Shaikh ABD AL-QAADIR AL-JILANI ENTERS BAGHDAD:
The city of Baghdad was blessed with the presence al-Ghawth al-A’zam Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. in the year 488 A.H. When he arrived in Baghdad, Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. already spent the forty Dirhams given to him by his mother. Without any money, he began to spend his days in hunger and poverty. Due to immense poverty, he went towards the Arcade of Chosroes in search of Halaal food. When he reached the Arcade, he found that there were already seventy Awliya Allah in search of Halaal food. Since he did not wish to be in their way, he returned to Baghdad.
On his way back, he met a traveller from Jilan. When he heard that Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. was from Jilan, he asked him if he knew a young man by the name of “Abd al-Qaadir”. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. informed him that he was Abd al-Qaadir. The traveller then handed a block of gold to Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. saying that it had been sent to him by his mother. When Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. heard this, he immediately made the Shukr of Almighty Allah. He then returned to the Arcade of Chosroes where he presented most of the gold to the Awliya Allah who were in search of food. He then took a little for himself and returned to Baghdad.
On his return to Baghdad, he prepared meals and fed the poor and then shared this meal with them. This alone shows the character of the great Ghaus that even though he was without food, he first gave most of his gold to the Awliya Allah, then fed the poor before eating the the food himself. Without doubt, this is the sign of a true servant of Allah.
It was in this manner that the life of al-Ghawth al-A’zam Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. commenced in the holy city of Baghdad.
ATTAINING AND COMPLETION OF ACADEMIC KNOWLEDGE
After a few days in Baghdad Shareef, al-Ghawth al-A’zam Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. enrolled for academic studies at the famous Jamia Nizamia, which was the centre of learning and spiritualism in the Islamic world. Teachers of great calibre and piety tutored here.
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. studied with great sincerity and dedication.
Amongst his teachers were: Abul Wafa Ali bin Aqeel, Abu Zakariyah Yahyaa bin Ali Tabrezi, Abu Saeed bin Abdul Kareem, Abul Anaa’im Muhammad bin Ali bin Muhammad, Abu Sa’eed bin Mubaarak Makhzoomi, and Abul Khair Hamaad bin Muslim Al Dabbas r.a. He attained the knowledge of Qirah, Tafseer, Hadith, Fiqh, Shari’ah and Tareeqah from the above-mentioned Ulama.
He also excelled in all these subjects. In the field of Adab, his teacher was Allama Abu Zakariyah Tabrezi r.a. who was a great Aalim of his time. He was also the author of various Kitaabs such as “Tafseerul Quraan Wal E’raab”, “Sharah Qasaa’idul Ashr”a“Sharah Diwaan Abi Tamaam”. In the field of Fiqh and Usool-e-Fiqh, his teachers were: Shaikh Abul Wafa bin Aqeel Hambali, Abul Hassan Muhammad bin Qaazi Abul Ulaa and Shaikh Abul Khataab Mahfooz Hambali, and Qaazi Abu Sa’eed Mubaarak bin Ali Makhzoomi Hambali r.a.
In the field of Hadith, he attained knowledge from the following Ulama: Sayyidi Abul Barkaat Talhaa Al Aaqooli, Abul Ana’im Muhammad bin Ali bin Maimoon Al Farsi, Abu Uthmaan Ismaeel bin Muhammad Al Isbihaani, Abu Ghaalib Muhammad bin Hassan Al Baaqilaani, Abu Muhammad Jaafar bin Ahmad binil Husaini, Sayyidi Muhammad Mukhtaar Al Haashmi, Sayyidi Abu Mansoor Abdur Rahmaan Al Qaz’zaaz, Abul Qaasim Ali bin Ahmad Ban’naan Al Karghi After intense studies, Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. qualified from Jamia Nizamia. During this period, there was no Aalim present on the earth who was more knowledgeable and pious than Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a.
HARDSHIPS FACED DURING STUDIES
While studying in Baghdad, he faced many hardships and was tested severely by the life of Baghdad. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. himself used to say: “The hardship and difficulties that I faced in Baghdad during my studies were so severe that if they had to be placed on a mountain, then even the mountain would split in two.” He also used to say: “When the hardships and difficulties would become unbearable, then I would lay on the road and continuosly recite the Ayah of the Holy Quran, ‘Then without doubt there is easiness with shortages, without doubt there is easiness with shortages’. By making takraar of this Ayah I used to find great tranquillity and peace.”
