Studies in Islamic Mysticism

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Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

Part II

In describing Abú Sa‘íd's mystical doctrines and their relation to the historical development of ?úfisim, European scholars have hitherto relied almost exclusively on the quatrains which he is said to have composed and of which more than six hundred have been published 1. As I have shown above (p. 4, note 3), it is doubtful whether Abú Sa‘íd is the author of any of these poems, and we may be sure that in the main they are not his work and were never even quoted by him. To repeat what has been already said, they form a miscellaneous anthology drawn from a great number of poets who flourished at different periods, and consequently they reflect the typical ideas of Persian mysticism as a whole.

Abú Sa‘íd helped to bring its peculiar diction and symbolism into vogue, by quoting ?úfí poetry in his sermons and allowing it to be chanted in the samá‘, but we may hesitate to accept the view that he invented this style (which occurs, full-blown, in the odes of his contemporary, Bábá Kúhí of Shíráz) or was the first to embody it in quatrains.

The mysticism which his sayings and sermons unfold has neither the precision of a treatise nor the coherence of a system. It is experimental, not doctrinal or philosophical. It does not concern itself with abstract speculations, but sets forth in simple and untechnical language such principles and maxims as bear directly on the religious life and are the fruit of dearly-bought experience. As we read, we seem to hear the voice of the teacher addressing his disciples and expounding for their benefit the truths that had been revealed to him. Abú Sa‘íd borrows much from his predecessors, sometimes mentioning them by name, but often appropriating their wisdom without a word of acknowledgement 1. Amongst Moslems, this kind of plagiarism is considered respectable, even when the culprit is not a saint.

The sayings of Abú Sa‘íd include several definitions of ?úfisim, which it will be convenient to translate before going further.

1. To lay aside what thou hast in thy head, to give what thou hast in thy hand, and not to recoil from whatsoever befalls thee 2.

2. ?úfisim is two things: to look in one direction and to live in one way 3.

3. ?úfisim is a name attached to its object; when it reaches its ultimate perfection, it is God (i.e. the end of ?úfisim is that, for the ?úfí, nothing should exist except God) 4.

4. It is glory in wretchedness and riches in poverty and lordship in servitude and satiety in hunger and clothedness in nakedness and freedom in slavery and life in death and sweetness in bitterness 5.

5. The ?úfí is he who is pleased with all that God does, in order that God may be pleased with all that he does 6.

6. ?úfisim is patience under God's commanding and forbidding, and acquiescence and resignation in the events determined by divine providence 7.

7. ?úfisim is the will of the Creator concerning His creatures when no creature exists 8.

8. To be a ?úfí is to cease from taking trouble (takalluf); and there is no greater trouble for thee than thine own self (tu’i-yi tu), for when thou art occupied with thyself, thou remainest away from God 9.

9. He said, "Even this ?úfisim is polytheism (shirk)." "Why, O Shaykh?" they asked. He answered, "Because ?úfisim consists in guarding the soul from what is other than God; and there is nothing other than God 1.

The quietism and pantheistic self-abandonment, on which these definitions lay so much stress, forms only the negative side of Abú Sa‘íd's mystical teaching. His doctrine of faná, the passing-away from self, is supplemented by an equally characteristic positive element, of which I shall have more to say presently. Both aspects are indicated in the following maxim: "A man ought to be occupied with two things:—he ought to put away all that keeps him apart from God, and bring comfort to dervishes 2."

Innumerable are the ways to God 3, yet the Way is but a single step: "take one step out of thyself, that thou mayst arrive at God 4." To pass away from self (faná) is to realise that self does not exist, and that nothing exists except God (taw?íd). The Tradition, "He who knows himself knows his Lord," signifies that he who knows himself as not-being (‘adam) knows God as Real Being (wujúd) 5. This knowledge cannot be obtained through the intellect, since the Eternal and Uncreated is inaccessible to that which is created 6; it cannot be learned, but is given by divine illumination. The organ which receives it is the "heart" (qalb or dil), a spiritual faculty, not the heart of flesh and blood. In a remarkable passage Abú Sa‘íd refers to a divine principle, which he calls sirr Allah, i.e. the conscience or consciousness of God, and describes it as something which God communicates to the "heart."

