A Eulogy to Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili
“And whomsoever allies themselves with God and His messenger and the believers, [then know that] truly the party of God is the triumphant.”
Your (O Abu al-Hasan) allegiance to God came forth from your own inner struggle. Your allegiance to His Messengerﷺ came forth from your adherence to his Sunnah. Your allegiance to the believers came forth from your taking the leaders of the past Muslim nations as models.
He is the Qutb, Ali son of Abdullah, son of Abulhijaz. He was of a large build and whose lineage goes back to Imam al-Hasan, the brother of Imam al-Husayn, may God be pleased with them all.
He was born in the year 593 AH in an area named Ghumara (Morocco), close to the city of Sabta in the region that is known for the saint of God and scholar Sayid Abdulraheem al-Qinawy.
He memorized the Noble Quran, the Prophetic Hadith literature and Islamic legal theory when he was of a young age. When the time was ripe, God allowed him to appear as a blessing for all time. So God struck his heart with the light of gnosis.
The seeker’s journey can never be complete without pious companionship and a sincere Shaykh. So he set out on a journey to Baghdad hoping to find an experienced Shaykh that could guide him on the path. There, he met many saints. Among them are Sayyid Abi al-Fathy al-Wasty whose tomb is presently in Alexandria. One of the saints of Baghdad told Abu al-Hasan:
“You seek the Qutb in Iraq when he is already there in your country so return and you will find him there.”
He returned to his Morocco and said before continuing on: “I embarked (to meet the Shaykh) and I found him living in Maghara on the summit of the mountain so I performed ritual bathing at the foot of the mountain and detached myself from all that I know and ascended the mountain toward him impoverished when all of a sudden I found him descending to me and receiving me, saying: “Welcome O Ali, son of Abulhijaz” and he continued to mention my entire lineage going back to the Emissary of Godﷺ, then he said to me: “You ascended upon us detached from all that you know so you gained the wealth of this world and the next.”
So I stayed with him days until God opened up my inner eye. That Qutb (I was with) was Sayyid Abd al-Salam bin Masheesh who lived his life in worship, whose knowledge was plentiful and whose lineage goes back to Sayyid al-Hasan, son of the Imam Ali, son of Abu Talib may God be pleased with them.” The tomb of Abd al-Salam bin Masheesh is in Morocco.
Then Abu al-Hasan began his journey to Shadhula where he directed himself to the mountain of Zaghwan to focus on the worship of God. He was accompanied during this journey by the pious saint Muhammad al-Habiby who mentioned that the angels and spirits of the saints surrounding Abu al-Hasan were conversing with him and listening to his words. This is not such a strange thing since in the Noble Quran God The Greatest has said: “Truly the ones who have proclaimed “[O]ur Lord is God” and proceeded with perseverance, the angels descend upon them [saying] “do not fear or be saddened and rejoice for the paradise that you have been promised. We are your allies in the life of this world and the next. In it is all that you desire and for you is all that you ask.””
The Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (may God be pleased with him) says: “In the beginning of the path divine disclosures begin until they occur even in the waking state, witnessing the angels and the spirits of the Prophets. They hear their voices and capture from them differing benefits. It was narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that our master Omar bin Haseen was spoken to by angels.”
Then Abu al-Hasan proceeded from Shadhula to Tunis. It was mentioned that he was afflicted by the evil eye but God gave him victory over those perpetrators when he saw a vision of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ saying: “O Ali, proceed onwards to the abodes of Egypt for surely you will raise up 40 truthful saints. So he departed to Egypt starting with Alexandria where he married. God provided him with the gift of pious offspring. So he became known as Shadhili since that is where he came from.
Al-Shadhili used to dress in fine clothes and he used to say “know God and then be as you please. So whomsoever knows God there is no harm if he eats well.” He used to say: “My son, drink your water cold since if you drink it hot and then praise God you would have said it without concern. And if you drink cold water and praise God, all the members of your body would have responded with praise to God.” Al-Shadhili used to ride the high caliber horse and say “do not be extravagant by escaping the world lest it drapes you in it’s darkness or allow your limbs to become soft towards it lest they relapse back in its grip after they were liberated from it.” From Alexandria, Abu al-Hasan wrote to some of his companions saying:
“I write to you from Alexandria, may God protect it, where we are bathing in God’s blessings.”
Soon after some of his students arrived and settled in an area called Kum al-Dikka where in its vicinity was the best of saints and scholars from them was the Master Abu al-Abbas al-‘Morsi and the Master Abu al-Qasim al-Qabari and the Shaykh Makeen al-Deen al-Asmar and the rest that Alexandria knew so well at the time.
He used to (may God be pleased with him) give his lectures in the Mosque called al-Atareen where all his teachings would be built upon the foundations of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the importance of seeking provision. He proclaimed that Islam does not teach that the aspirant remains passive and unemployed asking others for help.
