By ‘Allamah Sayyid Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi
Abdul Qadir was born in Gilan in 470 A. H. He was an Arab by descent, being the tenth descendent of Hasan ibn Ali, but belonged to Iran by migration of his ancestors. He came to Baghdad in 488 A. H. at the age of l8 years. It was perhaps not merely fortuitous that he arrived at Baghdad to acquire education almost at the same time when another reputed teacher, al-Ghazali, was leaving the city in search of truth. Although inclined to penance and cultivation of religious observances from an early age, he addressed himself whole-heartedly to acquire education under the most reputed teachers of the time such as Abul Wafa Ibn Aqeel, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Baqilllani and Abu Zakariya Tebrezi. Thereafter, he turned to mysticism and was guided in its tenets and practices by Sheikh Abul Khair Hammid ibn Muslim al-Dabbass and Qadi Abu Sa’eed Makhrami, and was allowed by the latter to initiate others in the mystic order of his mentor.
After completing his education of religious sciences as well as the training in mystic disciplines, Abdul Qadir began his career as a teacher in the seminary of his teacher Qadi Abu Sa’eed Makhrami. In his sermons which were delivered in the premises of the same institution, there was soon such a rush of people that extensions had to be carried out in the building of the institution. It appeared as if the whole of Baghdad assembled in his congregations. At the same time, he claimed such an attention and deference from the people attending his lectures that even the kings would have envied it. Sheikh Muwaffaq ud-din ibn Qudamah, author of the al-Mughni, records that he had not seen a man more revered for his piety and religious learning than Abdul Qadir. The king, his chief and ministers attended his sermons along with the rank and file and used to sit in a corner without any fanfare. Scholars and jurists rubbed shoulders with the students. The enthusiastic devotion of the people coming to his lectures can be well imagined by the fact that often as many as 400 inkpots were counted, which were brought in to take down the notes of his sermons.
Notwithstanding the implicit reverence cherished for Abdul Qadir by the people, he was always modest, humble and unpretentious. He often left his work to attend to the needs of a child, a destitute or a slave girl. Never evading the company of the poor he even washed their clothes or performed similar other personal services for them, yet he never stood up in the honour of any person of the rank or the elite. If the Caliph ever paid a visit to him, the chroniclers of his time report, he deliberately went inside his house so that he might not have to stand up to welcome the king! He used to come out of the house after the Caliph had seated himself. Abdul Qadir never paid back the courtesy call to any vazier or the king.
Those who have seen Abdul Qadir have paid a glowing tribute to his moral excellence and large-heartedness, modesty and hospitality, generosity and goodness of his heart. One of his contemporaries who has had the opportunity of enjoying the company of Abdul Qadir say that he had not seen a man more polite, large-hearted and charitable than Sheikh Abdul Qadir. Despite his erudition and eminence, he respected his elders, met the youngsters with a good grace, always saluted first, bailed the poor courteously with deference but never stood up to welcome the grandees or nobles, nor did he ever pay a visit to any minister or governor.
Another contemporary of Abdul Qadir, Hafiz Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Barzali reports: “His prayers were readily answered. Being extremely tender-hearted, he would burst into “tears (if anything sorrowful or touching was mentioned to him). More often he was to be found immersed in meditation and recollection of God. He was soft-hearted, courteous, cheerful, generous and compassionate. Being the offspring of a noble family, he was also highly reputed for his profound knowledge and piety.”
The testimony of Muhi ud-din Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Hamid al-Baghdadi, a jurist-scholar of those times runs as follows: “Always disposed to avoid things unseemly and indecorous, he only pressed for the desirable and befitting. He would boil with indignation if the Divine commandments were overstepped but remained listless to the wrongs and ill-treatments to his own person. He would never seek revenge save for the sake of God Almighty, nor send back a beggar without giving him something. If he had nothing to give he would part with the clothes he had been putting on”.
Abdul Qadir took pleasure in feeding the poor and spending freely to meet the needs of the destitute. Ibn al-Najjar reports that Abdul Qadir often used to say: “If I were given treasures of the whole world, I would spend it all on feeding the poor”. Sometimes he said: “It seems that I have a hole in my hands. I cannot keep anything with me. If I had a thousand dinars, I would spend every single shell before the daybreak”. He had given instructions to his servants that as many guests as possible should be invited for the dinner. During the dinner he always sat with the poor and lowly, chatted with his students or enquired about the welfare of those who did not happen to be present there. His behaviour was so affectionate that everyone who met him gained the impression that Abdul Qadir had the highest regard for him. He overlooked the faults of others and if anyone stated something on oath, he readily accepted his statement. He never gave out the secrets of others nor stated anything before others that might put someone to shame.
