THE GOLDEN CHAIN

Out of all of the human beings that have ever lived, the best in character and the peak of refinement, grace and elegance was undoubtedly the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). All virtues and beautiful character were present in his unparalleled model personality. His heart was like a rose garden filled with beautifully scented roses and delicate graceful flowers. The friends of Allah, who are the heirs of the prophet, are like winds of mercy filtered from that rose garden.

The hearts of the friends of Allah, who applied with the greatest of care and meticulousness the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in their own lives, are like polished mirrors, ever reflecting the brilliant light of the prophetic character. For the leader, master, beloved and sultan of the friends of Allah is the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) himself.

By reaching a state of fana fil rasul, that is annihilating oneself in the love of the prophet, and having tasted real peace and happiness, the friends of Allah, like the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) himself, also do not speak from their own nafs, desires or whims. They are like the ney having distanced and purified from their inner world everything that keeps them afar from Allah. All of the echoes of guidance that are heard from them are taken from the blessed breath of the prophet whose character they have adopted.

It has been said in a hadith qudsi:

“…Almighty Allah becomes the ear with which they hear, the eye with which they see, the hand with which they hold, the foot with which they walk, the heart with which they consider and the tongue with which they speak” (See Bukhari, Riqaq, 38; Haysami, II, 248).

Ibn al-Jawzi (may Allah have mercy on him), the great Islamic scholar stated in one of his books:

“The awliyaullah (friends of Allah) and righteous people… they are the real purpose of this universe being created. It is they who have delved into the truths of knowledge and acted upon it”[1].

Wherever they are, the friends of Allah are a means of mercy, forgiveness, and blessings. They are with open arms ready to embrace with mercy and compassion all classes of society. They are also like magnets, centres of attraction for the people of faith.

Almighty Allah loves these righteous servants of His, who have adopted His own beautiful attributes and made them beloved to those of his servants whom He has favoured. He says in a verse from the Holy Qur’an:

Assuredly, those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, the All-Merciful will assign for them love (in the hearts of the inhabitants of the heaven and many on the earth, so that they will receive welcome throughout creation…)’ (Maryam, 19:96).

The following story expresses this truth nicely:

Harun Rashid, the Abbasid caliph, was living in Rakka in his glorious palace. One day Abdullah ibn Mubarak (may Allah have mercy on him) arrived. All of the people of the city went out to meet him. The caliph was left practically all alone in the big city. Watching this scene from his balcony, one of the servants of Harun Rashid called out:

“What is this? What is happening?” They told him:

“A great scholar has arrived from the Khorosan. His name is Abdullah ibn Mubarak. The people have gone out to greet him”.

The servant then said:

“This is the real kingdom it is not the kingdom of Harun. This is because in the kingdom of Harun, the workers cannot be gathered together unless the police force them”.

 Thus, true kingdom is the love that Allah places in the hearts of people for fleeting kingdoms are destined to come to an end one day. However, spiritual kingdoms continue to live on in the hearts with the same magnificence, even after death.

 Throughout history, people have always gathered around these model personalities. These individuals did not distribute wealth or treasure to the people nor any other worldly thing. However they assured peace for their spirits and nourished their spiritual hunger. This is why they continue to live on in the hearts of the people long after their death.

Almighty Allah has bestowed on those of His friends (awliya) that He loves and has made beloved to others, various features according to their states.

For instance He made Shah Naqshiband an unparalleled ocean of benevolence (himmah) through his spiritual disposal and marifatullah (knowledge of Allah); He made some like Majnun wander throughout the desert; He made some of them remain in a continual station of wonder and admiration; others He made speechless in the face of His awesome manifestations and hid them in the seclusion of silence; some He made nightingales of love like Yunus Emre; others, seas of meaning spurting out wisdom from their lips like Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi. There are also some amongst these noble individuals who gathered together all of these attributes within them and so are indescribable (may Allah have mercy on them).

The friends of Allah are, to use the common expression: ‘perfect human beings’ (insan-i kamil). That is, they are the ideal and model personalities desired by Allah. As we just mentioned each wali does not bear the same characteristics. Even though they may be ‘perfect’ themselves, only those of them who are perfect and perfecting, the ‘murshid i kamil’, who are in a state in which they can help others to reach spiritual perfection, are entrusted with and given permission to guide others.

