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Glimpses from the Life of Ghaus-e-Azam Abdul Qadir Mohiyuddin Jilani - the Head of All Sufi Masters


By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

01 January 2018

This is the fourth Islamic month of Rabi al-Thani. It marks the death anniversary of the universally acclaimed Head of all Sufi Masters, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Mohiyuddin Jilani (470/1077–561/1166). He is reverently known as Ghaus-e-Azam - the manifestation of Allah’s attribute, Qutub-e-Azam — the centre and the pillar of spiritual evolution, the spiritual king of the world, the source of wisdom, container of all knowledge, the example of faith and Islam; a true inheritor of the perfection of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was a notable Sunni Hambali preacher, jurist, theologian, ascetic and the founder of the Qadiriyya, the Sufi order that has spread all across the globe and preserved the true meaning of Islamic mysticism throughout these centuries until our time. Sunni-Sufi Muslims celebrate 1st day of Ramadan as the birthday of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam, and his death anniversary on 11 Rabi ul Akhir (fourth Islamic month) which is known in the Subcontinent as Giyarween Shareef.

Early Life of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam was born in 470 AH in the month of Ramadan in the region called Jilan-e-Gharb, Jilan, Iran. His mother, Umm ul Khayr Fatima b. Abdullah Sauma’i was from the line of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his grandson, Imam Husain.

All the Ulema and Auliya (saints) unanimously agree that Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam is wali by birth. His miracles (Karamat) are very famous; one of them is from his infancy. It was famous among the people of Jilan/Gilan that as an infant child during the month of Ramadan, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani would take his mother’s milk only at night and never took it during daytime.

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam relates, “When I was a small child, every day an angel visited me in the shape of a beautiful young man. He used to walk with me from our house to school and make the children in the class give me a place in the first row. He used to stay with me all day long and then bring me back home. In a single day I would learn more than the other students learned in a week. I did not know who he was. One day I asked him and he said, “I am one of Allah’s angels. He sent me to you and asked me to be with you as long as you study.”

Speaking again about his childhood, he relates, “each time I felt a desire for going and playing with other children, I would hear a voice saying, ‘Come to Me instead, O blessed one, come to Me’. In the state of fear, I would go and seek the comfort of my mother’s arms. Now, even in my most intense devotions and long seclusions, I cannot hear that voice as clearly.

An extraordinary incident is narrated this way that one day, Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam, on the eve of Eid al-Adha, left his home for a walk. He was walking behind an ox. The ox turned its head, looked at him and spoke to him in the human language. It said, “You have not been created for this and you have not been commanded to do this.” He immediately returned home and explained this incident to his widowed mother and asked her, “Send me to the path of Truth, give me permission to go to Baghdad in order to complete my academic studies and seek more spiritual knowledge”. His mother, who was now 78 years old, asked him about what was the reason for his sudden request. He told her what had happened to him. She cried but she agreed to this noble request without a second thought.

It was the time of his youth when an oft-narrated incident of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam occurred; which reflects his truthfulness and obedience to his mother. It was when he left for Baghdad to pursue his education. As he left behind the city of Hamadan, a band of highwaymen, sixty horsemen strong, attacked his small caravan going to Baghdad. Some dacoits successively came to him and asked if he had any possessions. Every time he told them that he had forty pieces of gold hidden in his armpit. They laughed, left him alone and told this incident to their leader. The leader of the dacoits called him to the place where they were dividing the booty. He asked the same questions. Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam told him that he had forty pieces of gold sewn in his coat under his arm. They took his coat, tore the armpit and discovered the gold. Then the leader of the dacoits asked him in amazement why he revealed what they had not found. Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam told them that before he left home, his mother had instructed him to always speak the truth. When the chief of the dacoits heard this, he wept and said, “I reneged on my promise to the One Who created me. I stole and killed. What will happen to me? Then by placing his hands upon the hands of Ghaus-e-Azam, the leader of the dacoits solemnly vowed to give up robbery. And the others, seeing him, also repented their sins and were the first who took his hands and found forgiveness for their sins. The robbed belongings were returned to their owners. This transformation in the life of these dacoits was not only due to Ghaus-e-Azam’s strict adherence to truthfulness but also to his mystical powers.

In later days when someone asked Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam what brought him to his high spiritual level, he replied, “The truthfulness which I promised to my mother”.

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam was the authority, the imam, in religious matters, theology and law, and the leader of the Shafi’i and Hanbali groups of Islamic Jurisprudence. All the Sufi Masters and common people of his time profited from him. His prayers were immediately accepted. Through the authentic chains of narrations we come to know that he performed many miracles. He devoted his entire life to remembrance of Allah, meditating, thinking, taking and giving lessons.

