62 Discourses [Majalis] by Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani in the guesthouse [ribat] and the schoolhouse [madrasa] in Bagdad, between the years AH 545 and AH 546. Longer than the discourses of Revelations of the Unseen, these profoundly moving lectures used to be attended by crowds of more than seventy thousand people. As we have been told in the Shaikh's biography, Necklaces of Gems, more than 400 inkwells would be used in one session by the scribes recording his every word. Treasured for centuries by those fortunate enough to have a handwritten copy, the entire 62 discourses are available in English for the first time. These discourses cover every aspect of the spiritual path necessary for those who aspire to attain to the nearness of Allah. Translated by Muhtar Holland.
It was in the late evening of Tuesday, the 13th of Rajab, A.H. 546, that the Shaikh (may Allah be well pleased with him) said:
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported as having said:
Part of the excellence of a man's Islam is paying no attention to that which does not concern him.
The more excellent and truly confirmed a person's Islam becomes, the more he devotes his attention to that which concerns him, and avoids getting involved in things that are none of his business. To busy oneself with that which is irrelevant is the distraction of idle fools. Deprived of the good pleasure of his Master [Mawla] is he who fails to put into practice what He commands, and who occupies himself with things he has not been instructed to deal with. This is deprivation its very self, death its very self and banishment its very self.
Your involvement in this world requires that you have a righteous intention [niyya saliha], otherwise you deserve to be viewed with disgust. You must concentrate first of all on the cleanliness [tahara] of your heart, for this is an obligatory duty [farida]. Then turn your attention to deeper knowledge [ma'rifa]. If you miss the root, your preoccupation with the branch will not be accepted of you. There is no benefit in cleanliness of the physical parts of the body combined with defilement of the heart. You must cleanse your physical limbs and organs by following the Sunna, and your heart by putting the Qur'an into practice. Take care of your heart, so that your physical body will be taken care of. Every vessel exudes its own contents. Whatever is in your heart will ooze out from you through your physical parts.
Be sensible! This is not the behavior of one who believes in death and is convinced of it. This is not the behavior of one who is looking forward to meeting Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and dreading His reckoning and His interrogation. The sound heart is filled with affirmation of Divine Unity [tawhid], absolute trust [tawakkul], certitude [yaqin], helpful guidance to success [tawfiq], knowledge ['ilm], faith [iman], and nearness [qurb] to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). He sees all creatures in their essential weakness, lowliness and poverty, yet he will not be arrogant toward a little child amongst them. He becomes like a lion when battle is joined with the unbelievers [kuffar] and hypocrites [munafiqun], out of zeal for Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). In His presence he becomes a discarded piece of flesh, and he is meek and humble toward those who are righteous [salihun] and piously devoted [muttaqun wari'un]. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has described the kind of people who have such attributes, for He has said:
Hard against the unbelievers, merciful among themselves. (48:29)
Woe unto you, O heretical innovator [mubtadi']! No one but Allah is capable of saying: "I am Allah." Our Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) is a Speaker [Mutakallim], not a dumb mute, and this is why Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has emphasized the point in his speech to Moses, for he said:
And Allah spoke directly to Moses. (4:164)
He possesses speech [kalam] that can be heard and understood. He said to Moses:
O Moses, I am indeed Allah, Lord of the Worlds. (28:43)
By His words, "I am Allah," He means to say: "I am not an angel [malak], not a genie [jinni] and not a human being [insi], but the Lord of the Worlds [Rabbu'l-'alamin]. So Pharaoh was lying when he said: 'I am your Lord the Most High' (79:24), and when he laid claim to divinity [ilahiyya], disregarding Me. I am Allah, not Pharaoh or any other creature."
When Moses fell into that agony and anguish, his faith [iman] and conviction [iqan] showed through. When he fell into the gloom of night and the gloom of sorrow for the wife, on account of the agony she was suffering, Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) revealed to him a light, so he said to his habits, his dependants, his strength and his material means:
Stay here awhile, I notice a fire. (28:29)
"I have seen a light. My innermost being [sirr], my heart [qalb], my inner content [ma'na] and my kernel [lubb] have seen a light. My predestined grace [sabiqa] and my guidance have come to me. Independence from creatures has come to me. Saintship [wilaya] and deputyship [khilafa] have come to me. The root [asl] has come to me and the branch [far'] has departed from me. Dominion has come to me and the dread of Pharaoh has gone from me, and the fear has passed over to him."
He bade his family farewell, committed them to his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) and moved on, for surely He would appoint a successor to him amongst them.
This is how it is for the believer [mu'min] when Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) draws him close and summons him to the door of His nearness. His heart looks about to right and left, to the back and to the front, and he sees that all avenues are blocked except in the direction of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). Then he addresses his lower self [nafs], his passions [hawa], his physical limbs and organs [jawarih], his habits ['ada], his family and everything he has been involved with, saying: "I have spotted the light of nearness to my Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He), so I am moving on toward it. If I have a return, I shall come back to you."
