Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli
This now is something of the story of the life and sayings of the Shaykh and Master Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, whose full name was `Ali ibn `Abdullah ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar, who, on his father’s side, descended from the Fatimid-Hasanid line, and on his mother’s side from the Fatimid-Husaynid line.
He was born in the year 593 A.H./1196 C.E., in the mountain village of Ghumara in the Rif area of the northern Atlas mountains of the Maghrib. The Berber tribe to which he belonged had virtually separated itself from the rest of the Maghrib by refusing to accept the Religion of Islam, which was otherwise universally followed in this region. Sidi Abu Madyan had tried to teach and guide this tribe to the Truth, but they had preferred to live in their state of spiritual ignorance, relying mostly upon witchcraft, magic and idols for their form of worship.
There is little recorded about the very early life of `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar, but it is assumed that whilst he was still very young he would have been taught the basic rites of the Religion because he and his family were of the shurafa, that is, people who are related in the body to the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him. These are people who are untouched by the desire for worldly power and office or for material gains. Therefore, it could be expected that he would have studied, first of all, at the famous madrasa of Qurrawiyyin in Fez (Fas) which had been founded by the great grandson of Sayyidina al-Hasan, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him.
His first Shaykh and Master was Sidi `Abdullah ibn Harazim, a follower of Sidi Abu Madyan, may Allah have mercy on them both, through whose guidance he entered the Path of Allah, the Way of Tasawwuf. It was also through him that he was later moved to find the Qutb of his time.
It is known that in the year 615 A.H., at the age of twenty-five, he travelled to the East and notably to al-`Iraq, searching for the Master who possessed the complete knowledge of the Path of the Truth of Allah, Praised and Exalted is He. There he was led to the Shaykh Abu al-Fath al-Wasiti who was the inheritor of the holy and renown Shaykh and waliy of Allah, Sidi Ahmad ar-Rifa’i, may Allah be pleased with him, who had founded and guided one of the first and largest tariq in the Way of Allah in the southern marshes of `Iraq. Here `Ali `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar remained for a short time, until it became clear to the heart of the Shaykh Abu al-Fath that this follower could only be satisfied by the deepest Spring of the Knowledge (al-ma`rifa). Therefore he said to him, “You have come here seeking for the Pole (Qutb) of Islam, but you have left him in the Maghrib.”
In this way the murid `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar returned to his own country, until he was led to his true Master, Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish on the mountain of Jabal `Alam in the Habt region of the Maghrib. The account of the first meeting between them has been given in the previous chapter in the story of the life of `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish, but one of the Knowers of Allah, referring to such a meeting said: “Know that in his beginning, the first of what the seeker of this Path needs is that he casts himself on the Shaykh who is a Knower of Allah, skilled in the journey of descent and ascent. Before him he is like the corpse in the hands of the one who is washing it. He does not resist the Shaykh when he understands something to be lacking, even if it is not in the Law (ash-shari`a), as the Shaykh Sidi `Abdu ‘l-Qadir al-Jilani, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “If I am a rebel in the judgement of the shari`a, I am obedient in the knowledge of the Reality.” Therefore he must wash himself of all other knowledge and actions, and turn in repentance (tawba) from his bad deeds. As one of the Knowers of this Path said, “The tawba of the act of rebellion is one tawba, but the tawba of the act of obedience is a thousand.”
Another of the Knowers said, “Make ablution with the Water of the Unseen, if you carry the Secret. For with this he clings to him and keeps him company until the Shaykh is dearer to him than himself, his property and his children. Until if he commanded him to do the impossible, which cannot be thought of in the mind, he would do it without weariness or turning away.”
In this way, everything that Allah revealed to them of the outside and the inside knowledge passed between the Shaykh `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish and his follower, until `Ali ibn Abdu’l-Jabbar became the true inheritor of his Master.
After a period of time, as Allah willed, Sidi `Abdu as-Salam told his beloved son and follower to proceed to Ifriqiya, now known as Tunisia, where he should settle in the village of Shadhila until Allah would send His Order for him to move to the city of Tunis, where he would meet with certain difficulty and opposition. He was told nevertheless that he should remain in Tunis, until the coming of an event which would permit him to leave this city and to travel to the East where, as his Master said, “You will become the Qutb of your time.”
Before leaving Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam’s presence, his young inheritor asked him for parting words of guidance, so that he might receive from him his message of the Order which Allah, Exalted is He, intended for him at that moment. His Master, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “O `Ali, Allah is Allah, and the people are the people. Therefore, let Allah’s remembrance live every moment in your heart. Leave behind all dependence on people, and keep your heart from inclining towards them. Perform your duties and Allah’s Guidance will always be with you. Do not refer to people unless Allah, the All-Mighty, orders you to do so. He has perfected for you your authority and friendship (walaya) with Him. Say, “O Allah! I ask Your Mercy that I do not incline or yearn for people. Protect me from their evils, and provide for me by not seeking help from them. Set me apart from them, for Thou art powerful over everything.”
Then `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar set out for the village of Shadhila, between Qayrawan and Tunis where, rather than looking for a place to lodge, he retreated to a cave on the mountain of Jabal Zaghwan, accompanied by his spiritual brother and companion, one of the Knowers of Allah (ahli al-kashf), `Abdullah ibn Salama al- Habibi. Here they both lived for a period of time, as Allah, the All-mighty, willed of them. `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar chose this seclusion because he had not yet received permission from Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, to guide others, and he recognized that a period of retreat from the world was necessary for him, so as to strengthen his heart. He was shown that he still needed to concentrate on the inner battle (jihad) with his self, which he had embarked upon with his beloved holy Master Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish. This he must do until he was certain that he had emptied himself entirely of everything that was not for Allah, and he had effaced himself in Him.
It was a very holy period of asceticism, seclusion and spiritual practices during which the depth of his self-denial was accompanied by the manifestation of many spiritual gifts (karamat) from Allah, some of which were recorded by his companion, Abu Muhammad al-Habibi, who said, “One day on Mount Zaghwan, the Shaykh was reciting from the surat al-An`am until he reached the Words of Allah: ‘Remind hereby, lest a soul should be given up to destruction for what it has earned. Apart from Allah it has no protector and no intercessor; though it offer any equivalent it shall not be accepted from it.’ (6:69). (It, referring to the self of the human being.) At this point the Shaykh became absent as he repeated this aya again and again until his whole body was shaken by the Word of his Lord, and as often as he leaned to one side, so the mountain leaned in like manner, and this continued until his Spirit returned to his body, when the mountain also became still.”
