Kashmir Sufi Perspective

Spiritual Hierarchy

Dr Qazi Haroon
Kashmir from time immemorial has been an abode of mystics and saints. Godly men and women have left their imprint on its religious and social fabric. The most important reason was the geography and suitable climatic conditions required for certain spiritual practices that a number of mystics came to this place. From kashap reshi to recent seers, Kashmir has welcomed all.
The process of divine functionaries is actually a concept propagated by a very few and known to a very selective beings at a given time. It includes the hierarchy of divine functionaries that God deploys in world who are given respective mundane areas and have specific functions almost identical to ones found in administration run by humans who run earthly administrative affairs.
A lot of Sufi dervishes as well as seers have been instrumental in creating a separate science which deals with the laws of divinity. Ghaus ul Azam Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani in his book Futuh al Ghaib (The revelations of the unseen discourse) writes “Knowledge of the reality of things has been kept from you under wraps, and you have been kept from it behind a screen. So do not misbehave yourself, whatever your likes or dislikes. Follow the sacred law in whatever may befall you, if you are in the state of piety [taqwa] which is the first step. Follow direct orders, without exceeding them, if you are in the state of consecration [wilaya] and the extinction of desire [khumud wujud al-hawa], which is the second step. Harmonize gladly with the divine action and become totally absorbed in the state of Badaliyya, Ghawthiyya, Qutbiyya and Siddiqiyya, which are the ultimate stages.”
He clearly identifies the role of Badaliyya (Abdal) Ghawthiya (Ghaus) Qutubiyya (Qutub) and Siddiqiya (Sidiq) into different categories of spiritual administrators who look after the spiritual matters and are directly responsible for earthly affairs and control of governments at a given time.
Shaykh Hakim Tirmidhi (d. 320), a faqih and muhaddith of Khurasan and one of the great early authors of Sufism whom Sidi Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi (d. 636/1221) particularly quotes, the Prophet (PBUH) has the highest rank in creation and at the same time he is the final messenger of the divine law. His true successors are forty chosen men through whom God communicates with men after the death of the Holy Prophet. These forty saints are the guarantors of the proper application of the Divine law; they thus guarantee the existence of the world as such. God has conferred upon them inspiration, clairvoyance, the performance of wonders and freedom from sin. A certain Gnostic was once asked about the “saints of sustenance” (Awliya al-Madad): Are their numbers ever reduced by one? He replied, “If their numbers were reduced by (even) one, the heavens would not sent down their rain, nor would the earth bring forth its vegetation.”
Shaykh al-Akbar in his famous Futuhat al-Makkiyah records in the 157th section of the 31st chapter as follows: The seven (7) Abrar are known as Abdal, who are appointed the Wilayat (control) of the seven sections of this earth. They are seven (7) selected ones and blessed with enormous duty by Allah. They protect these seven regions with great exactitude. Shaykh al-Akbar also says that he met them in the scared Haram of Makkah al-Mukarrama. He greeted them and they replied to him and also had a discussion with them. Shaykh al-Akbar states that he had not found anyone more attractive and handsome than them neither had he seem anyone more absorbed in Ibadah than them. Shaykh then said:”Yes! I did certainly meet one person similar to them in a town called Konya.”
Shaykh al-Akbar divides the ranks of the saints into the following categories:
•    Al-Ghawth, the grand Qutb, who controls everything in existence. “Know that the entire existence is being preserved (or protected) through the Qutb.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383)
•    The four Awtad, who control the four comers of the universe on behalf of al-Ghawth. “Through the Awtad, Allah perseveres and protects the south, the north, the east and the west.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383)
•    The seven Abdal as whenever one of them passes away, another Badal (replacement) is appointed in his place. Each of the Abdal controls one of the seven continents, again on behalf of al-Ghawth. “Through the Abdal, Allah protects the seven continents.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383) ‘The action of the seven pivots is under the command of the Ghawt, and each of them has under him a special group which acts on his behalf.” (Shaykh Sidi Abdellaziz Debbagh)
•    An-Nujaba (honorable, chosen ones) who control the individual cities. “Know that every city or province has its own Qutb (meaning Najib)…” (Al-Yawaqhit wal-Jawahir, Ibn Arabi, v.2 p. 83).
All in all, the following are details of groups of saints living on earth at any given time.
There are at any given time 4,000 Awliya living on earth. They are not known and recognized by the general public. In fact, amongst them one does not know the other and they themselves are not aware of the validity of their actions and devotion. All these are hidden from them and the general public.
Three hundred from this group are statesmen involved in the administration of this world. They control all transaction in the universe. They are the leaders of all pious people in the Divine Court of Allah. They are known as Akhyar.
Amongst these 300, there are 40 who are known as Abdal.
Amongst these 40, seven are Abrar.
Amongst these 7, four are Awtad.
Amongst these 4, three are Nuqaba.
Amongst these 3, one is known as the Ghawth or Qutb. He is the most senior of them all and the Head and Chairperson of the spiritual assembly.
To be continued….