by Sheikh Nuh Keller
Dala’il al-Khayrat, the most celebrated manual of Blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in history, was composed by the Sufi, wali, Muslim scholar of prophetic descent, and baraka of Marrakesh Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 870/1465). Born and raised among the Gazulah Berbers of the Sus region in southern Morocco, he studied the Qur’an and traditional Islamic knowledge before travelling to Fez, where he memorized the four-volume Mudawwana of Imam Malik and met scholars of his time such as Ahmad Zarruq, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah Amghar, who become his sheikh in the tariqa or Sufi path.
Amghar traced his spiritual lineage through only six masters to the great founder of their order Abul Hasan al-Shadhili and thence back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). After initiating Jazuli into the way, he placed him in a khalwa or solitary retreat, where he remained invoking Allah for some fourteen years, and emerged tremendously changed. After a sojourn in the east and performing hajj, Jazuli himself was given permission to guide disciples as a sheikh of the tariqa.
Imam Ahmad al-Sawi relates that one day Jazuli went to perform his ablutions for the prescribed prayer from a nearby well but could not find any means to draw the water up. While thus perplexed, he was seen by a young girl who called out from high above, “You’re the one people praise so much, and you can’t even figure out how to get water out of a well?” So she came down and spat into the water, which welled up until it overflowed and spilled across the ground. Jazuli made his ablutions, and then turned to her and said, “I adjure you to tell me how you reached this rank.” She said, “By saying the Blessings upon him whom beasts lovingly followed as he walked through the wilds (Allah bless him and give him peace).” Jazuli thereupon vowed to compose the book of Blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) which came to be known as his Dala’il al-Khayrat or “Waymarks of Benefits.”
His spiritual path drew thousands of disciples who, aided by the popularity of his manual of Blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), had a tremendous effect on Moroccan society. He taught followers the Blessings upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), extinction of self in the love of Allah and His messenger, visiting the awliya or saints, disclaiming any strength or power, and total reliance upon Allah. He was told by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in a dream, “I am the splendor of the prophetic messengers, and you are the splendor of the awliya.” Many divine signs were vouchsafed to him, none more wondrous or unmistakable than the reception that met his famous work.
Its celebrity swept the Islamic World from North Africa to Indonesia. Scarcely a well-to-do home was without one, princes exchanged magnificently embellished copies of it, commoners treasured it. Pilgrims wore it at their side on the way to hajj, and a whole industry of hand-copyists sprang up in Mecca and Medina that throve for centuries. Everyone who read it found that baraka descended wherever it was recited, in accordance with the Divine command: “Verily Allah and His angels bless the Prophet: O you who believe, bless him and pray him peace” (Qur’an 33:56).