The Naqshbandī Golden Chain
Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani
The head of every lecture is:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ
“Ati'ul Laha wa ati'ur Rasula wa `ulil `amri minkum”
Obey God, obey the Prophet (s), and obey those in authority among you. (4: 59).
By obeying God you are obeying the Prophet (s), and by obeying the Prophet (s) you are obeying God. Therefore always keep your Lord and the Prophet (s) in your heart; and when you obey your teacher, it means that you are obeying the Prophet (s).
A teacher is very important and everyone must have a teacher. Without a teacher, no one can progress and no one can find his way and his path. Even the Prophet (s), and all messengers that God has sent to this world, had teachers. They had the angel Gabriel¡ who was a teacher for them. That is why we have to take a teacher that will show us the way to the Prophet (s) and to God. Don’t think that you can arrive anywhere without one; it is impossible. By yourself you can never arrive anywhere because if you lose the way, you will be truly lost. So use someone who knows the way, who has travelled that way before and is experienced. He will take you by the hand and lead you directly to your goal without going here or there to get lost.
That is why we have a Golden Chain. That chain of teachers and masters related to each other goes back without interruption to the Prophet (s). This is what we need: a direct chain. We don’t want a chain that is broken somewhere. A pipe carrying water underground from one village to another has to be completely whole. If there is one hole somewhere, the water will never come. If that chain of saints is broken you can never arrive to the Prophet (s).
Some people say, “We are following Sufism, Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Christianity, or Judaism, or yoga, reiki, or transcendental meditation” or any other kind of religion or belief. If you ask them, “Who is your teacher?” They will answer, “So-and-so." And who is So-and-so’s teacher? Now, we are not saying anything against any kind of belief for all beliefs will take you to the destination you seek; but understand what we are asking: who is your teacher’s teacher? That person will not know what to answer.
Someone might say, “His origin comes from 2,000 years, or 3,000 years, or 6,000 years of mystic teaching and saints." Then what is the condition of that “pipe” of several thousand years’ length? Who are the teachers that form it, the masters and grandmasters that transmitted it? No one knows; they know two or three or four teachers, then that knowledge stops.
A tree that doesn’t have roots doesn’t give fruit. A tree that is only slightly rooted in the ground will be thrown down by the first wind. Its grounding is too weak. A teacher must never be “grafted onto,” therefore, without one knowing who is his teacher, his grandteacher, his great-grandteacher, and so on, until the origin of your path. That is why true Sūfī teachers are the most connected ones and the most powerful masters in this world: they have true connection, they know their origin. If you don’t know your origin, you are not connected anywhere, or you don’t know where you are connected.
Can you give us a sequence of teachers from the founder of your way up to the present? Do not simply mention a name from 3,000 years ago. We want an uninterrupted chain, without a single one missing. You cannot find such a chain, in any path of spirituality or philosophy, except in Sufism there is such a chain. And without such a chain you cannot go anywhere. That is why you need a Sūfī teacher to take you to your destination.
Here is knowledge taken from the heart of the Prophet (s) and handed down through that chain of teachers. You cannot find it in any book.
Our Grandshaykh said, God bless his secret,relates that the Prophet (s), shortly after he was born, was immediately taken by the angels from his mother. As they took him, they were present in the blink of an eye in the Ocean of Al-Hayy. God has 99 Names and Attributes, and every attribute is an endless ocean of knowledge which no one can comprehend. One of those oceans of knowledge is from the Name Al-Hayy, the Living One. Whoever knows the secret of that name never dies. He lives always – not by himself, but with everyone, because everyone is living through the light of God in his heart. When you are swimming in the attribute of that Name of God, it means that you are possessing that light, that you are with every person and know what every person is doing. That is where the Prophet (s) was taken by the angels, who were ordered to bathe his heart in “Ma’ul hayat,” the Water of Life. As soon as they put his heart in the Water of Life, he immediately possessed and was dressed with “An-Nūr al-Ilahi,” Divine Light. And when he was dressed with that Divine light, from that very time everything was opened to him, no veils were left. After that, the Prophet (s) was dressed from God’s Ocean of Power, “Bahrul-Qudrah.”
The Prophet (s) therefore received three attributes as he came out from Ma’ul hayat: First, he was washed with the Water of Life and given eternal Life. Second, he received Divine Light. At that time, as we said, he was feeling with everyone and being with everyone. That is the meaning of the verse,
“Wa'lamu anna fikum Rasūlullāh” (al-Hujurāt 7). “Know that the Prophet (s) is with you, among you, inside you,” because he was dressed with that Divine Light. That is why the Prophet (s) can know what you are feeling, what your future is, what you are doing, and what is going to happen both here and hereafter. God has given him that power.
