Hazrat Sultan Shaikh Syed Ahmad Al Kabeer Ar Refaie (1119-1182) was born on a
Thursday in the
first half of
the lunar month of Rajab in district Hasen, in the Vasit province of Iraq. When he
years old, his
father Syed Sultan Ali passed away in Baghdad. From then on his maternal uncle Syed
Betaihi took him into his care and educated him.
The maternal part of Hazrat Ahmad Refaie 's family goes back to Hazrat Imam Hussain & Hazrat Imam Hasan, the sons of Hazrat Ali (R.A). On the paternal side his lineage goes back to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Hazrat Ali (R.A), the master of the community, husband of Hazrat Bibi Fatima and the father of Imams, a cousin of the prophet. Hazrat Imam Hussain, Imam of Muslims, the chief of the Momins (believers in Islam) who were tried and afflicted with various troubles and calamities, the Shaheed-e-Karbala.
Ahmed Ar Refaie learned the Qur'an from Shaikh Abdus Sami al Hurbuni in Hasen, where he was born, and by the age of seven he had committed it all to memory. (The title Shaikh before a name indicates a sufi teacher.) That same year, after his father died, his maternal uncle Mansur ar Rabbani al Betaihi moved with his family to the region of Dikla. There he sent his nephew to Abul Fadl Ali al Vasiti, who was an expert in the canon law of Islam, a commentator on the Qur'an, and a great preacher.
In addition to attending the zikr meetings of his uncle Mansur ar Rabbani al Betaihi, Ahmed Ar Refaie also attended the courses of his other uncle, Shaikh Abubakar, who was a great scientist of his era and the sultan of scientists. He eventually memorized the book Tanbih, which deals with the fikh (Muslim canonical jurisprudence) of Imam Shafi according to Imam Abu Ishaq Shirazi, and wrote an explanation about the book. (This explanation was lost in the Mongol invasion.)
He occupied all his time with acquiring religious knowledge. Eventually even his own teachers and the people who taught him respect learned the essence of respect when they were in his presence.
When Ahmed Ar Refaie was twenty years old, Abul Fadl Ali al Vasiti, who was the Shaikh of Wasit province and his teacher, awarded him a sehadetname (teaching certificate) encompassing the sciences of canon law and permission to initiate a dervish order, gave him the name "father of external and interior sciences," and dressed him with his own dervish's cloak. His teachers and his shaikhs agreed about the greatness of his rank and the superiority of his worth.
He remained in Nehr-e-Dikla for a short time and after that went back to his father's guest house for travelers in Hasen. He then became very well known. When he was twenty-eight, his uncle Syed Mansur ar Rabbani al Betaihi requested that he led the dervish lodge and Caliphs after him. He also instructed him to live in the dervish lodge of Shaikh Yahya en-Naccari, who was his grandfather from his mother's side. Ahmed Ar Refaie took up his post (shaikhship) there as an enlightened master and began teaching in this dervish lodge. His uncle died in the same year. By the time Ahmed Ar Refaie reached the age of thirty-five, his murids (disciples) numbered over seven hundred thousand. He taught the Sunnah (the way of the Prophet Muhammad ) and the details of the Qur'an to the public, and he always said that "the trade of a wise man is to show the way that leads to Allah and to direct hearts towards Allah".
He held courses on Hadees, Islamic canon law, religious precepts, and commentary on the Qur'an on all days of the week except Mondays and Thursdays. He sat in his pulpit on Monday and Thursday afternoons and preached to intellectuals and the general public. Because of the depth and the influence of his words, the people were captivated, their intelligence was stupefied, and their hearts submitted to him. Apart from the Prophet Muhammad, the companions and disciples of the Prophet and twelve Imams, there was no other person who spoke as well as Ahmed Ar Refaie did.
Whenever he sat in his pulpit to give a lecture, crowds-including advanced scientists, preachers, spiritual teachers and the general public-gathered. When he began to speak, knowledge gushed out with his words like the gushing sea. Wise men were enraptured when they heard his beautiful and influential words and listened to his extensive knowledge. The denying and obstinate were tongue-tied in the presence of the power of the evidence. Literary men profited from his outstanding expression, scientists from his skills and talents and philosophers from his deep and wise manner of speaking.
In his book Sevad-ul-Ainein, the writer Imam Rafii narrates, "Shaikh Salih Yusuf Abu Zakariya al Askalani, who was a great expert in the canon law of Islam, told me: 'I had gone to Umme Abida to visit Shaikh Ahmed Al Kabeer Ar Refaie'. There were more than one hundred thousand people around the guest house; some were managers, scientists and shaikhs, and the others were the normal public. He gave dinner to all of them and was very friendly to everyone. He started to preach in the afternoon of a Thursday. In the audience were preachers from the province of Vasit, as well as a religious community of doctors of Muslim theology of Iraq and the important people of the province. One group asked questions about the science of commentary on the Qur'an, another asked about subjects dealing with the recorded sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, another asked about Muslim canon jurisprudence, another asked about the disagreements between the different religious opinions, and yet another group asked many questions about different areas of science. Ahmed Ar Refaie answered more than two hundred questions, and he did not get angry when he was answering the questions. I became embarrassed because of the insensitivity of people asking the questions, and I stood up and said, 'Is this not enough for you? He can answer every question about the written sciences, without facing any difficulty, with the permission of Allah!' Ahmed Ar Refaie smiled at my words and said, 'Abu Zakariya, allow them to ask before I pass away. Certainly the world is a house from which we will all depart. Allah changes all situations, all of the time.' All the public cried at this answer. The crowd was perplexed and anxious exclamations were heard. Forty thousand people became his students because of the spiritual effect of his talk."
Ahmed Ar Refaie's talks, his actions, his behavior and his every breath were for Allah. He always had a smiling face, was modest and good-tempered, endured suffering, and was very patient. He did not get personally cross with anyone, and did not want any help for his own person. On the contrary, he loved for Allah, and even his anger was from Allah and for Allah. He did not rebuke anybody who behaved in a manner that he did not like. He considered neither his family nor himself superior to other people. Speaking about this he said, "According to our opinion of Allah, everybody is equal to everybody else: it doesn't matter if they are close relatives or if they are strangers to us."