“Our strength is much greater than our will. In order to conceal this shortcoming, whenever we cannot perform a task, we say: “It is not possible….”
–Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani
Islamic history is full of saints and scholars who have spread the message of Allah. Few, however, reach the level enjoyed by one Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani. His life and teachings have been immortalized. His wisdom continues to inspire and educate Muslims all over the world.
It is worthwhile to examine his spiritual journey in the context of his early life and education. This, so we can shed light on the type of man he was and how he became one of the greatest spirituals leader in Islam.
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Early Life of the Sheikh
Al-Sayyid Abu Muhammad Abdul Qadir Jeelani was born on the first of Ramadhan, 471 Hijri. One can use the Islamic Finder website to find out his birth date according to the Gregorian calendar. His birthplace was Naif, a town in the District of Jeelani in Iran.
To say his birth was a miracle would be an understatement. According to sources, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani was born when his mother was nearly 60 years old. It must also be noted that as a baby Sheikh’s mother noticed that he did not drink milk in the morning till the Maghreb prayer. Indicative of him fasting even as a newborn.
He was a direct descendent of the Holy Prophet (SAWW) from both his mother and father’s side. His father, Hazrat Abu Salih was a descendent of Imam Hassan (RA), the eldest son of Hazrat Ali (RA). While his mother was a descendent of Imam Hussain (RA).
After studying in his birthplace of Jeelan for the first eighteen years of his, Sheikh Abdul Qadir decided to move to Baghdad, Iraq. He did so to pursue knowledge of Islam, as Baghdad was a famous center of learning at that time.
On the Road to Baghdad
One of the most famous events linked to Sheikh’s life occurred on his journey to Baghdad. This event provides a glimpse into the kind of man he was. It is also indicative of the piety that made people follow him.
The caravan Sheikh was traveling with ran into robbers. They looted valuables from everyone in the caravan. When one of the robbers came to the Sheikh and inquired if he possessed anything of value. The Sheikh replied that he did.
The robber didn’t believe the Sheikh and relayed this information to his leader. When asked again, the Sheikh told them his mother had sewed 40 gold coins in his sleeves. He told the truth because his mother had made him promise to do so.
The leaders of the robbers were stunned at Sheikh’s honesty. Sheikh Abdul Qadir was just 18 years old at that time, but he inspired all the robbers to seek Allah’s forgiveness. Such was his charm.
In Baghdad, Sheikh enrolled in Madarassa Nizamiya, the most renowned institution of the time. Here he gathered knowledge on a range of subjects. He studied Islamic Law (Fiqah) under Hazrat Abu Saeed al-Mukharrami, a well-known teacher of the Hanbali school of thought.
He also gained knowledge of commentary of the Holy Quran, Sunnah, Arab literature, and sayings of the Holy Prophet (SAWW). His teachers included such names as Hazrat Abu Ghalib Ahmed, Abu Qasim Ali, and Hazrat Abu Zakriya Yahya Tabrizi.
It was among these learned individuals that Sheikh Abdul Qadir received his education. He studied at the institution for eight years acquiring a wealth of knowledge. Despite becoming an expert in all subjects taught at the institution, the Sheikh’s quest for knowledge continued.
The Sheikh encountered many hardships from the time he left home in search of knowledge. The forty gold coins his mother gave him when he left for Baghdad lasted only a short time. He used to go days without eating or drinking.
Sometimes the pangs of hunger forced him to travel outside of the city to look for anything to eat. There were times when he ate leaves just to satisfy his hunger. Yet these difficult times did not waver his resolve. According to him, it was in these experiences that he gained closeness to Allah (SWT).
He constantly recited the following verses of the Holy Quran:
“For indeed, with hardship (will be) ease. Indeed, with hardship (will be) ease” [94:5-6]
After completing his education in Baghdad the Sheikh turned to nature. He wanted to increase his closeness to Allah (SWT). He wandered the wilderness of Iraq for the next 25 years. He lived a stoic life, suppressing his desires.
He reported hearing a voice from above one time during his wanderings. The voice told Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani that he was free from all accountability. That the laws against the forbidden did not apply to him.
The Sheikh recognized this as the work of Satan. He promptly denounced the temptation. His unwavering resolve was legendary and this event is just one example of it.
During his spiritual journey he spent nearly 25 years travelling. He preferred Karkh for offering prayers as it was secluded region near Baghdad. He also lived in Shushtar for eleven years. Furthermore, he visited Burj Ajami, Al Madain, and Aiwan Kasra.
It was in these travels did he gained spiritual awakening as he faced many hardships. He was also tempted by the devil on his travels and each time his ability to control his will saved him.
Allah (SWT) tested him and he, as a humble servant of the Almighty (SWT), prove himself worthy. By the end of his spiritual learning, he saw a vision. It was to return to Baghdad and spread the knowledge he had gained.
Teachings and Later Life
Sheikh Abdul Qadir lived a long life. When he returned to Baghdad he was already past the age of fifty. Yet he taught in the same institution he had once studied in. his sermons and lectures garnered huge crowds.
One of his miracles was his voice. The Sheikh used to attract crowds of thousands of people at one time. However, despite the size of the crowd everyone, no matter where they stood, used to hear him perfectly.
He was a humble man who was satisfied with Allah no matter the circumstance. Due to his long life, he witnessed the passing away of many of his children. He never grieved for them because he was content in his heart.
The Sheikh’s life is an awe-inspiring example of patience in the face of hardships. He was a humble man who devoted his life to the knowledge of Islam. His followers spread his teachings everywhere. He was the founder of the Qadriyya branch of Islamic mysticism, one that remains popular to this day.