This same companion also recorded: After forty days of his keeping company with Sidi `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar, feeding on nothing but herbs of the fields and laurel leaves until the sides of his two cheeks began to pain him, he, may Allah be pleased with him, said to him, “O `Abdullah, is it that you wish for food?” He replied, “O my Master, my looking at you enables me to do without it.” The Shaykh then said, “Tomorrow, if Allah wills, we shall go down to Shadhila and some Gift from Allah will come to us on our way.”
`Abdullah al-Habibi continued: So the next morning we descended, and while we were walking through a valley the Shaykh said to me, “O `Abdullah, if I should leave this road do not follow me.” Then he became absent from the world, and he left the way until he was some distance from me. Then I saw four birds, about the size of a stork, come down from the sky and fly over his head. Each one of them came and spoke with him and then flew away. Amongst them were birds about the size of swallows which surrounded him between the earth and the horizon, hovering in circles about him. When they had disappeared from sight, he returned to me saying, “O `Abdullah, did you see anything.” I told him of what I had seen and he said, “The four birds were some of the angels of the fourth Heaven who came to question me about Knowledge, and about this I spoke with them. The birds resembling swallows were the spirits of the Saints which came to receive a blessing from our arrival.”
It is recorded that Sidi `Ali ibn `Abdu ‘l-Jabbar said: In the beginning of my travelling with the Path of Allah I was wont to pursue the science of alchemy, and I would make petition to Allah about it. I was told, “Alchemy is in your urine. Put into it whatever you wish and it will become what you desire.” So I heated a pickaxe, quenched it therewith, and it turned to gold. Then my presence of mind came back to me and I said, “O lord, I asked Thee for a certain thing but I did not attain it except by the use of unclean devices, and this is not lawful.” Then I was told, “O `Ali, the world is full of impurity, and if you desire it, you will not attain it except by impurity.” I replied, “O my Lord, deliver me from it.” I was told, “Heat the pickaxe and it will return to iron.” I heated it, and it returned to iron.”
After that he learnt that the basis of the search for, and the realization of the Truth of the knowledge of all sciences coming from Allah, Most High, lies in the truthfulness of the seeker’s intention.
About this he, may Allah be pleased with him, told the following story: While I was in the Maghrib, a certain man came to me and said, “I have been told that you possess a knowledge of alchemy–so teach me.” He replied, “I will teach it to you without omitting a single particle, if you are able to receive it.”
“By Allah I am able to receive it,” the man replied. So I said to him, “Eliminate creatures from your heart, and stop desiring that your Lord give you other than what He had previously ordained for you.”
He replied, “I am not able to do that.” I said, “Did I not tell you that you would not be able to receive it?” Then he left me.
He, may Allah be pleased with him, told of another story: While I was wandering one night in the beginning of my travelling on the Path, I slept in a place where there were many wild animals. These began to growl at me, so I went and sat down on a high hill and said, by Allah, I will pray to His Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, for has he not said, “Whoever sends blessings upon me, by that act the blessing of Allah, the All-Mighty, will be upon him tenfold, and if the blessing of Allah is upon me, I shall pass the night under His Protection.” So I did this and feared nothing. When the dawn appeared, I went to a pool of water to make the ablution for the morning prayer (al-fajr), and there was a mass of reeds from which partridges broke forth with a great fluttering of wings. Fright overtook me and I turned back. Then I heard a voice say, “O `Ali, when you passed the night under the Care of Allah amongst the growling animals, you did not fear, but when you arose today under your own care, the fluttering of partridge feathers has made you afraid.”
It was at this time that he was given his title (nisba) of ash-Shadhdhuli. He was shown that this name was not due to the fact that he was an inhabitant of the village of Shadhila, but that Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, said to him, “O `Ali, you are ash-Shadhdhuli with a tashdid on the dhal, meaning one who is set apart (shadhdhu-li) for Me.”
Shortly after this the Order came to his heart, “Go down to the people. They will benefit by you.” When he heard these words he said, “O my Lord and Sustainer, relieve me of their company.” Then he was told, “Go down `Ali. Peace will be with you.” He said, “Will You leave me to the people to eat from their money?” He was told, “Spend as you like, O `Ali, for I am your Financier. Spend as you like from your pocket, or from the Unseen.”
So it was that about the year 640 A.H./1242 C.E., the Shaykh ash-Shadhdhuli went down to Tunisa and found lodgings near the al-Balat (the Tiled Mosque) where he began calling people to Allah, and teaching them His religion, receiving help and support from the Sultan Abu Zakariyya. The Shadhdhuliyya Order was first founded there around forty of his students who were known as the forty friends (al-awliya’ al-arba’un), and soon a great number of people from all walks of life began to come to him for inspiration and guidance, as the word spread of the great learning, purity of heart and wisdom of the holy Shaykh.
Tunis in those days was a big city and a centre of commerce and trade as well as a gathering place for those seeking both religious and secular learning. Many people who were already following the religion of Islam were seeking something purer, more complete, and at the same time, simpler than what was being taught in the institutions of religious learning. They were also looking for a message which would speak to the hearts of city-dwellers whose everyday life and occupations were an important matter for them. Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli’s Teachings gave these people exactly what everybody was looking for.
Someone has said, looking at the outside of Sidi Abu al-Hasan’s message, and referring to some of his letters to his followers, “This correspondence shows not only that Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhiuli had a deep knowledge of the Sufi Teaching of the eastern doctors, but also a personal experience of spiritual realities. If he knew how to inspire his followers it was not so much that he taught them a simple Sufism, but because he had the qualities of a spiritual Master as is revealed in his letters. He certainly formed no intellectual system, but he had qualities of spiritual discernment, and he knew how to extract from his own experiences what was valuable for others.”
In the same manner, another person has said, “It is a fact of basic importance that the Shadhdhuliyya was born out of an urban surrounding, not necessarily in revolt against it, but as an outcome of the existing patterns of political, religious and economic life.”
It was also Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli’s message to his followers to encourage them, unlike many of the shaykhs before him and after his time, not to abandon their professions and trades which they had been following before coming to the Path, and to dress themselves in the same way as all the people with whom he, may Allah be pleased with him, taught them to mix. It is said, in fact, that he did not like to take any student into his Way who did not have a trade or profession. This was from the outer face of his Way, and it was as though it was the outer key to the door of his Path which attracted many of those who would have turned away from a more obviously ascetic Master.
From the inner face of his Way, and for those who were searching with the inner Eye, Abu al-Hasan’s presence and Teachings carried a certain power of the Spirit which was the Gift which Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, had bestowed upon him, and which came to him as the inheritor of the Spirit of his Father, the Guide Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish, Allah’s mercy upon him. It was known that the Love from his eyes was enough to bring the wandering perplexed seeker into the Net of Allah. This was a special Gift from Allah, Most High, for His beloved slave. It is the same Gift of the bestowing of the Essence of the deep Secret Love of Allah coming from the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, and which has been passed down through this Shadhdhuliyya Line to this moment. May Allah be praised and thanked in everything.