He bids farewell to all creatures. He bids farewell to everything produced [muhdath] and everything made [masnu'], and he moves on toward the Maker [Sani'], for surely the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) will take care of his wife and children and all his material means [asbab].
Part of the spiritual condition [hal] is kept hidden from those who are remote, but not from those who are near, from those who hate but not from those who love. It is kept hidden from the majority, but not from the few. When this heart is sound and pure, it can hear the call of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) from each of the six directions [right and left, above and below, in front and behind]. It can hear the call of every Prophet [nabi], Messenger [rasul], champion of truth [siddiq] and saint [wali]. At this stage he draws near to Him, so that his life comes to be nearness to Him and his death remoteness from Him. His contentment comes to be in his intimate conversation [munajat] with Him, and he is satisfied with this to the exclusion of everything else. He does not care about the loss of this world. He does not care about hunger and thirst, nakedness and indignity.
The seeker [murid] finds contentment in acts of obedience [ta'at], while the knower ['arif], who is sought [murad], finds contentment in nearness to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). O you with your affectations, what is this you are up to? This business cannot be achieved through fasting by day and keeping vigil at night, eating rough food and wearing rough clothes, while still being influenced by the lower self [nafs], the passions [hawa], natural inclinations [tab'], ignorance and the opinions of other people. Nothing can come about through this. Woe unto you! Be sincere [akhlis] and you will be saved [takhlus]. Be truthful [usduq] and you will attain your goal, draw close to your aspiration and ascend to the heights. Surrender [sallim] and you will be safe and sound [salimta]. Be compliant [wafiq] and you will be helped to succeed [wuffiqta]. Be content [irda] and you will be approved of [rudiya 'anka]. You must make a start, then the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) will bring things to completion for you.
O Allah, take care of our affairs in this world and the hereafter. Do not entrust us to our own lower selves [nufus], nor to any of Your creatures!
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported as having said:
Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) will say to Gabriel: "Put such and such a person to sleep, and make so and so get up."
There are two ways of taking this [the first being]: "Make a certain person-the lover [muhibb]-get up, and put another person-the beloved [mahbub]-to sleep. The former has claimed that he loves Me, so I must certainly examine him and put him in his proper place, until the leaves of his being with any but Me fall from him. Make him get up, until the proof of his claim is established, until his love is confirmed. And put a certain other person to sleep, because he is My beloved. He has long been toiling hard. Not a trace is left with him of any other than Me. His love for Me has become single, and confirmed are his claim, his proof and his fulfillment of My covenant. It is now My turn to fulfill his covenant. He is a guest, and the guest is not made to serve and toil. I shall let him sleep in the chamber of My tender care, and I shall let him sit at the table of My gracious favor. I shall entertain him in My nearness and I shall remove him from the presence of all others besides Me. His affection [mawadda] has proved to be genuine, and when affection is authentic formalities are dispensed with."
The other interpretation is: "Put so and so to sleep, for I dislike the sound of his voice, and make that other person get up, for I love to hear his voice."
The lover becomes a loved one only when his heart is purified of everything apart from his Master (Almighty and Glorious is He). When his realization of the Divine Unity [tawhid] is complete, as well as his absolute trust [tawakkul], his faith [iman], his conviction [iqan] and his direct knowledge [ma'rifa], that is when he becomes a loved one. His suffering then departs and comfort comes to him.
Suppose someone loved a certain king, but was separated from him by a great distance, so love overwhelmed him and he set out in a daze, heading in the direction of the king's country. He travels by day and by night, enduring all kinds of hardship and danger. He enjoys neither food nor drink until he reaches the door of his palace. The king has had news about his condition, so he sends his servants out to welcome him. They take him to the bath [hamam] to get him cleaned up, dress him in the finest clothes and make him fragrant with perfumes. Then they bring him into the presence of the king, who entertains him, talks to him, asks him about his condition, marries him to the most beautiful of his slave girls and grants him a portion of his kingdom. He becomes the beloved favorite of the king, so what reason could he have, after all this, to be afraid or weary or to wish to go back to his own country? Why should he wish to part from him, when he has come to be established and trusted in his presence?