Teachings of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam devoted himself to giving free education with boarding and lodging facilities to the students and scholars of religious sciences from 528 A.H to 561 A.H. His spiritual teacher and guide Shaikh Abu Saeed was a staunch follower of Hazrat Imam Hanbal. Ghaus-e-Azam had also specialized in the fields of Hanbalite and Shafiite law. He had great respect for all the great Muslim jurists. He never tried to transform a matter of difference of opinion into a dispute, nor involved himself in any sectarian or factional conflict. It is related that in spite of being a Hanbalite, he was made guardian of the tomb of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa for some time. Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam used to speak in so effective and miraculous way that he transformed the ones who heard them. His spiritual glance was enough to cleanse outer and inner defilements of the people. His disciples and congregation rapidly increased in number. A large number of students, mystics, perfect saints, jurists, and people from all walks of life flocked to his Jamia to get religious knowledge, spiritual influence and blessing from his sermons. His sermons signified the universaility of his thought, mastery and deep erudition in Islamic learning and above all the depth of his inspired knowledge. It is reported that when he started teaching, he had only two or three students, but soon after he became famous for his attributes of piety, truthfulness, benevolence and other God-gifted bounties, the students increased in such great numbers that Madrasa became too small for accommodating these gatherings. 

The Following Are Some Beautiful Teachings of Ghaus-E-Azam;

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam said,

“Three things are indispensable for a believer in all conditions of life: 1) He should keep the commandments of Allah. 2) He should abstain from the forbidden things. 3) He should be pleased with the decree of Providence. Thus the least that is expected of a believer is that he should not be without these three things. So he should make up his mind for these and talk to himself about them and keep his organs engaged in them.” (First discourse-Futuh al-Ghaib)

This first discourse is comprehensive in its application and so much beneficial that it is not easy for me to illustrate here.  If Muslims keep themselves engaged continuously in these three things, they will attain spiritual power to save themselves from the evil activities as well as the evil intentions of the religious haters and persecutors. 

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam said,

“The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said: “Allah is more merciful towards His servant than a mother is towards her son.” 0 poor man! show good manners to the utmost. Exhibit patience at the time of calamity, even if you become exhausted by patience. Hold on to patience even if you get exhausted through your cheerful submission to, and harmony with God. Hold on to cheerful resignation to and concord with Him. Remain ever pleased and get reconciled……” (18th discourse, Futuh al-Ghaib)

It is related that according to Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam, he who does not possess the following twelve qualities is not a true spiritual teacher.

1.       He should learn two divine qualities; 1) to hide the faults of man and the rest of creation, not only from others, but even from themselves and to have mercy, compassion and forgiveness for even the worst of sins.

2.       Two qualities from the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) — kindness and benevolence.

3.       Two from Hadrat Abu Bakr; Truthfulness as well as devotion and generosity.

4.       Two from Hadrat ‘Umar; justice, and imposing the right and preventing the wrong.

5.       Two from Hadrat ‘Uthman; feeding the poor and staying awake and praying while the rest of mankind are asleep.

6.       Two from Hadrat ‘Ali; to learn knowledge and adopt mettle and courage.

About the qualities of Tasawwuf, it is related that Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam said, “Tasawwuf is the cleansing of the heart of all defilements (filth). It is based on eight qualities:

1.       Generosity like that of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him)

2.       Submission and surrender like that of Prophet Issac (peace be upon him)

3.       Patience or forbearance like that of Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him)

4.       Supplication or secret communing like that of Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him)

5.       Isolation and imploration like that of Prophet John (peace be upon him)

6.       Woolen dress like that of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him)

7.       Travelling about like that of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him)

8.       And Spiritual Poverty (faqr) like that of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

(See Muhammad Riyaz Qadiri, “The Sultan of the Saints” page 241) 

Explaining the meaning of the divine saying “hearts broken for God’s sake” (as reported in a Prophetic tradition), Ghaus-e-Azam Abdul Qadir Jilani says:

“Allah has said: “I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.” So Allah will not be with you until you totally disown your desire and your will. When these are broken, and you contain nothing stable or useful, Allah will create you afresh and install in you a new power of will for you to exercise. If any element of self creeps into this newly created will, however, the Lord will smash it again. You will always be left broken-hearted, because He will repeat this process until the book of destiny ends with union. This is the meaning of: “I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.” When we speak of an element of self creeping in, we mean that you become sure and self-confident in relation to the new will.” (Discourse On PASSING BEYOND CREATION: ANNIHILATION, page 11)

Morality of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam

Someone asked Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam what he received from Allah the Most High. He answered, “Good conduct and knowledge.”

