Who is Abdullah Dahlawi?

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Who is Abdullah dahlawi? What kind of person Abdullah dahlawi? When did abdullah dahlawi live?

Abdullah Dahlawi [1743 – 1824]

Also known as Ghulam Ali, Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) was born in the hijri year 1156 (1743 AD) in the province of Punjab. His lineage goes back to the caliph Ali (may Allah be pleased with him).

His father, Shah Abdulatif Efendi was an ascetic and a mujahid. He took great care in making sure that his provision was lawful. In fact, he is known to have sufficed many times with only fruit grown in the fields.

Abdullah Dahlawi went to Delhi at a young age and attended the assemblies of the righteous there. He memorised the Holy Qur’an and studied the tafsir, hadith and fiqh sciences. He took his ijaza as a narrator of hadith. Whilst still young he went to the lodge of Mazhar Jan-e Janaan who said to him:

“My son, our path is one of ordeal and suffering. Go somewhere else if you want spiritual pleasure and fervour”.

“I desire your path” said Abdullah Dahlawi.

“In that case may Allah bless you” and he accepted him as his student.

For a long time Abdullah Dahlawi was in dire economic straits. There were days where he used an old straw mat as a bed and a brick for a pillow. However, none of this harmed his submission and his reliance upon Allah. He spent years of spiritual training at his teacher’s side. Finally his teacher gave him the ijaza to guide others.

His Life of Guidance

Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) began to guide others after the death of his master. Aside from dhikr and muraqaba, he also taught fiqh, hadith, tafsir and tasawwuf at the Sufi lodge. He would serve those who came to visit, but kept his meetings brief and would ask to be free once he had helped them with their problem. He would advise them to spend their time on important matters and to advance in the degrees of taqwa by not becoming deluded by this world.

Spreading the truth and advising people to goodness had become his character. He feared no one when it came to warning people of error and unlawful things. He wrote letters of caution even to the Sultan, without reluctance or hesitation.

Abdullah Dahlawi’s circle of guidance had grown so large, even while he was still alive, that his successors reached the farthest corners of Byzantium, and spread throughout the world, from Syria to China, from east to the west. Hundreds of scholars and righteous people would come from distant lands to benefit from his company.

His Virtues

Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) would spend his nights in dhikr and worship. When sleep overcame him, he would lie down on his prayer mat on his right side. Out of his great courtesy and manners, he was never seen to lie down with his legs outstretched. He would mostly sit on his knees. His death also occurred while he was in this state, that is, while he was sitting on his knees.

He would read the Holy Qur’an frequently and would receive great pleasure from listening to it.

He was extremely generous. When giving out he would take great care to make sure it was done in secret. He would have prepared various meals, including sweets and offer them to the needy with the intention of sending the reward for this to the great men that lived before him, and Shah Naqshiband in particular.

When his wealth had reached a sufficient level, he would not wait for one year to pass but would immediately give his zakat. He would donate the remaining for charity.

He was very kind and merciful to the Muslims. He would pray for a very long time during the night for the community of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

There was never any unnecessary talk in the assemblies of Abdullah Dahlawi. If someone began to backbite another he would prevent them from doing so and say:

“I am more deserving of those negative words than he”.

One day while he was fasting, somebody criticised the sultan. He said:

“Alas, our fast has been broken”.

One of his students said:

“But sir, you did not backbite”. He replied:

 “Yes, we did not backbite, but we listened. In backbiting, the one who speaks it and the one who listens are the same”[1].

Abdullah Dahlawi would ignore people’s personal faults and loved to cover them up. One time someone came to him and tried to sell him a book that he had borrowed from him previously. Abdullah Dahlawi praised the book and bought it from him. One of his students said:

“But sir, that book is from your library and it has your seal upon it”.

He replied:

“The author has made several copies of the same book”. He thus closed the matter and did not embarrass anybody[2].

Abdullah Dahlawi showed no consideration for worldly property. Sultans and rulers would beg him to accept money sent to him in order to spend on the needs of the lodge. However, he would politely refuse them.