Answering the question, "What is sincerity (ikhlá?)?" he said:

The Prophet has said that ikhlá? is a divine sirr in man's heart and soul, which sirr is the object of His pure contemplation and is replenished by God's pure contemplation thereof. Whosoever declares God to be One, his belief in the divine Unity depends on that sirr.


Being asked to define it, he continued as follows:

That sirr is a substance of God's grace (la?ífa)—for He is gracious (la?íf) unto His servants (Koran, 42, 18)—and it is produced by the bounty and mercy of God, not by the acquisition and action of man. At first, He produces a need and longing and sorrow in man's heart; then He contemplates that need and sorrow, and in His bounty and mercy deposits in that heart a spiritual substance (la?ífa) which is hidden from the knowledge of angel and prophet. That substance is called sirr Allah, and that is ikhlá? 1.…That pure sirr is the Beloved of Unitarians. It is immortal and does not become naught, since it subsists in God's contemplation of it. It belongs to the Creator: the creatures have no part therein, and in the body it is a loan. Whoever possesses it is "living" (?ayy), and whoever lacks it is "animal" (?ayawán). There is a great difference between the "living" and the "animal" 2.

Students of medieval Christian mysticism will find many analogies to this sirr Allah, e.g. the "synteresis" of Gerson and Eckhart's "spark" or "ground of the soul."

I will now translate some of Abú Sa‘íd's discourses and sayings on the Way to God through self-negation.

He was asked, "When shall a man be freed from his wants?"

[paragraph continues]"When God shall free him," he replied; "this is not effected by a man's exertion, but by the grace and help of God. First of all, He brings forth in him the desire to attain this goal. Then He opens to him the gate of repentance (tawba). Then He throws him into self-mortification (mujáhada), so that he continues to strive and, for a while, to pride himself upon his efforts, thinking that he is advancing or achieving something; but afterwards he falls into despair and feels no joy. Then he knows that his work is not pure, but tainted, he repents of the acts of devotion which he had thought to be his own, and perceives that they were done by God's grace and help, and that he was guilty of polytheism (shirk) in attributing them to his own exertion. When this becomes manifest, a feeling of joy enters his heart. Then God opens to him the gate of certainty (yaqín), so that for a time he takes anything from any one and accepts contumely and endures abasement, and knows for certain by Whom it is brought to pass, and doubt concerning this is removed from his heart. Then God opens to him the gate of love (ma?abba), and here too egoism shows itself for a time and he is exposed to blame (maláma), which means that in his love of God he meets fearlessly whatever may befall him and recks not of reproach; but still he thinks 'I love' and finds no rest until he perceives that it is God who loves him and keeps him in the state of loving, and that this is the result of divine love and grace, not of his own endeavour. Then God opens to him the gate of unity (taw?íd) and causes him to know that all action depends on God Almighty. Hereupon he perceives that all is He, and all is by Him, and all is His; that He has laid this self-conceit upon His creatures in order to prove them, and that He in His omnipotence ordains that they shall hold this false belief, because omnipotence is His attribute, so that when they regard His attributes they shall know that He is the Lord. What formerly was hearsay now becomes known to him intuitively as he contemplates the works of God. Then he entirely recognises that he has not the right to say 'I' or 'mine.' At this stage he beholds his helplessness; desires fall away from him and he becomes free and calm. He wishes that which God wishes: his own wishes are gone, he is emancipated from his wants, and has gained peace and joy in both worlds.…First, action is necessary, then knowledge, in order that thou mayst know that thou knowest naught and art no one. This is not easy to know. It is a thing that cannot be rightly learned by instruction, nor sewn on with needle nor tied on with thread. It is the gift of God 1."

The heart's vision is what matters, not the tongue's speech. Thou wilt never escape from thy self (nafs) until thou slay it. To say "There is no god but Allah" is not enough. Most of those who make the verbal profession of faith are polytheists at heart, and polytheism is the one unpardonable sin. Thy whole body is full of doubt and polytheism. Thou must cast them out in order to be at peace. Until thou deny thy self thou wilt never believe in God. Thy self, which is keeping thee far from God and saying, "So-and-so has treated thee ill," "such and such a one has done well by thee," points the way to creatureliness; and all this is polytheism. Nothing depends on the creatures, all depends on the Creator. This thou must know and say, and having said it thou must stand firm. To stand firm (istiqáma) means that when thou hast said "One," thou must never again say "Two." Creator and creature are "Two."…Do not double like a fox, that ye may suddenly start up in some other place: that is not right faith. Say "Allah!" and stand firm there. Standing firm is this, that when thou hast said "God" thou shouldst no more speak or think of created things, so that it is just as though they were not.…Love that One who does not cease to be when thou ceasest, in order that thou mayst be such a being that thou never wilt cease to be 1!

