This article is from Purification of the Mind (Jila’ Al-Khatir)
Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani was born in Gilan,1 west of Iran, in 1077 CE to two well-known saints. He is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him) from both of his parents sides. His father, sayyid2 ‘Abdullah az-Zāhid, is son of sayyid Yaḥya, son of sayyid Muhammad, son of sayyid Dāwūd, son of sayyid Mūsā, son of sayyid ‘Abdullah, son of sayyid Mūsā Aj-Jūn, son of sayyid ‘Abdullah Al-Maḥdh, son of sayyid Al-Ḥasan Al-Muthanna, son of Imām3 Al-Ḥasan, son of Imām ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib, cousin of Prophet Muhammad, and sayyida Faṭima Az-Zahrā’, daughter of Prophet Muhammad.
Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani’s mother is Um Al-Khayer Faṭima, daughter of sayyid ‘Abdullah Aṣ-Ṣawma‘ī Az-Zāhid, son of sayyid Jamāl Ad-Dīn Muhammad, son of sayyid Maḥmūd, son of sayyid Abī Al-‘Atā’ ‘Abdullah, son of sayyid Kamāl Ad-Dīn ‘Īsa, son of Imām Abi ‘Alā’ Ad-Dīn Muhammad Aj-Jawād, son of Imām ‘Alī Ar-Ridhā, son of Imām Mūsā Al-Kādhim, son of Imām Ja‘far Aṣ-Ṣādiq, son of Imām Muhammad Al-Bāqir, son of Imām ‘Alī Zayn Al-‘Ābidīn, son of Imām Al-Ḥussein, son of Imām ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib and sayyida Faṭima Az-Zahrā’.
Both of Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir’s parents lived a pious life, in total detachment from this world, and in complete obedience to Allah. This is how they are described in the words of their saintly son: “My father renounced this world despite his ability to earn a lot in it, and my mother agreed with him on that and was pleased with his action. They were among the people of righteousness, religion, and compassion for the creatures.”
Sayyid ‘Abdullah Az-Zāhid was renowned for having his prayers answered by Allah and for his accurate predictions of future events. Sayyid ‘Abdullah Aṣ-Ṣawma‘ī was also known for performing numerous miracles, so people used to ask for his spiritual intervention when they found themselves in distress. It is reported that one day a caravan of merchants from Gaylan was heading toward Samarkand when a group of bandits stopped it. The merchants could not do anything other than invoke the help of sayyid ‘Abdullah Aṣ-Ṣawma‘ī whom they suddenly saw among them reciting a prayer. The bandits then fled the place, and sayyid ‘Abdullah Aṣ-Ṣawma‘ī disappeared as suddenly as he appeared. When they returned to their home city and related the story to the people of Gaylan, they were told that sayyid ‘Abdullah Aṣ-Ṣawma‘ī never left Gaylan throughout their journey.
Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani started to show miraculous wonders soon after his birth. When he was an infant he would not suckle his mother during the day in the fasting month of Ramadhan. When the overcast sky prevented people from watching the crescent for the first day of Ramadhan, they asked his mother about him and she told them that he did not take milk on that morning. It turned out later that this was indeed the first day of Ramadhan.
After the departure of his father from this world, Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani stayed with his mother until the age of eighteen when, after having a vision, he asked for her permission to move to Baghdad, the capital of Sufism and knowledge. In Baghdad, he accompanied Shaikh Ḥammād Ad-Dabbās, a well-known Sufi saint of the time, who predicted that Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir would attain such a high spiritual station to declare: “My foot is on the neck of every saint.”
For almost twenty five years, Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir traveled the deserts and ruins of Iraq, and for several years he did not eat more than what was essential to keep him alive. For about forty years he never slept at night in order to worship Allah, and as a result he performed the prayer of dawn with the ablution of the evening prayer.
One of the major miraculous wonders that sheds light on the exceptional spiritual status of Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir and the role that Allah had assigned to him in promoting Islam took place on a Friday in 1117 CE. While on his way to Baghdad, Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir came across a frail and sick man who saluted him saying: “Peace be on you.” As Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir returned the greeting, the man asked him for help to sit up. When Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir gave the requested help, the sick man started to grow big in stature. The person then asked Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir if he knew him, but Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir answered in the negative. So the man explained to: “I am the religion of your grandfather. I have become sick and miserable but Allah has revived me with your help.” After this strange encounter Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir continued on his way to the mosque to perform the Friday prayer. At the mosque, a man approached him and gave him a pair of shoes and addressed him with the title of Muḥyī ad-Dīn which means “the reviver of religion,” which became his title. Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir did indeed spread Islam everywhere in the world and his influence and guiding efforts were so great that many of today’s Sufi schools trace their origin to him.
Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir then accompanied the Sufi Shaikh Abu Sa‘īd Al-Makhzūmī who, in 1127 CE, put Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir in charge of his well-known school in Baghdad. Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir first did not preach. In that same year, one day before the prayer of midday, Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir saw in a visionary dream his grandfather Prophet Muhammad who asked him why he was not preaching to the people. The grandson replied that he could not speak in the presence of the orators of Baghdad as his mother tongue was not Arabic. The Prophet then ejected his saliva seven times in his grandson’s mouth and asked him to start preaching to people by both words and works. After the prayer, Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir sat to preach and people gathered around him, but he felt nervous. At this point, he saw his other great grandfather Imām ‘Ali bin Abi Talib before him who ejected his saliva six times into the mouth of his grandson. When Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir asked him why he did that six rather than seven times, Imām ‘Ali replied that it was out of respect to the Prophet. This is one of the miraculous events which underlines Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir’s following reply to the question about the source of his divine knowledge: “In the past, it was my Master Hammad Ad-Dabbas, but now I drink from two seas: the sea of Prophethood and the sea of chivalry (futuwwa)”.4 The large number of books that Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir wrote on both the Law and Sufism attest to the depth of his divine knowledge.
This miracle provided Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir with a great deal of spiritual knowledge and the ability to preach to the people with eloquence and perfect command of the language. Thus, the school of Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir, where he used to lecture three days a week, became the destination of the seekers of truth and divine knowledge. He lectured at his school for about forty years since it was handed over to him in 1127 CE until his departure from this world in 1166 CE. The present book consists of 45 discourses that Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir gave at his school. He also taught and acted as a jurisprudent for thirty three years from 1133 CE.
Shaikh ‘Abd Al-Qadir attained spiritual states and stations that no other Sufi Master after him reached. He was raised to such a status in the world of sainthood that in 1165 CE Allah ordered him to make his unique, well-known declaration: “My foot is on the neck of every saint”, as had already been predicted of him by Shaikh Ḥammād Ad-Dabbās and a few other saints. All saints of the time heard his words and all of them bent their necks in compliance with this divine order. This is how he came to be known as Sultān Al-Awliyā’ (the sultan of saints).
1 He is also called “Al-Gīlānī” or “Al-Gaylānī” in various countries, but “Al-Jīlānī” is more widely used in English speaking countries.
2 The word sayyid means literally “master.” It is usually used as a title for the descendants of Prophet Muhammad because he described his two grandsons Imām Al-Ḥasan and Imām Al-Ḥussein, from whom all his lineage descended, as follows: “Al-Ḥasan and Al-Ḥussein are the masters (sayyida) of the youth of Paradise.”
3 The word “Imām” means literally “the leader or guide.”
4 The term futuwwa is derived from fata which literally means “noble knight” and which is one of the titles of Imām ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib.