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Studies in Islamic Mysticism, by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1921], at


Abú Sa‘íd Faḍlu’llah was born at Mayhana, the chief town of the Kháwarán district of Khurásán, on the 1st of Muḥarram, a.h. 357 (December 7th, a.d. 967). His father Abú ’l-Khayr, known in Mayhana as Bábú Bu ’l-Khayr, was a druggist, "a pious and religious man, well acquainted with the sacred law of Islam (sharí‘a) and with the Path of Ṣúfisim (ṭaríqa3." He and other Ṣúfís were in the habit of meeting every night in the house of one of their number. Whenever a strange Ṣúfí arrived in the town, they would invite him to join them, and after partaking of food and finishing their prayers and devotions they used to listen to music and singing (samá‘). One night, when Bábú Bu ’l-Khayr was going to meet his friends, his wife begged him to take Abú Sa‘íd with him in order that the dervishes might look on him with favour; so Bu ’l-Khayr let the lad accompany him. As soon as it was time for the music to begin, the singer (qawwál) chanted this quatrain:

God gives the dervish love—and love is woe;
By dying near and dear to Him they grow.
The generous youth will freely yield his life,
The man of God cares naught for worldly show.

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[paragraph continues] On hearing this song the dervishes fell into ecstasy and kept up the dance till daybreak. The qawwál sang the quatrain so often that Abú Sa‘íd got it by heart. When he returned home, he asked his father the meaning of the verses that had thrown the dervishes into such transports of joy. "Hush!" said his father, "you cannot understand what they mean: what does it matter to you?" Afterwards, when Abú Sa‘íd had attained to a high spiritual degree, he used sometimes to say of his father, who was then dead, "I want Bábú Bu ’l-Khayr to-day, to tell him that he himself did not know the meaning of what he heard on that night 1."

Abú Sa‘íd was taught the first rudiments of Moslem education—to read the Koran—by Abú Muḥammad ‘Ayyárí, an eminent divine, who is buried at Nasá 2. He learned grammar from Abú Sa‘íd ‘Ayyárí and the principles of Islam from Abú ’l-Qásim Bishr-i Yásín, both of Mayhana. The latter seems to have been a remarkable man.

I have already referred to the mystical quatrains which Abú Sa‘íd was fond of quoting in his discourses and which are commonly thought to be his own. Against this hypothesis we have his definite statement that these quatrains were composed by other Ṣúfís and that Bishr-i Yásín was the author of most of them 3. From Bishr, too, Abú Sa‘íd learned the doctrine of disinterested love, which is the basis of Ṣúfisim.

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One day Abú ’l-Qásim Bishr-i Yásín (may God sanctify his honoured spirit!) said to me: "O Abú Sa‘íd, endeavour to remove self-interest (ṭama‘) from thy dealings with God. So long as that exists, sincerity (ikhláṣ) cannot be attained. Devotions inspired by self-interest are work done for wages, but devotions inspired by sincerity are work done to serve God. Learn by heart the Tradition of the Prophet—God said to me on the night of my Ascension, O Mohammed! as for those who would draw nigh to Me, their best means of drawing nigh is by performance of the obligations which I have laid upon them. My servant continually seeks to win My favour by works of supererogation until I love him; and when I love him, I am to him an ear and an eye and a hand and a helper: through Me he hears, and through Me he sees, and through Me he takes." Bishr explained that to perform obligations means "to serve God," while to do works of supererogation means "to love God"; then he recited these lines:

Perfect love proceeds from the lover who hopes naught for himself;
What is there to desire in that which has a price?
Certainly the Giver is better for you than the gift:
How should you want the gift, when you possess the very Philosopher's Stone 1?

On another occasion Bishr taught his young pupil how to practise "recollection" (dhikr). "Do you wish," he asked him, "to talk with God?" "Yes, of course I do," said Abú Sa‘íd. Bishr told him that whenever he was alone he must recite the following quatrain, no more and no less:

Without Thee, O Beloved, I cannot rest;
Thy goodness towards me I cannot reckon.
Tho’ every hair on my body becomes a tongue,
A thousandth part of the thanks due to Thee I cannot tell.

Abú Sa‘íd was constantly repeating these words. "By the blessing which they brought," he says, "the Way to God was opened to me in my childhood." Bishr died in a.h. 380 (a.d. 990). Whenever Abú Sa‘íd went to the graveyard of Mayhana his first visit was always paid to the tomb of the venerated teacher who had given him his first lesson in Ṣúfism 2.

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If we can believe Abú Sa‘íd when he declares that in his youth he knew by heart 30,000 verses of pre-Islamic poetry, his knowledge of profane literature must have been extensive 1. After completing this branch of education, he set out for Merv with the purpose of studying theology under Abú ‘Abdallah al-Ḥuṣrí, a pupil of the famous Sháfi‘ite doctor, Ibn Surayj. He read with al-Ḥuṣrí for five years, and with Abú Bakr al-Qaffál for five more 2. From Merv he moved to Sarakhs, where he attended the lectures of Abú ‘Alí Záhir 3 on Koranic exegesis (in the morning), on systematic theology (at noon), and on the Traditions of the Prophet (in the afternoon) 4.

Abú Sa‘íd's birth and death are the only events of his life to which a precise date is attached. We know that he studied at Merv for ten years, and if we assume that his Wanderjahre began at the usual time, he was probably between 25 and 28 when he first came to Sarakhs. Here his conversion to Ṣúfisim took place. He has described it himself in the following narrative, which I will now translate without abridgement. I have relegated to the foot of the page, and distinguished by means of square brackets, certain passages that interrupt the narrative and did not form part of it originally.

Abú Sa‘íd said as follows 5:

At the time when I was a student, I lived at Sarakhs and read with Abú ‘Alí, the doctor of divinity. One day, as I was going into the city, I saw Luqmán of Sarakhs seated on an ash-heap near the gate, sewing a patch on his gaberdine a. I went up to him and

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stood looking at him, while he continued to sew b. As soon as he had sewn the patch on, he said, "O Abú Sa‘íd! I have sewn thee on this gaberdine along with the patch." Then he rose and took my hand, leading me to the convent (khánaqáh) of the Ṣúfís in Sarakhs, and shouted for Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan, who was within. When Abú ’l-Faḍl appeared, Luqmán placed my hand in his, saying, "O Abú ’l-Faḍl, watch over this young man, for he is one of you c." The Shaykh took my hand and led me into the convent. I sat down in the portico and the Shaykh picked up a volume and began to peruse it. As is the way of scholars, I could not help wondering what the book was. The Shaykh perceived my thought. "Abú Sa‘íd!" he said, "all the hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets were sent to preach one word. They bade the people say 'Allah' and devote themselves to Him. Those who heard this word with the ear alone, let it go out by the other ear; but those who heard it with their souls imprinted it on their souls and repeated it until it penetrated their hearts and souls, and their whole being became this word. They were made independent of the pronunciation of the word, they were released from the sound and the letters. Having understood the spiritual meaning of this word, they became so absorbed in it that they were no more conscious of their own non-existence 1." This saying took hold of me

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and did not allow me to sleep that night. In the morning, when I had finished my prayers and devotions, I went to the Shaykh before sunrise and asked permission to attend Abú ‘Alí's lecture on Koranic exegesis. He began his lecture with the verse, Say Allah! then leave them to amuse themselves in their folly 1. At the moment of hearing this word a door in my breast was opened, and I was rapt from myself. The Imám Abú ‘Alí observed the change in me and asked, "Where were you last night?" I said, "With Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan." He ordered me to rise and go back to Abú ’l-Faḍl, saying, "It is unlawful for you to come from that subject (Ṣúfisim) to this discourse." I returned to the Shaykh, distraught and bewildered, for I had entirely lost myself in this word. When Abú ’l-Faḍl saw me, he said: "Abú Sa‘íd!

mastak shuda’í hamí nadání pas u písh 2.

[paragraph continues] Thou art drunk, poor youth! Thou know’st not head from tail."