So long as any one regards his purity and devotion, he says "Thou and I," but when he considers exclusively the bounty and mercy of God, he says "Thou! Thou!" and then his worship 2 becomes a reality 3.

He was asked, "What is evil and what is the worst evil?" He replied, "Evil is 'thou'; and the worst evil is 'thou,' when thou knowest it not 4."

Abú Sa‘íd's belief that he had escaped from the prison of individuality was constantly asserting itself. Once he attended a party of mourners (tá‘ziya), where the visitors, as they arrived, were announced by a servant (mu‘arrif) who with a loud voice enumerated their titles of honour (alqáb). When Abú Sa‘íd appeared, the mu‘arrif inquired how he should announce him. "Go," said he, "and tell them to make way for Nobody, the son of Nobody 5." In speaking of himself, he never used the pronouns "I" or "we," but invariably referred to himself as "they" (íshán). The author of the Asráru ’l-taw?íd apologises for having restored the customary form of speech, pointing out that if he had retained "they" in such cases, the meaning of the text would have been confused and unintelligible to most 6.

While the attainment of selflessness is independent of human initiative, the mystic participates, to some extent, in the process by which it is attained. A power not his own draws him on towards the goal, but this divine attraction (kashish) demands, on his part, an inward striving (kúshish), without which there can be no vision (bínish) 1. Like many Súfís, Abú Sa‘íd admits freewill in practice but denies it in theory. As a spiritual director, he could not teach what, as a pantheist, he was bound to believe—that the only real agent is God. Speaking from the standpoint of the religious law, he used often to say: "O God! whatever comes from me to Thee I beseech Thee to forgive, and whatever comes from Thee to me, Thine is the praise 2!" On the other hand, he says that had there been no sinners, God's mercy would have been wasted 3; and that Adam would not have been visited with the tribulation of sin unless forgiveness were the dearest of all things to God 4. In the following passage he suggests that although sin is an act of disobedience to the divine commandment (amr), it is none the less determined by the divine will (iráda).

On the Day of Resurrection Iblís (Satan) will be brought to judgment with all the devils, and he will be charged with having led multitudes of people astray. He will confess that he called on them to follow him, but will plead that they need not have done so. Then God will say, "Let that pass! Now worship Adam, in order that thou mayst be saved." The devils will implore him to obey and thereby deliver himself and them from torment, but Iblís will answer, weeping, "Had it depended on my will, I would have worshipped Adam at the time when I was first bidden. God commands me to worship him, but does not will it. Had He willed it, I should have worshipped him then 5."

It is significant that Abú Sa‘íd lets Iblís have the last word, whereas ?alláj, who was faced with the same dilemma, insisted that the saint must fulfil the divine command (amr) at whatever cost of suffering to himself.

The "inward striving" after selflessness is identical with the state which Abú Sa‘íd calls "want" (niyáz). There is no way nearer to God than this 1. It is described as a living and luminous fire placed by God in the breasts of His servants in order that their "self" (nafs) maybe burned; and when it has been burned, the fire of "want" becomes the fire of "longing" (shawq) which never dies, neither in this world nor in the next, and is only increased by vision 2.

