The Wali & the Swineherd

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

This is a story from Sirr al-Asrar of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).  It is actually in the translator’s introduction was contributed by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi.  It is a story of many meanings and perhaps the reader will know better than the one who passes it.  How many times have we been the wali and how many times have we been the swineherd?  How many times have we danced in the Garden without entering the Palace?  And how many times have we beheld the Fires without entering the Gates?

A man in a state of pain and distress prayed for death.  He was Told: "Be specific."  So he prayed for death of the soul.  And Allah (s.w.t.) Said, "The soul Belongs to Me."  Then he prayed for death of the heart.  "But the heart is where you will find Me."  Then he prayed for death of the self.  And Allah (s.w.t.) Said, "That which never existed cannot die."  Would that the Self knew.

There was a Persian shaykh.  He was a very devout shaykh.  He prayed more than anyone.  He fasted continuously.  He made numerous pilgrimages to the Ka’bah.  He was very ambitious to obtain Allah’s (s.w.t.) Pleasure.  For fifty years he remained in seclusion from the world with four hundred of his disciples, whom he made work day and night to perfect themselves.  He had great knowledge and he could work miracles.  When he got word of Shaykh ‘Abd al Qadir al-Jilani’s (q.s.) Declaration: “This foot (his foot) is over the necks of all the saints”, he was in Makkah doing the Pilgrimage with his disciples.  Either he underestimated the greatness of Shaykh ‘Abd al Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) or he overestimated his own.  He refused to lower his neck with all the other saints.

That night, he dreamt he went from Makkah to Constantinople and there, he worshipped an idol.  Depressed by this oppressive dream, he gathered his disciples and said he must go at once to Constantinople to discover the meaning of this dream.  His loyal disciples followed him to Constantinople.  As they entered the city, the shaykh caught sight of a beautiful girl standing on a balcony.  Her hair was black as night, her eyes were twin moons with arched bows like tender sickles above them, her look a lure for lovers.  Her moist lips, the colour of rubies, rendered those who looked upon them thirsty.  Her mouth was so small; it seemed even words would not pass.  Her slender waist clasped by the idolater’s belt.

As soon as the shaykh saw her, his heart caught fire, his eyes became fixed upon her, his will slipped from his hands.  As his heart filled with love for her, religion and faith left it.  For all her beauty, that woman was a harlot, a temptation of Satan.  The shaykh stood at the door of this pagan harlot, his mouth open, his eyes fixed upon the balcony, hoping to see her.  Inwardly, he was in torment.  He thought of all those years he had fasted, tormented his flesh, but never had he suffered like this.  He sought his knowledge, his reason, to make sense of this.  But all knowledge and reason had left him.  His companions came to him in terror and distress.  They begged him to come away, to repent, to pray.  The shaykh replied that if he were to repent, he would repent for the absurdity of giving up the world and all its pleasures for the sake of a God so far away.  As for begging, he would beg from this girl than from God.

When he was reminded of Allah’s (s.w.t.) punishment and Hell, he replied that this separation from his beloved and the fire of love in his heart could feed seven hells.  His disciples pleaded with him for a long time, but seeing that their efforts produced no effect on the shaykh, they left him.  The shaykh stayed a whole month at the door of the pagan harlot.  The dust was his bed and the doorstep, his pillow.  He slept on the street with the dogs.

Finally, the beautiful pagan came to the door to meet him and said to him, “O old man who calls himself a shaykh and a Muslim, you are so drunk with the wine of giving partners to God that you show yourself in such a state on this pagan street.”

The shaykh said, “I will give up not only my religion but my life for one touch of your pagan lips.”

The harlot said, “Shame on you, you old slave of your passions.  How dare you suggest kissing me when you are ready to wrap yourself in your shroud and go to your tomb?  Go away!  I cannot love you!”

No matter how she insulted him, the shaykh stood at her door.  Then she came down again and said, “If you love me, you must burn your Qur’an, bow your head and prostrate yourself before the idols and drink wine.”

He said, “I cannot yet truly abandon Islam, nor can I burn the Qur’an.  But I can drink wine to your beauty.”

