Sultan ul Awliya Muhiyuddin Abdul Qadir Jilani's annihilation in the Divine Presence

Does anyone think that the ocean is only what appears on its surface? By observing
its hue and motion the keen eye may perceive indications of that ocean's
unfathomable depth. The Lord's mercy and compassion is an Ocean with no shore,
providing endlessly varied vistas for those who sail its surface; but the greatest
wonderment and fulfillment is reserved for those "creatures of the sea" for whom that
mercy has become their own medium.

The Lord beckons us through a Divine love and attraction which has been implanted
in our hearts, a love that may be understood and felt consciously as Divine by some
and only indirectly as love for His creatures or creation by others. In either case the
pull of our hearstrings draws us to those Mercy Oceans, just as our physical bodies
feel drawn to a warm and gentle sea.

By means of the revelation of Holy Books and through the example set by Prophets
and Saints, all human beings have been brought in contact with those Oceans. For
humankind at large, these revelations serve as vessels, or as “instruction manuals”
for building and maintaining vessels that ply those most spacious seas, but for those
most spacious seas, but for those who have the means to read between the lines, a
great revelation emerges: that we are of that sea, that our place, our home is in the
depths of that sea, not on its surface.

The Holy Qur'an is an eminently unambiguous scripture, full of clear guidance for
mankind at large, but there is much more contained in it than immediately meets the
untrained eye. The discrimination to see into its depths is not only a matter of
training, however, but a bestowal attainable only through sincerity and faith. There
are endless levels of knowledge and wisdom through the depths of the Holy Qura'n,
as its states:

“You shall surely ride stage after stage”

and the attainment of each stage imparts great benefit, not only for the one who has
attained it but also for those around him, for mankind and for all creation.

One may ask, “To what ends so many hidden meanings?” Understanding these
meanings is the key to deriving their “wisdom essence”, and it is that essence that is
an inexhaustible fountain, and elixir of eternal life. We may summarize the essence of
the wisdom our Lord seeks to impart unto us through all His revelations in one word:

The dominating theme of the Holy Qur’an is the Uniqueness and Incomparability of
Allah, and the weakness and utter dependence of all creatures upon Him. By thus
stressing His omnipotence and our powerlessness He reminds us of our affinity with all
creatures, and bestows upon us the humble but honorable cloak of servant hood.
Realize that you are no better than anyone else and that self-improvement may be
attained through serving Allah and His servants, and you will have grasped the tools
with which to shatter your idol of conceit, your egoism. Having attained humility, the
tribulations of life will propel you towards your goal, as they are a constant reminder of
our weakness, and are received, if not with thankfulness, at least with patience, in the
knowledge that they are drawing us ever closer to ultimate Unity.

Our journey towards that goal first brings us away from the illusion of multiplicity, the
impenetrable veil of the common man. That is the vision of endless diversity, of
apparently independent existences of billions of creatures each striving to improve its
own condition and exert its willpower. The next stage is the realization of Allah’s
omnipotence and our weakness. This realization inspires awe in the face of the
majesty and might of Allah (Jalal), and one feels himself a most humble servant of a
Most Transcendent Lord. Beyond this is the stage of intimacy (uns) at which the
immanence of the Lord is perceived:

“And I am closer to man than his jugular vein”

At this stage one perceives His aspects of love and beauty (Jamal). But the ultimate
goal is beyond even the intimacy of “I and Thou”, a Unity beyond duality, for He is All
in All. That is the meaning of, “There is no God but He”. As long as we cling to the
separateness of our physical and spiritual existence, we are far from our goal. Why
do we fear death? Because we are afraid of being non-existent; that is why the soul
and body, which enable each other to exist in this realm, cling to each other so
tenaciously. We may have to pay a high price to remain alive, but yet do we endure.

All of God’s Prophets had the same mission: to call people to Divine existence in the
Lord and to a lifestyle conducive to the attainment of that end. What exactly does
such a lifestyle entail, and what are its implications? Once the idol of egoism is
shattered, fulfillment is no longer found in self aggrandizement. The emphasis shifts
to seeking truth, purity and peace, to acquiring blessed attributes in the time allotted
to us for preparing ourselves for that longed-for reunion. Worldly cravings and
desires are drastically reduced, and the pursuit of a decent livelihood to support a
simple lifestyle replaces voracious egoistic striving.