The Perfect Guides bear elevated spirits and lofty personalities and have arrived at a state of true knowledge, as a result of their loving obedience to the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). They are individuals who have completed their spiritual training and reached a degree of competence in guiding others. Having reached such a state, they have then turned towards the people to invite  them to become beautiful servants of Allah, and a worthy community of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), occupying themselves with their spiritual purification.[2] Allah, Most High, has endowed them with marifatullah (knowledge of Allah) and the Divine attributes and appointed them as unique guides for humankind.

There are certain principles of this ‘divine appointment’ which ensures the continuity of the chain of spiritual guides. The following event sheds light on one of the most important of these principles:

Alauddin Attar narrates:

“I was present when Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshiband was nearing his death… Those present were thinking to themselves:

“I wonder who the Master will leave in his place to continue the spiritual guidance of his students”. Shah Naqshiband took this opportunity to say the following:

“Do not cause me any confusion at this time. This matter is not in my hands. Whoever Allah, Most High, appoints will be occupied with your training”[3].

Thus, the continuation of the chain of spiritual guidance takes place through the appointing of another guide to be the spiritual heir of the perfected guide. This appointment is not in the power of the previous guide. This appointment can only be made in the spiritual realm, through the indication and permission given by Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him). That is, it is not enough to be competent in the duty of spiritual guidance, but one also needs spiritual appointment.

Throughout history many of the tariqat have not been able to continue because a spiritual guide has not been confirmed through spiritual appointment. In some tariqat, based on the same wisdom, more than one worthy guide has been given permission. This is the reason for the different branches in the tariqat chain.

On the other hand, being spiritually appointed is a divine favour bestowed on the one who is worthy of it. Even if this duty is bestowed upon one who is not competent in the people’s eyes, this situation actually demonstrates that this individual is in fact competent or will be made competent enough to perform this duty. This appointment can be made for someone who is well known or to one who has remained hidden from the people and sometimes it passes from father to son. Throughout history there have been many father and son prophets. The situation is the same for the chain of Perfect Guides.

For instance Imam Rabbani’s duty was passed on to his son Muhammad Masum and from him to his son Shaykh Sayfuddin.

Thus physical inheritance is not an obstacle to spiritual inheritance. What is important is competence and spiritual appointment.

Perfect Guides are those individuals who have been raised under the guidance of other Perfect Guides like themselves, who have arrived to Allah, and who are knowledgeable in the rulings of the sharia and practice them. They are aware of the hazardous sites of the spiritual journey, the ‘bumps’ in the road, the pits, sharp corners, and endless abysses, the dangerous passes, and the tricks of the nafs and Satan, and are always cautioning their students and advising them in an effort to protect them. They inculcate in them patience, forbearance, contentment and gratitude, thus helping their students reach their goal in safety. Whether present or absent, they try to protect their students from all forms of misguidance. All of their states, actions and words are in meticulous conformance with the commands and prohibitions of the sharia and the adab and rules of tariqa. They themselves avoid physical comfort, pleasure and amusement. They refrain from taking the easy ‘way’ and shun innovations (bid’a). They patiently bear all tribulations and struggles, striving to carry out their acts with meticulousness. They race to help their brother in religion and turn to zuhd and taqwa, sufficing with what is enough and living a non-troublesome life of simplicity. In this way they become embodied examples of the standards that they advise.

In this way the Perfect Guide is in the position of an imam whom his students follow. In none of their states or acts can there be found any conflict with the Book and the Sunnah.

Hence, to follow certain ‘shaykhs’ who do not abide by these principles and yet claim to be shaykhs is very dangerous indeed. Instead of bringing those who follow them closer to Allah, they in fact distance them even further. They become the cause of their squalidness and disaster in place of eternal happiness.

The need for a Perfect Guide

A believer progressing along the path of spirituality encounters many different phenomena. The human heart is like an ocean without a shore. Sometimes the waters in this ocean are still, at other times they are like terrifying waves and whirlpools. In order to pass by the ocean in safety and reach the shores of salvation, one needs a sturdy boat and also a capable and skilful captain. If the captain cannot control his boat in stormy times he will be destroyed by the pounding waves of the ocean.  However a capable and skilful captain can steer his boat even in the fiercest of storms.

This is why those who wish to surpass their spiritual ocean and arrive to Allah, Most High, must first find a skilful captain and travel in his company and in the direction given by his advice and instructions. Otherwise he may lose his way in this journey, which harbours endless dangers and hazards, and he may eventually be destroyed.

For those who are at the beginning of their spiritual journey, the trials one encounters in one’s life are not so severe nor so intricate.

