His full name is Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qaadir ibn Abi Saalih ‘Abdullah ibn Jangi Dost al-Jeeli al-Hanbali.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qaadir was born in Jeelaan (Jilan) in Tabaristan, in 471 AH; he died in 561 AH.
He learned from Abu Ghaalib al-Baaqillaani, Ahmad ibn al-Muzaffar and Abu’l-Qaasim ibn Bayaan.
As-Sam‘aani, al-Haafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani and Shaykh Muwaffaq ad-Deen ibn Qudaamah narrated from him.
Imam adh-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) said of him: The shaykh, imam, scholar, ascetic (zaahid), ‘aarif (devoted worshipper), Shaykh al-Islam, ‘Alam al-Awliya’ (The most prominent of the close friends (awliya’, sing. wali) of Allah).
Imam as-Sam‘aani (may Allah have mercy) said of him: ‘Abdul-Qaadir was one of the people of Jilan, the imam and shaykh of the Hanbalis of his time, a scholar, righteous, religiously committed, charitable; he remembered Allah a great deal (dhikr), was always deep in thought and was quick to weep.
Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: He had a dignified bearing, and he kept quiet except for enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil; he had very little interest in worldly gain (i.e., he was an ascetic); miracles were attributed to him; his followers and companions spoke a great deal about him and narrated from him his words, actions and miracles, but most of the reports about his miracles are exaggerated. He was righteous and pious, and wrote books called al-Ghunyah and Futooh al-Ghayb, in which there are good things and in which he also quoted da‘eef (weak) and mawdoo‘ (fabricated) hadeeths. To sum up, he was one of the leading shaykhs.
Some students decided to research the ‘aqeedah (doctrine) and life story of Jilaani, as did Shaykh Sa‘eed ibn Musfir in his book Shaykh ‘Abdul-Qaadir Jilani wa Araa’uhu al-I‘tiqaadiyyah wa’s-Sufiyyah (Shaykh Abdul-Qadir Jilani and his doctrinal and Sufi beliefs), which was his doctoral thesis in Umm al-Qura University [in Makkah]. Summing up his research, he said:
Firstly: Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilaani was Salafi in his ‘aqeedah (beliefs), in accordance with the methodology of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah in all matters of ‘aqeedah, such as issues of faith, Tawheed (affirming the Oneness of Allah), Prophethood, and the Last Day. He also affirmed that it is obligatory to obey those in authority, and that it is not permissible to rebel against them.
Secondly: He was one of the leading Sufi shaykhs during their early stages, when their concepts were moderate and closer to the Sunnah, and in most cases were based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, with a particular focus on deeds of the heart (spirituality).
Thirdly: with regard to his learning the sciences of tasawwuf from shaykhs who lacked knowledge based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, such as his shaykh ad-Dabbaas, who was illiterate and could neither read nor write, he – may Allah have mercy on him – fell into some mistakes and practised some innovations in worship, but these slips are superseded by the vast number of his good deeds. Nobody is infallible except the Prophets; all others are subject to error, and if the volume of water reaches two large vessels, it cannot be contaminated by impurity (as stated in the books of fiqh).
Fourthly: most of what is attributed to Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qaadir al-Jilani of miracles (karaamaat) are exaggerated, and some of them are not soundly narrated. Of those that may be accepted, they either come under the heading of insight (firaasah) or of miracles (karaamaat) which Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah believe may happen, subject to shar‘i guidelines that are explained in the appendix to this thesis.