Article 5

Ranks of Wilayah

(By: Muftī AbU al-Hammād Muhammad Israfīl Haidarī Madārī)

The wilāyah of the Muslim saints is a fact established by the clear text of the Holy Qur’ān and hadīth. They hold, however, different ranks according to the Qur’ānic statement “some of them We caused to exceed others”. Walī, Abtāl, Qutub, Ghauth, Amāmān, Autād, Nuqabā, Nujabā, Umadā, Maktūmān, Akhyār, Abdāl, Abrār, Qutub al-Irshād, Ghauth al-A’zam, Qutub al-Aqtāb, Qutub al-Madār, Afrād and Fard al-Afrād; all these are the different ranks of the wilayah.

Four Ranks of Wilayah:
In Hidāyat al-A’mā, Shaikh Husain Kashmīrī writes: Let it be not remain hidden that the wilayah has four ranks:

  1. Sughrā (minor).
  2. Wustā (middle).
  3. Kubrā (big).
  4. Uzmā (great).

Each of the Three ranks has three sub-categories:

  1. Bidāyah (initial).
  2. Wast (middle).
  3. Nihāyah (final).

Thus, the wilayah may be divided into twelve ranks. bidāyah wilayah sughrā (initial stage of the minor sainthood) includes all the believers. Abtāl stand at nihāyah wilayah  sughrā (the final stage of the minor sainthood). Abdāl stand atbidāyah wilayah wustā (initial stage of the middle rank of sainthood). Saiyāh hold wast wilayah wustā (middle stage of middle sainthood). Autād stand at nihāyah wilayah wustā (final stage of the middl sainthood), Ghauth and Qutub atbidāyah wilayah  kubrā (initial stage of the big sainthood) and Qutub al-Aqtab at wast and nihāya of wilayah kubrā(middle and final stage of the big sainthood). The rank of bidāya wilayah uzmā (initial stage of the great sainthood) is specified with al-khualafā al-rashidūn (the four rightly guided caliphs), while the rank of wast and nihāyah (the middle and final stage of the great sainthood) is only the good fortune of the Prophet (saws).

Number and Ranks of the Saint (at Service)

The ranks of the saints at service are different and they are never less than 356 (three hundred and fifty six) in number. The first rank is held by three hundred and three saints who refuted the ways of lust and sensuality. They are, in the terminology of mysticism, called Abtāl (the refuters).

Second rank is held by forty persons. They substituted their evil habits with praiseworthy manners. (It means they adopted the Divine attributes, as it is said: “Be characterized by the attributes of Allāh (swt) and acquire the divinely characters.” This is the reason why they are called Abdāl (the substitutes).

Third rank is held by seven persons who are called the Saiyāh (the travelers). They are always engaged in travelling for settling the affairs of the creatures by the order and will of Allāh (swt). No one of these three hundred forty three persons holds the rank of Irshād (reform). So, they cannot, except settling things, given spiritual benefit to anyone. The remaining nine persons hold the position of Irshād. Even they hold different ranks among them for spiritual perfection of the imperfect humans. The first five persons of this category are called Autād (pegs). Three of the remaining four include Ghauth (guide), Qutub (pole) al-Autād and Qutub al-Irshād. The last one is called Qutub al-Aqtāb who is very close to the Prophet (saws) and directly avail benefits from him. He also plays a mediator of all the creatures of the entire world to avail benefits. (Hidayat al-A’ma: pp. 98-99)

Popular kinds of the Saints:
In Tadhkirah Ghauthiyah, Ghauth Alī Shāh Qalandar Panīpatī writes that there are many kinds of the saints. There exact number is, although, not known to anyone except Allāh, the following are famous: Qutub al-Madar, Sufi al-Waqt and Sufi ibn al-Waqt. (Tadhkirah Ghauthiyah with new supplements)

Explaining the term Maktūmān, Dātā Ganj Bakhsh Hajwerī says: “Four thousands among the saints are those who always remain in secrecy. They neither recognize each other, nor are they aware of their own merit and quality. Their reality remains concealed from themselves as well as from others. Numerous ahādīth are narrated in this regard, and also the statements of the mystic persons substantiate this view. This reality has even been disclosed to me, by the grace of Allāh (swt).” (Kashf al-Mahjub Urdu: p. 312)

“My friends (saints) are under My clock. No one recognizes them except Me.”

Dātā Ganj Bakhsh says that the saints who serve as the troops of the Divine Throne and discharge the responsibility of solving the difficulties and closing the solved affairs make three hundred in number. They are called Akhyār (the chosen ones).