Rich and powerful people were often at the forefront of opposition to the Prophets, as,
lacking the spiritual training that might have enabled them to handle power and wealth
with detachment, they saw their power or their wealth as the essence and affirmation
of their existence – and so vehemently opposed any change in the status quo. The
poor and powerless were generally more receptive as they did not feel so threatened
by the advent of a new spiritually oriented order. Certainly they also believed that
money and power were the criteria of existence, but they figured, “We have nothing
and are nothing anyway, so what do we have to lose by going and listening in?”
Then, when the Prophets called them to the Lord they could easily renounce
attachment to worldly values, and said, “We have left behind everything but
ourselves. As for those who really meant what they said, from the poor who
renounced little and from the rich who had to struggle hard to renounce worldliness,
the essence of the message was then imparted: “Now, leave yourselves behind and
approach the Ocean of Unity”.

Abu Yazid al-Bistami (one of the greatest Masters of the Khwajagan line) approached
the Divine Presence and “knocked on the gate”. He was asked, “Who is there?” “I
have come, Oh my Lord”, replied Abu Yazid. He was told: “There isn’t any place here
for two. Leave your ego behind and come”. When Abu Yazid once again approached
the Divine Presence and was asked who it was, he said: “You, oh Lord”.

Once Abu Yazid was asked about acts of worship and devotion of two different
categories: those indicated by the example of the Holy Prophet – Sunnah – and those
made obligatory through Divine Revelation – Fard. He said: “Sunnah is the
abandonment of worldliness and Fard is the abandonment of all but He Alone”. So
many people claim to follow the Sunnah but their hearts are awash in love of worldly
pomp. As for what is obligatory, Fard (usually understood as the minimum acceptable
level of religious observance), Abu Yazid has penetrated to the heart of the matter, as
that total surrender is the ends to which all the means (acts of worship) are really
directed. Obligatory, also, because at the time of death all must leave behind
everything besides Him, whether they are ready or not.

The Lord is beckoning us to enter that Ocean of Unity while we are yet in this life, to
dissolve as sugar dissolves in tea. When the sugar dissolves you can no longer say,
“This is sugar and that is tea”. Our Lord’s invitation to join in His Unity is always
extended, and it is our fate to suffer until we respond to that invitation. As long as we
cling to our claim of autonomy we will have to bear the brunt of the hard lessons that
this world has to offer us – and cry out in pain. Let go and nothing can harm you.

When Abdul Qadir Jilani used to address his followers his individuality would
sometimes become completely veiled by a cloak of Divine attributes or of Prophetic
attributes. When he was in such a state the Divine would manifest through him, and
his speech would become awe-inspiring, but to those who had not yet attained a
sufficiently high station, very disturbing and even shocking.

Perfection may only be understood by perfectly complete individuals, and not at all by
the unregenerate man. As for those on the way of Truth, they understand perfection
in accordance with their respective levels of development, and the followers of Abdul
Qadir Jilani were not on a level to be able to receive those outpourings.

When Jilani came to himself his followers informed him of the nature of his utterances
while in that state of absence from himself. Jilani then told them: “Oh my sons, if it is
true that I say things contrary to the Shariah (Divine Law), then you must smite me
with your swords”. What Jilani meant by “contrary to the Shariah” meant, in fact,
“contrary to your understanding of the Shariah”, as people are not all on the same
level of understanding Shariah.

At the next gathering Jilani again said something belonging to the realm of the
knowledge of Allah Almighty. Then, in accordance with the Sheik’s instructions the
followers drew their swords and began to strike – but their swords passed through the
Sheik’s figure as readily as they would pass through thin air. They slashed and
slashed, but it was as if his body was a mirage.

When Jilani came to himself again his followers told him: “Oh our Master, you again
spoke such words:. “What did you do about it?” “As you instructed us, we struck you
with our swords, but they passed through you as through thin air”. “Then I must not
have been there. There was no more Jilani to be cut by your swords. Jilani was
dissolved in the oneness of the Lord, Almighty Allah. It was He alone speaking to you”.

Certainly some people will raise objections, saying that there is no scriptural evidence
for the contention that Allah may speak through an intermediary other than a
Prophet. Both the Qur’an and the Torah mention that Allah spoke to Moses through a
burning bush, and every believer accepts that. In your opinion, which is a more noble
vessel for Divine Light, a more noble instrument for Divine Wisdom, bush or man? Is
man or bush the “crown of creation”? Are there any grounds upon which to reject this

When a person attains the station of Unity he leaves behind his own existence and is
admitted o the Lord’s existence, so that Divine Oneness overtakes him: you may see
him as Jilani, but he is not Jilani.

We all stagger under the weight of the burden of this life, but we bear that burden only
because we have not set it down. Some foolish people are not satisfied with carrying
only their own loads but envy the loads of others. The result is this that as long as you
carry that weight of the ego so many others attack you, and you are pierced by arrows
and spears, slashed by swords of envy and enmity. Attaining the gate of Oneness with
the Almighty is the only way to be released from the sufferings of this world, and all of
God's Prophets have imparted methods for attaining this goal. However, man's
resistance is very great, and, generally the larger our share of worldly fortune the
tighter do we grasp it.