After adjourning from classes, he used to wander into the jungles and forests of Baghdad where he used to spend the entire night in the Zikr of Almighty Allah. He did this regardless of the weather conditions or season. If he become tired and weak, he would rest for a while making the ground his bed and a boulder his pillow. During these nights of Zikr, he would dress in a small turban and a thin cloak. If he became hungry, he used to go towards the river Euphrates and eat whatever vegetables he could find beside the river. He always said that he gained much pleasure in this way of life and it caused him to gain closeness to Almighty Allah.
PATIENCE DURING A SEVERE DROUGHT:
Once, while he was studying, the city of Baghdad experienced a severe drought. The conditions in Baghdad became so desperate that people became dependant on every grain that they could find. When there was no more grain, people began to eat plants and leaves from trees. During this time, al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. used to also go out in search for food. But when he saw others in search of food, he would return to the city empty-handed, as he did not feel it appropriate to impose by disturbing others whom he thought needed food more than he did. Many days had passed by without him eating.
Due to intense hunger, he was compelled to go out in search of food towards a market in Baghdad known as Sooqur Raihaanain”. As he entered the market, his hunger had made him so weak and tired, that be could not stand anymore. He saw a Musjid nearby and slowly dragged himself towards it. He entered the Musjid and sat against one of the walls of the Musjid to support his now tired and weak body. He sat there for a while. Then he saw a person enter the Musjid. The person sat in one corner and opened a parcel in which there was fried meat and bread. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. reported this incident that the person then began to have this meal. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. says: “The intensity of my hunger was so great that every time the person lifted a morsel of food to his mouth, my mouth would open uncontrollably with his and would wish that I also had something to eat.”
When this continued happening, al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. turned to his nafs and said, “Do not be impatient. Have trust and faith in Almighty Allah.” After saying these words he did not feel this way anymore. After a little while, this person came to Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. uninvited and offered him some food. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. kindly declined, but the person insisted. Upon such insistence, Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. joined him in his meal.
Whilst eating, the person asked al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. about himself. He explained to him that he was from Jilan and that he was in Baghdad to attain knowledge. The person then said that he was also from Jilan and asked if he knew the person of the name of Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. answered by saying, ‘My name is Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani.”
When the man heard this, with tears in his eyes, he stood before Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. and said, “Please forgive me for I have misused that which was given to me in trust.” Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. asked the stranger to explain what he meant. The stranger then said: “When I was leaving Jilan, I met an old woman, who gave me eight Dirhams in trust that I should give it to her son, Abd al-Qaadir, who is studying in Baghdad. O Abd al-Qaadir! The food that I was eating was from the eight Dirhams that your mother had given for you. I had been searching for you but could not find you and due to this, my stay in Baghdad was extended. This caused my money to run out and out of extreme hunger, I used some of your money to purchase this food that we ate. O Abd al-Qaadir! It is not I that fed you, but it is you that fed me. Please forgive me for abusing that which was given to me in trust (Amaanah).”
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a., with great gentleness and affection, held the stranger to his heart and praised him for his honesty and his sincerity. He then gave the remainder of the food and a portion of the eight Dirhams to the stranger and bid him farewell.
This incident indicates in clear terms that Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. was concerned more with the needs of others than those of his own. Notwithstanding his dire need in the circumstances, he remained sensitive to the plight of this stranger. This act of selflessness alone is a lesson in the behaviour that one should adopt.
A LION OF ALLAH:
Shaikh Abdullah Salmi r.a. states that he heard the following astonishing incident from Al-Ghawth al-A’zam Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. The Great Ghawth said: “Once during my studies in Baghdad, I had nothing to eat for many days. One day, in this condition, I was on my way to a small street called ‘Qat’eeya Sharfiya’. Here, there was a Musjid, which used to be empty. I used to sit there by myself and revise my lessons for the next day. On my way to Mohalla Qat’eeya, I met a stranger who gave me a piece of paper and asked me to take it to a certain shop. Very surprised, I did as he asked. When I got to the shop, I gave the piece of paper to the owner, who in turn kept this piece of paper and gave me roti (bread) and halwa (sweets). I took this roti and halwa and went into the Musjid where I used to revise my lessons. I sat down for a while and decided to eat a piece of bread and some halwa when I saw a piece of paper beside the wall.
I picked it up and saw the following words written on it, ‘Almighty Allah has stated in one of the past Books, that the Lions of Allah have no desire for the pleasures of this world. Desires and pleasure (in food) are for the old and weak who depend on this to gain strength for Ibadah. When I read this my entire body began to tremble in the fear of Allah causing all the hair on my body to stand on end. I immediately removed the desire of eating from my mind and read two Rakahs of Salaah and then left the Musjid without eating.”