He was an extremely graceful and clean person. He loved beautiful fragrances.

His Modesty

Despite being at a very elevated rank, Abdullah Dahlawi was in a constant state of humility and modesty. One day he looked at a dog coming towards him and said:

“O my Lord! Have mercy on me for the sake of this creature. Who am I that people are coming in crowds to use me as a means to be together with Allah? I only ask from my Lord for their sake”[3].

He would say that humility and the feeling of nothingness are the foundations of the path of tasawwuf:

“The constant and most correct expression of this affair is that one should always be seeking forgiveness, in a continual state of feeling faulty and embarrassed, always with a broken heart”[4].

In a beautifully written letter that expresses the sincerity of his humble heart, he writes:

“The life of this old man passed in sin. In particular, acts such as complaining, backbiting, maligning others, censuring them, showing disrespect for elders, objecting to them, all of those prayers deprived of khushu and presence, the reading of the Qur’an without complying with the rules of tajweed, fasting mixed with vain and futile matters, recitation without pondering the meaning, time passed without remembering Allah, Most High, time passed without feeling khasyah (reverent fear of Allah) and breaths taken in heedlessness have blackened our book of deeds.

Shame and shame a thousand times! We came here to gather roses for the world but have been the bearers of thorns.

Shame and shame a thousand times, that even though we were given health, well-being and comfort and many other opportunities, we were lacking in our gratitude for them.

Woe and woe again that we were not grateful enough for being given two great bounties such as the Holy Qur’an and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)whereas these are the bounties most worthy of showing gratitude for.

Allah forbid! We are in a state of confusion! How will we face Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when we enter their presence tomorrow on the Day of Judgement?

What is this insensitivity and blindness? If it were not for the mercy of Allah, Most High, we would not be given intercession nor forgiveness for this unworthy state of ours. It is only Allah, Most High, who can bestow on us once more the opportunities that we missed, out of his grace and favour, otherwise we have no excuse!

Inna lillah (To Allah we belong). Death is on our doorstep and the Day of Judgement is very near. What deeds have we done that will benefit us? While the righteous servants will enter Paradise, and live in bounty witnessing the beauty of Allah, Most High, we heedless ones will be taken to account on that Day, which measures fifty thousand years. Alas for our state. Would that I had never come to this world! This is the day that we must think about these matters so that we will not be sad on the morrow.

Let us embrace righteous deeds ! Let us wake up before the dawn and cry tears of longing. We hear of how those True Friends of Allah who lived before us, struggled and what great sacrifices they made. May Allah, Most High, give us aspiration and energy and a feeling of ashamedness”[5].

His Service of Others

Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy upon him) spoke of the importance and benefits of serving others as follows:

“Let the one who wants to be served, serve his teacher. Serving others is the one thing that will take a person from the lowest ranks to the highest of stations. It is etiquette and courtesy that raises a person from the level of earth to the highest of the heavens”[6].

“The spiritual growth of the seeker through abstention can never reach a hundreth of the growth that he can achieve through serving others. The work of all of those years can be achieved in an instant through serving others. Serving others makes the believer subject to divine favour”[7].

“The great men who went before us would make their students serve others. This is because such an act is a means for the spiritual growth of the heart and for reward in the hereafter.

“One time a man came to his master and said:

“Sir, command me to some act of service”. His teacher replied:

“All of the acts of service have been distributed amongst the students. I have nothing for you now. However you can bring some green herbs and other things from the field”.

Every day that man carried bunches and bunches of herbs on his head. One night in his dream he saw that it was the Day of Judgement and everyone was being taken to account. The people were passing through an ocean of fire. He immediately threw down the herbs that were on his head over the fire and passed over easily”[8].

His love for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)

Abdullah Dahlawi was a true friend of Allah whose heart was filled with love of the prophet. Whenever his blessed name was mentioned in his presence he would immediately overflow with feelings of love and respect and become enraptured. He would say:

“We are of those who drink from the sherbet of love. Our love is increased through the hadith and salawat i sharif (invoking blessings upon the prophet peace and blessings be upon him), which bestow all manner of pleasures to our hearts”[9].

“Glory be to Allah! When we read the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) we find such amazing prosperity and blessings”[10].

“When people kneel down and sit, they take on the shape formed by the letters Muhammad محمد: Sitting in this way the head takes on the shape of the ‘mim’, the two shoulders take on the shape of the ‘ha’ and the back the shape of the second ‘mim’ and the two legs take on the shape of the ‘dal’. If a person sits in this way pondering on the blessed name of that great prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) he will receive great blessings”[11].

“One time I was overcome with the fear of hellfire. I was extremely grieved. Then I saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in my dream and he said:

“Do not fear the fire of Hell! Those who bear love for us will not enter Hell”[12].

Some Advice

Some of the advice that Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) gave to guide the hearts is as follows:

“Idle talk and backbiting will eliminate the reward for fasting. Backbiting destroys the reward one receives for worship. It is obligatory to shun it. It is great foolishness to struggle and make such efforts to perform one’s worship and then to lose the reward for this through such acts. Deeds are presented to Allah, Most High. Sending our acts of backbiting and idle talk to our Lord is an act of great discourtesy”[13].

“It is obligatory on this path to act in accordance with the commands of the sharia’, in matters related to tasawwuf, in the state of heart, and in physical acts. One should remain distant from the people of heedlessness, spend one’s time performing righteous deeds, turn to one’s heart and to Allah, Most High with one’s heart, remember Him, wake up for the tahajjud prayer, avoid spending the time of the predawn in sleep, love others, speak little, sleep little, eat little, refrain from sitting with heedless people, and always be in a state of patience and contentedness, reliance upon Allah, and submission to Him. This is the state of those who desire Allah, Most High.

The opening of the mysteries of tawheed is dependent on the amount of dhikr one performs. Occupying oneself with dhikr is a means for increase in love. The one who truly desires Almighty Allah can never be content with doubts and misgivings and imagination. Woe to those who have reached the end of their life, but have failed to reach the state that they should have reached. Woe to those who spent their time on futile and vain matters”[14].

“One should do much dhikr. Without this, the heart will not open up. One should not spend even an instant without remembering Him, without turning to Him and without thinking of how much we need Him. Even when we are amongst the people and are speaking with them, our hearts should be with Allah and we must be in a state of awareness of our Lord.

“Prosperity and blessings come all of a sudden, but they only come to the heart that is awake”.

“One should not enter into argument, debate or conjecture with people, as this renders the heart heedless. This is the path of the people of marifatullah[15].

His Death

In his letters Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) would generally write the following:

“I wish to give up my spirit at a time when the state of love has overcome me and I am witnessing my Lord. I wish to leave this world in the state expressed by Ibn Yemin in the following lines:

Ibn Yemin’s heart is filled with blood, do not look at it

Look and see how he left this mortal world

With the Qur’an in his hand, his eye on his Beloved, and his foot in the footsteps of the True friends

He left this land laughing at the angel of Death

Please pray for me that this wish of mine is fulfilled”[16].

During his last illness, Dahlawi would read Tirmidhi’s book on hadith holding it on his chest. If he came across a hadith that mentioned an act of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) he would act upon it. He even tried to eat the foods that the prophet ate.

When his illness became severe, he had the following last testament written:

“Remember Allah always! Preserve your bond with the friends of Allah. Be of good character and get along with the people. Give up asking ‘Why’ and ‘How’ in matters related to fate and predestination. Deem it necessary to be united with your brothers in religion. Be upon modesty, contentedness, submission, reliance upon Allah, and selflessness.

Take my corpse to the Great Mosque in which is found the sacred belongings of the prophet and ask the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) to intercede for me”[17].

Abdullah Dahlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) passed away in the hijri year 1240 (1824AD). He was buried to the right of his teacher[18].

Words of Wisdom

  • “Remembering Allah with a heart filled with sorrow and a feeling of servanthood, and turning to Him are the most important means for being accepted by Allah. Let us not remain heedless of these?”[19]
  • “There are many travellers running along the path of love ignited by the love of their Friend and burning themselves. They withdrew from (desire of) both worlds, and delved into witnessing the True Beloved. O Allah! Revive me with Your Love. Resurrect me with Your Love”[20].
  • “Make things easy for the person that you give amr bi’l mar’uf to for the first time”[21].
  • “There are four things that are essential on this path of ours. Removing one’s hand from the unlawful, preventing one’s foot from stepping towards the unlawful, embracing the religion wholeheartedly, and being a person of complete certainty”[22].
  • “Tasawwuf is to be with Allah, Most High, to adopt beautiful character, and to comply with the sharia’. It is to remove from the heart everything that distances one from Allah, Most High, and adorn every limb through following the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)”[23].
  • “The standard for being an acceptable servant in the eyes of Allah is to follow the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). If there is not complete obedience and devotion to the Beloved Prophet in the beliefs, character, deeds and state of a certain Sufi order then there will be no demand for that order and it will not be able to continue”[24].
  • “There is no value in a matter that is not in accordance with the Age of Bliss. Whatever the path and whatever the deed, if it does not resemble the path of the Companions of the Messenger, then it is dangerous”[25].
  • “How can a person who follows the desires of their nafs be a slave to Allah?”[26].
  • “There are four types of people: the cowardly, the brave, the generous and the individual.
  • The one who desires the world is cowardly,
  • The one who desires the hereafter is brave,
  • The one who desires the hereafter and Allah, Most High, is generous,
  • The one who only desires Allah, Most High, is the individual (who is worth a whole community)[27].
  • “Servanthood is not complete until one reaches the station of submission. Submission and contentment are the final stations of the sayr u suluq[28].
  • “Whatever the people of Allah happen to be doing, they will immediately stop it and run to prayer when they hear the call (adhan)”[29].
  • “Egoism is to claim divinity. You cannot reach Allah without first uprooting your ego”[30].
  • “Any perfection that appears in the community of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) after him, is due to his perfection wherever it happens to appear”[31]
  • “The life of this world is but one day, and we should be fast on that day (That is, we need to prevent our nafs from sin)”[32].
  • “Whoever utters a thousand times, “Ya Rabb! Ya Rabb!” after midnight will have all of their problems made easy and all of their wishes fulfilled and their prayers will be accepted”[33].

[1]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, Huwal ghani Risale, p. 152. [2]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 151.

[3]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 150. [4]. Abdullah Dahlawi, Makatib-i Sharifa, p. 65, no: 65. 5]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 158, no: 91.M[6]. Rauf Ahmad, Durru al Ma’arif, p. 124-125.M[7]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 68. [8]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 149. [9]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 94. [10]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 81. [11]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 84. [12]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 152. [13]. Abdullah Dahlawi, Makatib-i Sharifa, p. 107, no: 85. [14]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 31, no: 16. [15]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 67, no: 66. [16]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 97, no: 79; p. 217, no: 108.  [17]. Encyclopaedia of Awliya, I, 76. [18]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 148-167; Abdulhayy Hasani, al-I’lam/Nuzhat al Khawatir, VII, 392-395. [19]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 25, no: 11. [20]. Abdullah Dahlawi, Makamat-i Mazhariyya, p. 22. [21]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 153 [22]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 153. [23]. Abdullah Dahlawi, Makatib-i Sharifa, p. 105, no: 85. [24]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 88, no: 75. [25]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 225, no: 111. [26]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 26; Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 156. [27]. Abdulghani ibn Abi Said, ibid, p. 157. [28]. Abdullah Dahlawi, ibid, p. 79, no: 71.[29]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 36. [30]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 44. [31]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 126. [32]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 143.[33]. Rauf Ahmad, ibid, p. 148.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş,The Golden Chain of Transmission Masters of the Naqshinandi Way, Erkam Publications

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