It was this relationship, springing from the deep Secret Love of the Essence, which revealed to the orthodox Muslims the elite bond between the Master and his followers–the Shaykh with his beloveds. Although it had always existed, it was through Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, may Allah protect his secret, that it took on a new spiritual depth. This added depth came from the tasting of the true meaning of the annihilation (fana’) in the Shaykh, who is the living Spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, in his time. It is he who guides Allah’s lover from his perfect annihilation of himself in himself, to the perfect annihilation of himself in Allah, Most High, followed by the perfect subsistence (baqa’) in his Spirit.
Abu al-Hasan, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Real truthfulness (sidq) and piety (taqwa) are experiencing with the Master what you desire. Allah Praised and Exalted is He has said, “He who comes with the Truth and believes it to be the Truth, they are the godfearing. They have with their Lord what they desire.”(39:34). This can be found only with the true Master, he who gives the right intention to the student’s heart. The real intention means the absence of everything except the act intended upon undertaking, and its perfection is a holding fast to it until its completion.”
This teaching and its practices seemed to the orthodox believers to threaten the whole structure of Islam as they knew it. But Sidi Abu al-Hasan, like his Master Sidi ibn Mashish and his Master Muhyi-id-din ibn al-`Arabi before him, considered that only the knowledge acquired through tasting could be true Knowledge. In this way he was indicating that the knowledge of the inner Sufi Path was of a degree above that of the jurists and the people of the outside Law (ash-shari`a).
In fact a certain person of the government of the Maghrib went to Sidi Abu al-Hasan and said to him, “I do not see that you perform any great religious works. So tell me how it is that you have reached such an elevated place amongst the people that they regard you so highly?”
He, may Allah be pleased with him, replied, “I have a single work that Allah, the All-Mighty, has prescribed to His People, and to which I cleave.”
“What is that?” he asked.
I replied, “Withdrawal from you, and your world. Allah, Most High, has said: So turn thou from him who turns away from Our remembrance and desires only the present life.” (53:29).
Sidi Abu al-Hasan then said, “Vision of the Truth came upon me and would not leave me, and it was stronger than I could bear, so I asked Allah, the All-Mighty, to set a veil between me and It. Then a voice called out to me saying, ‘If you besought Him as only His Prophets and Saints and Muhammad His Beloved know how to beseech Him, yet would He not veil you from It. But ask Him to strengthen you for It.’ So I asked for strength, and He strengthened me, Praise be to Allah.”
One day when one of his followers asked him, may Allah be pleased with him, to speak about Union and Separation, he said, “My son, when you want that in which there is no censure, Union is witnessed in your Secret, and Separation exists in your tongue.” In other words, the beloved of Allah is he who travels through things, recognizing them and their Orders, and seeing the Face of Allah in everything. The knower, as Sidi Abu al-Hasan indicated, is he who travels joyfully and happily obtaining the good of all things, and because he trusts in Allah, the evil of things passes him by. But he who does not know and does not trust, travels through things fearfully, anxious, restrained and imprisoned, and so he attracts their evils, and their good misses him.” Has not Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, said, “Are they equal, those who know and those who do not know?”(39:9).
Sidi Abu al-Hasan said, “Know that the Secret of all the ranks is gathered together in a rank, and it is the noblest, the highest, the greatest and the most immense. It is that your inward is truly with Allah and your outward with the Creation by Allah. When your outward is with the Creation and your inward is with Allah, then all your states are pure, from the side of the outward. So the Creation does not reject you. From the inward side there is no intermediary between you and Allah.”
For that he, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Make us Your slaves in all states, and teach us knowledge from You by which we may become perfect both in our life and in our death.”
Again and again he, may Allah hallow his secret, returned to this Truth of the relationship between the Knowledge of Allah and the state of being His slave. He said, “Allah, Praised and Mighty is He, has said, “Only those of His servants who have knowledge fear Allah.”(35:28).
Then Sidi Abu al-Hasan also said, “The slave of this world is a prisoner, the slave of the Hereafter is a hireling, but the slave of Allah is an `amir.”
He, may Allah be pleased with him, counselled his beloveds as he said to them, “If you desire to look towards Allah with the eyes of faith and firm belief at all times, then be thankful for His favors, and be content with His Decrees. Whatever favor you have is from Allah. Then, whenever evil touches you, call upon Him. If you desire it to turn away from you, or yourself to turn away from it, worship Allah lovingly, not bargaining with Him, but knowingly, with due respect and modesty.”
A Knower who understood Sidi Abu al-Hasan’s Secret said: “Allah made selves incline to freedom and to love it, and He made them flee from bondsmanship and hate it. Whoever is a knower and who entrusts himself to a Knower, only finds ease in bondsmanship. He who is ignorant, or who entrusts himself to one who is ignorant, only finds ease in freedom.” For which he said, “Only the giving of the Perfect is perfect.”
It was in this way that Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli taught his followers and students and always reminded them, “Whatever Allah has willed will be, and whatever He has not willed is not. There is no strength and power except with Allah.”
However the Master’s presence, and his continually growing influence amongst all manner of people in Tunis, began to stir up envy and apprehension in the heart of a certain lawyer (faqih) known as Abu ‘l-Qasim ibn Bara. This person tried to bring legal charges against him, and when this proved unsuccessful, he then sought to get the Sultan Abu Zakariyya’s ear by declaring that Abu al-Hasan was a fraud and an imposter who claimed to be of the Fatimid line. He also charged Sidi Abu al-Hasan of being a potential agitator who was stirring up trouble amongst the people against Abu Zakariyya’s rule and authority.
Although the Sultan was generally speaking a just man, the charge of possible insurrection to his rule brought apprehension to his heart, so he called a gathering of the `ulama and fuqaha to question the Shaykh about his belief and intentions, while he himself sat listening, but hidden from sight behind a screen. The outcome of this meeting was that none of the charges brought by Ibn al-Bara’ were in any way proved to exist, and the Sultan said to him, “This man is one of the greatest Saints, and you have no power over him.” He therefore dismissed all those who had been gathered together to question Abu al-Hasan, except the Shaykh himself whom he still retained in his presence. Then Abu al-Hasan asked of him only to be allowed to have a jug of water to make ablution, a carpet for praying, and to be able to speak to one of his muridun who was anxiously waiting outside. He, may Allah be pleased with him, said to the Sultan, “By Allah, were it not that my Way teaches us to act in accordance with the Law (ash-shari`a) I would surely walk out from here, or there.” As he said this, he pointed to one wall of the room, and then another which immediately opened for him. He told his student to inform all his followers that he would be absent from them for that day, but that, if Allah willed, he would pray the night prayer together with them.
