Qala'id Al-Jawahir - 7

Necklaces of Gems

Part 7


It was Shaikh 'Ali ibn Idris al-Ya'qubi who said: "Shaikh 'Ali ibn al-Haiti took me by the hand and brought me to our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him). This was in the year [A.H.] 550. He said to him: 'This is my loyal servant, 'Ali.' So he took off a garment he had on him, and gave it to me to wear. 'O 'Ali,' he told me, 'you have now clothed yourself with the shirt of well-being!' In all the sixty-five years that have elapsed since I first wore it, no painful suffering has ever befallen me.

"Shaikh 'Ali ibn al-Haiti also brought me to him in the year [A.H.] 560. On that occasion, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir bowed his head in silence for quite a long while, then I noticed that a gleam of light had begun to emanate from him, and that it became connected with me. At the moment when this happened, I saw the occupants of the graves and tombs, and I witnessed their states and conditions. I saw the angels and their stations, and I heard their glorification of the Lord [tasbih] in a variety of languages. I read what was inscribed on the forehead of every human being, and matters of great importance were clearly disclosed to me. Then Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) told me: 'Just take it all in, and do not be afraid!'

"It was then that Shaikh 'Ali ibn al-Haiti said to him: 'O my master, I am truly afraid that he may lose his mind!' So he thumped on my chest with his hand, and I felt something inside my inner being [batin], in the shape of an anvil, and I was not at all alarmed by anything I saw. I heard the glorification uttered by the angels (peace be upon them), and even now, I am still illumined in the paths of the Heavenly Kingdom [Malakut] by the radiance of that gleam of light."

Shaikh 'Ali ibn Idris al-Ya'qubi also said: "When I first arrived in Baghdad, I was not yet acquainted with anyone in the city, nor did I know of any place to stay. I therefore sought shelter in the schoolhouse of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him). At that particular moment, there was nobody there but I. Nevertheless, I heard a voice saying, from inside his private apartment: 'O 'Abd ar-Razzaq, go and see who it is out there, who has come to visit us.' So 'Abd ar-Razzaq came out, and then went back inside, saying: 'There is no one out there who has come to visit us, apart from a young country bumpkin [sabi sawadi], but there is something very special about this young fellow.' Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) thereupon emerged to greet me, bringing with him some bread and a dish of food. I had never seen him before, so I stood up to pay him my respect. 'Here you are, 'Ali,' said he, as he set that meal down in front of me. Then, after saying three times: 'May it do you good!' he added: 'There will come a time when you are needed, and you will really become an exalted one ['ali].' I am therefore always at the beck and call of my master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him)."


Shaikh 'Abd al-Wahhab describes how his father, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, conducted his public speaking.

It was our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Wahhab (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), who said: "My father [Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir] used to give lectures three times a week: twice at the schoolhouse [madrasa]-early in the morning on Friday, and in the evening on Tuesday-and once in the guesthouse [rabita], early in the morning on Sunday. His lectures were regularly attended by the religious scholars ['ulama'], the jurists [fuqaha'] and the Shaikhs, as well as many others. His public speaking was maintained for a period of forty years, starting in the year [A.H.] 521, and ending in the year [A.H.] 561. As for the period during which he also engaged in academic teaching [tadris] and the issuing of legal opinions [fatwa], that lasted for thirty-three years, starting in the year [A.H.] 528, and ending in the year [A.H.] 561. "In the course of his regular public session [majlis], some of the brethren used to perform Qur'anic recitation [qira'a], in a plain and simple style, without the modulations of chanting [alhan]. Qur'anic recitation was also performed at his session by ash-Sharif Mas'ud al-Hashimi.

"It was often the case that two or three men would die during his session.

"Four hundred inkwells were used, by learned men and others, to write down what he was saying in his discourse.

"He would often walk through the air, at some point during his session, taking several steps over the heads of his audience, then returning to the lectern. May Allah be well pleased with him!"

