The Story of the Thief and the Saint

Maulana Shaykh Nazim’s elder son, and full Khalifah on Golden Chain, Shaykh Muhammad Adil, also affectionately known as Shaykh Mehmet, tells this fascinating tale, to explain the amazing attributes of the Friends of Allah.

With his easy and humorous story-telling style, Shaykh Mehmet beautifully illustrates the difference between Shariah and Tariqah, Scholars and Saints, Knowledge and Wisdom. A Gem of a Tale indeed!

A’uzubillah himinash shaitan nirrajeem

Bismillah-hir Rahman-nir Raheem

Assalamu’alaikum wrh wbkt

Saints/Awliyaullah – eyes of Mercy

Today we speak about the Friends of Allah, the Awliyaullah, These are the Guides who have ‘ilm/knowledge, and irfan/awareness. There are many people, especially Scholars, who do not appreciate these Saintly ones who have Tariqat, often asking in a mocking manner, “What good is Tariqat?”  Scholars judge everything superficially, while Saints have an in-depth understanding of the true execution of Shariah, in the manner which is pleasing to Allah, and easy for people to follow.

There is a common misconception that people of Tariqah are very lax on Shariah. This is not true, no Shaykh would ever act against Shariah. A Shaykh knows how to instruct his mureeds with the compassion and mercy that Allah had wanted the Shariah to be administered with. Their emphasis is always on this and not on the rigid fulfillment of the Divine commandments, just for the sake of upholding it.

These Awliya of Allah, the beloved servants of Allah, look upon people with the eyes of mercy, no matter whom they are dealing with. Even towards the sinners, they look at them as “the poor people who fell in this way.” They view those who persist in sin, as people whose hearts are ill, and whose Souls are poor. Because of the mercy in the hearts of Saints, instead of despising or criticizing these sickly ones, they are always seeking a way to lead help them find a cure. Hence, they are often misunderstood (see first story below in Commentary). Such is the benevolent nature of Saints. Here is a story to illustrate this.

The Thief and the Saint

There was once a friend of Allah, who lived perhaps 500 to 600 years ago, in Khorasan. He spent his nights in remembrance and reflection, and was very pious one. One night, as usual, he was the only one awake in his village, doing Zikir. While in the midst of his devotions, he heard a strange sound, like a rope landing on a rooftop, and so he walked over to his window to check on the source of the sound. To his surprise, he saw a man attempting to climb over the wall of his neighbour’s house. Realising that this was a robbery-in-progress, the Saint shouted at the top of his lungs, “Thief, there is a thief here!”

The villagers awoke to the sound of his cries, grabbed their sticks and dashed out of their houses. The thief was startled to see an armed crowd gather so quickly, and he let himself down expertly and deftly disappeared into the darkness. Despite chasing him, and searching in the neighbouring wilderness, they could find no trace of him – so expert was this thief!

After all the villagers had returned to their houses and slept, the Saint continued to ponder about the incident, and felt deeply affected by it. He felt very sorry for the would-be burglar. He thought to himself, “He left his home today, full of hope that he would get a good yield. He worked so hard, planned so meticulously, stayed up all night – and now, his heart must be full of disappointment and sadness, for all his effort had gone unrewarded.” He was so overcome by pity for the thief, that he decided to go look for him, to console him. Though it was in the dead of night, and the thief had hidden himself well, the Saint (using his special grant from Allah) was able to seek him out and locate him in the wilderness. The man was still panting furiously from his escape, and looked stunned to see the Saint, who had found him despite his best efforts to hide.

“Assalamu’alaikum!” The Saint greeted the thief respectfully. “You may not remember me,” he continued, “but I am an old friend of yours.”

“Really?” replied the thief warily, “I don’t remember you.”

“It was from a very long time ago indeed. I know you from back then, you are a courageous man indeed. There are two types of courage – the courage to face an enemy and battle him, and the courage to run away,”  said the Saint.

Of course there was no such thing as ‘running away courageously’, but the Saint wanted this man to feel good about the escape that he just did. The Saint kept talking, calming the man down, and winning his confidence with well chosen words.

“What happened just now was unfortunate,” said the Saint, with a sparkle in his eyes, “but I know of another target that will suit you well. It is a house which has low walls, unlike the one with high walls that you tried to rob earlier. It is so low that you needn’t use a rope; in fact, I will let you climb on my back to enter it. This house has many things worth robbing, and the owner is presently not home.” The thief was very sceptical at first, but eventually, the Saint convinced him to have a go at robbing this second house, together.