After he had finished his prayer, Abu al-Hasan was about to make a du`a to Allah, the All-Mighty, asking him to bring some judgement upon Ibn al-Bara’ and the Sultan for their opposition to him, but then he heard the words. “Truly Allah will not be pleased with you if you ask Him in anger towards a fellow creature.” So he offered up the following du`a, which later became a part of his well-known Invocation of the Earth (Hizb al-Barr): “O You Whose Throne is spread over the heavens and the earth, the preservation of which is no burden, the Sublime, the All-Mighty (2:256), I ask You for faith in Your Care, a faith by which my heart will remain undisturbed from anxiety for my sustenance, and from fear of creatures. Draw me near to You in a way that tears away the veils as You did with Ibrahim, Your Friend and Messenger, who spoke to You and thereby did not need to ask You, for You kept him safe from the fire of his enemy. How can anyone be in need of a veil to shroud him from the harm of his enemies when You have made him not to be in need of the help of Friends? I pray that You will conceal me in Your Nearness until I cannot see or feel the nearness nor the distance of any other thing. You have the power over everything.” (2:19).
One of Sidi Abu al-Hasan’s students told about a certain incident relating to this lawyer, Ibn al-Bara: One day the Shaykh met Ibn al-Bara and greeted him, but he turned away from him and did not return his salutation. Shortly afterwards the canon lawyer, Abu `Abdullah ibn Abi ‘l-Husayn, the Sultan’s chamberlain, passed by. When he saw the Shaykh, he dismounted from his she-mule and hastened towards him greeting him by kissing his hands, weeping and begging him for his intercession on his behalf. So the Shaykh interceded for him and then continued on his way.
When Abu al-Hasan entered his house he said, “Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, has just revealed to me concerning these two men, for I have been told, ‘O `Ali, the marking (wasm) of a person (`abd) with ill-fortune is in accordance with the fore-knowledge of Allah, and he is blind to it, though he be very learned, and the marking of a person with good fortune is according to the fore-knowledge of Allah, and it comes to him, do what he may.’”
On another occasion he, may Allah be pleased with him, told of an incident, once more involving iIbn al-Bara’, which he recounted saying: I came upon a group of jurists among the companions of the Chief Qadi of Tunis, Ibn al-Bara, a man with whom Allah, the All-Mighty, was not well-pleased, and I greeted them and they turned away from me. That was a painful experience. Then I heard the voice saying to me: “O `Ali, indeed you have exaggerated your own importance and overestimated your worth, since you were sensitive to their turning away from you. But who are they when they turn towards you, and how is it when they turn their back? If you were one helped by Allah, you would be distracted through your turning to Allah from their turning away from you. If you were under right guidance, you would be distracted through Allah’s turning to you from your turning towards Him.”
In His Wisdom, Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, sent ibn al-Bara as a deep blessing for Abu al-Hasan at a time when he, may Allah be pleased with him, was testing him and teaching him the deep Knowledge of His Path. He said, I heard someone say, “He who is sensitive to the first shock of misfortune is not patient. He who burdens himself with trouble has not resigned his affair to Allah. He who asks is not content with Allah. He who manages his own affairs has not committed them to Allah. He who calls for help has not trusted. These are five things, and how great is your need to be attentive to these five!” Say: “My Lord, I stand in need of the good that You have sent down to me. So increase for me Your Bounty and Beneficence, and make me one of those who are thankful for Your Favors.”
Shortly after this, Abu al-Hasan decided to leave Tunis to make the Pilgrimage (Hajj ) if Allah willed, and for this purpose he set out with his followers to the East. When the Sultan Zakariyya heard of this he was very troubled and sent a message begging the Shaykh to remain in Tunis. But he, may Allah be pleased with him, said to him. “I am not leaving except with the intention of making the Hajj if Allah, Exalted is He, wills, but when He, Most High, will have fulfilled for me my intention I shall, if He wills, return again.”
Accordingly, Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, together with some of his followers, journeyed to Egypt, arriving in Iskandariya (Alexandria) where they were greeted with being detained in the military camp by an order of the Sultan of Egypt. This was because Ibn al-Bara had sent a message warning the Sultan that the Shaykh was a dangerous man who would stir up trouble in his country. However, Allah, the All-Mighty, intervened, bringing proof to him and all those around him, that the Shaykh, far from being a troublemaker, was a person of great spiritual power, intent only to make peace for all the people wherever Allah, the All-Mighty, sent him to be.
One of his students who was accompanying Abu al-Hasan said that he did not hear the Shaykh pray against Ibn al-Bara, and he did not even mention him in any way until they were by `Arafat, and this was on the Pilgrimage after leaving Egypt, when he said, “Say Amin to my du`a, for just now I have been commanded to pray against Ibn al-Bara.” Then he said, “O Allah, lengthen his life, make his knowledge to be of no avail to him. Bring him tribulation through his offspring. Assign him, at the end of his life, to be a slave of oppression.” And to Allah belongs the Order before and after (30:4).
Then after a few days Sidi Abu al-Hasan was able to leave Egypt with his followers, and to fulfill the Pilgrimage, after which he returned to Tunis. There he remained for a number of years until one day Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, brought him the young man who was to become his successor and the inheritor of his station and his holy line. This was Abu ‘l-`Abbas al-Mursi. As soon as the Shaykh looked at the face of this young man from Spain, he said, “Truly no one has brought me back to Tunis except this person.”
Soon after this, Abu al-Hasan was given the Order to move to Egypt, which would be his final home, about which he, may Allah be pleased with him, said: I saw the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him in a dream and he said to me, “Ya `Ali, go to Egypt and raise up forty true followers (siddiqun) there.” It was summer time and intensely hot and I said, “Ya Rasul Allah, the heat is very great.” He said, “Lo, the clouds will give you shade.” I said, “I fear thirst.” He replied, “Lo, the sky will rain for you every day.” He promised me many miraculous gifts (karamat) on my journey. So I instructed my followers to prepare to depart to Egypt.”
One of the gifts which he had been promised and was shown was that he had become the Qutb of his time.
So it was that in the year 646 A.H./1246 C.E., when he was fifty years old, Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli entered Egypt and took up his residence in al-Iskandariya where he lived for the rest of his life. He set himself up with his family and followers in one of the great towers rising from the walls surrounding the city. The tower was well equipped for this purpose since it comprised several stories which provided accommodation for his family, a Mosque, a zawiya for his students where the Shaykh gave teachings, and rooms for other guests.
