Sayyid Ahmed Kabir Rifai was born in the first half of Rajab in the Muslim yeer of 512 A.H. (1119 A.D.) on a Thursday. His birthplace was in the town of Ummu Abeyde in the township of Beta in the province of Basra, Iraq.His father was Sayyid Ali Abu'l Hasan. His mother was Fatima ul-Anseri bint Yahya Nijjeri. His Shaykh was Aleyyul Wasiti. Ahmed Kabir Rifai was related to our Prophet (saws) from both his father's and mother's sides by blood. His paternal lineage was
Imam Ali Zayna'l-Abidin (K.S.)
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (K.S.)
Imam Jafer as-Sadiq (K.S.)
Imam Musa al-Kazim (K.S.)
Imam Ibrahim al-Murteza (K.S.)
Sayyid Musa Sani (K.S.)
Sayyid Ahmad Salih Akbar (K.S.)
Sayyid Abu Abdullah Husayn (K.S.)
Sayyid Hasan Qasım Abû Mûsa (K.S.)
Sayyid Muhammad Abu'l-Qasim (K.S.)
Sayyid Al-Mahdi Makki (K.S.)
Sayyid Abu'l Mekarim al-Hasan (K.S.)
Sayyid Abu'l Fadail (K.S.)
Sayyid Abu Ali Murtaza (K.S.)
Sayyid Ali Hazim Abu 'l Fewaris (K.S.)
Sayyid Sabit (K.S.)
Sayyid Yahya Nakib (K.S.)
Sayyid Ebul-Hasen Aliyy-ar-Rifâi (K.S.)
Sayyid Hadrat Ahmad ar-Rifâi (K.S.)
Before Ahmed Kabir Rifai's birth, his maternal uncle, a famous Shaykh, Mansur Rabbani, had seen our prophet Hz. Muhammad (saws) and was told that his sister would have a male child who would be famous and be known by the name "Rifa'i." When the child reached the proper age for Sufism, he should be sent to Shaykh Aleyyul Vasiti for education and training.
Ahmed Kabir Rifai's father passed away when his son was 7 years old. Sayyid Ali died in 519 A.H.; he is buried in Baghdad. So Ahmed er Rufai's maternal uncle started taking care of the little boy. After a while he was sent to Shaykh Vasiti in accordance with his uncle's vision. Shaykh Mansur has said that as long as Ahmed Kabir Rifai stayed with him, he saw many miracles come through the boy and that many blessings came through him for everyone.
Ahmed Kabir Rifai showed ability and wisdom beyond his age when he began his education under Shaykh Vasiti. He acquired a high maqam by explaining the book of the Shafi school called "Tanbih."
Khilafat and Teaching
Hazrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi was twenty years old, when Abu Fazl Ali, who was the Shaykh of Vasit province and his teacher, awarded him a Khilafat , 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. Hazrat Sayyid Ahmad Kabir- Rifâi remained in Nehr-i 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 Shaykh Mansur requested that he lead the dervish lodge and Caliphs after him. He also instructed him to live in the dervish lodge of Shaykh Yahya en-Neccari, who was his grandfather from his mother’s side. Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi took up his post (shaykhship)there as an enlightened master and began teaching in this dervish lodge. His uncle died in the same year. By the time Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi reached the age of thirty-five, his murids (disciples) numbered over seven hundred thousand.
Many miracles occurred through Ahmed Kabir Rifai. One of the most widely known is the one that give him the name "Abul alemeyin" (the Father of Two Banners). In the year 555 A.H., when he was 43 years old, Hz. Rifa'i went on hajj. He didn't wear the usual traveling clothes of sayyids (the relatives of the Prophet, saws, could be recognized by their clothes). There is a certain section of the Prophet's (saws) tomb in Medina that only blood relatives of the Prophet (saws) may enter. The guard at the door would not allow him in, as he wanted to know the proof that Ahmed Kabir Rifai was related to the Prophet (saws). Ahmed Kabir Rifai was sad and yelled towards our Prophet's (saws) tomb, "As-salaamu alaykum, ya jeddi (Peace be on you, my ancestor)." Our Prophet (saws) answered, saying "Walaykum salaam, ya waladi (And peace be on you, my son)." Muhammad's (saws) hand came out of the tomb and our Pir kissed the Prophet's (saws) hand. When people saw this miracle, they went into a state of wajd (ecstasy) and began stabbing themselves with their swords and knives. When the ecstasy passed, there were people lying all over the floor covered with blood, so Ahmed Kabir Rifai returned them to their normal health. After that, our Pir was famous for possessing this gift.
Ahmed Kabir Rifai is known as one of the four major tariqat pirs ("Aktab-i erbaa," a qutb of the time, not just of a local area). Another major qutb was Abdul Qadir al Jeelani.