Reassurance to the Dejected:
The annalists of his time agree that quite a large number of miracles were worked by Abdul Qadir. Sheikh-ul-lslam (Izz ud-din ibn Abdul-Salam and Ibn Taymiyah are of the view that Abdul Qidir was a worker of incessant miracles but his miracle of miracles was filling the heart of the despaired and broken-hearted with faith, hope and enthusiasm. He infused a breath of new life, zeal and self-confidence into countless persons through his powers of speech and the spiritual power of his heart. He was, in truth, a blessing for the world of Islam for he renovated and revived the true content of the faith and tapped the sources of moral and spiritual strength for a religious renaissance. Sheikh Amr al-Kaisani reports that there was hardly a sermon delivered by Abdul Qadir after which a number of Jews and Christians did not embrace Islam, marauders and robbers did not repent for their sins and heretics and apostates did not renounce their mistaken beliefs.
Al- Jubbai relates that Abdul Qadir once told him that he wished to lead the life of a recluse in the wilderness but God had willed that people should derive benefit from him. And, it was a blessing granted unto him that more than five thousand Jews and Christians embraced Islam and about a hundred thousand sinners and criminals repented for their misdeeds on account of him.
Teaching and Missionary Activities:
Gifted with divine grace and illumination, Abdul Qadir was ever conscious of the purification of spirit and rectitude of morals, yet he did not lose sight of the importance of teaching and disseminating the correct doctrines of the faith. Being a follower of the Hanbalite school of Sunni theology, he endeavoured, like his mentor, to root out innovations and deviations from the orthodox faith and practice. Because of his forceful defence of the strict orthodoxy, reports Ibn al-Sam’ani, the traditionist and their followers came to be held in high esteem by the masses.
Abdul Qadir used to take daily a class each of the Quranic exegesis, Traditions and Jurisprudence in which he also explained the differences between various juristic schools of Islam. The classes were held in the morning and evening, while Abdul Qadir listened to the recitation of the Qur’an after the midday prayers and thereafter dictated fatwas on religious or legal questions referred to him. Informulating his answers Abdul Qadir generally followed the Shafe’ite and Hanbalite schools of jurisprudence. His juristic opinions were highly praised by the jurist scholars of Iraq for these provided a striking example of the acuteness of his intellect.
Once the question referred to him was that a man had taken an oath that he would perform a religious observance in a manner that nobody else in the whole world would be able to share the privilege with him but, if he failed to fulfill his undertaking, this would mean an irrevocable separation between him and his wife. The scholars were astounded by the strange oath taken by the man and could not suggest an observance which could be performed by him alone in the whole world. Abdul Qadir, however, replied that the man should be allowed to circumambulate K’aba alone seven times to perform the lesser hajj. Everyone agreed that this was the only authorised religious observance which he could perform alone at a time when no body else would be engaged in the same prayer.
Certitude of Knowledge:
Profound knowledge of the religious lore and meticulous observance of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet, aided by the grace of God, had unveiled the mystries of celestial world to Abdul Qadir, who had reached the stage where discrimination between truth and untruth, divine intuition and demoniacal imposition is born in a man. He had acquired the certitude of knowledge that Shariah of the Last Prophet was perfect and unchangeable, and that any claim made contrary to the divine edict was simply a satanic suggestion. Abdul Qadir himself relates an incident that he once came across. He says : “Once I saw a dazzling light which filled the entire sky. Then a human frame appeared therein and said, ‘O Abdul Qadir, I am Lord, thy God. I have made everything prohibited lawful unto thee.’ I replied, ‘Get away from me, O Devil.’ As soon as I uttered these words, the luster in the sky turned into darkness and the human frame began to fizzle out into smoke. Then I heard someone saying, Abdul Qadir, I had misled seventy mystics with this device, but God saved thee on account of thy knowledge and piety.’ To this I rejoined, ‘No. It was simply a grace of God.’ After Abdul Qadir had related the incident someone asked, ‘How did you know that it was the Satan.’ ‘Since he told me’, replied Abdul Qadir, ‘that he had made the things prohibited lawful for me’.
He used to tell his disciples that if any action transgresses the commandments of God, then it is surely an imposition by the Satan. In such cases one should return to the tenets of the Shariah, inculcate an unflinching faith, and firmly reject the temptations of self-indulgence; for, whatever is not permitted by the Shariah is decidedly misleading.
