Practical advice for the seekers of spiritual
by Shaykh Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani (ra)
The great Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, may Allah be well pleased with him, said in his Futuh al-Ghayb:
There are ten virtues to be practiced by those engaged in spiritual struggle and self-examination. If they keep them up and master them by Allah’s leave (Exalted is He), they will attain to noble stations.
1. The servant should not swear by Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), whether truthfully or falsely, deliberately or absentmindedly. If he exercises this kind of self-control and trains his tongue accordingly, it will bring him to the point where he can give up swearing altogether, with or without premeditation. Once he has become accustomed to this, Allah will open a door to His lights, letting him experience the benefit thereof in his heart, and raising him in rank and strength, in his resolve and his patience, in the approbation of his brethren and the esteem of his neighbors, so that all who know him will regard him as a good example, and everyone who sees him will hold him in awe.
2. He should avoid lying, whether in jest or in earnest. If he practices this self-control and his tongue gets used to being restrained, Allah (Exalted is He) will thereupon expand his feelings and purify his mind. It will be as if he had no knowledge of lying, and when he hears it from another he will reproach and rebuke him for it within himself. If he prays for the person to be rid of it, there will be a reward for him.
3. He should beware of promising something to someone and then failing to keep his promise. He would do better to stop making promises altogether, so as to gain strength for his task and to keep his sense of purpose, since breach of promise is tantamount to lying. If he acts on this advice, the Lord will open to him the door of liberality and the degree of modesty, and he will be granted love among the truthful and higher esteem in the sight of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).
4. He should avoid cursing anything in the realm of creation, or hurting anything from a mere atom upward. This is one of the moral standards of the pious and the champions of truth. It yields a good result for one who observes it, in that he enjoys Allah’s protection in this world, along with the spiritual degrees He has in store for him, and He delivers him from the pitfalls of perdition, keeps him safe from people, blesses him with human compassion, and brings him near to Himself (Almighty and Glorious is He).
5. He should avoid invoking evil on any fellow creature, even one who has wronged him. He should not cut him with his tongue, nor retaliate against him by word or deed. This virtue raises one who practices it to the highest ranks. If he cultivates it, he will achieve noble status in this world and the hereafter, love and affection in the hearts of all creatures near and far, answers to his prayers, popular acclaim, and respect in this world in the hearts of all believers.
6. He should not assert that he has evidence of polytheism, unbelief or hypocrisy on the part of any member of the Muslim community [people of the Qibla]. This is closer to mercy and higher in degree, since it is perfectly in keeping with the Sunna, very far from intruding on Allah’s knowledge and from incurring Allah’s wrath, and nearer to the good pleasure and mercy of Allah (Exalted is He). This is an honorable and noble doorway to Allah (Exalted is He), through which the servant is endowed with mercy for all creatures.
7. He should refrain from contemplating sinful offences, and restrain all his limbs and organs from participating in them. Such efforts bring the quickest reward to heart and body in the present life of this world, as well as the good things Allah holds in store in the hereafter. We beg Allah to bless us all, to educate us in these virtues, and to remove our base desires from our hearts.
8. He should avoid laying a burden of his, big or small, on any fellow creature. Rather should he relieve all creatures of his burden, regardless of what he needs or does not need, for this is the height of honor for servants and of nobility for the righteous. From this he gains strength to fulfill his duty to enjoin what is good and fair and forbid what is evil and unfair. All creatures should be of equal status as far as he is concerned. When this stage is reached, Allah moves him on toward annihilation [fana’], certitude, and confidence in Him (Almighty and Glorious is He). No other is raised to the same height, yet he sees all creatures as having equal rights. This is quite certainly the cause of honor for the believers and of nobility for the righteous, and it is very close to the gate of sincerity.
9. He must stop expecting human beings to satisfy his greed, and not let himself covet what they have at their disposal. Thus he will achieve the greatest honor, peculiar enrichment, vast dominion, splendid glory, pure certitude, and frank, unequivocal trust in the Lord. This is one of the doors to confidence in Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), one of the doors to renunciation, leading to the attainment of piety and the perfect practice of religion. It is one of the marks of those who are wholly dedicated to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).
10. The tenth is humility, for it is with this virtue that the servant’s residence is erected, that his station is raised high, that his honor and eminence are made perfect in the sight of Allah (Glory be to Him) and in the sight of His creatures, and that he is empowered to achieve all his worldly and otherworldly goals. This virtue is the root, branch and consummation of all virtues, whereby the servant attains to the stations of the righteous, those who are content with Allah (Exalted is He) in joy and sorrow alike. This is the perfection of piety.
Humility means that the servant never meets anyone without assuming him to be more worthy than himself. He will always say: “Perhaps he is better than I in Allah’s sight, and higher in degree.” If it is someone young, he will say: “This person has not offended Allah (Exalted is He) as I have done, so he is undoubtedly better than I.” If it is someone older, he will say: “This person served Allah long before I did.” If it is someone learned, he will say: “This person has received something I have not experienced, and has acquired something I have not acquired. He knows things of which I am ignorant, and he puts his knowledge into practice.” If it is someone who is ignorant, he will say: “This person has offended Allah in ignorance, while I have offended Him knowingly. I do not know what end He has in store for me, nor what end He has in store for him.” If it should be an unbeliever, he will say: “I don’t know; perhaps he will embrace Islam and come to a good end, and maybe I shall become an unbeliever and come to a bad end.”
This is the topic of sympathy [for others] and apprehension [about oneself], the first to become familiar and the last to remain with servants of the Lord. When the servant is like this, Allah (Exalted is He) keeps him safe from disasters, and brings him as a reward to the stations of loyalty to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). He then belongs among the chosen ones and friends of the All-Merciful, and among the enemies of Iblis, Allah’s accursed foe.
This is the gate of mercy, with the attainment of which gate of pride is demolished and the cords of vanity are severed, and the stage of self-aggrandizement in religious and worldly matters is left behind. This is the very marrow of worshipful service, the ultimate distinction of the self-denying, and the mark of the devout. There is nothing more admirable than this.
The servant should now prevent his tongue from discussing human beings and matters of no importance, otherwise he will accomplish nothing. Malice, pride and spite must leave his heart wherever he finds himself, his tongue should be the same in private as in public, his private and public wishes should be identical, and so should his words. All people should be as one to him in respect of sincere advice. He should not be one of those counselors who speak ill of one of Allah’s creatures, or condemn him for some action, nor should it please him to be told of someone’s faults. This vice is the bane of Allah’s servants, the ruin of the devout and the destruction of the pious, except for those whom Allah (Exalted is He) helps by keeping them safe in tongue and heart through His mercy, His grace and His beneficence.