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The Secrets of Patience: The Life of Sayyid Muhammad al-Jiylani

By: Imam Dawud Walid


When many Muslims reflect, sometimes romantically, on eras within Islamic history, there is a tendency to discuss the outer manifestations of excellence without looking towards the seeds which helped produce specific outcomes. One such instance is the multi-generational spiritual training which took place that revived the hearts of Muslims to be able to retake Jerusalem in 1187 C.E. after it had been under the occupation of the Crusaders for approximately a century. During this time, there were stellar spiritual guides who embodied the teaching of patience (al-Sabr) that taught Muslims how to be steadfast in the face of adversities. One such guide who taught through example as well as didactically was Sayyid Muhammad al-Jiylani al-Hasani (may Allah sanctify his spirit).


Sayyid Muhammad al-Jiylani was one of the sons of the famed Hanbali ascetic Sayyid Abd al-Qadir al- Jiylani (may Allah sanctify his spirit) who is affectionately known as the Rose of Baghdad. Sayyid Muhammad inherited spiritual traits from his father and his ancestors of Ahl al-Bayt which included deep knowledge of the sacred sciences. He was known for his detachment from materialism, his devotion for worship and his struggle against irreligiousness while serving on the path of the People of Allah. The descendants of Sayyid Muhammad can be found today in the Hijaz and in Palestine. From the knowledge which he transmitted which is with us today is a treatise on Islamic spirituality entitled Abwab al-Tasawwuf: Maqamatuhu wa Afatuh which was taught at the time of the recapturing of Jerusalem.


The following is a translation of Sayyid Muhammad’s chapter on patience from this treatise:

"And patience has three stations: Patience concerning a thing, patience with a thing and patience in a thing. Thus, patience concerning a thing is from the strength of one’s certitude. Patience with a thing is from the strength of one’s forbearance. And patience in a thing is from the grasping of the inward reality (Haqiqah) of that thing. Thus, blight from the lack of patience concerning a thing is greed. Blight from the lack of patience with a thing is feebleness. And blight from lack of patience in a thing is hastiness." (Al-Kiylani, Abwab al-Tasawwuf: Maqamatuhu wa Afatuh, p. 94)


In the context of socio-political challenges in the West, Muslims must place more emphasis on the spiritual means needed to bring success, not being exclusively or overly consumed with material means as is presently the case in much of our community’s activism scene. Patience is one of those virtues which is modeled by our righteous teachers and elders to be cultivated within ourselves if we are going to make true societal progress. May Allah connect us with teachers who are upon the pathways of righteousness just as Muslims of the past were connected to the likes of Sayyid Muhammad al-Jiylani al-Hasani.


Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and is a senior fellow of the Auburn Seminary based in New York. He is also the author of Towards Sacred Activism and the upcoming book Blackness and Islam. He previously served as an imam at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit and the Bosnian American Islamic Center in Hamtramck, Michigan.


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