Jews and Christians embrace Islam at the hand of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, in the course of his public sessions.

It was Shaikh 'Umar al-Kimani who said: "The public sessions [majalis] of our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), were not devoid of Jews and Christians who came to embrace Islam; nor of repentant criminals, such as former highway robbers, murderers, and perpetrators of other forms of wickedness; nor of converts from some heretical doctrine. A Christian monk [rahib] once came to him and accepted Islam at his hands, in the course of his public session. He then turned to the people in the audience, and said: 'I am a man from the people of Yemen. The seed of Islam became planted in my soul, and I developed a strong determination to declare myself a Muslim, but only at the hands of the person I considered the best of the people of Yemen. I sat on the ground, thinking this over. Then sleep overwhelmed me, and I saw a vision of Jesus, the son of Mary, saying to me: 'O Sinan, you must go to Baghdad, and embrace Islam at the hand of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, for he is the best of all the people on earth at this time!'

"On another occasion, thirteen men from the Christian community came to him and embraced Islam at his hands, in the course of his discourse of exhortation. They said: 'We are from the community of Arab Christians [Nasara 'l-'Arab]. We wished to embrace Islam, but we hesitated for some time, wondering whom we should approach in order to declare ourselves Muslims at his hands. Then a mysterious voice [hatif] called out to us. We could hear the speaker's words, but we could not see his physical form. He was telling us: "O riders in the caravan bound for salvation! You must go to Baghdad, and embrace Islam at the hand of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, for the faith [iman] that will be lodged in your hearts, in his presence and through his blessed grace, will be unlike any that could be lodged in them, in the presence of any other person, at this historical time. May Allah be well pleased with him!"'


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir tells how he came to spend his nights reciting the Qur'an, while standing perched on one leg.

"While speaking from the lectern in Baghdad, in the year [A.H.] 558, our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), told us: 'I spent fifteen long years in complete isolation, wandering about in the deserts and wastelands of 'Iraq. Throughout all of forty years, I would perform the dawn prayer [subh] with the ritual ablution [wudu'] of the late evening prayer ['isha']. Then [after the late evening prayer], I would recite the Qur'an from the opening Sura-standing perched on one leg, and with my hand in a socket knocked into the wall, for fear of falling asleep-until I came to the end of the Qur'an, around the approach of daybreak [sahar].

"'One night, as I was climbing a steep flight of stairs, my lower self [nafs] said to me: "Why not catch an hour's sleep?" So I held myself erect, and came to a halt at the very spot where this had occurred to me. Then I balanced myself on one foot, and recited the entire Qur'an from start to finish, while still in this rather awkward situation.'"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir accepts an invitation from Abu Sa'id al-Mukharrimi, at the urging of al-Khidr (peace be upon him).

"He also said (may Allah be well pleased with him): 'For eleven years, I made myself at home in the [ruined] fortress that is now called the Persian Tower [al-Burj al-'Ajami]. As a matter of fact, it was precisely because of my prolonged stay within its walls, [I being a native of the Persian province of Jilan], that it came to be called the "Persian" Tower. While I was a lodger in it, I made a solemn compact with Allah (Exalted is He) to the effect that I would not eat until I was provided with food, and that I would not drink until I was given the means to quench my thirst. I then stayed there for a period of forty days, without eating anything at all. At the end of the forty days, along came a man with a loaf of bread and a dish of food. He set this meal down in front of me, then promptly departed and left me all alone.

"'My lower self [nafs] immediately reasserted its instinctive urge to pounce upon the food, so I exclaimed: "By Allah, it is not absolved of the pledge I gave to Allah!" Then, from my inner being [batin], I heard a loud voice yelling: "Hunger!" But I refused to indulge it.'