Once a Grandsheikh was addressing his followers from the pulpit of a mosque. He
recited a verse of the Holy Qur’an and explained it a little. Then he said: “This
explanation will help everyone here understand this verse on a level corresponding to
his attainment, but its real meaning is not for you. You can’t understand what I am
saying. There is only one person in attendance who has been able to appreciate the
deep meaning of this discourse – and he is hiding behind a pillar wearing a veil. My
words have been directed to that person-not to you-understand this, and do not think
of yourselves as the suitable receptacles of every piece of precious wisdom. If you
hear something from me that you understand, then fine and well, make good use of it
on your way, but if you hear something you do not understand, be careful not to reject
it. Whenever that occurs just hold your peace and be humble enough to accept that it
may have been directed to someone else in the audience, someone who has attained
a higher potential of understanding than you have”. Then that Grandsheikh
proceeded to another even deeper level of meaning of that verse of the Quran, and
said: "Now this is even beyond the level of the person behind that piller".

We all stagger under the weight of the burden of this life, but we bear that burden only
because we have not set it down. Some foolish people are not satisfied with carrying
only their own loads but envy the loads of others. The result of this that as long as
you carry that weight of the ego so many others attack you, and you are pierced by
arrows and spears, slashed by swords of envy and enmity. Attaining the gate of
Oneness with the Almighty is the only way to be released from the sufferings of this
world, and all of Allah?s Prophets have imparted methods for attaining this goal.
However, man?s resistance is very great, and, generally the larger our share of
worldly fortune the tighter do we grasp it.

That is one of the main, reasons why Divinely Revealed Law, throughout the ages,
has required the rich to give charity to the poor. Besides the obvious benefits of
relieving the poverty of the recipient and keeping envy away from the threshold of the
donor, the charity or poor-due trains the well-to-do person to renounce some part of
his wealth, and thus to purify it and himself. This is why the poor-due is called Zakat,
or purification. Purification from what? From our attachment to separate existence.

Shayban ar-Rai was a simple shepherd, and also one of the great Sufi saints of the
early Islamic era. He lived during the times when the four renowned Imams of the
Sunni schools of canon law were busy compiling the canon of their respective schools.
One of those great scholars, Imam Shafii, considered Shayban ar-Rai to be his
spiritual mentor.

Another of the four great Imams, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, being skeptical of such an
illiterate Shaykh, decided to ask him a very elementary question to ascertain his level
of knowledge. Imam Shafii warned him: "Beware of thinking of him as a simpleton, for if
you ask him a question with that preconceived notion, he will understand your hidden
intention and put you to shame."

Imam Ahmad was, however, determined to pursue his course, so he asked him: "What
is the rate of Zakat that all non - indigent Muslims must pay to the poor?". "Which
Zakat are you inquiring about--your Zakat or ours? According to your variety of
knowledge or according to our way?" Surprised and always suspicious of heresy,
Imam Ahmad asked: "What? Do you claim that there are two rates of Zakat in Shariah
(Divine Law)? I would like to know what they are, and on what evidence you base your
claim". "According to Shariah as it applies to you and to those who are on your way, it
is incumbent upon every person to give away one fortieth of his gold, silver, livestock
and goods to the poor. According to the Shariah, as it applies to His slaves, the slave
and all he possesses belong to the Master. So, on our way, from every forty, forty is
for our Lord and nothing for us".

Then Imam Ahmad asked him: “On what authority do you base this? – Who is your
Imam, and what is your chain of transmission back to the Prophet?” “Our Imam is Abu
Bakr as-Siddiq (the first Khalipha of Islam): he gave all his wealth for the sake of his

By thus requiring people to relinquish at least one-fortieth of their wealth every year,
people are given a start on the path of renunciation – and renouncing even a few
possessions is a struggle for man, who is born into this world with clenched fists, but
must leave it open-handed. Nothing that you can collect from this world’s treasures
will enable you to abide in it forever. So, open your hands while they are yet warm;
this is better for your soul, for the practice of open-handedness will train you to lay
your existence down in the sublime Oneness of Allah.

That is the highest level of Goodness in this world, and He Allah Almighty promises a
bountiful recompense:

“Shall the recompense of goodness be other than goodness?”

The Lord Almighty will accept your existence and give of Himself. That is the meaning
of “Fanafillah” (annihilation in Allah) and Baqabillah (permanence in Allah): real
existence in the Ocean of Unity of Allah Almighty. No one can anticipate the
boundlessness of that pleasure – may Allah grant us that pleasure! But it is expensive.

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