The Golden Chain

8. Abu Ali al-Farmadi

Abu Ali al-Farmadi (may God sanctify his innermost being), the eighth Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, was born in 1016 A.D. in the village of Farmad, near Tus in modern day Iran.

Abu Ali was a famous Shaykh, being described by another famous Shaykh of that time, as-Simnani – “He was the tongue of Khorasan, its Shaykh and the Master in lifting up and raising the station of his followers. His groups were like gardens full of flowers in which knowledge flowed from his heart and took the hearts of his listeners into a state of joy and happiness.”

He was a scholar in the Shafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, an expert in the knowledge of the early Islamic scholars and a Master of Sufism.

Shaykh Abu Ali received the secrets of the Golden Chain from Shaykh Abul Hasan al-Kharqani and also studied under the following Shaykhs and teachers:-

– Al-Ghazzali al-Kabir, who said about Abu Ali, “He was the Shaykh of his time and he had a unique way of reminding people. No one surpassed him in his eloquence, delicacy, ethics, good manners, morality, nor his ways of approaching people.” His son, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, The Proof of Islam, conveyed much from Abu Ali, when he wrote his famous book, ‘Ihya Ulum ad-Din’.

– The great Shaykh Abu Said Abul-Khair – Abu Ali relates,”I went to Shaykh Abu Said, who gave me the blessed sleeve of his shirt and told me to keep it safe. Thereafter, I received numerous benefits, lights and spiritual states in the service of the Shaykh.”

– The celebrated Sufi Master, Al-Qushayri – Abu Ali said about him, “One time I entered behind my teacher, al-Qushayri, who was going to the public bath. I took a bucket of water for him from the well. When my teacher came he said, “Who brought the bucket of water?” I kept quiet, as I felt I had committed some disrespect. He asked a second time and when he asked the third time, I finally said, “I did, my teacher.” He said, “O my son, what I received in seventy years, I passed to you with one bucket of water.” That meant that the heavenly and Divine Knowledge which he had struggled for seventy years to acquire, he passed to my heart through one glance.”

Shaykh Abu Ali al-Farmadi was the teacher of two of the towering figures in Islam:-

– The great Shaykh, Abu Yusef al-Hamadani, the ninth Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, to whom he passed the secret of the Golden Chain.

– Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali – known as ‘The Proof of Islam’. Imam al-Ghazali said, “I heard that Abu Ali al-Farmadi said, “The Ninety Nine Attributes of God will become the attributes and descriptions of the seekers in the way of God.”

Some of the sayings of Shaykh Abu Ali are:-

“The hearts of the people of Truth are open, and their hearing is open.”

“Whoever pretends he can hear, yet cannot hear the glorification of birds, trees and the wind, is a liar.”

“For the gnostic (knower) a time will come wherein the light of knowledge will reach him and his eyes will see the incredible unseen.”

“God gives happiness to His servants when they see His saints.”

Shaykh Abu Ali passed away in 1084 A.D. and was buried in the village of Farmad, near the city of Tus in Iran.


Extracts from “The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain”, by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.