"He went on to say (may Allah be well pleased with him): 'It so happened that Abu Sa'id al-Mukharrimi was passing by at that moment, and he heard the sound, so he entered into me presence. When he asked me: "What is this all about, O 'Abd al-Qadir?" I told him: "This is nothing but the antics of the lower self [nafs]. As far as the spirit [ruh] is concerned, it is perfectly calm and quiet, reposing undisturbed in the presence of its Master [Mawla] (Almighty and Glorious is He)." "Come to the Portico Gate [Bab al-Azaj]," he said to me, then he went off and left me there in my peculiar state. I said to myself: "I shall not leave this situation without a command [from the Lord]."

"He continued (may Allah be well pleased with him): 'It was then that al-Khidr (peace be upon him) came up to me and told me: 'Get up at once, and go to Abu Sa'id [al-Mukharrimi]!" So off I went, and there I found him, standing by the door of his house, expecting my arrival. "O 'Abd al-Qadir," he said to me, "was it not enough for you, to have me say: 'Come visit me!'?" It was then that he conferred upon me the tattered robe [khirqa], with his own hand. From that time on, I remained constant in my dedication to him, as his diligent student.' May Allah be well pleased with him!"


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir misses the loneliness of the desert, but he admits that Allah (Exalted is He) has put him to good use.

It was [Shaikh Abu Muhammad] al-Jubba'i who said: "Our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, once said to me: 'I dearly wish that I could be in the deserts and wastelands again, as I was in those early days, so that I would not see my fellow creatures, and they would not see me!'

"Then he went on to say: 'Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) must have intended to use me as a source of benefit for His creatures, since more than five thousand Jews and Christians have embraced Islam at my hand, and more than one hundred thousand vagabonds ['ayyarun] and armed gangsters [masaliha] have repented at my hand, and this adds up to a great deal of good.' May Allah be well pleased with him!"


When Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir sneezes, one Friday, the reigning Caliph is terror-stricken by the popular response.

Ibrahim ad-Dari once said: "Every Friday, when our own Shaikh, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), was passing by on his way to the congregational mosque [jami'], the people in the markets used to pause from doing business, in order to beg Allah to satisfy their needs for his sake. He possessed a great prestige [sit] and a great voice [sawt], a dignified bearing [samt] and an impressive silence [samt]. When he happened to sneeze, one Friday, the people commiserated with him so loudly that a tumultuous clamor was heard, as those in the congregational mosque joined the chorus of voices crying: 'May Allah bestow His mercy upon you, and may He make you the instrument of His mercy! The reigning Caliph, al-Mustanjid-bi'llah, was in a special compartment [maqsura] in the mosque, and when he asked: 'What is all this din and clamor?' he was told: 'Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir happened to sneeze.' This had a terrifying impact on the Caliph!"

Some examples of the extraordinary deference accorded to Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir.

It was Ibn Nuqta as-Sirafini who said: "Shaikh Baqa, Shaikh 'Ali ibn al-Haiti and Shaikh al-Qailawi used to come together to the schoolhouse of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir. Once they had arrived there, they would sweep the doorway and sprinkle water to dampen the dust. They would not enter the Shaikh's presence without first receiving permission. When they did enter his presence, he would say to them: 'Sit down!' and they would say: 'And are we granted safekeeping?' So he would say: 'You are granted safekeeping!' Then they would sit down, feeling satisfied that they had behaved correctly.

"Among those present when the Shaikh went out to mount his riding beast, there were some who would pick up the saddle-cover, hold it in front of him, and walk a few steps with it. He used to forbid them to do that, however, so they would say: 'With the like of this [royal treatment] he will draw near to Allah (Exalted is He)!'" He also said: "In observing the elders of 'Iraq, contemporaries of the Shaikh, as they enter his schoolhouse [madrasa] or his guesthouse [ribat], I have noticed that many of them are in the habit of kissing the threshold."

Expressing himself in poetry, the same reporter said:

Around his doorway throng the crowns of kings, and then, at greeting-time, they jostle all the more. When they spy him from afar, their crowns come off, or else, if they do not, their heads roll on the floor!