[paragraph continues] "O Shaykh!" I said, "what is thy command?" He said, "Come in and sit down and devote thyself wholly to this word, for this word hath much work to do with thee." After I had stayed with him for a long time, duly performing all that was required by this word, he said to me one day, "O Abú Sa‘íd! the doors of the letters of this word 3 have been opened to thee. Now the hosts (of spiritual grace) will rush into thy breast, and thou wilt experience diverse kinds of self-culture (adab)." Then he exclaimed, "Thou hast been transported, transported, transported! Go and seek a place of solitude, and turn aside from men as thou hast turned aside from thyself, and behave with patience and resignation to God's will." I abandoned my studies and came home to Mayhana and retired into the niche of the chapel in my own house. There I sat for seven years, saying continually, "Allah! Allah! Allah!" Whenever drowsiness or inattention arising from the weakness of human nature came over me, a soldier with a fiery spear—the most terrible and alarming figure that can possibly be imagined—appeared in front of the niche 4 and shouted at me, saying, "O Abú Sa‘íd, say Allah!" The dread of that apparition used to keep me

p. 9

burning and trembling for whole days and nights, so that I did not again fall asleep or become inattentive; and at last every atom of me began to cry aloud, "Allah! Allah! Allah!"

Countless records of mystical conversion bear witness to the central fact in this description—the awakening of the soul in response to some unsuspected stimulus, by which, as Arnold says,

A bolt is shot back somewhere in the breast,

opening a way for the flood of transcendental consciousness to burst through. The accompanying ecstasy is a normal feature, and so is the abandonment of past occupations, habits, ambitions, and the fixing of every faculty upon that supreme reality which is henceforth the single object of desire. All these phenomena, however sudden they may seem, are the climax of an interior conflict that perhaps only makes itself known at the moment when it is already decided. Probably in Abú Sa‘íd's case the process was at least to some extent a conscious one. He had been long and earnestly engaged in the study of theology.

I possessed many books and papers, but though I used to turn them over and read them one after the other, I was never finding any peace. I prayed to God, saying, "O Lord, nothing is revealed to my heart by all this study and learning: it causes me to lose Thee, O God! Let me be able to do without it by giving me something in which I shall find Thee again 1."

Here Abú Sa‘íd acknowledges that he sought spiritual peace, and that all his efforts to win it from intellectual proofs ended in failure. The history of that struggle is unwritten, but not until the powers of intellect were fully tried and shown to be of no avail, could mightier forces drawn from a deeper source come overwhelmingly into action. As regards the perpetual iteration of the name Allah, I need hardly remind my readers that this is a method everywhere practised by Moslem mystics for bringing about faná, i.e. the passing-away from self, or in Pascal's phrase, "oubli du monde et de tout hormis Dieu."

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We have seen that the first act of Abú Sa‘íd after his conversion was to enquire of Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl what he must do next. That is to say, he had implicitly accepted Abú ’l-Faḍl as his spiritual director, in accordance with the rule that "if any one by means of asceticism and self-mortification shall have risen to an exalted degree of mystical experience, without having a Pír to whose authority and example he submits himself, the Ṣúfís do not regard him as belonging to their community 1." In this way a continuous tradition of mystical doctrine is secured, beginning with the Prophet and carried down through a series of dead Pírs to the living director who forms the last link of the chain until he too dies and is succeeded by one of his pupils.

Abú Sa‘íd's lineage as a Ṣúfí is given in the following table:

Mohammed, the Prophet
‘Alí (ob. a.d. 661)
Ḥasan of Basra (ob. a.d. 728)
Ḥabíb ‘Ajamí (ob. a.d. 737)
Dáwud Ṭá’í (ob. a.d. 781)
Ma‘rúf Karkhí (ob. a.d. 815)
Sarí Saqaṭí (ob. a.d. 867)
Junayd of Baghdád (ob. a.d. 909)
Murta‘ish of Baghdád (ob. a.d. 939)
Abú Naṣr al-Sarráj of Ṭús (ob. a.d. 988)
Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan of Sarakhs
Abú Sa‘íd ibn Abi ’l-Khayr

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The appearance of Mohammed and his son-in-law at the head of a list of this kind fits in with the fiction—which was necessary for the existence of Ṣúfisim within Islam—that the Ṣúfís are the legitimate heirs and true interpreters of the esoteric teaching of the Prophet. Ḥasan of Basra, Ḥabíb ‘Ajamí, and Dáwud Ṭá’í were ascetics and quietists rather than mystics. Even if we take the ninth century as a starting-point, it must not be supposed that any fixed body of doctrine was handed down. Such a thing is foreign to the nature of Ṣúfism, which essentially is not a system based on authority and tradition, but a free movement assuming infinitely various forms in obedience to the inner light of the individual soul. Before the time of Abú Sa‘íd, certain eminent theosophists—Junayd, for instance—had founded schools which owed their origin to controversies over particular questions of mystical theory and practice, while at a later period Ṣúfism branched off into great organisations comparable to the Christian monastic orders. Everywhere we find divergent tendencies asserting themselves and freely developing a vigorous life.

There is no difficulty in believing that Abú Sa‘íd, after passing through the spiritual crisis which has been described, returned to Mayhana and spent some time in solitary meditation, though doubts are suggested by the statement, which occurs in the two oldest biographies, that his seclusion (khalwat) lasted for seven years. According to the Ḥálát ú Sukhunán, at the end of this period—Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl having died in the meanwhile—he journeyed to Ámul in order to visit Shaykh Abú ’l-‘Abbás Qaṣṣáb 1. The Asrár, however, mentions a second period during which he practised the most severe austerities, first at Sarakhs under the care of Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl and then, for seven years 2, in the deserts and mountains of Mayhana, until at the age of 40 he attained to perfect saintship. These numbers can only be regarded as evidence of a desire to make him exemplify a theoretically symmetrical scheme of the mystic's progress towards perfection, but it is none the less probable that for many years

p. 12

after his conversion Abú Sa‘íd was painfully treading the via purgativa, which Ṣúfís call "the Path" (ṭaríqa). His biographers give an interesting account of his self-mortification (mujáhada). The details are derived either from his public discourses or from the testimony of eye-witnesses 1.

The author of the Asrár relates that after seven years of solitary retirement Abú Sa‘íd came back to Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl, who gave him a cell opposite his own, in order that he might keep him always under observation, and prescribed such moral and ascetic discipline as was necessary 2. When some time had passed, he was transferred to the cell of Abú l-Fad' himself and subjected to still closer supervision (muráqabat-i aḥwál). We are not told how long he remained in the convent at Sarakhs. At last Abú ’l-Faḍl bade him return to Mayhana and take care of his mother. Here he lived in a cell, apparently in his father's house, though he also frequented several cloisters in the neighbourhood, especially one known as "The Old Cloister" (Ribáṭ-i Kuhan) on the Merv road 3. Among the ascetic exercises in which he was now constantly engaged the following are recorded 4:

He showed excessive zeal in his religious ablutions, emptying a number of water-jugs for every single wuḍú’.

He was always washing the door and walls of his cell.

He never leaned against any door or wall, or rested his body on wood or on a cushion, or reclined on a couch.

All the time he wore only one shirt, which gradually increased in weight because, whenever it was torn, he would sew a patch on it. At last it weighed 20 maunds.

He never quarrelled with any one nor spoke to any one, except when necessity forced him to do so.

He ate no food by day, and broke his fast with nothing more than a piece of bread.

He did not sleep by day or night but shut himself in his cell, where he had made an excavation in the wall, just high and broad enough to stand in, which could be closed by means

p. 13

of a door. He used to stand here and close the door and occupy himself with recollection (dhikr), stuffing his ears with cotton-wool in order that no disturbing sound might reach him, and that his attention might remain concentrated. At the same time he never ceased to watch over his inmost self (muráqabat-i sirr), in order that no thought except of God might cross his mind 1.

After a while he became unable to bear the society or even the sight of men. He wandered alone in desert and mountainous places and would often disappear for a month or more. His father used to go in search of him and find out where he was from labourers or travellers who had seen him. To please his father, he would come home, but ere long he would feel the presence of human creatures to be unendurable and would again flee to mountains and wildernesses, where he was sometimes seen roaming with a venerable old man clad in white raiment. Many years afterwards, when Abú Sa‘íd had risen to eminence, he declared to those who questioned him that this old man was the prophet Khaḍir 2.

