Khamsatta 'Ashara Maktuban

(Fifteen Letters)


Prologue to Fifteen Letters


In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate (and invoking the help that only He can provide!)

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds, and may Allah bless our chief, Muhammad, as well as his family and his companions, each and every one.

Let me now explain the nature of the present work: These are fifteen letters, written by the Imam, the spiritual pole-star of Lordly attributes [al-qutb ar-rabbani], the expert teacher [ustadh], the immortal spiritual helper [al-ghawth as-samadani], the bounteous gift of merciful grace

[al-faid ar-rahmani], my chieftain and my master, Shaikh Muhyi'd-din 'Abd al-Qadir al-Hasani al-Jilani. May Allah sanctify his innermost being, and may He enable us to derive benefit from him, from his blessed qualities, and from the blessings of his vast range of knowledge. Amin.


Originally written in the Persian language, these letters comprise nuggets of wisdom and spiritual counsel, couched in various forms of allegory, metaphor, paraphrase and quotation, including approximately two hundred and seventy-five Qur'anic verses. They also contain allusions to the experiences [adhwaq] and spiritual states [halat] of the Sufis (may Allah's good pleasure be conferred upon them all).


An interesting idea presented itself to this poor beggar, 'Ali ibn Husamu'd-din, widely known as al-Muttaqi [the Devout]. It occurred to me that I might produce an Arabic version, and that I could at least translate the substantial meaning of the text, while admitting that I am poorly qualified in the art of expression, especially when it comes to translating from the rich fare provided by the leader of the experts in effective communication [asham imam ahl al-ishara]. Here is the translation I now have to offer:



The First Letter


Concerning the initial stage of the attraction exerted by the Truth [jadhbat al-Haqq], and the final stage thereof.


My dear friend!

When the lightning bolts of direct perception [shuhud] come flashing forth from the cloud-bank of the grace of:

Allah guides to His Light whomever He will.   (24:35)

yahdi 'llahu li-nuri-hi man yasha'.

--and the fragrant scents of attainment waft on the wind that blows from the gracious favor of:

He singles out for His mercy whomever He will. (3:74)

yakhtassu bi-rahmati-hi man yasha'.

--the sweet-smelling plants of intimate friendship will blossom in the meadows of our hearts, and the nightingales of longing will sing in the gardens of our spirits, with the tremulous tones of:

Oh, how I grieve for Joseph! (12:84)

ya asafa 'ala Yusuf.

The fires of yearning will smolder intensely in the stoves of our innermost beings, and the wings of the birds of our thoughts will shed their feathers, from flying too far in the vastness of sublime exaltation.


The stallions of our minds will lose their way in the deserts of intuitive knowledge, the foundations of our intellectual principles will quake from the shock of awe, and the ships of our firm intentions will lose their bearings in the depths of the oceans of:


They did not assign to Allah the attributes that are due to Him. (6:91)

wa ma qadaru 'llaha haqqa qadri-hi.


So it sailed with them in the midst of mountain-like waves. (11:42)

wa hiya tajri bi-him fi mawjin ka-'l-jibal.

--and at the moment when the waves collide in the ocean of the ardor of:

He loves them and they love Him.  (5:54)

yuhibbu-hum wa yuhibbuna-hu.

--each and every one will exclaim, in the spiritual tongue that needs no ordinary words [lisan al-hal]:

My Lord, bring me to land in a blessed harbor, for You are the Best of harborers! (23:29)

Rabbi anzil-ni munzalan mubarakan wa Anta Khairu 'l-munzilin.

So then they will receive, as a foreordained gift, the gracious favor of:

As for those to whom the [reward] most fair has already gone forth from Us.... (21:101)

inna 'lladhina sabaqat la-hum min-na 'l-husna....

--and it will bring them ashore on [Mount] Judi, a trustworthy landing site [maq'ad sidq].

It will introduce them to the sessions of the delirious ecstatics of the Day of:

"Am I not...?" (7:172)


It will spread for them the table-mat of the bounty of:

To those who do good belongs the finest--and an extra reward! (10:26)

li'lladhina ahsanu 'l-husna

--and it will pass to them the cups of attainment, filled from the jugs of nearness, by the hands of the cupbearers of:

And their Lord will quench their thirst with a pure drink. (76:21)

wa saqa-hum Rabbu-hum sharaban tahura.

They will thus be honored with the everlasting estate and the endlessly enduring fortune of:

And when you see, there you will see a state of bliss and a great domain. (76:20)

wa idha ra'aita thamma ra'aita na'iman wa mulkan kabira.



The Fifth Letter


Concerning the significance of the immediate presence [ma'iyya] of Allah (Exalted is He), and the fact that His knowledge (Exalted is He) embraces all things.


My dear friend!

When the suns of our spiritual experiences [ma'arif] rise from their points of ascension in the skies of our innermost beings, the earths of our hearts will be illumined by the light of:

And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord. (39:69)

wa ashraqati 'l-ardu bi-nuri Rabbi-ha.

--and the coverings of the darkness of ignorance will be removed from the eyes of our minds, with the ointment of:

But now We have removed from you your covering. (50:22)

fa-kashafna 'an-ka ghita'a-ka.

The eyes of our inward intellects will then be dazzled by the radiant emanations of the lights of holiness [al-quds]. Our processes of thought will wonder in amazement, at the disclosure of the marvelous secrets of the realm of the spiritual kingdom [al-malakut].

Excited by the thrill of ardent love [al-'ishq], the seeker will go a-wandering in the deserts of the quest. Then, in the sites of nearness, the raptures of yearning [ghalabat ash-shawq] will become familiar to him, and the herald of:

Allah is truly Bountiful toward mankind. (10:60)

inna 'llaha la-Dhu Fadlin 'ala 'n-nasi.

--will proclaim:

And He is with you wherever you may be. (57:4)

wa Huwa ma'a-kum aina-ma kuntum.

Once he has discovered the secret of 'togetherness' [al-ma'iyya], the seeker will lose his personal existence, in compliance with the dictate of:

And do not set together with Allah another god. (51:51)

wa la taj'alu ma'a 'llahi ilahan akhar.

As soon as he has plunged into the sea of the personal extinction [fana'] of:

No part of the matter is your concern. (3:128)

laisa la-ka mina 'l-amri shai'un.

--so that he may obtain the jewel of the affirmation of Oneness [tawhid], the waves of solicitude [ghaira] will fling him into the ocean of sublimity ['azama]. Each time he makes for the shore, in the plight of bewilderment, he must say:

My Lord, I have wronged myself, so forgive me! (28:16)

Rabbi inni zalamtu nafsi fa-'ghfir li.

--for then he will be picked up by the rescue vessels of the kind favors of:

And We have carried them on land and sea. (17:70)

wa hamalna-hum fi 'l-barri wa 'l-bahri.

--and they will set him down on the beach of the the tender kindness of:

We visit with Our mercy whom We will.  (12:56)

nusibu bi-rahmati-na man nasha'u.

They will hand him the keys to the treasure houses of the mysteries of:

And Allah is always encompassing all things. (4:126)

wa kana 'llahu bi-kulli shai'in Muhita.

--and they will point out to him the indications of:

And that unto your Lord is the final destination. (53:42)

wa anna ila Rabbi-ka 'l-muntaha.

He will thereby come to know the meaning of:

And He revealed to His servant that which He revealed. (53:10)

fa-awha ila 'abdi-hi ma awha.

--and he will understand the implication of:

Indeed, he saw one of the greatest signs of his Lord. (53:18)

la-qad ra'a min ayati Rabbi-hi 'l-kubra.


The Sixth Letter


Concerning (1) the significance of the all-compelling nature [qahhariyya] of the attraction [jadhba] exerted by the Lord of Truth (Exalted is He),

(2) compliance therewith on the part of the rebellious forces of self-will [nafsaniyya], and

(3) the occurrence of the resurrection of the spiritual traveler [qiyamat 'l-salik] in this world.


My dear friend!

When the armies of the providential ecstasies [jadhabat] of:

Allah chooses for Himself whomever He will. (42:13)

Allahu yajtabi ilai-hi man yasha'u.

--have conquered the government of our hearts, they will humble and exercise the arrogant aspirations of our domineering selves [an-nufus al-ammara] with the bridles of the training of:

And strive for Allah's sake with all the effort He deserves. (22:78)

wa jahidu fi 'llahi haqqa jihadi-h.

They will confine the tyrants of passion inside the prison of dutiful devotion [taqwa], bound in the chains of strenuous exertion [mujahada], and they will shackle the Pharaohs of desire with the fetters of:

Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. (4:59)

ati'u 'llaha wa ati'u 'r-rasula.

They will chastise the agents of our wishes and our preferences with the discipline of:

He who does wrong will have the recompense thereof. (4:123)

man ya'mal su'an yujza bi-hi.