Complete negation of individuality involves complete affirmation of the real and universal Self—a fact which is expressed by Súfís in the formula, "Abiding after passing-away" (al-baqá ba‘d al faná). The perfect mystic abides in God, and yet (as Ruysbroeck says) "he goes out towards created things in a spirit of love towards all things, in the virtues and in works of righteousness 3." He is not an ecstatic devotee lost in contemplation of the Oneness, nor a saintly recluse shunning all commerce with mankind, but a philanthropist who in all his words and actions exhibits and diffuses amongst those around him the divine life with which he has been made one. "The true saint," said Abú Sa‘íd, "goes in and out amongst the people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in the market and marries and takes part in social intercourse, and never forgets God for a single moment 4." His ideal of charity and brotherhood was a noble one, however he may have abused it. He declared that there is no better and easier means of attaining to God than by bringing joy to the heart of a Moslem 5, and quoted with approval the saying of Abú ‘Abbás Bashshár, "When a disciple performs an act of kindness to a dervish, it is better for him than a hundred genuflexions; and if he gives him a mouthful of food, it is better for him than a whole night spent in prayer 6." His purse was always open, and he never quarrelled with any one 7, because he regarded all creatures with the eye of the Creator, not with the eye of the creatures 8. When his followers wished to chastise a bigot who had cursed him, he restrained them, saying, "God forbid! He is not cursing me, but he thinks that my belief is false and that his own belief is true: therefore he is cursing that false belief for God's sake 1." He seldom preached on Koranic texts describing the pains of Hell, and in his last years, when reciting the Koran, he passed over all the "verses of torment" (áyát-i ‘adháb). "O God!" he cried, "inasmuch as men and stones have the same value in Thy sight, feed the flames of Hell with stones and do not burn these miserable wretches 2!" Although Abú Sa‘íd's charity embraced all created beings, he makes a clear distinction between the ?úfís and the rest of his fellow-men. The ?úfís are God's elect and are united by a spiritual affinity which is more binding than any ties of blood.

Four thousand years before God created these bodies, He created the souls and kept them beside Himself and shed a light upon them. He knew what quantity of light each soul received and He was showing favour to each in proportion to its illumination. The souls remained all that time in the light until they became fully nourished. Those who in this world live in joy and agreement with one another must have been akin to one another in yonder place. Here they love one another and are called the friends of God, and they are brethren who love one another for God's sake. These souls know each other by the smell, like horses. Though one be in the East and the other in the West, yet they feel joy and comfort in each other's talk, and one who lives in a later generation than the other is instructed and consoled by the words of his friend 3.

Abú Sa‘íd said:

Whoever goes with me in this Way is my kinsman, even though he be many degrees removed from me, and whoever does not back me in this matter is nobody to me, even though he be one of my nearest relatives 4.

To many Christians the description of Abú Sa‘íd as a Moslem saint will seem doubly paradoxical. The Mohammedan notion of saintship, which is founded on ecstasy 5, justifies the noun; but we may still wonder that the adjective should be applied to a man who on one occasion cried out in a transport of enthusiasm, "There is nothing inside this coat except Allah 1!" I need not discuss here the causes which gradually brought about such a revolution that, as Professor D. B. Macdonald says, "the devout life within the Muslim church led to a more complete pantheism than ever did the Christian trinity 2." At any rate, the question whether Abú Sa‘íd was a Moslem cannot be decided against him on this count, unless we are prepared to excommunicate most of the saints, some of the profoundest theologians, and wellnigh all the earnestly religious thinkers of Islam. This was recognised by his orthodox opponents, who ignored his theosophical doctrines and attacked him as an innovator in matters connected with the religious law. Within reasonable limits, he might believe and say what he liked, they would take notice only of his overt acts. The following pages, which set forth his attitude towards positive religion, will prove to every impartial reader that in their treatment of heretics the medieval Christian divines had much to learn from their Moslem contemporaries. Upon toleration also ex Oriente lux.