However as they go deeper into the ocean they encounter dreams in which they are unsure whether they are from Allah or from Satan. They are faced with many different events, spiritual manifestations that differ from individual to individual and states of inkibad and inbisat[4]. They are in need of guidance from an experienced, skilful and perfect guide for the correct evaluation of these and the precautions that need to be taken.

From its beginnings until today, even though it has been recorded and its teachings written down, the religion of Islam has been a religion which has been learned through practice and then taught, and comprehended as one lives one’s life.

Many people do not spare the time to read books. Thus they learn their knowledge of the religion by either listening to the talks of a scholar or observing and modelling their own life on the lives of model personalities. Rather than isolated truths, the human being is in awe of elevated characters and personalities who reflect those truths in their own states and behaviour.

Truths that are learned by observing their embodied examples leave indelible marks on the heart and are more lasting.

The practical transfer of religious knowledge from generation to generation is a sounder method than what one learns from books. This path ensures learning Islam with a complete understanding and application. Learning merely from books can result in many contradictions and doubts in the application of the religion. Thus, the friends of Allah, who practice their Islam with great love, rapture and excitement, have a great share in transferring this religion, unspoiled, from generation to generation.

The required Sufi training for the spiritual perfection of the human being cannot be gained by merely reading books. Despite the knowledge found in books being necessary and beneficial, it must be applied in one’s life and lived. Furthermore, in order to solve the likely problems that one is bound to face, one needs an experienced guide, as a model and one who knows the intricacies of this spiritual path. Just as one cannot perform an operation by reading a medical text, and a legal case cannot be solved by reading a text on law, so too in the spiritual realm, practice and application is needed together with isolated truths. Moreover, learning this is similar to work experience as an apprentice to a master. It requires learning by listening to a sound source or observing, without book or pen. Thus, it is the Perfect Guides who perform this service for their students. They are the leaders, role models and guides whose arena is experienced education and application.

They guide them along the path in safety without letting them make mistakes or deviate along the way.

This is why we cannot speak of a proper life of tasawwuf without one dedicating one’s heart to a Perfect Guide. Those who set out on this path without a guide generally do not remain in safety due to their slipping of the path. Those who attempt Sufism on their own without undergoing spiritual training at the hands of a guide quickly err and because they have no one to warn and caution them they do not become aware of their mistakes. Most of the time they are deceived by their own nafs, by Satan and by misgivings and temptations.

It is due to this need of the human being that Allah has never deprived the world of His friends (awliya) or people of guidance. This is undoubtedly a manifestation of our Lord’s infinite mercy, compassion and grace.

         The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) has said:

 “A group from my community will continue to carry out and establish Allah’s commands. Those who leave them without helpers or who oppose them will not harm them in any way. Eventually when they are superior (when they have become successful in their service and made the religion superior) Allah’s command will come (that is, the wind that will take the spirits of the believers before Doomsday erupts)” (Muslim, Imare, 174)

“A group from my community will appear at each time, until Doomsday and struggle for the truth to be known and lived. They will be ever subject to the help of Allah and eventually reign superior” (Muslim, Iman 247, Imare 173).

These are the Perfect Guides, the friends of Allah who guide others in inner matters, the righteous scholars, faqihs[5], mufassir[6] and muhaddith[7]. They first practice the religion of Allah and then guide others with their states, their words and their actions.

It must be noted that Perfect Guides are only a means for arriving to Allah and are in no way the ultimate goal. Thus it is incorrect to compare Perfect Guides to priests in Christianity. In Christianity a human being cannot personally turn to Allah without a priest as an intermediary. Perfect Guides on the other hand try to open a path for the servant to turn to His Lord in an acceptable way, personally, directly and of his own will and desire, and, in fact, consider himself under His watch at every instant. They try to prepare the spiritual background for this to occur. They advise the servant to eliminate the obstacles of their nafs, to save their hearts from the slavery of all other than Him, and turn to Allah only. In fact, after the servant has reached this stage, the guide moves out of the way.

The great guide Shah Naqshiband (may Allah have mercy on him) describes this truth as follows:

“We are only a means for reaching the goal. What is necessary for the traveller (saliq) is to reach a state of perfection and leave us to reach their ultimate goal. The way of the trainer is as such: they take the spiritual children of this path, that is the seekers and bound them to the crib of a tariqat, then with the nipple of purification, and the milk of himmah they nourish them and bring them to the point of arrival at the presence of Allah (wuslah); they then wean them off of themselves and allow them to enter the court of Unity. After that the Lord of all the Worlds trains and nourishes them”[8].

