Spirituality and Saints (2)

“Go and be God’s”

Ba Yazid’s mother sent him to school. He learned the Qur’an. One day his teacher was explaining the meaning of the verse in Sura Loqman, Be thankful to Me, and to your parents. These words changed Ba Yazid’s mind.

“Sir, please permit me to go home and say something to my mother.”

The master gave him leave, and Ba Yazid went home.

“Why, Taifur,” cried his mother, “why have you come home? Did they give you a present, or is it some special occasion?”

“No,” Ba Yazid replied. “I reached the verse where God commands me to serve Him and you. I cannot manage in two houses at the same time. This verse stung me to the quick. Either you ask for me from God, so that I may be yours entirely, or apprentice me to God, so that I may dwell wholly with Him.”

“My son, I resign you to God, and exempt you from your duty to me,” said his mother. “Go and be God’s.”

“The task I supposed to be the hindmost of all tasks proved to be the foremost,” Ba Yazid later recalled. “That was to please my mother. In pleasing my mother, I attained all that I sought in my many acts of self-discipline and service.

One night my mother asked me for water. I went to fetch her some, but there was none in the jug. I fetched the pitcher, but none was in it either. So I went down to the river and filled the pitcher with water. When I returned to the house, my mother had fallen asleep.”

“The night was cold. I stood there keeping the jug in my hand. When my mother awoke from sleep she drank some water and blessed me. Then she noticed that the jug was frozen to my hand. ‘Why did you not lay the jug aside?’ she exclaimed. ‘I was afraid you might wake when I was not present,’ I answered. ‘Keep the door half-open,’ my mother then said.

“I watched till near daybreak to ensure that the door was properly half-open and that I should not have disregarded her command. At the hour of dawn, that which I had sought so many times entered by the door.”

“O Lord, Care Well for our Exile.”

After his mother had resigned him to God, Ba Yazid left Bestam and for thirty years wandered from land to land, disciplining himself with continuous vigil and hunger. His mother in the meantime had grown ailing and old with the back bent double owing to grief.

After Ba Yazid had visited Medina, he received the order to return and care for his mother. Accordingly, he set out for Bestam, accompanied by a throng. The news spread through the city, and the people of Bestam came out to welcome him a good way from the town. Ba Yazid was likely to be so preoccupied with their attentions that he would be detained from God. As they approached him, he drew a loaf out of his sleeve. Now it was the month of Holy Ramazan; yet he stood and ate the loaf. As soon as the people of Bestam saw this, they turned away from him.

“Did you not see?” Ba Yazid addressed his companions. “I obeyed an ordinance of the sacred Law, and all the people rejected me.”

He waited patiently until nightfall. At midnight he entered Bestam and, coming to his mother’s house, he stood listening for a while. He heard his mother performing her ablutions and praying.

“O Lord, care well for our exile. Incline the hearts of the Shaikhs towards him, and vouchsafe him to do all things well.”

Ba Yazid wept when he heard these words. Then he knocked the door.

“Who is there?” cried his mother.

“Your exile,” he replied.

Weeping, his mother opened the door. Her sight was dimmed.

“Taifur,” she addressed her son, “do you know what has dimmed my sight? It is because I have wept so much being parted from you, and my back is bent double from the load of grief I have endured.”

Abu Hafs Haddad and Junaid

Abu Hafs al-Haddad, a blacksmith of Nishapur, visited Baghdad and met Abul Qasim al-Junaid, the greatest exponent of the ‘sober’ school of Sufism who admired his devotion; he also encountered Abu Bakr Al-Shibli and other mystics of the Baghdad school.

He began to Speak Arabic

Abu Hafs resolved for the pilgrimage. He was an illiterate and did not understand Arabic. When he came to Baghdad, the Sufi disciples whispered together.

“It is a great disgrace that the Shaikh of Shaikhs of Khorasan should require an interpreter to understand their language.”

Junaid sent his disciples out to welcome him. Abu Hafs knew what they were thinking, and at once began to speak Arabic. The people of Baghdad were amazed at the purity of his speech.


