Shaykh Taj ud-Din Ahmad Ibn Ata'illah
Shaykh Taj’ud-Din Ahmad ibn Ata’illah was born in about 1250 into a distinguished family of religious scholars who followed the school of Hazrat Imam Malik (R.Z) in Alexandria. His father was a close follower of Shaykh Abu’l Hasan ash-Shadhili. Ahmad ibn Ata’illah became the close follower of Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi after he had completed his study of Islamic Law as transmitted by the school of Hazrat Imam Malik (R. Z). Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi predicted that Ahmad ibn Ata’illah would become an authority in both the Sufi path and Islamic Law, and it was in Cairo that this prediction of his future greatness came true, for the there he led two lives. One was his professional life as a teacher of Islamic Law in accordance with what had been transmitted through Hazrat Imam Malik (R. Z) in various public institutions and mosques in Cairo, such as Al-Azhar and the newly built Al-Mansuriyyah, together with his public preaching which attracted large audiences; his other life was devoted to his duties as a spiritual master of the Shadhili Order, in which he transmitted the transformative teaching of the Muhammadi code to sincere seekers of wisdom and gnosis. Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ata’illah was also influential in the Mamluk court, and used to counsel Sultan al-Mansur (d. 1298) on religious matters.
Towards the end of his life, Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ata’illah was confronted by a well-known religious scholar called Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328) who was a stark enemy of all Sufis. With reference to him, Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ata’illah warned everyone about the shallow-minded attitude displayed by some orthodox jurists and religious scholars towards Sufism. He died in 1309, and his tomb in the Qarafah cemetery in Cairo, where many people have experience miraculous phenomena, still stands to this day. Some of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ata’illah’s wise sayings are:
"Do not travel from created being to created being.
Otherwise you will be like the donkey at the mill-stone:
That from which he travels is that to which he travels.
Rather travel from created beings to the Maker of being:
‘And the final end is to your Lord.’
Your turning to Allah is your turning away from creation.
Your turning to creation is your turning away from Allah.
Do not keep the company of anyone
Whose state does not inspire you,
And whose speech does not guide you to Allah.
The heart does not benefit by anything like withdrawal
By which it enters the arena of reflection."
And, quoting Hazrat Shaykh Abdal-Qadir
"I did not reach Allah and Exalted by standing in prayer at night, nor by fasting in the day nor by studying knowledge. I reached Allah by generosity and humility and soundness of the heart."
He also said:
"Allah has a garden in this world.
Whoever enters it does not yearn
For the garden of the Next World."
"You are not veiled from Allah by the existence of something that exists with Him since there is nothing which exists with Him. You are veiled from Him by the illusion that something exists with Him