ENCOUNTER WITH A PIOUS SERVANT OF ALLAH
It was a common practice during harvesting season in Baghdad Shareef for students to get together at a nearby village called “Baaqooba” and to ask the farmers for some grain from their annual harvest. In those days, the people showed great respect to students and happily gave them grain. On one occasion, the students, who were in the class of Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a., insisted that he accompany them to the village of Baaqooba. Since he did not want to disappoint them, he accompanied them to the village. When they reached there, Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. heard that a pious servant of Allah, by the name of Shareef Baaqoobi lived in this village. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. decided to meet this pious servant to obtain his blessings. When Shareef Baaqoobi saw Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a., he immediately recognised that this was the Qutb-e-Zaman. He told him: “0 my son! Those who strive in the path of Allah do not sketch their hands out to anyone but Allah. You seem to be amongst the chosen servants of Allah. For you to ask for grain (from the people of Baaqooba) is contrary to your status.”
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. states: “From that day onwards, I never accompanied anyone on such trips and I never asked anything from anyone again.”
ASSISTANCE FROM THE UNSEEN:
One day, the Great Ghawth r.a. was studying in the jungle when he heard a voice from the Unseen call to him: “O Abd al-Qaadir! You have not eaten in days and most of your time is being spent in studies. Go to someone and get something on credit. It is the Sunnah of the Ambiya.”
When Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. heard this, he replied that he could not take anything on credit, as he had no means of repaying this credit. The voice answered: Do not worry about this. Repaying your credit is Our responsibility.”
After receiving this message, he went to a shop and requested the shopkeeper for some food on credit. He said: "I would like for you to give me one and a half rotis (slices of bread) daily on credit, which I will repay when I have the means, and if I die before this, then you should pardon my credit.”
The shopkeeper, being a pious servant of Allah, began to cry when he heard these words of Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. He repled: “Take anything that you wish to take from my shop and whenever you wish to do so.”
From that day onwards, he used to take one and a half rotis (bread) daily. The days passed by rapidly and Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. began to worry about the money that he owed. One day, he was engrossed in this thought when the same Voice from the Unseen called to him and said: “O Abd al-Qaadir! Go to a certain place and whatever you find there, give it to the shopkeeper”.
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. went to that spot that he was commanded to go to. There, he found a piece of gold. He took this piece of gold and gave it to the shopkeeper thus paying off his credit.
ATTAINMENT OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE
After the completion of his academic studies, Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. did not cease in his quest for in-depth spiritual knowledge. To quench this spiritual thirst, Almighty Allah presented him with the opportunity of coming under the guidance of Shaikh Ham’maad bin Muslim Ad Dab’baas r.a. He was amongst the superior Mashaa’ikh of Baghdad Shareef.
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. states that there came a time in Baghdad when there was an abundance of fitna (fighting) and fasaad (trouble). Since he did not want any part of this, he decided to leave Baghdad Shareef for a more peaceful environment. Al-Ghawth al-A’zam r.a. says: “I made my intention to leave Baghdad due to the unsuitable conditions and I was on my way out of Baghdad, when from the Unseen, some great strength pushed me so hard that that I fell to the ground. Then, I heard a Voice from the Unseen say, ‘Do not leave here. The creation of Allah will gain benefit through you.’ On hearing this, I said, ‘What do I have to do with the people? All that I want is to protect my Deen (Imaan).’ The Voice then said, ‘No, No, It is of utmost importance for you to remain here. No harm will come to your Deen (Imaan).’
“I immediately changed my mind and I remained in Baghdad for the Pleasure of Allah. The very next day, as I was passing through a street, a man opened the door of his house and called to me. He said: ‘O Abd al-Qaadir! What did you ask from your Creator yesterday?’ With these words and in great Jalaal, he closed the door of his house. I walked for some time and then realised that I had made a grave error. This person was a Wali. If he wasn’t then he would not have known what had happened the previous day. I went in search for his door but was unsuccessful. Thereafter, I looked for him wherever I went, until one day I saw him in a Majlis. I stayed in his company from then onwards. This personality was Sayyidi Ham’maad bin Muslim Ad’ Dab’baas r.a.
Shaikh Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani r.a. gained deep spiritual knowledge from Shaikh Ham’maad r.a., who was originally from Syria. He was born in a village near Damascus. He travelled to Baghdad and lived in a place called Muzaffariyyab until his demise in 525 A.H. His Mazaar is in the Shawneezia Cemetery in Baghdad Shareef.