Connection to the One with a Polished Heart

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem

This is a paper I wrote awhile back based on the book Sirr al-Asrar (The Secret of Secrets) by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. It is very difficult to base one paper on one writing that is very very complex. Do not let the size of the book deceive you, I had to read over it several times and I was still unable to fully comprehend the implications of this writing. Enjoy!

Connection to the One with a Polished Heart

Dear Friend, Your heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust which has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.”[1]

In order for one to be faithful and in accordance with his fate, he must be willing to accept the jurisdiction of Allah and in order to do that he must establish a connection with the One. Abdul Qadir al-Jilani has been an integral force behind the Qadiri Sufi order (even if it was not his intention) and an important Islamic thinker. It is important to note that most of his writing focuses on the underlying point that Allah is the holder of fate. In order for man to be accepting of Allah’s will, he must establish a connection with the One by this idea of “polishing” the mirror of his heart.

The presentations of his biography in some sources revere him as a sort of saint, one who achieved perfection and was blessed by his Lord. In one account he is described as the “true inheritor of the perfection of the Prophet Muhammad; a perfect man…” [2] He lived from 1077-1166 C.E and most of his life was based in Baghdad, which at the time was the center of learning for the Muslim world.[3] His mother was described as one of the purest and beautiful women of her time and both his parents were considered to have a direct connection to the Prophet Muhammad, through Hassan and Husayn.[4] Based upon these vague sources, al-Jilani had a sort of divine inspiration and miracles from the time he was born till his death. It is claimed that he was the greatest example of the importance of seeking knowledge in Islam, and it’s focus as a sacred obligation.[5] When asked what he received from Allah, he answered, “Good conduct and knowledge.” [6] And what he has to offer in his words are a sense of commitment and desire to further the state of man in this world, for the ultimate goal, happiness in the next. The focus of this discourse focuses on the work, Sirr al-Asrar (The Secret of Secrets), and the concept of the inner secrets within the soul of man and the connection to the One [Allah].

“Read, listen, try to understand.”[7] In his introduction to this work, Jilani establishes that the light of the Divine will illuminate the unconscious with the peace and beauty equal to the full moon[8]. The concept of the movement of the moon in its prescribed path is a symbol of the stages in which enlightenment of the soul is achieved. At it’s apex it illuminates the most space and when it does so, the “darkness of heedlessness” dissipates and the “night of the unconsciousness will see the brightness of day.”[9] As seen at the beginning of the discourse (Sir al-Asrar), the heart is referenced to as a mirror, and once it has been cleansed, it will allow the rays of the private sun of enlightenment and divine secrets to fall upon it and it will also reflect it. This specific sort of symbolism follows the idea that a person is a reflection of the state of their heart, and the One judges a Muslim’s actions based upon their intention. The focus of his work is the understanding of the soul, how to reach enlightenment, and the polishing the metaphorical heart.

The end product of “Man’s Return Home to the Original Source” is the ultimate goal of total closeness to Allah, however to in order to begin the journey, man must abandon all the “false appearances and hypocrisy of doing things” for the reward and the beauties of Allah which will be tasted in the man’s efforts to achieve true knowledge[10]. True knowledge is the practice of contemplation of the divine wisdom with a desire to know Allah, and this contemplation, is worth a thousand years of worship, according to a Hadith cited by al-Jilani[11]. It is also the state of unity, in which the wise lover is united with the Beloved and occurs in the inner world of the wise[12]. This world is occupied not by people but rather a world within the believer, within their own mind and heart and the more one takes off the coarse clothing of this world, the more one feels the warmth of the Creator and the inner being flies closer to the surface of the spring[13]. It is important to note that the inner being is stuck in a realm deep within the spiritual heart of the worshipper and is caged until the soul is released by a connection with the One. The closer one is to the truth is in relation to the amount of the materiality of the world that he has thrown away[14]. This way the soul is pursuing a path of purification that will lead to his connection with the One. This means that in order to establish the journey to serenity within his heart, he recognizes that Allah is One and loves that which is united and one, all righteous acts and intentions belong to Him. It is the separation of man’s inner happiness from seeking the pleasure and happiness of others, and when his actions are not for worldly benefit. A man will see manifestations of attributes of Allah and will see the visible world as proof of Allah’s existence.

Al-Jilani focuses closely on the obtaining of knowledge and its uses, he states that a true servant of Allah abstains from what is forbidden, and enjoins that which is allowed[15]. “Man cannot attain the truth unless he is pure, because his worldly attributes will not leave him until the essence is manifested in him[16].” However the knowledge is not gained through education but comes as an inspiration from Allah, and therefore is pure in its form, essence, and finality[17]. Jilani indicates in these statements that for man to truly be inspired he must cleanse his heart from all other inconsistencies and worldly matters. In order for this to be achieved, man must go through several stages of contemplation and reflection to be put on the path of Allah and of spiritual contentment.

It befits every human being to know his business within this universe of his own existence and to understand its purpose. He must understand that he cannot change whatever is judged from him and hung around his neck. Of the one who wishes to change his lot, who is tied to this world and ambitious for it, Allah asks: Knows he not when that which is in the graves is raised and that which is in the breasts made manifest? And ‘we have made every man’s actions cling to his neck… [18]

Once a man has established his connection to the One, it becomes almost second nature to accept the fates that befall him. It is a necessary journey that belongs to those who seek the pleasure of their Lord and to be freed from the burden of their worldly affairs. In the beginning verse of Ibrahim, Allah states, “A Book We have sent down to thee that thou mayest bring forth mankind from the shadows to the light by the leave of their Lord, to the path of the All-mighty, the All-laudable,” in which the see the metaphor of the movement of the human soul from darkness to light indicative of the knowledge provided by Allah as being the source of light[19]. After this is established, Allah goes further to establish that those who prefer the worldly life over the next and make God’s way crooked, are the ones in error[20]. In these cases, man is given a choice to take one path or another in which they will be responsible for the path that they pursue.