At the time of Abú Sa‘íd's residence in Níshápúr Shaykh Bú ‘Abdallah Bákú was in the convent of Shaykh Abú ‘Abú al-Ra?mán al-Sulamí, of which he became the director after the death of Abú ‘Abú al-Ra?mán. (Bákú is a village in the district of Shirwán.) This Bú ‘Abdallah Bákú used frequently to talk with Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd in a controversial spirit and ask him questions about the ?úfí Path. One day he came to him and said, "O Shaykh! we see you doing some things that our Elders never did." "What are these things?" Abú Sa‘íd inquired. "One of them," said he, "is this, that you let the young men sit beside the old and put the juniors on a level with their seniors in all affairs and make no difference between them; secondly, you permit the young men to dance and sing; and thirdly, when a dervish throws off his gaberdine (in ecstasy), you sometimes direct that it should be given back to him, saying that the dervish has the best right to his own gaberdine. This has never been the practice of our Elders." "Is there anything else?" said Abú Sa‘íd. "No," he replied. Abú Sa‘íd said, "As regards the juniors and seniors, none of them is a junior in my opinion. When a man has once entered on the Path of ?úfisim, although he may be young, his seniors ought to consider that possibly he will receive in a single day what they have not received in seventy years. None who holds this belief will look upon any person as a junior. Then, as to the young men's dancing in the samá‘, the souls of young men are not yet purged of lust: indeed it may be the prevailing element; and lust takes possession of all the limbs. Now, if a young dervish claps his hands, the lust of his hands will be dissipated, and if he tosses his feet, the lust of his feet will be lessened. When by this means the lust fails in their limbs, they can preserve themselves from great sins, but when all lusts are united (which God forfend!), they will sin mortally. It is better that the fire of their lust should be dissipated in the samá‘ than in something else. As regards the gaberdine which a dervish throws off, its disposal rests with the whole company of dervishes and engages their attention. If they have no other garment at hand, they clothe him again in his own gaberdine, and thereby relieve their minds from the burden of thinking about it. That dervish has not taken back his own gaberdine, but the company of dervishes have given him their gaberdine and have thus freed their minds from thought of him. Therefore he is protected by the spiritual concentration (himma) of the whole company. This gaberdine is not the same one which he threw away." Bú ‘Abdallah Bákú said, "Had I never seen the Shaykh, I should never have seen a real ?úfí 1."

This interesting passage represents Abú Sa‘íd as having departed in certain respects from the ancient ?úfistic tradition. His innovations, by destroying the influence and authority of the more experienced dervishes, would naturally tend to relax discipline. Early ?úfí writers, e.g. Sarráj, Qushayrí, and Hujwírí, do not agree with him in thinking that the practice of samá‘ is beneficial to the young; on the contrary, they urge the necessity of taking care lest novices should be demoralised by it. According to the same writers, the doctrines of ?úfisim are contained in, and derived from, the Koran and the Traditions, of which the true meaning has been mystically revealed to the ?úfís alone. This theory concedes all that Moslems claim as to the unique authority of the Koran and reduces the difference between Moslem and Súfí to a question of interpretation. Abú Sa‘íd, however, found the source of his doctrine in a larger revelation than the Word which was given to the Prophet.

The author of the Asrár says:

My grandfather, Shaykhu ’l-Islám Abú Sa‘íd, relates that one day, whilst Abú Sa‘íd was preaching in Níshápúr, a learned theologian who was present thought to himself that such doctrine is not to be found in the seven sevenths (i.e. the whole) of the Koran. Abú Sa‘íd immediately turned towards him and said, "Doctor, thy thought is not hidden from me. The doctrine that I preach is contained in the eighth seventh of the Koran." "What is that?" the theologian inquired. Abú Sa‘íd answered: "The seven sevenths are, O Apostle, deliver the message that hath been sent down to thee (Kor. 5, 71), and the eighth seventh is, He revealed unto His servant that which He revealed (Kor. 53, pp). Ye imagine that the Word of God is of fixed quantity and extent. Nay, the infinite Word of God that was sent down to Mohammed is the whole seven sevenths of the Koran; but that which He causes to come into the hearts of His servants does not admit of being numbered and limited, nor does it ever cease. Every moment there comes a messenger from Him to the hearts of His servants, as the Prophet declared, saying, 'Beware of the clairvoyance (firása) of the true believer, for verily he sees by the light of God."' Then Abú Sa‘íd quoted the verse:

Thou art my soul's joy, known by vision, not by hearsay.
Of what use is hearsay to one who hath vision?
[paragraph continues]In a Tradition (he went on) it is stated that the Guarded Tablet (law?-i ma?fú?) 1 is so broad that a fleet Arab horse would not be able to cross it in four years, and the writing thereon is finer than a hair. Of all the writing which covers it only a single line has been communicated to God's creatures. That little keeps them in perplexity until the Resurrection. As for the rest, no one knows anything about it 1.

Here Abú Sa‘íd sets aside the partial, finite, and temporal revelation on which Islam is built, and appeals to the universal, infinite, and everlasting revelation which the ?úfís find in their hearts. As a rule, even the boldest Mohammedan mystics shrink from uttering such a challenge. So long as the inner light is regarded only as an interpreter of the written revelation, the supremacy of the latter is nominally maintained, though in fact almost any doctrine can be foisted upon it: this is a very different thing from claiming that the inner light transcends the Prophetic Law and possesses full authority to make laws for itself. Abú Sa‘íd does not say that the partial and universal revelations are in conflict with each other: he does not repudiate the Koran, but he denies that it is the final and absolute standard of divine truth. He often quotes Koranic verses in support of his theosophical views. Only when the Book fails him need he confound his critics by alleging a secret communication which he has received from the Author.