Trust in God
The unfailing and penetrating vision into the Tawhid or Unity of God had conferred upon Abdul Qadir that sublime piety which produces an absolute resignation in the will of God. He explains the state of resignation in these words: “When a man finds himself in a trouble, he first endeavours to get rid of it. If he fails, he seeks the help of others, such as, kings, officials, grandees or the rich, or , physicians in the case of an illness. When this effort also fails him, he turns to God with invocations and praises, and not unoften with tears and lamentations. In other words, he does not look for the assistance of others so long as he can obtain the requisite help from his own self; similarly, he does not implore God if he can get the help from His creatures; and, finally, when he does not get any help from that source too, he surrenders completely to God Almighty. It is only at this stage that man seeks the help of God with prayers and invocations, lamentations and tears but God does not accept his entreaties till he gets tired of these too. Then, being completely dejected and broken-hearted, he is permeated by an illumination of spirit which makes him indifferent to the causes and defects. Now he has a sublimated soul, unconscious of everything save the Divine Being and aware of the true content of Tawhid (Unity); he has now a certitude of knowledge that save God nothing has any power to do or undo a thing; to Him belongs the power to move a thing or keep it stationery, to promote or debase, to benefit or harm, to give life or bring death, to give honour or indignity, or to make affluent or indigent. The man is now like a hall in the hands of a player, or a child in the lap of a nurse, or else a corpse in the hands of those who bathe it; for, these are completely at the mercy of those who possess them. Likewise, the man thus loses his identity in the Will of his Master; immersed in his higher-self he has no comprehension of anything save the acts of his Lord, nor does he witness or hear or think anything else. If he seeks anything, it is the craftsmanship of the Supreme Creator; if he hears, it is His voice; if he comprehends, it is by the knowledge vouchsafed by Him; and if he is enlivened, it is only by His nearness. Thus, in the state of total absorption, he gets peace only through the grace and blessings of God; he detests to depend on anything save his Lord; he surrenders himself completely before the will of God; acquires the knowledge of mystries hidden from the senses through intuition and illumination of heart; and overflows with the gratitude of the Lord for His countless blessings.”
Love of Humanity:
The love of humanity, in general, and the affection for the Ummah, in particular, was symptomatic of Abdul Qadir sublimated soul and indicative of his close affinity to the successors of the Prophet. In one of his sermons he delineated the object and the mental states of different types of persons visiting a market. Coming to the last category, he perhaps describes his own feelings in these words: “And there is the fifth man whose heart is filled, when he enters a market, with the awe and reverence of the Almighty to seek His blessings for those present in the market. He becomes oblivious of everything else save his benediction for the people; he remains immersed, from the time of his entry into the market till he comes out of it, in the solemn invocation of divine blessings and in repenting for the sins of those who happen to be there, and thus he hardly gets any time to see what they are selling or buying. His heart bleeds and eyes shed tears over the ingratitude of man while his tongue remains busy in thanking God over what He has bestowed unto his bondsmen”.
The times of Abdul Qadir
Abdul Qadir spent 73 years of his life in Baghdad. When he came to Baghdad, Caliph Mustazhir Billah Abul Abbas (487-512 AH) was the reigning monarch after whom four other Abbasid Caliphs, al-Mustarshid Billah (512-559 AH), al-Rashid Billah (deposed 529 AH), al-Muqtafil Amr Illah (530-555 AH) and al-Mustanjid Billah (555-565 AH) succeeded to the throne one after another.
This was one of the most troublous times of the Abbasid rule when the Caliphs an Saljukid Kings vied with each other for maintaining their supremacy. The former being shorn of their temporal power were prevailed upon, sometimes with their permission but not un-often through coercion, by the Saljukid Kings to accept their domination. This also sometimes engulfed the Islamic world into fratricidal conflicts in which the Muslims shed the blood of one another.
Several such incidents took place during the reign of Caliph al-Mustarshid. He was a brave and wise administrator who won numerous battles but he was finally defeated by the Saljukid King Mas’ud in 529 A. H. Ibn Kathir, giving an account of the Caliph’s defeat writes :
“The Sultan (Mas’ud) gained victory and the Caliph (al-Mustarshid) was taken prisoner. Baghdad was ransacked which plunged the city into sorrow. The people dismantled the pulpits of the mosques, gave up attending congregational prayers and women came out lamenting for the Caliph and other captives. The people in other parts of the country followed suit with the result that Malik Sanjar had to ask his nephew to reinstate the Caliph. Mas’ud acted on the advice of his uncle but the Caliph was assassinated by the emissaries of the Batinites while he was on his way back to Baghdad.”