She said, “Then come and drink wine with me.  You will soon agree to do the other things which I ask of you.”  As he sipped the wine from her hands, his heart blazed with fire.  He tried to remember the Qur’an which he had memorized, the books he had read and written on Islam, but he had forgotten them all.  Drunk, he tried to touch her.  She said, “Not until you become a pagan like me and burn your Qur’an.”

He threw away the Qur’an, burned his dervish cloak and bowed before the pagan gods.  Again he tried to touch her.  She said, “You old dweller, slave to passion, who possesses neither worldly goods nor fame, how can a woman like me be caressed by such a begger?  I need silver and gold and silk.  Since you have none, take your ugly self away.  More time passed. Still the old man stood at her door.  Finally, one day she gave herself to him.  Then she said, “Now for my price, O filthy old man, go and look after my herd of pigs for a year.”  Without protest, the one-time shaykh of the Ka’bah became a swineherd.

The sad news of the shaykh who was too proud to bow before ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) and the tale of his disciples who abandoned him reached Baghdad.  His former disciples asked to see Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).  When they told him what had happened, that their shaykh had forsaken his religion, became a pagan and a swineherd, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) said, “If one does not submit and become a lamb to a shepherd, one becomes a shepherd to a herd of pigs.  For each man has his herd of a thousand pigs, a thousand idols in his heart unless he drives them away by submission and repentance.”

Then he reproached them for having left their shaykh.  He told them they should even have become pagans for his sake.  He added that a real friend is a friend you can rely upon in misfortune; everybody feigns to be your friend in good fortune.  Then Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) told the disciples of the misguided shaykh and told them to go back to Constantinople and tell him , “‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) bids him come back.”

The disciples at once set out for Constantinople.  They prayed for their shaykh all the way.  They fasted and asked Allah (s.w.t.) to Give their rewards to their shaykh.  They sent numerous blessing to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and asked for his blessed intercession.  The arrow of du’a reached its mark.  When they came upon the shaykh, they found him radiant amongst the many pigs.  And when they told him of the call of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.), he tore away the girdle of the pagan, shed torrents of tears of remorse, lifted his hands to heaven in thankfulness, and all that he had forgotten - the Qur’an, the Divine Secrets - came back to him and he was delivered from his misery and folly.  Then he bathed himself, took his ablution and put on his dervish cloak and set out for Baghdad.

While all this was happening, the pagan girl had a dream a light descending upon her and heard these words: “Follow your shaykh, embrace his faith, be the dust beneath his feet.  You, who have been soiled, are as pure as he is now.  You led him in your ways, enter now into his.”

When she awoke, she was transformed.  She rushed to catch up with the shaykh and his disciples.  She ran, without eating and drinking, over mountains and plains.  Finally, in the middle of the desert, she fell down and she prayed, “O You Who have Created me, Forgive me, do not strike me down.  If I have revolted against Your Ways and Your Faith, I did it in ignorance, as my Shaykh did in arrogance.  You Forgave him, so Forgive me.  I submit and accept the True Faith.”

Allah (s.w.t.) Caused the Shaykh who was not far away hear her words.  He and his disciples went back to where the girl lay.  She said, “I am consumed with shame because of you.  Instruct me in Islam so that I may meet my Lord on the way.”  As the shaykh witnessed her faith and his companions shed tears of joy, she bade them farewell and joined her Lord.

She, a drop in the sea of illusion, joined the True Ocean.  The shaykh went to Baghdad and stretched out his neck in humility under the feet of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).

O Seeker of the Path, remember this and hold fast to it:  All that you lose can be Replaced.  But lose Allah (s.w.t.), and all Creation cannot replace Him.  Can you not see the Generosity of your Master?  That he would abase the greatest of saints to Call one prostitute who has never known faith Home.  Do you think he would forsake you?  You attest that He is the Master and you are the Slave and yet in every swalah, He Awaits you Calling, “Where is My Beloved whom I have Created and have Yearned for Since the Day of Promises?”  Come back.  In the Return is the Blessing.


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