Remembering the great saint
Ya Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (R A)
Even after suffering the prevailing unfavorable political conditions for decades now and also the changing social fabric as well as the onslaught of modernization, Kashmiri society, which has otherwise undergone tremendous changes, continues to cherish its beloved Sufi traditions and upholds the rich legacy of the saints and sufi’s. People throng shrines, particularly on Urs days (annual days), to pay their obeisance to the saints, the enlightened souls who spread the message of Islam with great difficulties and amidst all faiths.
A few days ago, similar congregations were witnessed across the valley at several shrines on the occasion of Urs of the ‘Saint of the Saints’- Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, the great Sufi Mystic popularly known as ‘Dastgeer Sahib’ to his Mureeds (spiritual followers) and lovers in Kashmir. The philosophy of the founder of the Qadri order of Sufi mysticism (Qadri Silsilla) has had great impact on the Kashmir society and contributed in making it more spiritual. The order is still very much popular here and is followed more strictly among the mureeds of this saint.
‘Khattam’ (A special session held for recitation of the holy Quran, Daroowed wa nath and manqabat) and ‘Kahim Chai’ (Special charity tea offered on eleventh every month of the Islamic calendar) are the traditions associated with Qadri Silsilla in Kashmir.
This order of Sufism was founded by great Sufi saint, called Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani of Jeelan, Iran. He has been the great ‘Waliullah’ (the most favorite Wali or saint of God) and is known as Sardari Awliya (the Chief of the all saints). Though this great Sufi is known by many names, people of Kashmir usually call him ‘Dastageer Sahib’ (the great helper).
His most popular Sufi practice is called Kahiem or Eleventh, which is performed by his Mureeds. It is observed by distributing a special Kashmiri tea called “Kehwa” (sugar tea without milk) on eleventh of every month of the Muslim calendar. This Kehwa is prepared using dry fruits as well as saffron powder as the chief ingredients to add to the taste and fragrance. It is prepared in traditional Kashmiri tea-pot called ‘Samovar’ and is usually distributed among children and adults alike, invited by the host.
In Kashmir, which is the land of Sufi’s and Saints, he is remembered both by his Muslim as well as Pandit devotees. While there is no record of his visit to Kashmir, there are several shrines and sites associated with him. One of the most famous shrines is located at Khanyar, Srinagar.
This is a massive complex which enshrines the holy relics of this saint and remains, by and large, the most famous shrine of the old city thronged by hundreds of devotees, belonging to the Qadri Silsilla or otherwise, every Thursday and Friday.
Another shrine housing the holy hair of the saint is located at Sarai Payeen, Srinagar and remains overcrowded throughout the year. Looking at the familiarity and veneration of this silsilla (order) in the valley, it looks as if it was founded here. But that is not the fact as it traveled to this land and was received by the people of Kashmir with honor and devotion. It flourished rapidly and proved to be the most important and effective thought among other external orders.
Truly speaking, this order has surpassed the local Reshi schools as well. Qadri and Mukhdoomi Silsillas are the most prominent Sufi schools of contemporary Kashmir which still enrich the Sufi traditions of this land. The other orders have not been forgotten either, as they too continue and contribute their respective share to these traditions.
Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jelani was a noted Hanbali preacher, Sufi sheikh and the eponymous founder of the Qadiri Sufi order. He was born in Ramadan AH 470 (about AD 1077) in the Persian province of Gilan (Iran) south of the Caspian Sea. His contribution and renown in the sciences of Sufism and Sharia was so immense that he became known as the spiritual pole of his time and was titled as Al-Gauth Al Azam (the Supreme Helper or the ‘Mightiest Succor’). His writings were similar to those of al-Ghazali in that they dealt with both the fundamentals of Islam and the mystical experience of Sufism.
Abdul Qadir Jilani was a Sufi master and Syed (descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, SAW) as both his parents were also Syed. His father Abu Saleh Jangidost, was an illustrious and God-fearing man.
The legend is that, once, while engrossed in meditation by the bank of a river, he saw an apple floating down the river. He picked it up and ate it. It struck to him that he ate the apple without paying for it. So he set out in search of the owner, on the bank of the river and, at last, reached the owner of the apple orchard ‘Abdullah Somai’.