Thus the Perfect Guides struggle to bring the believer to a life of taqwa. Once the state of taqwa is established in the heart, no need remains for any other spiritual compass and Almighty Allah then continues to direct that heart to the truth and to goodness, and bestows upon it the light of foresight and discernment to be able to distinguish between good and evil, truth and falsehood, and right from wrong.

The Holy Qur’an states:

‘…Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge…‘ (Baqara, 2:282).

 You who have faith! If you have taqwa of Allah, He will give you discernment and erase your bad actions from you and forgive you. Allah’s favour is indeed immense’ (Anfal, 8:29)

The establishment of the Golden Chain

As previously mentioned, the true friends of Allah, the Perfect Guides, are the heirs of the prophets who continue the prophetic duty of spiritual training, cleansing of the heart and purification of the nafs. Their greatest source of prosperity and blessings is the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him)who, with the blessed life that he lived was like a living Qur’an.

The Holy Qur’an states:

‘Say (o My Messenger), ‘Anyone who is the enemy of Jibril should know that it was he who brought it down upon your heart, by Allah’s authority, confirming what came before, and as guidance and good news for the believers’ (Baqara, 2:97).

That is, having been revealed to the heart of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the Qur’an was reflected in his every state; and etched itself in his words, his actions, his conscience and his consciousness, that is into every atom of his being.

Thus, the entire life of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) manifests itself as a living exposition of the Qur’an. Almighty Allah displayed the divine truths and virtues in his model personality.

Through the zuhd and taqwa that he inspired in his Companions, and under his spiritual guidance and training, he allowed them to live a life within the spiritual atmosphere of the Qur’an. In this way the hearts of the Companions were softened and made gentle, and they would become as if people of Paradise, living as if they could see with the eye of truth both Paradise and Hell. They were enveloped in strong spiritual vitality and unique state of mind[9].

Harith ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the Companions said:

“As I withdrew from the worldly and carnal pleasures of my nafs, my days passed in thirst and my nights became sleepless. It was as if I could clearly see the throne of my Lord. It was as if I could see the people of Paradise visiting each other and the people of Hell enemies to each other” (Haysami, Majmau al-Zawaid, I, 57).

With their state the Blessed Companions transferred these lofty feelings, excitement, love, passion, rapture and energy that they received from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) to later generations and this state of the heart has reached us today through this chain. However since it is not possible to completely describe or explain with the limited nature of words, both written or spoken, this state of the heart and of the spirit, it was instead transferred from heart to heart.

In addition, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) bestowed special and wise knowledge on certain persons of his Companions with elevated potential. This knowledge passed from generation to generation of certain individuals, with a high degree of spirituality and it has reached us today[10].

One day when Muadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) mounted the animal of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him), the prophet Muhammad told him something but did not allow him to share it with everyone[11].

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

“I memorised two pieces of knowledge from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him). One of them I shared with the people. If I had have spread the other I would have gotten my neck broken” (Bukhari, Ilim, 42)[12].

Without a doubt the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) openly informed all of his Companions about the fundamental religious commands and prohibitions.

However it is not possible for every person to comprehend to the same degree certain secret knowledge of the metaphysical aspects of the religion. Just as human beings vary in their outer potential and capabilities so too they are not at the same level in the inner potential of their heart. That is, their level of comprehension and perception is not the same. This situation is true for the Companions also.

Thus, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) shared some special knowledge with his Companions in accordance with their capacity and sometimes with their curiosity or interest. This knowledge was then passed on by the Companions to the Tabi’een, in accordance with their ability to perceive it, and then onto later generations. Moreover, this knowledge will continue to be transferred to those competent individuals able to comprehend it until the end of time.

The transfer of state and feelings between the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) took place on account of their outer and inner union (the oneness of their hearts) as a result of reflection. This is why Sufi training takes place more often through keeping company with the righteous, and listening to their discourse.

A sincere and hard-working murid can perceive the state of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him)and his Sunnah, by personally observing the state and lifestyle of his guide. As time passed, this flow between the hearts resulted in the natural establishment of a chain.

Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) is the centre and peak of the outer and inner virtues in worship, human transactions and character. After spending 13 years in Mecca struggling to spread the truth of Islam and purify those around him he migrated to Madina. On the way there he was shown the cave of Thawr. Here certain phenomena were observed. This cave became like a school in which one could be enveloped in a kind of divine wisdom and in which one’s heart could open up.