This heart, when it has attained to the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), comes to be endowed with His nearness and His intimate conversation, secure in His presence, so it has no desire to leave Him again and go back to any other. The way for the heart to reach this station [maqam] is through the performance of the obligatory religious duties [fara'id], patient renunciation of unlawful things [haram] and carnal desires [shahawat], obtaining things that are permissible [mubah] and lawful [halal] without passion [hawa] and lust [shahwa] and involvement [wujud], and the practice of salutory restraint [wara' shafi] and perfect abstinence [zuhd kamil]. It is the giving up of everything apart from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), opposition to the lower self [nafs], the passions [hawa] and the devil [shaitan], the cleansing of the heart from all creatures whatsoever, and equal indifference to praise or blame, to receiving gifts or having them withheld, and to the hard life of the desert [hajar] or the comfort of civilized living [madar]. The first stage of this business is bearing witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah [shahadatu an la ilaha illa'llah], and the last is equal indifference to rough or civilized living. When a person's heart is sound, he is so closely connected with his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) that desert and town, praise and blame, sickness and good health, riches and poverty, worldly success and failure are all on an equal footing as far as he is concerned.
When someone has genuinely reached this stage, he experiences the death of his lower self [nafs] and his passions [hawa], his natural urges cease to flare up, and his devil becomes humbly submissive to him. This world and its lords [arbab] become insignificant to his heart, while the hereafter and its lords acquire great importance in its sight. Then he turns away from both these worlds and moves toward his Master (Almighty and Glorious is He). His heart finds a track in the midst of creatures [khalq], on which it can pass through to the Truth [Haqq]. They step aside for him to right and left, pull back and clear the path for him. They run away from the fire of his truthfulness [sidq] and the awe-inspiring dignity of his innermost being [sirr].
When someone has genuinely reached this stage, no opponent can make him turn back and no obstacle can bar his way to the door of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). His banner cannot be repulsed, nor his army put to flight. His birds [of good omen] cannot be silenced, and the sword of his affirmation of Unity [tawhid] cannot be blunted. His steps do not falter. His task is not difficult for him, and neither door nor lock can hold fast in front of him. Doors and locks fly apart, and all avenues are opened up. Nothing stands before him until he stands before the Lord. Then He will treat him kindly and let him sleep in His chamber. He will give him to eat of His gracious bounty and to drink of His intimate friendship [uns]. At this point he will see what no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and no human heart has ever conceived.
This servant's return to creatures is for the purpose of guiding them aright and ruling them. They are all subject to the dominion of this servant, who has attained to Him, who has seen Him and regards everything apart from Him as the work of creation. He becomes useful to the people as an expert [jahbadh], a mediator [safir] who points the way to the door of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). Now he is called great in the spiritual kingdom [malakut]. All creatures are under the feet of his heart and find protection in his shade.
You are not rightly guided. You lay claim to that which does not belong to you, and to what you do not possess. Your lower self [nafs] is in control of you, and creatures and all of this world are in your heart. In your heart they are greater than Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). You are outside the limit of the people [of the Lord] and their estimation. If you wish to attain to what I have hinted at, you must devote your attention to the purification of your heart from all things. You must obey the commandments and observe the prohibitions [of the Lord], be patient with destiny [qadar], and expel this world from your heart. After all this, come here to me, so that I may talk with you and tell you about what lies beyond all that. If you do this, you will obtain what you wish, but anything said beforehand would be senseless jabber.
Woe unto you! You need a bite to eat, you lose some trivial little thing, or you suffer an insult to your honor-and it is the end of the world for you! You protest against Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). You vent your rage by beating your wife and children. You curse your religion [din] and your Prophet [nabi]. If you were a sensible person, one of the people of wakefulness and vigilant awareness, you would hold your tongue in the presence of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). You would look upon all of His actions [af'al] as a blessing for your benefit and in your interest. If you pause and do not quarrel, if you are thankful and not ungrateful, if you are content and not dissatisfied, if you are quiet and do not complain, you will be told:
Will not Allah defend His servant? (39:36)
O hasty one, be patient and you will have good and wholesome food to eat. You do not know Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). If you really knew ['arafta] Him, you would not complain about Him to others. If you really knew Him, you would hold your tongue in His presence. You would not demand things of Him and would not pester Him with your supplication [du'a']. No, you would rather comply with His wishes and be patient with Him. Be sensible! You do not need any justification. Everything He does is beneficial. He puts you to the test to see how you will behave. He examines you to find out whether you are confident of His promise, whether you realize that He is Watching you and Aware of you.
Surely you must realize that if the day-laborer [ruzkari] were to beg for a handout while inside the king's palace, this would amount to impudence and greediness on his part. He would be evicted at once from the palace, and would be told: "This fellow needs to go begging." The faith [iman] of the believer [mu'min] cannot be complete as long as his heart still contains any cupidity, greed or importunate demand, or any creatures on whom his fears and hopes are pinned. To achieve this completeness he must practice constant reflection [fikr] and studiously examine the basic sources [usul: 'roots'] and the practical applications derived from them [furu': 'branches']. He must reflect upon the spiritual states [ahwal] of the Prophets [nabiyyun], the Messengers [mursalun] and the righteous [salihun], on how the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) delivered them from the hands of their enemies and helped them to triumph over their foes, and on how He gave them relief and a way out of their problems.
