Stories of the Awliya

By: Hajj Mustafa Ali

Shaykh Abdul Mabood Jilani

horizontal rule

The First Meeting

For every rule, there is an exception. These Exceptions are often referred to as miracles or just lumped together under the category of “unexplained phenomena”. Exceptions exist in space, on earth and in the case of Shaykh Abdul Mabood Jilani, his exceptional life and condition were a prime example to the rule.

Born in 1823, in Gilan, Baghdad, this Shaykh traveled the world for over 160 years. He was a fighter for truth, a healer of hearts and an example of the highest, in his obedience and trust in God. Whenever I sat with him, his lessons were not spoken, but transmitted by his beingness. Teachings poured from his hand when he lifted it, from his eyes, when he glanced in your direction and from his heart, that even being in cased in a fragile, and ancient shell, beamed out the light of God’s Holy Presence.

He always had time for me and welcomed me as part of his family. He left me five gifts that are roses in the garden of my life. The first was that no thing, no matter how small, is outside the Magnificence of God.  Secondly, that unless one takes the time and develops patience, through reflecting on Allah’s Presence & Design, much of life’s secrets will be missed. Thirdly, that no matter what we do to preserve life or to make things happen, it is ultimately in Allah’s plan whether a thing will be or not. Fourthly, people will see what they want to, regardless of the facts.

The Shaykh had much to give in the way of lessons in life, yet most people flocked to him in hope of gaining extension of their lives through his blessings. He knew this and still was willing to allow thousands to see him weekly for his blessings. Finally, there is an appointed time and place for all things. Our plans are but fantasy filled wishes, unless they are first and foremost submitted to and aligned with what Allah wants. “We plot and Allah plots, surely Allah’s plot will come to pass”.

In the winter of 1982, I was living in the Capitol City of Pakistan, Islamabad. We had rented a large house in a well to do area where there were many international embassies and consulates. It was a welcome change of pace after being in the Punjab for nearly 8 months. The weather in Islamabad was much more bearable. On one afternoon, I was visiting what locally became to be known as the ‘Juma’ market. It was held every Friday before and after the congregational prayers of Juma. That morning as I was strolling along the rows of crafts, foods and Afghan carpets, when a man came out of the crowd rushing towards me as though he had some urgent message to deliver. As he came forward he waved and waved his hands, like someone flagging down cars after an accident. Once upon us, he grabbed my hand and ask me if I was “the” American Sufi. I answered: I am at least one of the American Sufis in Islamabad. He said, you must follow me immediately; my Shaykh is waiting to meet you.

We were escorted to a waiting car and taken to a house in one of the better areas of Islamabad. There was a long line of people waiting outside, mostly women and children. We were taken to the front of the line and led into a small bedroom where there were several people sitting on the floor around a single bed. Everyone in the room had a reverent demeanor. There was little talking and when someone spoke, it was whispered. On the bed, there was what appeared to be a lump right in the center, covered by a blanket. I was instructed by our host to sit quietly and soon the Shaykh would awaken and we would have a meeting with him. Looking at the blanket, I could hardly imagine a full sized man under it. Whatever was under that blanket could not be bigger than a small child.

After some time, tea and lots of whispering, the blanket began to move. I could hear breathing and a slight moan. Then a small hand emerged from the cover. It remained out and visible for some seconds before the rest of the Shaykh’s body emerged. I had never seen, or have yet to see again a hand quite like this one. It was almost skeletal, the skin was transparent, and you could see the bone and veins. Soon the rest of this being emerged with him repeating the name of God, Allah… he was out, adjusting his hat, and glasses, smiling and looking around the room, examining every one of us as thoroughly. When his eyes focused on me, he asked me to come closer. He grabbed my face in his hands and asked me if I was Iranian. I answered that I was an American. After introducing himself as Shaykh Mabood Al-Gilani, he smiled wide and asked me my name and the name of my Shaykh. I began to tell him, but before I finished naming the entire name, he stopped me and said, Yes! Yes! Your Shaykh is the son of Shaykh Ahmed Haeri from Karbala.

I was shocked, and overwhelmed with emotion. Tears ran down my cheeks. How did he know this? What an extraordinary meeting! The Shaykh saw my surprise and delight and went on to tell me how he had met my Shaykh’s father at the Delhi Mosque in 1890 or something. I was further surprised at the dates. If he had met Shaykh Ahmed Haeri at that time, as the date now was 1983, than this Shaykh had to be at least in his nineties.  I asked the Shaykh how old he was. With a big smile on his face, he said, 153 years old! I sat with the Shaykh for several hours, drinking more tea and having light conversation. I was soon asked to come back another time and visit the Shaykh in a more intimate way. I asked his leave and with a kiss to my forehead, we left his presence. That night I called Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, and told him about this extraordinary meeting, and the news that this Shaykh knew his father. Shaykh Fadhlalla asked his mother and she affirmed that Shaykh Ahmed had told her about a visit, to India as a young man.

Second Meeting

The next day I was very anxious to visit the ancient Shaykh again. I was again escorted to the front of the line of people all waiting to see and receive the blessing of the Shaykh. There were many women with their children, wanting the Shaykh’s blessing on them for long life and health. As I sat there watching one after another, the Shaykh tirelessly placed his hand on the head of each child and mother and read a prayer over them. He took no money or asked anything for himself.

On one of the first few occasions that I visited the Shaykh, an old man had come to the door of the bedroom, and was having a hard time opening the door. The Shaykh noticing the struggle gestured to us to help him and said with cheek “let that old man in”. The old man sat down next to me. I leaned over, asked how long he had been coming here, and has known the Shaykh. He said all my life; the Shaykh is my father. I asked him how old he was. He said ninety-nine years old. There was a young man who was serving the tea every time I was there. I asked him about his relationship with the Shaykh. Another amazing answer. He said he too was the son of the Shaykh. His age was 28.

I found our later that Shaykh Abdul Mabood had 500 children, grand children and great great grand children. He had been married several times in his long life to women all over the world. His youngest was 28 and his oldest, nearly 100.

That night I again communicated with Shaykh Fadhlalla the amazing things about Shaykh Abdul Mabood. This time Shaykh Fadhlalla instructed me, that each time I visit Shaykh abdul Mabood, I should bring with me five gifts for him. This seemingly very simple instruction was to be a difficult task. I was asked to visit him every day. What gift do you bring a 160-year-old man?

The Five Gifts

As I was standing in the Bazaar in Islamabad, frozen, and perplexed by my task of what five gifts I could buy the Shaykh. It suddenly dawned on me that really it didn’t matter. They could be anything. I just had to walk, with heart empty, mind clear and “see” what Allah would guide me to. As soon as this was clear within me, I was able to buy quickly five different items; they ranged from a plastic perfume container, to a metal bracelet -- with names of five close members of the Prophet’s household. All the gifts fit into a small bag. Once I was done with shopping, I was off to the Shaykh’s house to deliver his gifts.

Upon entering, I was taken immediately to his side. By now, I had grown very fond of him and he of me. He greeted me with a kiss on my cheeks and asked if I had anything for him. I brought out the bag and gave him the first gift my hand touched. It was the bracelet with the Prophet’s family’s names on it. When he saw it, he lifted it closely to his face and began to examine it with great interest. He turned it side ways, upside down, looked at the back, all the time reciting the Divine name, Allah, Allah!  He looked like a child completely absorbed with a new toy, but even more so. He must have spent at least ten minutes turning it, in every possible direction. He put it down and I brought another out.  He repeated and gave the same one pointed attention to the second gift I had brought. This went on through the other gifts. He looked at each one, although it may have been cheap plastic or metal, he held it and cherished it as though it were precious metals and rare gemstones. It was a lesson to me. He took in life completely. He saw the divine in everything. He saw the traces of the Master of the universe in the smallest and seemingly insignificant thing.

After reviewing all the gifts, he said he had something for me. He reached down under his bed and brought out some food that was left on his dinner plate. He said that he was saving this for me. He picked up a spoon, scooped up some rice and little bits of meat and spoon-fed me. There were exactly five bites.

Each night I returned to the Shaykh’s house with five new gifts, and each time there were five bites of food waiting for me. On several occasions, I would ask the Shaykh about his life and experiences. Whenever I would inquire in this way, he would often play down the significance of his life and refuse to talk. But sometimes a flood of stories would come from him. On one of these nights, he told us the following tale.

The Caravan to Mecca

Around the turn of the century, Shaykh Abdul Mabood was on his way to the pilgrimage in Mecca, on a camel caravan from Syria. He was accompanying his teacher, Shaykh Ahmed Mekki. The journey took three months and along the way, there were many difficulties, not the least desert robbers.

On one afternoon, they came across another caravan heading east to China. They shared camp that evening and exchanged stories of their lands and experiences. The leader of the caravan warned the pilgrims to be very careful in the next few days, as there were reports of the presence of an infamous thief in the area. His infamy was on the fact that he was a ruthless man, not caring whom he robbed or killed and not even sparing the caravans of pilgrims.

