The difference in personality of Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi and his father, Shaykh Abdur Rahīm

While Shāh Walī Allāh followed his father’s footsteps in teaching, there is, however, a clear distinction that emerges when we look at the personality of both father and son. Shāh Walī Allāh mentions certain ‘useful suggestions’ (fawā’id), recommended by his father as a daily routine, such as reciting Yā Mughnī (‘O He who satisfied, whom He will, of His servants’) 1100 times and Sūrah Muzzammil 40 times. Shāh Walī Allāh mentions in his al-Qawl al-jamīl fī bayān sawā al-sabīl that both of these recitations worked as a means of gaining contentment of heart and independence of one’s surroundings. In the same text, he also relates that he personally saw his father perform certain miracles (karāmat). Yet we have not come across any miracles performed by Shāh Walī Allāh himself. While both luminaries were no doubt great teachers, the son appears to be more scholarly inclined given that he produced many books of major importance. As far as I am aware, the father did not produce any books. Of course, both were mystics, but their mysticism appears to have varied aspects.

An illustrative example of Shāh Walī Allāh possessing a different nature from his father can be gleaned from a vision vouchsafed to his mother when he was still newly weaned. First, she “saw in a dream a bird of wonderful shape, which came to my father carrying a sheet of paper in its bill. The name of Allāh was written on it in golden letters. Next, a second bird came to him with another sheet of paper in its bill. It said: ‘In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. If prophethood after Mohammed were possible, We would make him a prophet. With Mohammed, however, prophethood has come to an end’… The first bird had a red bill, while the remainder of its body was dust-coloured like a pigeon. The remaining part of the other bird was green like a parrot.” Shāh Walī Allāh himself gives the following comment on this dream: “According to the rule of hikma (knowledge of high spiritual truths) the correct interpretation is this: The first sheet of paper (with the name of Allāh on it) points to the very perfection of my father, for he was a man of fanā (passing away from self) and immersion into God. The colour of dust indicates that it relates to someone who is not concerned with metaphysical speculations. Accordingly, a pigeon and a ringdove indeed have pleasant voices but they lack the gift of eloquence. The other sheet refers to the perfection I am endowed with and consists of the capacity to analyse the excellences of prophets. A green colour appertains to someone who can expound metaphysics eloquently like a chattering parrot” (see Tafhīmāt-i Ilāhiyya). As Baljon (1986) perceptively summarised, the father is a typical example of sainthood, the son a substitute of prophethood.

And only God knows best.

References

Baljon, J. M. S. (1986). Religion and Thought of Shāh Walī Allāh Dihlawī: 1703-1762 (Vol. 48): Brill.

 

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