was in the ruined area of Baghdad. I ran for the space of an hour, quite unaware that I was running. When I recovered my normal consciousness, I found myself in the region of Shashtar, where the distance between me and Baghdad was that of a twelve-day journey. As I stood there, reflecting on my situation, a woman came up to me and said: "Does this really strike you as something surprising, when you are none other than Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir?"' "May Allah be well pleased with him!"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir struggles with devil armies, with Iblis himself, and with his own lower self [nafs].

It was Shaikh 'Uthman as-Sirafini who said: "I once heard our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), say:

"'I used to sit in the ruined areas by night and by day, and I did not take a lodging in Baghdad. The devils used to come to me in ranks, in the guise of men bearing weapons of various kinds, and assuming the most alarming shapes and forms. They would engage me in combat, pelting me with fire. Yet even in the face of these terrifying assaults, I would find within my heart an inexpressible sense of reassurance. I would hear a voice saying, from somewhere deep inside: "Stand up and attack them, O 'Abd al-Qadir, for We have already reinforced your strength, and We have come to your support with Our invincible assistance!" Sure enough, as soon as I launched a resolute attack against them, they would flee away to right and left, returning to wherever they had come from.

"'Then a single devil [shaitan] would come to me from amongst them, all by himself, and he would say to me: "Go away from here, or else I shall do this, and I shall do that." He would warn me of many dreadful consequences, so I would slap him with my hand, and he would flee away from me. I would then say: "There is no might and no strength, except with Allah, the All-High, the All-Glorious [la hawla wa la quwwata illa bi'llahi 'l-'Alyyi 'l-'Azim]," and he would be consumed by fire, as I watched him burn.

"'On one occasion, I was approached by figure whose appearance was utterly repugnant, and who had a disgusting stench about him. "I am Iblis," said he, "and I have come to you in order to act as your servant, for you have thwarted all my efforts, and you have thwarted all the efforts of my followers." I said to him: "Go away, for I do not trust you." At that very moment, a hand came down from above him and struck him on the skull, with such force that he plunged right into the ground.

"'Then he came to me a second time, holding in his hand a dart of fire, with which he attacked me. Just in the nick of time, a man wearing a veil rode up to me on a gray mare, and handed me a sword. Iblis immediately beat a quick retreat.

"'When I saw him a third time, he was sitting at some distance from me, shedding tears and heaping dust on his head, as he said: "I have totally despaired of you, O 'Abd al-Qadir!" I responded to this by telling him: "Be off with you, O accursed one, for I shall never cease to be on my guard against you!" He said: "This is far more agonizing than the grappling irons [maqami'] of the torment of Hell!"

"'I was then made witness to the disclosure of many snares, traps and illusions, so I said: "What are these?" and I was told: "These are the snares of this world, which Iblis sets to catch the likes of you." So I chased him off with angry words, and he turned away in flight.

"'I devoted one whole year to addressing the problems posed by those snares and traps, until I had found solutions to them all. Then I was then made witness to the disclosure of many influences, affecting me from every direction, so I said: "What are these?" and I was told: "These are the influences exerted on you by your fellow creatures, and you are affected by them." I therefore devoted another year to tackling the problems posed by those influences, until I had found solutions to them all, and achieved detachment from them.

"'Next, I was made witness to the disclosure of my own inner content [batin], and I saw that my heart was dependent on many attachments. "What are these?" I enquired, and I was told: "These are your self-will [irada] and your personal preferences [ikhtiyarat]." I therefore devoted another year to tackling the problems posed by those factors, until I had found solutions to them all, and my heart was safely delivered from them.

"'Then I was made witness to yet another disclosure, this one concerning my lower self [nafs]. I could see that its sicknesses were still thriving, its passionate desire was still alive, and its devil was still rebellious, so I devoted another year to tackling that state of affairs. The sicknesses of my lower self were thereby cured, the passion died, the devil surrendered, and the whole affair became the business of Allah (Exalted is He). I was left in a state of isolation, with all existence [wujud] behind me, and I had not yet arrived at my goal.


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir passes by many attractive but overcrowded gates, until he finally enters the gate of poverty [faqr].

"'I was therefore attracted to the gate of absolute trust in the Lord [tawakkul], through which I might enter to reach my goal. As soon as I came to that gate, I found a huge crowd milling around it, so I moved on past it. Then I was attracted to the gate of thankfulness [shukr], through which I might enter to reach my goal. At this gate too, I encountered a huge crowd, so I moved on past it. I was then attracted to the gate of affluence [ghina], through which I might enter to reach my goal. Here again, I encountered a huge crowd, so I moved on past it. I was then attracted to the gate of nearness [qurb], through which I might enter to reach my goal. As before, I encountered a huge crowd, so I moved on past it. Then I was attracted to the gate of direct vision [mushahada], through which I might enter to reach my goal. That gate was likewise surrounded by a huge crowd, so I moved on past it.

"'I was next attracted to the gate of poverty [faqr], and lo and behold, it was quite empty! When I entered inside it, I rediscovered everything that I had left behind. The greatest treasure was laid open to me there, and I came upon the mightiest splendor, wealth everlasting, and pure freedom. All relics of the past were obliterated, all previous attributes were annulled, and the second ecstasy [wajd] arrived.'"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir hears unseen speaker urging him to apply for a loan.