Although he was carefully watched, Abú Sa‘íd contrived to escape from his father's house night after night. On one occasion his father (who felt a natural anxiety as to the object of these nocturnal excursions) followed him, unperceived, at a little distance.

My son (he relates) walked on until he reached the Old Cloister (Ribáṭ-i Kuhan). He entered it and shut the gate behind him, while I went up on the roof. I saw him go into a chapel, which was in the ribáṭ, and close the door. Looking through the chapel window, I waited to see what would happen. There was a stick lying on the floor, and it had a rope fastened to it. He took up the stick and tied the end of the rope to his foot. Then, laying the stick across the top of a pit that was at the corner of the chapel, he slung himself into the pit head downwards, and began to recite the Koran. He remained in that posture until daybreak, when, having recited the whole Koran, he raised himself from the pit, replaced the stick where he had found it, opened the door, came out of the chapel, and commenced to perform his ablution in the middle

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of the ribáṭ. I descended from the roof, hastened home, and slept until he came in 1.

The following passage illustrates another side of Abú Sa‘íd's asceticism. He said,

One day I said to myself, "Knowledge, works, meditation—I have them all; now I want to become absent from them (ghaybatí az ín)." On consideration I saw that the only way to attain this was by acting as a servant to the dervishes, for when God wishes to benefit a man, He shows to him the path of self-abasement. Accordingly I made it my business to wait upon them, and I used to clean their cells and privies and lavatories. I persevered in this work for a long time, until it became a habit. Then I resolved to beg for the dervishes, which seemed to me the hardest thing I could lay upon myself. At first, when people saw me begging, they would give me a piece of gold, but soon it was only copper, and by degrees it came down to a single raisin or nut. In the end even this was refused. One day I was with a number of dervishes, and there was nothing to be got for them. For their sake I parted with the turban I had on my head, then I sold one after the other my slippers, the lining of my jubba, the cloth of which it was made, and the cotton quilting 2.

During the period of ascetic discipline which he underwent at Mayhana, Abú Sa‘íd sometimes visited Sarakhs for the purpose of receiving spiritual guidance from Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl. His biographer says that he travelled on his bare feet, but if we may trust ‘Abdu ’l-Ṣamad, one of his disciples, he usually flew through the air; it is added that this phenomenon was witnessed only by persons of mystical insight 3. According to the Asrár, he returned to Abú ’l-Faḍl for another year's training and was then sent by him to Abú ‘Abú al-Raḥmán al-Sulamí, who invested him with the patched frock (khirqa) that proclaims the wearer to be a recognised member of the brotherhood of Ṣúfís 4. Al-Sulamí of Níshápúr (ob. a.d. 1021), a pupil of Abú ’l-Qásim al-Naṣrábádí, was a celebrated mystic.

He is the author of the Ṭabaqátu ’l-Ṣúfiyya—biographies of the early Ṣúfí Shaykhs—and other important works.

On Abú Sa‘íd's return, Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl said to him,

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[paragraph continues] "Now all is finished. You must go to Mayhana and call the people to God and admonish them and show them the way to the Truth." He came back to Mayhana, as his Director enjoined, but instead of contenting himself with Abú ’l-Faḍl's assurance that all was now finished, he increased his austerities and was more assiduous than ever in his devotions. In the following discourse he refers to the veneration which the people began to manifest towards him at this time 1.

When I was a novice, I bound myself to do eighteen things: I fasted continually; I abstained from unlawful food; I practised recollection (dhikr) uninterruptedly; I kept awake at night; I never reclined on the ground; I never slept but in a sitting posture; I sat facing the Ka‘ba; I never leaned against anything; I never looked at a handsome youth or at women whom it would have been unlawful for me to see unveiled; I did not beg; I was content and resigned to God's will; I always sat in the mosque and did not go into the market, because the Prophet said that the market is the filthiest of places and the mosque the cleanest. In all my acts I was a follower of the Prophet. Every four-and-twenty hours I completed a recitation of the Koran. In my seeing I was blind, in my hearing deaf, in my speaking dumb. For a whole year I conversed with no one. People called me a lunatic, and I allowed them to give me that name, relying on the Tradition that a man's faith is not made perfect until he is supposed to be mad. I performed everything that I had read or heard of as having been done or commanded by the Prophet. Having read that when he was wounded in the foot in the battle of Uḥud, he stood on his toes in order to perform his devotions—for he could not set the sole of his foot upon the ground—I resolved to imitate him, and standing on tiptoe I performed a prayer of 400 genuflexions. I modelled my actions, outward and inward, upon the Sunna of the Prophet, so that habit at last became nature. Whatever I had heard or found in books concerning the acts of worship performed by the angels, I performed the same. I had heard and seen in writing that some angels worship God on their heads. Therefore I placed my head on the ground and bade the blessed mother of Abú Ṭáhir tie my toe with a cord and fasten the cord to a peg and then

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shut the door behind her. Being left alone, I said, "O Lord! I do not want myself: let me escape from myself!" and I began a recitation of the whole Koran. When I came to the verse, God shall suffice thee against them, for He heareth and knoweth all 1, blood poured from my eyes and I was no longer conscious of myself. Then things changed. Ascetic experiences passed over me of a kind that can be described in words 2, and God strengthened and aided me therein, but I fancied that all these acts were done by me. The grace of God became manifest and showed me that this was not so, and that these were the acts of divine favour and grace. I repented of my belief and realised that it was mere self-conceit. Now if you say that you will not tread this path because it is self-conceit, I reply that your refusal to tread it is self-conceit. Until you have undergone all this, its self-conceit will not be revealed to you. Self-conceit appears only when you fulfil the Law, for self-conceit lies in religion, and religion is of the Law. To abstain from religious acts is infidelity, and to perform such acts self-consciously is dualism. If "thou" exists and "He" exists, "two" exists; and that is dualism. You must put your "self" away altogether.

I had a cell in which I sat, and sitting there I was enamoured of passing-away from myself. A light flashed upon me, which utterly destroyed the darkness of my being. God . Almighty revealed to me that I was neither that nor this: that this was His grace even as that was His gift. So it came to pass that I said:

When I mine eyes have opened, all Thy beauty I behold;
When I tell Thee my secret, all my body is ensouled.
Methinks, unlawful ’tis for me to talk with other men,
But when with Thee I am talking, ah! the tale is never told.

[paragraph continues] Then the people began to regard me with great approval. Disciples gathered round me and were converted to Ṣúfisim. My neighbours too showed their respect for me by ceasing to drink wine. This proceeded so far that a melon-skin which I had thrown away was bought for twenty pieces of gold. One day when I was riding on horseback, my horse dropped dung. Eager to gain a blessing, the people came and picked up the dung and smeared their heads and faces with it. After a time it was revealed to me that I was not the real object of their veneration. A voice cried from the corner of the mosque, Is not thy Lord enough for thee 3?

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[paragraph continues] A light gleamed in my breast, and most veils were removed. The people who had honoured me now rejected me, and even went before the cadi to bear witness that I was an infidel. The inhabitants of every place that I entered declared that their crops would not grow on account of my wickedness. Once, whilst I was seated in the mosque, the women went up on to the roof and bespattered me with filth; and still I heard a voice saying, Is not thy Lord enough for thee? The congregation desisted from their prayers, saying, "We will not pray together so long as this madman is in the mosque." Meanwhile I was reciting these verses:

I was a lion—the fierce pard was ware
Of my pursuit. I conquered everywhere.
But since I drew Thy love close to my heart,
Lame foxes drive me from my forest-lair.

[paragraph continues] This joyous transport was followed by a painful contraction (qabḍ). I opened the Koran, and my eye fell on the verse, We will prove you with evil and with good, to try you; and unto Us shall ye return 1, as though God said to me, "All this which I put in thy way is a trial. If it is good, it is a trial, and if it is evil, it is a trial. Do not stoop to good or to evil, but dwell with Me!" Once more my "self" vanished, and His grace was all in all 2.