It was Shaikh Baqiyyat as-Salaf Abu 'l-Ghana'im Miqdam al-Bata'ihi who said: "A man from among the companions of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir once came to visit Shaikh 'Uthman ibn Marwaza al-Bata"ihi, who said to him: 'O my son, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir is the best of all the inhabitants of the earth at this time. May Allah be well pleased with him!'"

Shaikh al-Mu'ammar al-Jarrad once said: "These two eyes of mine have never set sight on anyone of better moral character, nor of broader inner feeling, nor of nobler personality, nor of kinder heart, nor of greater loyalty and affection, than Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir. Without regard for the majesty of his stature, the exalted nature of his rank, and the vast extent of his knowledge, he would support the lowly and challenge the great. He would always be the first to offer the greeting of peace [salam]. He would entertain the weak, and treat the poor with humble respect, though he would not stand up for any of the high-and-mighty and the notables, nor would he go knocking at the door of any minister [wazir] or ruler [sultan]."


Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir entertains the chieftains of Mount Qaf.

Shaikh al-Bata'ihi also said: "When I entered the presence of our master and our very own Shaikh, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), one day in his private apartment, I discovered in his company four individuals whom I had never seen before that moment. I therefore stood in my place, until they got up and took their leave of him, at which point the Shaikh said: 'Go and catch up with them, and ask them to offer a prayer of supplication [du'a'] on your behalf!' So I caught up with them in the courtyard of the schoolhouse, and asked them to offer a prayer of supplication on my behalf. One of them said to me: 'You deserve our most hearty congratulations! You are the loyal servant of a man by whose blessed grace Allah preserves the earth intact, with its level fields and its rugged terrain, its continents and its oceans. In response to his prayer, Allah bestows His mercy on all creatures, be they pious or dissolute. We, and all the other saints [awliya'], are within the safekeeping of the breaths he breathes, under the protection of his foot, and within the orbit of his command.' Then they departed, though I did not see where they went, so I returned to the Shaikh in a state of bewilderment. Before I had told him anything, he said to me: 'O 'Abdu'llah [Servant of Allah], you must not let anyone know what they said to you, so long as I am still alive.' 'O my master,' said I, 'who are those men?' and he replied: 'They are the chieftains of Mount Qaf, and they must be back in their own places by now. May Allah be well pleased with them!'"


The Caliph voices a complaint about Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir

As related by Muhammad ibn al-Khadir, his father once said: "I served my master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, for thirteen years, and in all of that time I never saw him blow his nose, nor did I ever see him hawk and spit. Not a single fly ever settled upon him. He did not stand up for any of the high-and-mighty. He did not go knocking at the door of the holder of worldly power [dhi 's-sultan], and he neither sat on his carpet, nor ate any of his food, except on one occasion. He used to regard sitting on the mats of kings, and of their followers, as one of the punishments inflicted in advance [here in this world, before the Resurrection].

"When he heard that the king and the vizier and other dignitaries were coming to visit him, while he was holding a session, he would get up and slip into his private apartment. Then, when they had already taken their seats, the Shaikh would come back out from his private apartment. He thereby avoided having to stand up in their honor. He would use coarse language when speaking to them, and deliver his admonition to them in exaggerated terms, while they would kiss his hand, and sit in his presence with an affected air of modest humility and self-belittlement.

"When he engaged in correspondence with the Caliph, he would write to him: ''Abd al-Qadir commands you to do such-and-such. As you must surely know, his command is imperative upon you, and obedience to him is obligatory for you, since he is your exemplary guide, and a competent authority over you.' Then, having read his sheet of paper, the Caliph would kiss it, saying: 'The Shaikh has told the truth!'"