He requested the owner to inform him about the price of the apple so that he could pay for it. Abdullah Somai, it is believed, replied that it was an expensive thing. On this Syed Abu Saleh replied that he had not much by way of worldly material but he could serve him for making upto it.
Abdullah Somai then asked him to work for a year in the orchard. In the course of time the duration was extended several times. In the end Abdullah Somai admitted that he had served him in excess of the price and desired to reward him. Abu Saleh hesitated in accepting it but when Abdullah Somai persisted, he relented.
He said he had a daughter who was blind and handicap and wanted to give her in marriage to him. In this way Abu Saleh was married to Abdullah Somai’s daughter, Syeda Fatimah. To his astonishment, he found her wondrously beautiful and wholesome. He complained to his father-in-law that he found her exactly the opposite to what he had described her. Abdullah Somai insisted on the truthfulness of his statement and elaborated that she was blind because she had not seen any Ghair Mehram. She was mute because she had not uttered a word repugnant to the Shariah (Islamic law). She was deaf because she had not heard anything inconsistent with the Shariah. She was handicapped of hand and feet because she had never moved in the direction of evil.
Abdul Qadir Jilani’s father died soon after and the young orphan was brought up by his mother and his grandfather, Abdullah Somai.
At the age of 18, he went to Baghdad on AH 488 (1095 AD), where he pursued the study of Hanbalite law under several teachers. His mother sewed 40 gold coins in his quilt so that he might spend them when needed. The dacoits struck the caravan on the way and looted all the travelers of their belongings. They asked him what he had. He replied that he had 40 gold coins.
The dacoits took his reply for a joke and took him to their chief, who asked him the same question and he again replied that he had 40 gold coins. He demanded him to show, upon which he tore away the quilt and produced the gold coins. The chief was surprised and asked him why he had given the hidden gold coins when he could saved them. Young Abdul Qadir Jilani replied that he was travelling to Baghdad to receive education and his mother had instructed him to speak the truth. This left a deep effect on the chief of the dacoits who gave up looting.
Abdul Qadir received lessons on Islamic Jurisprudence from Abu Said Ali al-Mukharrimi, Hadith from Abu-Bakra-bin-Muzaffar, and commentary (Tafseer) from the renowned commentator, Abu Muhammad Jafar.
one more legend associated with this great saint states that once Shiek Abdul Qadir Jilani said to his followers: “The one who cries out for my help during some problem, the problem gets solved, the one who calls out my name in any hardship, that hardship gets dismissed, the one who uses me as a source to ask Allah for some need, it will be fulfilled. the person who prays two Rak’at of Nafl and in each Rak’at after Surah fatiha recites Surah Ikhlas eleven times, after saying salaam i.e after finishing the prayer, sends Durood-o-Salaam on the king of Madeenah (The beloved Prophet) and then walks a distance of eleven steps towards the direction of Baghdad Shareef and calls out my name and presents his need, Allah willing, that need will be fulfilled”.
Another tradition quoted by Hazrat-e-Bishr Qarazi narrates that “I was travelling with a group of traders along with fourteen camels carrying sugar. We stopped for the night in a dangerous jungle. In the early hours of the night my four loaded camels disappeared, which were not found even after a tiring search. The group also departed. The camel driver stayed back with me. In the morning I suddenly remembered that my Mentor, The King of Baghdad Huzoor Ghous-e-Pak had told me that whenever you get stuck in any problem then call me (my name), Allah willing that problem will be solved, hence I requested this way: YA SHAIKH ABDUL QADIR! MY CAMELS ARE LOST.
“All of a sudden I saw a saintly man dressed in white clothes on a sand dune towards east, who was signaling me to come to him. As soon as I, along with my camel driver, reached over there the saintly Man disappeared from vision. We were strangely looking here and there when we suddenly spotted those four lost camels sitting under the sand dune. We caught the camels and re-joined the group”.
These are all legends and traditions attributed with this great saint and mentioned in Sufi literatures and their authenticity can hardly be doubted. In fact Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeealani is the most popular saint still remembered in Persian and the south Asian lands.