Man’s proximity and union with Allah Almighty is an enormous blessing. This benediction is above all the blessings of this world and hereafter. The Prophets and the Fakirs revered Divine vision and union as the ultimate destination. It is such a blessed opportunity which only those fortunate people attain who whole heartedly wish to reach Allah. In this path of proximity towards Allah the biggest trials are the man himself, his inward and his innerself.
In the physical and spiritual world, one cannot have sufficient words to describe Divine love and Divine union. However, the sacred life of Prophet Mohammad, his Companions and the perfect spiritual guides is the perfect practical example of efforts and struggles to attain Allah’s proximity. They remained steadfast and passed through all the trials and tests just for the sake of Allah. Indeed, lives of such pious people are a source of guidance for the seekers of Allah.
The Exalted Status of Ghaus-e-Azam
The life of Ghaus-e-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani teaches us how perseverance, patience and following Divine Will in the path towards Allah can take us in His proximity. Ghaus-e-Azam is at such an exalted status that on reading or hearing his name the Divine lovers send thousands of salutations and blessings upon him. Also, the seekers of Allah wish that Allah may include them in the list of his servants and beloveds. As without being in the circle of his servitude one cannot be successful in the Divine path. He is the sultan of all saints and the reviver of religion. To date all the saints attained the status of sainthood through the medium of Ghaus-e-Azam. Certainly, no other saint reached at this exalted status. He was a born saint; in fact, his parents were told about his status of sainthood even before his birth.
Struggles of Ghaus-e-Azam in Divine Path
Before adorning the throne of Divine guidance and persuasion, he went through continuous trials and tests to purify his innerself. He says; the kind of tests and trials I went through were so gigantic that they would have exploded a mountain, had it experienced them. Nonetheless, he remained steadfast and passed through all the trials with perseverance only for the sake of Allah.
There are two phases of his struggling life. The first phase is his student life in which he traveled to Baghdad to gain religious education. It is amazing how in a short span of eight years he not only completed his religious education rather gained full command over it. The second phase is the practical life in which he practiced religion and remained engrossed in the dhikr of Allah.
The Student Life of Ghaus-e-Azam
When Ghaus-e-Azam was five (according to some narrators four and quarter) years old, his mother put him at a local school in Jilan. His primary education started there. Since childhood, unlike other children, he was not into playing. He never said anything inappropriate to hurt anyone. At a young age of ten, he realized that Allah has granted him the status of sainthood. Regarding this he said; “When I used to go to the local school, I would see angels walking next to me. On reaching school, I would hear them repeatedly say, make room for Allah’s friend. On seeing this multiple times, I realized that Allah has granted me the exalted status of sainthood.”
Just like his childhood, he remained pious and pure in his teenage and adulthood. Once at the age of eighteen, he stepped out of the house for a walk. On his way, he happened to walk behind a farmer’s ox. Spontaneously, the ox faced him and said, “O Abdul Qadir, Allah has neither created you for this reason nor He ordered you to do this.”
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani got very surprised on getting Divine message through this ox. He went home and told his mother about the incident. He then asked her to grant him permission to go to Baghdad to get education. His mother Sayyida Fatima was an Arifa (a perfect knower of Allah). Therefore, on seeing her son’s eagerness to learn, she permitted him to go to Baghdad.
Ghaus-e-Azam’s Journey to Baghdad
When Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani was leaving for Baghdad, his mother with tears in her eyes said; “You are the light of my eyes and I cannot bear to separate from you even for a moment. But I won’t come in the way of your noble cause for which you’re going to Baghdad. Getting education is sacred. I pray that you attain ultimate success in gaining both inward (spiritual) and outward (sharia) knowledge. Probably, I won’t be able to see you again in my life, but my prayers will be with you every moment.”
She further added, “I have eighty dinars that your late father left. I’m saving forty for your brother and giving forty to you for your travel needs.” Finally, she also advised his son to always speak the truth and never lie.
From there started the journey of Ghaus-e-Azam to Baghdad which is four hundred miles away from Jilan. At that time there were no modern means of transportation. People used to travel in the form of caravan on foot or rode camels. Therefore, Ghaus-e-Azam also joined a caravan and started his journey to seek religious knowledge. Ultimately, he reached Baghdad in 488 H.
Survival in Baghdad
Ghaus-e-Azam was completely naïve to the city. The forty dinars that his mother gave him were spent during travel. He starved for at least twenty days yet did not complain or lose patience. Finally, one day he went to the ruins of old abandoned castles to look for a lawful food to eat. On reaching there he found out that seventy saints were already there in search of food. Therefore, he didn’t feel like coming in their way of search for food and returned. On his way back, he came across a man from Jilan who was already looking for him. The man gave him a piece of gold that his mother had sent him. On receiving gold piece, he kept a small part of it for himself and presented the rest to those saints.
Then he came to Baghdad and sold his part of gold and bought food. He made an announcement to invite the Fuqara around him to join him in the meal. Hence, many Fuqara gathered and they had meal together.
