Abu Mahfuz Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi ibn Firuz al-Karkhi (ra), is the ninth Imam and Shaykh of the spiritual order Aaliyah Qadiriyah Barakatiyah Razaviyah Nooriyah. His spiritual title is Abu Mahfuz and he was well known as Maruf al Karkhi. According to differences of opinion, his father's name was Phirouz, Phirouzan or Ali. His father and mother were Christians who accepted Islam after him. He attained all his knowledge under the watchful eye of Imam Ali Rida (ra).
His predominant position was to such an extent that from him 14 Spiritual Orders branched out which were known as the Marufih Orders and were named: 1) Moulaviyah, 2)Soharvardihah, 3) Noorbakhshiyah, 4) Manaviyah, 5) Nematullahiyah, 6) Kubraviyah, 7) Zahabiyah Ehteshashiyah, 8) Baktashiyah, 9) Rifaiyah, 10) Naqshbandiyah, 11) Jamaliyah, 12) Qunaviyah, 13) Kaderyah, 14) Pir Hajat.
Initially, he was brought up as a non-Muslim, but even as a child, he had great love for Islam. He used to always spend his time in the company of Muslim children, and often talked to his parents about accepting Islam. His father was not pleased with this, and enrolled him to study under a Christian Priest. When they sent him to school, his Teacher said to him, “Say, God is the third of three.” “No,” answered Ma’ruf al Karkhi (ra) “On the contrary, He is God, the One.” The teacher beat him, but to no avail.
Ma’ruf al Karkhi (ra) says, “Even during my time as a non-Muslim my heart did not accept to say what he commanded me to. When I refused to say this, he began to beat me severely. The more he beat me, the more I rejected his teaching. He finally became weary of me and asked my father to imprison me. I was thus locked in a room for three days and every day, I was given one bread, which I did not even touch. When I was taken out, I ran away. As I was the only child to my parents, they were very sad and they sent a message to me saying that I should return to them and I would have the right to accept whichever faith I wished, and that they too will accept the same faith. I then went to Ali Rida (ra) and accepted Islam at his hands. I then went home with this most valuable gift of Islam, and my parents also accepted Islam.
After that Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) fell under the guidance of Dawud-e Ta’i(ra) and underwent a severe discipline. He proved himself so devout and practised such austerities that the fame of his steadfastness was noised abroad. Mohammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi(ra) relates that he encountered Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) in Baghdad. “I observed a scar on his face. I said to him, ‘I was with you yesterday and did not notice this mark then. What is it?’ ‘Do not ask about things that do not concern you,’ he replied. ‘Ask only about matters that are profitable to you.’ ‘By the right of Him we worship,’ I pleaded, ‘tell me.’ “Then he said, ‘Last night I was praying, and I wished that I might go to Mecca and circumbulate the Kaaba. I approached the well of Zamzam to take a drink of water. My foot slipped, and my face struck the well. That was how I got this scar.’” [Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Page 210]
He was a very pious personality and one of the most distinguished Sufi’s of his time. He would spend lengthy nights in worshipping, asking for forgiveness and weeping in the Court of God. Sirri al-Saqti (ra) say, “Whatever I have attained, is through the Sadqa (charity) of Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra).” Sayyidi Abdul Wahab (ra) says, “I have not seen anyone who divorced himself from the world, like Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) . His excellence is such, that even his blessed grave is a means of attaining blessings.” [Kashf al-Mahjoob]
He possessed deep love for the poor and the orphans. Sirri al-Saqti (ra) says, “I once saw Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) gathering dates on the day of Eid, so I stopped and asked the reason for this. He said, ’That young boy is crying because all the other children have new clothes and he has nothing new on Eid day. I thus, decided to collect some dates, sell them and then buy something for him, so that he is kept busy playing and does not feel uncomfortable on the day of Eid.’” Sirri Saqti (ra) says, “I said, there is no need for you to do this, I will make sure he gets something on Eid. I then took the boy with me and bought him a new set of clothes. After I did this, a light entered my heart, which caused me great pleasure and my condition became very different.” [Masaalik as-Saalikeen, Vol. 1, Page 287]
Once Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) went down to the Tigris to make his ablutions, leaving his Quran and prayer rug in the mosque. An old woman stole and went off with them. Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) ran after her. When he caught up with her he addressed her, lowering his head so that his eyes might not fall on her. “Have you a son who can read the Quran?” “No,” she replied. “Then give me back the Quran. You can have the prayer rug.” The woman was amazed at his clemency, and set down both the Quran and the prayer rug. “No, take the prayer rug,” repeated Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi (ra). “It is lawfully yours.” The woman hastened away in shame and confusion. [Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Page 211]
One day Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi (ra) broke his ritual purity. Immediately he made ablution in sand. “Why look,” they said to him. “Here is the Tigris. Why are you making ablution in the sand?” “It can be,” he replied, “that I may be no more by the time I reach it.” [Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Page 213]
Abstinence from the world
Once one of Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) friends asked him the following, “What is it that has caused you to abstain from the world and from the creation of God, and remain in seclusion, remembering Almighty God? Is it the fear of Death and the grave, or the fear of Hell, or the enthusiasm of attaining Paradise?” Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) said, “O My Friend! You discuss such minor things. What are all these worth in front of the creator Almighty God? All these are but humble subjects of Almighty God. Once you taste the pleasure of his closeness, then you will not think of any of the other things (you have mentioned).”
