Abu'l Hasan al-Shadhili

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Abu'l Hasan al-Shadhili
Abu'l Hasan Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Jabbar al Hassani wal Husayni al Shadhili
Al-Shadhili.jpg
Tomb of Hazrat Abu'l Hasan in Humaithara, Egypt
Order Shadhili (founder)
Born 593 AH/1197 AD
Ghumarah, near present-day Ceuta, Morocco
Passed away 656 AH/1258AD
Humaithara, Egypt
Resting place

Humaithara, Egypt

Map of Burial Place
Predecessor Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish
Successor Abu'l Abbas al-Mursi

Abu'l Hasan Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Jabbar al Hassani wal Husayni al Shadhili (also spelled ash-Shadhili) was a great Moroccan saint and the founder of the Shadhili order.

Contents

Early Life

Hazrat Abu'l Hasan was born in Bani Yafrah in the region of Ghumara, near Tétouan, in northern Morocco, in the year 593/1179 at a time when the Almohad Dynasty was all but defeated. A sharif of Hassani-Idrissite decent, he was a Maliki who wandered far afield in search of knowledge. Immensely learned, even as a young man, he was famous for his ability to engage in legal argumentation with the religions scholars of his day. As a young man, Hazrat Abul Hasan was hesitating between living the life of an ascetic in the wilderness in order to give himself up totally to worship and invocation, or to return to the towns and settlements to be in the company of the scholars and the righteous.

When he heard of a saintly man teaching Islamic sciences in the Al-Qarawiyyin university of Fez he hastened to meet him and his life changed. This man was the Sufi and scholar Hazrat Mohammed ibn Harazem (d. 633/1218), grandson of Hazrat Abul Hassan Ali ibn Harzihim (d. 559/1144) and student of Hazrat Abu Salih Mohammed Majiri (d. 631/1216), who had been instrumental in the orientation of Hazrat Abul Hassan to seek the spiritual Pole of the time (Qutb az-Zaman).

Finding his Sheikh

It was in a hermitage on top of Jabal al-'Alam, near Tétouan, that he met the sheikh who he was searching for and who was to have the greatest influence on his life, Hazrat Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish (d. 625/ 1228), known as "the Pole of the West," just as Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani (d. 561/ 1166) was called "the Pole of the East."

While he was living with Sheikh Ibn Mashish, on the holy mountain, many wonderful signs from Allah came to Hazrat Abu’l Hasan, through this holy guide. One such sign was that on the night of his arrival on the mountain he was sleeping at the entrance of the cave where his master lived. He dreamt that he was asking the Sheikh to grant him certain wishes, one of them being that Allah would incline the hearts of His creatures in favour towards him. Then he wished to ask his master if it was necessary for him to live in solitude, or in the desert, in order for him to be in the right station (maqam) to perform his religious tasks, or whether he should return to the towns and inhabited places to seek out the company of scholars and virtuous people. While he was turning these things in his heart he heard the Sheikh praying fervently and calling out:

O God, there are people who ask You to give them power over your creatures, and You give them that. But I, O God, beg You to turn Your creatures from me so that I may have no refuge except in You.

The next morning, when he greeted his teacher to be, he asked him of his state (kayf al-hal), to which Hazrat Ibn Mashish responded, “I complain unto God about the coolness of contentment and submission (bard al-rida wa al-taslim) just as you complain unto Him about the heat of self-direction and choice (harr al-tadbir wa al-ikhtiyar).” When he saw the astonishment on his student’s face at hearing his words, he added, “Because I fear that the sweetness of such an existence would make me neglectful of my duty towards Allah.” Then Hazrat Abu’l Hasan said, “This is the Pole of Islam. This is the Sea which overflows.” He knew then that his master had taken hold of his whole heart, and he was thereby completely illumined.

Four fundamental themes ran through Hazrat Abd as-Salam teaching of to Abu’l Hasan, as perceived from his famous Hizb, called as-Salat al-Mashishiya:

  1. the Oneness of Existence (wahdat al-wujud) which he said could be realised only through asceticism,
  2. fear of God and His judgements (khawfu billah),
  3. the belief that God is everywhere and that it is necessary to see His Face in everything that He has created,
  4. that only through the drowning in the Ocean of the Unity (awnu fi bahri al-wahadati) can the seeker cast off and leave behind his own existence and attributes to be merged and absorbed into Allah and His Attributes.