Shaikh Abu 'l-Hasan the Jurist [al-Faqih] once said that the Chief Minister [Wazir], Ibn Hubaira, had told him: "The Caliph, al-Muqtafi-li-Amri'llah Muhammad, voiced a complaint about Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, saying: 'He treats me with scornful disdain. Having mentioned me by name, he says to the palm tree at his guesthouse: "O palm tree, do not act unjustly, or I shall cut off your head!" He is definitely aiming this remark at me. You must go to him at once, and tell him, in a private situation: "It is absolutely improper for you to set yourself in opposition to the Leader [Imam], when you acknowledge the duty of service to the Caliphate!"'"

"The Chief Minister continued: 'I therefore went to see the Shaikh, and found a group of people congregated in his presence, so I sat and waited for an opportunity to speak with him in private. In the meantime, I listened to him talking, and I heard him say, in the course of his speech: "Yes, I shall cut off its head." I realized that this remark was intended for me, so I got up and left.'

"The Chief Minister went on to tell me: 'I presented myself [to the Caliph] and related to him what had transpired.' The Chief Minister burst into tears, as he said: 'There is no doubt about the righteousness of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir!' Then he had himself transported to join his company, and he sat there in front of him, observing the best of good manners. The Shaikh admonished him, and kept on admonishing him, until he reduced him to tears, then he changed his tone and treated him with gentle kindness. May Allah be well pleased with him!"


The Grand Mufti of 'Iraq provides a vivid description of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's character.

We owe this next report to the Grand Mufti of 'Iraq, Muhyi 'd-Din Abu 'Abdi'llah Muhammad ibn Hamid al-Baghdadi (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), who said:

"Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him) was quick to shed tears, intensely affected by fear [of the Lord], and imbued with a great sense of awe. He was someone whose prayer was sure to be answered. His entire bearing was aglow with reverence. He was honorable in his traits of character, and noble in his lines of descent. He was the furthest of all people from immoral behavior, and the nearest of all people to the Truth. He was extremely stern in his response, whenever the sanctuaries of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) are violated. He was never angry on his own account, and he never supported the cause of anyone other than his Lord. He never turned the beggar away emptyhanded, even if all he had to give him was one of his only pair of shirts.

"Enabling grace [tawfiq] was his guiding principle, and readiness to help was his mainstay. Knowledge ['ilm] was his instructor, and nearness [to the Lord] was his educator. Mutual conversation [muhadara] was his treasure, and direct experience [ma'rifa] was his stronghold. Preaching was his counselor, and observation was his ambassador. Intimate friendship [uns] was his confidant, and entertainment was his breath of fresh air. Truthfulness was his banner, openness was his stock-in-trade, and tolerance was his professional occupation. Remembrance [dhikr] was his chief minister, and reflection [fikr] was his entertaining companion. Spiritual disclosure [mukashafa] was his nourishment, and direct witnessing [mushahada] was his medicine. The good manners of the Sacred Law [adab ash-Shari'a] were his outward form [zahir], and the attributes of Reality [awsaf al-Haqiqa] were his innermost contents [sara'ir]."

Expressing himself in poetry, he also had this to say about the Shaikh:

For Allah's sake you have earned a rank of dignity, and you are noble by pure ancestry and origin. Your splendid stature towers so high, that the rainbow forms a stirrup for the soles of your feet. You have built a house in the heights above, and the planets are like flowers on the trellis around it. O robe of this world, by the splendor of whose glory old age has turned into the freshness of youth! The virgins on high sought after you, the star of guidance, and they are ones who baffle the seeker! When they saw you at last, those beauties proposed to you but only to have their proposal rejected. Then there came to you, as the mark of leadership, exploits that even a master could hardly perform.


Shaikh Musa tells how his father, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir, outwitted a cunning devil.

It was my master Shaikh Musa, the son of our master Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with them both), who said:

"I once heard my father say: 'I went out into the desert, in the course of my wandering, and spent several days there without finding any water. My thirst grew very intense, but then a cloud cast its cooling shadow upon me, and from it there descended upon me something resembling moisture. With this I was able to quench my thirst. Then I saw a light, by which the whole horizon was made luminous. A mysterious figure suddenly appeared, and from it came the sound of a voice, calling: "O 'Abd al-Qadir, I am your Lord, and I have made lawful to you things that are normally unlawful!" (Or the voice may have said: "...that which I have made unlawful to other people...")