The foregoing anecdote prepares us for mysticism of an advanced and antinomian type. Not that Abú Sa‘íd acted in logical accordance with his beliefs. With one exception, which will be noted presently, he omitted no religious observance that a good Moslem is required to perform. But while he thus shielded himself under the law, he showed in word and deed how little he valued any external ceremony or traditional dogma.

There was at Qá’in a venerable Imám, whose name was Khwája Mu?ammad Qá’iní. When Abú Sa‘íd arrived at Qá’in, Khwája Mu?ammad spent most of his time in waiting upon him, and he used to attend all the parties to which Abú Sa‘íd was invited. On one of these occasions, during the samá‘ which followed the feast, Abú Sa‘íd and all the company had fallen into transports of ecstasy. The muezzin gave the call to noonday prayers, but Abú Sa‘íd remained in the same rapture and the dervishes continued to dance and shout. "Prayers! Prayers!" cried the Imám Mu?ammad Qá'iní." We are at prayers," said Abú Sa‘íd; whereupon the Imám left them in order to take part in the prayer-service. When Abú Sa‘íd came out of his trance, he said, "Between its rising and setting the sun does not shine upon a more venerable and learned man than this"—meaning Mu?ammad Qá’iní—"but his knowledge of ?úfisim is not so much as the tip of a hair 1."

Although it would be wrong to use this story as evidence of Abú Sa‘íd's habitual practice, we may at least affirm that in his eyes the essence of prayer was not the formal act, but the "passing away from self" which is completely attained in ecstasy. "Endeavour," he said, "to have a mystical experience (wárid), not a devotional exercise (wird) 2." One day he said to a dervish, who in order to show the utmost respect stood before him in the attitude of prayer, "This is a very respectful posture, but thy not-being would be still better 3."

He never made the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Moslem is bound to make at least once. Many ?úfís who would have gladly dispensed with this semi-pagan rite allegorised it and attached a mystical significance to each of the various ceremonies 4; but they saved their orthodoxy at the expense of their principles. Abú Sa‘íd had no such reputation to keep up. His refusal to perform the ?ajj is not so surprising as the contemptuous language in which he refers to one of the five main pillars of Islam.

Abú Sa‘íd was asked, "Who has been thy Pír? for every Pír has had a Pír to instruct him; and how is it that thy neck is too big for thy shirt-collar, while other Pírs have emaciated themselves by austerities? And why hast thou not performed the Pilgrimage, as they have done?" He replied, "Who has been my Pír? This (doctrine that I teach) is part of what my Lord hath  taught me (Kor. 12, 37). How is it that my neck is too big for my shirt-collar? I marvel how there is room for my neck in the seven heavens and earths after all that God hath bestowed upon me. Why have I not performed the Pilgrimage? It is no great matter that thou shouldst tread under thy feet a thousand miles of ground in order to visit a stone house. The true man of God sits where he is, and the Bayt al-Ma‘múr 1 comes several times in a day and night to visit him and perform the circumambulation above his head. Look and see!" All who were present looked and saw it 2.

The mystic's pilgrimage takes place within himself 3. "If God sets the way to Mecca before any one, that person has been cast out of the Way to the Truth 4." Not content with encouraging his disciples to neglect the ?ajj, Abú Sa‘íd used to send those who thought of performing it to visit the tomb of Abú ’l-Fa?l ?asan at Sarakhs, bidding them circumambulate it seven times and consider that their purpose was accomplished 5. One sees what a menace to Mohammedan institutions the cult of the saints had already become.

The saint lost in contemplation of God knows no religion, and it is often his fate to be classed with the freethinkers (zanádiqa), who, from the Moslem point of view, are wholly irreligious, though some of them acknowledge the moral law. Abú Sa‘íd said, "Whoever saw me in my first state became a ?iddíq, and whoever saw me in my last state became a zindáq 6," meaning that those who accused him of being a freethinker thereby made themselves guilty of the very thing which they imputed to him. I will translate the biographer's commentary on this saying.