Before his departure from Jabal al-Alam, Hazrat Abd as-Salam foretold his student of his eventual move to Ifriqiya where he will become known by the name of Shadhili and the eminent spiritual station he will eventually inherit from Hazrat Abd as-Salam himself. Abu’l Hasan relates that in a dream, he saw his master standing near the Divine Throne. When he told him of this dream in the morning, Hazrat Abd as-Salam replied, "O Ali, it was not me you saw, it was the station you will inherit from me."

O Ali, God is God, and men are men. When you are amongst the people, keep your tongue from mentioning the Sirr (secret) and your heart from imitating their ways. Be assiduous in the fulfilment of the mandatory practices of the religion and protect your bodily members from forbidden things. In you the role of sainthood will have reached fruition. Only admonish others to the degree that is obligatory upon you. And say, “O God, give me repose from their mention [of me] and from any obstacles arising from them. Deliver me from their evil. Let Your bounty suffice me from [having to seek] their bounty, and protect me among them by Your special grace. Verily, You have power over all things… O Ali, flee from men’s benevolence more than you flee from their malevolence. Because their benevolence will afflict your heart, while their evil will only afflict your body, and it is better that the body be afflicted than the heart.

The parting words of advice and admonition that Hazrat Abd as-Salam gave his disciple before he departed for Tunis emphasised the transformation of consciousness to inward and outward God-centeredness, contentment with God in all states, and the inner withdrawal from creation in prosperity and adversity. These seminal teachings of Hazrat Abd as-Salam would, through Abu’l Hasan, become the fundamental precepts of the Shadhili Tariqa.

Travels

Tunis

Remaining with his master for a while, Hazrat Abu'l Hasan then departed for Shadhila, in Tunisia, on orders from his teacher; and from there he received the name of al-Shadhili. He entered a new retreat in a cave on top of Jabal Zaghwan close to Shadhila accompanied by his first companion Hazrat Abu Yahya Abdellah ibn Samala al-Habibi. After intense spiritual exercises in the Jabal Zaghwan region, he was ordered in a vision to teach Sufism.

Accordingly, he set up his first institution (zawiyah) in Tunis in the year 625/1228, just when the new governor, Abu Zakariyya', also arrived. During his early years in Tunis, Hazrat Abu’l Hasan first taught forty students who were known as the forty friends (al-awliya al-arba’un). His new tariqah was a stunning success, drawing masses of people from all walks of life, including the sultan's family.

On one of his trips to the East, an Ayyubid sultan conferred on him and his descendants, by way of a religious endowment, one of the enormous towers that arose from the walls formerly encompassing the city of Alexandria in Egypt.

Hazrat Abu’l Hasan reamined in Tunis for a number of years until one day God Most High brought him a young man who was to become his successor and the inheritor of his station and his holy line, Hazrat Abu’l Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1271), from Murcia in Spain.

Egypt

The Holy Dargah of Hazrat Abu'l Hasan during his annual Urs

In the year 642/1244, the sheikh, once again had a vision. Hazrat Abu’l Hasan said:

I saw the Prophet ﷺ in a dream and he said to me, "Oh Ali, go to Egypt and raise the ranks of forty true followers (siddiqun) there." It was the summer time and intensely hot and I said, "Oh Prophet of God, the heat is very great." He said, "Lo, the clouds will give you shade." I said, "I fear thirst." He replied, "Look, the sky will rain for you every day.” He promised me many miraculous gifts (karamat) on my journey. So I instructed my followers to prepare to depart for Egypt.

Thus he left Tunisia accompanied by Hazrat Abu’l Abbas al-Mursi, his brother Abdullah, his servant Abu al-‘Azayim as well as other Sufi sheikhs and many of his own disciples, and moved to Alexandria, where he established both his residence and the institution (zawiyah) of his order in the tower the sultan had given him. Alexandria was, during this time, a distinguished city and a place of learning various major sciences.

