In the Naqshbandi Order one does not have permission to display miraculous powers. In the other forty spiritual paths, you have permission to show all manner of miraculous powers although it will not bring you to a higher level. Grandshaykh was ordered by his shaykh to “divorce” miraculous powers. He used to show many miracles. His shaykh said, “As the judge divorces a woman from a man so must you divorce miraculous power. Do not come back to it. There is no need for it. People have to follow us because of our inspired knowledge, not because we can go through the wall, walk on fire, or fly in the sky.” I know a shaykh who takes hold of his belt, placing it to his ear and then speaks through it like a telephone. He then calls your parents in their country, just like this. This is something we prefer not to do in the Naqshbandi Order.
I will tell you a story of Shaykh Shah Naqshband, the leader of this Order. In those days in Bukhara, they used to harvest wheat crops, grind the wheat into flour and make bread to eat. One day, a drought came. For two or three years there was no rain. As a result there were no crops and therefore no flour in the city. Children were dying of hunger. They knew that Shah Naqshband was a very great saint, so they came to him and said, “Please! the whole city is dying.” Shah Naqshband was very famous, both in external and internal knowledge. He is still considered one of the important scholars in Islam.
Feelings of compassion came into his heart after seeing the people starving. He said, “Bring to me whatever wheat is left in the city.” They found a little bit of wheat at the house of the richest person in the city. They brought that precious wheat to him. He went to the flour-mill. At that time they used cows to turn the grinding-stone. He put that wheat between the two stones. He put his head in the yoke in place of the cows and he began treading around. Flour poured out as he turned. The longer he walked, the more flour was produced. He ordered all the city to come and fill their bags. All their houses were filled. They had provisions for three or four years ahead from that small amount of wheat they had brought to him. He displayed that miraculous power- but he had displayed it without permission.
Before saints show any miraculous power, they must ask permission from the Prophet (s). If he gives them permission, they can display such power without being blamed for it later. If the Prophet (s) does not give permission, then the saint is obliged to appear like an ordinary person and not display any difference from other people. Although Shah Naqshband is the greatest leader in that realm, he had not taken permission. When he was dying, after the disciples had placed him on his bed, they kept seeing him fall down. As he kept falling down off of his bed-his long beard reached down-he repeated, “O Forgiver, forgive me, O Forgiver, forgive me….” and kept crying. God had spoken to him and asked him, “Why did you show miraculous powers? Do you have more compassion in your heart than I? Did I not know that they were starving? I am the One who made them starve. Why did you interfere with My Will?”
Great saints know that if you display miraculous powers, you are interfering with the Will of God. That is why they do not like to use them. They want to keep swimming in that ocean of submission to His Will and accept whatever of His Will God has written to come to pass and not to attempt to change it. Saints of a lesser level attempt to change the Will of God because they have not yet arrived at that stage of perfection. That is why Naqshbandi shaykhs who hold their secrets from the Prophet (s) do not display miraculous powers. Their miraculous power consists only in their knowledge, the inspirations that come to their hearts. They do not try to perform physical miracles.
I know of a saint in Tripoli, Lebanon. There is a very famous story about him that I heard from my father and my uncles. His name is Shaykh Ali al-Umari, a Qadiri saint. When an Italian ship came to the Lebanese sea-shore in 1942 and that ship was full of food packages for the Lebanese people, the Italian commander refused to unload the ship for an arbitrary reason. Then he received an order to go back. That saint went to the sea-shore, took a fishing-pole, hooked the ship and held it, just like that, so that the ship could not move-finished. He said, “I will not let that ship move until they unload the cargo.” After two or three days of negotiations he was still there, without need for him to go to make ablution, eat, or anything. He prayed and held his fishing-pole. He would not move. Only after they unloaded did he release the ship.
There are saints who interfere. But this does not characterize the highest level of perfection. There was a Naqshbandi saint by the name of Saad ad-Din Jabawi. I saw these events concerning him when I was about eighteen or nineteen years old. I was in Grandshaykh’s house in Damascus. A delegation of scholars visited him, saying, “O Mawlana, they want to make a road and Saad ad-Din Jabawi’s grave or shrine is in the way. The government sent bulldozers to raze that grave, but they cannot touch it. Every time the bulldozer comes to that point, it stops. If they try to strike the grave, the bulldozer breaks down.” They had come to Grandshaykh knowing that there he had a connection with Saad ad-Din Jabawi through the Path, and asked him, “Please, solve this problem for us.” Mawlana Shaykh Abd Allah replied, “Give me two or three days.” After two days, he said, “Go to the burial place of the saint tonight. Perform the remembrance of God (dhikr), all of you, then open his grave in the morning and remove him for burial elsewhere.”