It is through genuine reflection that absolute trust [tawakkul] becomes truly established. This world disappears from the heart and it forgets about jinn, human beings, angels and all creatures, while it remembers the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). The owner of this heart comes to be as if no one else had been created. He comes to be as if he were the only one subject to the [divine] commandments, there being no other creatures; as if he were the only one subject to the [divine] prohibitions, likewise, and as if he were the sole recipient of the [divine] blessings. It seems to him that all obligations rest on the neck of his innermost being [sirr] and his heart. He sees the mountains of obligations, in all their variety of forms, as a mission [risala] from the One who imposes obligations [al-Mukallif], so he undertakes it in order to prove the reality of his servitude ['ubudiyya] and his readiness to obey [tawa'iyya]. He becomes a carrier for creatures, while the Creator carries him. He becomes a physician for them, while his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) is his own physician. He becomes the door for creatures to reach the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), and a mediator [safir] between them and Him. He becomes a sun from which they receive light on their path toward Him. He becomes the food and drink of creatures, for he is never absent from them. He becomes their interest and welfare entirely, and forgets about himself. He comes to be as if he had no lower self [nafs], no natural inclinations [tab'] and no passions [hawa]. He forgets about his own food and drink and clothing. He becomes forgetful of himself, mindful of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). He takes his heart away from his own self and from creatures, but remains with his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). All he seeks is the well-being of other creatures. He has committed his own self [sallama nafsahu] to the hand of the judgment [qada'] of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He), letting go of it completely.
Such is the character of one who is willing to undertake the task of conducting people to the door of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). As for you, you are a crazy fool, ignorant of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), His Messengers [rusul], His saints [awliya'] and His special favorites [khawass] among His creatures. You claim to practice abstinence [zuhd], yet you are always craving [raghib]. Your abstinence is a cripple with no feet. Your only yearning is for this world and creatures. You have no yearning for your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). Be careful how you stand in front of me! Come with good thoughts and good manners, so that I may guide you to your Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) and make you familiar with the path to Him. You must take off the clothes of arrogance and dress yourself in the clothes of humility. You must be put to shame, so that you may receive honor. You must humble yourself so that you may grow in stature. All that you are now engaged in and involved with is crazy foolishness. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) pays no attention to it. This business does not come about through the actions of the physical body. Our Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to say:
Abstinence is in here. Pious devotion [taqwa] is in here. Sincerity [ikhlas] is in here.
-and he would be pointing at his breast.
If someone wishes for success [falah], let him become a piece of ground beneath the feet of the Shaikhs. What is the character of these Shaikhs? They are those who give up this world and creatures, who bid them farewell, who say goodbye to everything below the heavenly Throne ['arsh] down to the surface of the earth, who leave all things behind and bid them the farewell of one who will never be coming back to them again. They say goodbye to all creatures, including their own selves. Their existence [wujud] is together with their Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) in all their states [ahwal]. If anyone seeks the love of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) together with the existence of his own self [nafs], he is indulging in delusion and fantasy. The majority of those who behave like ascetics [mutazahhidun] and devout worshippers [muta'abbidun] are actually the slaves of creatures, whom they treat as if they were partners of Allah [mushrikuna bihim].
You must not put your trust in material means [asbab], making idols of them and depending on them, because you will incur the wrath of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), of Him who is the Originator of all means [Musabbib al-asbab], the Creator [Khaliq] of them and the One who keeps them at His disposal [al-Mutasarrif fiha]. It is the firm belief [i'tiqad] of those who follow the Book of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and the Sunna of His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) that the sword does not cut because of its nature [tab'], but that it is Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) who cuts with it; that fire does not burn because of its nature, but that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is the One who uses it to burn; that food does not satisfy hunger because of its nature, but that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) uses it to satisfy our hunger; that water does not quench thirst because of its nature, but that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is the One who quenches our thirst with it. Likewise with all material means in the variety of their forms, Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is the One who controls and applies them, while they are merely instruments in His hands, with which He does whatever He will.
Since He is the Doer [Fa'il] in reality ['ala'l-haqiqa], why do you not resort to Him in all your affairs, let go of your needs and make a regular practice of affirming His Oneness [tawhid] under all circumstances? His instructions are obvious; they are not concealed from any intelligent person. The slave gets beaten with a stick, but a nod is enough for the free man. You must obey Him, for He will honor those who obey Him. Do not disobey Him, for He will dishonor those who disobey Him. Triumph and failure are in His hand. He honors with triumph whomever He will, and dishonors with failure whomever He will. He honors with knowledge ['ilm] whomever He will, and dishonors with ignorance whomever He will. He honors with nearness whomever He will, and dishonors with remoteness whomever He will.