Meanwhile in Ifriqiya his Spirit was kept alive by a small group of his students with whom he kept up correspondence. Two of them wrote a book about the life of their Master. One of these two students, Muhammad ibn as-Sabbagh was the author of The Pearl of the Secrets and the Treasure of the Righteous (Durrat al-Asrar wa Tuhafat al Abrar), the source book for the greater part of the life and sayings of his Master Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli.
Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, may Allah have mercy upon him, was the founder of what became a great Sufi Order, and which is still one of the biggest of the Sufi Orders to this day. Yet he left no manual of instruction for his students, no handbook of practices, and no treatise to follow. He used to say, “My companions are my books.” What do exist however are several Litanies which he composed including his Litany of the Ocean (Hizb al-Bahr), Litany of the Light (Hizb an-Nur) and Litany of Victory (Hizb al-Fath) which he used to like to recite, and which he urged his students to learn by heart, and to make their recitation a regular part of their spiritual practices. In the same way as the Wazifa of Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish is known to carry many unseen blessings, so are the Litanies of Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli. It is recommended by our Shaykh, Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa`i, that these should be read and recited by his followers in this holy Way, so that our souls may be purified by them, and that our spirits may find inspiration and benefit from them, with the lifting of veils from our hearts. One of the Knowers of Allah said about the Way which our Master Abu al-Hasan set out for his followers: This Path of ours is the pure Shadhdhuli Path. Its seeker must be based on its ’Imam. He is the Pole of the Poles (Qutb al-Aqtab), Abu al-Hasan who when he first met his Shaykh said, “O Allah! I have washed myself of my knowledge and my actions so that I do not possess any knowledge or action except what comes to me from this Shaykh.” This example became a condition for the follower of the Path, that he should leave his own knowledge of existence, and judge by that of the existence of the Shaykh, without turning away or dissatisfaction.” It was also said, “One of this Shadhdhuli Path is approached, and he does not go to anyone. He is needed and does not need anyone. He is always desired by everyone but does not desire anyone, except the One, the Unique, the Self-Subsisting (samad).” Another of them said about the Way of Abu al-Hasan, “Know that this annihilation (fana’) to which the people of the Shadhdhuli Path refer, is like death, no more no less. The dead, annihilated one in Allah, only dies by the self which emerges and enters by the mouth, and no more, because he is like a corpse in the Essence without Attributes.” And this is what our Master Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam ibn Mashish, may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “Drown me in the Spring of the Sea of Oneness, until I only see, only hear, only find and only feel by It.” Abu al-Hasan said, “When Allah wishes him to reach Him, He eases it in this way: He makes manifest to him some of the Sublime Attributes and Holy Qualities whose Divine Nature hid his own attributes and qualities from the soul of the slave. This serves as a sign that Allah loves him, as the Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, said in the hadith al-qudsi from his Lord: When I love him I am the hearing by which he hears, and the sight by which he sees, and the hand by which he strikes, and the foot whereon he walks.” For he, may Allah have mercy upon him said, “If He did not love you, He would not make you to witness the Unity. The sign of His Love for His beloveds is that He puts the love of His remembrance in our hearts.” Then Abu al-Hasan said, in speaking about the meaning of the quality of dhikr, “It is that you are making mention with the tongue and gazing with the heart.
” The remembrance of Allah (dhikr), as he, may Allah be pleased with him, said, is one of the essential means of walking with success and fulfillment on His Path. Therefore he counselled his students: “Know that it is important for the student of the Sufi Path for reaching the goal of attaining Union (wusul) with Allah, to ask Allah’s help, and to sit upon the carpet of truthfulness (sidq), contemplating him by truthful dhikr. Also one’s heart must be bound to the practice of pure bondsmanship (`ubudiya) so as to reach the knowledge of Allah (ma`rifa). Then continue in remembrance, thankfulness, watchfulness (muraqab), repentance and seeking forgiveness.” When Sidi Abu al-Hasan spoke about his Path, the Shadhdhuliyya Way, he said, “Its confirmation is Sainthood (wilaya).” By this he meant the witnessing of the knowledge of the Love of the Essence, through tasting and sincerity (ikhlas). And he said, “The People of this Path seek the benefit of evil just as they seek the benefit of good.” In the same way he said, and may Allah protect his secret, “O Allah! People are sentenced to abasement until they become mighty, and they are sentenced to loss until they find. The one who has no abasement becomes the one who has no might, and the one who has no loss becomes the one who does not find. The one who lays claim to finding without loss is a liar.” In one of the prayers which he, may Allah be pleased with him, liked to use, he said: “My God, if I ask You for help, I have asked for something beside You. If I ask for what You have guaranteed me, I show suspicion of You. If my heart rests in anything but You, I have been guilty Of the sin of associating something with You. Your Attributes in their Majesty are above contingency. How then can I be with You? They are beyond the reach of causes, How then can I be near You? They are exalted beyond the dust of earth, How then can my stay be other than You?” He, may Allah be pleased with him, also said that so long as the seeker stops with his own attributes, he is still with his self (nafs), and one of the attributes of the self is the desire to have vision and eye-witnessing of Allah. He said, “The desire for Union with God is one of the things that most effectually separates from Him.” And he said, “Scrupulousness has to do with what goes out and enters here (he pointed to his mouth) and with the heart, that there should enter it nothing except what Allah and His Messenger love.” Then he followed that, and said, “Whenever the spirit is abundantly watered with the showers of sciences, and the self (nafs) is firmly rooted in good works, then all good results. But whenever the self has power over the spirit, then drought and sterility result, the Order is overturned and every evil befalls. So take heed of the guidance of the Book of Allah and the healing words of His Messenger, prayers and peace be upon him, for you will never cease to enjoy the good as long as you love these two the most. But evil has already come to him who turns away from them.” The People of the Truth upon hearing vain talk, turn from it (28:55), and upon hearing the Truth welcome it. Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, says, “Whoever performs a good deed, for him will We increase it with goodness.” (42:23). Then he, may Allah be pleased with him, added to that, “Make us Your slaves in all Your Revelations (tajalliyat) so that we do not become too proud for Your bondsmanship (`ibada) in Your Revelations.” One of his followers said about the nature of Sidi Abu al-Hasan’s Teachings: Listen to these words of a Discourse coming from Allah in the Unseen through our Shaykh: “The Cup of Allah is full of the knowledge (ma`rifa) of the Truth (al-Haqq), whose clear Water is given to whom He wishes of His chosen slaves amongst the Creation. Sometimes it is in a material image, sometimes as meaning (ma1nawiya), sometimes as knowledge (`ilmiya). In its material picture it is bestowed for bodies and selves (anfus). In the form of meaning it is for hearts and minds, and in the form of knowledge it is for spirits (arhah) and for the Secret of the Secret Selves (asrar). Sometimes a group of Lovers will come together and they are given to drink from a single Cup, or it may be that they are given to drink from many Cups. Sometimes a person is given to drink from a Cup, and more than one Cup. It may be that the drinks will vary according to the number of Cups. Or it may be that the drinking from any one Cup will vary, even though a great number of lovers drink from the same Cup.” When he, may Allah have mercy upon him, was questioned another time about Love he said, “Love is granted by Allah to the heart of His slave, and it is that which distracts him from everything else other than Him, so that he will see his Spirit enfolded in His Presence, and his Secret Heart overwhelmed in contemplation of Him. Thus the slave asks for more, and more is given, so that he enters into the sweetest of joys in the Union of his spirit with Him. He is dressed in garments fitting for him who sits in proximity to him, and he reaches to the knowledge of the Hidden Reality and the Revealed faces of Allah.”
