When the name of this noble man is mentioned, our minds quickly rush to his miracles, life struggles and spiritual elevation. Such characteristics and traits are crucial descriptions in the persona of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, and it is imperative not to neglect them. However, we often fall victim to ignoring the fundamental principles of his life; knowledge and helping the needy.
Undoubtedly, the key ingredient behind his phenomenal success was his intense desire in seeking sacred knowledge. At the tender age of sixteen (other reports mention the age of eighteen), the Shaykh left for Baghdad, leaving behind the comfort of his home and the caring eye of his mother. He remained on the path of knowledge for thirty years, mastering the various Islamic sciences, until he became a juris-consult in the Hanbali School. His firm grasp of the Islamic sciences meant that he was an unwavering mountain in the face of philosophers and men of different ideologies. In the Qasidah Ghawthiyah, the Shaykh relates his spiritual ascension to an unlikely source; ‘I acquired knowledge, until I became the Qutb,” (Qutb; the highest rank in Sufi hierarchy). Today, seeds of confusion and uncertainty have been sewn in to the hearts of young Muslims, and as we search for the causes, then surely the most obvious reason is a lack of knowledge, for seeds can only be planted in spaces, not where crops already flourish.
Therefore, just as Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani sought comfort and protection in knowledge in times of turbulence, we need to plant the seed of love for the sacred knowledge in the hearts of our people. They are constantly being affronted with challenges to their faith; whether that is in schools, colleges or university campuses. It is incumbent upon those in positions of authority to arrange initiatives where the fundamentals of faith are adequately delivered.
Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani is fondly remembered for his unparalleled services to the poor and needy. One of the methods which the Shaykh adopted was to feed the poor and destitute; in accordance to the Qur’anic injunctions. This form of charity was so beloved to the Shaykh that he would say; “Had the world been in my hands, I would not entertain anything except feeding the hungry”. This practice of feeding the poor combined with the delivery of knowledge is known as Giyarhwin Sharif in the Indian subcontinent, indeed these gatherings began with good motives and intentions. However, nowadays, many of these gatherings have drifted from their initial purpose; teaching the people and feeding the poor. It is crucial to remember that Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani fed those truly in need of being fed, unfortunately, our gatherings include no poor people.
As a humble recommendation; I believe the extortionate amounts of money spent on food for Giyarhwin Sharif can be spent in a much more beneficial way. Either, fund those who are truly in need of it; students who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of knowledge, or we can feed the homeless people, Muslim or non-Muslim, as a modern version of the Giyarhwin Sharif, for Shaykh Abdul Qadir certainly did not discriminate between the needy.
For a concise and beneficial biography I would recommend the translation of Ghibtat al-Nazir fi tarjumat al-Shaykh Abd al-Qadir. May Allah grant us the ability to follow in the footsteps of this mountain of knowledge.
Graduate Jamia Al-Karam