بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على سيدنا ومولانا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وأهل بيته أجمعين
The Founder of the Sufi Discipline of a Major Sufi Order
Since my childhood, each year on the 11th of Rabi Al Thaani, I have been attending the proceedings of the anniversary of the passing of Hazrat Ghawth-al-A'zam Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani (Jilani), Rahmatullahi-alayh (Mercy of Allah be on him), the Sultan of Awliya*, (friends of The Almighty) the "Royal Falcon" of the mystic way. The proceedings invariably commenced with Tilawat (recitation of the Holy Qur'an), recitation of Durood Shareef (an invocation asking blessing of Allah Ta'ala upon the Holy Last Messenger) and few naats in the praise of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) held in the courtyard of our house.
My late grandfather often presided and before offering Al-Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Qur'an), some learned elders would narrate a few events of the life and teachings of the Sultan of Awliya. Later, food and alms were distributed among the poor.
After the passing of my grandfather, my mother continued to offer Al-Fatiha with depth and fervor of her devotion. The ladies enclosure was always separate. I am proud to be a Gilani (Jilani) – a descendant of the Sultan of Awliya, Rahmatullahi alayh. I have studied many books about his life, teachings, visits to various places, homage paid to him by great Awliya, and his karamaat – [divine manifestations in support of the mission of a Wali of Allah], whereas, only Messengers of Allah had been blessed with Mu'jizaat, [which are miracles specific to that of the Holy Messengers of Allah, the last of whom is Sayyidina Muhammad Rasul-e-Akram, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam].
Often, even well-read people (friends and colleagues, etc.) would ask the difference between Jilani and Gilani. The real name is Gilani (گيلانى). In Arabic 'G' (گ, Gaff) is inserted with (ج, Jeem); therefore in the Arabic speaking world it is called Jilani (الجيلاني). The Sultan of Awliya was born in Gilan, a province situated in the south of Caspian Sea – Iran.
In this article, effort has been made to narrate, briefly, the following salient events pertaining to the fascinating personality of the Sultan of Awliya, Hazrat Ghawth-al-A'zam, Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, rahmatullahi alaih.
- Journey to Baghdad
- Spiritual Guides
- Homage by the great Awliya
- Traits and Habits
- Passing away
- Reality of Giarhavin Sherief
Hazrat Abu Salih Jani Dost, father of Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, was descendant in the direct line of Hazrat Imam Hassan (11th in line), mercy of Allah be on them. His mother, Syeda Fatima Ummul Khair, was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hussain – abundant and consecutive blessings upon him and his progeny. He is, therefore, Al-Hassani and Al-Hussaini and progeny of the Holy Last Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.
Sheikh Abdullah Sumi was the maternal grandfather of Ghawth-al-A'zam, and an accomplished Wali and prominent for his piety, who lived in Gilan. Hazrat Abu Salih was a native of Naif in the district of Gilan, south of the Caspian Sea. He was a God-fearing, seeker of truth and fond of fighting against the infidels. He was a man of courage and would not hesitate to publicly condemn the wrongdoings of even the Caliph in power. One day he saw a few servants of the Caliph carrying pitchers full of wine on their heads. He broke all the pitchers, but no one dared to intervene on account of his extreme respect in the society. He was summoned in the court and when asked by the Caliph as to why he had broken the pitchers, he replied, "I am Muntasib, it is my duty to execute Divine laws." The Caliph asked, "Who appointed you Muntasib?" Abu Salih boldly replied: "The Lord who appointed you Caliph, taking pity on you and liberated you from humiliation in the world and Hellfire. I broke the pitchers!" The Caliph immediately appointed him as the Muntasib and from that day he was called "Jangi Dost".