The stay here lasted for three days and three nights. His friend and the most virtuous of all people after the prophets was Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with his). Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) served the prophet with great loyalty and devotion. In this time in which they were together, which no other person ever experienced, there occurred a transaction of the spirits between the two. In this transaction, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was honoured with becoming, in the words of the prophet, ‘the second of the two of which Allah is the third’[13].

The prophet said to his dear friend:

“لَا تَحْزَنْ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَنَا

“…Do not grieve. Allah is surely with us.[14] In making this statement he disclosed the nature of the secret of being with Allah. The Sufis consider this moment, that is the state of the heart finding peace and contentment with Allah, as being the beginning of the inculcation of khafi dhikr, that is secret or private dhikr.

It was through the blessing of such transactions of the heart that Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was able to perceive with a deep capacity, the words, actions, states and behaviour of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him), that many of the other Companions were incapable of perceiving. As a result Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), the prophet’s inner and outer heir, became the first link after the Messenger of Allah, in the Golden Chain that would continue until the end of time.

After that, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) became the haven of that lofty wisdom and sea of mystery. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him)taught ‘jahri dhikr’ to Ali as well as to some other of the Companions.[15] In time, the chains of those Companions came to an end. Only the chains that go back to Abu Bakr and to Ali have continued until our day. From time to time these too have diverged into different branches.

In this book we will be concerned with only one of the Noble Chains that has reached us today from the Naqshi Khalidi branch of the tariqat.

Yusuf Hamdani (may Allah have mercy on him) has said: 

“The inculcation of dhikr first occurred in the heart of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and found its form there. Then it passed onto Salman Farisi (may Allah be pleased with him), then to Ja’far Sadiq (may Allah have mercy on him), then to Bayazid Bistami (ay Allah’s mercy be upon him), then to Abu al-Hasan Harakani (may Allah have mercy on him) and then to the great shaykh Abu Ali Farmadi (may Allah have mercy on him) and from there it reached me[16].

Salah ibn Mubarak Bukhari, who was present in the talks of Bahauddin Naqshiband (may Allah have mercy on him) lists Qasim ibn Muhammad (may Allah have mercy on him) between Ja’far Sadiq and Salman Farisi[17].

Some of the friends of Allah, at the head of which is Bahauddin Naqshiband (may Allah have mercy on him), have, in addition to benefitting from their own shaykhs, also benefitted from the state of being an uwaysi, that is, benefitting from the spirits of those shaykhs who lived before them.

Throughout history many books have been written to identify the chains in tasawwuf and these have been called ‘silsile’i name’. Those that have included in them a friend of Allah from the ahl al-bayt have, out of respect and reverence, been called ‘silsilat al-dhahab’ or Golden Chain.

The need for a Noble Chain

In the first centuries there was a requirement for a chain of narration in various Islamic sciences such as qiraat, tafsir, hadith, and fiqh.

The scholars of Islam who narrated the hadith and opinions on commentary of the Companions, the Tabi’een and other scholars would look for a chain that came from them until that time.

In fact after this knowledge began to be recorded in books and until today, the chain of those teachers who taught those books was recorded and was considered necessary in order for one’s knowledge to be given consideration. Today also there are many scholars who abide by this chain and take and hand out ijaza or licence to teach.

In addition tasawwuf rijali (study of narrators) recorded which teacher they received their spiritual training and education from, and recorded the name of their teacher’s teacher and passed it on to their students. In this way people were able to receive this most vital training in the most sound way and in accordance with their way.

This system of the chain (silsilah) and licence to teach (ijaza) was considered absolutely necessary in order to preserve the sciences, both outer and spiritual, to avoid the introduction of errors and innovations, to preserve its purity and keep it intact.

Even more meticulousness and care was taken in preserving the methods and rulings gained by years of experience in matters of Islamic adab and morals. The sound transfer of this knowledge of these sciences to later generations by competent, trained and licenced people from this chain was considered an absolute requirement. These ijazet name or licences to teach which complied with the chain and were subject to a particular method and guaranteed competency; it prevented the deception of ‘false’ shaykhs who tried to present themselves as being perfect shaykhs.

Remembering the righteous is a source of blessings

Remembering and reciting the names of those individuals found in the Noble Chain from time to time has been considered a method in training in tasawwuf.

This method is resorted to in the hope that mercy envelops the heart and the one remembering receives a share from the beautiful state of those individuals.

Sufyan ibn Uyayna and other great scholars have said:

“Mercy rains down on assemblies in which the Righteous (saliheen) are remembered”[18].

Muhammad ibn Yunus has said:

“I have never seen anything more beneficial for the heart than remembering the righteous”[19].