A number of great scholars gathered before Abu Hafs and questioned him on self-sacrificing love.

“You are able to express yourselves. You define it,” Abu Hafs replied.

“As I see it,” said Junaid, “true self-sacrifice means that you should not regard yourself as self-sacrificing, and that you should not attribute to yourself whatever you may have done.”

“Excellent,” commented Abu Hafs. “But as I see it, self-sacrifice means acting with justice towards others, and not seeking justice for oneself.”

“Act on that, our Companions,” said Junaid.

“To act rightly requires more than words,” retorted Abu Hafs.

“Rise up, our companions,” Junaid commanded when he heard this reply. “Abu Hafs exceeds in self-sacrifice Adam and all his seed.”

Broth and Halwa

Once Abu Hafs asked Junaid, “Order the disciples to make broth and halwa.”

Junaid directed one of his disciples to make them. When he brought the dishes, Abu Hafs proceeded.

“Call a porter and put them on his head. Let him carry them until he is tired out. Then, whatever house he has reached, let him call out, and whoever comes to the door, let him give them to him.”

The porter obeyed these instructions. He went on until he felt tired and could go no farther. Setting the dishes down by the door of a house, he called out. The owner of the house, an elder, replied.

“If you have brought broth and halwa, I will open the door.”

“I have,” replied the porter.

“Bring them in,” said the elder, opening the door.

“I was amazed,” the porter related. “I asked the old man, ‘What is going on? How did you know that I have brought broth and halwa?” The old man answered, ‘Last night when I was at my prayers, the thought came into my mind that my children had been begging me for them for a long time. I know that my prayer has not been in vain.”

Abu Hafs and Abu Bakr Shibli

Shibli gave hospitality to Abu Hafs for four months. Every day he produced a different kind of dish and several sorts of sweetmeat.

When Abu Hafs came to bid him farewell, he said, “Shibli, when you come to Nishapur I will teach you true entertainment and generosity.”

“Why, what have I done, Abu Hafs?” asked Shibli.

“You took too great pains. Extravagance is not the same as generosity,” said Abu Hafs. “One should treat a guest exactly as oneself. That way, his coming will not be a burden to you, and his departure will not be an occasion of gladness. When you go to extravagant lengths, his coming is burdensome to you and his departure a relief. No man who feels like that towards a guest is truly generous.”

When Shibli came to Nishapur he stayed with Abu Hafs. Forty persons were in the party, and at night Abu Hafs lit forty-one lamps.

“Did you not say one should not act extravagantly?” remarked Shibli.

“Then get up and put them out,” answered Abu Hafs.

Shibli got up, but for all his efforts he could not extinguish more than one lamp.

“Sheikh, how is this?” he asked.

“You were forty persons, emissaries of God. For the guest is an emissary of God. Naturally I lit a lamp in the name of each one, for the sake of God, and one for myself. Those forty which I lit for God you were unable to put out, but the one lit for myself you extinguished. All that you did in Baghdad you did for my sake; I did what I did for God’s sake. So the former was extravagance, the latter not.”

Abul-Qasim al-Junaid

Abul Qasim al-Junaid, elaborated a theosophical doctrine which determined the whole course of orthodox mysticism in Islam. He expounded his theories in his teachings, and in a series of letters written to various contemporaries that have survived.

The Worst of People

Sari-al-Saqati once asked Junaid to preach. “While the master is there, it is not seemly for the disciple to preach,” Junaid demurred. Then one night Junaid saw the Prophet in a dream.

“Preach,” the Prophet ordained.

Next morning he arose to go and report to Sari, but he found Sari standing at the door.

“Hitherto,” Sari told him, “you were inhibited, waiting for others to tell you to preach. Now you must speak, because your words have been made the means of a whole world’s salvation. You would not speak when the disciples asked you to. You did not speak when the Shaikhs of Baghdad interceded with you. You did not speak at my urging. Now that the Prophet has commanded you, you must speak.”

