Is it not sad enough that I beg You ceaselessly,
As if I were far from You, as if You were absent?
I ask for Your charity without greed, and I see none
Who is as poor as I, and who desires You like I desire You.
He was the Summit of Knowers and the King of the Perfect Guides, the Revealer of the Knowledge of the Religion and the Revealer of the Secret of Certainty; the Verifier of the State of Perfection, Shaykh of all Shaykhs of the Indian Subcontinent, the Inheritor of the Knowledge and Secrets of the Naqshbandi Order. He is known as the Unique Diver and Swimmer in the Ocean of Oneness; the traveler in the Desert of the Ascetic State; the Qutb of all orders and the Red Sulfur (“Rarest of the Rare”) of All Truth.
He perfected himself and adorned himself with the best ethics and manners. He lifted himself up to the High Heavens of Spiritual Knowledge and adorned himself with its stars. He became the foremost in every science. He grew to be a full moon and he saw his light coming from the Sun of his teacher, until his teacher accepted to train him formally and to care for him.
The Shaykh supported him by means of his spiritual power and raised him to the highest blessing he had attained, until he attained the state of the Certainty of Truth and the state of the Furthermost Lote Tree. Then he sent him back to this world, until he became as we said before, the guide for every human being. He was given permission to give initiation in the Naqshbandi Order. He supported the sharaca, upheld the sunnah, and revived the Truth of five tariqats: Qadiri, Suhrawardi, Kubrawi, Chishti and Naqshbandi. He passed the secrets of and authority of all five Tariqats to his successor, and through him to all subsequent Shaykhs of the Golden Chain. He raised all his murids to the exalted stations of the abdal (Substitute-Saints) and awtad (Pillar-Saints).
He was born in 1158 H./1745 AD. in the village of Bitala in the Punjab. He was a descendant of the Family of the Prophet . His father was a great scholar and ascetic trained in the Qadiri Taraqat by Shaykh Nasir ad-Din al-Qadiri, who had been trained by Khidr . Before he was born, his father saw in a dream Sayyidina cAli, the fourth khalif, telling him, “Call him by my name.” His mother saw in a dream a pious man telling her, “You are going to have a boy. Call himcAbdul Qadir.” Then his father and his mother saw the same dream in which the Prophet told them, “Call him cAbdullah.” Because the Prophet’s order took precedence over any other suggestion, he was named cAbdullah Shah GhulamcAli.
He memorized the Qur’an in one month due to his genius. He educated himself in external and spiritual knowledge, until he became the highest of the scholars. As a youth he went many times to the desert, making dhikr there for months at a time, subsisting on whatever food he could find. One time he stayed 40 days without sleeping and without eating a morsel of food. His dhikr didn’t stop. His father’s Shaykh ordered his father to bring his son to him to initiate him in the Qadiri Tariqat. The same night that he reached the Shaykh’s house the Shaykh died. His father told him, “We would have gladly given you the Qadiri Tariqat, but now you are free to find whatever Way suits you.”
He kept company with the Shaykhs of the Chishti Tariqat in Delhi, among them Shaykh Dia’ullah, Shaykh cAbdul cAddad, khalif of Shaykh Muhammad Zubair, Shaykh Mirdad, Mawlana Fakhruddin, and many others, until he reached the age of twenty-two. He came by himself to the khaniqah of Shaykh Jan Janan Habibullah (q). He asked his permission to enter the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Order. Shaykh Habibullah said to him, “It is better for you to be with those orders that have taste and compassion, for in our Tariqat there is nothing except to lick the stone without any salt.” He said, “That is my highest goal.” Shaykh ababullah accepted him and said, “May Allah bless you. Stay here.”
He said, “After I received the knowledge of the hadith and memorized the Qur’an and learned its interpretation, I stood in the presence of my Shaykh. He gave me initiation into the Qadiri Tariqat with his holy hand. He also gave me initiation into the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Tariqat. I was in the presence of the circles of Dhikr and in his company for 15 years. Then he gave me the authorization to guide and train murids.
“I was hesitant at first, because I was afraid that Sayyidina cAbdul Qadir Jilani (q) would not give me permission to teach in the Naqshbandi Order. I saw him in a vision one day during my period of hesitation, sitting on a throne. Shah Naqshband (q) entered. Immediately he stood up and he put Shah Naqshband on the throne and he remained standing in his presence. It came to my heart that this was a sign of respect for Shah Naqshband. He said to me, ‘Go to Shah Naqshband. The goal is Allah. Whatever Path you choose you can reach Him.’”