When the friends of Allah are remembered, the cautionary events and stories in their lives and their anecdotes full of wisdom revive the hearts. A desire for their model states arises and the spirit turns towards these elevated states. In this way mercy, blessings and tranquillity arise.

Consequently in order to be with the righteous, not just outwardly, but also with the heart and the spirit reciting the Noble Chain is a source of great mercy and blessings. The writing of various books that include the stories of the friends of Allah is in order to inspire the believers to come closer to them with love.

Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“The stories of righteous scholars and their good character have always appeared more pleasing to me than most of fiqh. What is narrated in these is the adab and good character of these friends of Allah. The Holy Qur’an states:

They are the ones Allah has guided, so be guided by their guidance… (al An‘am, 6:90)”[20]

Some of the friends of Allah have said:

“The stories of the righteous are like an army from the armies of Allah. Through them Almighty Allah makes firm the heart in uprightness, of those of His friends”[21].

The proof for this is the following verse:

We have given you all this news about the Messengers so We can make your heart firm by means of it. The truth has come to you in this and an admonishment and reminder to the believers. (Hud, 11:120).

According to this, the stories of the prophets and the righteous strengthen the faith of the believers. They are a source of consolation and stream of peace for those in distress; and uprightness for those in ease.

Because the lives of the friends of Allah are embodied examples, reading about them increases the determination, efforts and spirituality of the believers. They beautify the character, without having to use verbal instructions such as ‘Do this or do not do that’. They teach us the inner face of and the wisdom in events. They are a means for us to take as our examples the beautiful states of perfect believers who lived in the past.

There are other reasons for reciting the Noble Chain at various times. A person should at least know the individuals who connect him to the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), whose path he is following and who he is benefitting from. By remembering them from time to time he can establish love for them in his heart and ensure a feeling of belonging and membership of the path he is following.

It is also possible for the murid to use the teachers from this Noble Chain as a means to supplicate to Allah.

Abu Said Muhammad Hadimi has said:

“Whoever recites the chain of shaykhs, after ‘Hatm’i Khwajagan[22], during his dhikr, before beginning dhikr and after completing his wird, he will be subject to various advancement and openings.  The person reading the wird and the dhikr should recite the chain of shaykhs especially at times when he feels a spirituality overcome him. He can also read the Noble Chain in the hope of removing all distress, grief and sorrow, for the attainment of one’s aims, for the fulfilling of needs or for the cure of illnesses. In addition one can write down the Blessed Chain and carry it with him for the blessings it contains”[23].

Tawassul and Istighasa with the friends of Allah

Tawassul means to take something as a means (wasila). A wasila is everything that allows one to come closer to Allah or to have one’s needs met.

Allah, the Almighty, states in the Holy Qur’an:

 “You who have faith! Have taqwa of Allah and seek the means of drawing near to Him…’ (Maida, 5:35)

Tawassul is one of the ways to pray and one of the gates through which one can turn to Allah. The true aim in tawassul is Allah, Most High. The wasila, or the means taken, is just a tool that allows one to come closer to Allah.

Almighty Allah orders us to turn towards the Ka’bah when we pray. This does not mean that we worship the Ka’bah. In the same way, kissing the Black Stone is done as servitude to Allah and following the path of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

A believer who takes as his means a certain thing or person takes it in the belief that Allah loves that means. In no way and at no time does he see that means as something that can either benefit or harm him.

A man used to frequently visit Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) for a need, however, Uthman would not pay any attention to him nor would he fulfil his need. This man then encountered Uthman ibn Hunayf (may Allah be pleased with him) and complained to him. Uthman ibn Hunayf advised him:

“Take your cup and make your ablutions, then go to the masjid and perform two rakats of prayer. At the end of your prayer make the following supplication and then state your need:

“O Allah! I ask you and turn to you on behalf of the prophet of Mercy, the prophet Muhammad. O Muhammad. I turn to my Lord using him as a means for the fulfilment of this need of mine. O Allah make him my intercessor”.

 That man went and did as he was told. After that he went to the door of Uthman ibn Affan. The doorman took him by the hand and sat him down on a cushion next to Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him). Uthman asked him:

“What is your need?” The man told him. Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) immediately granted his need and said:

“It never occurred to me until now that you needed something. If you ever need anything else come to me immediately”.

Having had his need fulfilled the man then left the presence of the Caliph and went to Uthman ibn Hunayf (may Allah be pleased with him), saying:

“May Allah reward you with good. Until you spoke to the Caliph about me, he did not fulfil my needs nor pay me any attention”.