Numerous instances of Karamat (miracles) have been attributed to Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra). Just a few of them are related here:
Once there was a bandit who was captured by the Governor and sentenced to being hanged. As per the command of the governor, the bandit was hanged and died. His body was still hanging from the noose, when Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) passed by. When he saw this scene, he was very troubled, and began to make prayer for forgiveness of the deceased. He said, “O Most Compassionate, Most Merciful! This person has attained his punishment for his actions in this world. O God! If you forgive him and bless him with respect, there it shall cause no shortage in Your Treasures of forgiveness.” Immediately a voice was heard saying, “Whomsoever prays the funeral prayer for the man on the noose, shall attain an exalted status in the hereafter.” This voice was heard by the people in the entire town. On hearing this voice, people in town gathered quickly. They removed him from the noose, and performed a cleaning ritual and provided a kaffan (burial cloth) . Then with much respect, they prayed his funeral prayer and buried him. That night a man dreamt that it was the Day of Reckoning, and the man who was hanged, was dressed in the best of clothing and was present in the ranks of the praised. He asked him, how he received such excellence and the man replied, “Almighty accepted the prayer of Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) and pardoned me.” [Masaalik as-Saalikeen, Vol. 1, Page 288]
Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) had an uncle who was governor of the city. One day he was passing some wasteland when he observed Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra)sitting there eating bread. Before him there was a dog, and Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) was putting one morsel in his own mouth and then one in the dog’s. “Are you not ashamed to eat bread with a dog?” stated his uncle. “It is out of shame that I am giving bread to the poor,” replied Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) . Then he raised his head and called to a bird in the air. The bird flew down and perched on his hand, covering his head and eyes with his wings. “Whosoever is ashamed before God,” said Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) , “everything is ashamed before him.” At once his uncle was filled with confusion. [Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Page 213]
One day Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) was walking along with a group of his followers when a gang of youths came that way. They behaved outrageously all the way to the Tigris. “Master,” his companions asked him, “pray to Almighty God to drown them all, that the world may be rid of their foul presence.” “Lift up your hands,” Ma‘ruf bade them. Then he prayed. “O God, as Thou hast given them a happy life in this world, even so grant them a happy life in the world to come.” “Master, we know not the secret of this prayer,” said his companions in astonishment. “He with whom I am speaking knows the secret,” Ma‘ruf replied. “Wait a moment. Even now this secret will be revealed.” When the youths beheld the shaikh, they broke their lutes and poured away the wine they were drinking. Trembling overcame them, and they fell before the shaikh and repented. “You see,” Ma‘ruf remarked to his companions. “Your desire has been fulfilled completely, without drowning and without anyone suffering.” [Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Page 210]
He passed away on a Friday or Saturday, on the 2nd of Muharram, 200 Hijri. After his demise, Muhammad bin Abul Hussain(ra) said, that he saw Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) in his dream and he asked him how Almighty God had treated him. He said, Almighty God pardoned me, not because of my piety but because of what I heard from Samaak (ra) in Kufa, when he said, ’He who leaves all ties and turns towards God, then God sends his Mercy towards him and he turns all his servants in his direction.’ I followed this advice of his and turned completely towards God, and with the exception of the servitude to Ali Rida Radi (ra) I left everything else.
Sirri al-Saqti (ra) says, “I dreamt that Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) was seated totally absorbed in the love of God, under the throne and Almighty God said, ‘O Angels! Who is this?’ the Angels said, O God You are All Knowing. There is nothing hidden from you.’ Almighty God said, ‘This is Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra) who is drowned in My love and closeness and until he does not see me, he will not regain his consciousness and neither will he gain contentment without his sight upon me.’”
His shrine is in Baghdad Iraq. Sirri al-Saqti (ra) says, “When you are faced with any difficulty, then say, “O Allah! Assist me through the Sadqa(charity) of Ma‘ruf Al-Karkhi(ra).” All your problems shall be solved (God willing)