After the death of his father and mother—which the biographer leaves undated, only observing, in the spirit of a true Ṣúfí, that these events removed the obstacle of filial affection from his path—Abú Sa‘íd is said to have roamed for seven years in the deserts between Mayhana and Báward (Abíward) and between Merv and Sarakhs 3. He then returned to Mayhana. By this time Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl, to whom he had hitherto confided all his perplexities, was dead. Feeling that he required a spiritual Director, Abú Sa‘íd set out for Ámul in Ṭabaristán, whither many Ṣúfís were flocking in consequence of the fame of Shaykh Abú ’l-‘Abbás Qaṣṣáb. He was accompanied by Aḥmad Najjár and Muḥammad Faḍl, his disciple and lifelong friend, who is buried at Sarakhs. They journeyed to Báward and thence along the Gaz valley (Darra-i Gaz) to Nasá 4. At Sháh Mayhana 5, a village in this

p. 18

valley, having performed their ablutions and prayers on the rocky bank of a stream, they were approaching the tomb of Abú ‘Alí (?), which it was their purpose to visit, when they saw a lad driving an ox and ploughing, and on the edge of the field an old man sowing millet-seed. The old man seemed to have lost his wits, for he was always looking towards the tomb and uttering loud cries.

"We were deeply moved," said Abú Sa‘íd, "by his behaviour. He came to meet us and salaamed and said, 'Can you lift a burden from my breast?' 'If God will,' I replied. 'I have been thinking,' he said, 'if God, when He created the world, had created no creatures in it; and if He had filled it full of millet from East to West and from earth to heaven; and if then He had created one bird and bidden it eat one grain of this millet every thousand years; and if, after that, He had created a man and had kindled in his heart this mystic longing and had told him that he would never win to his goal until this bird left not a single millet-seed in the whole world, and that he would continue until then in this burning pain of love—I have been thinking, it would still be a thing soon ended!' The words of the old peasant (said Abú Sa‘íd) made all the mystery plain to me 1."

Nasá, which the travellers skirted but did not enter, was known amongst Ṣúfís by the name of "Little Syria" (Shám-i kúchak), because it boasted as many tombs of saints as Syria of prophets. The author of the Asrár says that in his time the cemetery overlooking the town contained 400 sepulchres of great Shaykhs and holy men 2. The prevailing belief that the sanctity of the place protected it from devastation he declares to have been verified by what he himself witnessed

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during the massacres and ravages of more than thirty years.

Every calamity that threatened Nasá has been averted by the favour and kindness of God and by the blessings of the tombs of departed Shaykhs and by the prayers of the living. Even now (he continues), when religion in Khurásán is almost extinct and scarcely any vestige of Ṣúfisim is left, there are still in Nasá many excellent Shaykhs and Ṣúfís, richly endowed with inward experiences, as well as numerous hidden saints who exert a powerful and beneficent influence 1.

In the upper part of the town, adjoining the cemetery, stood a convent for Ṣúfís, the Khánaqáh-i Saráwí. It had recently been founded by the famous mystic, Abú ‘Alí Daqqáq of Níshápúr (ob. a.d. 1015). The legend concerning its foundation was that Abú ‘Alí had a dream in which the Prophet ordered him to build a house for Ṣúfís, and not only pointed out the site but also drew a line showing its dimensions. Next morning, when Abú ‘Alí went to the place indicated, he and all those who were with him saw a line distinctly marked on the ground; and upon this line the outer wall of the convent was raised 2. When Abú Sa‘íd arrived at Yaysama 3, a village in the neighbourhood of Nasá, he went to visit the tomb of Aḥmad ‘Alí Nasawí 4. Meanwhile Shaykh Aḥmad Naṣr 5, who was then in charge of the convent at Nasá, put out his head from his cell and said to the Ṣúfís seated in the portico, "The royal falcon of the mystic Way (sháhbáz-i ṭaríqa) is passing! Whoever wants to catch him must go to Yaysama 6."

While passing through the village, Abú Sa‘íd and his

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friends noticed a butcher who wore a fur gaberdine (pústín) and was seated in his shop, with pieces of meat hanging in front of him. He came forward to greet the strangers, and bade an apprentice follow them and see where they lodged. They found quarters in a mosque beside the river, and when they had performed their ablutions and prayers the butcher appeared, bringing some viands of which they partook.

"After we had done," said Abú Sa‘íd, "he asked whether any of us could answer a question. My friends pointed to me. He then said, 'What is the duty of a slave and what is the duty of a labourer for hire?' I replied in terms of the religious law. He asked, 'Is there nothing else?' I remained silent. With a stern look he exclaimed, 'Do not live with one whom thou hast divorced!' meaning that since I had discarded exoteric knowledge (‘ilm-i ẓáhir), I must not have any further dealings with it. Then he added, 'Until thou art free, thou wilt never be a slave 1, and until thou art an honest and sincere labourer, thou wilt never receive the wages of everlasting bliss.'" 2

To digress a little, as the leisurely style of Oriental biography permits, it will be remembered that on his conversion to Ṣúfisim Abú Sa‘íd immediately abandoned the study of theology and jurisprudence in which he had spent so much of his youth. He collected all the volumes that he had read, together with his own note-books, buried them, and erected over them a mound of stone and earth (dúkání). On this mound he planted a twig of myrtle, which took root and put forth leaves, and in the course of time became a large tree. The people of Mayhana used to pluck boughs from it, hoping thereby to win a blessing for their new-born children, or in order to lay them on their dead before interment. The author of the Asrár, who had often seen it and admired its beautiful foliage, says that it was destroyed, with other relics of the saint, during the invasion of Khurásán by the Ghuzz 3. When Abú Sa‘íd buried his books, it was suggested that he might have done better to give them to some one who would

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profit by reading them. "I wished," he said, "that my heart should be entirely void of the consciousness of having conferred an obligation and of the recollection of having bestowed a gift 1." Once he was heard wailing in his cell the whole night long. Next morning he explained that he had been visited with a violent toothache as a punishment for having dipped into a tome which he took away from a student 2.

Here are two more of his sayings on the same topic: "Books! ye are excellent guides, but it is absurd to trouble about a guide after the goal has been reached." "The first step in this affair (Ṣúfisim) is the breaking of ink-pots 3 and the tearing-up of books and the forgetting of all kinds of (intellectual) knowledge 4."

We left Abú Sa‘íd on his way to Ámul. He is said to have resided there for one year 5 in the convent of which Shaykh Abú ’l-‘Abbás Qaṣṣáb was the head. The Shaykh gave him a cell in the assembly-room (jamá‘at-khána), facing the oratory 6 reserved for himself, where he had sat for forty-one years in the midst of his disciples 7. It was the custom of Shaykh Abú ’l-‘Abbás, when he saw a dervish performing supererogatory prayers at night, to say to him, "Sleep, my son! All the devotions of your Director are performed for your sake, for they are of no use to him and he does not need them himself"; but he never said this to Abú Sa‘íd, who used to pray all night and fast all day. During the night Abú Sa‘íd kept his eyes continually fixed upon his navel, and his mind upon the spiritual "states" (aḥwál) and acts of the Shaykh. One day the Shaykh had some blood let from his arm. At night the bandage slipped off, uncovering the vein, so that his garment was stained with blood. As he came out of the oratory, Abú Sa‘íd, who was always on the watch to serve him, ran up to

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him, washed and bandaged his arm, and taking from him the soiled garment offered his own, which the Shaykh put on, while Abú Sa‘íd clad himself in a khashan 1 that he had. Then he washed and cleaned the Shaykh's garment, hung it on the rope (ḥabl) to dry, rubbed and folded it, and brought it to the Shaykh. "It is thine," said the Shaykh, "put it on!" "Nay," cried Abú Sa‘íd, "let the Shaykh put it on me with his own blessed hand!"

This was the second gaberdine (khirqa) with which Abú Sa‘íd was invested, for he had already received one from Abú ‘Abú al-Raḥmán al-Sulamí of Níshápúr 2.

