45 Discourses by Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. Translated into English from one of the few remaining copies that exist of this rare document, The Removal of Cares is a further collection of longer discourses on spiritual progress along the path [tariqa] by the great Shaikh. This collection could be considered an extension of The Sublime Revelation, having been recorded in the year 546 AH, although the dates of the discourses in Removal of Cares overlap somewhat those of that collection. Once again the reader will marvel at the extensive wisdom of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir and experience the transformative effect of the blessed grace that accompanied his spoken word. First translation of this work into English by Muhtar Holland.
The Thirteenth Discourse
When someone has achieved genuine detachment [zuhd] from creatures, it is correct for them to feel attracted to him. They can derive benefit from hearing what he has to say and from paying attention to him. When the heart has achieved genuine detachment from creatures, and the innermost being [sirr] has become detached from everything apart from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), or at least from everything apart from nearness [to Him], that nearness will be his bosom friend [khalil] in this world and his intimate companion [anis] in the hereafter.
When you know creatures through knowledge ['ilm] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and experience them through experience [ma'rifa] of Him, their attributes will disappear from you. Jinn and human beings and angels will vanish from you. Your heart will assume a different character, as will your innermost being [sirr]. The shell of your existence [wujud] will be removed from you, the shell of the usual custom ['ada] of the children of Adam (peace be upon him). The law [hukm] will come and form a gown for you to wear, so you will go about the earth clothed, commanding yourself and all fellow creatures of your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) to obey His commandment. Knowledge Lordly and Divine [al-'ilm ar-rabbani al-ilahi] will come and form a garment over your heart and your innermost being [sirr].
You must not retire to your hermit's cell with ignorance for company, because to isolate yourself from your fellow creatures in a state of ignorance is a great and total perversion. This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said:
Complete your studies [tafaqqah], then you may retire.
It is not appropriate for you to withdraw into the hermit's cell, as long as there is anyone upon the face of the earth whom you fear and on whom you pin your hopes. There should be no one left as far as you are concerned, apart from One who is feared and One who is looked to in hope, namely Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).
Worshipful service ['ibada] means giving up habitual behavior ['ada]. There can be no habitual conduct until you come to be in the situation of worshipful service. You must do away with attachment to this world and the hereafter, and become attached to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). Do not try to pass counterfeit coins, for the assayer has a sharp eye. He will accept nothing from you without applying the touchstone [mihakk]. Take that counterfeit stuff you carry around with you and toss it away. Do not regard it as having any value. Nothing will be accepted from you [as precious metal] unless it has been exposed to the goldsmith's bellows and purified of dross, so do not imagine this to be an easy business. Most of you would claim to be sincere, but are actually hypocrites. Were it not for the examination [imtihan], the claims would be more numerous still. If someone lays claim to tolerance [hilm], we put him to the test by provoking him to anger. If someone lays claim to generosity [karam], we put him to the test by making demands of him. Whatever a person lays claim to, we test him with its opposite.
Woe unto you! You want to get something for nothing, but it will not fall into your hands. You must pay the price and then take it. He who appreciates the value is the one who gets the full enjoyment. You must put up with the care and sorrow of this world, so that you may eventually experience the joy of the hereafter. Our Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) had to go through long periods of sadness, and he was always given to reflection. He was also dedicated to frequent worship ['ibada], even though he had already been granted forgiveness for his sins, both those in the past and those that were yet to come. He would often pause to reflect (may Allah bless him and give him peace) on what might lie in store for his community [umma] after he had gone.
Whenever al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) went out of his house, the signs of sadness used to emanate from his heart, and sorrow and grief would leave their mark upon his face. Sadness is the normal condition of the believer [mu'min] under all circumstances, until he meets his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He).
The people [of the Lord] remain in a state of dumb muteness until they receive permission to speak to their fellow creatures, waiting until He brings them together with the righteous [salihun]. Then, when they are ready to speak to them and guide them to their desired goal, their speech becomes totally articulate. If their hearts incline toward creatures, along comes the hand of [divine] jealousy [ghaira] to check them and pull in their reins. It locks the door to keep them shut out until they apologize and repent. Then, once their repentance has been confirmed, it reopens the door for them and their hearts are drawn close [to the Lord].