Admission in School
After being in Baghdad for only a few days he got admission in the Nizamia school of Baghdad. This school was the main hub for Islamic studies. Many renowned Islamic scholars taught there. He not only went to school in morning but after school hours went to other scholars to seek further knowledge. He gained the knowledge of Quran, Hadith, knowledge of interpretation of Quran and Hadith, knowledge of fiqah (principles of Islamic jurisprudence), knowledge of dictionary, Sharia, Tareeqat, etc. In short, he gained all spiritual and religious knowledge from the noble scholars at the time. He didn’t merely gain knowledge rather attained full command over it. This is why he was ahead of all the scholars at the time.
Struggles as a Student
In his student life, after school hours he would go to the jungle or abandoned places and spend his nights under open skies. He laid on ground and used brick or piece of stone as his pillow. In this solitude, oblivious of cold, heat, wind or storm, he solely sought Allah. He wandered around alone in the dark nights and survived on small herbs and vegetables by the Tigris river.
Fear of Allah
Shaikh Abdullah Salma narrates that once he heard a strange incident from Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. He said, “while I was student, once I did not have any resource to manage meal for days. During that time, I happen to pass by the town of Qatiya Sharqiya where a man handed me a folded piece of paper. He told me to take it to the baker’s shop. Hence, I went there, the baker looked at the paper and gave me a bread and dumpling. I took the food to a not so busy mosque where I often used to study. While I was still pondering that should I eat this food or not, a paper near the wall caught my attention. I grabbed it to read it, which said;
“Allah has written in the previous holy books that pious people have nothing to do with the tastes of the world. Desires and the colors of the world are for the weak people so they can get command over the worships.” This statement shook me with the fear of Allah. I rubbed off the thought of eating food and offered prayer right away.”
Travel to the Other Town for Grain
It was a tradition among some students of Baghdad that they used to go to a village Yaqooba after the harvest season to ask for grain. At that time, people used to give a lot of respect to the students therefore, rich people would happily give grain to the students. Once students insisted Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani to come along and he could not refuse. A pious man name Sharif of Yaqoob lived in the village. When he saw Shaikh Abdul Qadir’s sacred forehead, he instantly recognized that he is the pivot of the era. Hence, he said;
“Son! the seekers of Allah do not seek from anyone other than Allah. You seem like a special man of Allah, seeking grain from people is against your honor.”
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says that after that he neither went anywhere for this purpose nor asked anyone to fulfil his needs.
Ghaus e Azam’s Efforts and Struggles in Practical Life
Abdul Qadir Jilani completed his education in 496 H. Then started his practical life in which he excessively prayed and struggled to attain Allah’s proximity and sanctify his innerself. In a long span of twenty-five years, from 496 H to 521 H, he did so hard practices and efforts that could shake anyone. In his youth he gave up the tempting desires of the world and went to the deserted jungles of Iraq. He used to roam about all day in the wilderness and desolate forests. One day he was in a desert and the next day in a jungle. He neither knew any person around nor anyone recognized him. Once he said while delivering a sermon:
“I have been roaming about in the jungles and desolated places of Iraq for twenty-five years. Furthermore, for forty years I have read the dawn salat with the ablution of the night salat. And for fifteen years I offered night salat with the ablution of the dawn salat. Not only that but for fifteen years I have been reciting Quran standing on one leg after night salat and continued recitation till morning salat. And sometimes I spent three to forty days without eating anything.”
Trials and Tests
Shaikh Abu Masud bin Abu Bakr Hareemi narrates that once Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani told me, “For years I passed my innerself through different trials. One year I ate only greens or food picked up from ground and did not drink water. While other year I only drank water and did not eat anything. Not only that, one year I spent without eating or drinking anything and even abstained from sleeping.
For many years I resided in the abandoned houses of Karkh, a small neighborhood in Baghdad. All this time a self growing herb was my food and people used to call me ecstatic. I would go to the desert, bewailed and lamented. Lay down on the thorns and my whole body would bleed and get injured. Then people took me to the doctor but there I would go in a state of spiritual frenzy and intoxication. People would think that I have passed away, hence they made preparations for my burial. They will get ready to bathe me and instantly I would gain conscious and stand up.”
Travelled to Far-off Places Without Knowing
Once Ghaus-e-Azam said:
In the beginning of struggles and efforts to gain Allah’s proximity my roaming about was strange. Several times I would be oblivious of myself and didn’t know where I was wandering about. When I come out of that state, I would realize I have come to far-off places. Once I was in a desert near Baghdad and this state appeared, so I started running for a long time. Once that state vanished, I found out that I am at Nowah-e-Shasha which was twelve days away from Baghdad. I was surprised at this, meanwhile a woman passed by and said, “You’re Shaikh Abdul Qadir, yet you are surprised at your state.”
Ghaus e Azam’s Meeting with Khidr
Shaikh Abdul Qadir says that once in the jungles of Iraq, he met an enlightened personality. This man had a strange attraction. He asked me, “Would you like to stay with me?” and I immediately replied, “yes”. However, he set a condition and said, “promise me that you will obey my orders and will not oppose me.” I replied that I agree to his condition.”