For that reason, it is said that the Saints are the Brides of Allah. The same questioner said to the Shaykh, “Now that I have come to know of Love, tell me what the Drink (sharab) of Love is, what the Cup of Love is, who is the Bearer of the Cup (saqi), what the meaning of tasting (dhawq) is, what the drinking (shurb) is, what the quenching of thirst (riyy) is, what intoxication (sukr) is and what sobriety (sahw) is?” He, may Allah hallow his Secret, replied, “The Drink is the Light radiating from the Beauty of the Beloved. The Cup is the Essence of the Subtlety of the Mercy which is in the tasting of the heart. The Cupbearer is he who is the Friend of the Greatest of the Chosen Ones and the Righteous among His slaves. He is Allah, the One Who knows the capacities and capabilities of His Friends. If that Beauty is revealed to a person, and he enjoys it even for one breath or two, and then the veil covers it again, he becomes the yearning taster. If he continues drinking for an hour or more, he is the drinker. If this state continues and lasts until his very veins and all his members become filled with the treasures of the Lights of Allah, then this is known as the quenching of thirst. When a person is absent from his senses and his mind has left him, so that he does not know what he says or what is said, that is known as intoxication. Sometimes when the Cups go round, the states differ, and the knower is returned back to remembrance (dhikr) and religious duties of the Law (ash-shari`a), or to subsistence (baqa’) after intoxication, and that is the time of their sobriety. This is when their vision is strengthened and enlarged and their actions are increased.” Allah Praised and Exalted is He, has said, “These are of the Party of Allah ... and lo, is it not those of the Party of Allah who are the victorious ones.” (58:22). When Abu al-Hasan, may Allah have mercy upon him, once became ill in Qayrawan, as he said: The Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, came to me in a dream and said, “Cleanse your garments of all impurities and then with every breath you breathe you will enjoy Allah’s Help.” I asked, “What are my garments, Oh Rasul Allah?” He said, “Allah has clothed you with the robe of knowledge (ma`rifa), with the robe of Love (mahabba), with the robe of Unity (tawhid), with the robe of Faith (iman), and with the robe of Surrender (islam). Whoever has spiritual knowledge, for him everything becomes of little importance. Whoever loves Allah, for him all things become easy. Whoever affirms the Oneness of Allah, nothing is associated with Him. Whoever has faith in Allah is safe (amina) from everything. Whoever is surrendered to Allah does not disobey Him, and if he does so, he returns repentant, asking to be forgiven, and finding forgiveness.” As he, may Allah be pleased with him, said: I knew then the meaning of the Words of Allah, “Your robe, cleanse.” (74:4). Another time he, may Allah be pleased with him, was explaining the meaning of the Prophet’s saying, prayers and peace be upon him, Prayer is the link of union (silsila) of the slave to his Lord, and he said: “The sign of Union is the outpouring of Mercy with the manifestations of Love. The manifestations of Love are the removal of the Veil and the happiness in communion.” On another occasion he said: I saw Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, in a dream and he asked me, “Do you know what the sign is for the love of the world leaving the heart?” I replied, “No.” He said, “Forsaking it upon finding it, and finding relief upon losing it.” He, may Allah be pleased with him, then said, “The practices (awrad) of the faithful (saddiqun) are fasting, prayer, recitation of dhikr, reading of Qur’an, guarding of the private parts, the turning of the lower self from desires, enjoining what is halal, and forbidding what is prohibited, according to four principles, which are: abstinence from worldly things, trust in Allah, submission to Allah’s Decrees, and patience in His testing. Sincere love is built on four corner-stones, the first one being faith, then comes the belief in the Oneness of Allah, thirdly comes right intention, and fourthly high himma. Also if a person does not have four virtues in himself, let him abandon hope of happiness, these virtues being: knowledge (ilm), scrupulousness (wara), fear of Allah (hayba), and humility towards the slaves of Allah. The principles, corner-stones and virtues are all necessary for the seeker.
” Sidi Abu al-Hasan also said, “The bondsmanship (`ibada) of those who are trustworthy consists of twenty things: eat, drink, clothe yourselves, travel, marry, settle down, do everything that Allah has commanded. Do not be neglectful but serve Allah. Do not associate anyone or anything with Him. Be thankful to Him. Avoid injuring others, and spend generously. This is one-half. The other is performing prescribed duties, avoiding what is unlawful and being content with whatever Allah decrees. Truly serving Him consists in reflecting upon His Orders and thoroughly understanding the Religion (ad-din). The best kind of service is asceticism towards the world which comes from an absolute trust in Allah. This is the bondsmanship of the best of the believers. If you are ill, seek for a remedy. Listen carefully to the Knowers and choose the holy ones from amongst them, the true Guides, who put their trust in Allah.”
When Sidi Abu al-Hasan had once asked his own Master, Sidi Ibn Mashish, concerning the Well, or Spring (wird) of the People of the Reality, he said that Sidi `Abdu ‘s-Salam, may Allah be pleased with him, had replied, “It is essential for you to have destroyed passion and desires (hawa) and to love the Friend of Allah (al-waliy). The sure sign of Love is that the lover is occupied with nothing except his Beloved.” By this question he, Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli was in truth asking about the holy bond between Master and student. The answer came to him, without any doubt, that only in the total surrender of the student’s complete being could he receive the perfect blessings which Allah had set aside for him. Therefore Sidi Abu al-Hasan himself said, “If anyone is satisfied by his possessions he is poor; if anyone is satisfied by his high reputation he is to be despised, if anyone is satisfied with his kinsmen he is worthy of contempt and if anyone is satisfied with Allah he is truly rich.” Then he, may Allah be pleased with him, added, “The sign of commitment (tafwid) is a lack of distress when distasteful things befall.” In addition to his verbal Teachings Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli also kept an extensive correspondence going with his followers, especially those who had remained behind in Tunis. In particular, many letters passed between him and Shaykh Abu al-Hasan as-Saqalli, and also with his companion and friend of the cave of Jabal Zaghwan, the Shaykh `Abdu ‘s-Salama al-Habibi, who had remained in Ifriqiyya keeping up a zawiya for the muridun of the village of Masruqin. As was said, “These letters are considered to be of great importance for an understanding of his Way, since his love and compassion for all his followers was well-known. He considered it to be a duty for the Shaykh, as the Father (rabib), to know his beloveds intimately, and to help them wherever they might be.”
