The Golden Chain

Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi

Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi al-Uthmani as-Sulaymani (may God sanctify his innermost being) is the thirty first Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain. He was the ‘Mujaddid’ or Reformer of the 13th Islamic century. His title, Uthmani, is due to him being a descendant of the third rightly guided Caliph, Uthman. The other part of his name came from the time he spent in Baghdad and the respect and esteem in which he was held there.

He was born in 1779 AD in the village of Karadag, near the city of Sulaymaniyyah, in Iraq. His grandfather was Pir Mikail Chis Anchit, which means ‘Michael of the six fingers’. His mother was from a celebrated Sufi family in Kurdistan.

Shaykh Khalid was raised and trained in that city, which was considered the primary educational city of its time. He studied Quran and Islam according to the Sunni school. He travelled to study with two great scholars of his time, Shaykh Abdul Karim al-Barzinji and Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Barzinji. He also read with Mullah Muhammad Salih. When he returned to Sulaymaniyyah, he studied mathematics, philosophy and logic. He then travelled to Baghdad, where he studied the ‘Mukhtasar al-muntaha fil-usul’, an encyclopeadia of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. He also studied the works of Ibn Hajar, Suyuti and Haythami and memorized the commentary of the Quran of Baydawi. He became widely famous for memorising the Quran according to the fourteen different ways of recitation.

Prince Ihsan Ibrahim Paha, the Governor of Baban, tried to persuade Shaykh Khalid to administer the Schools in his kingdom. However, Shaykh Khalid refused and moved to the city Sanandaj, where he studied the secular subjects of mathematics, engineering, astronomy and chemistry under Muhammad al-Qasim as-Sanandaji. After completing these studies he returned to Sulaymaniyyah after the plague of 1798 AD, where he took over the School of his Shaykh, Abdul Karim al-Barzinji, teaching advanced astronomy and chemistry. Shaykh Khalid also wrote poetry, which became well known for its fine language and eloquence in both Arabic and Persian.

Shaykh Khalid then entered seclusion, taking up both loud and silent Dhikr. He no longer visited the Sultans but remained secluded, whilst teaching disciples until 1806 AD, when he decided to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. He travelled to the Hijaz through the cities of Mosul, Yarbikir, ar-Raha, Aleppo and Damascus. He met the scholars of Damascus and followed Shaykh Muhammad al-Kuzbari, a Master of internal knowledge and the Holy Traditions. Shaykh Khalid received authorization in the Qadiri Order from Shaykh al-Kuzbari andtravelled with his deputy, Shaykh Mustafa al-Kurdi, to Mecca, the ‘City of the Prophet’.

After spending a long time in Mecca, Shaykh Khalid returned to Sulaymaniyyah, continuing his spiritual teaching. He was still looking for someone that could show him the way, until Shaykh Mirza Allah Beg al-Maruf, one of the Caliphs of the Spiritual Pole, Shaykh Abdullah ad-Dahlawi, came to Sulaymaniyyah. Shaykh Khalid met with him and asked if he knew of the perfect Guide, to show him the way? Shaykh Mirza replied, “There is one perfect Shaykh, a scholar and a knower, that can show the seeker the way to the King of Kings. He is an expert in this delicate matter, following the Naqshbandi Way, carrying the character of the Prophet and being a Guide in the knowledge of spirituality. Come with me, to be in his service, in Jahanabad. He had told me before I left, ‘You are going to meet someone – bring him back with you.”

Shaykh Khalid moved to India in 1809 AD, travelling through the cities of Ray and Tehran in Persia, where he met the great scholar, Ismail al-Kashi. He then travelled to Kharqan, Simnan, Nishapur and Bistam, where he praised Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami, the sixth Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, with an eloquent poem in Persian. He continued on to Tus, where he visited Sayyid al-Jalil al-Manus Imam Ali Rida and then to the city of Jam, where he visited Shaykh Ahmed an-Namiqi al-Jami. Shaykh Khalid then went Herat, Kandahar and Kabul in Afghanistan, and Peshawar in Pakistan. In all these cities, the great scholars that he met tested his knowledge in the sciences of Divine Law and Sufism, and also in the secular sciences. They found him like a wide river flowing with knowledge.

He continued on to Lahore in India, where he met Shaykh Thanaullah an-Naqshbandi, asking for his prayers and supplications. Shaykh Khalid recalled, “That night, I slept in Lahore, I had a dream in which Shaykh Thanaullah pulled me with his teeth. When I awoke, I wanted to tell him the dream but he said, ‘Do not tell me the dream, we know it already. That is a sign to move on to my brother and Shaykh, Abdullah ad-Dahlawi. The opening of your heart will be by his hands. You will take initiation in the Naqshbandi Order.’ Then I began to feel the Shaykh’s spiritual attraction. I left Lahore, crossing mountains and valleys, forests and deserts, until I reached the Sultanate of Delhi, known as Jahanabad. It took one year to reach his city. Forty days before I arrived, Shaykh Abdullah told his followers, ‘My successor is coming.”

The night Shaykh Khalid entered the city of Jahanabad, he wrote poems in both Arabic and Persian in praise of Shaykh Abdullah ad-Dahlawi. He gave away everything that he was carrying with him to the poor. He was then initiated into the Naqshbandi Order by Shaykh Abdullah. Shaykh Khalid served in his Shaykh’s Lodge, making rapid progress in the struggle against his lower self, until after five months he became one of the people of the Divine Presence and the Divine Vision. Shaykh Abdullah ad-Dahlawi gave Shaykh Khalid permission to return to Iraq and written authority in the Naqshbandi, Qadiri, Suhrawardi, Kubrawi and Chisti Orders. He gave him authorization to teach Sufism, the Islamic sciences and the Naqshbandi daily practices.