These heart-rending incidents were witnessed by Abdul Qadir. He saw the Muslims engaged in internal strife and bloodshed. The ghastliness of these feuds and forays, the cruelty, savagery and treachery of those who engaged in them, and the miseries they inflicted upon their foes for the transitory pleasures of power, position and riches made him extremely sad. It is true that he had nothing to do with these struggles for power; he was, nevertheless, alive to the miseries inflicted on the people and evil effects of the unsettled conditions during his times. Through his sermons, therefore, he endeavoured, with the seriousness of purpose and ardent zeal characteristic of him, to give a call for moral propriety and rectitude of the self: he vividly explained the transitory nature of the world and its fleeting pleasures, the need for coveting the eternal bliss and preparing for the life-to-come, and the importance of evoking faith and correct mental attitude consisting of right conduct in speech, livelihood and ethical behaviour .
Sermons of Abdul Qaidir:
The discourses of Abdul Qadir had a magnetic effect which is still discernible in them. Abdul Qadir is at his best in Futuh ul-Ghaib and al-Fatah al-Rabbani. In describing the love and unity of the Divine Being he appears to be inspired by higher sources. The reader can still find the spirit of sincerity and enthusiasm running through these sermons.
Following in the footsteps of the Prophet, his successors and the illuminated saints of the old, Abdul Qadir touched on the current problems of his days, analysed the reasons for the miseries and maladies of the people and provided answers to their doubts and deficiencies. Along with this, the tremendous sincerity and earnest zeal for the welfare of the people fired his haranguing with a frenzy of enthusiasm and magnetic effect capable of pulling the strings of the heart.
Unity or the Divine Being:
The forces of worldliness had become so strong during Abdul Qadir’s time that the entire social and economic life of the community appeared to be woven into the context of political situation then obtaining; people had developed a tendency of depending upon the kings and nobles for realisation of their worldly ends and had begun to treat them as ultimate dispensers of benefits and harms. In order to counteract this mistaken tendency of the people, he says in one of his sermons :
“This entire creation is like a man who has been imprisoned and chained by a king whose dominions are vast and countenance awesome. The prisoner has been hanged from a pine tree beneath which overflows a river, wide and deep. “The king is seated on an elevated chair having arrows and bows, javelins and spears by his side. He hits the captive with whatever weapon he desires. Now, would it be prudent for anyone witnessing the scene to divert his attention from the king and expect harm or favour from the captive instead of the king? Would not such a man be deemed a fool or even mad? Oh God, I seek thy refuge from blindness after having being given eyes, from being cast off after getting near Thee, from regression after being promoted to Thy favour, from being misled after obtaining Thy guidance and from apostasy after having been granted faith.”
In another sermon he asks to instill the love of God to the exclusion of everything else besides Him.
“Keep your eyes fixed on Him who is looking at you; keep yourself before One who keeps Himself before you; love Him who loves you; hark unto Him who calls you; seek help from Him who can save you, take you out of the darkness of ignorance, cleanse you of the impurity of your soul, and redeem you from the baser-self and misleading temptations, despair and timidity. Your earthly desires are like your foolish friends who keep you off the righteous path and deprive you of the things, pleasing and desirable. How long would you remain slaves of your desires, temptations, greed, pride, in short, this transitory world? How long would you remain forgetful of the Hereafter and of your Creator, the Fashioner of everything, the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden; everything is couched within His grasp from which emanates the love within your heart, the peace and solace, blessings and favours?” Again, he throws light on the same topic in another lecture :
“The entire creation is helpless. Nothing can do good or harm to you. It is only God who lets a thing be done by you, or, in other words, the will of God finds expression through you or somebody else. God has already destined whatever is to happen to you; whether it be beneficial or harmful; and, the destiny cannot be changed. Those who are faithful and virtuous set an example unto other creations. There are a few among these who have so purified their heart that their interior and exterior selves have become one; even if they have riches, their desire never seethe with the worldly attachments. Verily, only those are courageous, valiant and powerful who have purified their hearts and attained this stage of illumination. Unto these alone belongs the kingdom of Heaven and Earth for they have cleansed their heart of everything save God; they are like a soldier who guards the door of his heart, with the sabre of Tawhid (Unity) and the Shariah in his hand, to bar the entry of all creations to a place reserved for the Creator. Since they have attuned their hearts to the ultimate source of power, the Shariah beautifies their exterior while Tawhid and the wisdom of God’s knowledge decorate their interior.”
Explaining what is meant by the false objects of worship, he says:
“You put your trust in your own self, in others, in your wealth, in your rites and customs, in your trade and business, or in your rulers; but, in whatever object you place your reliance, it becomes, to say the truth, your object of worship. If you fear someone, or expect harm or favour from him or else deem him as an intercessor with God, then he is the object of worship for you.”