Abu al-Hasan’s follower, Ibn Sabbagh, recorded many stories about the karamat (gifts or spiritual attainment) of Sidi Abu al-Hasan, a number of them having been related to him by the follower, Abu ‘l-`Aza’im Madi who kept company with the Master in the latter part of his life in Egypt. One such story is as follows, as Abu ‘l-`Azaim Madi said: The Shaykh sent me from Iskandariyya to Dumyat for something that he needed. There was a man with us of the people of Dumyat who asked the Shaykh’s permission to accompany me and to travel with me, and permission was granted him for this. On approaching the Gate of the Lotus Tree (one of the Gates of Iskandariyya), the man took out some money to buy bread and condiments. I said to him, “You do not need anything.” He said to me, “We shall find the shop of a certain person in the desert.” He mentioned the shop of a man from Halwan in Iskandariyya. I said to him, “It is better, if Allah wills, to do as I say.” Now I had been accustomed, whenever I travelled, to take no provision of food with me, but when I became hungry I would hear the voice of the Shaykh saying to me, “O Madi, go over to your right and you will find something to eat.”
In like manner, when I was thirsty I would find fresh water and cooked food. We left Iskandariyya and walked, hastening on our journey until the day was well advanced. Then my travelling companion said, “O Madi, give me something to eat for I am hungry.” Immediately I heard the Shaykh’s voice saying to me, “O Madi, your guest is hungry. Go over to your right and you will find wherewith to feed him.” I went over to the right-hand side of the road and we found a pot full of sweet cakes perfumed with musk and rose-water, and we ate them until we were filled. The man was amazed and wept at what he saw. I asked him, “Which of the two is more tasty, this food or that in the shop of the man from Halwan of whom you spoke?” The man said, “By Allah, I have certainly not seen the like of this before, and such as this has never been made in the palace of a king.” The man wanted to gather up the remnants of the holy food, but I prevented him from doing this, and I left them as they were. When we had walked on a short distance we became thirsty. Instantly my beloved Shaykh’s voice came to me saying, “O Madi, go over to your right-hand and you will find water.”
Thereupon we found in the sand a pool of fresh water, from which we drank, and beside which we rested for a while. On arising we found not a drop of water to be seen. Thereupon the man said, “Where is the water which was here in this place?” I said, “I know nothing about it.” Then the man said, “By Allah, this Shaykh is truly endowed with great powers. By Allah, I will not return to my people until I shall have obtained what this Master has obtained, or I will die in Allah.” So he left his fur-lined cloak with me and walked off into the desert exclaiming, Allah! Allah! Abu ‘l-`Azaim Madi continued: When I had finished my journey and returned to my Master, he said to me, “O Madi, you have lost your guest.” I said to him, “You are the one who has lost him whom you fed with the sweet cakes in the desert, and whose thirst you quenched with the water in the sand.” Then he, may Allah be pleased with him, said to me, “He has passed along with those who are betaking themselves to Allah.” Abu ‘l-`Aza’im Madi also related: One day the Shaykh was talking to his assembly of followers on the subject of asceticism (az-zuhd) regarding worldly goods. In the group assembled to listen to him was a poor man wearing worn out clothes while his teacher wore fine-looking garments. The poor man said, “How is it that the Shaykh talks about asceticim while wearing these clothes? I am the ascetic with regard to worldly goods.” Our Master Abu al-Hasan said, “O you disputer, your clothes are the garments of worldly desire (raghba ad-dunya) which are crying out with the tongue of effort and poverty, but our garments cry out with the tongue of abstinence (ta`affuf) and sufficiency (ghina). As soon as he heard these words, the poor man stood up before all those assembled, and said, “I, by Allah, the Mighty, am the one who says likewise in my heart, and I ask for forgiveness of Allah, and turn to Him in repentance.” Then the Master told Madi to clothe the poor man in fine garments. It was related that when Sidi Abu ‘l-`Abbas’ son, who was called Ahmad Shahabu-id-din, reached puberty, his mother said to Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash -Shadhdhuli, “O my Master, my son Ahmad has come to manhood.
” Then he, may Allah be pleased with him, said to her, “Bring him to me so that I may give him my final injunction, and teach him those rights of Allah which are required of him.” So his mother brought her son to the Shaykh’s presence. He, may Allah be pleased with him, looked intently at the young boy, for a moment, then he turned his eyes away from him. Then he said to him, “Arise, O my son, may Allah always guide you”, and he made du`a to Allah for him. When the youth had left the Shaykh’s presence, his mother said to the Master, “Sidi, indeed I did not hear you give him your final message, or even address a word to him.” He, may Allah be pleased with him, said to her, “When he was sitting in front of me, Allah allowed me to see the outcome of his life, and I found nothing in his actions against which to warn or counsel him, so I felt ashamed before Allah to speak to him.
” There is also a story about the Master Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, which was related by a man named Abu `Ali `Umar whose father told him that two of his friends had told him of how Sidi Abu al-Hasan had drawn near to them one night while they were in a small fort. Abu `Ali `Umar said: We had ten sheep which we had received on credit for the purpose of making a profit from them. We had killed one of the choicest of our small flock for the Shaykh, who asked us, “Why have you done this?” We said to him, “This is for the blessing, if Allah wills.
