The Language of the Future
Sufi Terminology
by Murshid F.A. Ali ElSenossi

Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i
Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i (512AH/1118CE to 578AH/1182CE)

Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i was born in the Hasen Region of Wasit, Iraq, in the year 512AH/1118CE. His linage traces back to the Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace) on both his father's and mother's sides. His cousin was Sayyidi Abdul Qadir al Jilani. Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i memorised the Qur'an by the time he was seven and was so prodigious in his studies that he received permission to teach both the external and internal sciences of Islam by the time he was twenty. Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i had a special passion for knowledge and especially passing this knowledge on to others, repeatedly encouraging them to "seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." He was so committed to his students that he would not leave them with a gap in their knowledge and would provide everything for those committed to studying under him so that they were free from all distraction, even to the extent of providing for their livelihood. In order to assist his students, Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i authored six hundred and sixty two books, though many of these are no longer available. During Hajj, Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i visited the Prophet's mosque in Medina. After offering his prayers he greeted the Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace) with "Peace be upon you, my ancestor," to which he received the reply "Peace be upon you, my descendant." On hearing this, Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i requested that he be able to touch the hand of the Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace) and a hand extended from the grave of the Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace), which Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i kissed. This was witnessed by the many that were present, amongst whom was Sayyidi Abdul Qadir al Jilani. After the miracle of receiving the hand of the Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace), it is said that Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i's greatest miracle was his integrity in religion, his steadfastness on sharia, and his adherence to the conduct of his righteous predecessors. Regarding this he said "the faqir is on the right path as long as he follows the sunnah, once he deviates he slips away from the right path" and "arbitrate every single saying and deed of yours according to the Islamic law of your Prophet (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace)." Amongst the supplications of Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i, he would call on Allah, saying "O Allah, make my time inhabited by You, my inner self luminous with Your love, my eye contented by witnessing the effects of Your Kindness, my insight enlightened and informed by the shining lights of being close to You." He is the founder of the Rifa'iyya Tariqa and is recognised as one of the four major Poles (aqtab) within Sufism. Sayyidi Ahmad ar-Rifa'i passed away in 578AH/1182CE and his tomb is located near Tal Afar in northern Iraq.


See also: Spiritual Chain Poles
(Silsilat). The Spiritual Chain of each tariqa descends from the Holy Prophet Muhammad himself (May the Salutations of Allah be upon him and Peace) down to the present-day Shaykh. It is through his attachment to the silsilat that the newly initiated murid has the means to travel to Allah under Divine Protection.
(Al Aqtab). These are the exalted friends of Allah around whom various realities of the universe turn. Every Pole (Qutb) is named by two names; firstly, through his essential perfection in manifesting the Name 'Allah', he is the 'Slave of Allah' ('Abdullah); and secondly, through his accidental perfection of being in a particular place during a particular era to fulfil a particular function, he is the slave of one specific Divine Name, e.g. 'slave of the Generous' ('Abd al Karim) or 'slave of the Merciful' ('Abd al Rahman). Even though the poles come together under the All-Comprehensive Name 'Allah', they are nonetheless ranked in degrees of excellence according to the Divine Name which has taken charge of them.

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