On another occasion, Abdul Qadir vividly described the jealousy and pride of God and His abhorrence of all associates, as also the wisdom lying behind the loss of the things adored and loved by man.
“You often complain, as you would ever do, that you have to suffer the loss of whatever you set your affections on. The object of your fancy, if it is a human being, either separates or dies. If it is wealth that you care for, you incur losses or are deprived of it. Then, should I tell you, that God is in love with you, and He is jealous too! He has created you for Himself but you want to be enraptured by others! Have you not heard what God has said: He holds them dear who love Him, ‘and also, I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. And, are you not aware of what the Prophet once said: When God loves anyone; He places him in trouble but if he puts up with it with endurance and forbearance, God then sets him apart for Himself. Requested to elucidate what he meant by ‘setting apart of a man’, the Prophet replied: God deprives him of his possessions and progeny. This is so because it is natural for a man to love his off-springs and possessions and thus his love which should have been for God alone is divided between the Creator and the created, between the Eternal and the finite.
“God is, however, extremely Proud and Mighty and therefore He destroys whatever threatens to become an associate in the love for Him. It is only then that the heart of the man whom He loves gets attuned to Him. And, then, this man can claim to enjoy the distinction of what has been described thus by God: He holds them dear who love Him. It is the stage when the heart of the man is cleansed of all idols and associates (of God) such as the off-springs, riches, pleasures and desires. It has now no yearnings, no longings left worldly or otherwise, not even those relating to piety and miraculous powers, stations and states, nearness and remoteness; the heart becomes a bottomless vessel in which nothing can be kept. God Almighty being extremely Proud and Jealous makes the heart of His beloved incapable of nourishing any other desire; He shrouds the heart of His devotee with His awe and a gasp of admiration, and guards it with His Glory and Might so that nothing can get inside this heart; nor can the possessions and riches, family and progeny, friends and relations, piety and miraculous powers do any harm to it. None of these finds a place in the heart of such a man nor, then, God remains, jealous of them. Whatever is granted thereafter to this man is a gift or reward from his God so that he may be of help to those who are around him or visit him”.
Refuge of the Broken-hearted:
The Muslim society in the time of Abdul Qadir could broadly be divided into two classes. The first of these comprised the men of substance who were deficient in faith arid virtuous behaviour. As against this, there was another class, poverty- stricken and down-trodden, but endowed with faith and a spirit of righteousness, moral strength and uprightness. These people, sometimes, feeling disconcerted and broken-hearted, viewed the affluent with jealousy and mistrust, and regarded themselves as deprived and discarded. Abdul Qadir holds out hope and cheer to these people in one of his sermons. He says:
“O empty-handed beggarly fellows, the world would appear to be at logger-heads with you; you are barefooted, unclothed and unfed, broken-hearted and ill-starred, evicted from every place and deprived of your longings and fancies. But do not say that God has reduced you to poverty, turned the world against you, abandoned, maligned or persecuted you, did not assign the portion of earthly pleasures due to you, or did not bestow honour and fame upon you. Nor is it proper for you to complain that God has granted his favours to others, made them reputed and honoured, although they belong to the same faith as you do and are the progeny of Adam and Eve like you.
“It is really so because you are like a fertile land on which God is sending down the rains consisting of endurance and resignation, conviction and faith, knowledge and grace. The tree of your faith is taking roots, sprouting forth its branches, its shade closing over you, pushing out new shoots and fruits, getting higher and bigger without your providing any fertilizer to it. God Almighty knows what you really need. He has, therefore, assigned a befitting place for you in the Hereafter. He has made you a lord in the life-to-come where His bounties are countless, inconceivable and unheard of. As God has said, nobody knows what delights have been stored for your eyes in the Paradise. This shall be your recompense for the faithful performance of what has been enjoined unto you, and your endurance, resignation and submission to the will of God.
“As for those who have been well-afforded in this world, they have been placed in easy circumstances for they are like a barren land, rocky and sandy, which neither stores nor absorbs the rains, and it is difficult to implant the tree of faith in it. It has, therefore, to be provided with fertilizers so that the weak saplings of their faith may get nourishment and push out the shoots of righteous action. Thus, if the wealth, honour and fame are taken away from them, the tree of their faith shall waste away and its leaves and fruits shall wither although God intends to make it strong. Therefore, my poor brethren, you ought to know that the faith of the wealthy does not have deeper roots, it lacks that strength which has been endowed to you, and it needs the riches and earthly prizes for its nourishment. If these gifts were to be taken away from them, their faith will give place to blasphemy and they shall join the ranks of infidels, apostates and hypocrites, unless, of course, God bestows on them spiritual light and illumination, endurance and resignation to strengthen their faith”.
