Al-Syed Muhiyudin Abu Muhammad Abdal Qadir al-Gilani al-Hasani wal-Hussaini (there are many variant spellings of his name) 0r simply known as Ghaus-e-Azam (470–561 AH) (1077–1166 AD) was a Persian Hanbali preacher, Sufi sheikh and the figurehead of the Qadiri Sufi order. He was born on the 20th Sha’ban in 470 AH, (March 18, 1077CE) in the Persian province of Gilan (Iran) south of the Caspian Sea.
He spent his early life in the town of his birth. At the age of eighteen he went to Baghdad (1095), where he pursued the study of Hanbali law under several teachers. The Shaikh received lessons on Fiqh from Abu Ali al-Mukharrimi, Hadith from Abu-Bakar-bin-Muzaffar, and tafsir from the renowned commentator, Abu Muhammad Jafar. When he was on the way going to “Baghdad” with a large convoy (Qafila), a group of thieves attacked the convoy and took all of their precious belongings, one of the thieves came to him (Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Gilani) and asked him “Boy, tell me what you have in your luggage”. He replied “I have forty dinars.” The thief searched all of his luggage and could not find the dinars. He then took the boy to his sardar (master) and told him that this boy (Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Gilani) claims he has forty dinars, but after searching his belongings I could not find the dinars. The sardar (master) then asked, “Boy, do you lie?” He replied “No, I am not lying, the dinars were sewn by my mother into my shalwar.” Then one of the thieves checked and found the money. The sardar then asked him. “Boy, you could have lied to us and could have saved your money, why you didn’t you lie?” Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Gilani replied “Before I started my journey, my mother advised me to tell the truth even if someone tries to kill me as Allah frowns upon those who do not speak the truth.” After listening to this the sardar began to cry, as this little boy had so much fear of Allah that he did not lie in such a situation. He felt guilt for all his wrongdoings and felt the fear of Allah so the sardar then gave back all of the looted things to their owners.
In Tasawwuf (the sciences of the heart), his spiritual instructor was Shaikh Abu’l-Khair Hammad bin Muslim al-Dabbas. From him, he received his basic training, and with his help he set out on a spiritual journey.
After completion of education, Abdul-Qadir Gilani abandoned the city of Baghdad, and spent twenty-five years as a wanderer in the desert regions of Iraq as a recluse.
He was over fifty years old by the time he returned to Baghdad in 1127, and began to preach in public. He moved into the school belonging to his old teacher al-Mukharrimii; there he engaged himself in teaching. Soon he became popular with his pupils. In the morning he taught hadith and tafsir, and in the afternoon held discourse on science of the hearts and the virtues of the Qur’an.
He was also the teacher of Ibn Qudamah whom he also designated as a Caliph of his Qadri order (amongst others). His work and jurisprudent works influenced Ibn Taymiyyah who referred to both Ibn Qudamah and Shaikh Al-Gilani as his Shaikhs with full honorifics.
Many Sufi shayukh in the Indian subcontinent trace their lineage to four orders, Chishtiya, Shuhrawardiya, Naqshabandiya and Qadiriya.
The sheikh died on Saturday night 1166CE (8th Rabi’ al-Awwal 561AH) at the age of ninety one years (by the Islamic calendar), and was entombed in a shrine within his Madrassa in Baghdad.His Shrine and Mosque are in what used to be the school he preached in, located in Babul-Sheikh, Resafa (East bank of the Tigris) in Baghdad, Iraq. Worldwide the Qadiriya celebrate Ghawth al-a’tham day on Wednesday closest to his birthday not his death-date for respect and elevation of their Shaykh.
Al-Gilani succeeded the spiritual chain of Junayd Baghdadi. His contribution to thought in the Muslim world earned him the title Muhiyuddin (lit. “The reviver of the faith”), as he along with his students and associates laid the groundwork for the society which later produced stalwarts like Nur ad-Din and Saladin. His Sufi order named after him is generally thought to be one of the most popular Sufi orders of the Islamic world.
Some of Jilani’s more well known works include:
- Al-Ghunya li-talibi tariq al-haqq wa al-din (Sufficient Provision for Seekers of the Path of Truth and Religion) available for download (English)
- Al-Fath ar-Rabbani (The Sublime Revelation) available for download (urdu)
- Malfuzat (Utterances)
- Futuh al-Ghaib (Revelations of the Unseen) available for download (urdu) (English)
- Jala’ al-Khatir (The Removal of Care)
- Bahajja-Tul Asrar (Ground Secerets)