A judge in Basra

A judge in Basra, which is a city in Iraq, was renowned for his excessive acuteness of mind, observation and penetration. Many stories have been told about him in connection with these qualities, which were really astonishing. It is related of him that he said: “I was never worsted in penetration but by one man. I had taken my seat in the court of judgement in Basra, when a person came before me and gave testimony that a certain garden, of which he mentioned the boundaries, belonged to a man whom he named. As I had some doubts of his veracity, I asked him how many trees were in that garden, and he said to me after a long silence:…

Your name will resound throughout the world

In former days there was a man named Hamid. In his youth he lived in Delhi as the servant of Tughril, that same Tughril who late in life had himself crowned as king in Lukhnauti. In short, this Farid became the servant of that Tughril, and he remained in his service till one day, as he was waiting on Tughril, a form appeared to him. ‘O Hamid,’ it asked, ‘why are you waiting on this man?’ Having spoken, it disappeared. Hamid was puzzled about who this could be. Then a second time, as he was waiting on Tughril, again that form appeared and asked: ‘O master Hamid, why are you waiting on this man?’ Hamid remained perplexed. Then he saw…

The ‘Urs of Sayyid Bukhari

Looking ahead of us, the oasis village of Uch Sharif, nestled deep in the eastern Punjab of Pakistan, emerged from the desert. As we entered it was throbbing with people. Today was not only Friday, Jum’ah, but the ‘urs of a famous saint, Sayyid Bukhari. An ‘urs is a yearly celebration of the death date of a famous wali (friend) of Allah. In Pakistan and the Indian sub-continent Islam was spread, upheld and revitalised by Sufis. The people who loved these men often built beautiful structures around their tombs, sometimes with an adjoining mosque. These darbars as they are called became places for Muslims to come to, and by the life-example and barakah of the dead wali, to remember, possibly…

The Egyptian Elder

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhâb ash-Sha’râni. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: Can you tell us something about yourself? A: My birth took place in Egypt in 1493 C.E. in a village in the province of Qalyubiyya. One of my ancestors, Musâ Abu ‘Emrân, was the son of the sultan of Tlemcen, and was a disciple of the famous Sufi shaykh Abu Madyan. This shaykh ordered him to settle with his family in 1307 C.E. I went to Cairo to study Islamic sciences, but soon afterwards I have been initiated into Sufism by several shaykhs among which I like…

The sound of music

A quarrel broke out between two men. Among the bystanders was a Chishti dervish. Just as one of the fighters was about to strike the other man with a stick, the dervish picked up his sitar and plucked a single, clear note. Upon hearing this sound, the angry man lay down his stick and walked away.

Sufi Women

Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi has invested a number of people with his khirqa. He provides 14 names in the beginning of his Diwan, whereof 13 are women. He has applauded all of these women – with the exception of Zumurrud, because of her abandoning the khirqa he had passed to her – as genuine aspirants on the Sufi path. This is the poem he wrote for his murid Fatimah who received one of these khirqa’s: You adorned Fatimah with the garment of piety and guidance, I do not see anyone more deserving of the apparel of virtue. You clothed her with the exalted and supreme mantle, Casting all ills from her heart. Between substance and accident she learned virtue from me,…

Generosity

Hatim at-Tayy was known for his extreme largesse, which was so great that whenever a man of his circle found himself in dire straits, he would refer to Hatim at-Tayy as the proverbial solver of all problems. Once a man who lived rather at a great distance of Hatim’s dwelling place was sorely pressed from want of funds. For days he fretted and worried about this, while his situation steadily worsened, until one day his wife said to him: ‘Whatever we try to do to pull ourselves out of this trouble, it just gets worse. How long is this to go on? Why don’t you go now and speak to Hatim at-Tayy and ask him to help you for once?’…

Sufi doctrine: Allâh

In order to say ‘God’ there are two words in Arabic: 1. Allâh, which is reserved for the unique God and is a proper name, which exists only in the singular 2. Ilâh which is a shared (i.e. not unique) name, which has a plural âliha and thus is susceptible to refer to all gods, although according to Islam there is of course only One. The two terms have etymological connections; some lexicographers say that Allâh is the contracted form of al-Ilâh. The two important questions asked in this respect are what is the origin of the name Allâh, which is of interest to the lexicographers and the other one is what is the meaning and the definition of the…

Light upon Light

You’ll find some Sufi teachings about light here: Flash 1 The well-known Chishti Sufi Amir Khusraw has seen the light: What a glow everywhere I see, Oh mother, what a brilliance! I’ve found the Beloved, yes I found him, In my courtyard. I have found my pir Nizamuddin Awliya. I roamed around the entire world, Looking for an ideal Beloved; And finally this presence has awakened my spirit. Flash 2 Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya says that the sama’ (audition of Sufi music) confers three blessings, namely: 1. Anwar : lights 2. Ahwal : states 3. Asar : symptoms. These blessings appear from three ‘worlds’: 1. Nasut : the world in which we live. 2. Jabarut : the world or the sphere…