Saad ad-Din Jabawi had died five hundred years ago! So they said like the Wahhabis say today, “What is left of him?” They said, “He’s finished. There’s just dust there now!” What dust? The Prophet (s) said, “God has forbidden the earth to eat the body of prophets.”1 God has said in the Quran, “They (martyrs) are alive in the presence of their Lord, being provided for” [3:169]. What is true of prophets and martyrs in these two examples is true of saints also, of righteous people, of true people. They are alive. So they laughed – “He’s still there?” Of course he is still there, otherwise why is your bulldozer unable to go through? That night they went and recited dhikr. In the morning, Shaykh Abd Allah’s students began to open the grave, block after block, until they came to the main stone. They took that big stone away and the air all around was filled with a beautiful fragrance. A brilliant light emerged. It was the hour of the dawn prayer when all is dark with the day just beginning to break on the horizon. They found him there in his burial shroud as though he had been buried that very day, perfectly clean. His face looked as if he had just died. It seemed as if his skin would redden if you just pinched it. I was there. When they opened the tomb and removed him I was with my brother. They lifted him from the grave and buried him in another place not far away.
He had been buried there for five-hundred years. How is it that people say, “There are no saints,” when God says in His Holy Quran, “God’s saints – there is no fear and no sadness for them” [10:62], and in a sacred Tradition, “My saints are under my domes. No one knows them except Me.”2 Scholars are known by everyone. If He wanted to mention scholars, He would have said ulama. But He said awliya, “My saints are under My domes,” not, “My scholars are under My domes.” No one knows them – they are hidden. Saints are hidden. And you do not buy sanctity with the knowledge of a scholar. A saint is given to people by God. Saints do not become saints by going to universities and receiving degrees. The condition of sainthood is a reward granted from God to a person’s heart. Even if he knows nothing at all in the way of academic knowledge, God opens up paths in his heart and, at that time, there is nothing he does not know.
If anyone looks for a saint, he will find one. If anyone looks for a scholar, he will find one. If anyolooks for a good person, he will find one. If anyone searches out a bad person, he will find one. Whatever the intention of your heart, you will find what is in accord with it. If your intention is to be with a saint, you are going to find a saint. Who put that intention in your heart? God did. He is telling you, “Look for my saintly ones.” If your intention is to find a scholar, you will find one. If your intention is to find a good person, you will find one.
One day when I was a young boy, around the year 1955, I was with my oldest brother, who was himself about twenty-five at the time. We were in the grand mosque in Beirut. It was the time for the afternoon prayer. My uncle, who was the mufti, was leading the prayer. A person with a black beard entered and sat next to my brother. The afternoon prayer was ending. My brother had been looking for saints since childhood. The person who sat beside him was a very handsome looking person with blue eyes, a fair complexion, and a turban. He called my brother by name and said to him, “Are you Salim?” My brother answered, “Yes, how do you know my name?” He said, “Do not ask. Are you Naqshbandi?” My brother said, “Yes.” He continued, “You are in a branch of the Naqshbandi. You are not on the main trunk.” We were connected to my uncle’s side before knowing grandshaykh Abd Allah ad-Daghestani: in Egypt, Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Kurdi and in Damascus, Shaykh Ibrahim Ghalayini. He said, “I have been sent to you by my shaykh, Shaykh Abd Allah, from Damascus. It is time for you to go and meet him.” This was Shaykh Nazim. I was then ten years old.
When the heart is looking for a saint, you will find him, and your heart will tell you, “This is a saint,” but your ego will come and say, “No” and interrupt you. When this happens, know that you are on the right tract. Sometimes you will think, “This is a saint,” and then, “This is not a saint.” At that time, you must know that there is some reality there. We were attracted to him. We loved him because there was light shining from his face. My brother took him to meet my uncle. We invited him to the house. He stayed overnight and then said, “Come with me to Damascus.”
We went to Damascus the next day. Glory be to God! When we saw Grandshaykh Abd allah, we felt a great attraction. We saw that all shaykhs in Syria came to him while Grandshaykh did not know how to read or write. Great scholars with big turbans next to which ours are small, people seventy and eighty years of age, came and sat like children before Grandshaykh. When Grandshaykh would open his talks, their knowledge, their learning was as nothing. They found something extraordinary. He gave explanations that no one had heard before. We were so attracted to him that from that time until now, praise belongs to God, that early connection is still there.