” One of the two men said to the Shaykh, “By it (the blessing) will a thousand measures of grain be stored up for us?” He said, “And by it a thousand measures of grain, if Allah wills.” They then told of how, after only a short time, they had acquired a thousand sheep and had stored up a thousand measures of grain. Abu Ali `Umar added: I was present at the time of their counting, and I ate of their offspring. Finally, many stories are told about the Battle of al-Mansurah in the year 1250 C.E., when the Crusader King Louis of France invaded Egypt, and in which the Shaykh took part fighting in the front line with his followers. When Sidi Abu al-Hasan and many of his beloveds, as well as his friends amongst the `ulama and the awliya, heard that the Muslim community was under attack, they immediately made their way to al-Mansurah to join in the battle for Victory or Paradise (an-nasr aw al-janna), knowing full well that Paradise is under the shadow of the sword. On the day of the battle the Shaykh mounted his best horse, one of his followers then handing him his sword. When he clasped it in his right hand he asked for another, and with one in each hand he rode out into battle. When he was asked afterwards how he could fight so marvelously, because at that time his eyesight was very weak, he pointed to his heart saying, “If the Eye of the heart sees clearly, what is the need for the eyes of the body?” The Master Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli had made it his custom that every other year he would travel to Mecca for the Pilgrimage. Likewise in the year 656 A.H./1258 C.E., the very year in which a few weeks earlier the Mongol ruler Hulugu Jenghiz Khan had sacked Baghdad, he made preparations to go on the Pilgrimage as usual. However, this time he asked that a pickaxe, shovel, and a shroud should be included in their baggage. As was his custom he set out on the southern route, known as the spice route, overland to Damanhur, then via Qahira, up the Nile to ‘Idfu in Upper Egypt. From there he would cross the Red Sea to Jiddah, and finally make the two-day camel ride to Mecca. At Damanhur, a young boy, who was a student of the Qur’an, begged his mother to let him go with the Shaykh and his party to make the Pilgrimage. His mother, who was a widow, earnestly requested the Shaykh for her son that he be allowed to travel with his party, to which he replied, “We will look after him as far as Humaythira.
” And so it happened. It was related that Abu al-Hasan, may Allah have mercy upon him, had said, “When I entered the land of Egypt and established my dwelling there, I prayed to Allah, the Most High, saying: Ya Rabb, have You caused me to dwell in the land of the Copts, to be buried amongst them, until my flesh becomes mingled with their flesh and my bones with theirs? A reply then came to me: No `Ali, you will be buried in a land which Allah has never oppressed.” It is also recorded that in the year of his death Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli was heard to say, “Once when I fell ill, I said: Allah, O Allah, when will the encounter with You take place? I was told: Ya `Ali, when you reach Humaythira, then the encounter will come.” He said, may Allah have mercy upon him, “I saw as if I were buried at the base of a mountain before a well containing a little salty water, which became more abundant and sweet.” And he said to his beloveds, “This year I shall perform the Pilgrimage of substitution (hajjat an-niyaba).
” One of Abu al-Hasan’s followers recorded what happened: Soon after entering the desert of `Aydhab, both the young boy and the Shaykh fell ill, the boy dying the day before we reached the watering-place of Humaythira. The followers wanted to bury the youth where he had died, but the Shaykh said, “Carry him to Humaythira.” When we arrived at this resting-place we washed the boy, and the Shaykh prayed over him before we buried him. That evening the Shaykh, who was also very sick, called his companions around him and spoke to us, counselling us to recite his Litany of the Sea (Hizb al-Bakhr) often, and he said, “Teach it to your children for the Greatest Name of Allah (al-ismu ‘l-`azam) is in it.” Then he talked privately to Sidi Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi, giving him his orders as his successor with his special blessing. He, may Allah have mercy upon him, said to his followers, “When I am dead, look to Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi for he is the Caliph (Khalifa) to come after me. He will have an exalted station amongst you for he is one of the Doors (abwab) of Allah, Praised and Exalted is He.” Later that evening he called for a jar of water to be filled from the well of Humaythira. When he was told, “Ya Sidi, its water is salty and bitter, but the water we have is fresh and sweet,” he replied, “Give me some of it for my intention is not what you think.” When we brought him the well-water he drank a little of it, rinsed his mouth with it and spat into the jar. Then he said, “Pour the water into the well.
” Immediately the well-water turned sweet and fresh to taste, and it was abundant enough to refresh all the travellers who stopped to replenish themselves at this place. His followers said, “The Shaykh passed the night in holy preparation and discourse with his Beloved God, continually mentioning His Name until the dawn came when he was still.” Thus the words of Sidi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli became true, because he had said, “This year I shall perform the Pilgrimage of substitution.” By this he informed his followers of the hadith of the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, “If anyone leaves his home for the purpose of performing the Pilgrimage and dies before accomplishing it, Allah deputizes an angel to take his place in performing the Hajj each year until the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama).” Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli, the Beloved and Friend of Allah, had asked Him to allow him to die in a place without sin, and in this Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, granted him his wish. He, may Allah have mercy upon him, had told his son-in-law and successor, Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi, that he should give his body to a veiled man on horseback who would appear, wash him and bury him, leaving then by a path up a steep hill where Abu al-`Abbas should not follow him. Everything happened as Abu al-Hasan, may Allah protect his secret, had said.
However, Abu al-`Abbas did follow the veiled horseman up the hill, and he saw his face, which was that of Abu al-Hasan himself, who told him to return to the valley again. Then the veiled man disappeared. From this sign Abu al-`Abbas understood that, in fact, it was the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, himself who had appeared in the face of his Master. There is now said to be a handsome Mosque at the tomb which is visited by pilgrims every year going and returning from Mecca. From the hill above the Mosque the beloveds of the Way of Allah can see the light shining from the tomb of the Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, lying to the East across the Red Sea. Our Shaykh and Master, `Ali ibn `Abdullah Abu al-Hasan, the founder of this great Shadhdhuliyya Way, left behind him, as he did for many people of his time, so also for us today, a spiritual Path within the Religion of Islam, which gives to those who follow it in sincerity and humility, deep meaning and purpose to our lives in this material world. It is the Straight Path to God, so that the Order which he founded still lives and flourishes in many parts of the world, and especially in the West. There is the well-known saying amongst the People of Allah, “The Last Days will fall on the Shadhdhuliyya Path.
” Above everything else, the Master Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhdhuli left the transmission of the Highest Essence (ad-dhat al-1aliya) to all his successors, the Guides who inherit from him, and who have kept the Spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, alive in every time. With the complete and perfect annihilation (fana’), and the complete and perfect return to subsistence (baqa’) in and through the presence of the Master, the follower of this Path can receive the knowledge of this highest Essence, which is that of the Spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, the Last of Allah’s Messengers for the world. None of the deep meaning of this holy knowledge can be passed on through learned treatises, nor does it live in any books, except in the Book of Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, the Holy Qur’an. It is only through the Good Pleasure and Grace of Allah and for the fulfillment of His Order that He bestows this blessing upon whom He wills of His slaves.
He, the Most High, said, “The People of the Book know that they have no power over anything of the Bounty of Allah, and that the Bounty is in the Hand of Allah, and He gives it to whomsoever He wills, and Allah is of Mighty Bounty.” (57:29). May Allah, the All-Mighty, cause the blessing of our Master to be repeated, and may He gather us together with him in the assembly of our Prophet, our Mediator, our Intercessor, our Beloved Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him. May Allah bless him and give him abundant peace so long as the Sovereignty of Allah shall endure.” All Praise is to Allah the Lord of all the Worlds.
Allah Allah Allah