Here the author of the Asrár introduces a disquisition on the meaning of such investiture 3, with the object of refuting those who hold that a Súfí ought not to accept a khirqa from more than one Pír. In the first place, he describes the endowments in virtue of which the Pír is privileged to invest a disciple with the khirqa. The Pír should be worthy of imitation, i.e., he should have a perfect knowledge, both theoretical and practical, of the three stages of the mystical life—the Law, the Path, and the Truth; he should also be entirely purged of fleshly attributes (ṣifát-i bashariyya), so that nothing of his lower "self" (nafs) remains in him. When such a Pír has become thoroughly acquainted with a disciple's acts and thoughts and has proved them by the test of experience and, through spiritual insight, knows that he is qualified to advance beyond the position of a famulus (maqám-i khidmat)—whether his being thus qualified is due to the training which he has received from this Pír or to the guidance and direction of another Pír possessing a like authority—then he lays his hand on the disciple's head and invests him with the khirqa. By the act of investiture he announces his conviction that the disciple is fit to associate with the Ṣúfís, and if he is a person of credit and renown amongst them, his declaration carries the same weight as, in matters of law, the testimony of an

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honest witness and the sentence of an incorruptible judge. Accordingly, whenever an unknown dervish comes into a convent or wishes to join a company of Ṣúfís, they ask him, "Who was the Pír that taught thee 1?" and "From whose hand didst thou receive the khirqa?" Ṣúfís recognise no relationship but these two, which they regard as all-important. They do not allow any one to associate with them, unless he can show to their satisfaction that he is lineally connected in both these ways with a fully accredited Pír.

Having insisted that the whole Path of Ṣúfisim turns upon the Pír (madár-i ṭaríqa bar pír ast 2), the author of the Asrár comes to the question in dispute—"Is it right to receive investiture from the hands of more than one 3?" He answers, in effect, "Yes, it is right, provided that the second investiture is not accompanied with the intention of annulling the first 4." His argument is a universal principle, which can be stated in a few words. Ultimately and essentially all things are one. Difference and duality are phenomena which disappear when unity is reached. The sayings of the great mystics differ in expression, but their meaning is the same. There are many religions, but only one God; diverse ways, but only one goal. Hence those who raise an objection against the double investiture proclaim themselves to be still on the plane of dualism, which the Pírs have transcended. In reality, all Ṣúfís, all Pírs, and all khirqas are one. Amidst these sublime truths it is rather a shock to meet with the remark that the novice who receives two khirqas resembles a man who calls two witnesses to attest his competence 5.

On his departure from Ámul, Abú Sa‘íd was directed by

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[paragraph continues] Shaykh Abú ’l-‘Abbás Qaṣṣáb to return once more to Mayhana 1. This event approximately coincides with the beginning of a new period in his spiritual history. The long discipline of the Path, broken by fleeting visions and ecstasies, brought him at last into the full and steady splendour of illumination. The veil, which had hitherto been lifted only to fall again, was now burst asunder. Henceforth no barrier (ḥijáb) in the shape of "self"—that insidious obstacle which it is the whole business of the via purgative to remove—could even temporarily shut off his consciousness of the Unseen. While conversing with Abú ‘Alí Daqqáq, Abú Sa‘íd asked him whether this experience was ever permanent. " No," said Abú ‘Alí. Abú Sa‘íd bowed his head, then he repeated the question and received the same answer, whereupon he bowed his head as before. On being asked for the third time, Abú ‘Alí replied, "If it ever is permanent, it is extremely rare." Abú Sa‘íd clapped his hands joyfully and exclaimed several times, "This"—referring to his own case—"is one of these rarities 2." Continuous though his illumination may have been, it was not of uniform intensity, but was subject to the fluctuations which are described in the technical language of Ṣúfisim as contraction (qabḍ) and expansion (basṭ3. Often, when he fell into the former state, he would go about asking questions of every one, in the hope of hearing some words that might relieve his oppression 4. When qabḍ was violent, he would visit the tomb of Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan at Sarakhs. His eldest son, Abú Ṭáhir, relates that one day Abú Sa‘íd, while preaching, began to weep, and the whole congregation wept with him. Giving orders that his horse should be saddled, he immediately set out for Sarakhs, accompanied by all who were present. As soon as they entered the desert, his feeling of "contraction" was dispelled. He began to speak freely, while those around him shouted with joy. On arriving at Sarakhs he turned aside from the highroad in the direction

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of the tomb of Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan and bade the qawwál sing this verse:

Here is the mansion of delight, the home of bounty and of grace!
All eyes towards the Ka‘ba turn, but ours to the Beloved's face.

[paragraph continues] During the qawwál's chant Abú Sa‘íd and the dervishes with bare heads and feet circumambulated the tomb, shrieking ecstatically. When quiet was restored, he said, "Mark the date of this day, for you will never see a day like this again." Afterwards he used to tell any of his disciples who thought of making the pilgrimage to Mecca that they must visit the tomb of Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan and perform seven circumambulations there 1.

It is stated on the authority of Abú Sa‘íd's grandson, Shaykhu ’l-Islám Abú Sa‘íd, who was the grandfather of Muḥammad ibnu ’l-Munawwar, the compiler of the Asrár, that Abú Sa‘íd attained to perfect illumination at the age of forty 2. That statement may be approximately correct, though we cannot help regarding as suspicious its combination with the theory founded on a passage in the Koran 3, that no one under forty years of age ever attained to the rank of prophecy or saintship, excepting only Yaḥyá ibn Zakariyyá (John the Baptist) and Jesus. At this point the biographer concludes the first chapter of his work, describing Abú Sa‘íd's conversion and novitiate, and enters on the mature period of his mystical life—the period of illumination and contemplation.

In the foregoing pages we have been mainly concerned with his progress as an ascetic. We are now to see him as Theosophist and Saint. It must be added, however, that in this higher stage he did not discontinue his austerities. He took pains to conceal them, and all our information about them is derived from allusions in his public speeches or from the exhortations which he addressed to novices. According to his disciples, after becoming an adept there was no rule or practice of the Prophet that he left unperformed 4.

From this time (circa a.h. 400 = a.d. 1009) until his death, which occurred in a.h. 440 = a.d. 1049, the materials available

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for Abú Sa‘íd's biography, consisting for the most part of miscellaneous anecdotes, are of such a kind that it is impossible to give a connected account of events in their chronological order. Concerning his movements we know nothing of importance beyond the following facts:

(a) He left Mayhana and journeyed to Níshápúr, where he stayed for a considerable time.

(b) Shortly before quitting Níshápúr he paid a visit to Abú ’l-Ḥasan Kharaqání at Kharaqán 1.

(c) Finally, he returned from Níshápúr to Mayhana. The anecdotes in the second chapter of the Asrár form three groups in correspondence with this local division:

1. Níshápúr (pp. 68-174).

2. Kharaqán (pp. 175-190).

3. Mayhana (pp. 191-247).

Various circumstances indicate that his residence in Níshápúr was a long one, probably extending over several years, but we find no precise statement 2, and the evidence that can be obtained from his reported meetings with famous contemporaries is insufficient, in my opinion, to serve as a basis for investigation. His visit to Kharaqán supplies a terminus ad quem, for Abú ’l-Ḥasan Kharaqání is known to have died in a.h. 425 = a.d. 1033-4. Unless the stories of his friendship with Qushayrí are inventions, he can hardly have settled in Níshápúr before a.h. 415 = a.d. 1024, since Qushayrí (born a.h. 376 = a.d. 986) is described at the date of Abú Sa‘íd's arrival as a celebrated teacher with numerous pupils.

For the reasons mentioned above, we must now content ourselves with the barest outline of a narrative and seek compensation in episodes, incidents, and details which often reveal the personality and character of Abú Sa‘íd in a surprising

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manner and at the same time let us see how the monastic life was lived and by what methods it was organised.

When Abú Sa‘íd set out for Níshápúr, he did not travel alone, but was attended by the disciples whom he had already gathered round him at Mayhana, while many new converts joined the party at Ṭús. Here he preached to crowded assemblies and moved his audience to tears. On one of these occasions an infant fell from the gallery (bám), which was thronged with women. Abú Sa‘íd exclaimed, "Save it!" A hand appeared in the air and caught the child and placed it unhurt on the floor. The spectators raised a great cry and scenes of ecstasy ensued. "I swear," says Sayyid Abú ‘Alí, who relates the story, "that I saw this with my own eyes. If I did not see it, may both my eyes become blind 1!" At Ṭús Abú Sa‘íd is said to have passed by a number of children standing together in the street of the Christians (kúy-i tarsáyán) and to have pointed out one of them to his companions, saying, "If you wish to look at the prime minister of the world, there he is!" The boy, whose future eminence was thus miraculously foretold, and who, forty years afterwards, repeated those prophetic words to a great-grandson of Abú Sa‘íd, was the illustrious statesman Niẓámu ’l-Mulk (born a.d. 1018) 2.