Uthman ibn Hunayf (may Allah be pleased with him) was surprised and said:

“By Allah I did not speak to the Caliph. However I witnessed such an event:

 A blind man once came to the Messenger of Allah and said:

“O Messenger of Allah. Beg Allah to cure the illness in my eye. It is very difficult for me to be blind”.

The prophet replied:
“If you wish you can be patient, this will be better for you”. The blind man said:

“O Messenger of Allah. I have no one to take me by the hand and guide me. My situation causes me great hardship. Please pray that my eyes are cured”.

The prophet then said:

“Take this cup and make your ablutions. Then pray two rakats of prayer. After that supplicate as follows:

اَللّٰهُمَّ إِنِّى أَسْأَلُكَ وَأَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ.
يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّى تَوَجَّهْتُ بِكَ إِلٰى رَبِّى فِى حَاجَتِى هٰذِهِ لِتُقْضٰى لِيَ.

اَللّٰهُمَّ فَشَفِّعْهُ فِيَّ

“O Allah! I ask you and turn to you on behalf of the prophet of Mercy, the prophet Muhammad. O Muhammad. I turn to my Lord using you as a means for the fulfilment of this here need of mine. O Allah make him my intercessor”.

 “By Allah we had not yet parted and the conversation between us grew long, when that blind man came and stood next to the prophet. It was as if he had never been blind, and he was completely cured”[24].

When we read this prayer we should say ‘Ya Rasulallah’ instead of ‘Ya Muhammad’ as this is more appropriate and we will not have erred in showing our respect for him.[25]

One time when there was a drought during the caliphate of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), he took the prophet’s uncle Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) with him to make a prayer for rain. Using him as a wasila he supplicated to Allah as follows:

“O Allah! When we prayed to you for rain using the prophet as a wasila You gave us rain. Now we ask You using the prophet’s uncle as a wasila. Bestow rain upon us”. After that it rained and the people were reunited with water (Bukhari, Istiska, 3).

In truth it is Allah, Most High, who helps us and brings about our wishes and hears our supplications.

Even though Allah is the true Owner of everything, affairs are attributed to people. Such expressions are used not in a true sense but figuratively.

Almighty Allah has given permission for people to ask each other for help and has commanded us to reply to the one who asks us for help.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)used the expression ‘istighaza’ which means ‘to ask for help’ in his following words:

إِنَّ الشَّمْسَ تَدْنُو يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ حَتَّى يَبْلُغَ الْعَرَقُ نِصْفَ الْأُذُنِ
فَبَيْنَا هُمْ كَذٰلِكَ اسْتَغَاثُوا بِآدَمَ ثُمَّ بِمُوسَى ثُمَّ بِمُحَمَّدٍ

“On the Day of Judgement the sun will come so close that the sweat of people will accumulate and reach up to half way of their ears. In this state they will ask the prophet Adam, then the prophet Musa and then the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)for help” (Bukhari, Zakat, 52).

Just as Almighty Allah has given His angels and His prophets certain disposal to act in a particular way He has also given them to some of His righteous servants. Their disposal while alive or even their spirits after they have passed away is similar to that of the angels. They are in no need of physical contact nor any instrument or means, because they are not subject to the laws that we know.

A personified example of the reality of tawassul and istighasa is from our recent history during the Battle of the Dardanelles. The active and verbal prayers of the Muslim soldiers, whose hearts were filled with faith, and their istiana, istighasa and tawassul were granted and when all physical strength and opportunities were lost they experienced much success and victory by the grace of Allah.

The English historian and commander from the Battle of the Dardanelles later admitted this truth as follows:

“We were not defeated by the physical strength of the Turks, but rather by their spiritual might. At one stage they had no gunpowder left to shoot but we witnessed the powers that descended from the heavens to help them…”

In short, asking out of respect for the prophets and righteous servants of Allah when praying for something will draw the mercy of Allah even more. That believer will have used those that Allah loves as his wasila, or means of seeking refuge in Him and asking from Him.

However, prayer is only to Allah. When we pray using Allah’s beloved’s as wasila, we should not ask from them personally but rather from Allah only. The sole absolute Doer of anything (Fail’i mutlaq) is Almighty Allah.

Some people make a grave mistake when they ask directly from righteous individuals in their absence or when they visit their graves, saying: “O such and such. Give me a cure. Fulfil this need of mine”. This can open the door to shirk. Even though certain interpretations can be made for such expressions, one must shun with intensity such ignorant words that can harm the essence of one’s belief in the oneness of Allah.

