On Suluk: Sheikh Muhammad al-Jilani

Translation of sheikh Muhammad al-Jilani’s closing remarks at The Zawiyah 2018 in Egypt


After greeting all of us with the taslim, sheikh Muhammad told us to be grateful to Allah for gathering us here today from many different lands and backgrounds, and that our hearts are all upon the kalimah of “la ilaha illa Allah Muhammadan rasulullah.” and its meaning is of God’s Oneness and love of the prophet (ﷺ) which brings us together. We ask God to grant us success in being together insha’Allah recurrently and always upon goodness and the straight path from which we do not insha’Allah deviate.

A word of council has been asked of me, but it is I who is in need of council and admonishment, as the proverb goes: for the one who does not possess something is not able to give of it. We came here to learn and the ulema who were here gave very important classes and we all showed patience and forebearance in listening and learning and gathering this knowledge and now what’s left to us and what’s required of us is to apply that. When we go back to our homes, we take this information with us and the blessings of the companionship that we shared here today that hopefully will sustain us until we meet again and a means for us to meet again. Gathering this ilm and being on the path of God requires patience, and we learn that patience from this Earth on which Allah has placed us. It doesn’t produce any fruits except through much effort, patience, and persistence in agriculture. We learn from that patience and we learn from the sky and its generosity and benevolence because it sends down its waters and from it Allah causes everything to grow.

The Earth is like the heart and the sky is like the ruh (soul). In our hearts we plant things but life is not given to them until the rain falls from the sky and then everything comes into fruition. We need to connect the Earth and the Sky in order to benefit from the rain when it comes down, so that the Earth is ready to receive it. When there is a disconnect between the heart and the soul, the Earth is then going to die. There will be dryness and nothing will be cultivated. We must purify our hearts so it can connect to the soul.

Many of us complain of the problems that surround us that we experience. We have many challenges. The causes of those problems are known, and that is a disconnect between us and God. When we are disconnected from God we live in a world of anxiety, fear, and sadness. What’s required of us now is to go to back to God, turn back to Him, and give life back to our hearts. When there’s barrenness/dryness/drought in the Earth, we pray a special prayer called salat istisqa (prayer for rain), asking Allah to send rain upon us. We pray this prayer spiritually so Allah will send rain of His generosity and bounty upon us to give life back to our hearts so we can resolve the problems we face today.

When we have a disconnect between us and Allah, what we need to uncover is a password: la ilaha illa Allah Muhammadun rasulullah. We don’t just say that with our tongue, but with the tongue and heart, and when we’re connected through this password we’re able to send messages and receive messages. Even when we don’t send anything, we’re able to receive them.

Some of us might ask/wonder that I know the password with my tongue, the kalimah, but how do I say it with my heart? You have another password to be able to effectuate the saying of the kalimah with the heart, and that is “la hawla wala quwwata illa billa.” I have no ability/power/capacity, nor do I have any ability to prevent anything. La hawla is one zero and la quwwa is the other zero. We stand before Him as nothing, we make no claims, knowing ourselves to be nothing, and when we do that Allah opens the door for us and everything that we say then is effective. Then the repetition of the tahlil is effecacious because of that second phrase, la hawla wa la quwwata illa billa.

He prays that Allah grants us success in learning this knowledge and benefiting from it. And he says that he needs this knowledge as well and he’s not a scholar. He also needs to listen and benefit from it. The most important thing is that Allah opens for us deep knowledge of Him (maarifa), but in order to know Him, we must first know ourselves. Because when we know ourselves, we know ourselves to be weak (daif), impoverished (faqir), ignorant (jahil), needy, and in need of Him (muhtaj ila Allah). From that knowledge of ourselves we see that He is generous and merciful and All-Powerful. When we know this, that is the key to resolving all of our problems. And Allah has a wisdom in everything we’re experiencing currently.

It’s a well-known principle that asking is the key to knowing, learning, and understanding. This is a principle among the jurists and the scholars of external sciences. When it comes to the spiritual guide who cultivates you spiritually and takes you on the path to God, first you come to him already having learned knowledge of the external sciences before you begin your spiritual journey. When you come having learned about the basics of those sciences, then you come to him and you don’t have questions about those matters and you just follow him. Through that knowledge of the external sciences, you will know who the murshid is as well, and you’ll be following one who is a true guide and not one who is a false claimant to that station. When you’re with this true guide, you won’t need to ask that many questions, and you’ll learn things in other ways. By asking a lot of questions that can also block you from benefiting from the murshid. This is distinguished from the external sciences, where asking is the key to learning, but with the murshid it can block you from understanding and learning. On this journey that we shared together, we started in one place and arrived safely at the destination. None of us thought we should go up and ask the captain “where are we? Are we almost there? How’s the journey going?” But we trusted that from his expertise and experience that he would navigate us to safety and we would arrive safely to our destination.

When we’re following the sheikh who’s taking us to Allah, he’s like flying with us through the skies of haqiqah, and you don’t have to ask him the same type of questions, like “where have I arrived? Am I going the right way?” because you just have to be a passenger on that flight or in this ship. So first you learn the external sciences of the sacred law. After that, we’re able to follow him in light of that knowledge, and you don’t have to worry about being misguided. However, if we don’t first have that prerequisite knowledge of the external sciences, then we’ll be lost, misguided, and will only meet with false claimants to the station of being a murshid. He emphasizes again that there’s no hasting of the sweetnesses of haqiqa without first being grounded in the external sciences and the Shari’ah.

Many people are afraid of taking a spiritual path or hand of a spiritual guide, because they’re afraid they won’t have any freedom after that, or the sheikh will get involved in their personal matters or affairs, or even impose himself on all of their thoughts and ideas and control them. But the true sheikh doesn’t get involved in one’s personal matters, his only job is to remove the veil between us and our Lord. But this fear is common such that one stays away from suluk because of this fear. The false claimant to being a sheikh would get involved in one’s personal matters, but the true sheikh who cultivates people and is authorized to do so, then this is not something he involves himself in.

The true murshid doesn’t get involved in your personal matters and decisions because the only thing he wants from you is to connect you to Allah, and he knows that once you’re connected to Allah you’ll know how to conduct yourself in your personal matters and what to do and how to do it right, and you would know how to make those decisions in light of your connection to Allah.

The sheikh apologized for taking so much time, after he benefited so much from everyone else, and he made du’a that just as we arrived safely to our destination on this trip, that we all return to our homelands safely and that we also arrive safely to Allah and that He protect us and grant us ease and remove all of the fitan/trials/tribulations that we find ourselves, and that He causes to send upon us the rains of His Mercy and blessings of His ease.

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