“God forgive me,” Junaid replied. “How did you know that I saw the Prophet in a dream.”

“I saw God in a dream,” Sari explained. “God said, ‘I have sent the Messenger to tell Junaid to preach from the rostrum.”

“I will preach then,” consented Junaid. “only on one condition, that it be to no more than forty persons.”

One day Junaid was preaching, and forty persons were present. Of these eighteen expired, and twenty-two fell to the ground unconscious. They were lifted up and carried to their homes.

On another day Junaid was preaching in the cathedral. In the congregation there was a Christian lad, but no one knew that he was a Christian. He approached Junaid and said, “According to the Prophet’s saying, ‘Beware of the insight of the believers, for he sees by the light of God.’ ” “The pronouncement is,” replied Junaid, “that you should become a Muslim and cut your Christian girdle, for this is the time of Muslimdom”

The boy immediately became a Muslim.

After Junaid had preached a number of times, the people cried out against him. He gave up preaching, and retired to his room. For all that he was urged to resume, he would not do so.

“I am content,” he replied. “I cannot contrive my own destruction.”

Some time later he mounted the pulpit and began to preach without any prompting.

“What was the inner wisdom in this?” he was asked.

“I came upon a Tradition,” he replied, “according to which the Prophet said, ‘In the last days the spokesman of the people will be he that is the worst of them. He will preach to them.’ I know that I am the worst of the people. I am preaching because of what the Prophet said, so that I may not oppose his words.”

The Creator’s Cure

Once Junaid’s eye pained him, and he sent for the doctor.

“If your eye is throbbing, do not let any water get into it,” the doctor advised.

When he had gone, Junaid performed his ablutions and prayed, and then went to sleep. When he awoke, his eye was well again. He heard a voice saying, “Junaid forsook his eye to gain Our good pleasure. If with the same intention he had begged of Us all the inhabitants of Hell, his petition would have been granted.”

The physician called and saw that his eye was healed.

“What did you do?” he asked.

“I performed the ablutions for prayer,” Junaid answered.

Thereupon the physician, who was a Christian, declared his conversion and embraced Islam.

“This is the Creator’s cure, not the creature’s,” he commented. “It was my eye that was sick, not yours. You were the physician, not I.”

The Question of Need

A man brought five hundred dinars and offered them to Junaid.

“Do you posses anything besides this?” Junaid asked him.

“Yes, a lot,” the man replied.

“Do you need more?”

“Yes, I do.”

“then take it away,” Junaid said, You have a better right to it. I possess nothing and I need nothing.”

The Spiritual Awareness about the Disciple

A disciple of Junaid’s was dwelling in seclusion in Basra. One night a sinful thought entered his mind. He looked in a mirror and saw that his face had turned black. Stupefied, he tried every device he could think of, but in vain. He was so ashamed that he showed his face to no one. Three days went by; then the blackness gradually grew less.

Unexpectedly some one knocked at his door.

“Who is it?” the disciple asked.

“I have come with a letter from Junaid,” said the caller.

The disciple read the letter.

“Why do you not conduct yourself becomingly in the presence of Glory? For three days and nights I have had to work as a fuller, to change your face from black to white.”

Mystic Intuition and Awareness

Shaikh Junaid had a disciple whom he loved most. The other disciples felt jealous of him, a fact that the Shaikh realized by his mystic intuition.

“He is superior to you in manners and understanding,” he told them. “That is what I have in view; let us make an experiment, so that you may also realize it.”

Junaid commanded twenty birds to be brought to him.

“Each of you take one,” he told his disciples. “In a place where no one can see you kill it, then bring it back.”

All the disciples went off and killed and brought back the bird except that favourite disciple. He brought his bird back alive.

“Why did you not kill it?” Junaid asked him.

“Because the master said it must be done in a place where no one can see,” the disciple answered. “Wherever I went, God saw.”

“You see the measure of his understanding!” Junaid exclaimed. “Compare that with that of the others.”

All the other disciples begged God’s forgiveness.