O you who are dead at heart, what is the point of your sitting here in my presence? O slaves of this world and its potentates, O slaves of the rich, O slaves of extravagance and indulgences [rukhas], woe unto you! Even if the price of a grain of wheat should rise as high as one dinar [gold coin], it would not bother me in the least.
The true believer [mu'min] is not concerned about his sustenance, because of the strength of his faith [iman] and his trusting reliance [ittikal] on his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Do not count yourself among the true believers. Put yourself in a separate category from them!
Glory be to Him who has made me stay here in your midst! Whenever I try to spread my wings and fly, along comes the hand of Power [Qudra] to clip them. Whenever the wing of knowledge ['ilm] spreads itself and tries to fly, it gets clipped by the scissors of the Law [Hukm].
Pay attention to what I have to say, and accept my good advice. You must follow the indications of the affirmation of Divine Unity [tawhid] and pay close attention to the words of the champions of truth [siddiqun] and the saints [awliya']. Their speech is like inspiration [wahy] from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). They speak on His behalf and at His command, beyond the competence of the common herd ['awamm tagham]. You are crazy. You compose your speech from the books and then deliver it. If you lost your written notes, what would you do? What if your books caught fire? Or if the lamp you see to read by went out, if your jar broke and the ink got spilled, where would you find your flint, your tinderbox, your matches and your assistant?
When someone acquires knowledge, puts it into practice and does so sincerely, his flint and his assistant come to be within his heart, a light from the light of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). He can then provide illumination for himself and for others.
Away with you, O sons of babble, O sons of pages composed by the hands of the lower selves [nufus] and the passions [ahwiya] ! Woe unto you, you are quarreling with the lucky one [mahzuz]. You will be crushed and destroyed and will fail to achieve your own good fortune. How can the preordainment [sabiqa] and foreknowledge ['ilm] be altered by your effort? You must be believers who surrender themselves [mu'minun muslimun]. Surely you have heard His words (Almighty and Glorious is He):
Those who believed in Our signs and had surrendered themselves. (43:69)
The reality [haqiqa] of Islam is submissive obedience [istislam]. The people [of the Lord] have thrown themselves prostrate before the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). They have forgotten 'why?' and 'how?' and 'do' and 'don't.' They perform works of obedient service [ta'at] of all kinds, and their attitude is one of fearfulness. This is why the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) has described them approvingly in these words of His:
They give that which they give with hearts afraid, because they are about to return unto their Lord. (23:60)
[In other words:] "They carry out the commandments of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and observe His prohibitions. They endure with patience the tests I set them and they are grateful for the gifts I give them. They surrender [yusallimuna] their own selves, their goods, their children and their reputations into the hand of My preordainment, while their hearts are timorous, afraid of Me."
O you who are so deluded by affluence and the peace and comfort it affords, the time is already near at hand when your peace and comfort will turn into worry and confusion, your affluence into poverty, and your ease into hardship. You must not be deluded by your present state of affairs. You must make it your regular practice to attend the sessions of divine remembrance [majalis adh-dhikr]. You should always think well of the Shaikhs, in practical matters as well as in the sphere of knowledge ['ilm]. You must listen to them carefully and pay attention to what they have to say. If the seeker [murid] has the correct attitude toward companionship [subha] with the Shaikh, it will feed him through the mouth of his heart, nourishing him with the food and drink of the kind of knowledge that is only acquired by direct experience [ma'rifa].
O you backsliders! You must make your hearts empty of creatures. You have seen fit to indulge in vanity. Tomorrow [at the Resurrection] the people of the Garden of Paradise will be told: "Enter the Garden!" Even today, if the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) examines the hearts of His special few [khawass] among His servants, He will see that they are empty of this world, of the Garden of Paradise, and of everything else apart from Him. He will say to them: "You must enter the Garden, that is, the Garden of My nearness, both immediately ['ajilan] and later on [ajilan]."