Third, the Prophet (s) received the Divine power of God’s Ocean of Power. This is being spoken from high knowledge and must be understood carefully. That was the attribute from “Bahrul-Qudrah,” the Ocean of Power, which the Prophet Moses (as) asked for and God did not give. Moses (as) asked God to give him from that Ocean of Power, to be able to say to something, “Be!” and it will be; God said, “No: look at the mountain; I am going to send that light on that mountain. If the mountain stands still, you will be given that power. If it melts or is destroyed, you cannot be given that power. You are going to melt also." When God sent that light to the mountain the mountain melted and Moses (as) "melted" with it. (Cf. al-‘Araf 143) That is why God told him it was not for him, but for the last Prophet (s).
God has given to the Prophet (s) that Ocean of Power, with which he can say to anything, “Be!” and it will be – without having to go back to God to ask for permission, for he is swimming in that Ocean. The Prophet (s) said, “Whatever God has poured into my heart I have poured into the heart of Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (r),” then Abū Bakr gave everything to Salmān al-Fārsī (r), Salmān to Qāsim, Qāsim to Ja'far, Ja'far to Tayfur [Bistami], Tayfur to Sayyidinā Khidr (as) – and that secret is coming down to this day to Grandshaykh, and from Grandshaykh to Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim.
When God has given something, He will not take it back. He is al-Karim, the Generous. The meaning of true generosity is that when you give something, you do not take it back and you do not regret giving it; if you do, you are not generous. God gave this power to the Prophet (s), to say “BE!” to anything and it will be, and he is keeping it for the last Day, in order to bring everyone to Paradise. The Prophet (s) is not going to leave anyone behind, by means of his intercession, shafa`a. He is going to take everyone by the hand and bring them to Paradise. Such is our Prophet (s).
After these three attributes come the five levels of the heart. As God dressed him, the Prophet’s (s) heart was immediately endowed with the Divine power of five positions of the heart one after another in quick succession. The first level is the Station of the Heart; then the Secret; then the Secret of the Secret; then the Hidden; then the Most Hidden.
Grandshaykh and Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim said that, after the Prophet (s) had been dressed with all these levels, whatever sins and bad manners come from this nation, even if the sins of every person are innumerable, and even if the sins are of the number of the Community of the Prophet (s) – according to Sūfī teachings, 400 billion – it is the same, for the Prophet (s), as something one cleans off with a little bit of water. Such is the light that God has given to the Prophet (s) that he can clean all these sins for the benefit of this Community, through the power of intercession God has granted him, as if nothing had happened.
"You are the best Nation that God has sent forth to mankind," Allah revealed to the Prophet (s).
And the Prophet (s) said, “The best nation, the most favorite nation, is the last nation."
You are the last nation. According to Grandshaykh, this world has no more than fifty years left. After fifty years, something is going to happen the like of which you have never heard about. Judgment Day is after these fifty years by another forty. All is finished ninety years from now. Through those mercies with which the Prophet (s) has been dressed, all sins of human beings are going to be taken away.
Grandshaykh said that, even if every person has four hundred billion sins, it would be nothing; even if it were to amount to the number of God’s creations, universes, and beings. Even then it remains easy for the Ocean of the Prophet (s) to take away all these sins as if nothing had touched you.
The Prophet (s) said, "My intercession is for those who commit major sins in my Community."
Those who commit minor sins, will receive Allah's Forgiveness, for they were worshipping, keeping their obligations and repenting from what they did. Those who committed major sins (kaba'ir), are in need of the Prophet's (s) shafa`a, his intercession, and with it they are saved.
Do not think that God has created this creation and left it just like that. God is going to dress His saints, and to dress the Prophet (s) from His attributes and from His lights in order to take everyone from miseries and sins to the highest levels in the hereafter.
When Salmān al-Fārsī (r), one of the greatest Companions who came after Sayyidinā Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (r), came from Persia, he knew from books he had read and from extraordinary signs in the stars that the last Prophet (s) was going to appear. He knew that there would be a very big incident in this world. In order to come to Mecca, he sold himself as a slave to some people coming to Mecca, and he walked the camel of the person who bought him 5,000 miles from Persia to Mecca, in order to meet the Prophet (s). Now, we are reluctant to go even 20 or 40 miles by car, and we say that it is too far to go. Look at the saints travelling long, far distances in order to meet the Prophet (s).