His first state was self-mortification and asceticism, and since most men look at the surface and regard the outward form, they saw the austerity of his life and how painfully he advanced on the Way to God, and their sincere belief (?idq) in this Way was increased and they attained to the degree of the Sincere (?iddíqán). His last state was contemplation, a state in which the fruit of self-mortification is gathered and the complete unveiling (kashf) comes to pass; accordingly, eminent mystics have said that states of contemplation are the heritage of acts of self-mortification (al-musháhadát mawáríthu ’l-mujáhadát). Those who saw him in this state, which is necessarily one of enjoyment and happiness, and were ignorant of his former state denied that which was true (?aqq); and whoever denies the Truth (?aqq) is a freethinker (zindíq). There are many analogies to this in the sensible world. For example, when a man seeks to win the favour of a king and to become his companion and intimate friend, before attaining to that rank he must suffer all sorts of tribulation and patiently endure injuries and insults from high and low, and submit with cheerfulness to maltreatment and abuse, giving fair words in return for foul; and when he has been honoured with the king's approval and has been admitted to his presence, he must serve him assiduously and hazard his life in order that the king may place confidence in him. But after he has gained the king's confidence and intimacy, all this hard and perilous service belongs to the past. Now all is grace and bounty and favour; everywhere he meets with new pleasures and delights; and he has no duty but to wait upon the king always, from whose palace he cannot be absent a single moment by day or night, in order that he may be at hand whenever the king desires to tell him a secret or to honour him with a place by his side 1.

Asceticism and positive religion are thus relegated to the lower planes of the mystical life. The ?úfí needs them and must hold fast to them while he is serving his spiritual apprenticeship and also during the middle stage which is marked by longer or shorter intervals of illumination; but in his "last state," when the unveiling is completed, he has no further use for ascetic practices and religious forms, for he lives in permanent communion with God Himself. This leads directly to antinomianism, though in theory the saint is above the law rather than against it. One who sees the reality within cannot judge by appearances. Being told that a disciple of his was lying blind-drunk on a certain road, Abú Sa‘íd said, "Thank God that he has fallen on the way, not off the Way 1." Some one asked him, "Are the men of God in the mosque?" "They are in the tavern too," he replied 2.

His pantheistic vision blotted out the Mohammedan afterworld with its whole system of rewards and punishments. "Whoever knows God without mediation worships Him without recompense 3." There is no Hell but selfhood, no Paradise but selflessness: "Hell is where thou art and Paradise where thou art not 4." He quoted the Tradition, "My people shall be split into more than seventy sects, of which a single one shall be saved, while the others shall be in the Fire," and added, "that is to say, in the fire of their own selves 5."

As I have already remarked, Abú Sa‘íd speaks with two voices: now as a theosophist, now as a Moslem. Hence the same terms bear their ordinary religious meaning in one passage and are explained mystically in another, while the purest pantheism runs side by side with popular theology. To our minds it seems absurd to suppose that he believed in both; yet probably he did, at least so far as to have no difficulty in accepting the Mohammedan scheme when it suited him. For example, he preaches the doctrine of the intercession of saints, in which (though the Koran does not support it) Paradise, Hell, the Day of Judgment, etc., are what the Koran says they are. A few of his sayings on this subject may be quoted here, especially as it is closely connected with his miracles and legend which will be discussed in the following pages.

The man who is being carried off to Hell will see a light from afar. He will ask what it is and will be told that it is the light of such and such a Pír. He will say, "In our world I used to love him." The wind will bear his words to the ears of that Pír, who will plead for him in the divine presence, and God will release the sinner on account of the intercession of that holy man 6.

Whoever has seen me and has done good work for my family and disciples will be under the shadow of my intercession hereafter 7.

I have prayed God to forgive my neighbours on the left, on the right, in front, and behind, and He has forgiven them for my sake." Then he said, "My neighbours are Balkh and Merv and Níshápúr and Herat. I am not speaking of those who live here (Mayhana) 1."

"I need not say a word on behalf of those around me. If any one has mounted an ass and passed by the end of this street, or has passed my house or will pass it, or if the light of my candle falls on him, the least thing that God will do with him is that He will have mercy upon him 2."