Abdul Qadir did not preach asceticism nor did he exhort to give up the worldly possessions. What he emphasised upon in his sermons was that these should be made use of by a man to the extent he needs them but he should never allow himself to become a slave of his desires and temptations, nor should he hold the earthly gifts dear to his heart. Explaining the purport of the Tradition which runs: Verily, the world has been created for you, and you have been created for the Hereafter, he says:
“Do not try to obtain your share of the worldly gifts in a way that you have to keep standing before it like a beggar. You ought to be like a sovereign who keeps himself seated while the gifts are presented before him. This world acclaims those who stand and wait at the door of God Almighty but it demeans those who wait upon it. Therefore, get your share of the worldly benefits without demeaning yourself or compromising your dignity, and this is what Allah expects of you”.
In another sermon he says: “It is perfectly lawful to lay hands on the world and its gifts, to possess it or even to accumulate it for a commendable purpose, but it is forbidden to set your heart upon it. You may allow it to stand at the door of your heart but it is prohibited to allow it to get inside the door, for it shall not bring any honour to you”.
Critique of the kings
Abdul Qadir did not sermonize and admonish the populace alone; he fearlessly performed the duty made incumbent by the Shariah i.e., of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong; and whenever he considered it necessary, he publicly denounced the actions and policies of the kings, nobles, and officials. He bitterly criticized the faults of the great ones without the slightest consideration of their power or position. Hafiz ‘lmad ud-dln ibn Kathir, a historian of his time, has made a mention of it in these words: ” He admonished all – the caliphs, vaziers, kings, jurists, elite and the laity – to adopt the righteous course and to forsake the things forbidden. He openly criticized, un- sparingly, everyone to his face in his discourses. “He used to denounce the authorities sternly if any tyrant was appointed to a public office by them. He never cared for anyone if he saw the commands of God being overstepped.”
Ibn Kathir writes that when Caliph al-Muqtafi l’Amr Illah appointed Abul Wafa’ Yahya, a man notorious for his cruelty, as a Qadi, Abdul Qadir admonished the Caliph in these words: “You have appointed a man notorious as the ‘Most Tyrant’ to rule over the Muslims. What would your answer be tomorrow on the Day of Judgment, before the Lord of the Worlds, the Most Merciful?”.
Ibn Kathlr further says that when the Caliph came to know of the admonition of Abdul Qadir he burst into tears and immediately dismissed Abul Wafa’ Yahya from the office.
Abdul Qadir also vigorously condemned this-worldliness of those scholars, jurists and saints who were prepared to accept an office or to act as entourages of the rulers. He held this class responsible for the waywardness of the kings and ruling chiefs. In one of his addresses he rebuked these elements thus: “Ah, you are the fellows who have misused your knowledge and wisdom. What have you to do with your predecessors? You are enemies of God and His Apostle, you are no less than the robbers, tyrants arid hypocrites!
How long will you persist in your pious fraud? How long will you continue to don this shroud of assumed piety for the sake of your kings and rulers? How long will you remain a slave of power and position, passions and desires? Verily, you and most of your kings are tyrants and traitors unto God and His bondsmen, O’ God, our Lord, either degrade these transgressors and humiliate them or make them repent for their sins; either mortify the tyrants and efface them from Thy earth or let them mend their ways.”
On another occasion he addressed a religious scholar in these words: “Are you not ashamed that your avarice has forced you to serve these tyrants and crave for the emoluments declared unlawful and prohibited by the Shariah? How long shall you hold on to your mean pursuits? The kingdom of the rulers to whom you are playing a second fiddle shall shortly be no more and then you shall be presented before God Almighty, Who is Eternal, Omnipotent.”
Concern for Moral Rectitude
Extremely solicitous of eradicating the moral laxity and viciousness produced by ever increasing opulence, luxury and indolence in the metropolis of Islam, Abdul Qadir sometimes came out with the most severe criticism of the then society giving expression to his heartfelt misery over the sinful ways of the people. This was the impassioned appeal made by Abdul Qadir in one of his sermons: “The edifice of Faith built by the Apostle of God is being demolished, brick by brick, and now it is about to fall to pieces. Come, O’ mankind, to rebuild what has been dismantled and renovate what has been laid waste. Until this task is completed, we have to work jointly as a team. Come to my aid, O’ Sun, O’ Moon and O’ Stars.”