The next day, while having traveled for many miles, the Shaykh’s caravan stopped to perform the afternoon prayer of Asr. As they were doing their ablutions, shouts were heard from all quarters of the caravan. Soon there were shots heard and the caravan was under siege by the band of thieves under the leadership of the infamous marauder, who they had been warned about the night before.

The thieves were relentless in their appetite for blood. Many Hajjis were killed and the caravan was ransacked. Shaykh Abdul Mabood could see the chief thief in the distance. Like a proud king or landowner, he remained away from the camp, until most of the damage was done. Then he entered the camp to survey the booty his men had collected. As he moved through the crowds of the vanquished Hajjis, all heads bowed in fear of catching his eye and disfavor, risking death or a beating.

As he came closer, Shaykh Abdul Mabood lifted his head and challenged the chief thief. He admonished him for laying siege on a caravan of helpless Hajjis on their way to the holy pilgrimage. Most were astonished at the courage and bold stance the Shaykh had taken. Fear ran through most though; fear that this would be the invitation of their deaths. The thief addressed the Shaykh, saying, ‘Do you know who I am? Do you know that I have killed men for less than what you have done today!’ The Shaykh answered, “ I only fear Allah, my life is in His hands and in His hands only. If it be that I should die today having challenged evil, than let it be so”.

The thief dismounted his camel and approached the Shaykh. He addressed the Shaykh saying: “I fear no man or God, but I am the one feared by all” The Shaykh answered “Then I pity your illusion, and I will pray for you to repent”. The thief was so impressed with the Shaykh’s courage, that he had all his men gather around Shaykh Abdul Mabood to introduce him as an equal to himself. He extolled the Shaykh’s courage in standing up, and speaking to himself. In respect to Shaykh Abdul Mabood, he let him live and brought to him a gift of three camels, gladdened with gold and silver. Shaykh Abdul Mabood asked his Shaykh if he could accept the three camels of gold and silver from the infamous thief.  His Shaykh was clear and direct in his response. He could not accept these gifts, as they were surely, stolen from others. It would be haram, or forbidden.

As Shaykh Abdul Mabood returned to where the thief was to refuse the gifts, the Shaykh surprised everyone when he, in fact, accepted the gifts. The thief was gratified and with his men disappeared into the desert. Shaykh Abdul Mabood had now become an outcast. His Shaykh refused to see him and he was sent with his camels to the end of the caravan, forbidden to eat, or fraternize with the rest of the caravan’s Hajjis. He even was stoned and spat on several occasions.

After many days, the Shaykh’s caravan came across the royal caravan from the Khalifa of Turkey. There was blood everywhere. The infamous thief had laid them siege to several days before. He had stolen all the gift supplies that the Khalifa had sent to Mecca and Medina to help for the Hajj. There were also three camels of gold and silver taken. This was a special gift from the Khalifa, intended to feed and clothe the poor Hajjis' on pilgrimage. From the back of the caravan, Shaykh Abdul Mabood came forward with the three camels of gold and silver, and placed their reins on the hands of their rightful guardians.  A roar and cheer went up throughout the two caravans. Shaykh Abdul Mabood was now a hero.  As the roar and shouts praising his insight and courage died down, his own Shaykh emerged from the crowd. As he approached Shaykh Abdul Mabood he bowed slightly, taking Shaykh Abdul Mabood’s hand and kissing it, saying from this day forward you are a Shaykh of Tariqa.

This was the story of how Shaykh Abdul Mabood received his “idhn” or permission to be a teaching Shaykh in his own right.

Over one Hundred Years of Pilgrimage

Shaykh Abdul Mabood’s wife invited me one night for dinner. It was the first time I had the opportunity to visit and chat with his wife and the rest of his family in a less formal way. That evening I noticed that there was a plaque on the wall, written in Arabic, and sealed with a wax impression that appeared to be the standard of the royal family of Saud. I asked about it and this is what I was told.

After he had performed his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, Shaykh Abdul Mabood remained in the Hijaz, teaching. King Abdul Aziz bin Saud had just recently taken control of the country and was under tremendous pressure from the Wahhabi scholars in Ryadh to control the emerging influence of the Sufis in the Hijaz, as well as the Shias and their interests in the shrines of the members of the Prophet's family. Succumbing to their threats, King Abdul Aziz launched a campaign against these two groups, by destroying the Sufi shrines of the awliya’ and those of the Shia.

