Tai al-Ard and Imdad (Folding of the Earth and Spiritual Support)
Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
The purpose of this article will be to discuss Tai al-Ard’ (folding of the earth) and the abilities of Imdad (Spiritual Support) and which have been granted by Allah SWT to His Servants employed in use to serve the Ummah of His Beloved SAW. The latter stands for the ability of the Awliya to be able to travel through the earth, being present in several places (or just a place) at the same time (for example, being in England yet being in Makkah simultaneously). The former is the ability for the Awliya to help the one in distress irrespective of time, for example, Sayyidna Abdul Qadir Jilani QS is able to help those in distress living in this era despite his passing from this world centuries ago. Thus, these Awliya exist in ‘realms beyond space’: time and physical geography does not restrict them, as they are in the presence of the Messenger SAW, being granted abilities to serve the Ummah beyond what the normal person drowning in his nafs can achieve. Instead, they swim in the ocean of “HU”, as Sultan Bahu writes, “HU within; HU without”.
Only those who abide in realms beyond space
Deserve to be called ‘faqir’, O Bahu
– Sultan Bahu (d.1691)
We may, therefore, be able to put the ability of ‘tai al-ard’ under the general heading of ‘imdad’ (spiritual support) which the Awliya are able to render unto us. In turn, the ability of this spiritual support falls under the category of service to the Ummah of the Prophet SAW, and let us never forget that! There are no limits for the faqeer, Alhumdulilah, as there are no limits to the abilities of the Messenger SAW! Still, there are those with a disease in their hearts who may seek to confuse others about such matters, largely due to their nefarious jealousy they feel towards the Awliya, and their own lack of faith in the power of Islam and May Allah SWT save us from such sentiments! )
Foremost, Allah SWT has declared in His Holy Book,
He it is Who hath placed you as viceroys of the earth and hath exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by (the test of) that which He hath given you. Lo! Thy Lord is swift in prosecution, and Lo! He verily is Forgiving, Merciful. (Sura al-Anam, Ayat 165)
We affirm that the ability of Imdad stands as a proof of the: (1) rank of the Awliya and (2) favor granted to them by Allah SWT. It is recorded in a saying of the Messenger SAW:
When anyone loses something or needs help in a deserted land let him say: O servants of Allah, help me! O servants of Allah, help me! (ya `ibad Allah, aghithuni, ya `ibad Allah, aghithuni). For Allah has servants we do not see.”
The Shafi’i scholar Muhammad ibn Allan (d. 1647), in explaining as to whom these ‘servants of Allah’ were, is reported to have said:[al-Qari] said in al-Hirz [al-Thamin]: ‘What is meant by them [the Servants of Allah] is the angels, or the Muslim jinn, or the men of the unseen world who are named al-Abdal.
The above establishes firmly that the Awliya i.e. the Abdal, the Aqtaab etc., have the ability to hear this ‘calling out’ and subsequently assist thereof. In what capacity do they now assist? We may recall the famous incident where our Master Umar ibn al Khattab (RA) called out to the Commander Sariya bin Zaneem (RA). Our Master Umar was delivering the khutbah just before the Friday prayers in Madinah. Suddenly he cried (thrice), “O Sariya the mountain!” The people looked at one another (in wonderment). After the prayer, `Umar was asked the reason for his shouting. He said that he had seen the battlefield and found that Sariya and his army were about to be defeated and that they were near a mountain which, if they kept to the mountainside they would be able to face the enemy one-on-one, and therefore, he had shouted. After one month passed, a messenger came from Sariya (RA) and told that they had heard `Sayyidina ‘Umar’s voice calling, “O Sariya, the mountain!” so Sariya diverted his forces towards the mountainside, thus getting into a better position and he was able to defeat the enemy. Abu Nu’aym (d. 1038) mentions this incident in his Dalail an-Nubuwwah , a book later expanded by Imam Bayhaqi (d. 1066), amongst other historians and scholars. This state of awareness of our Master Umar RA is reflective of the state of the ‘Murshid Kamil’ or ‘Insaan Kamil’, which is, in turn, inextricably linked to the ‘tai al-ard’ ability under spiritual support. Sultan Bahu writes in Kaleedul Tawheed:
Murshid Kamil is aware of every physical and spiritual condition of the Seekers. He knows what the Seekers say or do, what is their status regarding their spiritual journeys to the ultimate Closeness of Allah. He is also aware of all their feelings, ideas and arguments. The Murshid has got such a spiritual excellence that the Seekers always feel him omnipresent and omnipotent.
Because the Murshid Kamil is aware of the conditions of the disciple, he is thus able to assist, regardless of the physical distance as we understand in the case of the Companion Sariya and Umar. What about a restriction in time? SayyidnaAbdul Qadir Jilani QS stated once, “ If a person in distress or hardships calls out to me, his hardship will be eradicated. If a person uses my name as his Wasila (medium) and pleads to Allah, his need will be fulfilled.” He also instructed a particular wazifa of obtaining his support, by performing two units of prayer, each unit consisting of reciting Surah Fatiha eleven times and Surah Ikhlas eleven times. Upon completion, reciting Salawat upon the Prophet, and proceed eleven steps towards Baghdad, invoking the name of Sayyidna Abdul Qadir Jilani QS with the particular need and wish. This practice has been authenticated by several scholars, Shaykh Abdul Haq Dehlavi (d. 1642) being one of them. Moreover, this prescription of Sayyidna Abdul Qadir Jilani has not been restricted and can be performed by anyone at any given time or location.
“The friends of Allāh can be in several places at one moment and can even have few likenesses of body simultaneously.”