Shaykh Khalid moved to Baghdad in 1813 AD for the second time. He stayed in the School of Ahsaiyya Isfahaniyyah, conveying his blessed knowledge. Some jealous people wrote to the Governor of Baghdad, Said Pasha, accusing the Shaykh of unbelief. The Governor’s replied, “If Shaykh Khalid is not a believer, then who is a believer?” The Shaykh left Baghdad for some time and then returned to the same School, which had been renovated to welcome him back.

He continued his teaching at the School, with profound effect, attracting a very large group of followers, including the Governor, scholars, teachers, workers and people from all walks of life in Baghdad. At that time, Baghdad was famous for being a place of knowledge, being called, the ‘Place of the Two Knowledges’ and the ‘Place of Two Suns’. This led to Shaykh Khalid being called ‘He of the Two Wings’ – an allusion to his complete mastery of both external and internal knowledge. He sent his Deputies to spread Naqshbandi teaching from the Balkans to South East Asia. He had very strong following in Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Persia, India and Transoxiana.

He travelled to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem with many of his followers, where he was greeted by Abdullah al-Fardi and a large gathering of people. At the request of the Christians there, Shaykh Khalid blessed the Church of Kumama. He continued on to Hebron, the ‘City of Abraham’, where he was again welcomed by a large crowd. In 1826 AD, the Shaykh again travelled to the Hijaz, to visit the House of God – the Holy Kabbah, accompanied by a large group of his Caliphs and followers. As they considered him to be the spiritual Shaykh of the two Holy Cities, many of the inhabitants of the blessed City of the Holy Mosque, including its scholars and Saints, came out to greet him and take initiation from him. He was given the keys to the two Holy Cities.

After this pilgrimage, Shaykh Khalid returned to Damascus in Syria. Due to the respect that the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud Khan, had for the Shaykh, 250,000 people welcomed the Shaykh at the gate to the city, which turned into a day of celebration. Shaykh Khalid established himself in Damascus, teaching both spiritual and external knowledge to people from all walks of life.

In 1827 AD, a plague began to quickly spread throughout Damascus. One of the Shaykh’s pupils asked the Shaykh to pray for him, to be saved from the plague, and added, “And for you also my Shaykh.” The Shaykh replied, “I feel shy before my Lord, because my intention in coming to Damascus was to die in this Holy Land,”

The first one to die from the plague was his son, Bahauddin, who was fluent in Arabic, Persian and Kurdish and could also read the Quran. Soon after, another of the Shaykh’s sons, Abdur Rahman, passed away. The Shaykh buried him beside his other son, saying, “Many of my followers are going to die.”

Following this, Shaykh Khalid said, “I am giving Shaykh Ismael ash-Shirwani the authority to succeed me in the Naqshbandi Order. I had a great vision yesterday – I saw Uthman dhun-Nurayn as if he were dead and I was praying for him. He opened his eyes, took me by the hand, telling me to bring all the Naqshbandi followers from my time until the time of the Mahdi (may God be pleased with him). He blessed them and then took me to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, ‘This one is from my children’. Then I came out of that vision and I performed the evening prayer with my followers and my children. Whatever I have of secrets, I have given to my deputy, Ismail ash-Shirwani. Whoever does not accept him, is not from me. Do not argue but be of one mind. Follow the opinion of the Shaykh Ismail. I guarantee that anyone of you who accepts and follows him, will be with me and with the Prophet.”

After the night prayer, the Shaykh entered his house and called his family together, advising them, “I am going to pass away this Friday.” He asked them after this, to send him gifts of readings from the Quran and the recitations of prayers. He instructed them not to write anything on his grave, except, ‘This is the grave of the stranger, Khalid.’ They stayed with him throughout night, until before dawn, when he entered his room, saying, “No one may enter this room, except those to whom I give permission.” Inside the room he prayed, “Let the plague strike me, and spare everyone else in Damascus.”

Thursday came and all his Caliphs entered the room. Ismail ash-Shirwani asked Shaykh Khalid, “How are you feeling?” The Shaykh replied, “God has answered my prayer. I will take all the plague from the people of Damascus and I alone will die on Friday.” On Friday, he opened his eyes and said, “Allahu, Allahu, Allahu Haqq” – the oath of initiation into the Naqshbandi Order. He read the following words from the Quran, ‘O you, soul at peace: return to your Lord well pleased and well pleasing; go in among My servants; and into My Garden.” Then he gave his soul to his Lord, on the day he predicted in 1827 AD. His body was washed and shrouded by Shaykh Ismael, Shaykh Muhammad and Shaykh  Amin, after which they took his body to the Mosque in Yulbagha. Shaykh Ismael asked Shaykh Amin Abidin to pray the Shaykh’s funeral prayer. As more than 300,000 people prayed behind him, not everyone could fit inside the Mosque. Shaykh Ismael then conducted a second funeral prayer at the Shaykh’s grave, which is located at Mount Qasioun. It was as if a miracle occurred on the next day, when the plague immediately stopped and there were no further deaths from it in Damascus.

Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi passed his secret to his successor, Shaykh Ismael ash-Shirwani. His best known books are ‘Mecd-I Talid’ (Big Birth) and ‘Shems’u Shumus’ (The Sun of All Suns).

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.