One day, while sitting on the bank of a river in the pursuit of Divine Light, he saw an apple floating down the current. He had not taken any thing for several days, he picked the apple up and ate it, but immediately his conscience pricked as he had eaten the apple without permission of the owner. He got up and walked up stream in order to trace the owner of the apple. He reached an orchard where he saw apple trees hanging over the river. He deduced that the apple he had eaten must have fallen from the same tree. His inquiry took him to Hazrat Abdullah Sumi and begged his forgiveness for having eaten the apple without his permission. During conversation it was revealed that the boy was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hassan and perceived that he was extraordinarily virtuous and a seeker of truth. He said, "I am ready to forgive if you agree to work in my orchard for twelve years."
The young man accepted the condition. After the completion of the period, he asked for permission to leave. Hazrat Sumi said, "I shall forgive you, but you will have to marry my daughter who is blind, deaf, dumb and crippled." The young man agreed and the marriage took place. At night when he entered the chamber of the bride, he was surprised to see an extremely beautiful and flawless lady, having no sign of disability on her. In confusion, he left the chamber thinking that he had entered the wrong chamber. The next morning he went to see Hazrat Sumi. Upon seeing him, Hazrat Sumi understood this man's predicament regarding his bride. He called him, and explained to him the reasons behind his claims. Hazrat Sumi stated that: "my daughter was blind because she had never seen any man with whom she could be married; she was deaf because she had never paid any attention to falsehood; she was told to be paralytic because she had never touched any unlawful thing; she was told to be lame as she had never stepped towards any unjust act." Hearing Hazrat Sumi, Syed Hazrat Abu Salih Jangi Dost felt spiritually enlightened. Her name was Ummul Fatima.
It is said that Hazrat Abu Salih saw the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) at the night of Ghawth-al-A'zam's birth in a dream, along with the Companions present in his house. The Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "O Abu Salih! Allah has bestowed a son to you who is my son. His rank amongst the Awliya is like that of mine amongst the Messengers." On the night that Sayyidina Ghawth-al-A'zam was born, all the women of Jilan gave birth to eleven hundred males, all of whom became Awliya. In the middle of his shoulders a sign of the footprint of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was visible. He was born during 470 AH (1077-78 CE), in the holy month of Ramadan and – according to his illustrious mother [rahmatullahi alaiha] – never sucked during fasting hours.
According to some eminent Awliya like Imam Hassan Askari, Hazrat Junayd Baghdadi, Hazrat Mansur Bathie, Sheikh Abu Bakr Bin Harrar, Sheikh Mohammad Shambky, and some others had predicted the advent of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Gilani during the fifth [Hijrah] century who would be the chief of all the Qutb, spiritual polestars or axes of the world. His foot would be on the neck of all the foremost and later Awliya, meaning his rank would be the highest amongst all the Awliya. Blessings of Allah Ta'ala shower upon them all.
At the age of one year, his father returned to Allah, therefore his basic religious education was imparted under the care of his mother and maternal grandfather Hazrat Sumi, who showered all the love, affection and spiritual blessings on him. But when Hazrat Sumi did returned to Allah, he was left alone with his mother. When he was five years old, his mother sent him to a local school in Jilan, where he completed his basic education in religious sciences. Allah had endowed him with extraordinary brilliance, insight, a refined disposition and excellent memory. He memorized the Holy Qur'an at a very young age at his native school in Jilan.
Journey to Baghdad
The thirst for knowledge was raging in his heart. He requested his mother to allow him to go to Baghdad, which in those days was world-famous as a center of learning for higher education. The aged mother – according to historians, she was 60 years old when she had given birth to Abdul Qadir, which is considered past the child bearing age – with a heavy heart, tears in her eyes and broken voice, accorded permission to her son to embark upon the journey for higher studies. His mother advised him to observe strictly the following instructions:
- Always speak the truth come what may.
- Obey Almighty's Commands.
- Abstain from unlawful and forbidden acts.
- Always be pleased with the Divine Decree.
