It seems desire able here to explain that according to the Sufis, there exists a sort of hierchy of Saints at all times in the world through whom Allah manifests His mercy to the world of humanity. In the absence of the Prophet, they are the vice gerents of Allah on earth on the Prophet’s behalf. They are of three different grades, Abdal is a plural of Badal meaning literally “substitute”, so called because should any one of these saints die, Allah immediately substitutes him by another (Sihah). They are righteous persons of whom the world is never destitute. But on more authoritative view is that they are given this name, because of their ever changing spiritual condition. They are inaflux; and are not allowed to remain in one state. Being on their way to Realization, they are not allowed to settle down at any intermediate point. As to their exact number and their locations, opinion, is divided. They seem to be the lowest in rank amongst the spiritual successors of the Prophet(sallallahu alaihi wasallam), Ghousul Azam and Qutubs.
According to the best authorities they are a hirearchy of the saints of a particular generation and are supposed to be pre-eminently endowed with sanctity and faculties to even perform miracles. If anybody is a Qutub or a Ghouse, he is recognised as such only by his agents. Abdals, themselves reveal their position to a. particular person. The literal meaning of Qutub is axis or pivot, the point upon which a thing turns, the chief around whom the state of affairs turns. So a Qutub is he, whose attention and prayers decide the course of events in a particular society of people? He may be regarded as a kind of spiritual agent in a particular community.
The literal meaning of Ghouse is ‘AID’ or ‘Succour’ in the midst of difficulties. So Ghouse is a kind of intercessor, who intercedes at a moment when the sins of a nation or humanity are at the point of being punished. These great men appear to be particularly tender hearted like the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Their hearts melt at the woes and sufferings of humanity and as such become a means to be able to avert Divine punishment. With the assurance of acceptability of their prayers, their prayers become a plea for Divine forgiveness and mercy. Hazrat Ghousul Azam has once said that the Almishty has given him the knowledge of all his murids up to the end of the world, and His Holiness has proclaimed that none of his murids would die without repentance, and attain the seventh degree to alude in paradise. Once he remarked that he would not have the presence
of Allah unless He did not accompany him and his murids to enter paradise. His Holiness was once questioned as to the position of a devotee who has regard and love for him, but was not actually his murid nor wore Khirqa from him. He said that such a person was also his murid although the real process of his becoming a murid was not complete. Even a person who had love and reverence for him would not be disappointed by the graciousness of the Almighty.