He said, “I was living on income from a piece of property that I owned. I gave it away for Allah’s sake. After that I faced many difficulties because I had no income. I was left with only an old mat to sleep on in cold weather and a small old pillow on which I rested my head. I became very weak. I locked myself in my room and said to myself, ‘O my Self, this is your grave. I am not going to open that door for you. Whatever Allah provides for you, you may take. You are going to live here without food and without anything but that mat and that pillow. Your food is going to be water. O my spirit, your food is going to be Dhikrullah.’ I stayed in that state 40 days, growing very weak, when Allah sent someone knocking at my door. He served me with food and provided me with clothes for 50 years.”
He said, “When I locked the door of my room and I said what I said, Allah’s Care reached me. One day a person came to me and said, ‘Open the door.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to open it.’ He said, ‘Don’t you need me?’ I said, ‘No, I need Allah, Almighty and Exalted.’ At that momment I experienced a vision in which I was raised up to Allah’s Presence and it was as if I spent one thousand years in His presence. Then I returned and He told me, ‘Open that door.’ After that I never experienced any difficutly.”
People came to him from everywhere. His fame reached as far as Byzantium, Iraq, Khorasan, Transoxiana, and Syria. His fame reached North Africa. He sent his khalifs and deputies everywhere on the order of Sayyidina Muhammad . Among them was Sayyidina Khalid Baghdadi (q). He reached people through dreams and guided people in far countries. They travelled to him from great distances, telling him, “You called me to you through my dreams.”
His khaniqah used to feed 2,000 persons every day and it was always full. He never kept any food for the next day. Out of modesty he never slept extending his feet, because he was afraid of extending his feet towards the Prophet or any saints or the Divine Presence. He never looked in a mirror. If a dog entered his house to eat he would say, “O Allah, who am I to be a means between You and Your Lover? And who am I to feed them when You are feeding me and you are feeding them? O Allah, I am asking for the sake of your creation, this one, and everyone who comes asking me for mercy, send me Mercy for their sake and bring me nearer to You and help me to hold fast to the Sunnah of the Prophet and to accept what you have prescibed and to leave what you have prohibited.”
He said, “One time Ismacil al-Madani came to visit me, by the order of the Prophet . From his country, the Hijaz, he had travelled thousands of miles. He had brought with him some of the relics of the Prophet and he gave them to me as a gift. I put them in the Great Mosque in Delhi.”
He said, “One time there came to me the King of Nabdilkahand, and he was wearing the clothes of the unbelievers. When I saw him I was angry with him and said to him, “You cannot sit in my presence in such clothes.” The king said, “If you are condemning me so much I will not come to your association.” The Shaykh said, “That is better.” He stood up angrily to go. When he reached the door, something happened to him, no one knew what. He threw off the clothes of the unbelievers and came running back and kissed the hand of the Shaykh and took initiation (baycah) from him and became one of his loyal followers. They asked him later what happened. He said, “When I was going out, I saw the Shaykh coming in through the door with the Prophet , while he was inside! That is what made me run back to him.”
He slept very little. When he awoke for Tahajjud (late-night) prayers he would awaken everyone to sit with him for contemplation and reading the Qur’an. Every day it was his practice to read one third of the Qur’an and then pray Fajr prayer with the group. Then he would sit in the circle of Dhikr and Contemplation until sunrise. He would pray Ishraq and then he would give a talk. He would sit to recite hadith and read commentaries on the Qur’an. He would pray Duha (Late Morning Prayer) and then sit to eat with all his followers. He ate little and after he ate he would read religious and spiritual books and write some letters. After Dhuhr (Noon Prayer) he would sit and recite tafsir and hadith until cAsr time. AftercAsr he would speak about Sufism and its distinguished lunminaries, such as al-Qushayri, or Ibn ‘Arabi or Shah Naqshband (q). Then he would sit in a circle of Dhikr until Maghrib. After Maghrib he would sit in the private circle of his followers. Then he would eat dinner and pray cIsha. After cIsha he would spend the night in dhikr and contemplation. He would sleep for only one or two hours, then he would wake for Tahajjud.
His mosque was too small for his followers, as it would only hold 2,000 people. So he used to recite dhikr for his followers by turns, each time filling the mosque.
