78 Discourses by Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. Perhaps the most well known collection of the great Shaikh's discourses, these short and powerful discourses cover topics of interest to every seeker of the spiritual path. A glimpse at the some of the topics covered will reassure the reader that the Shaikh is addressing issues that are as pertinent in this day and age as the day he spoke about them so many hundreds of years ago. Here is a small sample: On passing beyond the creation; On drawing near to Allah; On fear and hope; On trust and its stages; On how the contact [wusul] with Allah is attained; On not complaining; On the classification of the seeker's state; On the two conditions of the self [nafs]; On the reason for the trials borne by certain believers; On the seeker and the sought.
Contents: The Seventy-eight Discourses
1 On the essential tasks of every true believer 2 On sharing good advice 3 On being tried and tested 4 On spiritual death 5 On the nature of this world, detachment from which is strongly advised 6 On passing beyond the creation 7 On removing the cares of the heart [qalb] 8 On drawing near to Allah 9 On disclosure and contemplation 10 On the self and its states 11 On carnal appetite 12 On the prohibition of love of wealth 13 On submission to Allah's command 14 On following the practice of Allah's own 15 On fear and hope 16 On trust and its stages 17 On how the contact [wusul] with Allah is attained 18 On not complaining 19 On promises 20 On the saying of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace): "Leave anything that makes you doubtful and stick to what arouses no misgivings in you." 21 On addressing Iblis the accursed 22 On the testing of the believer's faith 23 On contentment with one's lot from Allah 24 On cleaving to Allah's door 25 On the tree of faith 26 On not unveiling one's face 27 On good and evil as two fruits 28 On the classification of the seeker's state 29 On the saying of the Prophet (Allah Bless him and give him peace): "Poverty is on the verge of slipping into unbelief." 30 On not saying "What shall I do and how?" 31 On hatred for Allah's sake 32 On not sharing one's love of Allah 33 On the four types of men 34 On not resenting Allah 35 On pious caution [al-wara'] 36 On the explanation of this world and the hereafter, and what one must do in them both 37 On censure of envy 38 On honesty [sidq] and sincerity [nisah] 39 On dissension, concord and hypocrisy [nifaq] 40 On when the aspirant truly belongs in the company of spiritual people 41 Illustrating the nature of annihilation [fana'] 42 On the two conditions of the self [nafs] 43 On censure of asking from any but Allah 44 On the reason for non-response to the supplication of one who knows Allah [al-'arif bi'llah] 45 On blessings and trials 46 On the Sacred Tradition: "When someone is too busy remembering Me" 47 On closeness to Allah 48 On what the believer must attend to 49 On censure of sleep 50 On how to treat the servant's remoteness from Allah; explanation of how to achieve closeness to Him 51 On abstinence 52 On the reason for the trials borne by certain believers 53 On the commandment to seek contentment with Allah and annihilation [fana'] in Him 54 On those who wish to attain to the contact [wusul] with Allah, an explanation of the nature of that contact 55 On giving up life's pleasures 56 On the servant's becoming extinct [fana'] to creatures, passions, the self, the will and desires 57 On not contesting destiny, and the commandment to keep oneself content therewith 58 On looking away from all other directions, and seeking the direction of Allah's favor 59 On cheerful acceptance of misfortune, and being grateful for blessings 60 On the beginning and the end 61 On pausing before taking any action until its permissibility is clear 62 On love, the beloved, and what is required in respect of both 63 On a kind of inner knowledge [ma'rifa] 64 On death without life, and life without death 65 On the prohibition of resenting Allah for deferring response to supplication 66 On the commandment to make supplication, and the prohibition of omitting it 67 On struggle with the self, and description of its nature 68 On the words of Allah (Exalted is He): "Every day He is about some business." 69 On the commandment to ask Allah for forgiveness, protection from sin, help toward success, contentment and patience 70 On gratitude and acknowledgment of shortcomings 71 On the seeker and the sought 72 On those who are attracted to what they see in the market and those who view it with patient restraint 73 On a party of saints whom Allah makes aware of the faults of others 74 On how the intelligent person should prove to himself the Uniqueness of Allah 75 On spiritual culture [tasawwuf] and what it is based on 76 On advice 77 On staying with Allah and becoming extinct to creatures 78 On the people devoted to spiritual struggle and self-examination and the masters of resolve; explanation of their virtues
Forty-fifth Discourse On blessings and trials
The Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him, and may He grant him contentment) said:
There are two kinds of people: Those who are blessed with good fortune, and those who are tried by what their Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) has decreed.
As for the fortunate ones, they are not exempt from all vexation and annoyance in the enjoyment of their blessings. Such a person may be very comfortable indeed, when along comes destiny to distress him with various afflictions, like diseases, ailments and disasters affecting himself, his property, his family and his offspring, which ought to teach him a lesson. It seems to him now as if he had never been favored, and he forgets that good fortune and how sweet it was. Yet as long as the rich man is secure in his wealth and position, with male and female servants and safety from enemies, he is in a state of bliss as if trouble did not exist.
All this is due to his ignorance of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). If he knew that his Lord €œis Doer of what He will€ (11:107), and that He changes and transforms, sweetens and embitters, enriches and impoverishes, exalts and abases, honors and humbles, gives life and causes death, brings forward and puts back, why would he be complacent about his good fortune, why would he be deluded by it, and why would he despair of happy relief while in the state of affliction? The problem is also due to his ignorance of this world, where he felt secure, and expected to find a serenity uncontaminated by grief, forgetting that it is the abode of trouble and distress, of bother and worry, that trouble is its norm and comfort only incidental to it. This world is like the aloe tree, the first fruit of which is bitter, while the last is sweet as honey. No man can get at its sweetness till he has swallowed the bitterness of it, so he will never reach the honey without enduring the bitter taste with patience. Anyone who bears its trials patiently will eventually savor its blessings.