Nine Litters for Martyrs

Junaid had eight special disciples who carried out his every thought. One day the notion occurred to them that they must go to the holy war. Next morning Junaid ordered his servant to make all preparations for the war. He then set out to fight together with those eight disciples.

When the lines of battle were drawn up, a champion stepped forth from the ranks of the infidels and martyred all eight.

“I looked up to heaven,” said Junaid, “and I saw nine litters standing by. As each of the eight was martyred his spirit was lifted up on a litter, until one remained empty. ‘That one must be meant for me,’ I thought, and I joined the battle-ranks once more. Then the champion who had slain my eight companions came up and addressed me. “Abul Qasim, that ninth litter is for me. You return to Baghdad, and be the Shaikh of the community. Offer me Islam.’

“So he became a Muslim. With the same sword with which he had slain the eight disciples, he slew a like number of infidels. Then he achieved martyrdom himself. His soul,” Junaid concluded, “was also placed in that litter, and all vanished.”

Private Sanctuary of God

Someone known as Naseri, a Sayyad, one of the descendents of Hadrat Ali, intended to proceed on pilgrimage. When he reached Baghdad he went to visit Junaid.

“Whence comes the Sayyad?” Junaid enquired when greetings had been exchanged.

“From Gilan,” he replied.

“Of whose sons are you?” asked Junaid.

“I am descended from Ali the Prince of the Believers, God be well pleased with him,” the man answered.

“Your forefather wielded two swords,” said Junaid. “One against the unbelievers, the other against himself. Now, Sayyad, you who are his son, which of these two do you employ?”

The sayyid wept bitterly when he heard these words and groveled before Junaid.

“Master, my pilgrimage is here,” he exclaimed. “Show me the way to God.”

“Your heart is the private sanctuary of God,” said Junaid. “So far as you are able, admit naught unsanctified into the private sanctuary.”

“That is all I want to know,” said the Sayyad.

The Essence of Friendship

Once Junaid and Shibli both fell sick. A Christian physician visited Shibli.

“What pains are you feeling?” he asked.

“None,” Shibli replied.

“What do you say?” the doctor repeated.

“I have no pain,” Shibli told him.

The physician then visited Junaid.

“What pains do you have?” he enquired.

Junaid described his symptoms in detail, enumerating each pain in turn. The Christian treated him, and departed. Later the two friends came together.

“Why did you expose all your pains to a Christian?” Shibli asked.

“So that he might realize,” Junaid answered, “if His friend is treated so, what He will do to His foe! And you,” he added, “why did you not describe your pains?”

“I was ashamed,” Shibli replied, “to complain to an enemy of the Friends!”

Dhun-Noon, al-Misri

Abul Faiz Thauban bin Ibrahim al-Mesri, called Dhun-Noon, studied under various teachers and traveled extensively in Arabia and Syria. A great saint of his time and a legendary figure as alchemist, supposed to have known the secret of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Inanimate World under Spiritual Command

Dhun-Noon was once among a group of his followers. They were telling stories of inanimate things obeying commands. Now there was a sofa in the room.

“An example,” said Dhun-Noon, “of inanimate things obeying saints’ commands would be if I were to say to that sofa there, “Waltz around the house’ and it started to move.”

No sooner had Dhun-Noon spoken these words than the sofa started to circle round the house, then it returned to its place. A youth present there burst into tears at the sight, and then gasped his last. They washed his body on that very sofa, and buried him.

Stone turned into Emerald

Once a man came up to Dhun-Noon and said, “I have a debt, and I have no means of paying it.”

Dhun-Noon picked up a stone from the ground and gave it to him. The man took the stone to bazaar. It had turned into an emerald. He sold it for four hundred dirhams and paid his debt.

A Defiant Youth

A certain youth was always speaking against Sufis. One day Dhun-Noon took the ring off his finger and handed it to him.

“Take this to market and pawn it for a dinar,” he said.

The young man took the ring to market, but they would not take it for more than one dirham. The youth returned with the news.

“Now take it to the jewelers, and see that they value it at,” Dhun-Noon told him.