His mother had at that moment 80 dinars left by her husband for Abdul Qadir and his brother. Abdul Qadir took 40 dinars and left 40 for his brother. His mother sewed 40 dinars into the armpit of his garment and with trembling hands she embraced her son and kissed his forehead and said, “I entrust you in the protection of the Great Protector who will protect you. I separate myself from that which is dearest to me for Allah's Sake.”
Abdul Qadir joined a trading caravan destined for Baghdad. But near Hamdan, a band of 60 robbers attacked the caravan, looting their belongings, money and whatever they had been carrying. No one came near [Abdul-Qadir], thinking that the boy was penniless. One robber asked him if he had anything. The boy gave a fearless answer that he had 40 dinars sewed into his garment, but the robber thought it to be a joke. A few more robbers came and enquired but Ghawth-al-A'zam gave them the same reply. They reported the matter to their chief, named Ahmad Alafi, who summoned the boy, who gave the same reply and indicated the place where the 40 dinars had been sewn. The garment was cut open and the dinars were found. All the robbers were amazed at the courage and truthfulness of the young boy. The chief asked what made him tell the truth. The young boy replied, "My mother had advised me to speak the truth whatever circumstances confront me. I cannot disobey her advice." This reply shocked the chief to such an extent that tears came into his eyes. He said, "You have not disobeyed your mother, but I have been breaking the commands of Allah all my life." He instantly vowed to give up banditry, returned all the belongings to the travelers and all of them became true Muslims. This incident is clear karamaat of Ghawth-al-A'zam at the school-going age!
After traveling nearly 400 [approximately 640+ km] miles of dangerous journey, he reached Baghdad during 488 AH (1098 CE). It was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and a great center for learning. Here he was a complete stranger, left with a small amount of money that was utterly insufficient to meet his needs. The state was not paying any grants to the institutions, therefore every student had to make personal effort to earn his living and bear the expenses for his education. For higher education at Jami'a, he experienced unending hardship. He had no money for his needs. He never stretched his hand to anyone for help. During bitter hardships he would be on the ground facing the heaven and recited. "So verily with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief."
By reciting the above Ayat (from Surah Ash-Sharh) his sufferings would diminish. As a student of Fiqh, Islamic Jurisprudence, he often went to a jungle for hours walking on thorny and stony ground to test his determination. He used to eat the vegetables grown on the bank of the river Tigris.
Once the fellow students urged him to go with them to see a great scholar, Sharif Ya'qubi. The nobleman cast a spiritual glance at him. His eyes revealed to him the personality of Ghawth-al-A'zam. He said, "Seekers of truth and pious people never beg, they do not stretch hands before anyone. You are specially graced and favored by the Most Gracious!" These words left a deep impact and he immediately withdrew from the company of other students who had gone to collect charity from a rich landlord. Also, he never allowed his students to beg from others.
While roaming into deserted area, he saw the ruins of old palaces where he found seventy Divinely guided persons hungry and searching for something to eat. Without disturbing them, he returned to Baghdad. On the way, he met a stranger who belonged to this area who gave him a piece of gold saying that his mother had sent this for him. He immediately went back to the ruins, kept a small sum for himself and distributed the rest amongst the hungry Awliya.
Weeks and weeks passed and Ghawth-al-A'zam would stay in deserted areas for studying his lessons. During the famine in Baghdad, he was hungry and penniless, in this state he went to the River Tigris to pick up some vegetables thrown as garbage by the people. He found many people there, searching for food, but he did not interfere in their search and came back to Baghdad in extreme hunger and entered a masjid and sat in a corner. In the meantime, a young man entered carrying bread and roasted meat and started eating. On seeing the weak condition of Ghawth-al-A'zam, the man offered him to take some food, but he refused the offer. The stranger, however, persisted for him to accept his offer. During conversation, Ghawth-al-A'zam disclosed his identity. The young man became perturbed. He said, "Your mother had given me eight dinars to hand over to you, but for a number of days I could not trace you. During this period, my money was spent – as I had no food for two days – and, to save my life, I bought food with your money. I am sorry and seek your forgiveness. This is your food and the balance of your money." On hearing his explanation, Ghawth-al-A'zam consoled him, pardoned him, kept two dinars for himself and advised the stranger to keep the balance to meet expenses of the journey and food.