Again, in another sermon he says: “Islam is shedding tears. Its wail of woe is on account of the blasphemous hypocrites and innovators who are practising a pious fraud by attributing things that do not belong to Islam. “Look at your predecessors. They lived like you but enjoined the right and prohibited the wrong. But you have forgotten them altogether so soon after their death!
“Do you not know that even dog is faithful to his master? He guards his fields and the cattle, is pleased to see his master although he does not get more than a few crumbs in the evening. You are favoured with the bounties of God but, quite the other way, you are neither thankful to Him nor you dutifully perform the task assigned to you. Instead, what you do is to break His commands and transgress the limits of the Shariah”!
Reform and Renovation
The impressive sermons of Abdul Qadir were a source of inspiration to innumerable persons in Baghdad. These enabled thousands to offer earnest repentance for their sins but in order to build up a movement aiming at a widespread and permanent reform of the social, moral and spiritual life of the people, it was necessary to find out a way whereby more durable relations could be fostered between the mentor and the disciples and, a t the same time, arrangements could also be made for the religious education and training of the latter. As it ‘were, the discourses did not provide a permanent link between the speaker and the audience. People came to these meetings, listened to the sermons and left to come back again or not, at their sweet will. Many of them persisted in the way they had been treading along without paying any heed to the call of the reformer to purify their souls and to rectify their moral behayiour.
Religion serminaries and educational institutions too did not provide an answer to the problem because of the vast population of Muslims and the mundane pre-occupations of the people. The problem of making arrangements for a continued and concerted tenets and practices, and infusing a breath of new life in the vast numbers spread over far off lands defied a solution in the absence of a truly Islamic State. The foremost business or rather the end of the Caliphate was, in the words of Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (RA), to guide the people in moral rectitude rather than to collect revenues for the conduct of administration. The then Muslim states were, however, not only indifferent to this fundamental objective but were also extremely allergic to any movement or supremacy. Thus, these governments being suspicious of all efforts made for the resurgence of Islamic spirit, and erroneously taking these as movements designed to build up political leadership, lost no time in crushing them.
In these circumstances there was no way Ieft to revivify the religious, spirit and fill the people with an enthusiasm, zeal and self-confidence for reintroduction of the precepts of religion in their daily life. The only alternative left was to call upon the people to take an oath of allegiance for the purpose. Following in the foot steps of the Apostle of God, it had become necessary that a guide of spiritual and moral excellence should obtain an oath, or the ba’it, as it is called, from the people willing to offer sincere penitence and undertaking to lead a virtuous life in future in accordance with the directions of their mentor. If placing oneself under the instruction of an inspired guide meant that he was fairly started upon in his journey to the end of purification of spirit and moral rectitude; the oath of allegiance enjoined a much more onerous responsibility on the mentor himself. The guide or the spiritual teacher had to lead the wandering soul of the disciple taking the ba’it, stage by stage, from cleansing of his spiritual impurities, renouncing the love of worldly temptations and desires, wealth and honour, infusing an spirit of moral uprightness and correct ethical behaviour, following the teachings contained in the Qur’an and the Traditions, to the illumination of the pupil’s soul. This was, in truth, what the ba’it meant and by which the inspired souls tried to infuse into their disciples, through preaching and personal example, loving care and unalloyed sincerity, an inner vitality of spirit and strength of moral integrity. As the experience shows, the reformers and renovators of faith did succeed in revivifying the true faith and tapping new sources of popular strength in their own times, through this tried and infallible method which just copied the procedure and technique followed by the Prophet of Islam. Innumerable persons have been provided with an opportunity of not only adopting a virtuous life through this method but have also been led to attain even the stage of “Divine Acquaintance” and “Love” by the inspired guides and teachers, of whom the mentor par excellence was Sheikh Muhi ud-din Abdul Qadir Jilani. The history of peoples subscribing to the faith of Islam will bear a witness that no guide with an illuminated soul had been more successful than Abdul Qadir in bringing about a revival and resurgence of the true Islamic spirit. At the same time, the method followed by him is still the easiest and most effective way of filling the people with faith and enthusiasm aiming at the reformation of their lives in accordance with the tenets of Islam.
A few divines and mystics had employed the method of ba’it, as the annalists report, before Abdul Qadir but none had achieved the success as he did. With his profound knowledge, intellectual gifts, charming and loving personality and spiritual excellence he renovated the system of ba’it and founded a new mystic order known as the Qadiriyah. Abdul Qadir elaborated and systematised the mystic practices, made these more wide-based and developed to make them more harmonious with the tenets of the Shariah. Countless people were guided through this path of self- discipline, devotion to God and virtuous living during the life time of Abdul Qadir, and after him, his disciples propagated the Qadiriyah order in almost every Islamic country. The branches of the order were founded in Yaman, Hadhramaut, India and Indonesia and in the countries of Africa where it helped innumerable people to come back to the path of loyalty and obedience to God and His Apostle. Abdul Qadir and his disciples were also successful in converting a considerable number of non-Muslims to Islam.