They will completely demolish the innovations that constitute our conventional habits and customary practices, along with the foundations that support the pillars of fraud and deception. The herald of the spiritual state [munadi 'l-hal] will proclaim, in the language of veracity [lisan as-sidq]:

Kings, when they enter a township, ruin it and make the noblest of its people the lowest. (27:34)

inna 'l-muluka idha dakhalu qaryatan afsadu-ha wa ja'alu a'izzata ahli-ha adhilla.

The courtyard of our hearts will thus be purified and cleansed of the stain made by the filthy refuse of the house of:

If anyone desires anything other than Islam as a religion, it will never be accepted of him. (3:85)

wa man yabtaghi ghaira 'l-islami dinan fa-lan yuqbala min-h.

--the gardens of our spirits will acquire a fragrance from the breezes of the gracious favors of:

He whom Allah guides, he is indeed the one who is guided aright. (7:178)

man yahdi 'llahu fa-huwa 'l-muhtadi.

--the surfaces of the leaves of our innermost beings will be engraved with the calligraphic markings of the subtleties of:

As for such, He has written faith upon their hearts. (58:22)

ula'ika kataba fi qulubi-himu 'l-imana.

--and the lamp of our consciences will become the mirror of the lightning bolts of direct vision, through the shining rays of the lights of:

And Allah will perfect His light. (61:8)

wa 'llahu mutimmu nuri-hi.

The spiritual state of the seeker will then fit the description of how it is to be:

On the day when the earth will be changed to other than this earth.  (14:48)

yawma tubaddalu 'l-ardu ghaira 'l-ardi.

The seemingly unshakable mountains of his ardent yearnings will disintegrate into scattered particles of dust [haba'an manthura], and he will say with the tongue of truthfulness:

And you will see the mountains, which you suppose to be solidly fixed, flying by with the flight of clouds. (27:88)

wa tara 'l-jibala tahsabu-ha jamidatan wa hiya tamurru marra 's-sahab.

The Israfil of intense love ['ishq] will blow the trumpet of:

And the Trumpet will be blown. (39:68)

wa nufikha fi 's-suri.

--until there is no longer any mystery about the stunning cause of:

So whoever is in the heavens and whoever is in the earth will swoon away. (39:68)

fa-sa'iqa man fi 's-samawati wa man fi 'l-ardi.

Then, just in time, the announcer of the good fortune of:

The greatest terror will not grieve them. (21:103)

la yahzunu-humu 'l-faza'u 'l-akbaru.

--will arrive to reinvigorate them. He will summon them to the highest heaven ['Illiyyun], a sure abode [maq'ad sidq]. As he delivers the glad tidings of:

Good news for you this day. (57:12)

bushra-kumu 'l-yawma.

--he will open for them the gates of the Gardens of Delight, and he will say:

Peace be upon you. Well you have fared, so enter in, to dwell therein forever. (39:73)

salamun 'alai-kum tibtum fa-'dkhulu-ha khalidin.

--and they will say: 

Praise be to Allah, who has fulfilled His promise to us, and has caused us to inherit the land, for us to make our dwelling wherever we will in the Garden [of Paradise]. How splendid is the wage of those who labor! (39:74)

al-hamdu li'llahi 'lladhi sadaqa-na wa'da-hu wa awratha-na 'l-arda natabawwa'u min al-jannati haithu nasha': fa-ni'ma ajru al-'amilin.



The Ninth Letter


Concerning the incentive to seek the companionship of the righteous [suhbat al-abrar] and the fruits thereof, and to practice abstinence [zuhd] from this world.


My dear friend!

You must turn aside from the tempting urges of carnal appetites:

And follow not desire, lest it lead you astray from Allah's path. (38:26)

wa la tattabi'i 'l-hawa fa-yudilla-ka 'an 
sabili 'llah.

--and depart from the dwellings of heedless neglect:

And do not obey someone whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance. (18:28)

wa la tuti' man aghfalna qalba-hu 'an dhikri-na.

--and shun the companionship of hard-hearted folk:

But woe unto those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah.  (18:28)

fa-wailun li'l-qasiyati qulubu-hum min dhikri 'llah.

You must hear, with the ears of your heart, from the summoner of:

Respond to your Lord, before there comes a day from Allah that cannot be turned back. (42:47)

istajibu li-Rabbi-kum min qabli an ya'tiya yawmun la maradda la-hu mina 'llah.

--the summons of:

Is not the time now ripe for the hearts of those who believe to be humbled to the Remembrance of Allah? (57:16)

a-lam ya'ni li'lladhina amanu an takhsha'a qulubu-hum li-dhikri 'llahi.  