"'I promptly exclaimed: "I take refuge with Allah from Satan the damned [a'udhu bi'llahi mina 'sh-shaitani 'r-rajim]. Be off with you, O accursed one!" That light immediately turned dark, and that mysterious figure became a puff of smoke. Then it spoke to me again, only this time it said: "O 'Abd al-Qadir, you have given me the slip by means of your knowledge, the decree of your Lord, and your clever understanding of the states of your spiritual stages. By playing some similar version of this trick, I have already succeeded in misleading seventy of the people of the Spiritual Path [ahl at-Tariq]." I thereupon expressed my relief by saying: "To my Lord belongs all credit for the gracious favor and the blessing!"

"When someone asked my father: 'How could you tell that it was a devil [shaitan]?' he explained: 'By the fact that it said: "I have made lawful to you things that are normally unlawful," for I knew that Allah would not command immoral conduct [fahsha].'"


Some questions and answers concerning the nature of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir's spiritual path [tariq].

It was Shaikh 'Ali ibn Idris al-Ya'qubi who said: "Shaikh 'Ali ibn al-Haiti was once asked a question, while I was listening, about the spiritual path [tariq] of our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him). He said in reply: 'His first step was the delegation [of all authority to the Lord] [tafwid], and compliance [with His decree] [muwafaqa], in the complete renunciation of all claim to personal power and strength. His procedure consisted in the shedding of attachments [tajrid], the affirmation of Divine Oneness [tawhid], and total concentration on singular devotion [tafrid], combined with presence at the time of worshipful servitude ['ubudiyya], standing with an innermost being [sirr] in the position of servanthood ['abdiyya], not because of anything, nor for the sake of anything [other than Allah]. His worshipful servitude ['ubudiyya] was derived from the sheer perfection of Lordship [Rububiyya], for he was a servant ['abd] who had transcended the companionship of differentiation [musahabat at-tafriqa] and risen to the celestial spheres of unification [matali' al-jam'], in full conformity with the rules of the Sacred Law [ahkam ash-Shar'].'"

As we are told by Shaikh 'Adi ibn Abi 'l-Barakat Sakhr ibn Sakhr ibn Musafir: "I heard my father say: 'Someone once said to my paternal uncle, Shaikh 'Adi ibn Musafir, while I was listening: "What is the spiritual path [tariq] of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir?" To this my uncle replied: "It means withering away beneath the currents of the Divine decrees [aqdar], with the harmonious compliance of the heart and the spirit [ruh], the unification of the inner and the outer being [ittihad al-batin wa 'z-zahir], and being stripped of the attributes of the lower self [nafs], as well as complete detachment from all concern with benefit and harm, nearness and remoteness."'" May Allah be well pleased with all the Shaikhs referred to here!

It was Khalil ibn Ahmad as-Sarsari who said: "I once heard Shaikh Baqa ibn Batu say: 'As for the spiritual path [tariq] of our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), it consists in the unification of word and deed, the unification of the self [nafs] and the moment, the embracing of sincere devotion [ikhlas] and submissive resignation [taslim], harmonious compliance with the Book and the Sunna in every thought, every glance, every breath, every experience, and every spiritual state, as well as steadfast constancy in relation to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).'"

To quote the words of Shaikh Abu Sa'id al-Qilawi: "The example set by our master, Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir (may Allah be well pleased with him), is that of being with Allah [ma'a 'llah], in Allah [fi 'llah], and because of Allah [bi'llah]. Great chiefs have lacked the strength and energy to follow his example, and he has overtaken many of the front-runners by clinging to a path [tariqa] in which there is no interruption. Allah (Exalted is He) has raised him to a splendid station, on account of his meticulous dedication [tadqiq] to his insistent pursuit of the Truth [tahqiq]."


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