Whoever gave him a donation he would first pay the zakat from it, according to the school of Imam Abu Hanifa, without waiting for the passage of a year, because to give the zakat immediately is better than to give voluntary charity. He would use what remained for preparing food and sweets for the poor and for the needs of his zawiya and for his own needs.
Some people would steal from that money and he would not reprimand them, but would leave them for Allah. One day a man stole a book from him and then returned to sell it back. He praised him and gave him the money. One of his followers said, “O my master this is from your own library and it has your signature in it.” He said, “Don’t backbite, that is between him and Allah.”
He always sat on his knees, never cross-legged or with legs extended, but keeping respect for the Prophet and he died in this posture. He concealed what he gave in charity. He never showed how much he gave nor to whom. He wore old clothes. If he was given new clothes, he would sell them and buy many old clothes with its price. He said, “Better for many to have some clothes than for one to have fine clothes.”
His association was like the association of Sufyan ath-Thawri, a companion of the Prophet : never was a loud voice raised, nor did backbiting occur, nor were worldly affairs discussed. Nothing was heard in it except spirituality and religion.
One day, the Shaykh was fasting and one of his followers spoke harshly about the king of India. He told him, “What a pity for me, I lost my fast.” They told him, “O our master, you didn’t do anything, the one who spoke is responsible.” He said, “No, the speaker and the listener partake of that sin equally.”
He loved the Prophet so much that whenever he heard his holy name he would shake and faint. He was meticulous in following the Prophet in his actions and in keeping his Sunnah.
The Words of His Perfection and the Perfection of His Words
“The Naqshbandi Order is built on four principles: keeping the Presence of Allah; divine inspirations; attraction; and disregarding whispers.”
“Whoever asks for Taste and Yearning is not really asking for the Reality of the Divine Presence.”
“The Seeker must be fully aware of how he passes every single moment. He must know how he prayed; he must know how he read the Qur’an; he must know how he read the Hadith; he must know how he read the Dhikr; he must know how much darkness he received from doubtful food.”
“Food is of two kinds; one is to satisfy the self and the second is to nourish the self. The first kind is not acceptable, but the other is accepted because it provides the strength needed to fulfill your obligations and to keep the Sunnah of the Prophet .”
“Just as asking for alal (permitted things) is an obligation on every believer, so too is the rejecting of halal an obligation on every Knower: the Knower, the Sufi, is the one who rejects the dunya (Lower World) and the akhira (Next World), even though they are alal. He accepts nothing but Allah, Almighty and Exalted.”
“It must be understood by everyone that the Prophet is the Summation of all Perfections. The appearance of his perfection in every different century and time has been according to the preparedness and state of that century and that time. That is why the appearance of his perfection in his lifetime and the time of his Companions was in the form of Jihad and struggle and dacwah (Calling to Religion). His appearance to the saints in later centuries through his holy Presence was in the form of Self-Effacement, Anniliation, Taste, Compassion, Emotion, Secrets of Oneness and all other spiritual states. That is what has appeared to the hearts and on the tongues of saints.”
“For us the night of hunger is the night of Ascension. The night of hunger is the night of desire for Allah.”
“Baycah (Initiation) is of three categories: the first is for the intercession of the Shaykhs; the second is to repent from sins; the third is to adhere to, to connect with and receive the lineage.”
“All the perfections of a human being except the Prophetic appeared in Sayyidina Ahmad al-Faruqi (q), and the Prophetic Perfection appeared in Sayyidina Shah Naqshband (q).”
“Men are of four categories: those who are barely human because all they ask for is the dunya; those who ask for the Hereafter; mature humans who ask for the Hereafter and for Allah; special humans who ask only for Allah.”
“The souls of human beings will be taken by the Angel of Death, but the souls of the Elect cannot be approached by any angel; Allah Himself takes them with His Holy Hand.”
“The Divine Mind is the mind which knows its way to its goal without a mediator, and the Earthly Mind is the mind which needs to see its way by means of a guide and a saint.”
“Whoever wants to serve, he must serve his Shaykh.”