They crept up to the targeted house, and, when the thief inspected it, he could see that the Saint had indeed been telling the truth – the walls were low, and there appeared to be no one home. Climbing on the back of the Saint, the thief entered the house, and proceeded to steal everything in the house – even the Jubbah, the Turban, and all the crockery in the kitchen were taken. He passed all his stolen goods to his awaiting accomplice, the Saint, who then helped him pack and tie everything up securely. Once the entire heap was safely on the thief’s back, the Saint urged him to run away quickly, before the owner came back. Giving the thief a good head start, the Saint then shouted to alert the neighbours again that a robbery had taken place, but by the time everyone awakened and came out of their homes, the thief was long gone, with his prize catch of the night!

Indeed, the thief was really happy that he would not be going home empty-handed that night. And it never crossed his mind, that he had robbed the house of the Saint himself! For indeed, the Saint had helped the thief rob his very own house, as he could not bear the thought of the thief leaving brokenhearted, after his earlier botched attempt.

Saints are full of pity for everyone

This is the nature of Awliyaullah! How their hearts are cauldrons of love and mercy, that they cannot bear to see Allah’s servants sad or brokenhearted. This Saint was so sad to see the thief’s effort go to waste, he was so sad to see him disappointed. He pitied him, and offered his own house, to make the thief happy; indeed he was relieved when he saw the thief’s joyous face when he got a good haul from his heist.

The Awliya of Allah are like this, they pity everybody, especially the sinners. If no one pities and guides the sinners, how then are they to attain salvation?

Wisdoms from this tale

There are a few different wisdoms in this story.

Why did the Saint raise the alarm during the first robbery? It was because he had seen a thief about to rob someone else’s house (his neighbour’s). If he did not raise the alarm, he would be considered to be abetting the crime, which is a sin in Shariah. By alerting the villagers, he had protected the goods of his neighbour and prevented the thief from committing a sin, because in Shariah, when one sees a sin that can be prevented, one must do so, with his hand or by his tongue, or at the lowest level of iman, by hating it in his heart (Hadees).

But during the second ‘robbery’, the Saint had made an intention to donate his goods to the thief so that the thief would not return home that night empty-handed (and be disappointed in Allah). He wanted to mend the broken heart of a creation of Allah, and in doing so, he hoped that hidayah (guidance), would enter the heart of the thief (for one cannot touch the belongings of a Saint, and remain unaffected – there are blessings over them that will eventually touch the heart of the thief).

He reacted using his knowledge of Shariah in the first instance, but he acted with the wisdom of Tariqah in the second!

Wisdom is a great gift 

And wisdom is a very great gift, a very rare gift that is very difficult to acquire. Allah says:

يُؤۡتِى الۡحِكۡمَةَ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ‌‌ ۚ وَمَنۡ يُّؤۡتَ الۡحِكۡمَةَ فَقَدۡ اُوۡتِىَ خَيۡرًا كَثِيۡرًا‌ ؕ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ اِلَّاۤ اُولُوا الۡاَلۡبَابِ‏

He grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted, receives indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the message except men of understanding. (Quran 2:269)

There is vast difference between acting with the knowledge of Scholars, and acting with the wisdom of Saints. (see second story below in Commentary)

Maulana’s deep wisdom 

If you thought that the Saint’s sacrifice in the story above, was a great one, you must know that we have seen thousands of far greater examples from Maulana Shaykh Nazim throughout his life. One cannot fathom the depth of generosity of the heart of a Saint; even those closest to him cannot fully comprehend him.

There are times when a person comes to visit Maulana – a person who is reviled for his poor adab and whose integrity is in doubt – yet Maulana shows him respect, welcomes him warmly and praises him. This irks some other mureeds, who then come to Maulana with complaints about that person, and they try to explain to Maulana that the person is a bad one, as if Maulana is in the dark about it. A Shaykh is never in the dark about these matters, his actions are never from ignorance, naivety or gullibility. There are wisdoms, as to why Maulana entertains even the unsavoury characters, wisdoms that may be beyond our limited understanding. Some people come, thinking that they can cheat Maulana, or that they can sweet-talk their way into getting what they want, but they do not know that they are only doing evil upon themselves.