During his stay in Baghdad, the Ghawth-al-A'zam used to see the Awliya and holy men in order to gain Divine knowledge and blessings of their company. He met Hazrat El-Sheikh Hammad Ad-Dabbas (radiyallahu anhu), who recognized Ghawth-al-A'zam and cast a glance of love and affection, which created unbreakable spiritual light in him. Sheikh Hammad was always kind to discuss spiritual problems and solutions.
Soon, the Ghawth-al-A'zam got admission for higher education at some prestigious institutions. He got admission to the Jami'ah of El-Sheikh Abu Saeed Mubarik ibn Ali Al-Makhzoomi in Baghdad. There were several eminent scholars in this school. He had already memorized the Holy Qur'an. He studied Fiqh (Islamic Law), Tafseer (Hadith) under Abu Qasim Ali and Abu Zakariya Yahya Tabrizi, Principal of Jami'ah Nizamia and writer of many books. There were 14 other eminent scholars under whom he had studied.
At the time of his graduation from the Jami'ah, the certificate included the following citation:
"Oh Abdul Qadir, we hereby confer upon you the degree in all kinds of knowledge acquired by you. You are a genius and your capability of understanding the subject was so excellent that on several occasions we ourselves were benefited by your interpretation of Hadith."
He had taken nine years from 488 AH to 496 AH at the Jamiah of Abu Saeed to complete university education. Abu Saeed appointed him as a teacher in his Jami'ah and finally handed over the institution to his care before his return to Allah Ta'ala in 513 AH.
He had great respect for all the great Muslim jurists. He was made guardian of the tomb of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa (mercy of Allah be on him) for some time. For him it had become a daily routine to issue fatwas, rulings on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority. There used to be several clerks to deal with his work as day after day he received legal questions from all parts of the Muslim world. All the famous scholars and jurists would wonder at the speed and ease by which Ghawth-al-A'zam would give his decisions in the legal matters.
Various Titles of The Ghawth-al-A'zam
His name is Abdul Qadir, his kunya is Abu Muhammad. Later he gained the title of Muhiyuddin – that is, the reviver of religion. His other titles are Sultan of Awliya, Hazrat Qutb-Al-Aqtab, Sayyid-us-Sadat, Qutb-Al-Wajoo, Pir Piran, Mir-Miran, Sheikh As-Sayyid Muhiyuddin Samdani, Abu Muhammad Abdul Qadir Jilani, Al-Hasani Wal-Hussaini, Al Baghdadi.
About the Author
Initial schooling was from Military College Jhelum. Mr. Gilani completed Aeronautical Engineering from the United Kingdom. After on the job training, he was granted Aircraft Maintenance Engineer's License by the Civil Aviation Authority, UK. Mr. Gilani returned to Pakistan to serve with Pakistan International Airlines also known as PIA, which at that time was one of the best airlines in the world. After acquiring Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Maintenance Engineer's License, Syed Nokhez Gilani Qadri was busy advancing his professional status and was promoted and transferred as Engineering Manager to Quetta, Pakistan. He served with PIA for 12 years, then with Emirates International Airline in Dubai. Mr. Gilani attended and passed professional courses with distinction at Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce and General Electric Aero Engine.
 The difference between Awliya (Friends of Allah) and the term 'Saint' is that the title Saint has been used by the Pope, as he desires and for whomever he chooses. The qualities or characteristic of the person are not taken into consideration. You cannot compare a Wali (Friend of Allah), whom Allah holds in high esteem and carries excellent characteristics, with a Saint.
 Edits for clarity (without compromise or distortion of original text) have been made by The Muslims of America staff for uniformity, Arabic correlation, and graphic styling.