A caravan bound for Baghdad from Gilan (Iran) encountered a band of robbers. There was exchange of fire for a while but the members of the caravan were soon overpowered by the superior might of the brigands. Then search and looting followed. One by one each member of the caravan was relieved of his valuables. A few robbers at last came upon a simple looking poor boy sitting quietly at one side. They enquired from him: “Have you got anything with you?”
“Yes”, replied the boy, “I have forty dinars.” The robbers searched him thoroughly, his bedding and clothes, but found nothing. They thought that the boy was bluffing and went forward to search other persons.
After the search was over the robbers reported the strange boy to their Chief. Immediately, he was summoned before the Chief who asked him: “You say, you have forty dinars with you.” “Yes,” replied the boy.
“Where are they?”, demanded the Chief.
Instantly, the boy tore open a portion of his jacket and took out forty dinars to the utter surprise of the robbers.
“Why did you disclose your precious property? If you had told otherwise, none would have suspected you,” enquired the Chief.
“I was instructed by my mother, who had stitched these dinars in my jacket, never to speak a lie,” replied the boy.
The Chief of the robbers was stunned by the strange behavior of the boy, who carried out the wish of his mother by speaking the truth. This was a novel experience for him and became a turning point in his life. He thought: “This boy is so obedient to his mother, while I am disobedient even to my Creator.” The Chief was moved to the inner-most depth of his heart and tears rolled down his eyes.
He returned all the looted property to the members of the caravan and renounced the life of a robber.
The name of this strange boy was Abdul Qadir. He rose to be the greatest saint in the world of Islam and is known by the title of “Bare Pir Sahib” (The Great Saint) among the Muslims. He is universally recognized as the “Purifier of religion” of the evil influences which had crept into Islam after the “Pious” Caliphs and one who in his person reflected a delightful harmony of “Shariat” (Tenets of Islam) and “Tariqat”(Spiritualism).
The Muslim world, during the later part of the 11th century A.C., was passing through a period of great turmoil and turbulence. It was a period of political as well as moral decadence.
The golden days of Abbaside Caliphate were over and Government had passed into the hands of weak and effete Caliphs who had given themselves to a life of pleasure and luxury.
The diabolical Carmathian sect was engaged in their murderous activities and chased the high personages of Islam with their daggers. A number of great Muslims including Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi had fallen victims to their daggers but no Muslim ruler was powerful enough to stop their nefarious activities.
The rationalism of Mutazellites in religious matters, which was earlier patronized by powerful Abbaside Caliphs, Mamoon and Mutasim, had dealt a grievous blow to Islamic spiritualism.
In such a gloomy atmosphere was born Abdul Qadir Jilani who, with his extraordinary abilities, brought harmony between Shariat (tenets of Islam) and Tariqat (Spiritualism) which restored to the misguided Muslims of his time both the form and spirit of Islam.
Abdul Qadir was born on the first of Ramazan, 471 A.H., in a pious Syed family of Gilan (Iran). His father, Abu Swaleh, an extremely virtuous person, was married to the equally saintly daughter of Syed Abdullah Saumai, a well-known divine of his time.An interesting story is narrated about their marriage. It is said that Abu Swaleh was sitting by the side of a river. He had not eaten anything for several days. He sighted an apple floating down the stream. He caught hold of it and ate it. But immediately afterward, he repented it and thought that he had no right to eat an apple without the permission of the garden-owner to whom it belonged. He set out to find out the garden-owner and obtain his pardon. After covering about eight miles up the stream, he came across an apple garden belonging to Saint Syed Abdullah Saumai, to whom he begged his pardon for the unauthorized eating of the apple. The Saint Saumai, himself a pious person, was astounded by the exhibition of such piety and promised to pardon him if Abu Swaleh would marry his blind, dumb, and paralytic daughter. Abu Swaleh had to agree to it.