When the Prophet (s) was brought to this world by his mother, Sayyidinā Salmān al-Fārsī (r) heard the happiness of wild animal saying, “Allāhu Akbar!” for everyone in this universe was happy, including animals, trees and stars, because the last prophet was coming, and everyone knew that God was going to dress him with His lights – all knew and were happy except us human beings. Human beings are jealous of the Prophet (s) and say, “Why has God chosen him?”
Grandshaykh said, “I am speaking from that Ocean of Knowledge that is going to be opened when Mahdī (as) is coming. The extent of the knowledge that I am opening up is like light that would be coming through the hole of a needle."
If Mawlānā is speaking as if from the hole of a needle, then what we are saying now is nothing compared to reality. What is going to come is something concerning which you are going to lose your minds.
This is the explanation of Sayyidinā Abū Hurayrah's (r) affirmation in hadīth: “The Prophet (s) has put in my heart two kinds of knowledges. One knowledge I have disseminated among the people; but if I tell the other knowledge they will cut my neck." What Grandshaykh says is of the second type of knowledge – something extraordinary which is going to be spread in Mahdī’s time, but which today is kept in the heart of Allah's chosen servants.
Grandshaykh said that these things have been opened on the heart of the Prophet (s) from the time of his birth and that his heart is like a glass of water, transparent from all sides. His heart was so transparent from the light of God that wherever the Prophet (s) looked, he could get knowledge and wisdom and therefore speak from knowledge and wisdom.
Grandshaykh said that when the Prophet’s (s) soul was taken away from his physical body by angels to the presence of his Lord, after his mother gave birth to him, his mother was afraid that he had passed away because the body did not move for a full hour. But the angel Gabriel¡ quickly came and said to her, “Don’t be afraid and don’t tell anyone; leave it. God has taken his soul in order for his heart to be washed, and in order to open to him the attributes of the 99 Names – all the Oceans of all the Names of God." According to the Islāmic religion, God has 99 names: each Name covers an Attribute and each Attribute is an Ocean of Knowledge whose depth no one can know.
قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا
Qul law kaana al-bahru midaadan li-kalimaati rabbee la nafida al-bahru qabla an tanfada kalimaatu rabbee wa law ji'na bimithlihi madada
Say: "If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid." (18:109)
God washed the Prophet’s (s) heart with “Bismillah al-A'dham,” the Greatest Name. Until today every saint is trying to know what the Greatest Name of God is, but no one can know, for that secret has not been opened to anyone yet, except to the Prophet (s) who has received that Name in his heart. No veil was left on the heart of the Prophet (s) when God washed his heart with the river of Kawthar, the river of Paradise God gave to the Prophet (s) when He said:
إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ
“We have given you the Kawthar. (Kawthar, 1).
”If anyone bathes in it, his heart will never die."
That is why the Prophet (s) said, أنا حيٌّ في قبري - “I am alive and fresh in my grave.”
When he was only one hour old, the Prophet (s) asked God as He was washing him, “O my Lord, what about my nation? Aren’t you going to wash my nation also with the water of this river? If not, I am not accepting to be washed alone. I must have my nation with me; I cannot be without my nation." According to the Prophet (s), when he asked this from God, God washed all his nation with that River of Life. He washed them and cleaned their hearts until their hearts were clean and transparent like the Prophet’s (s), and He gave them to the Prophet (s): “I am giving you your nation, clean, pure, lenient-hearted, softhearted, merciful, humble, loving and respecting each other. Are you taking them?” The Prophet (s) looked at all of them and saw them all pure and clean and said, “I am accepting them." When he said he would take them, God showed him there and then how much they were going to sin when they would come to this world. The Prophet (s) said, “O my Lord, what have You done?” God said, “Never mind: light will never disappear from their hearts. They are going to dress that light with darkness; but it is going to be like a cloth, and I am giving you saints who will be your helpers, in order to polish their hearts and clean them.”
We are a forgiven Nation, Ummatan marhouma, Ummatan maghfoorah. God has entrusted us to the Prophet (s) with His Mercy. You are going to hear more and more of these lectures. Yet what we have said is child’s play. When Grandshaykh gives permission to talk from such knowledge, these lectures are not for everyone to hear. They are special and that subject can only be opened with permission from Grandshaykh and Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim.