You must wake up from the sleep of delusion:

And do not let the Deceiver deceive you in regard to Allah. (31:33)

wa la yaghurranna-kum bi-'llahi 'l-Gharur.

--in response to the admonition:

What, does man suppose that he will be left to wander aimlessly? (75:36)

a-yahsabu 'l-insanu an yutraka suda.

You must inquire about the stations of the people of present awareness:

Men whom neither commerce nor trafficking diverts from the remembrance of Allah. (24:37)

rijalun la tulhi-him tijaratun wa la bai'un 'an dhikri 'llahi.

You must journey toward the Ka'ba of the intended destination, on the foot of the head, in the desert of the dedication of:

And devote yourself to Him with intense devotion. (73:8)

wa tabattal ilai-hi tabtila.

--with the traveling provision of:

Say "Allah!," then leave them [to their idle prattling]. (6:91)

quli 'llahu thumma dhar-hum[fi khawdi-him yal'abun].

--and on the riding camel of the commitment of:

And I commit my affair to Allah. (40:44)

wa ufaw widu amri ila 'llah.

--with the caravan of the truthful people of:

And be with the faithful. (9:119)

wa kunu ma'a 's-sadiqin.

You must pass beyond the dwellings of the vanities of the world of:

We have set all that is on the earth as an adornment for it. (18:7)

inna ja'alna ma 'ala 'l-ardi zinatan la-ha.  

--and keep a safe distance from the perilous roads of the temptations of:

Your wealth and your children are merely a temptation. (64:15)

innama amwalu-kum wa awladu-kum fitna.

You must head for the routes that follow the courses of the guidance of:

This is surely a Reminder; so whoever is willing, let him choose a way to his Lord. (73:19)

inna hadhihi tadhkira: fa-man sha'a 'ttakhadha ila Rabbi-hi sabila.

--and offer a supplication with the tongue of the urgent need of:

Is it not He who answers the distressed, when he calls unto Him? (27:62)

am-man yujibu 'l-mudtarra idha da'a-hu.

--by saying, in humble entreaty and with a sense of personal incapacity:

Guide us in the straight path. (1:5)

ihdina 's-sirata 'l-mustaqim.

--until the herald of the ancient providential favor of:

As for the friends of Allah, surely no fear shall be upon them, nor shall they grieve. (10:62)

a-la inna awliya'a 'llahi la khawfun 'alai-him wa la hum yahzanun.

--comes to meet you with the good tidings of the salutation of:

"Peace!"-such is the greeting from a Lord All-Compassionate. (36:58)

salam: qawlan min Rabbin Rahim.

--and carries you on the packhorse [janiba] of:

Help from Allah and a victory near at hand. (61:13)

nasrun mina 'llahi wa fathun qarib.

--and invites you to enter the Gardens of the bliss of:

So they returned with grace and favor from Allah. (3:174)

fa-'nqalabu bi-ni'matin mina 'llahi wa fadlin.

Then the breeze of the fragrant aroma of loving union [wisal] will blow from every side. The goblets of the drink of loving affection [mahabba] will be passed around by the hands of the cupbearers of the Unseen [suqat al-ghaib], and the bearer of direct witness [mushahid ash-shuhud] will declare:

Behold, this is a reward for you. And your endeavor [upon earth] has found acceptance. (76:22)

inna hadha kana la-kum jaza'an wa kana sa'yu-kum mashkura.

By night, the entertainer of intimate friendship [munadim al-uns] will weave the fascinating tale [samar] of:

And Allah spoke directly to Moses. (4:164)

wa kallama 'llahu Musa taklima.

He will paint such a vivid picture, in his elaboration of the scenario of:

Then, when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain, [He caused it to crumble to dust]. (7:143)

fa-lamma tajalla Rabbu-hu li'l-jabali [ja'ala-hu dakkan.

--that his audience will experience, through the optic nerves of their perceptive faculties [nawazir 'uyun al-basa'ir], the delirious raptures [sakarat] of the spiritual states [halat] of:

And Moses fell down swooning. (7:143)

wa kharra Musa sa'iqa.

Then, when they see for themselves the effects of the visions of:

Faces on that day will be resplendent, looking toward their Lord. (75:22,23)

wujuhun yawma'idhin nadira: ila Rabbi-ha nazira.

--they will confess their personal inadequacy, and they will say, in the spiritual language that needs no ordinary words [bi-lisan al-hal]:

The eyes do not perceive Him, but He perceives the eyes. (6:103)

la tudriku-hu 'l-absaru wa Huwa yudriku 'l-absar.