Abdāl, Abrār, Autād, Nuqabā, Qutub and Ghauth:
Forty of them are called Abdāl, seven of them Abrār (the righteousones), four of them Autād, three of them Nuqabā and one of them Qutub and Ghauth. The Prophet (saws) is reported to have said in a hadīth:

“Verily, there are three hundred Divine saints among the creatures. Their hearts are on the heart of Adam; the hearts of forty among them on the heart of Musa, the hearts of seven among them on the heart of Ibrahim, the heart of five among them on the heart of Gabriel, the hearts of three among them on the heart of Michael and the heart of one of them on the heart of Israfil. When the one of them passes away, anyone from the immediate three juniors fills the vacuum. Likewise, when anyone of the three dies, someone from the five immediate juniors fills the vacuum; the same way, the vacuum of the five is filled from the forty, and that of forty from the three hundred and that of the three hundred from the common believers. Among them (the three hundred) are those who (with the permission of Allāh) perform their parts in birth, death, rain, growth of crops and removal of the calamities.” (Narrated by Abu Nuaim in al-Hilyah and Ibn Asakir from Abdullah Ibn Masood)

Ranks and the Positions of the saints (at Service):
The author of Al-Dur al-Munazzam too has given a list of the ranks and position of the saint at service. This list along with being informative is rather detailed. The first rank known as Qutubityat (p. 58), second rank is that of Ghauth (p. 68), third is that of Amāmān. They live along with the Qutubs without any minister. (p. 71) The fourth rank is that of Autād. Istelāhāt Kashī reads that Autād are the four persons whose positions are the four directions of the world: East, West, North and South. Through them, Allāh (swt) keeps the four directions safe and secure. These very directions are in the eyes of Allāh (swt). Latāif Ashrafī also gives the same idea. They exist in every age. They are neither increased in number, nor are they decreased. The saint appointed on the Eastern position is named Abdul Hai, that appointed on Western position is called Abdul Alīm, that on the Southern direction Abdul Qādir and that on the Northern direction Abdul Murīd. (p. 72) The book reads on page 73 that these Autād are the deputy to the Qutub of the entire world.

The fifth rank is held by Nuqabā. Istelāhāt Kashī reads that these are appointed on spiritual affairs. They get informed on the hidden spiritual and inner affairs of the people.  Jamey al-Usūl reads that Nuqabā are twelve in number, as the Holy Qur’ān says: when We sent out twelve naqibs (leaders) from among them.” The author of Behr al-Ma’ānī writes that the all the Nuqabā are named Alī. Fāteh reads that they are twelve persons who are aware of the inner affairs of man. Their number, according to Khatīb and Ibn Asākri, is three hundred. The same view is expressed in Latāif Ashrafī as well. This view is actually expressed by the author of Fusūs and his followers. (p. 73)

The sixth rank is held by Nujabā. They are, as suggested by Istelāhāt Kashī and Mutammimāt Jamey al-Usūl, forty in number. They live to settle and reform the affairs of the creatures in the world. They make disposal only in the rights of the creatures. Khatīb narrates in his History of Baghdad from a book that they are seventy in number. Iqtibās al-Anwār too suggests that they are seventy and their name is Hasan. Some people opine that the Nujabā are forty in number. They are the holy men living for the reform of the sea and the plane. Fawāteh reads that they are eight in number busy in settling the things for the creatures. Shaikh Kamāluddīn Abdur Razzāque opines that they are forty. He opines about the Nuqabā that they are three hundred. Jamey al-Uūl opines that the Nujabā, in accordance with the number of the heavens and the kursī, are eight. They are aware of the situations of the stars. They visit all the seven heavens miraculously, not with the help of the astrology. The rank of the Nuqabā is higher than that of them, as they are aware of the situations of the Nujabā, secrets of the stars, Throne and the Kursī. (p. 73)

Seventh rank is held by the Umadā. They are four in number, as opined by Ibn Asākir and Khatīb. Iqtbās al-Anwār reads that they are named as Muhammad and live in the corners of the earth. Zubdatul A’māl reads that the number of the Nuqabā, as stated by Shaikh Abu Bakr Kattānī, goes to three hundred, the number of Nujabā to seventy, the number of Abdāl to forty, the number of Akhyār to seven, the number of Umadā to four, while the Ghauth and Qutub is only one. Nuqabā stay in the west, Nujabā in Egypt, Abdāl in Syria, while Akhyār keep on wandering. Umadā live in the corners of the earth. When people need something, Naqabā are the first to supplicate, then Nujabā, then Abdāl, then Akhyār and at last Umadā. If this supplication is answered, it is good and fine; otherwise there comes the Ghauth and Qutub to supplicate. (Dur al-Munazzam: p. 74)

Note: Ghauth and Qutub never supplicate for something against the al-qadā al-mubram (fixed destiny).