It was Shaikh Abu Muhammad al-Jubba'i who said: "Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir once told me: 'I was sitting one day on a spot in the desert, going over my lessons in Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh]. I found it difficult to concentrate on my studies at that time, since I was suffering great hardship due to poverty. Suddenly, I heard someone speaking to me, though I could not see his physical form. He said: "You should borrow enough to help you in the study of jurisprudence," or maybe he used the expression, "the pursuit of knowledge." To this I responded by saying: "How can I expect to get a loan, when I am a pauper, and have no means of paying it back?" He then said: "You just do the borrowing, and we shall accept responsibility for settling the debt incurred." I thereupon went to a man who sold groceries, and I said to him: "I must ask you to do business with me on the following terms: Whenever Allah makes things easy for me, I shall give you [what I owe you], and if I die, you will consider me clear of any obligation. Each day, you will give me one whole loaf of bread, as well as some garden cress [rashad] in another half-loaf."

"'As soon as he heard my proposal, the grocer burst into tears, and he said: "O my master, I am entirely at your disposal, whatever you may wish!" He insisted on treating me as if he was my servant, so I used to receive from him, each and every day, one whole loaf of bread and some garden cress in another half-loaf. I kept this up for a certain period of time, but a day came when I felt a pain in my breast, because of my inability to give him anything. At that point I heard myself told: "Go to such-and-such place, and whatever you happen to see there, lying on the pile of rubble, take it and hand it over to the grocer," or the invisible speaker may have used the expression, "settle your debt with it." When I went to that place as instructed, I noticed a big chunk of gold on the pile of rubble, so I picked it up and gave it to the grocer.'"


At harvest time in a rural area on the outskirts of Baghdad, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir meets a righteous man called ash-Sharif al-Ba'qubi.

"Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir also told me: 'A group from the people of Baghdad were among those engaged in the study of Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh]. When the days of crop-harvesting came around, they used to go out into the rural area near the city, with a view to gathering some part of the harvest. They said to me one day: "Come out with us to Ba'quba, so that we can collect something from there." I was still a young man, so I went out with them.

"'In Ba'quba there was a righteous man, called ash-Sharif al-Ba'qubi, so I went to pay him a visit. He said to me: "Those who are seekers of the Truth, and the righteous, do not beg for anything from the people," and he forbade me to beg from the people. After that, I never went out to any such place again.'


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir experiences a spiritual state, and scares the local vagabonds out of their wits.

"Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir also said: 'A spiritual state [hal] came upon me one night, quite unexpectedly, so I uttered a really loud scream. The local vagabonds ['ayyarun] heard me, and they were scared out of their wits, fearing the presence of armed guards [masaliha], so they came and stood over me, as I lay sprawled out on the ground. They recognized me, and said: "This is 'Abd al-Qadir, the lunatic [majnun]. Hey there, you gave us a terrible fright. May Allah not remember you kindly!"'"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir decides to leave Baghdad, but an unseen speaker stops him at the Racetrack Gate, and orders him to return.

Shaikh Abu Muhammad al-Jubba'i also said: "Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) once told me: 'It occurred to me that I should leave the city of Baghdad, because it contained so many trials and temptations, so I took my copy of the Qur'an [mashaf] and hung it over my shoulder. Then I walked to the Racetrack Gate [Bab al-Halba], intending to go out through it into the desert. Just as I was about to do so, however, I heard someone saying to me: "Where are you strolling off to?" The speaker gave me a shove, so hard that I toppled to the ground. I suppose he was standing there over my back, as I heard him say: "You must return at once, for the people derive benefit from your presence in their city." To this I responded by saying: "What obligation do I bear toward my fellow creatures? I am only seeking to ensure the integrity of my religion [salama dini]." He said: "Go back, and the integrity of your religion will be ensured for you." I never saw the physical form of the speaker.


As if in answer to a prayer, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir is greeted by a stranger, who turns out to be none other than Shaikh Hammad ad-Dabbas.

"'Then, not long after that, I experienced the visitation by night of spiritual states [ahwal], which I found difficult to understand, so I wished that Allah would provide me with someone who could disclose their meaning to me. When the next day came, I passed through the quarter known as al-Muzaffariyya, where a man opened the door of his house, and said to me: "O 'Abd al-Qadir, come over here!" So I went and stood in front of him, and he said: "What were you looking for yesterday?" Or maybe the words he used were: "What did you ask of Allah during the night?" I kept silent, not knowing what I should say, so he became exasperated with me. He slammed the door in my face, with a truly mighty slam, so that the dust from the edges of the door flew straight into my face.

"'Then, when I had walked on a little way, I remembered what I had asked of Allah, and it occurred to me that he might well be one of the righteous [salihin] (or the Shaikh may have said: 'one of the saints [awliya']'), so I went back and tried to find the door. I could not identify it anywhere, so I felt a painful tightness in my breast. I did eventually recognize the door, and that man turned out to be none other than Shaikh Hammad ad-Dabbas. I became his pupil, and he unveiled for me the significance of what I had found so hard to understand.

"'When I was absent from him for some time, in the pursuit of knowledge, and then returned to him, he would say to me: "What has you brought back here to us? You are an expert jurist [faqih], so go off and join your fellow jurists [fuqaha'] !" I would keep silent, while he spoke to me in a seriously hurtful and offensive manner, and lashed me with his tongue. On another occasion, when I was absent from him in the pursuit of knowledge, and then came to see him again, he might say: "Today we received a large delivery of bread and honey-cake [faludhaj], and we ate our fill, but we did not keep anything at all for you."

"'His companions were keen to see me arrive, because they noticed how often he offended me, and they would get a thrill out of saying things like: "You are supposed to be a jurist [faqih], so what are you doing here?" or, "Whatever brings you here to us?" But then, as soon as he saw them trying to hurt me, Shaikh Hammad would spring zealously to my defense, and he would say to them: "O you dogs, you must not hurt his feelings! By Allah, there is not a single one like him amongst you. When I try to offend him, I only do so in order to test his mettle, for I see him as a mountain that cannot be shaken. May Allah be well pleased with him!"


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