From His Visions
He said concerning his visions,
“One time I had a vision in which I saw al-Mir Ruhullah, one of the followers of Jan Janan Habibullah (q), saying to me, ‘The Prophet is waiting for you.’ I moved in that vision to the place where the Prophet was waiting. He hugged me and by that hug I changed to be like him. Then I changed to be like the picture of my Shaykh, Jan Janan Habibullah. Then I changed to be like Amar Kulal (q). I then changed to be like Shah Naqshband (q), and then I changed to be like cAbdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani (q). Then I changed to be like Sayyidina Abu Bakr as-Siddiq , the Friend of the Prophet .”
“One time I had a vision near to the time of cIsha prayer in which I saw the Prophet coming to me and telling me, ‘I have advice for you and your followers; never sleep before cIsha.’”
“One time I had a vision that I was asking the Prophet , ‘You said, ‘Whoever sees Me sees the Truth.” He said, ‘Yes, and he will see Allah, Almighty and Glorious.’”
“One time I had a vision in which I saw the Prophet coming to me and he was saying to me, ‘Never leave off reading Qur’an and doing dhikr, you and your followers, and always send its reward as a gift to me; by this you will derive great reward.”
“One time I had a vision and I said to the Prophet , ‘I am very afraid of hellfire.’ He said to me, ‘Whoever loves us never enters the fire.’”
“One time I had a vision and I saw Allah, Almighty and Exalted, speaking to me. He said to me, ‘Your face is the face of the Sultan of Saints, and you are that one.’”
“I saw in a vision Shah Naqshband (q) come to me, hug me and enter my clothes. We were one. I asked him, ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘Shah Baha’uddin Naqshband, and you are me and I am you.’”
One time he was by the sea and the waves were raging and he saw a ship sailing. It was in danger of foundering, but as soon as he looked at it, the ship stopped tossing and the sea became calm.
One time one of his followers, Shaykh Ahmad Yar, was travelling for business in a caravan. The caravan stopped to rest. He slept and saw his Shaykh in a dream saying, “Go immediately away from here, there are robbers who are about to attack.” He awoke and told the people but they refused to believe him. He left by himself and the robbers came and killed everyone.
One day Shaykh Zul Shah set out to visit Shaykh cAbdullah from very far away. He got lost on the way. A man came to him and pointed him in the right direction. He asked the man who he was. He answered, “I am the one you are going to visit.”
Shaykh Ahmad Yar said, “Once, Shaykh cAbdullah went to give his condolences to a pious lady whose daughter had died. She and her husband were serving him. He told the woman and her husband, ‘Allah is going to give you a son in the place of your daughter.’ She said, ‘I am sixty years and I have passed childbearing age, and my husband is 80 years old. How is it possible that we could have a child?’ He said, ‘Don’t ask how Allah can do that! It is His blessings to you and my blessings to you.’ Then he went out and made ablution and came to the mosque and prayed two rakcats. Then he raised his hands in duca (invocation) and said, ‘O Allah grant them the child as you promised me.’ Then he turned to me and said, ‘That du’a has been accepted.’ Later, the woman gave birth to a son.”
One day a woman who was a relative of Mir Akbar cAli and a follower of the Shaykh became ill. Mir Akbar cAli came to the Shaykh and asked him to pray to Allah to take the sickness away, but the Shaykh refused to make that invocation.. Mir Akbar cAli insisted. The Shaykh said, “It is impossible, because that lady is going to die in fifteen days.” Mir cAli went back and two weeks later the woman died.
One time in the region around Delhi there was a drought, and no crops were able to grow. The people were desperate. On one particularly hot day Shaykh cAbdullah went out to the yard of the mosque and, with the sun beating down, said, ‘O Allah I will not move from here until You shower us with rain.’ He hadn’t finished his invocation before the sky filled with clouds and it began to rain. That rain continued for 40 days.
He said, “I would like to die like my Shaykh, Mirza Jan Janan Habibullah, as a martyr. But I remember that after he passed the people suffered a drought for three years and there was much killing and troubles because Allah was angry with those who had killed him. Therefore, O Allah, I do not ask to die that way, though I would like it, but I ask you to take me to You.”
He passed away on the 12th of Safar in the year 1241 H./1825 CE. He died with the book of Narrations of the Prophet , Jami` at-Tirmidhi, in his hands. He was buried next to his Shaykh in Jan Janan Habibullah’s khaniqah in Delhi.
He left many books, including Maqamat an-Naqshbandiyya, Risalat al-Ishtighal bi Ismi-l-Jalal, Manahij at-Tahqiq, and Minatu-r-Rahman.