One day somebody asked Abdul Qadir al Jeeylani (who was Ahmed Kabir Rifai's cousin) "Ya Hazrat, what is love?" Hz. Gouse Pak told the person to go ask this question to Sayyid Ahmed Kabir Rifai. After sending Hz. Jeelani's salaams to Hz. Rifa'i, he asked, "What is love?" When Ahmed Kabir Rifai heard this question, he stood up, saying, "Love is fire, love is fire." He began whirling until he passed into the unseen and disappeared. When the person saw this, he was disturbed because he didn't understand what was happening. At that moment, the spiritual presence of Abdul Qadir al Jeelani appeared and told him to look for the spot where his brother Ahmed Kabir Rifai had vanished, and to pour rosewater on that spot. The person did this and within a couple of moments, Sayyid Ahmed Kabir Rifai appeared, whirling in the exact same place. When the man went back to Baghdad, he visited Hz. Jeelani, who asked him, "Did you see love? My brother Sayyid Rifa'i has reached stations that many walis have not been able to reach." Sayyid Ahmed Kabir Rifai also deeply loved and respected Abdul Qadir al Jeelani and told his students that whoever visited Baghdad without visiting Hz. Jeelani's tomb would not be welcome by Allah or by them.
Abu Musa el-Haddadi said that in the town of Haddahiye there was a woman whose children were always stillborn. This lady said, if I have a child, I will give this child in the service of Ahmed Kabir Rifai. A few years later she had a daughter who was hunchbacked and lame. Because of this, the other children in the village always made fun of her. One day, Ahmed Kabir Rifai was visiting this town and all the people went to the road to see him. The little girl threw herself at Rifai's feet and cried out, "You are my mother's Shaykh; please heal me from these problems!" and wept. When Hz. Rifai saw her situation he cried as well, and praying over her, he placed his hands on her back and head. The girl's back and leg were both healed. This is why Ahmed Kabir Rifai is called Beynennas (Abu'l Arca), the Father of the Lame.
Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi used to advise people to guard themselves from overindulging in the things that are neither recommended nor forbidden by religious law, such as overeating and oversleeping. He used to recommend worshipping at night. He also used to recommend keeping away from people who do not know their limits, who behave in excessive manner, who see themselves as superior to others, and who argue with each other.
He used to do his service by himself, repair his own shoes, and carry the firewood which was prepared for him to the houses of people who were sick, orphaned, fallen or without relations or friends.
One Friday, Hz. Rifa'i was sleeping and woke to find that it was time for prayer. However, there was a cat asleep on his robe. He asked his wife for some scissors, cut off the part of his robe where the cat lay, stood up and went to prayers. When he returned, the cat had awakened and left, so he asked his wife for thread to sew the robe back together. When he saw his wife's displeasure at what he had done to his robe, he said "Do not worry, nothing but goodness happened and I did not suffer because of this; this was a good thing."
Once, Ahmed Kabir Rifai spent forty days caring for a dog with leprosy in the wilderness. When he returned and was asked why he had spent so much time caring for an unclean beast, he replied, "When I die and meet my Maker, what would I have said if He asked me why I hadn't helped one of His creatures?"
He helped the blind find their shoes after worship, and also helped guide them to the places that they wanted to go. He respected old people and recommended respecting them. He always used to quote the words of our Prophet Muhammad (saw), “If a person shows respect to old people and those in need, Allah will assign people who will respect them when they are old.”
Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi used to go to the houses of the leprous and bedridden, wash their clothes, bring their meals, sit and eat with them, and pray for them. When he heard that the people of his city were sick in a far-off city, he used to visit them. He also cured wounded animals, and said, “Compassion for the creatures of Allah is one of the qualities that bring human beings closer to Allah.”
He was very kind and compassionate to orphans. He would cry for the poor, grow merry with their joy, and behave very modestly towards them. He considered himself as one of them.
Great people in Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi 's time said, “The most important reason for his reaching his high station was his great kindness to all creatures and his humility.”
He used to show respect to the wise and the experts in the canon law of Islam and wanted everybody else to respect them. He said, “The wise are the leaders and fundamentals of the community.”
Hadrat Sayyid Ahmad ar- Rifâi was not inclined towards worldly things. He did not store any possessions at any time: although he had great wealth, he did not own more than two garments at the same time, either in summer or winter. His wealth was much more than the wealth of governors and famous rich men. He used to distribute his revenue to dervishes and to people who came to the dervish lodge. Upon his passing away, his possessions were given to the people.
He passed to the other side on Thursday, Jamadi al-Awwal 22, 578 A.H. (1183 A.D.), in the town of Wasit, in Basra, Iraq.