According to Jilani, true and total repentance is the first step towards spiritual evolution[21]. Repentance stems from the concepts of fear and love of Allah. The fear and love of Allah must be balanced in order for man to start the path of true repentance; this balance can be related to the wings of a bird. In order for the bird to fly true to its path, a delicate balance must be established. The wing of love is representative of the servant’s desire to seek the pleasure of his Lord and to enjoy the blessings of which have been bestowed upon him. The wing of fear is representative of the servant’s displeasure with anything that would cause the displeasure or the wrath of his Lord; in this case the servant is not necessarily fearful of his Lord but rather fearful of upsetting the one that is so dear to him. However to reach this delicate balance, Jilani refers to the Hadith of the Prophet: We have returned from a small battle to wage a great war. [22] That the real war is not of swords and death, but rather the battle of the human against the lower ego, and this does not only rely on the repetition of words but rather the constant push to fight against excessive sleep, idle talk, gluttony, jealousy, anger, resentment, etc. [23] This is the necessary step for one to seek true repentance and to move further along with spiritual purification.

Remembrance of God is key to a man’s conscious awareness to his Lord[24]. There are different levels of remembrance; some that are outward and some that are inward. Those, which are inward and directed within the soul, penetrate different levels of the soul from the exterior to the most hidden of the hidden[25]. The hidden of the hidden is deeper than what is spiritually recognized and is enclosed in a niche, waiting to be lit by the light of Allah, which is a reference back to the verse of light in the Quran (Al-Noor, verse 35). This penetration is dependent on the allowance and guidance of Allah to His servant. In this case, Jilani establishes the constant dependence of the believer on his Lord and without guidance, he will not be able to achieve any internal penetration of repentance and the soul will remain caged.

There are conditions in which the servant should seek remembrance of his Lord, starting with being in a state of purity, both spiritually and physically[26]. This begins with ablution and the recitation of the remembrance out loud then moves to the internal remembrance that is the mark of a true believer[27]. Inner supplication is the mark of a true believer and the wisdom is achieved only through guidance from Allah[28]. Allah only bestows his secrets upon the one that has been elevated to a higher spiritual level and their heart is open to receiving the guidance from Allah[29].

The importance of wishing in obtaining wisdom and truth is explained in the words of our Prophet, ‘If a person wishes to learn and acts upon his wish and studies, but dies before attaining his goal, Allah assigns him two angels as teachers who teach him divine wisdom until the Day of Judgment. The person is raised from his grave as a wise man who has obtained the truth.’ … [30]

Because actions are conditioned and tied to intentions, the wish and intention of the faithful are better and more worthy in the sight of Allah than his actions. Intentions are the foundations of actions.

Throughout his writing, Jilani emphasizes that the believer must establish a connection with the One through various means by which a believer connects with the One. It is important to note that to polish the mirror of the heart it is not only through introspection, but must also be accomplished by the action of the hand. The servant of Allah must seek to please Allah by his actions and intentions. The believer first makes the intention to seek out of the path of Allah and then goes forth to pursue that path by understanding the nature of his soul through contemplation. Contemplation is critical in the realm of the spiritual growth of the Muslim, as reflected in Jilani’s work because it requires the believer to isolate his mind, heart, and body from all things that distract (i.e. worldly matters).

Once a man has mastered introspection and reached a state of clarity within his soul, it becomes natural for the man to accept the precepts in which his Lord has established for his soul to follow. It no longer becomes a burden for the man to accept the demands of his Lord, but it rather becomes a means of displaying the love. He is no longer selfish of his actions but rather accepting of what is bestowed upon him and open to the guidance of Allah. His actions begin to be a reflection of his beliefs and introspection. The good deed is built upon a good intention and from that grows a series of actions and reactions based upon something that is blessed.

Throughout his work, Jilani has expressed the strategies by which a Muslim should approach the purification of the heart and mind; and what it will lead to. He is a classical thinker that is constantly referred to but never directly quoted or given as a primary source. It is important to note that in this work he has proved that in order for one to be in accordance with his fate, he must have a connection with the One and the only way to achieve such a bond, that if it were a bird with two wings it would fly true, the believer must learn to polish the metaphorical mirror of the soul to pick up on the light of Allah, so that the light will further illuminate their soul.


al-Jilani, Abdul Qadir. Secret of Secrets. Edited by Interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1992.

Walker, Adam hani. Abdul Qadir al-Jilani: the Rose of Baghdad. UK. date?

[1] Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, XLVII which source is this? Sheikh Tosun or Walker?

[2] Al-Haveti, XVIII

[3] Al-Havet, XLIV

[4] Walker, pg. 2

[5] Al-Havet, XVIII

[6] Al-Havet, XIX

[7] al-Jilani, XLVII

[8] al-Jilani, XLVIII

[9] al-Jilani, XLVIII

[10] al-Jilani, 13

[11] al-Jilani, 14

[12] al-Jilani, 14

[13] al-Jilani, 15

[14] al-Jilani, 15

[15] al-Jilani, 17

[16] al-Jilani, 18

[17] al-Jilani, 18

[18] al-Jilani, 16

[19] Ibrahim, Verse 1

[20] Ibrahim, Verse 2

[21] al-Jilani, 31

[22] al-Jilani, 33

[23] al-Jilani, 33

[24] al-Jilani, 45

[25] al-Jilani, 45

[26] al-Jilani, 48

[27] al-Jilani, 48

[28] al-Jilani, 49

[29] al-Jilani, 49

[30] al-Jilani, 49


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