A Journey of Humility

Sultaan Mahmood once travelled to the land of Khuraasaan On arriving there, he felt a great desire to visit the renowned Shaikh, Abul Hasan Kharqaani (rahimahullah). However, because the primary purpose for which Sultaan Mahmood had traveled to Khuraasaan was some political errand, he felt it inappropriate to visit the Shaikh on the same journey as this would imply that he was only visiting the Shaikh as he already happened to be in the area. The level of respect and honour which Sultaan Mahmood would show the pious friends of Allah Ta‘ala was such that he felt it necessary to undertake a separate, special journey in order to visit the Shaikh. With this frame of mind, Sultaan Mahmood left Khuraasaan and returned to India where he continued his jihaad and conquests and thereafter returned to Ghazni. Only after reaching Ghazni did Sultaan Mahmood make arrangements and set out on his special journey to visit Shaikh Abul Hasan Kharqaani (rahimahullah).

When he entered Kharqaan, Sultaan Mahmood decided to test the Shaikh in order to see whether he really was as great as people said he was. He therefore sent a messenger to Shaikh Abul Hasan (rahimahullah) with the following message: “The king has travelled all the way from Ghazni to visit you. Kindly leave your abode and come to receive the king.” Sultaan Mahmood also instructed the messenger saying, “If he refuses to come to meet me, recite the following verse of the Quraan Majeed to him: “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger, and those charged with authority among you.”

The messenger accordingly went to the Shaikh and told him that Sultaan Mahmood had come all the way from Ghazni to meet him and had requested that the Shaikh come out to receive him. The Shaikh refused to come out and told the messenger to explain to the King that he could not come to receive him. The messenger, following the instructions of Sultaan Mahmood, therefore recited the above verse of the Quraan Majeed. When the Shaikh heard the verse, he said, “Tell the King that I am so involved in trying to obey Allah Ta‘ala that, regretfully, I have been unable to obey the Rasul (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) as he ought to be obeyed. When I am still failing to adequately obey the Rasul of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), how can I turn my attention to obeying the ruler whose importance is less?”

The messenger returned to Sultaan Mahmood and told him the answer of the Shaikh. Sultaan Mahmood was extremely impressed with the answer of the Shaikh as it not only showed his indifference to the king but also showed his great level of humility. Sultaan Mahmood said, “Let us ourselves go to meet the Shaikh.” Before entering, however, Sultaan Mahmood switched his clothing for that of Iyaaz and instructed Iyaaz to wear his own clothing. He also took ten slave girls with him who he had dressed as slave boys. They thereafter entered into the presence of the Shaikh.

When they entered and greeted the Shaikh, he replied to their salaam but did not rise in honour of the king. The Shaikh did not pay any attention to Sultaan Mahmood (who was dressed as Iyaaz) and instead turned to Iyaaz (who was dressed as Sultaan Mahmood) and began to speak to him. Noticing this, Sultaan Mahmood immediately spoke up and said, “Why have you neither stood to receive the king nor given him any attention? Has your ego trapped you into even ignoring and overlooking the king?” The Shaikh turned to Sultaan Mahmood and calmly replied, “The trap is exactly as you have described. However, you are its victim, not me. Your ego cannot tolerate that I have ignored you.” Sultaan Mahmood immediately realized that the Shaikh had seen through his disguise and identified him as the king and had deliberately treated him in this manner in order to correct him. The Shaikh next indicated towards the slave girls who were dressed as boys and instructed, “Take these non-mahram girls out of here.”

Sultaan Mahmood next asked the Shaikh to give him some advice. The Shaikh replied, “I advise you to hold firm to four things; abstinence, performing all salaah with jamaa‘ah, generosity and compassion.” Sultaan Mahmood then asked the Shaikh to make du‘aa for him to which the Shaikh said, “I make du‘aa for all Muslims after every salaah.” Sultaan Mahmood, however, insisted that the Shaikh make a special du‘aa which was exclusively for him. The Shaikh relented and made du‘aa saying, “May your end be mahmood (praiseworthy)”.

Sultaan Mahmood thereafter presented a bag of coins to the Shaikh as a gift. The Shaikh placed the coins aside and called for some food to be brought after which he instructed Sultaan Mahmood to eat. When Sultaan Mahmood placed the first morsel in his mouth, he found the bread to be so coarse that let alone swallow; he was unable to chew it. The Shaikh noticed him gagging and asked him, “What is the matter? Is it sticking in your throat?” When Sultaan Mahmood answered in the affirmative, the Shaikh said, “That is exactly how your money sticks in my throat. Take it back as I have divorced wealth a long time ago.”

When Sultaan Mahmood stood to leave, the Shaikh also stood and saw him out with honour. Sultaan Mahmood was surprised and asked the Shaikh, “When I arrived you did not stand to receive me. Why is it that you now stand to see me off?” The Shaikh replied, “When you arrived, you were filled with the arrogance and pride of a king and wished to test me. However, you are now returning with humility and meekness and I thus honour you.” (Taareekh e Farishtah vol. 1 pg. 90)


1. Despite being a king on earth, Sultaan Mahmood realized that the Shaikh was a king in the spiritual world. He thus adopted the highest levels of respect, honour and courtesy in resolving to undertake a separate journey to visit the Shaikh.

2. The Shaikh showed indifference to Sultaan Mahmood when he first arrived. One of the reasons was that Sultaan Mahmood had wished to test the Shaikh. Remember that it is always the teacher who tests the student. A person going to benefit from an ‘Aalim or pious person is going as a seeker and student. He thus does not have the right to try and test the ‘Aalim. Furthermore, testing the pious is an extremely disrespectful action.

3. The true pious servants of Allah Ta‘ala will not tolerate remaining in the company of non-mahrams for any amount of time. If a person is casual with non-mahram women, we must keep our distance from him. 

4. A person who wishes to benefit from the pious should realize that he is in need of them. He will then travel to see them or phone them (not ask them to come to him or ask them to phone him.)

AL Haadi

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