The jewelers priced the ring at a thousand dinars.

“You know as much about Sufis,” Dhun-Noon said to the youth when he returned, “as those stall holders in the market know about this ring.”

The youth repented, and shunned his disbelief in the Sufis.

Dhun-Noon and the Holy Prophet (SAW)

Dhun-Noon had been longing for sekbaj (a stew made of meat, wheat-flour and vinegar) for ten years, but he never gratified that longing. Now it was the eve of festival, and his soul said within him, “How would it be if tomorrow you gave us a mouthful of sekbaj as a festival treat?”

“Soul,” answered Dhun-Noon, “if you want me to do that, then consent with me tonight in chanting the whole Koran in the course of two rak’as.”

His soul consented. The next day Dhun-Noon prepared sekbaj and set it before his soul. He washed his fingers and stood in prayer.

“What happened?” he was asked.

“Just now,” Dhun-Noon replied, “my soul said to me, ‘At last after ten years I have attained my desire.’ ‘By God,’ I answered, ‘you shall not attain that desire,”

The relater of this story states that Dhun-Noon had just spoken these words when a man entered and set a bowl of sekbaj before him.

“Master,” he said, “I did not come on my own. I was sent. Let me explain. I earn my living as a porter, and I have children. For some time now they have been asking for sekbaj, and I have been saving up. Last night I made this sekbaj for the festival. Today I saw in a dream the world-adorning beauty of the Messenger of God. ‘If you would see me on the morrow of uprising,’ said the Prophet, ‘take this to Dhun-Noon and tell him that Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, the son of Abdul-Muttalib, intercedes with him to make truce with his soul for one moment and swallow a few mouthfuls.”

“I obey,” said Dhun-Noon, weeping.

When Dhun-Noon Died

As Dhun-Noon lay on his deathbed his friends asked him, “What do you desire?”

“My desire,” he answered, “is that I die, even if it be for only one moment, I may know Him.”

He then spoke the following verse.

Fear wasted me,

Yearning consumed me,

Love beguiled me,

God revived me.

One day later he lost consciousness. On the night of his departure from this world, seventy persons saw the Holy Prophet in a dream. All reported that the Prophet said, “The friend of God is coming. I have come out to welcome him.”

When he died, there was seen written in green on his brow, “This is the friend of Allah. He died in the love of Allah. This is the slain of Allah by the sword of Allah.”

When they lifted his coffin to carry him to the grave the sun was extremely hot. The birds of the air came and with wings flapping kept his bier shaded from his house to the graveyard.

As he was being borne along the road, a muezzin chanted the call to prayer. When he reached the words of attestation, Dhun-Noon lifted a finger out of the shroud.

“He is alive!” the shout went up.

They laid down the bier. His finger was pointing, but he was dead. For all that they tried, they could not straighten his finger. When the people of Egypt beheld this, they were all put to shame and repented of the wrongs they had done him. They did things over his dust that cannot be described in words.

Ahmad Khazruya and the Thief

A thief broke into Ahmad Khazruya’s house. He searched everywhere but could not find anything. He was about to leave disappointed when Ahmad called out to him.

“Young fellow, take the bucket and draw water from the well and purify yourself, then attend to your prayers. When something comes I will give it to you, so that you shall not leave my house empty-handed.”

The youth did as Ahmad bade him. When daylight returned, a gentleman brought a hundred dinars and gave them to the Shaikh.

“Take this as a reward for your night of prayer,” he said to the thief.

The thief suddenly trembled all over. He burst into tears.

“I had mistaken the way,” he cried. “I worked for God just one night, and He has favoured me so.”

Repenting, he returned to God. He refused to take the gold, and became one of Ahmad’s disciples.

Seventy Candles

Once a dervish was received by Ahmad; in hospitality. Ahmad lit seventy candles.

“This is not pleasing to me,” said the dervish. “Making a fuss bears no relation to Sufism.”

“Go then,” said Ahmad, “And extinguish every candle I have not lit for the sake of God.”