On entering Níshápúr Abú Sa‘íd was met by an influential patron of the Ṣúfís, Khwája Maḥmúd-i Muríd, who installed him and his disciples in the monastery (khánaqáh) of Abú ‘Alí Ṭarasúsí in the street of the carpet-beaters (?) 3, which seems to have been his headquarters as long as he remained in Níshápúr 4. His preaching and, above all, the extraordinary powers of telepathy which he displayed in public made many converts and brought in large sums of money 5. Ḥasan-i

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[paragraph continues] Mu’addib—afterwards his principal famulus and major-domo—relates his own experience as follows:

When people were proclaiming everywhere in Níshápúr that a Ṣúfí Pír had arrived from Mayhana and was preaching sermons in the street of the carpet-beaters and was reading men's secret thoughts, I said to myself—for I hated the Ṣúfís—"How can a Ṣúfí preach, when he knows nothing about theology? How can he read men's thoughts, when God has not given knowledge of the Unseen to any prophet or to any other person?" One day I went to the hall where he preached, with the intention of putting him to the proof, and sat down in front of his chair. I was handsomely dressed and had a turban of fine Ṭabarí stuff wound on my head. While the Shaykh was speaking, I regarded him with feelings of hostility and disbelief. Having finished his sermon, he asked for clothes on behalf of a dervish. Every one offered something. Then he asked for a turban. I thought of giving mine, but again I reflected that it had been brought to me from Ámul as a present and that it was worth ten Níshápúrí dínárs, so I resolved not to give it. The Shaykh made a second appeal, and the same thought occurred to me, but I rejected it once more. An old man who was seated beside me asked, "O Shaykh! does God plead with His creatures?" He answered, "Yes, but He does not plead more than twice for the sake of a Ṭabarí turban. He has already spoken twice to the man sitting beside you and has told him to give to this dervish the turban which he is wearing, but he refuses to do so, because it is worth ten pieces of gold and was brought to him from Ámul as a present." On hearing these words, I rose, trembling, and went forward to the Shaykh and kissed his foot and offered my turban and my whole suit of clothes to the dervish. Every feeling of dislike and incredulity was gone. I became a Moslem anew, bestowed on the Shaykh all the money and wealth I possessed, and devoted myself to his service 1.

While Abú Sa‘íd was enthusiastically welcomed by the Ṣúfís of Níshápúr, he met with formidable opposition from the parties adverse to them 2, namely, the Karrámís 3, whose

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chief was Abú Bakr Isḥáq, and the Aṣḥáb-i ra’y (liberal theologians) and Shí‘ites led by Qáḍí Ṣá‘id. The leaders of those parties drew up a written charge against him, to the following effect:

A certain man has come hither from Mayhana and pretends to be a Ṣúfí. He preaches sermons in the course of which he recites poetry but does not quote the Traditions of the Prophet. He holds sumptuous feasts and music is played by his orders, whilst the young men dance and eat sweetmeats 1 and roasted fowls and all kinds of fruit. He declares that he is an ascetic, but this is neither asceticism nor Ṣúfisim. Multitudes have joined him and are being led astray. Unless measures be taken to repair it, the mischief will soon become universal.

The authorities at the court of Ghazna, to whom the document was sent, returned it with the following answer written on the back: "Let the leaders of the Sháfi‘ites and Ḥanafites sit in council and inquire into his case and duly inflict upon him whatever penalty the religious law demands." This answer was received on a Thursday. The enemies of Abú Sa‘íd rejoiced and immediately held a meeting and determined that on Saturday he and all the Ṣúfís should be gibbeted in the market-place. His friends were anxious and alarmed by rumours of what was impending, but none dared tell him, since he desired to have nothing communicated to him, and in fact always knew by miraculous intuition all that was going on.

When we had performed the afternoon prayers (says Ḥasan-i Mu’addib), the Shaykh called me and asked, "How many are the Ṣúfís?" I replied, "A hundred and twenty—eighty travellers (musáfir) and forty residents (muqím)." "To-morrow," said he, "what will you give them for dinner?" "Whatever the Shaykh bids," I replied. "You must place before each one," said he, "a lamb's head and provide plenty of crushed sugar to sprinkle on the lamb's brains, and let each one have a pound of khalífatí sweets, and see that there is no lack of aloes-wood for burning and rose-water for spraying over them, and get well-laundered linen robes.

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[paragraph continues] Lay the table in the congregational mosque, in order that those who slander me behind my back may behold with their own eyes the viands that God sends from the unseen world to his elect." Now, at the moment when the Shaykh gave me these directions, there was not a single loaf in the store-room of the convent, and in the whole city I did not know any one of whom I could venture to beg a piece of silver, because these rumours had shaken the faith of all our friends; nor had I courage to ask the Shaykh how I should procure the things which he required. It was near sunset. I left him and stood in the street of the carpet-beaters, utterly at a loss what to do, until the sun had almost set and the merchants were closing their shops and going home. When the hour of evening prayer arrived and it was now dark, a young man running to his house—for he was late—saw me as I stood there, and cried, "O Ḥasan! what are you doing?" I told him that the Shaykh had given me certain orders, that I had no money, and that I would stay there till morning, if necessary, since I durst not return. Throwing back his sleeve, he bade me put my hand in. I did so and drew forth a handful of gold, with which I returned in high spirits to the convent. On making my purchases, I found that the sum was exactly right—not a dirhem too much or too little. Early next morning I got the linen robes and laid the table in the congregational mosque, as the Shaykh had directed. He came thither with all his disciples, while many spectators occupied the galleries above. Now, when Qáḍí Ṣá‘id and Ustád Abú Bakr Karrámí were informed that the Shaykh had prepared a feast for the Ṣúfís in the mosque, Qáḍí Ṣá‘id exclaimed, "Let them make merry to-day and eat roast lamb's head, for to-morrow their own heads will be devoured by crows"; and Abú Bakr said, "Let them grease their bellies to-day, for to-morrow they will grease the scaffold." These threats were conveyed to the Ṣúfís and made a painful impression. As soon as they finished the meal and washed their hands, the Shaykh said to me, "Ḥasan! take the Ṣúfís' prayer-rugs to the chancel (maqṣúra) after Qáḍí Ṣá‘id (who was the official preacher), for to-day we will perform our prayers under his leadership." Accordingly, I carried twenty prayer-rugs into the chancel and laid them in two rows; there was no room for any more. Qáḍí Ṣá‘id mounted the pulpit and delivered a hostile address; then he came down and performed the service of prayer.