Shaykh Abdul Mabood after having petitioning the King on many occasions to stop these activities met with treachery. The king had put a warrant for the Shaykh’s arrest. The Shaykh banded together with others wanting to preserve these holy places, and waged battles against any army that attempted to hurt or destroy these shrines. The conflict raged on for many months. The warrant for the Shaykh’s arrest had become a bounty hunt as the king placed a large sum of gold on Shaykh Abdul Mabood’s head.  After some time the Shaykh was arrested and brought to stand trial in the court of King Abdul Aziz. The trial lasted for but a few minutes, the charges were read and the sentence handed out.

The Shaykh was brought in front of King Abdul Aziz. Shaykh Abdul Mabood’s head had already been wrapped in clothe and the axe and chopping block were already in the courtyard of the palace. The king leaned over to the Shaykh and asked if there were any last words. The Shaykh began to recite several poems about the qualities of the Prophet’s family and how they should be remembered and cherished for all times. The king was moved to tears. For not only were the words of the Shaykh overwhelmingly beautiful but the king recognized those poems as having been written by his grandfather and recited to him almost every night.

The king ordered the clothe to be removed from the Shaykh’s head and for him to be set free. The king approached Shaykh Abdul Mabood and humbly requested his forgiveness. From that day the king ordered that the shrines and holy places of the Sufis and the Shias be left in peace. As a personal show of gratitude to the Shaykh, the King decreed that from that day forward, Shaykh Abdul Mabood would be the guest of the kingdom on the pilgrimage to Hajj.  The kingdom of Saudi Arabia would cover all of his travel expenses and costs to stay in Mecca and Medina. The Shaykh was given an official plaque with this decree. It was this plaque, I asked about on the wall.

Prior to receiving this gift, the Shaykh had already performed the Hajj for many years. When I had met him in 1983, he had already completed over 100 pilgrimages to Hajj. As far as we know, he holds the record for attending the pilgrimage.

His wife went on to tell me that Shaykh Abdul Mabood remains in bed most of the year. A few weeks before Hajj, he starts to move around more and a few days before he sets off to Hajj, he walks around, full of energy. She said that his hair turns from white to gray and even turns black as the Hajj approaches. In her time as wife of the Shaykh, he had lost and grown another set of teeth. As a junior wife, she remembered coming into a household of two other senior wives that the Shaykh had several sets of teeth come in and fall over his lifetime.

The Wing Commander

I was asked by Shaykh Fadhlalla to research Shaykh Abdul Mabood’s life for the possibility of writing his biography. I approached this idea with the Shaykh one evening and he told me that I was too late. I became slightly dismayed about his answer. I asked him who had already done this, and if I could be in touch with them. He giggled and pointed to the Angels standing of his right and left shoulder. He said that all he could say about his life is that wherever he traveled, whether it was to the north or south, east or west he only saw the hand and mercy of Allah.

I asked one of his close students if there was any one person who had known the Shaykh and his life details the best. I was told about a wing commander, serving in the air force, stationed in Peshawar.

Peshawar in 1983 was a teeming town, full of traders, fighters, refugees and western government agents. The streets were filled with fighters from all over the Muslim world. There were Uzbek’s, Tadjiki’s and even a spattering of Africans and Americans. Guns were everywhere and the air was filled with the excitement of men returning from battle. Traders of all kinds of contraband were tugging at the arms of everyone. You could buy anything in Peshawar, from opium to anti-tank missiles. There was no enforcement of law, only the law of the tribes and the strength of the fittest.

I made my way to the air force base outside the city. It was an unassuming air base with little bungalows and not an aircraft in sight. It looked more like a Boy Scout camp than a military base. I was escorted to the officer’s lounge and was asked to wait until the officer I was looking for was located. After some time, I was escorted again to a small office on the outside of the camp. A private, who was the secretary of the wing commander I had come to visit, greeted me. He asked me the nature of my visit and when I explained it to him he was surprisingly not surprised, as it was an irregular reason for visiting an air force base. But this was Pakistan and I had come to appreciate the common saying that “anything is possible in Pakistan”.

While waiting to see the wing commander, I was served tea. Everything was very typical and nothing out of the ordinary. After some time, I was led into the inner office where the wing commander was waiting. We greeted each other and he immediately came down to business and asked me why I had come. When I mentioned Shaykh Abdul Mabood and the purpose of my visit, the wing commander changed his stance completely. He froze and did not move for some time. His eyes became red and I could see that he was trembling. I asked if he was all right, he nodded in the affirmative. He said that he was unable to tell me anything. I pushed a bit and told him that he had come highly recommended by several of the Shaykh’s students. I said that I had come all the way up here to see him in this regard and I did not want to leave empty handed. The wing commander froze again for a few moments and said that he will ask his guide and oracle, if he had the permission to speak to me. He asked for a few minutes while he inquires and that I should remain here and wait for him.  I agreed and waited.

