The Ranks of Awliya Allah by Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi !
A Sufi speaking to al-Khidr asked him, “Do you know all the saints?” “Yes,” he replied, “I know members of the Assembly of the Circle (Ahl ad-Daira) and others. But there are some I ignore.” “How many are they (i.e. Ahl ad-Daira))?” The Sufi asked. Al-Khidr answered: “They are One, Three, Four, Seven, Ten, Forty, Seventy, and Three Hundred. Should the Seventy observe the states of the Forty they would be unanimous in having them executed as occurred betrween me and Moses. Reason being that water has a difference taste from honey, and honey has a difference taste from wine, and wine has a difference taste from milk, and milk is the drinking of the People of Contingency (Ahl at-Tamkin).”
Hazrat Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi in his famous Futuhat al-Makkiyah records in the 157th section of the 31st chapter as follows: The seven (7) ABRAR are known as ABDAL, who are appointed the Wilayat (control) of the seven(7) sections of this earth. They are seven (7) selected ones and blessed with enormous duty by Allah Ta’Ala. They protect these seven regions with great exactitude. Shaykh al-Akbar also says that he met them in the scared Haram of Makkah al-Mukarrama. He greeted them and they replied to him and also had a discussion with them. Shaykh al-Akbar states that he had not found anyone more attractive and handsome than them neither had he seem anyone more absorbed in IBADAH than them. Shaykh then said:”Yes! I did certainly meet one person similar to them in a town calledKonya.”
Hazrat Muhyiddin ibn al arabi divides the ranks of the saints into the following categories:
1. Al-Ghawth, the grand Qutb, who controls everything in existence. “Know that the entire existence is being preserved (or protected) through the Qutb.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383)
2. The four Awtad, who control the four comers of the universe on behalf of al-Ghawth. “Through the Awtad, Allah perseveres and protects the south, the north, the east and the west.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383)
3. The seven Abdal [as whenever one of them passes away, another Badal (replacement) is appointed in his place]. Each of the Abdal controls one of the seven continents, again on behalf of al-Ghawth. “Through the Abdal, Allah protects the seven continents.” (Futuhat al-Makkiya, Chapter 383) ‘The action of the seven pivots is under the command of the Ghawt, and each of them has under him a special group which acts on his behalf.” (Shaykh Sidi Abdellaziz Debbagh)
4. An-Nujaba (honorable, chosen ones) who control the individual cities. “Know that every city or province has its own Qutb (meaning Najib)…” (Al-Yawaqhit wal-Jawahir, Ibn Arabi, v.2 p. 83).
اعلم أن لهذا المنزل أربعة عشر حكماً الأول يختص بصاحب الزمان والثاني والثالث يختص بالأمامين والرابع والخامس والسادس والسابع يختص بالأوتاد والثامن والتاسع والعاشر والأحد عشر والاثنا عشر والثالث عشر والرابع عشر يختص بالأبدال وبهذه الأحكام يحفظ اللّه عالم الدنيا فمن علم هذا المنزل علم كيف يحفظ اللّه الوجود على عالم الدنيا ونظيره من الطب تقويم الصحة كما أنه بالأبدال تنحفظ الأقاليم وبالأوتاد ينحفظ الجنوب والشمال والمغرب والمشرق وبالإمامين ينحفظ عالم الغيب الذي في عالم الدنيا وعالم الشهادة وهو ما أدركه الحس وبالقطب ينحفظ جميع هؤلاء فإنه الذي يدور عليه أمر عالم الكون والفساد وهؤلاء على قلب أربعة عشر نبياً وهم آدم وادريس ونوح وابراهيم ويوسف وهود وصالح وموسى وداود وسليمان ويحيى وهارون وعيسى ومحمد سلام اللّه عليهم وعلى المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين
All in all, the following are details of groups of saints living on earth at any given time:
1.There are at any given time 4,000 Awliya living on earth. They are not known and recognized by the general public. In fact, amongst them one does not know the other and they themselves are not aware of the validity of their actions and devotion. All these are hidden from them and the general public.
2. Three hundred (300) from this group are statemen involved in the administration of this world. They control all transaction in the universe. They are the leaders of all pious people in the Divine Court of Allah Most High. They are known as AKHYAR.
3. Amongst these 300, there are 40 who are known as ABDAL.
4. Amongst these 40, seven (7) are ABRAR.
5. Amongst these 7, four (4) are AWTAD.
6. Amongst these 4, three (3) are NUQABA.
7. Amongst these 3, one (1) is known as the GHAWTH or QUTB. He is the most senior of them all and the Head and Chairperson of the spiritual assembly.