He was born in 1745 AD in the village of Bitala, Punjab in India. He was a descendant of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). His father, Shah Abdul Latif, was a great scholar and ascetic, trained in the Qadiri Order by Shaykh Nasir ad-Din al-Qadri, who had been trained by Khidr.
Before he was born, his father saw the fourth Caliph, Ali (may God be pleased with him) in a dream telling him, “Call him by my name.” His mother saw a pious man in a dream telling her, “You are going to have a boy – call him Abdul Qadir.” Then both his father and mother had the same dream, in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told them, “Call him Abdullah.” Because the Prophet’s orders took precedence, he was named Abdullah Shah Ghulam Ali.
Due to his genius, he memorized the Quran in a month. He educated himself in external and spiritual knowledge until he became the highest of the scholars. As a youth, he went to the desert on many occasions, reciting ‘Dhikr’ there for months at a time, subsisting on whatever food he could find. One time, he stayed for forty days without sleeping nor eating, whilst continually doing ‘Dhikr’.
His father’s Shaykh ordered Shah Abdul Latif to bring his son to him, to initiate him in the Qadiri Order. The same night that they reached the Shaykh’s house, the Shaykh died. His father told him, “We would gladly have given you the Qadiri Order but you are free now to find whichever way suits you.” Shaykh Abdullah then kept the company of the Chisti Order in Delhi, which included Shaykh Dia Allah, Shaykh Abdul Addad, Caliph of Shaykh Muhammad Zubayr, Shaykh Mirdad, Mawlana Fakhruddin and many others, until he was twenty two years of age.
On his own instigation, he went to the lodge of Shaykh Habib Allah, where he asked permission to enter the Naqshbandi Mujaddidi Order. Shaykh Habib Allah replied, “It is better for you to be with those Orders that have taste and compassion, for in our Order there is nothing, except to lick the stone without any salt.” Shaykh Abdullah said, “That is my highest goal.” Shaykh Habib Allah replied, “May God bless you. Stay here.”
Shaykh Abdullah related, “After I received the knowledge of the Traditions, memorized the Quran and learned its interpretation, I stood in the presence of my Shaykh. He gave me initiation into the Qadiri Order with his holy hand. He also gave me initiation into the Naqshbandi Mujaddidi Order. I was in his company and in the presence of the circles of Dhikr for fifteen years. He then gave me the authorization to guide and train disciples.
I was hesitant at first, because I was afraid that Abdul Qadir Gilani would not give me permission to teach in the Naqshbandi Order. One day during my period of hesitation, I saw him in a vision, sitting on a throne. Shah Naqshband entered. Immediately he stood up, allowing Shah Naqshband to sit on the throne, whilst he remained standing in his presence. It came to my heart that this was a sign of respect for Shah Naqshband. He then said to me, “Go to Shah Naqshband. The goal is God, whatever path you choose to reach Him.”
People came from everywhere to meet and learn from Shaykh Abdullah. His fame reached to Byzantium, Iraq, Khurasan, Transoxiana, Syria and even to North Africa. He sent his Caliphs and Deputies everywhere on the spiritual orders of the Prophet. Among them was Khalid Baghdadi. He also guided people through their dreams, with people often travelling great distances to meet the Shaykh, telling him, “You called me to come through my dreams.”
His Lodge was always full. It would generally feed 2,000 people every day, never keeping any food for the next day. Shaykh Abdullah said,” O God, who am I to be the means between You and Your lover? And who am I to feed them when You are feeding me and them? O God, I am asking for the sake of your creation, this one and everyone who comes asking me for mercy, send me Mercy for their sake. Bring me nearer to You, help me to hold fast to the ‘Sunnah’ of the Prophet and to accept what You have prescribed and to leave what You have prohibited.”
It was his practice every morning to read one third of the Quran and then pray the dawn prayer with his group. He would then sit in a circle of ‘Dhikr’ and contemplation until sunrise. He would then pray two cycles of voluntary prayer and then give a talk, which included the Prophet’s Traditions and commentaries on the Quran. He would pray the late morning prayer and then eat with his followers. He spent the afternoon and night in prayer, giving talks, reading spiritual books and in ‘Dhikr.’ He would sleep for only one or two hours, when he would wake to do the supererogatory night prayer.
Being in his company was like being in the company of Sufyan ath-Thawri – no one raised their voice, no backbiting occurred and worldly affairs were not discussed. Nothing was discussed except spirituality and religion. He wrote many books, the most famous being ‘Maqamat Mazhari’ written in Persian, which is a complete biography of his Shaykh. He also wrote ‘Makateeb Shareefa, which is a collection of his letters and numerous other books.
He said, “I would like to die like my Shaykh, Mirza Jan Janan Habib Allah, as a martyr but I remember that after he passed away, the people suffered a drought for three years. There was much killing and trouble because God was angry with those who had killed him. Therefore, O God, I do not ask to die that way, though I would like it, but I ask You to take me to You”.
Shaykh Abdullah ad-Dahlawi passed away in 1825 AD. He died with a book of the Traditions of the Prophet of at-Tirmidhi in his hands. He is buried beside his Shaykh, Shaykh Habib Allah, whose mausoleum is located near Jama Masjid in Delhi, and is called ‘Shahid Sahab ki Mazar’.
He passed his secret to Mawlana Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi al-Uthmani as-Sulaymani.
May God be well pleased with him.
Source:- ‘The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain’ by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.