After that he told me: “Sit down over here and not go anywhere until I come back.” Then he left and I engrossed in the invocation of Allah, and like this a year passed. A year passed by and one day that man returned, sat with me for some time and then got up. He said; “keep sitting here until I return back to you again.” I remained there until the man returned back after another year. Again, he sat for few minutes and advised me to sit there and left. When the third year passed, the man returned again. This time he brought milk and bread. He said;
“Bravo young man! My name is Khidr and (Allah) has ordered me to have this milk and bread with you.” Hence, we ate together. He then asked, “what did you eat all this time?” Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani replied, “I ate the food people threw on ground.”
Fight with Worldly Desires and Satan
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani said, during my journey of struggles once the worldly desires attracted me towards them. But Allah’s benevolence saved me. Satan tried to attack me by changing faces but with Allah’s glory and blessings I was saved. My innerself also attacked me by luring me to different wishes. But Allah gave me strength to fight and overcome them. When Satan with its ugly face attacked me with fire and evil, I would hear a Divine voice telling me, “O Abdul Qadir! Get up and fight with him. My help is with you.”
Hence, I fought with all the evil forces and Satan and eventually they would run away after failing.” Sometimes some Satan’s would not give up against me and not flee. At that time, I would slap it viciously and it would run away. Then I recited لَاحَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّۃَ اِلَّا بِاللّٰہِ الْعَلِیِّ الْعَظِیْم and the power of this verse would burn them into ashes.”
Passing through Different Stages of Innerself
Ghaus-e-Azam said, “Sometimes Allah will show me my inward and sometimes my innerself. At times, I would pass through the doors of Faqr and Ghina. Or through the phase of being thankful to Almighty and depending only on Him. When I reflected at my inward, I found it suffering through many ailments. Allah Almighty told me that these are my wills and commands. Hence, I concentrated on them for a year and ultimately got rid of them.
Then Allah showed me my innerself and I found it in the misery of several diseases as well. For a year I focused on them and eventually roots of these diseases were cut off and now my innerself became obedient to Allah.
Then I came at the door of Tawakal (trust in Allah) and I found it very crowded. Cutting through the crowd, I made my way through it.
Then I reached at the door of being thankful to Allah. This door was very packed as well, but I passed through it.
Finally, I arrived at the door of Ghina and Divine observation. People were not crowded over here. As this station is not flooded with the spiritual rewards and treasures. I found real Ghina and contentment over here. My personality went through a revolutionary change and Allah blessed me with a new self.
Solitude for Eleven Years
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani said, “There was an old tower near Baghdad where I resided for eleven years. Due to my stay here for a long time, people started calling me foreigner. I used to spend all time in the worship of Allah. I had promised Allah that I will not eat until someone feeds me. And I will not drink until someone brings water for me. Hence, at one point forty days passed and I did not eat or drink anything.
Invitation of Shaikh Abu Saeed
After forty days a man came and put bread and dumpling in front of me. My innerself allured me to break my promise but my conscience did not allow me to do so. I reminded myself again that I will not eat or drink anything until someone feeds it into my mouth. My inside was hollering out of starvation. Meanwhile, Shaikh Abu Saeed Makhdoomi passed by who had a spiritual insight. He heard the voice of my inward and came by. He asked me, O Abdul Qadir, what is this noise? I replied, this is the noise of the desire of my innerself otherwise my soul is content and busy in the dhikr of Allah. He invited me to his house, “Come over, I live by the door of Azag.” He said this and left.
I said in my inward that I won’t leave here until I have a compelling reason to leave. Meanwhile, Khidr came and said, “Get up and go to the home of Abu Saeed.”
Therefore, I got up and went to the house of Abdu Saeed. He was waiting for me at the door and said,
“Abdul Qadir, was my invitation not enough that Khidr had to ask you to come over.” After saying this, he took me inside the house and fed me with his own hands until I was full.”
Command on all kind of outward and inward knowledge had trained Ghaus ul Azam so much that he had become a mount of patience. He reached at the station of annihilation in Allah and annihilation in Prophet Mohammad. In fact, he is the wazir of the Divine Reality and Prophet Mohammad. It is true to call him the king of all the kings. Words can never be enough to describe his grandeur. All seekers of Allah are the seekers of his sacred court. Undoubtedly to be accepted as a servant in his sacred court is a certification of success for the seekers of Allah. We pray in his sacred court to bless us with his spiritual attention and benevolence and forgive us for our mistakes and guide us to the path towards Allah. May he accept our slavery in his sacred court. (Ameen)
This article is the English version of the Urdu article ‘Syedna Ghaus ul Azam kay Qurb e Haq k lea Mujahidat’. Sofia Sultan Sarwari Qadri originally penned this article for Monthly Sultan-ul-Faqr magazine, December 2018 edition. Fatima Noor Sarwari Qadri translated it in English with few changes. To read the original article click the link below:
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