The laborer is given his hire only after the sweat of his brow, the exhaustion of his body, the agony of his spirit, the constriction of his breast, the loss of his strength, the humbling of his selfish nature, and the breaking of his passions, all in the service of a creature like himself. Only when he has swallowed all these bitter pills will he finally enjoy good food, tidbits and fruit, fine clothes, comfort and happiness, if only in very small measure.
What the world has to offer, then, is bitter at first, just as the top layer of honey in a jar is marred by a bitter taste, and the eater cannot reach the bottom of the pot to get at the pure part until after he has taken the top layer. Thus if the servant perseveres in performing the Lord's commandments (Almighty and Glorious is He) and observing His prohibitions, and in submitting with complete trust to the course of destiny [qadar], and if he swallows all the bitterness and bears all the burdens involved, opposing his passions and giving up his self-willed desires, Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) will reward him with a pleasant existence in later life, with lavish care, comfort and dignity. The Lord will become his guardian and nourish him, just as He nourishes the suckling babe, without his having to worry or bear any trouble and strain in this world and the hereafter, so he will be like the person who relishes the honey at the bottom of the jar, after eating the bitter layer on top.
The servant who is blessed with good fortune must therefore never feel secure from the cunning tests of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), deluding himself into believing that his prosperity is bound to last forever, forgetting to be thankful for it, and letting it slip loose by omitting that gratitude. As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said: €œGood fortune is a wild beast, so tie it up with gratitude.€ Thanks for the blessing of wealth are offered by acknowledging the gracious benefactor, namely Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), by telling oneself about it under all circumstances, by recognizing His favor and grace. The servant must not put himself above his Lord, nor transgress the limits He imposes, nor fail to observe His commandments in the matter. Gratitude is then further shown by discharging one's duties in respect of the alms-due, expiation, votive offerings and charitable donations, by helping the distressed, visiting the needy and those who are in dire straits through the vicissitudes of circumstance and reversal of fortune from good to bad, meaning that times of prosperity and plenty have given way to wretchedness and misery. Gratitude for good health in the limbs and organs of the body is shown by enlisting their aid for works of obedience, and refraining from unlawful actions, bad deeds, sins and offenses.
This is how to keep blessings from roaming and wandering off, how to water their tree and encourage the growth of its branches and leaves, ensuring that it bears good fruit, sweet to the taste and wholesome to digest, delicious to chew and easy to swallow, contributing to the health and development of the body. Then its beneficial effect on the limbs and organs will become manifest through various acts of obedience, good works and invocations of remembrance. As a result of all this, the servant will then enter in the hereafter into the mercy of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and abide forever in the gardens of Paradise together with €œthe Prophets and the champions of truth, the martyrs and the righteous; the best of company are they!€ (4:69).
If the servant does not act like this, however, if he allows himself to be deluded by the superficial glamor of this world and by the taste he gets of its pleasures, if he is content with the brilliance of its phantom show and lightning flashes, with its early morning breeze on a hot summer's day, with the smoothness of the skins of its snakes and scorpions, if he is forgetful and blind to the deadly poisons lurking in its depths, to the pitfalls and traps it has set to catch and ensnare and destroy him, then he should be given a welcome to perdition and rejoice in rapidly impending ruin and destitution, with humiliation and scorn in this world and torment to come in the fire and flame of Hell.
As for one who suffers tribulation, he will sometimes be tried as a punishment and retribution for an offense he has perpetrated or a sin he has committed, at another time as an expiation and purification, and finally, for the sake of elevation in spiritual degrees and advancement to high stages, to join those versed in knowledge, people with experience of all states and stations. This they have received through the providence of the Lord of creation and of mankind. Their Lord has sent them to ride the fields of misfortune on the mounts of friendliness and kindness, and refreshed them with the breeze of loving looks and glances while in movement or at rest, because their trial was not intended to destroy them and hurl them into the abyss. Rather did He put them to these tests for the sake of choice and selection, so drawing from them the reality of faith, which He purified and separated from polytheistic association [shirk], pretensions and hypocrisy [nifaq], and presenting them with all kinds of knowledge, secrets and enlightenment. Then He made special favorites of them, entrusted them with His secrets, and granted them the pleasure of His company.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: €œThe patient poor are the guests of the All-Merciful on the Day of Resurrection, in this world and the hereafter,€ meaning in their hearts in this world, and physically in the hereafter. For those trials have the effect of making their hearts pure and free from sinful association, and from attachment to creatures, worldly means, wishes and self-willed desires. They are instrumental in melting them and smelting out the pretensions and passions, and the expectation of returns for obedient behavior, in the form of high degrees and stations in the hereafter, in paradise and its gardens.
The sign that trials are being inflicted as retribution and punishment is lack of patience while they last, as well as anxiety and complaining to creatures and people.
The sign that the tribulation is for expiation and purification of sins, is the presence of beautiful patience, without complaint or expression of anxiety to friends and neighbors, and without irritation with the performance of commandments and acts of obedience.
The sign that the trials are for the sake of spiritual progress is the presence of contentment, harmony, self-composure, quiet trust in the working of the God of the earth and the heavens, and annihilation within them until their eventual removal with the passage of time.