All that night the dervish was pouring water and earth, but could not extinguish even one of the candles.

“Why so surprised?” Ahmad addressed the dervish next morning. “Come with me, and you will see things really to wonder at.”

They went off and came to the door of a church. When the Christian deacons saw Ahmad and his Companion, the archdeacon invited them to enter. He laid a table and bade Ahmad to eat.

“Friends do not eat with foes,” Ahmad observed.

So Ahmad offered them Islam, and seventy of his retinue accepted conversion. That night Ahmad had a dream in which God spoke to him.

“Ahmad, you lit seventy candles for Me. I have lit for you seventy hearts with the light of the Faith.”

Lack of Faith

Shah-e-Shuja‘ had a daughter. The kings of Kerman asked for her hand in marriage. He requested three days grace, and during those three days he went from mosque to mosque, till at last he caught sight of a dervish praying earnestly. Shah-e-Shuja‘ waited patiently until he had finished his prayers, then he addressed him.

“Dervish, do you have any family?”

“No,” the dervish replied.

“Do you want a wife who can recite the Koran?”

“Who is there who will give such a wife to me?” said the dervish. “All I possess is three dirhams.”

“I will give you my daughter,” said Shah-e-Shuja‘ “Of these three dirhams you possess, spend one on bread and one on attar of roses, then tie the marriage-knot.”

They agreed accordingly. That same night Shah-e-Shuja‘ dispatched his daughter to his house. Entering the dervish’s house, the girl saw some dry bread beside a jug of water.

“What is this bread?” she demanded.

“It remained over from yesterday. I kept it for tonight,” the dervish told her.

Thereupon the girl made to leave the house.

“I knew,” the dervish observed, “that the daughter of Shah-e-Shuja‘ would never be able to live with me and put up with my poverty.”

“Sir, it is not on account of your lack of means that I am leaving you,” the girl replied. “I am leaving because of your lack of faith and trust, in that you set aside bred from yesterday, not relying on God’s provision for tomorrow. At the same time I am surprised at my father. For twenty years he has kept me at home, always saying ‘I will give you to a god-fearing man.’ Now he has given me to a fellow who does not rely on God for his daily bread.”

“Is there any atonement for this sin?” the dervish asked.

“Yes,” said the girl. “The atonement is, that only one of the two remains in this house myself or the dry bread.”

Yusuf Razi and the Prophet Yusuf (AS)

Yusuf Razi was travelling in Arabia with a company of his fellows when he arrived in the territory of a certain tribe. When the daughter of the Prince of the Arabs caught sight of him, she fell madly in love with him; for he was possessed of great beauty. Waiting her opportunity, the girl suddenly flung herself before him. Trembling, he left her and departed to a more distant tribe.

That night he was sleeping with his head on his knees, when he dreamed he was in a place the like of which he had never seen. One was seated on a throne with kingly grace, surrounded by a company clad in green robes. Wishful to know who they might be, Yusuf edged his way towards them. They made way for him, treating him with much respect.

“Who are?” he enquired.

“We are angels,” they replied, “and he who is seated on the throne there is Yusuf, upon whom be peace. He has come to pay a visit to Yusuf Razi.”

In Yusuf’s own words:

Overcome with weeping, I cried, “Who am I, that God’s Prophet should come to visit me?”

Thereupon Yusuf, upon him be peace, descended from his throne, took me in his embrace, and seated me on the throne.

“Prophet of God,” I cried, “who am I that you should be so gracious to me?”

“In the hour,” Yusuf answered, “when that lovely girl flung herself before you, and you committed yourself to God and sought His protection, God displayed you to me and the angels. God said, ‘See, Yusuf! You are that Yusuf who inclined after Zoleikha only to repel her. He is that Yusuf who did not incline after the daughter of the King of the Arabs, and fled.’ God Himself sent me with these angels to visit you. He sends you the good tidings that you are of God’s elect.”

[1] Kashf-ul-Mahjub (p.52)
[2] Bal-e-Jibril by Allama Iqbal.