Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani

Q3 :Would you please give us a short biography of Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani and his contribution to Islam. In our country, people believe that he memorized the Qur'an when he was still a fetus. Is this true?

A3 : Much is said about Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani who is still revered by millions of Muslims throughout the world. However, much of what is being said about him is absolutely nonsense. As a scholar and dedicated worker of Islam, Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani would not approve of anything extraordinary being said about him. An example of which is that which has been provided by the questioner. That Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani had memorized the Qur'an while still a fetus is a claim that cannot stand to the shortest of serious examinations. Nevertheless, we know that Allah is powerful to accomplish any purpose. If he wanted Abdul Qadir to memorize the Qur'an before he was born, He would certainly have enabled him to do so. But Allah has a purpose and a wisdom behind any action He takes. What purpose would be served by giving Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani, or indeed any other human being, that accomplishment before birth? Besides, how can one prove such a claim? Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani himself did not make it. Then how can anyone say that this was the case? And then why would this be needed? Would Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani have been able to talk to other fetuses in their mothers' wombs and explain to them the Qur'an? The fact is that such nonsense reflects badly on anyone who repeats it, and indeed on the man himself. Many people who are aware of the true concepts of Islam adopt a very suspicious attitude to anyone around whom such myth is woven. No one does Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani any good service by claiming for him any of the miraculous acts that he is said to have accomplished. Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani was not a Prophet. If a miracle is worked out by Allah through him, he had no choice in it and he could not have determined its happening. Such miracles are worked by Allah when He chooses and for a purpose He determines. Therefore, before we begin to read about Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani, we have to put out of our minds any notion about his being a human being of a superior type. To do justice to Sheikh Abdul Qadir, I have referred to the invaluable work of Sheikh Abu Al-Hassan Ali Al-Hassani Nadwi which is given the title of Saviors of Islamic Spirits. He devotes a chapter in the first volume to the life and work of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani. Here is a brief summary of what Sheikh Abu Al-Hassan has written. Abdul Qadir was born in Jilan, which is also known as Vailam, in the North-West of Iran, south of the Caspian Sea. He was an Arab by descent, but belonged to Iran by migration of his ancestors. In the year 488 A. H., when he was still 18, he went to Baghdad. Although inclined to penance and cultivation of religious observances from an early age, Abdul Qadir addressed himself whole-heartedly to the acquisition of education under the most reputed teachers of the time such as Ibn Aqeel, Al-Baqillani and At-Tabrizi, turned to mysticism and was guided in its tenets and practices by Sheikh Abu Al-Kheir Al-Dabas and Mubarak ibn Ali. After completing his education of religious sciences, Abdul Qadir began his career as a teacher in the seminary of his teacher Mubarak ibn Ali Al-Makhrami. He soon acquired great fame and people flocked from all areas of Baghdad to listen to his sermons. Ibn Qudama, a famous Hanbali scholar, records that he had not seen a man more reverent for his piety and religious learning than Abdul Qadir. The king and his ministers attended his sermons along with the rank and file. Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani himself was always modest, humble and unpretentious. He often left his work to attend to the needs of a child, a destitute or a slave girl. Never evading the company of the poor, he even washed their clothes or performed similar personal services for them. He never stood up in the honor of any person of high rank. If he got information that the Caliph would be visiting him, he deliberately went inside his house so that he might not have to stand up to welcome him. He used to come out of the house after the Caliph had seated himself in the mosque. Abdul Qadir never paid back such a courtesy call. Those who have seen Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani have paid a glowing tribute to his moral excellence and large-heartedness, modesty and hospitality, generosity and goodness of the heart. Held in such high esteem by the people, Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani showed great respect to his elders, met the youngsters with a good grace, was always the first to salute those whom he met, and hailed the poor courteously. Two great scholars, each of whom came later to be known as Sheikh Al-Islam, Izzuddin ibn Abdul Salan and Ibn Taimiyah are of the view that Abdul Qadir's work was miraculous, but his miracle of miracles was filling the hearts of the despaired and the broken-hearted with faith, hope and enthusiasm. He infused a breath of new life, zeal and self-confidence into countless persons through his power of speech and the spiritual power of his heart. He was, in truth, a blessing for the world of Islam for he renovated and revived the true content of the faith and tapped the sources of moral spiritual strength for a religious renaissance. Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani was a follower of the Hanbali school of thought and he endeavored to root out innovations and deviations from the orthodox faith and practices. Because of his forceful defense of the need to follow the Sunnah strictly, scholars of Hadith and their disciples came to be held in high esteem by the masses. Abdul Qadir used to hold classes on daily basis teaching the Qur'an, the Hadith and Fiqh, and explaining the differences between various schools of thought in Islam. The classes were held in the morning and evening, while Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani recited or listened to the recitation of the Qur'an after the mid-day prayers. Thereafter, he dictated his rulings on religious or legal questions referred to him. His rulings, or fatwas, generally followed the Shaf'ie and Hanbali schools of thought. Following the example of the Prophet, his companions and successors and great past scholars, Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani touched on the current problems of his days, analyzed the reasons for the miseries and maladies of the people and provided answers to their doubts and deficiencies. Along with this, his sincerity and earnest zeal for the welfare of the people fired his enthusiasm and enhanced his appeal to people's hearts. The forces of worldliness had become so strong during Abdul Qadir's time and the entire social and economical life of the community appeared to be woven into the context of the prevailing political situation that people had developed a tendency to rely on kings and the noble elite for the realization of their worldly ends. Abdul Qadir tried hard to drive it home to the people that only Allah could bring them benefit and spare them harm. He stressed that all worship should be addressed to Allah alone. No false object of worship could be entertained. In one of his speeches, he explained this meaning by saying: "You put your trust in your own self, in others, in your wealth, in your rites and customs, in your trade and business, or in your rulers; but in whatever object you place your reliance, it becomes, to say the truth, your object of worship. If you fear someone or expect harm or favor from him, or else you deem him as your intercessor with Allah, then he is the object of worship for you." Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani did not preserve his admonition to ordinary people alone. He fearlessly performed the duty of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. This is a duty incumbent on all the Muslims, particular their scholars. Therefore, whenever Abdul Qadir considered it necessary, he publicly denounced actions of even the highest government officials. He bitterly criticized faults of the great ones without the slightest consideration for their power or position. Ibn Katheer, the highly renowned commentator on the Qur'an, highlights this fact, saying of Abdul Qadir: "He admonished all - the caliphs, viziers, kings, jurists, elite and the laity - to adopt the righteous course and to forsake what Allah has forbidden. He openly and unsparingly criticized everyone to his face. He used to denounce the authorities sternly if they appointed anyone to public office who was known for his cruelty, heavy-handiness or tyranny. He never cared for anyone if he saw the commands of Allah being overstepped." He also criticized other scholars and jurists for paying too much attention to the concerns of this world and who were prepared to accept office or be in the entourage of the rulers. He held such scholars and jurists responsible for the waywardness of the kings and ruling chiefs. The moral and spiritual excellence of Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani, his unflinching devotion to Allah's cause, the effectiveness of his sermons, the inspiring and regenerating influence exercised by him over the people in his own time, and the upright character and moral rectitude of those who have had an opportunity to be instructed by him, mark him as one of the most eminent workers for the Islamic cause. His greatest achievement was brought about by his inspiring and impressive teachings which made thousands of people turn away from the lust of power and wealth and his ability to inculcate the true spirit of faith through self-correction and purification of the soul. In short, his was a striking example of the innate power of Islam to produce a true spirit of religion, love of Allah and moral righteousness in an age of crass materialism. Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani died at the age of 90, in the year 561 A. H. This brief account of the life and work of Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani gives a totally different picture of this eminent scholar from that held by numerous people who think of him as a man of physical miracles. I even heard from some people that Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani used to fly over the heads of those attending his circle in the mosque. Such stories are absolute rubbish and they do not do any service to Sheikh Abdul Qadir or his cause. Sheikh Abdul Qadir was a dedicated worker for the cause of Islam and we would do well if we follow his example by purging all traces of impurity of faith and mistaken concepts from our hearts and minds. May Allah have mercy on Abdul Qadir and reward him for his dedicated efforts.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )