Who is Alauddin Attar?

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Who is Alauddin Attar? What kind of person Alauddin Attar? When did Alauddin Attar live?

Alauddin Attar [d. 1400]

His name was Muhammad ibn Muhammad Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him). It is related that his lineage goes back to the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through his Yasawi shaykh Sayyid Ata[1].

Because he would always use beautifully-smelling fragrances or those who attended his talks sensed a spiritual fragrance coming from him, he was famous for the name Attar[2].

Khwaja Alauddin (may Allah have mercy on him) was born and raised in a family of merchants but in contrast to his elder and younger brother he did not become involved with trade but rather went to the madrasah to study the religious sciences. He did not take anything from his father’s inheritance after his death and he continued to study and continue his life of abstinence. At this time he, like many other students at the madrasah, became affiliated with Shah Bahauddin Naqshiband (may Allah have mercy on him).

Shah Naqshiband advised him to sell apples at the market in order to curtail the pride and conceit that can come from knowledge. Alauddin Attar obeyed his shaykh’s command immediately and began to sell apples. However, his brothers were uneasy about this. They were offended that someone from such a wealthy family should have to do something so base in their eyes and they began to censure him. When Shah Bahauddin heard this he told Alauddin to go and sell apples in front of his brothers’ store. Khwaja Alauddin did as told without taking any notice of the censure[3].

This process of attaining a state of humility, modesty, and a feeling of being nothing of importance, using this and other similar methods is one of the most fundamental methods of training in tasawwuf. In this way Alauddin Attar was able to protect himself from the pride that could result from having knowledge and he was also being raised as a Sufi who did not fear the reproach of the reproachers[4].

Alauddin Attar continued his training in tasawwuf alongside Shah Naqshiband and in time he became one of his leading disciples and successors[5]. Even while he was still alive, Naqshiband would refer the training of many of his disciples to Alauddin and he would say:

“Alauddin has lightened my load greatly”[6].

At that time, Alauddin Attar went to Khwarazm and as the successor of Shah Naqshiband, began to guide the people there with his talks on tasawwuf[7].

While he was in Khwarazm certain scholars who had fallen into dispute about the matter of ru’yatullah (seeing Allah in the hereafter) appointed Alauddin Attar as their judge. He talked and attended to those who denied the ru’yatullah for three days after which all of them accepted it[8].

After Bahauddin Naqshiband’s death, Muhammad Parsa, his successor along with many of his other disciples affiliated themselves with Alauddin Attar and continued to attend his talks.  In addition, he also took notes of some of Attar’s words and talks and penned a treatise[9] (Rashahat, p. 167, 168).

The scholar Sayyid Sharif Jurjani and his friends also became disciples of Attar and served him with complete sincerity, loyalty, and submission. In fact Sayyid Sharif Jurjani would often repeat these words:

“I was never freed from anxieties, misgivings and incorrect beliefs until I attended the talks of Zaynaddin Ali Kala. I did not truly know Allah until I began serving Alauddin Attar”[10].

Sayyid Sharif Jurjani later became one of the leading successors of Attar[11].

His Efforts in The Spiritual Path

Alauddin Attar (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“The great friends of Allah said that it is only possible to receive Allah’s help and success by striving and putting in effort. That is, the one who strives and struggles will be successful. In the same way the spiritual help of one’s guide to the student is in proportion to his efforts to abide by his commands.

If there is no striving or effort then there is no result. The effect of the guide upon the student only lasts for a few days. It is not continuous. The turning of the attention of the guide to his follower is only through the grace of Allah…We would spend all of our time striving and struggling in the spiritual path with Bahauddin Naqshiband…”[12].

Alauddin Attar also willed that his followers hide their spiritual state and occupy themselves with knowledge and outward deeds so that the attention of the people did not bring about a kind of self-conceit in their heart[13].

Dhikr and Muraqaba

Alauddin Attar gave great importance to performing dhikr with awareness and in a particular manner. He did not approve of dhikr done in heedlessness. In fact, he added another practice to the order. This practice involves training the student by arising in him an awareness of being with Allah (maiyyah-i Zatiyya) which brings about a kind of rapturous trance. This practice of being on the sayr-u suluq is the shortest path to attaining one’s goal[14].

Imam Rabbani has said:

“Khwaja Alauddin made great strides in spirituality…at the same time he identified a very beautiful path and practice that allows one to progress to these great ranks. His successors said that “the shortest of paths is the path of Khwaja Alauddin”.  In truth, this path is the shortest and most direct in reaching the final goal. Only a few of even the greatest saints attained this bounty so how can they put forth a way of reaching such a high station…?’

Khwaja Attar is one of the most blessed people in this chain. Every person who has found themselves on this tariq –by the grace of Allah- whether they be from the Attariya branch or the Ahrariya branch, have found the right path through the light of that person’s guidance[15]”.

Suhbah

In his assemblies Alauddin Attar would caution repeatedly:

“Converse with each other! This suhbah is from the Sunnah muakkadah (the strongly advised sunnah practices)”.

Allah, Most High, has said about this matter:

‘And as for the blessing of your Lord, speak out!’ (Duha, 93:11)

In this verse, Allah, the True Bestower of all bounties commands His prophet as follows:

“Speak out about the bounty of guidance and Our grace that We have considered you worthy of and proclaim the grace of your Lord”.

This matter has been explained as following in another narration:

“Allah addressed the prophet Dawud as follows:

“Take Us as your friend and take Our friends as your friends and help Our servants to befriend Us”. In an expression of his own incapacity Dawud said:

“O Allah! I have befriended You o Elevated Being and I have the strength to befriend those who befriend You. However, I do not have the power to establish love for you in the hearts of your servants”.

Allah, Most High, responded:

“O Dawud! If, with enthusiasm and love, you remind and talk to Our servants of Our bounties, then you will be able to establish love for Us in their hearts”[16].

This is why in Sufi gatherings we are reminded of Almighty Allah’s physical and spiritual bounties upon us; His reward and punishment that He has promised His servants are remembered and His beautiful names and His attributes are also remembered. In this way love for the Divine is engraved upon the hearts.

During his talks Alauddin Attar (may Allah have mercy on him) would say:

“To be always with the people of Allah is a means for increasing the aql-i maad (the mind that places importance on the hereafter and prepares for it)”[17].

“The suhbah is from strongly advised Sunnah practices (sunnah muakkadah). One must converse with the Friends of Allah every day or every two days and confirm to their adab. If one is too distant from them, then the seeker should write a letter to his shaykh every month, or every two months, informing him of his inner and outer states, both explicitly and implicitly. In addition he should be pre-occupied with his shaykh wherever he may be (that is, he should continue his attachment to him through the bond of his heart) so that the bond between him and his guide should not be severed completely”[18].

Close to his death Alauddin Attar told Yaqub Charhi, one of his successors, to guide the people after him[19].

His Death and His Last Requests

Muhammad Parsa narrates:  

“During his final illness Alauddin Attar said to his students:

“The Friends and saints have departed from this world. The journeys that are made to the eternal home continue without pause. Certainly, the hereafter is better than this world!”

While he was speaking his blessed gaze fell upon some green bushes. One of those there said:

“How beautiful is this greenness”. Khwaja said:

“The earth is also beautiful. There is nothing left within me that inclines towards this world. I am only saddened that when my friends come and cannot find me, they will be filled with longing and go back broken hearted”.

Another time during his last illness he said to his students:

“Protect yourselves against the misconceptions that have entered this religion. Do the opposite to the unseemly acts that the common people have made a habit of. The sending of the prophet was to eliminate the unseemly habits of man. Always be in contact with each other and in unity. Seek refuge in each other’s protection. Eliminate your egos and consider your brother above yourself. Live in a state of altruism. Perform every task with the highest taqwa and never abandon taqwa to the best of your ability. Suhbah is from the Sunnah muakkadah (the strongly advised Sunnah practices of the prophet). Continue this blessed practice and never abandon the suhbah, whether individually or as a group. If you adhere to what I have said here without departing from uprightness, then you will have gained in one breath what I have gained in my entire life. That is, you will have gained it more easily and your state will be ever a state of continual growth. If you ignore my words then you will certainly be losers”.

At that point Alauddin Attar (may Allah have mercy on him) paused and began to proclaim the kalima-i tawheed loudly…

During his final illness from his eloquent and lucid tongue would sometimes drop pearls of contentment, ecstasy and love; sometimes passion, enthusiasm and ardour; and sometimes advice and wisdom, and sometimes prayers for good for the people. When his illness grew intense, his seeking of refuge increased and he began to repeatedly recite the following verse: ‘On the Day Almighty Allah will ask Hell, ‘Are you full?’ it will ask, ‘Are there no more to come?’ (Qaf, 50:30)[20].

Alauddin Attar (may Allah have mercy on him)fell ill in the month of Rajab in the hijri year 802 and he passed away on the 20th of that same month on a Wednesday evening (17th March, 1400 CE).

His blessed tomb is located 12km to the south of the town of Danow, close to the borders of Tajikstan and Uzbekistan. It is now visited frequently and is known as Shaykh Attar-i Wali[21].

According to Muhammad Parsa, one of the dervishes saw Alauddin Attar approximately forty days after he had migrated to the hereafter in a dream. He said to him:

“The grace and favour of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is far above the estimate of those who love us. Before I passed away I gave you necessary advice on every matter”.

There was a needle on the ground in front of him. He picked it up and put it under his foot saying:

“In order to be worthy of understanding these meanings, one needs to be able to stand upon a needle without falling”[22].

That is whoever lives a life of taqwa and does not part from it in the slightest will be subject to many great spiritual bounties.

His Words of Wisdom

  • “One should be meticulous in matters of knowledge and taqwa and conceal the spiritual state that they arrive at in complete humility. One should advise the disciples in accordance with their spiritual ranks. One should be aware of the thoughts that arise in the heart, trying to control them and beware of hurting/offending the people of the heart[23].
  • “I guarantee that the one who sincerely devotes himself to this path and pays attention to its practices will pass from imitation to reality. Khwaja Bahauddin ordered me to imitate him. I imitated him in every matter and I am now also in a state of imitation. Indeed I observed the influence of him and his state within me”[24].
  • “The most virtuous of inner and outer states is to struggle for tafwiz[25]. That is, to live in a state of contentment and leave one’s affairs to Allah. All of the prophets and the saints lived like this until their last breath. What is needed for the servant is to submit their affairs to Allah wholeheartedly at every instant. If something of his own choice or preference arises in him he immediately eliminates it by embracing tafwiz. The servant should know and understand this well that what Allah, Most High, has chosen for him is certainly better and more beneficial than his own choice”[26].
  • “One should hold to Allah inwardly and to the rope of Allah outwardly. Reaching perfection occurs by combining these two traits”.

That is, the seekers inner qibla should be the Being of Almighty Allah and the eye of his heart should never stray from His Beauty. He should have no other desire in both worlds other than Allah. Whatever he has he should sacrifice it for Allah[27].

  • “What is required for the faithful seeker is to be on the path of the sharia with his body, to be upon the tariq and haqiqa with mind and spirit, and the mysterious faculty of his sirr must want to be with Allah always”[28].
  • “The aim of visiting the graves of the awliya (the friends of Allah) is to turn towards Allah.

One should use the spirit (uality) of that wali as a means of turning to Allah in the best way. In the same way, when a person shows humility and respect towards the people, in reality his aim is Allah, however much it appears that he is paying attention to the people. When the humility and respect shown to people is for the sake of Allah, Most High, then it is good and acceptable. One should consider the people as a place of manifestation of Allah’s power and wisdom. If this is not the intention in being humble and respectful before the people then this will amount to nothing more than deceit”[29].

  • Saadeddin Kashghari (may Allah have mercy on him) has said:

“Becoming focused on the outer sciences and arguing about these matters darkens the heart. Alauddin Attar has said about this matter:

“The student should seek forgiveness twenty times after debates and arguments on matters of knowledge”[30].

  • “Conversing with Allah occurs after one annihilates oneself in the Friend (Allah)”[31].
  • “Almost all of the Holy Qur’an indicates to humbleness and considering oneself to be nothing”[32].
  • “If Allah did not have the attribute of Jamal (Beauty) then His Jalal (glory, majesty) would burn the world and if He did not have the attribute of Jalal then He would burn the world with the light of His Jamal[33].

[1]. Lahuri, Hazina al Asfiya, I, 624; Nasiruddin Bukhari, Tuhfatu al Zairin, p. 55.[2]. Nasiruddin Bukhari, ibid, p. 55.[3]. Rashahat, p. 163-164.[4]. See Maida, 5:54.[5]. Even though it is recorded in Rashahat that Alauddin Attar is the son-in-law of Bahauddin Naqshiband (p. 163-164), it is actually his son Hasan who is his son-in-law. (Mawlana Shaykh, Manaqabi Khwaja Ubaydullah  Ahrar, Bayazid State Library, Bayazid blm., nr. 3624, vr. 70b-71a; Dara Shukuh, Safinatu al Awliya, p. 80; Harezmi, Silsila-i Naqshibandiyya, vr. 126a)[6]. Rashahat, p. 165.[7]. Abu al Qasim, al Risalatu al Bahaiyya, vr. 74a; Rashahat, p. 181.                 [8]. Charkhi, Risale-i Abdaliyya, p. 12; Rashahat, p. 166.[9]. Muhammad Parsa, Makamat-i Alaaddin Attar (compiled by Abu al Qasim Bukhari), Uzb. FAŞE Library., nr. 11399, vr. 152b-172a; nr. 2520, vr. 53a-65b, 89b-94a. A small portion of the information in this risale can be found in Nafahat, and a greater portion can be found in Rashahat.[10]. Jami, Nafahat, p. 541.[11]. Jurjani has books on tasawwuf in Persian such as Risale-i Shawkiyya ve Risale-i Wujudiyya (Sulaymaniya Library, Jarullah, nr. 1006, vr. 1b-14a), and in the work called Ta‘rifat he explains some tasawwuf terms.  Jurjani also has a minor work in Arabic which praises Bahauddin Naqshiband and Alauddin Attar.  Terajimu Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshiband and Khwaja Alauddin Attar, Sulaymaniya Library., Asad Efendi, nr. 3597, vr. 18b-21a.[12]. Rashahat, p. 169-170.[13]. Rashahat, p. 176.[14]. See Imam Rabbani, Maktubat, no: 290.[15]. Imam Rabbani, Mukashafat-i Ghaybiyya, p. 20-21.[16]. Salahaddin ibn Mubaraq al Bukhari, Anisu al Talibin, p. 82-83.[17]. Rashahat, p. 184.[18]. Rashahat, p. 184.19]. Muinaddin Naqshibandi, Kanzu Saade, p. 727.[20]. Rashahat, p.  187-189.[21]. See. Parsa, Makamat-i Alauddin Attar (compiled by Abu al Qasim Bukhari), vr. 168b; Jami, Nafahat, v. 543; Rashahat, p. 190.[22]. Rashahat, p. 190.[23]. Rashahat, p. 176.[24]. Rashahat, p. 185.[25]. Tafwiz: This has the meaning of the servant submitting his will to the will of Allah completely and being content with the result. In this way he is freed from sorrow, sadness and worry. The following event explains this state well:

A rumour is spread that the famous mutasawwuf of the 19th century,  Shaykh Muhammad Nuru al Arabi denied the will of man, that is the juz’i irada. Hearing this, the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid Han called this saint to him and asked him about it. When asked about this matter he gave the following answer:

“I did not reject the idea of juz-i irada in the general sense of the word. However I said that for some people it is as if it does not exist. This is because the great awliyullah live their lives in awareness that they are always in the presence of Allah, the opportunity for their juz-i irada to manifest itself is small enough to be non-existent. This is why they act, under all circumstances, not according to their own will, but in accordance with the will of Almighty  Allah, whose dominion they are in. Otherwise they would be acting contrary to adab and err. For instance we are now in the presence of the sultan. He tells us to ‘come’ and we come and he tells us to ‘go’ and we go. It is not possible for us to use our will in spite of the will of the sultan who contains us. Whereas have a look at the heedless people and other creatures outside; they are quite free in their will”.

The sultan was very pleased with this reply of Shaykh Muhammad Nur al Arabi and he gave him precious gifts. And so the special servants of Allah Most High live in the awareness that Allah Most High is present and watching at every instant and in every place and they submit their matters to Him and submit to His Divine Will, despite their own desires.[26]. Rashahat, p. 177-178.[27]. Rashahat, p. 179.[28]. Rashahat, p. 180.[29]. Rashahat, p. 181.[30]. Rashahat, p. 326-327.[31]. Yaqub Charkhi, Risale-i Unsiyya [in Ney-Name], p. 105.[32]. Yaqub Charkhi, ibid, p. 117.[33]. Charkhi, Sharh-i Asma al Husna, p. 26; Charkhi, Jamaliyya-Havraiyya, p. 34.7

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

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