- Mulla Ali al-Qari (d.1605) in al-Mirqat
Our Master Ibrāhīm al-Disouqī rađiyAllāhu ánhu gave a sermon and led the Jumu’ah [Friday] prayer in fifty different places. Similarly, our Master Muĥammad al-Khađarī rađiyAllāhu ánhu led the Friday prayer in different parts of Surus [name of a city] at one time.
“One of the miracles [Karāmat] of our Master ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Shatutī rađiyAllāhu ánhu [not to be confused with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī rađiyAllāhu ánhu] was that he spent a night at his disciple’s house on a small island in front of the Egyptian park named Rawdat al-Miqyās. In the same night, he stayed over at someone else’s house in another city. Both hosts gave him milk to drink and stayed with him.
“Meanwhile, there was another group of people who narrated that king Qatbā’i before leaving to travel to Aleppo [Humus, Syria] King Qatbā’i sought permission from ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Shatutī rađiyAllāhu ánhu. He reached Aleppo where he found the Shaykh lying on a bed with a deteriorating health. The people said to the king that the Shaykh has been in this state for the last one year; whereas the king met him a month ago in Egypt in a very healthy state.
- Imam Sha’rani (d. 1565) in Kitab al-Jawahir wa al-Durar
Returning to Tai al-Ard, we read from the noble scholar Imam Abdul Wahhab Sha’rani (d. 1565) in his “Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra” how a Mureed of Sayyidi Mohammed Khawri (radi Allahu anhu) was once passing through the market, when the foot of the animal he was riding slipped. In extreme panic he screamed, “Ya Sayyidi Muhammad, Ya Ghamri!” Co-incidently, in that very market place, the captured ruler ibn Omar Sa’eed was also passing through. He inquired from the Mureed as to who was Sayyidi Mohammed. When he was told who he was, he asked permission to use the name of the Murshid so that he could also be released. As soon as he had proclaimed the name of the great Wali, the spiritual master appeared and driving away the capturers, freed the ruler. The Shaikh then blessed the ruler, and thereafter departed.
This is an interesting incident to read hand-in-hand with the example of Sayyidna Umar for in the latter case, our Master Umar assists from afar without being physically present, yet it is as if the earth has ‘folded up’ for him to see the Companion Sariya and his army (as if he was physically present), and then proceeded to help. In the former case, the Saint appears physically to assist a mureed in distress i.e. the Murshid is able to travel through earth appearing physically. Imam Sharani also mentions about Sayyidi Musa Abu Imraan (radi Allahu anhu), and how it is recorded that whenever his Mureeds used to call to him, he immediately use to assist them, even though the Mureed was as far away as a year’s journey or even more.
But, let us re-affirm that the Awliya do not have to be physically present somewhere necessarily to support as we saw in the case of Sayyidna Umar. They can also, remain present in their own location. Imam Sha’rani mentions how Sayyidi Madeen Ahmed Ashmooni (radi Allahu anhu) was performing the Wudhu, he suddenly threw his sandal towards the Eastern side of the city. A year later a man arrived and described a strange incident. He said: “My daughter was once walking in the jungle, when an evil man tried to entrap her. She did not at the time remember the name of her father’s Murshid, yet in panic, she screamed, ‘O Murshid of my father, save me!’. Suddenly, a sandal appeared from thin air and rendered the evil man unconscious.” This is an interesting story that ties into Tai al-Ard also. It demonstrates that the Awliya can send something ( in this case, a sandal) also to assist the seeker, being fully conscious of the facts of a situation.
Another incident mentions Shaykh Shamsudeen Mohammed Hanafi ibn Tulun (d. 1548 ). He was a renowned Hanafi Scholar of the late Mamluk and early Ottoman period. It is recorded that while performing Wudhu, he removed his sandal and threw it with tremendous fury and it disappeared into thin air. He then removed his other sandal and advised one of his Mureeds to retain it until such time that the first sandal was returned. After some time a traveler from Syria arrived with the missing sandal and some gifts for the Shaykh. He then narrated that while he was travelling, he was attacked by a highwayman, who overpowered him and wanted to slit his throat. Under this extreme situation he called out aloud, “Ya Sayyidi Muhammad, Ya Hanafi.” Suddenly, a sandal appeared from thin air and struck the robber. This Mureed then stated that it was indeed through the Wasila and power of his Murshid that he had been saved.
We end this discussion with a Fatwa from the Hanafi Mufti of Makkah, Shaykh Jamal ibn Abd Allah al-Makki (d. 1865) whom was asked about those people who proclaim in times of difficulty, “Ya Rasoolullah, Ya Ali, Ya Sheikh Abdul Qaadir” as to these proclamations being permissible in Islam. The great scholar replied: “Yes, these proclamations are permissible, to call to them is permissible including using their names as Wasilas. This is permissible in the light of the Shari’ah. Such an act is desirable and approved. Only those individuals who are stubborn and arrogant would oppose or question this reality, and they certainly are unfortunate and deprived of the Barakaat (blessing) of the Awliya Allah.”
It is amazing that we live in an era where the real innovators of our time whole-heartedly believe in the power of the Western world: that the Western governments can spy on you so intimately that they hear and see everything and can kill someone from miles away via the technology at their disposal. This same unfortunate group purporting themselves to be the real ‘followers’, have no doubt in the power of the West. Yet, when they are presented with the proofs of the Awliya Allah, they laugh and mock at these narrations, not seeing the hypocrisy within themselves. These people who advocate so strongly for fighting shirk therefore believe in the power of the West, but deny the power of Islam! Who, then, is really in denial of the power of Allah? Who, then, is really attributing partners to Allah? Alhumdulilah, the People of Tasawwuf are firm in their Aqeedah that all that is in the disposal of the Awliya come from Allah SWT, which they in turn use for the benefit of this Ummah. May Allah SWT not make us to be deprived of the blessings of the Awliya Allah, and their spiritual support, Ameen!