Eighth rank is held by Maktūmān. Latāif Ashrafī reads that they are four thousands in number who are concealed in the gown of chastity and honor. They always live in the world, but do not recognize one another, nor are they aware of their own status. In every case, they are hidden from themselves as well as from the creatures. (Dur al-Munazzam: p. 72) It is they about whom it is said: “My friends are under My gown. No one except Me recognizes them.” Dātā Ganj Bakhsh has also explained the term Maktūmān as such. (Kashf: p. 312)

At the night rank there come the Akhyār. They are, according to the statement of Ibn Asākir and Khatīb, seven in number. Kashf al-Mahjūb suggests that they are three hundred. Some say they are eighteen, while some others say that they are seven. They are the deputy of the Throne of God. They keep on wandering and stay at nowhere.

Tenth rank is held by Abrār They are seven; while some say they are six.

Eleventh rank is held by Afrād or Mufradūn. These are the persons away from the eyes of the Qutub, as Istelāhāt Kāshī and Mutammimāt Jamey al-Usūl suggest. “Being away from the eyes of the Qutub” does not mean that the Qutub and Ghauth are not aware of their position. Instead, it means that they are not in need to consult the Qutub in regards with the world affairs, as the Abdāl, Autād, Akhyār and others are. They are exempted of these injunctions, but they do follow their instructions. The author of Futūhāt Makkīyah writes that Mafradūn are the group of persons away from the hierarchy of the Qutub. Khidr (as) too is among the Mufradūn. Even the Prophet (saws) was among them before his advent. The author of Behr al-Ma’āni writes that the Fard reaches the heart of the Prophet (saws) and achieves the position of the beloved found on real Qutubiyat and then becomes the Qutub Wahdat. Syed Shah Bāsit Alī Qalandarī Allahabādī says that Fard is a saint who gets benefit from Allāh (swt) without mediation of the Qutub al-Aqtab. Fard is a beloved who after achieving this position acquires the status of beloved. Fard al-Afrād holds the utmost position of the sainthood in the ummah of the Prophet (saws). There is not rank of sainthood above him. (p. 75)

Twelfth rank is held by Abdāl. In Madārij al-Nubūwah, Shaikh Abdul Haque Muhaddith Dehlavī says that it is one of the features of the ummah of Prophet Muhammad (saws) that there exist Aqtāb, Autād, Nujabā, Nuqabā and Abdāl. Allāmah Jalaluddīn al-Suyūtī wrote a special booklet on the same topic by the name “Al-Khabār al-Dāl alā Wujūdi al-Qutub wal Autād wal Nujabā wal Abdāl”.

Abdāl plays a role in raining

The Messenger of Allāh (saws) is reported to have said that Abdāl live in Syria and are forty in number. When someone of them passes away, Allāh (swt) fills the vacuum by someone else. “(Allāh) causes it to rain through them, helps through them against the enemies and turns away the calamities from the people of Syria through them.” (Related by Ahmad on the authority of Alī with a sound chain of narrators)

Ibn Asākir relates that “(Allāh) turns away the calamities and drowning from the people of the earth through them.” The Prophet (saws) is reported to have said that Abdāl live in Syria. People are helped and given livelihood through them. (Narrated by al-Tabarānī in al-Kabīr on the authority of Auf ibn Mālik and in al-Awsat on the authority of Alī. Both the narrations have sound chains of narrators.)

Also al-Tabarānī relates in al-Awsat from Anas ibn Mālik (ra) and Ibn Hibbān in his history from Abū Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (saws) said: “The earth did not get empty from forty persons.” in the narration of Abū Hurairah “from thirty persons similar to Ibrāhīm, the friend of Allāh (in merits and qualities). Through them, you will get rain, through them you will get assistance, through them, your plea will be heard, through them, you will receive livelihood.”

A yet another narration reads: “Through them, Allāh turns away calamites from the people of the earth. They are called Abdāl.” (Related by Abū Nuaim fi al-Hilyah on the authority ofAbdullāh ibn Masūd)

The booklet of Allāmah Sakhāvi “Nazm al-lal fil kalām alā hadīth al-Abdāl” on the glory of Abdāl is worth reading.