A great Sunni Muslim scholar and saint, Abd al-Qādir Jīlānī (AD 1077–1166), was born south of the Caspian Sea in the area of Gilān in northern Iran. His writings and his explanation of how to reach the apex of piety and see success in human spiritual endeavor serve as a guiding light to a great multitude. A story from his early life has been related for centuries.
As he grew up, his interest in learning and scholarship increased. With a desire to seek beyond what was at hand in his surroundings, he told his mother that he wanted to leave to gain greater knowledge and guidance that would lead him to the satisfaction of his heart, mind and soul. His mother agreed to his desire.
As he prepared to leave, his mother knew that he would need provisions during and after his journey in quest of knowledge. She sewed 40 dinars under the side of his jacket and told him to take them out after arrival at a safe place and use them as necessary. When leaving, he asked his mother for advice. She advised him to never tell a lie. “It will result in great blessings for you,” she said.
The route to his destination passed through a forest. There lived thieves in that forest who looted travelers. They saw Abd al-Qādir approaching. When he arrived near them, they found him to be a simple dervish.
One of the thieves asked him jokingly, “Do you have anything?” He had just heard his mother’s advice to not to tell a lie. He replied, “My mother has sewn in 40 dinars in the side of my jacket.” The thief thought that he was making fun of him. He gave the same reply when inquired by another thief and continued to give the same response to all the thieves.
The thieves took him to their chief and told the chief that each time he provided the same response. Their chief told the thieves to look inside his jacket. On searching the jacket, they found the 40 dinars. They were surprised to realize what kind of a person he was. They had never seen anyone like him.
The chief of the thieves asked him the reason that he disclosed his property like this. He said, “I am on my way in search of guidance from God. My mother advised me not to tell a lie when I departed. This was the first test. Why should I have lied?” Hearing this, the chief thief cried, “Alas! I have not complied even once to the directives of the Almighty God.” He said to the thieves, “His story and his steadfastness has changed me. I cannot be with you anymore. I repent.” Other thieves also repented on the encouragement from their chief.
Futuḥ al-Ghaib (exposure of the unseen) is one of many scholarly works Abd al-Qadir left behind as his fine memory.
Reality is that one’s righteousness affects others and the righteous are never wasted.