I waited and waited, minutes turned into hours, and by now most of the day had past. I kept inquiring (to the secretary) about the wing commander and was reassured that the wing commander would keep his word. I had now been there for about 3 hours when, I heard a strange sound coming from behind the door to the next room. With the sound I felt the wood floor beneath me give way a bit and then return with a vibrating sound. At first, I thought nothing of it; maybe it was an aircraft landing or some machinery. The sound and the vibrations became more intense. They were definitely coming from the hall or rooms near by. The private secretary stood up suddenly, I could see panic in his face. He left the room. Before leaving, he said to me, not to be concerned that the wing commander is on his way to see me. I was perplexed, what were the noise and the wing commander coming to see me have in common.

The sound from the other room became louder and louder, the floor was bending deeper and was increasing in vibrations. Then the sound was in the next room, I stood up, in a knee jerk reaction, the door flew open, and from it, the wing commander leaped out. He threw himself into the air landing with a crushing and clanging sound that was nearly deafening.

He was covered head to toe with steel rings and chains. His head had a metal cap on it, with a spike coming up from the middle. This was attached to his head with small chains that came up from a neck brace, which was locked on him by a huge padlock. Each arm had eight or nine iron rings wrapped around it from the upper shoulder to his wrists. Around his body, there was like a suite of Armor, but dull and thick like ship platting. His legs were like his arms covered in irons; each ring had a chain attached to it, which connected in two directions, upwards towards his waist and downwards to his feet. On his feet, he wore iron clogs with nails between his toes. In one hand was a spear and in the other a begging bowl shaped like gourd also made from cast iron.

He leaped and whaled, around me. Half the time he danced like a mad man the other half leaping uncontrollable into the air and crashing down, on the floor, unable to hold the weight of what he was wearing.

I remained, in shock. My mind was still. I could only witness. It went on in frenzy for about 30 minutes. The floor beneath heaving and bending, the pictures and plaques on the walls fell from their mountings. His voice grew louder and his speech more obscure. The sounds of the chains, clanging and clinging, his spear moving up and down as though in preparation for an attack. He went on and on in a trance like state. I could see the exhaustion on his face, but that paled to the look in his eyes, and his occasional glance at me swept me out into his world. I had to hide my eyes, as I feared getting lost in his glance. With all the drama of a final act of theater, the wing commander collapsed in the floor near where I was sitting. His body trembled and tears were flowing from his eyes. He looked at me and then with a surprisingly lucid voice said: “I am unable and unworthy to even speak about a being whose blessed feet have touched the holy places over 100 times”. With that he closed his eyes and passed out.

He awoke after a few moments, his eyes had returned to the present; he apologized if he had startled me with his appearance and carrying on. He explained that he had become a member of a sect of Sufis that wore irons and weights to symbolize the prison of the body to the soul. Thus, chains were an example of the attachments we have to this world. He danced and chanted to tune himself to the souls of enlightened beings, to directly receive their advice and teachings. As we spoke, I felt that he was being sincere in the desire to help me, but that it was beyond his ability at this time. He looked up into my eyes and asked me to forgive him all the trouble he may have caused. At that very touching moment, a bird landed on the windowsill next to where we were positioned and began to sing the loveliest song. The golden light of the afternoon sun graced our faces as we both enjoyed the message of our little friend. No words were spoken after this moment. The wing commander got up, with some difficulty I must say. I stood up and we both left the room at the same time.

Shaykh Abdul Mabood Jilani died in 1985.** He was 162 years old.

Before he died he gifted me a formula, that when recited in diverse and overwhelming situations, would bring about resolve in your favor. It was revealed to him on a battlefield, while fighting the British somewhere in history. Being outnumbered, and outflanked, he turned to Allah, requesting His help. He heard the voice of an Angel speak to him with the following phrase:

“Husbi Rabbi Mu Rabi” 

My Lord, The Lord is my Protector 

Repeat 100 times followed by a salutation to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He told me to share it with others. I offer it up here for anyone in the path of Allah to use when turning to your Creator in an overpowering circumstance.

horizontal rule

**The exact date of his passing is 30th November 1985; 16th Rabi-ul-Awwal 1406H.