But, when he entered the bride’s apartment he found a charming healthy girl instead of the reported crippled daughter of Syed Saumai. He, therefore, abstained from approaching her until assured by his father-in-law that the description he had given was only allegorical, explaining that his daughter was blind because she had never cast her eyes on any undesirable object; she was dumb because she had never uttered any undesirable word and she was paralytic because she had never set her foot outside her house.
Fatima, the pious wife of Syed Swaleh, gave birth to a son in 471 A.H., when she was 60 years old. The birth of the child, named Abdul Qadir, at the advanced age of his mother was considered a great Divine blessing. It is said that the newly-born child did not suck the milk of his mother during the day time in the month of Ramazan (Month of Fasting).
Abdul Qadir lost his father at an early age. He was brought up and given elementary education by his venerable maternal grandfather and saintly mother. When he was 17 years old, he was sent to Baghdad for higher studies.
In Baghdad, a great centre of Islamic learning in those days, Abdul Qadir became the favourite pupil of Allama Abu Zakariya Tabrizi, Principal of the Jamia Nizamiah. He studied there for 8 years and acquired mastery in all branches of learning. During this period, young Abdul Qadir had to pass a life of trials and tribulations. Though languishing under starvation he loathed begging food from anyone.
Having completed his education, Syed Abdul Qadir set out to acquire spiritual training. He spent scores of years, undergoing the rigours of spiritual life, and passing his time in meditation and search of truth and God. He, at last, became a disciple of Sheikh Abu Saeed Mukhzumi, a renowned saint of his time.
The great Saint settled down in Baghdad and devoted the rest of his life to the service of Islam and mankind. He was endowed with the fluent tongue of a great orator. His lectures, enriched by his worldly education and spiritual insight attracted large gatherings, numbering 70 to 80 thousand people at a time. These lectures were attended by high dignitaries of the Abbaside Caliphate, including the Caliph himself, and also by non-Muslims who embraced Islam in large numbers.
The conflict between the exponents of ‘Shariat’ (tenets) and ‘Tariqat’ (spiritualism) assumed alarming proportions after the Pious Caliphs and a balance could not be maintained between the two. The religious rationalism of Mutazilla struck at the spirit of Islam. The patronage and championship of Mutazilla doctrines by the powerful Abbaside Caliphs, Mamoon and Mutasim, threatened the religion of the Prophet of Islam. This led to the persecution of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal by the Abbaside Caliph.
The celebrated Imam Ghazali, after his spiritual transformation, tried to strike a balance between the tenets and spiritualism of Islam. But, he was more a scholar than a spiritual thinker and, therefore, confined himself more to the precepts than to the practice of spiritualism.
It was Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani who struck a middle course between the two extremes–spiritualism of Mansur Hallaj and rationalism of Mutazilla. In him, Shariat (tenets) and Tariqat (Spiritualism) have their fullest expression. His person contained a delightful balance between the two. He is, therefore, called “Mohiuddin,” meaning purifier of religion. In Fiqh, he followed Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.
His writings are as effective and remarkable as his speeches. His “Fatuh-alGheyb,” is a remarkable book on mysticism. It was translated by Shah Abdul Haq Dehlavi into Persian and by several scholars into Urdu. His other well-known book in “Ghinyat-ul-Talibin” which has also been translated into Urdu. It is a comprehensive book dealing with the principles of Shariat and Tariqat. His third book “Fath-al-Rabbani” containing summaries of his lectures and discourses has been translated into Persian. His verses are replete with Divine love.
Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani passed a simple, pious, and regulated life. He spent his days in preaching the true principles of Islam and nights in prayers and meditation. His life was a model of simplicity, selflessness, and truthfulness. He used to take very simple food, consisting of barley bread and vegetables, cooked without any kind of fat. He was kind to the common people and translated into practice the saying of the Prophet of Islam: “The best person is one who loves and serves mankind most.”
This greatest of all divines and mystic saints of Islam breathed his last on the 11th Rabi-us-Sani, 561 A.H., at the age of 91 years. His death cast a gloom over the world of Islam but his life and teachings will ever illuminate the hearts of Muslims.