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam was a soft-heartened and gentle with smiling face. He was sensitive and possessed the best of manners. He loved people, but particularly the believers who served and worshipped Allah the Most High.

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam was handsome and well-dressed. He did not speak unnecessarily but whenever he spoke, spoke beautifully and truthfully. He spoke the truth without fear, for that he did not care whether he was praised or criticized and condemned.

Baghdad was widely wicked in its morals and behavior. When Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam came here, he reformed the people of this city. These people repented, and started practicing the good morals and teachings of Islam. Everyone loved and respected him, and his influence spread everywhere. The righteous loved him but the wrongdoers feared him.

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam used to take care of all his tens of thousands of followers their worldly affairs and spiritual state. He helped them, saved them from difficulties, and treated them with tenderness and compassion. He had the company of the poor and the weak alike.

Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam used to say, “My followers will not die before they repent. They will die as faithful servants of Allah.”

The people who attached themselves to Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam were always at peace and joyful. Someone asked him, “We know the state of your good followers and what awaits them in the Hereafter. But what about the bad ones?’ He answered, “The good ones are devoted to me and I am devoted to saving the bad ones.” 

It is related that one day his wife came to him and said, “O possessor of the best of characters, your little son has passed away, and we have not seen a single tear in your eyes, nor have you shown any sign of sadness or concern. Don’t you have any compassion for someone who is a part of you? We are bent over double in sorrow, yet you go about your business as if nothing has happened. You are our master, our guide, our hope for this world and the Hereafter, but if your heart is hard and there is no compassion there, how can we, who hope to hold onto you on the day of Last Judgment, have faith that you will save us?’

“The Shaykh said, ‘O my dear friend, do not think that my heart is hard. I pity the unfaithful for his unfaithfulness, I pity the dog who bites me and pray to Allah that it stop biting people, not that I mind being bitten, but because others will throw stones at it. Don’t you know that I have inherited compassion from the one whom Allah sent as mercy upon the universe?’ The women said, ‘Indeed, if you have feeling even for the dog which bites you, how is it that you do not show any feeling for your own son who has been smitten with the sword of death?’

“The Shaykh said, ‘O my sad companion, you cry because you feel separated from your son whom you love. I am always with the one I love. You saw your son in the dream which this world is, and you have lost him in another dream. Allah says, “This world is but a dream.” It is a dream for the ones who are asleep. I am awake. I saw my son when he was within the circle of time. Now he has walked out of that circle. I still see him and he is with me. He is playing around me just as he did before. For when you see that which is real with the eye of the heart, whether dead or alive, the truth does not disappear.” (Sirrul Asrar, The Secret of Secrets by Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani- Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi, 1992, Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge U.K)

Some Great Works of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam

Many of Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam’s writings, sermons and prayers have been preserved. Some of his great mystical works that have been serving the humanity as a great source of spiritual inspiration down the ages include: 1) Futuh al-Ghaib (Revelations of the Unseen) consisting of 78 discourses, 2) Al-Fatah al-Rabbani (The Sublime Revelation) comprising 62 discourses, 3) Jala' al-Khawatir (The Removal of Cares) with 45 discourses, 4) Kitab Sirr al-Asrar wa Mazhar al-Anwar (The Book of the Secret of Secrets and the Manifestation of Lights), 5) Malfuzat (Utterances), 6) Ghunya al-Talibin (Sufficient Provision for Seekers of the Path of Truth), 7) Khamsata 'Ashara Maktuban (Fifteen Letters –written in Persian language), 7) Al-Fuyudat al-Rabbaniyya (Emanations of Lordly Grace), 8) Bashair al-Khairat (Glad Tidings of Good Things), 9) A Salawat by Sheikh Abdul Qadir (Allah is pleased with him) by way of inspiration from Allah etc.


1.       Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, “Futuh al-Ghaib” translated in English by Aftab ud Din Ahmad, Kitab Bhawan, New Delhi, 7th edition 2013

2.       Shaikh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlvi, “Akhbar al-Akhyar, Urdu edition, Akbar Book publishers, 2004, Urdu Bazar Lahore 

3.       Muhammad Riyaz Qadiri, “The Sultan of the Saints”, Adam publishers and Distributors, New Delhi

4.       Sirrul Asrar, The Secret of Secrets by Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani- Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi, 1992, Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge U.K.)


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.


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