Mureeds who doubt

There are mureeds, who pull away from the Shaykh, because doubt creeps into their hearts about him. Even towards these mureeds who have abandoned him, Maulana never stops loving or praying for or helping them, right up to their last breath. Only when such mureeds are shown in akherat, to what extent their Shaykh had been kind and generous towards them, will they be filled with the deepest shame and regret, that they had doubted and avoided him, during their worldly lives.

We must never question or doubt our Guides. They are Saints, Friends of Allah. They are not common people like you and me. The things that Awliyaullah tolerate in people cannot even be imagined! A lot of people can’t take it, even the ones who say “we are the closest to Maulana” are often astonished by his actions in some situations.

Whenever faced with any strange act from our Guides, mureeds must ask, “What is the wisdom in this?” because they must remember that Mawlana is a Saint – the Qutub of all Awliyas in this time, the inheritor of Muhammad (saw).

Many things that he does out of his mercy are misunderstood. May Allah not leave any doubt about him in our hearts, insha Allah. If you cannot understand his wisdom, then you must be careful to not think bad of Maulana. You must say “there is a wisdom in this” and don’t give your opinion on Maulana’s actions, for this may draw Allah’s punishment upon you. So take heed from this story, it contains an important lesson for all.



Shaykh Nazim and the Christian convert – the winding road

Once a Christian man came to Maulana to take Shahadah. When he had done so, he asked Maulana, what practices he should do, now that he was a Muslim. Maulana told him to perform a single prostration, once a day, and once he was comfortable with that, to return for more instructions.

After some time, he returned, and asked to do more. He was then asked to perform two prostrations daily. This went on in gradual stages, until he was performing the full five-times-a-day fardhu prayers.

Many years later, when asked by his fellow mureeds, what he thought of Shaykh Nazim’s method of instruction, he was full of praise for Maulana. “As a Christian, I was too lazy to pray even once a week on Sundays. If I had been told to do five prayers everyday after converting, I would have left Islam soon after. But since I was ordered to do only one sujood, it was easy, and as I learnt more about Allah, I began longing to do more, and it became very easy to add the fardhu, and even the sunnat prayers, as time went by.”

Unfortunately, only the first part of this story gets told – that Maulana was telling converts to do one sujood daily, in place of the five compulsory prayers! Till now, there are postings on the internet attacking Tariqah, Sufis and Shaykh Nazim for deviant teachings. Posts like, “Islam is built on the five pillars, solah is a pillar that is fixed till Judgement Day, and no Sheikh can change it.” This, and many other silly postings, made its rounds, with shallow, short-sighted people attacking Tariqah furiously, without realizing what happened at the end of this story.

Surely they know that the whole Shariah of Islam was revealed in stages over 23 years. Surely they must know that alcohol was made haram in a series of steps, not instantly. Surely they must know that the purpose of Shariah is not just to perform rituals, devoid of any understanding, but to use it as a vehicle to get somewhere, and that somewhere, our Divine destination, is what this whole journey is about.

Maulana summed it up beautifully in this example. He said, “The shortest way up a steep mountain, is straight up. But can anyone drive directly up the mountain that way? No. The only way up, is to build roads that goes round and round the mountain, rising gradually to the top. Only with such a Way can a person progress upwards.

Winding mountain road…

Today, Scholars load our children with the full Shariah when they teach children, quoting hadees that outline severe punishment for the slightest error in execution. And we are wondering why our youth look at Islam as a set of rituals they cannot understand, and before long, they dump it, and adopt the Western lifestyle. “Everything leads to hell,” they say, “so let’s just have good time here before we go.”

Only Awliyaullah can bring a taste of love into worship, only they can stir the Soul from its heedlessness, only they can put meaning into this life’s quest. They can do, what a Scholar, cannot.

Knowledge and Wisdom

When the Prophet (saw) and the Companions saw a man urinating inside Mesjid Nabawi, many Companions wanted to attack and beat him up, some even drew their swords! Prophet (saw) waved away the Companions and spoke to the man gently, explaining to him the right course of action.

While the Companions reacted with knowledge (they reacted based on the wrongness of the man’s action), Prophet (saw) reacted with wisdom (understanding of the basis of the man’s action, while gently seeking a way to guide a misguided one).

Knowledge is easy to attain; wisdom, as Shaykh Mehmet said, is a gift that is very special and overflowing with goodness, which one finds only, in the hearts of the Friends of Allah.


This 23 minute Suhbah can be watched here on Saltanat TV, Maulana Shaykh Nazim’s Official Channel. The video posted on Saltanat TV has translations in many languages (German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, English and Bahasa).


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