Influence of Abdul Qadir
The moral and spiritual excellence of Abdul Qadir, his unflinching devotion to God, the efficacy of his sermons, the inspiring and regenerating influence exercised by him over the people in his own time and the upright character and moral rectitude of those who have had an opportunity to be instructed by him, mark him as one of the most eminent men of God born in Islam. He was not only a worker of incessant miracles, as the chroniclers of his time report, but his miracle of miracles lay in his inspiring and impressive teachings which made thousands to turn away from the lust of power and wealth and to inculcate the true spirit of faith through self-correction and purification of the soul. In short, his was a striking example of the innate power of Islam to produce a true spirit of religion, love of God and moral righteousness in an age of crass materialism.
Death of Abdul Qadir
Abdul Qadir died at the age of 90, in 561 A.H. An account of the death of Abdul Qadir has been preserved by his son, Sharaf ud-dln Isa. Thus he writes: “During his last illness, Abdul Wahab (brother of Sharafud-dln) requested Sheikh Abdut Qadir to give him some advice which he could follow after his death. The Sheikh replied: ‘Inculcate a deep consciousness of the sublimity and grandeur of God. Fear not anyone nor cherish a desire for benefit from anybody save God. Entrust all of your needs to Him and then have confidence in Him. Whatever you need, place it before God with a conviction in the prospect of its fulfilment. Keep yourself constantly occupied with Tawhid, the Unity of God, on which there is a consensus; for, when the heart is filled with awe, love and respect for Him, nothing can escape it or get out of it.’ Thereafter he asked his sons to clear out saying: ‘You find me here with yourself but I am really with others. Make room for the angels who are here besides me. You ought to be courteous and pay homage to them. I find the blessings from God descending here for which you should leave ample space.’ He saluted from time to time some invisible beings for a day and a night. He would say: ‘May the peace and blessings of God be upon you. May God pardon you and me and accept our repentance. Come, in the name of God Almighty, and do not go back’.”
Once he said: “Woe be unto you. I care not a whit for anything, neither for the Angel of Death or any other angel. My God has bestowed blessings on me far in excess of you.
“In the night the Sheikh died he gave a loud cry. He lifted and stretched his hand several times. Thereafter, he addressed his sons, Abdur Razzaq and Musa, saying: ‘May God have peace and blessings on you. Pay attention to God and grasp His attributes.’ Then he said: ‘I am just coming to you. Be more kind to me,’ He remained unconscious for a while after that. On regaining consciousness he exclaimed: ‘There is as much difference between you and me as between the heavens and the earth. Don’t think of me like anybody else.’ When Abdul Aziz, one of his sons, asked about his illness, he replied: ‘Don’t ask me anything. I am immersed in the gnosis of God Almighty.’ In reply to another question asked by Abdul Aziz his reply was: ‘No body knows my illness, nor can anyone diagnose it, neither the jinn, nor men, nor angels. The command of God never supersedes His knowledge; the order changes but not His knowledge; God may override His command by another one, but never what is contained in His knowledge. He obliterates or preserves whatever He desires; He is the final Authority above whom there is none; unlike a human being who has to render an account for his actions, God is Omnipotent. Now I know the secrets of His attributes; they are what they are.’
“One of his sons, Abdul Jabbar asked him if he had any pain. The Sheikh replied to him: ‘I have pain in my entire body except my heart which is attuned to God.’ Then in his last moments he said: ‘I seek the help of God Almighty save whom there is no other God; Glorified is He, the Most High; He is Ever-Living, for death seizeth Him not; Praise be unto Him for He is the Exalted, the Mighty; He exercises His power through the death of his creations. I bear witness that there is no God save Allah and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God,’ His son Musa relates that he tried to say ‘Ta’azzaza’ i. e. ‘Exalted and Dominant is He’ but he was not able to pronounce it correctly. He tried again and again till he pronounced the word correctly. Thereafter, he said thrice; Allah, Allah, Allah,’ his voice failed thereafter, the tongue having been fixed up in the palate, his soul departed from the body.”
Abdul Qadir left quite a large number of pious and saintly disciples who continued to disseminate his message and fight this-worldliness and its vices like opulence and luxury, fame and power.