He lived with his family on the top floor; another floor was converted into a tremendous mosque where he gave public instruction; and another floor was converted into a great zawiyah for his disciples, with cells for meditational retreat. In Egypt, likewise, his order was greatly successful, drawing into its ranks many court officials, great religious scholars like Hazrat Izz al-Din ibn 'Abd al-Salam (d. 660/ 1262) or the Shafi 'i traditionist Hazrat al-Mundhiri (d. 656/ 1258), a host of Sufi figures, and individuals from different levels of society.

In the year 646/1248, he became blind, and it was in that state that he participated in the Battle of al-Mansurah in Egypt, which stopped the Seventh Crusade headed by Saint Louis of France.

Death

Shortly before Sheikh Abu’l Hasan started on his last pilgrimage to Mecca, the city of Baghdad fell to the conquering Mongols, thus ending the long reign of the Abbasids there and ushering in a new epoch in the history of Islam. The sheikh was accompanied by a mass of his disciples; but he fell ill in the eastern desert of Egypt, in a place called Humaithara, and there he died in the year 656/ 1258.

Successors

Shortly before he passed away, in 656/ 1258, Sheikh Abu’l Hasan designated Hazrat Abu'l Abbas al-Mursi as his successor in the order. After Sheikh Abu’l Hasan's death, Hazrat Abu'l Abbas al-Mursi moved into the great tower that the founder of the Shadhiliyyah had used as residence, mosque, and zawiyah, and remained there until his death ( 686/ 1288) some thirty years later, seldom moving out to travel in Egypt.