After the Prophet (s) accepted his Nation with their light, and after God showed him the sins they were going to commit, the Prophet (s) asked for helpers. God immediately gave him 7,007 Naqshbandī saints to help him clean the nation. Out of these he gave him 313 of a higher level. Out of these He gave him 40 masters of the Golden Chain: our link to the Prophet (s). Our forty masters are trying their best to clean everyone of their sins with the light that God has given to their hearts. You are lucky that you are in the hands of one of these masters – the last master in this chain, the fortieth master.
What is Kawthar? According to scriptural tradition it is a river in Paradise, but according to the Sūfī orders, in Sūfī understanding and Sūfī knowledge, Kawthar is the name of one of the Grandshaykhs. That Grandshaykh, with the water that God made him symbolize by name, can take away all the sins of all of his followers, and present them clean to the Prophet (s) every night. That is why you must be happy that you have been connected to a big master of this Golden Chain.
Grandshaykh and our Master Shaykh Nāzim asked, Why has God given prophecy to the Prophet (s)? Just for him? Grandshaykh is saying, "No: God has given that power and dressed him with the manifestations of the 99 Divine Names and Attributes and all this light, for the sake of this Nation, His Community. All that is in order that the Prophet (s) would dress each one of us with similar light, to share with us all the attributes of the Prophetic character, the Sunnah, in its outward and inward manifestations. God has told the Prophet (s), 'O my beloved Prophet, I am going to ask you personally – I want everyone of this nation of my servants similar to you....' It is a great and tremendous secret, that the Prophet (s) is under this responsibility: to make everyone of us, everyone of his Community, similar to him. In worship, he is going to share with us all his worship; in order to clean and dress us with all that he has been dressed with, and to present us to God clean and pure, through the power of intercession (shafa`a) that God has granted him. This is his duty.
Grandshaykh and Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim said, In every moment the Prophet (s) is progressing a redoubled distance in the Divine Presence, “Yataraqqa mithlayni mithlayn,” in growing geometrical sequence, each moment doubling the previous progress. He is progressing, and at the same time taking his Community by the hand with him – without discrimination and without differentiation. This Community is a Community of servants, and servants are servants. Slaves are slaves! There is no difference between them! All of them are slaves before God, and the Prophet (s) is looking at them as one and taking them by the hand.
The Prophet (s) said, an-naasu sawaasiyyata ka asnaan al-mashti - "mankind are equal like the teeth of a comb."
This knowledge is going to be opened in Mahdī’s (as) and Jesus' (as) time. Now this is only a smell of the knowledge of what is going to happen later. When people speak to tell you about Sufism, what are they talking about? They are children in relation to that Golden Chain who is taking from the Prophet’s (s) heart. What is going to be opened will dwarf what all these people calling themselves Sūfī masters are saying. They are going to find themselves as children. Their knowledge will be as nothing. That is why Sayyidinā Muhiyyuddīn Ibn al-'Arabi, after writing Al-Futūhāt al-Makkīyyah said, “I don’t know what I wrote." He used to sleep with a pen by his side; when he woke up he found that the pen had written. That is also how he wrote Fusus al-Hikam and all his books. Even he did not understand, and now they are “explaining” what even he did not understand. What are you going to understand of what he said? This degree of high knowledge in Sufism cannot be opened, even if you think you see it: if you have a television you can see something but you do not feel. In Sufism, if you don’t feel and live the event, you can never reach the level on which it is described.
Sufism is “dhawq,” taste. You have many kinds of food. People take the best food and they try to taste it from here [points to mouth] to here [points to top of throat]. After that point all foods are the same. Similarly, when you look at the television, it is as if “from here to here." You are not tasting nor feeling anything. If you cannot feel or taste, it is not Sufism, but a mirror reflection of Sufism, an image. And all these “Shaykhs” – they cannot be called by that name in fact, because a Shaykh is high – all these people that are explaining Sufism are not tasting nor feeling. Yet feeling and tasting are the most important matter in Sufism. Now you will say, “You are speaking also like them. Why are you not feeling and tasting?” I will tell you that there is not yet permission to take you by the hand and make you taste and feel. This is only when Mahdī (as) comes. Otherwise this world could not carry you. If you give a child a candy, he would trade a diamond for it and lose the diamond. If you are going to be given such knowledge, you are going to waste it if there is no support from Mahdī (as) , who is coming very soon. That support is needed. Without it, you will never have the door of feeling and tasting opened for you.