He (may God be pleased with him) proceeded to Cairo where he gave his speeches in the Mosque named al-Miqyas in the Rawda or the school of al-Kamilia that was instituted by the Sultan al-Kamil, son of the victorious Sultan Salahudeen al-Ayubi in the beginning of the 7th century AH. Many philanthropists donated to this school for the learning of Hadeeth literature especially. So much so that it was given the alias name Dar al-Hadeeth (The House of Hadeeth). Many graduated from this school having been raised by Abu al-Hasan with the Qur’an and pristine Sunnah. He was never distracted to publish a book. Even when he was asked about his books he would reply they are the books of my colleagues. He (May God be pleased with him) used to say: “The book al-Ihya (Revival of the Religious Sciences) by al-Ghazali engenders knowledge and the book Qut al Qulub (Pearl of the Hearts) by al-Mekki engenders divine light.” He used to say to his colleagues: “If you are in need of something from your Lord than seek it through (tawwasul of) Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali.
Abu Hasan says (may God be pleased with him) “when I embarked upon Egypt I was told: “O Ali, the times of tribulation and test have gone and the days of blessing have come upon you.”” He visited many cities of Egypt including Damanhoor, Mansoura and most of the cities in the of the North as well as the south. He also traveled to Palestine, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. He toured the many cities of the Islamic world and described one meeting he had: “I met someone during one of my travels and a man told me, “There is no stronger statement to aid the good deeds except “La hawla wala Quwata illa billah, Fafiru ila Allah, wa atasimu billah.” (There is no cause of change or power except with God, so flee to God and I hold tight to God)
The Shadhili spiritual path was therefore established on the foundations of the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as seeking work to provide for oneself as a foundation of the Sacred Law. He says (may God be pleased with him), “Whomsoever calls to God with that which was not called to with by the Emissary of Godﷺ, then he is an innovator. If your divine disclosures contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah, ignore the divine disclosure and say to thy self: God has guaranteed me protection by following the Qur’an and Sunnah but did not guarantee me protection in my divine disclosure, inspiration or divine witnessing.” He (may God be pleased with him) disliked the unemployed aspirant since he saw work as a form of worship. He himself used to farm the land and raise animals and horses while also tending to the needs of the Muslims and their respective countries. He used to say “We do not command the aspirant to leave his job since the companions spent their lives with the Emissary of Godﷺ and he never told any merchant to leave his business or to a skilled laborer to leave his trade. Instead, he insisted that they continue their professions while being conscious of God.
It cannot be forgotten when he went to Mansoura along with other saints and scholars after they heard that battles had ensued with the Crusaders. In these circumstances, he did not house his elite group of scholars that accompanied him in comfortable homes but instead they toiled until they reached Mansoura where they set up camp in the middle of the army barracks. They marched in the streets to raise the morale of the troops and the locals. They recited the Noble Qur’an, the Prophetic Hadeeth, and litanies in abundance. They continually expressed hopes of victory to God in a supplicative manner. Al Shadhili was busy with this mission night and day until he saw a vision of the Prophetﷺ giving him the good news of a near victory. And so that victory truly came with God’s grace as He (High is His existence) has said: “O believers if you strive to bring victory to God He will give you victory and plant your feet in steadfastness.”
Abu al-Hasan (may God be pleased with him) continued calling men to God in Egypt on the path of true insight and guidance until the month of Shawwal in the year 656 AH where he began the holy journey of pilgrimage to Mecca. When he reached the region known as Humaythra in the Edlib Desert near the coast of the Red Sea, he gathered his companions on one of those nights and advised them to hold strongly to”Hizb al-Bahr” (The verses from his litanies) and told them: “Teach this to your children for truly within it is the greatest name of God.” He then secluded himself with Abu al-Abbas al-Morsi and endowed him with the special knowledge that God had endowed him with. He then appeared to his companions saying “When I die you are to take Abu al-Abbas al-Morsi as my successor for he will have a great role to play amongst you. He is a door from the doors of God.” Then Abu al-Hasan spent a night dedicating himself to God and repeating His Noble name “Ilahy, Ilahy” until the break of morning where he performed ritual bathing and prayed two units of prayer and there in the year 656 AH God took his soul in his final prostration.
From his miracles that still linger is that after Abu al-Hasan arrived in the region of Humaythra, it began to have enough fresh water to quench the thirst of the wayfarers yet this did not happen before. From his famous statements (may God be pleased with him) that would heal anyone who repeated them are:
“If the whispers and bestirring of the self increase then say: Subhan al-Malik al-Khaliq, “In yash’a yuthhibakum wayatee bikhalqin Jadeed wama thalik ala Allahi be azeez. (Praise be to the King, the Creator, if He wishes he will do away with you and bring a new creation instead and this is not overwhelming for God.)””
“If you receive an increase in the worldly realm or the next then say: “Hasbuna Allahu Sayuteena Allahu min Fadleehee wa rasuluhu inna ila Allahi raghibun. (God suffices us, He will give us from His grace as well as His Emissary. Truly we are all returning to God).””