Woe unto you! You must not agree with your lower selves [nufus] when they get into arguments with your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Your enemies are your own lower selves, as He has made clear to you. Whenever you satisfy their appetites, gratify them, and let them grow fat, they eventually devour you. They turn into savage beasts of prey. You must deny them access to their pleasures and desires. Give them no more than their proper due, meaning the bare minimum which they cannot do without, such as a crumb to stave off hunger and a rag to cover the private parts ['awra]. Even this should only be given on the condition of obedience to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). You must say to your lower self: "I shall not give you your proper due [haqq] until you obey Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), by keeping the fast, performing the ritual prayers, and carrying out all the other acts of worshipful obedience [ta'at] that Allah has commanded you to perform." You must subject it to watchful supervision. Then, if you keep this up, the evil part of it will die, and only its good part will survive. Feed it on lawful food [halal], for then it will lose its vital spark. You should never feel that you can trust it, however, because hypocrisy [nifaq] is its normal habit and its favorite pastime. It will perform the prayers, keep the fast, and put up with all kinds of hardship, until it hears its praises on the lips of fellow creatures, and mention of it made in places where people congregate.
[As the saying goes:] "He who has not seen a successful person [muflih] will never succeed." When the heart of the believing servant has been purified of the filth of ostentation [riya'] and hypocrisy [nifaq], two cycles of ritual prayer [rak'atan] performed by him are worth far more than a thousand cycles of prayer performed by someone whose heart has not been purified of those two vices. O hypocrite [munafiq], all your hypocrisy stems from your lower self [nafs]. You must cut your lower self off from its means of support, and turn to its Creator, for then its evil tendency will come to a stop. The lower self requires education and professional training, so that it can learn to carry your baggage and become fit for useful work. As it is now, it cannot carry a big load. You must train it while it is small, for it is not yet capable of carrying you or your baggage. There is nothing else for it. You must train it, improve it by degrees, and move it along from one stage of development to the next, until it is completely tame, so that it is capable of carrying your equipment and walking beneath your weight through the wastelands and the desert.
You are so enamoured ['ashiq] of your own lower self that you are quite incapable of resisting its demands. It leads you wherever it wishes, day in and day out. Your death may come and snatch you away at any moment, but you have no qualms about putting things off till the morrow [taswif]. You say: "Today I shall repent. Well, tomorrow I shall repent. I shall devote myself to obeying my Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). I shall prove that I am truly sorry for my sins. I shall do this and that and the other." But while you are going on like this, in the throes of your delusion, along comes death to snatch you away. It will come upon you by surprise, so you cannot escape from it. All your debts, your sins and your acts of disobedience will be left in your debit column. Woe unto you! You are busy amassing one gold coin [dinar] on top of another gold coin, and there seems to be no end to the process of amassing them. But all of this will turn into scorpions that will sting you and snakes that will bite you. Gold and silver coins are nothing but a hoard of cares [ad-dananir wa 'd-darahim dar hamm]. This world is full of distractions [ashghal], and the hereafter is full of terrors [ahwal], while the servant [of Allah] is between the two, until it is decided where his final residence shall be-in the Garden of Paradise or in the Fire of Hell.
You must not consume anything without knowing its source and its derivation. The consumption of unlawful food [haram] results in the darkening of the heart. As long as someone is completely lacking in patience, how can he eat only lawful food [halal] ? No one is going to eat only lawful food, unless he is capable of persevering with patience in waging war on the lower self [nafs], the passions [hawa] and the Devil [Shaitan]. The patient warrior is the one who eats only lawful food.
O Allah, sustain us with lawful food, and keep us far removed from food that is unlawful. Sustain us with the blessings of Your gracious favor, Your goodness and Your nearness. Sustain our hearts, our innermost beings [asrar] and our physical bodies with those same blessings. Amin.