Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral)
The Duties and Qualities of Allāh
The words of Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) reveal the mystical Sufi path of esoteric Islām: that the human being is uniquely created with the faculty of wisdom, enabling him to trace himself back to his Origin—Allāh, the Creator and Cherisher of all the Universes who exists in Oneness with all lives— and to surrender to that Source, leaving the One God, the Truth, as the only reality in his life. This is the original intention of the purity that is Islām.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) spoke endlessly of this Truth through parables, discourses, songs, and stories, all pointing the way to return to God. Over fifteen thousand hours of this ocean of knowledge were recorded.
People of all ages, religions, classes, backgrounds, and races ﬂocked to hear and be near him; he interacted compassionately and lovingly with all of them, opening his heart to them equally, regardless of who they were. Presidents of countries and fakirs from the streets, the proud and the humble, the high-ranking and the low-ranking, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the extremely poor and the extremely rich all sat side by side in his presence.
An extraordinary being, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) taught from experience, having traversed the path and returned, divinely aware — sent back to exhort all who yearn for the experience of God to discover the inner wisdom that is the path of surrender to that One.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) did not tell us much about his life, although there were rare moments when he spoke to those gathered around him of certain memories.
What we know is that he was first sighted by spiritual seekers—a man we know only as Periari and a few others from the town of Kokuvil—at the edge of the jungle near the pilgrimage town of Kataragama in what was then known as Ceylon.
The tiny island that is shaped like a tear drop falling from the tip of southern India is a place known for its legendary as well as its sacred geography. Adam’s Peak in the center of the island is said to have retained the imprint created by the impact of Adam’s (AS) foot from when he first touched the earth after being cast out of the Garden of Eden.
Referred to in the ancient text of the Ramayana as Lanka, it was the site of Princess Sita’s captivity by her abductor, Ravana, the evil demon-king of Lanka. The Ramayana contains details of the battlefields where the armies of her husband Prince Rama fought the armies of the demon-king, and describes the groves of exotic herbs dropped by Hanuman, the monkey-king who helped Prince Rama rescue his wife.
When the island was called the Isle of Serendib, the voyage of Sinbad was described in the Thousand and One Nights. Medieval Arabs and Persians made regular pilgrimages to Adam’s Peak. The fourteenth century Arab traveler and scholar Ibn Batutah made that pilgrimage. Legends record the visit of the Qutb (Ral), who after visiting Adam’s Peak, meditated for twelve years in what came to be known as the hermitage shrine of Daftar Jailani that lies at the edge of a precipitous granite cliff in the south central portion of the island, a site that has become a place of saintly visitation and mystical meditation.
Living in that land of legends, those seekers from Kokuvil recognized Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) as a uniquely mystical being when they began to interact with him, begging him to teach them. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) has told us his voice was like a bird’s then. He had lived peacefully alone in the jungle for so long that he had almost forgotten human speech. Gradually, he began to speak with those seekers, although his voice retained its high bird-like pitch for many years.
Telling those seekers that God was the only Teacher, he consented only to study side by side with them. Working long hours in the rice fields as a farmer by day, he spoke and sang to them of his experiences of God in the evenings. Eventually, he and that small group of seekers from Kokuvil built an ashram in Jaffna.
Travel was difficult in that small country, yet the refuge of his presence was irresistible. As more and more people came to know about him and to hear him sing and speak of God, many of them began to invite him to stay in their homes. Among those people were Dr Ajwad Macan-Markar and his wife Ameen Macan-Markar who lived in the city of Colombo. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) told them it would not be easy: that he was like a tree upon which many birds needed to take shelter. If he was to agree to stay at their home, they would also have to accommodate these birds. He warned them that there could be many at times. Dr. Ajwad and his wife did not hesitate to agree to open their home to all who wished to accompany him. After that, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) always stayed at their home when he was in Colombo.
For forty years Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Ral) spent his time with those seekers until 1971, when he accepted an invitation from Carolyn Andrews and a small group of people in Philadelphia in the United States who had heard about him. After that, he went back and forth between Philadelphia and what by then had been renamed Sri Lanka until 1982, when he stayed in the United States until December 1986.
In these distressing times, his words are increasingly recognized as representing the original intention of Islām which is the purity of the relationship between man and God as explained by all the prophets of God, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the peace of God be upon them , who were all sent to tell and retell mankind that there is one and only One God, and that this One is their Source—attainable, and waiting for the return of each individual soul.