Stories of the Awliya
Hajj Mustafa Ali
Shaykh Abdul Mabood
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.
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
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
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
The Caravan to
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
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
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
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
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
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.
**The exact date of
his passing is 30th November 1985; 16th Rabi-ul-Awwal 1406H.