48:1 92 by H. Ethé in Sitzungsberichte der königl. bayer. Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-philologische Classe (1875), pp. 145-168 and (1878), pp. 38-70; 400 by Mawlaví ‘Abdu ’l-Walí in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. v, No. 11 (December, 1909) and vol. vii, No. 10 (November, 1911); and 112 by H. D. Graves Law in the same journal (according to an offprint given to me by the author in 1913, which refers to ‘Abdu ’l-Walí's work as "comparatively recent"; but I cannot find the article in the volumes issued in 1912 and 1913. It is entitled "Some new quatrains of Abú Sa‘íd ibn Abi ’l-Khair").

49:1 One of his sayings, which is given both in Arabic and Persian and is ascribed to "a certain sage," reveals the source (hitherto, I believe, unidentified) of Sir William Jones's lines To an Infant newly born:

"On parent's knees, a naked new-born child,
 Weeping thou sat’st while all around tree smiled;
 So live, that sinking in thy long last sleep,
 Calm thou mayst smile, while all around thee weep."
[paragraph continues]The original is in prose and runs as follows: "Thou wast born weeping, whilst thy folk smiled. Endeavour to die smiling, whilst thy folk weep" (A 317, 14).

49:2 A 373, 7.

49:3 A 373, 16.

49:4 A 375, 11.

49:5 A 380, 2.

49:6 A 381, 5.

49:7 A 383, 1.

49:8 A 386, 4.

49:9 A 389, 16.

50:1 A 319, 8.

50:2 A 380, 6.

50:3 A 380, 9.

50:4 A 74, 13.

50:5 A 402, 3.

50:6 A 397, 8.

51:1 A 383, 15.

51:2 A 385, 3.

52:1 A 376, 11.

53:1 A 371, 5 (abridged in translation).

53:2 Bandagí (Arabic ‘ubúdiyya) is properly man's relation as a slave to his Lord. Cf. R. Hartmann, Al-Kuschairîs Darstellung des ?ûfîtums, p. 5 foll.

53:3 A 410, 16.

53:4 A 403, 3.

53:5 A 348, 3.

53:6 A 12, 7. Probably for the same reason, Abú Sa‘íd discarded the imperative, using the impersonal form instead (A 68, 12). He always said, "It is necessary to do so-and-so" (chunín báyad kard), not "Do so-and-so" (chunín bikun).

54:1 A 387, 9.

54:2 A 408, 14.

54:3 A 398, 10.

54:4 A 401, 17.

54:5 A 332, 14. For a full discussion of the doctrine of amr and iráda see Massignon's edition of the Kitáb al-?awásín, p. 145 foll.

55:1 A 328, 10.

55:2 A 388, 10.

55:3 Cf. my Mystics of Islam, p. 162 foll.

55:4 A 259, 5.

55:5 A 380, 11.

55:6 A 329, 12.

55:7 A 306, 17; 220, 3.

55:8 A 382, 9.

56:1 A 120, 2.

56:2 A 261, 1; 359, 15.

56:3 A 399, 14.

56:4 A 391, 12.

56:5 See The Mystics of Islam, p. 120 foll.

57:1 H 6, 5. A 262, 5.

57:2 The religious attitude and life in Islam, p. 39.

58:1 A 269, 2.

59:1 Mohammedans believe that everything that shall happen till the Last Day is inscribed on a Tablet under the Throne of God.

60:1 H 49, 22. A 132, 3.

61:1 A 293, 12.

61:2 A 403, 15.

61:3 A 375, 13.

61:4 Cf. Kashf al-Ma?júb (translation), p. 327 fol.; Kitáb al-Luma‘, 172, 3 foll. The allegorical interpretation of the Pilgrimage seems to have been borrowed by the ?úfís from the Ismá‘ílís. See Professor Browne's Literary History of Persia, vol. II, p. 241 foll.

62:1 The celestial archetype of the Ka‘ba. See E. J. W. Gibb, History of Ottoman Poetry, vol. I, p. 37.

62:2 A 347. 7.

62:3 A 360, 11.

62:4 A 374, 15.

62:5 H 15, 12.

62:6 A 41, 19.

63:1 A 42, 1.

64:1 H 76, 7.

64:2 A 373, 4.

64:3 A 406, 1.

64:4 A 266, 16; 375, 16.

64:5 A 392, 16.

64:6 A 380, 16.

64:7 A 428, 4.

65:1 A 418, 6.

65:2 A 418, 9.



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