Quotes & Sayings

1. God, I beseech Thee to be accompanied by fear, to be overcome by longing, to be well grounded in knowledge, to continue long in reflection.
2. Do not take as a companion one who prefers himself to you for he is vile. Neither take one who prefers you to himself, for he will not last long. Hold companionship with him who, when he remembers, remembers God, for God will take his place when he is absent, and bring enrichment through him when he is present.
3. If you desire that your heart should not become tarnished, that no care or anxiety should afflict you, and that no sin should remain against you, say often; "May God be extolled! May God the Greatest be extolled! There is not god at all except God!"
4. Sincerity is a light from the light of God that He has deposited in the heart of His believing servant and by which he cuts him off from all others. That is sincerity that no angel looks upon to record it, no Satan to corrupt it and evil inclination to cause it to deviate.
5. Hypocrisy is turning the heart in a religious act to other than God in a way that God has not permitted.
6. Patient endurance is applied whenever one suffers injury.
7. The understanding man is one who understands what God wills for him and from him. God wills for a servant four things; either fortune or misfortune, obedience or disobedience.
8. Mystical knowledge (marifat) is a disclosure of the science along with veil. When the veil is removed we call it certainty. The mystical sciences are garnered treasures, and the illuminations are spiritual insights. Mystical knowledge is Divine amplitude; unity (tawhid) is sincerity (sidq) wisdom is instruction (talim), and light is clarification.
9. The Sufi way is the holding of one's course toward God by four things. The first of these four is remembrance (dhikr), the basis of which is righteous works, and the fruit of which is illumination. The second is meditation, the basis of which is perseverance, and the fruit of which is knowledge. The third is poverty, the basis of which is thankfulness, and the fruit of which is an increase of it. The fourth is love, the basis of which is dislike of the world and its people, and the fruit of which is union with the beloved.
10. Remembrance of Him is the light of the heart, and His presence is the key to the invisible.
11. The exalted man is he who is rooted in the science of reverence, who conducts himself according to the will, and not by passion, appetitive desire or natural disposition.
12. Real knowledge of what is good implies dwelling in it and real knowledge of evil implies departure from it.
13. Real prostration is the yielding of the heart to the ordinance of the Lord.
14. Real love is beholding the beloved face to face, and its consummation is your destitution in every time and season.
15. Real spiritual aspiration (himma) is the attachment of the heart of the things to which one aspires, and its perfection is the union of the heart with God while separating itself from all except Him.
16. Real nearness to God means unawareness, through nearness, of the nearness by reason of the great nearness.
17. The Sufi Shaikh is one who directs you to your ease, not one who directs you to your toil.
18. Sufism is training the self in sevitude and restoring it to the rules of Lordship.
19. The Sufi has four qualities; being characterized by the characteristics of God, abiding closely by the commands of God, relinquishing the defence of one's self from shame before God and holding to the practice of spiritual converse by truly abiding with God.
20. The vilest of men in rank is one who is niggardly of worldly possessions toward one deserving them.
21. Anyone whose divine illumination takes precedence over his reason is blessed, but anyone whose reason takes precedence over his illumination is impoverished.
22. Unity (tawhid) is a light which makes you nonexistent to others and makes other nonexistent to you.
23. The ranks of the saints (auliya) are four in numbers: rank in respect of nearness to God, rank in the dominion, rank in respect of the fulfilment of divine obligations, and rank in respect of election.
24. Cast yourself before the door of divine satisfaction and be detached from your resolves and your will, even from your repentance because of His relenting.
25. If anyone has faith in the divine apportionment (qisma), he should not dispute the divine wisdom (hikma).
26. There are two virtues that facilitate the way to God; mystical knowledge and love. Your love for material things renders you blind and deaf.
27. Mystical knowledge is that which has severed you from everything except God and brought you back to Him
28. My teacher admonished me saying: 'Flee from the good of humans more than you flee from their evil, for their evil afflicts your body while their good afflicts your heart, and that you should be afflicted in you body is better than that you are afflicted in your heart.
29. Each one is provided drink according to his ability. Some are provided drink without an intermediary, for God takes upon Himself directly for them. Some are provided drink by way of intermediaries, through such intermediaries as the angels, the learned and the most prominent of those who have been drawn near to God. Some are intoxicated by the spiritual consciousness of the cup without having yet tasted anything.
30. The cup is the mystical knowledge of God, the True One. He imparts from that clean, pure and clear drink to those chosen servants of His from among mankind.
31. I received my inheritance from my ancestor the Apostle of God ﷺ a hidden treasure from the treasury of the Names; and if men and jinn were to write down the things heard from me to the Day of Resurrection, they would be completely exhausted.
32. Whenever the lower self (nafs) is dominant and the spirit (ruh) is subordinate, then occurs drought and sterility, the whole order is overturned, and every evil befalls. So heed the guiding of Quran and the healing words of His Apostle ﷺ.
33. Any affliction for which a hope for reward is entertained and punishment is feared, is not an affliction. An affliction for which a reward is not hoped nor a punishment is feared-that only is an affliction.
34. The drink is the light radiating from the beauty of the Beloved. The cup is the Kindness that brings that light into contact with the mouth of the hearts. The cupbearer is He who befriends the greatest of the elect and His righteous servants.
35. Whenever man's heart is filled with the illumination of God ana the inner soul is filled with the most exalted light, his spiritual vision becomes blind to the deficiencies and defects attached to the observance of religious duties of the common believers, on account of the most exalted praise having no end in the endless space of time that has been bestowed on him.
36. O servant of God, detach yourself from converse with the lower-self, the desire of Satan, obedience to lust, and emotion of chronic illness, and you will be righteous.
37. He says: 'I heard someone say': "He who is sensitive is not patient. He who burdens himself with trouble, has not resigned his affair to God. He who asks is not contented with God. He who calls for help has not trusted. These are five things, and how great is your need to be assiduous in these five!"
38. Knock on the door of the dhirk, seeking shelter with God and avowing your need of Him, with continual silence toward your fellows and the shepherding of your innermost being to guard it from conversing with the lower self with every breath, if you desire to have spiritual sufficiency.
39. Sustenance is divinely apportioned. It is not the piety of a pious man that increases it nor is it the impiety of a impious man that diminishes it.
40. It is incumbent upon you to observe the five means of purification consisting in sayings and the five means of, purification consisting in acts, and to remain clear of claiming the power and strength of God for yourself in all circumstances. Plunge with your mind into the inner meanings of the sayings subsisting in the heart, and emerge from them and speak directly to the Lord. Preserve God in the heart and He will preserve you. Keep God in mind and you will find Him in front of you. Worship God with these means of purification and be of the thankful ones.

[1]

References

  1. The Mystical Teachings of Al-Shadhili - A Translation from the Arabic of Ibn al-Sabbagh's "Durrat al-Asrar wa Tuhfat al-Abrar" - Elmer H. Douglas
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