A Sūfī leader must have 'Ilmu‘l-Yaqīn, 'Aynu‘l-Yaqīn, Haqqu‘l-Yaqīn – the Knowledge of Certainty, the Vision of Certainty, the Truth of Certainty. First is the “knowledge of certainty,” which is the necessity to know that there is such knowledge and to hear about it. When you hear it, you go to the second level, but you have to hear first. That is why God in Qur’ān, as well as all the Sūfī masters, from Jalāluddīn Rūmī to Ibn al-Hishām, to Hallaj, to Abā Yazīd al-Bistāmī, mention hearing as the first thing. Knowledge cannot come by seeing first but from a teacher that is heard, even for a blind man. A deaf person, on the other hand, cannot even begin to get knowledge. When the Archangel Gabriel (as) came to the Prophet (s), the first thing he said to him was “Read,” and the Prophet (s) was hearing and listening. That is why Sufism is giving orders which one fulfills by hearing, not by seeing.
This first level is not achieved by hearing and not caring, but by hearing, accepting and fulfilling through action! If your Shaykh says to go to the mountain and stay there until I come, and he does not show up, you will stay there for years, until he appears, if you do not do that, you are still a child in Sūfī knowledge. In the Naqshbandī order you have to obey, and obedience comes through hearing. If you do it, then you move up to the second level.
Once, Grand-Grandshaykh Shaykh Sharafuddin said, in a meeting of big masters, as Grandshaykh was on his way to meet them – still a teenager at the time – as they sat in a remote place far outside the city: “My son ‘Abdullāh Effendi has reached a level where no one has set foot yet – not myself, nor all the Golden Chain masters. He is only 18 and I am 60, yet he has reached a level that is higher than mine and all the Golden Chain masters that have passed away. If I am going to send him a child of seven years to tell him, “Your Shaykh is ordering you to direct yourself to Mecca for pilgrimage,” from Daghestan here in the middle of Russia, he will immediately think, without coming and asking me for confirmation whether this is true or not, “Who is making that child speak? My Shaykh has to know even before I know. Otherwise, how have I accepted him as a Shaykh and yet represent him as not knowing anything? If my Shaykh doesn’t know, who will know?” Immediately he will believe the child, and without going back to his house to tell his mother or his wife that he wants to go to pilgrimage; without taking any clothes, money, or food, he will direct himself to Makkah which is 10,000 miles away, walking, without asking anything. He will know the order comes from me and will simply change the direction of his walk.”
This is “Wahdatu‘l-af'al,” Unification of actions or deeds or words – you must see everything as coming from God. This is a higher level in Sūfī knowledge. You cannot see people doing anything anymore, but you must consider them instruments in the hands of God. Leave the child – if Shaykh Nāzim comes to you and says, “Go to Mecca,” you will say, “Okay, my Shaykh, but I have to buy a ticket, and I have to see if my wife gives me permission..." In the Naqshbandī order you cannot do all this. You have to move immediately.
The second level is 'Aynu‘l-Yaqīn, the true vision. At that time you are going to see things around you, but without feeling. It will be like a screen which is lifted only in the third level, Haqqu‘l-Yaqīn, the reality of truth – you are there and living that incident. If Grandshaykh is saying what we were saying before about the Prophet (s), how he was taken and how his heart was washed, at hearing this you are going to live that event as if you were living and feeling everything at that time. If Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim is talking about an incident which happened 500 years ago, for example, you are going to live as if you were living at that time, hearing, seeing and feeling what they were hearing, seeing and feeling, juts as if you were one of them.
This is the Sūfī taste and the knowledge of the Naqshbandī order which connects its seekers to the Golden Chain. This cannot be opened until the time of Mahdī (as) – unless, for some special followers, Mawlānā Shaykh Nāzim opens it with permission from the Prophet (s). It is not common to all. The rest must wait for the support of Mahdī's power to enter that level, otherwise people will be condemned for speaking about what they see.
In the Naqshbandī order the Shaykh can never make you be different from people and this is the perfect order: you see the Shaykh who has all this power, feeling everything and living all the events, and describing them, yet behaving as an ordinary person. The Shaykh will therefore never accept to open knowledge for you if you are not ready and if he sees that you are going to show what he gave you to the public. That is why there is no permission yet for that door to be opened.
Wa mina-llāhit-tawfīq bi hurmatì‘l-Fātihah.
1“Iqra”’ (al-'Alaq 1),