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[paragraph continues] As soon as he pronounced the final salutation (salám), the Shaykh rose and departed, without waiting for the customary devotions (sunna). Qáḍí Ṣá‘id faced towards him, whereupon the Shaykh looked at him askance. The Qáḍí at once bowed his head. When the Shaykh and his disciples returned to the convent, he said, "Ḥasan! go to the Kirmání market-place. There is a confectioner there who has fine cakes made of white sesame and pistachio kernels. Buy ten maunds’ worth. A little further on you will find a man who sells raisins. Buy ten maunds' worth and clean them. Tie up the cakes and raisins in two white cloths (du izár-i fúṭa-i káfúrí) and put them on your head and take them to Ustád Abú Bakr Isḥáq and tell him that he must break his fast with them to-night." I followed the Shaykh's instructions in every particular. When I gave his message to Abú Bakr Isḥáq, the colour went out of his face and he sat in amazement, biting his fingers. After a few minutes he bade me be seated and having summoned Abú ’l-Qásimak, his chamberlain, despatched him to Qáḍí Ṣá‘id. "Tell him," said he, "that I withdraw from our arrangement, which was that to-morrow we should bring this Shaykh and the Ṣúfís to trial and severely punish them. If he asks why, let him know that last night I resolved to fast. To-day, while riding on my ass to the congregational mosque, I passed through the Kirmání marketplace and saw some fine cakes in a confectioner's shop. It occurred to me that on returning from prayers I would send to purchase them and break my fast with them to-night. Further on, I saw some raisins which I thought would be very nice with the cakes, and I resolved to buy some. When I came home, I had forgotten all about the matter and I had not spoken of it to any one. Now Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd sends me the same cakes and raisins which I noticed this morning and desired to buy, and bids me break my fast with them! I have no course but to abandon proceedings against a man who is so perfectly acquainted with 'the thoughts of his fellow-creatures." The chamberlain went to Qáḍí Ṣá‘id and returned with the following message: "I was on the point of sending to you in reference to this affair. To-day the Shaykh was present when I conducted public worship. No sooner had I pronounced the salutation than he went off without performing the sunnat. I turned towards him, intending to ask how his neglect of devotions on a Friday was characteristic of ascetics and Ṣúfís

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and to make this the foundation of a bitter attack upon him. He looked askance at me. I almost fainted with fear. He seemed to be a hawk and I a sparrow which he was about to destroy. I struggled to speak but could not utter a word. To-day he has shown to me his power and majesty. I have no quarrel with him. If the Sultan has issued an edict against him you were responsible. You were the principal and I was only a subordinate." When the chamberlain had delivered this message, Abú Bakr Isḥáq turned to me and said: "Go and tell your Shaykh that Abú Bakr Isḥáq Karrámí with 20,000 followers, and Qáḍí Ṣá‘id with 30,000, and the Sultan with 100,000 men and 750 war elephants, made ready for battle and tried to subdue him, and that he has defeated all their armies with ten maunds of cake and raisins and has routed right wing, left wing, and centre. He is free to hold his religion, as we are free to hold ours. Ye have your religion and I have my religion 1."

I came back to the Shaykh (said Ḥasan-i Mu’addib) and told him all that had passed. He turned to his disciples and said, "Since yesterday ye have been trembling for fear that the scaffold would be soaked with your blood. Nay, that is the lot of such as Ḥusayn-i Manṣúr Ḥalláj, the most eminent mystic of his time in East and West. Scaffolds drip with the blood of heroes, not of cowards." Then he bade the qawwál sing these lines:

With shield and quiver meet thine enemy!
Vaunt not thyself but make thy vaunt of Me.
Let Fate be cool as water, hot as fire,
Do thou live happy, whichsoe’er it be!

The qawwál sang and all the disciples began to shout and fling their gaberdines away.

After that day no one in Níshápúr ventured to speak a word in disparagement of the Ṣúfís 2.

The story may not be entirely fictitious. It shows, at any rate, that Moslems ascribe a miraculous character to telepathic powers, nor does it exaggerate the awe inspired by a holy man who displays them effectively. Most of Abú Sa‘íd's recorded miracles are of this kind. That Mohammedan saints have often been thought-readers seems to me beyond question,

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whatever doubts one may feel as to a great part of the evidence preserved in their legends. Whether Abú Sa‘íd was actually threatened with legal prosecution or not, we can well believe that the orthodox parties were scandalised by his luxurious manner of living and by the unlicensed practices in which he and his disciples indulged. He made no attempt to rebut the charges brought against him, and from numerous anecdotes related by those who held him in veneration it is clear that if the document said to have been sent to Ghazna be genuine, his accusers set down nothing but what was notoriously true. They gained sympathy, if not active support, from many Ṣúfís who perceived the danger of antinomianism and desired above all things to secure the position of Ṣúfisim within Islam. Of this party the chief representative in Níshápúr was Abú ’l-Qásim Qushayrí, well known as the author of al-Risálatu ’l-Qushayríyya fí ‘ilmi ’l-taṣawwuf, which he composed in a.h. 437 = a.d. 1045-6 with the avowed object of demonstrating that the history and traditions of Ṣúfisim are bound up with strict observance of the Mohammedan religious law.

The biographer gives an interesting but probably untruthful account of Abú Sa‘íd's public and private relations with Qushayrí, who is depicted as having been induced by personal experience of his miraculous intuition to repent of the hostile feelings with which he regarded the new-comer. During the first year of Abú Sa‘íd's stay in Níshápúr, his prayer-meetings were attended by seventy disciples of Qushayrí, and finally he himself agreed to accompany them. While Abú Sa‘íd was preaching, Qushayrí reflected: "This man is inferior to me in learning and we are equal in devotion: whence did he get this power of reading men's thoughts?" Abú Sa‘íd at once paused in his discourse and fixing his eye on Qushayrí reminded him of a certain ritual irregularity of which he had been guilty in private on the preceding day. Qushayrí was dumbfounded. Abú Sa‘íd, as soon as he left the pulpit, approached him and they embraced each other 1. Their harmony, however, was not yet complete, for they

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differed in the great controversy, which had long been raging, whether audition (samá‘) was permissible; in other words, "Did the religious law sanction the use of music, singing, and dancing as a means of stimulating ecstasy 1?" One day Qushayrí, while passing Abú Sa‘íd's convent, looked in and saw him taking part with his disciples in an ecstatic dance. He thought to himself that, according to the Law, no one who dances like this is accepted as a witness worthy of credit. Next day he met Abú Sa‘íd on his way to a feast. After they had exchanged salutations, Abú Sa‘íd said to him, "When have you seen me seated amongst the witnesses?" Qushayrí understood that this was the answer to his unspoken thought 2. He now dismissed from his mind all unfriendly feelings, and the two became so intimate that not a day passed without one of them visiting the other 3, while on Qushayrí's invitation Abú Sa‘íd conducted a service once a week in the former's convent 4.

These anecdotes and others of the same tendency may be viewed, not as records of what happened, but rather as illustrations of the fact that in balancing the rival claims of religious law and mystical truth Qushayrí and Abú Sa‘íd were inclined by temperament to take opposite sides. In every case, needless to say, the legalist is worsted by the theosophist, whose inner light is his supreme and infallible authority. The following stories, in which Qushayrí plays his usual rôle, would not have been worth translating unless they had incidentally sketched for us the ways and manners of the dervishes whom Abú Sa‘íd ruled over.

One day Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd with Abú ’l-Qásim Qushayrí and a large number of Ṣúfí disciples were going through the marketplace of Níshápúr. A certain dervish let his eye fall on some boiled turnips set out for sale at the door of a shop and felt a craving for them. The Shaykh knew it by clairvoyance (firása). He pulled in

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the reins of his horse and said to Ḥasan, "Go to that man's shop and buy all the turnips and beetroot that he has and bring them along." Meanwhile he and Qushayrí and the disciples entered a neighbouring mosque. When Ḥasan returned with the turnips and beetroot, the dinner-call was given and the dervishes began to eat. The Shaykh joined them, but Qushayrí refrained and secretly disapproved, because the mosque was in the middle of the marketplace and was open in front. He said to himself, "They are eating in the street!" The Shaykh, as was his custom, took no notice. Two or three days afterwards he and Qushayrí with their disciples were present at a splendid feast. The table was covered with viands of all sorts. Qushayrí wished very much to partake of a certain dish, but he could not reach it and was ashamed to ask for it. He felt extremely annoyed. The Shaykh turned to him and said, "Doctor, when food is offered, you refuse it, and when you want it, it is not offered." Qushayrí silently begged God to forgive him for what he had done 1.