Saints come to you, but they come once. If you do not catch them, they do not come a second time. You have to be very careful. They are not like scholars. Scholars even go from door to door. In Montreal, Muslims are now taking their names out of directories, because people propagating the faith come knocking at their doors! Scholars like to run after people to bring them to their classes because they do not have anything. But saints have everything and therefore come one time. Then you are connected. That’s it. So they leave you. Whenever they want you, they pull that rope back and you will come into their presence. One minute of sitting in their association is enough in order to be taken with them on Judgment Day. But everyone must be aware of this fact-saints come once, not twice. They do not like to insist. If you are attached, that’s it. If you lose, you lose them in this life, but not in the hereafter. Having sat with them is enough for you. But you will not, in this life, feel happiness and see spiritual progress.
Do not allow too many doubts to enter into your mind. Do not cause your heart to shake and become unsteady. They are not asking anything from anyone. They work only for God. If anyone believes, he will benefit. If anyone disbelieves, he is a loser. They are not saying to everyone to come and believe in them. People ask Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, “Why are you not going after people to make them come?” He says, “Whom God sends are selected people. We do not want the unselected. There are many people outside. You can go to them. I am leaving them for others. I want the selected ones. When the selected ones come, you can depend on them. The unselected ones come and go, come and go, like a sieve. Then you throw out what is left. What remains are the selected ones.”
Saints need selected people. They do not want the ‘garbage’. I do not mean ‘garbage’ with respect to people’s hearts but with respect to their moral character. Saints then, take what comes to them. What is left, they throw out. Do not lose that opportunity and be like garbage which is thrown away. Reality does not visit people many times in this life. In fact, it comes only once. As the Quran said, “Belief is faith in the unseen” [2:3]. You have to have faith in the unseen. That is why the Sufi teachers of the Naqshbandi order do not like to perform miracles. If I pass through this wall to the other side, you are certainly going to believe. But what is the value of that belief-nothing at all. That is why the first pillar of religion in Islam is faith in the unseen. If you want to see, then there is no faith. You have seen. Your spiritual standing, therefore, will not be high.
Why did the Companions become the Companions of the Prophet (s) and achieve that high level? Because they believed in the unseen. When the Prophet (s) came, everyone worshipped idols. He said, “Leave idols and worship God!” But where is God-we do not see God, but we see the idols. Therefore they believed in the unseen. Once they believed, God sent more to their hearts. That is why He said to them in the Quran, “O believers, believe in God and in His Messenger” [4:136]. “O believers…..” He called them believers because they believed in the unseen. At first, they were unbelievers. He called them to believe in the unseen, to believe in God. When they said, “Yes, we believe,” He called them believers-believers without seeing.
Now, he wants to raise them. He is going to take them from the station of the unseen to the station of seeing. “O believers, believe!…” If they were called believers to begin with, what is left to believe? If he has already called them believers, why is he ordering them to believe yet again? This means that the initial belief referred to at the beginning of the verse was a lower stage of belief, an imitative belief. He wants to raise them, “Believe in God and His Messenger.” It means, “I am going to show you that light in your hearts. I am raising you from the level of imitation, which is the common level for everyone, into the level of seeing, the heart level that is higher-belief in God and in the Prophet (s).” Have they not believed already? But He wants to show them.
Now, our belief is mere imitation. Our ego is fighting us – “No, he is not right. Yes, he is right… Do not accept this, accept that…” When we accept, they will take you to the other shore. What do you need in order to cross the ocean from this shore to that? You need two means-either a bridge or a carrier to take you, such as a ship or an airplane. If you do not find that means, you will never reach the farther shore. This is why God gave this order in the Quran. They were believers in the unseen on this shore, having been accepted by Him, but He wants to take them to the second shore, and he told them, “Believe,” a second time “in God and the Messenger (s),” so they could cross to the shore of safety.
We ask success from God through the Opening Chapter of the Quran, al-Fatihah
1. Ahmad, Abu Daud, Ibn Abi Shayba, Nasai, Ibn Maja, Darimi, Ibn Khuzayma, Haythami, Hakim, Dhahabi, Tabarani, Bayhaqi, Suyuti, Nawawi.
2. Ghazzali, Hujwiri.