We should meticulously avoid any such expressions that infer that anything other than Allah has absolute disposal over the administration and management of the universe or in solving difficulties.

May our Lord bestow upon our hearts blessings and prosperity from the spirits of the true friends of Allah and in particular those from the Golden Chain.

Amen…

[1]. İbnü’l-Cevzî, Sıfatü’s-Safve, Kâhire 1421, I, 17.

[2]. See Muhammad Parsa, The talks of Muhammad Bahauddin, p. 77-78.

[3]. Ali bin Husayin Safi, Rashahat-i Aynu al Hayat, p. 123-124; Muhammed bin Abdullah Hani, Adab pp. 305-306.

[4] inkibad and inbisat are two states of being, the former meaning constriction and the latter meaning expansion (Translators’ note)

[5]  A faqih is a scholar who is qualified at taking rulings from the Holy Qur’an (Translator’s note)

[6] A mufassir is a commentator of the Qur’an (Tranlator’s note)

[7] A muhaddith is a narrator of hadith (Translator’s note)

[8]. See Salahaddin ibn Mubarak al-Bukhari, Anisu al-Talibin, p. 97.

[9]. See Muslim, Tawbah, 12; Tirmidhi, Jannah, 2/2526.

[10]. See Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Mas’ud al-Bukhari, al-Risalat al-Bahaiyya, Kayseri Rashid Efendi Library,  pub. 1110, issue. 22b.

[11]. See Bukhari, Ilim, 49.

[12]. When Abu Ayyub al-Ansari was about to pass away he said: “I hid something that I heard from the Messenger of Allah from you” and then he told those around him” (Muslim, Tawbah, 9)

Abdullah ibn Ja’far (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

 “One day the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) mounted me on his animal and told me a secret. I will never tell that secret to any one” (Muslim, Hayz, 79).

Anas (MAY Allah be pleased with) narrates:

“…One day I was late in returning to my mother. When I arrived she asked me:

“Why are you late?” I replied:

“The Messenger of Allah sent me to do some chore”. My mother asked me:

“What was it?” I replied:

“It is a secret of the Messenger of Allah”. My mother then said:

“In that case keep the secret of the Messenger of Allah”.

Sabit, who narrated this hadith said:

“Anas said to me: If I were ever to tell that secret to someone I would tell it to you o Sabit” (Ahmad,

III, 195).

The special knowledge that was given to Huzayfa, his confidante, by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) can also be analysed. (See Bukhari, Manakib, 25, (IV, 178); Muslim, Fitan, 28; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 26).

In some cases the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) never disclosed certain information to anyone and said:

“If you knew what I knew you would weep much and laugh little”  (Bukhari, Qusuf, 2; Muslim, Salat, 112).

[13]. See Bukhari, Tafsir, 9/9; Muslim, Fadail al-Sahaba, 1.

[14]. Tawbah, 9:40.

[15]. See Ahmad, IV, 124.

[16]. Abdulkhaliq Ghujdawani, Risale-i Sahibiyya (Makamat-i Yusuf  Hamdani), (pub. Said Nafisi), Farhang Iran-zemin, I/1 (1332 hijri solar.,/1953), p. 81.

[17]. Salahaddin ibn Mubarak al-Bukhari, ibid, p. 60.

[18]. Abu Nuaym, Hilya, VII, 285; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, az Zuhd, Beirut 1420, s. 264; Ajluni, Kashfu al Khafa, II, 70.

[19]. Ibn Jawzii, Sıfatu as Safwa, I, 18.

[20]. Qadi Iyad, Tartibu al Madarik, Maghrib 1965, I, 23.

[21]. Qadi Iyad, ibid, I, 23.

[22] This is a type of dhikr which begins and ends with the recitation of the Fatiha. The term ‘hatm-i khwajagan’ means the ‘hatim of the masters’ (Translator’s note).

[23]. Muhammed Amin Al Kurdi al Arbili, Tanwiru al Qulub fiy Muamalati Allamu al Ghuyub, Aleppo 1411, p. 598.

[24]. See Tirmidhi, Dawat, 118/3578; Ibn Maja, Iqama, 189; Nasai, Qubra, VI, 169; Ahmad, IV, 138; Hakim, I, 707-708; Bayhaqi, Dalail, V, 464; Haysami, II, 279.

[25]. Allama Yusuf ibn Ismail an Nabhani, al Fadailu Muhammadiyya, Aleppo 1414, p. 230.