One day Qushayrí unfrocked a dervish and severely censured him and ordered him to leave the city. The reason was that the dervish admired Ismá‘ílak-i Daqqáq, one of Qushayrí's disciples, and had requested a certain friend to make a feast and invite the singers (qawwálán) and bring Ismá‘ílak with him. "Let me enjoy his company this evening (he pleaded) and shout in ecstasy at the sight of his beauty, for I am on fire with love for him." The friend consented and gave a feast which was followed by music and singing (samá‘). On hearing of this, Qushayrí stripped the dervish of his gaberdine and banished him from Níshápúr. When the news came to the convent of Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd, the dervishes were indignant, but they said nothing about it to the Shaykh, knowing that he was acquainted by clairvoyance with all that passed. The Shaykh called Ḥasan-i Mu’addib and bade him make ready a fine banquet and invite the reverend Doctor (Qushayrí) and all the Ṣúfís in the town. "You must get plenty of roast lamb," he said, "and sweetmeats, and light a great many candles." At nightfall, when the company assembled, the Shaykh and the Doctor took their seats together on a couch, and the Ṣúfís sat in front of it in three rows, a hundred men in each row. Khwája Abú Ṭáhir, the Shaykh's eldest son, who was exceedingly handsome, presided

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over the table. As soon as the time came for dessert, Ḥasan placed a large bowl of lawzína before the Shaykh and the Doctor. After they had helped themselves, the Shaykh said to Abú Ṭáhir, "Take this bowl and go to yonder dervish, Bú ‘Alí Turshízí, and put half of this lawzína in his mouth and eat the other half yourself." Abú Ṭáhir went to the dervish, and kneeling respectfully before him, took a portion of the sweetmeat, and after swallowing a mouthful put the other half in the dervish's mouth. The dervish raised a loud cry and rent his garment and ran forth from the convent, shouting "Labbayk!" The Shaykh said, "Abú Ṭáhir! I charge you to wait upon that dervish. Take his staff and ewer and follow him and be assiduous in serving him until he reaches the Ka‘ba." When the dervish saw Abú Ṭáhir coming after him, he stopped and asked him where he was going. Abú Ṭáhir said, "My father has sent me to wait upon you," and told him the whole story. Bú ‘Alí returned to the Shaykh and exclaimed, "For God's sake, bid Abú Ṭáhir leave me!" The Shaykh did so, whereupon the dervish bowed and departed. Turning to Qushayrí, the Shaykh said, "What need is there to censure and unfrock and disgrace a dervish whom half a mouthful of lawzína can drive from the city and cast away into the Ḥijáz? For four years he has been devoted to my Abú Ṭáhir, and except on your account I should never have divulged his secret." Qushayrí rose and prayed God to forgive him and said, "I have done wrong. Every day I must learn from you a new lesson in Ṣúfisim." All the Ṣúfís rejoiced and there were manifestations of ecstasy 1.

Abú Sa‘íd's invariable success in conciliating his opponents is perhaps the greatest miracle that his biographers record, but their belief in it will hardly be shared by us. His mode of life in Níshápúr, as depicted by his own friends and followers, must have shocked Ṣúfís of the old school who had been taught to model themselves upon the saintly heroes of Moslem asceticism. What were they to think of a man whose visitors found him lolling on cushions, like a lord, and having his feet massaged by one of his dervishes 2? A man who prayed every night that God would give his disciples something nice to eat 3, and spent all the money he received on costly entertainments?

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[paragraph continues] Could their objections be removed by exhibitions of thought-reading or by appeals to the divine right of the saint—

Thou art thus because thy lot is thus and thus,
I am so because my lot is so and so 1

or by exhortations to regard the inward nature and disposition rather than the outward act 2? From the following anecdote it appears that such arguments did not always suffice.

When Abú Sa‘íd was at Níshápúr, a merchant brought him a present of a large bundle of aloes-wood and a thousand Níshápúrí dínárs. The Shaykh called Ḥasan-i Mu’addib and bade him prepare a feast; and in accordance with his custom he handed over the thousand dínárs to him for that purpose. Then he ordered that an oven should be placed in the hall and that the whole bundle of aloes-wood should be put in it and burned, saying, "I do this that my neighbours may enjoy its perfume with me." He also ordered a great number of candles to be lighted, though it was still day. Now, there was at that time in Níshápúr a very powerful inspector of police, who held rationalistic views 3 and detested the Ṣúfís. This man came into the monastery and said to the Shaykh, "What are you doing? What an unheard-of extravagance, to light candles in the daytime and burn a whole bundle of aloes-wood at once! It is against the law 4." The Shaykh replied, "I did not know that it is against the law. Go and blow out these candles." The inspector went and puffed at them, but the flame flared over his face and hair and dress, and most of his body was scorched. "Did not you know," said the Shaykh, "that

Whoever tries to blow a candle out
That God hath lighted, his moustache gets burnt?"

[paragraph continues] The inspector fell at the Shaykh's feet and became a convert 5.

While the relations which Abú Sa‘íd established with the jurists and theologians of Níshápúr cannot have been friendly, it is likely enough that he convinced his adversaries of the wisdom or necessity of leaving him alone. In order to understand

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their attitude, we must remember the divinity that hedges the Oriental saint not merely in the eyes of mystics but amongst all classes of society. He wields an illimitable and mysterious power derived from Allah, whose chosen instrument he is. As his favour confers blessing, so his displeasure is fraught with calamity. Countless tales are told of vengeance inflicted on those who have annoyed or insulted him, or shown any want of respect in his presence. Even if his enemies are willing to run the risk, they must still reckon with the widely spread feeling that it is impious to criticise the actions of holy men, which are inspired and guided by Allah Himself.

Naturally, Abú Sa‘íd required large sums of money for maintaining the convent with, perhaps, two or three hundred disciples, on such a liberal scale of living as he kept up. A certain amount was contributed by novices who, on their conversion, put into the common stock all the worldly goods they possessed, but the chief part of the revenues came in the shape of gifts from lay brethren or wealthy patrons or persons who desired the Shaykh to exert his spiritual influence on their behalf. No doubt, much food and money was offered and accepted; much also was collected by Ḥasan-i Mu’addib, who seems to have been an expert in this business. When voluntary contributions failed, the Shaykh's credit with the tradesmen of Níshápúr enabled him to supply the needs of his flock. Here are some anecdotes which describe how he triumphed over financial difficulties.

The ‘Amíd of Khurásán relates as follows:

The cause of my devotion to Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd and his disciples was this. When I first came to Níshápúr, my name was Ḥájib Muḥammad and I had no servant to attend upon me. Every morning I used to pass the gate of the Shaykh's convent and look in, and whenever I saw the Shaykh, that day brought me a blessing, so that I soon began to regard the sight of him as a happy omen. One night I thought that on the morrow I would go and pay my respects to him and take him a present. I took a thousand silver dirhems of the money which had been recently coined—thirty dirhems to the dínár—and wrapped them in a piece of paper,

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intending to visit the Shaykh next day and lay them before him. I was alone in the house at the time when I formed this plan, nor did I speak of it to any one. Afterwards it occurred to me that a thousand dirhems are a great sum, and five hundred will be ample; so I divided the money into two equal parts, which I placed in two packets. Next morning, after prayers, I went to visit the Shaykh, taking one packet with me and leaving the other behind my pillow. As soon as we had exchanged greetings, I gave the five hundred dirhems to Ḥasan-i Mu’addib, who with the utmost courtesy approached the Shaykh and whispered in his ear" Ḥájib Muḥammad has brought some pieces of money (shikasta-í)." The Shaykh said, "God bless him! but he has not brought the full amount: he has left half of it behind his pillow. Ḥasan owes a thousand dirhems. Let him give Ḥasan the whole sum in order that Ḥasan may satisfy his creditors and be freed from anxiety." On hearing these words, I was dumbfounded and immediately sent a servant to bring the remainder of the money for Ḥasan. Then I said to the Shaykh, "Accept me." He took my hand and said, "It is finished. Go in peace 1."

During Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd's stay in Níshápúr Ḥasan-i Mu’addib, his steward, had contracted many debts in order to provide the dervishes with food. For a long time he received no gift of money and his creditors were dunning him. One day they came in a body to the convent gate. The Shaykh told Ḥasan to let them in. On being admitted, they bowed respectfully to the Shaykh and sat down. Meanwhile a boy passed the gate, crying "Sweet cakes (náṭif)!" "Go and fetch him," said the Shaykh. When he was brought in, the Shaykh bade Ḥasan seize the cakes and serve them out to the Ṣúfís. The boy demanded his money, but the Shaykh only said, "It will come." After waiting an hour, the boy said again, "I want my money" and got the same reply. At the end of another hour, having been put off for the third time, he sobbed, "My master will beat me," and burst into tears. Just then some one entered the convent and placed a purse of gold before the Shaykh, saying, "So-and-so has sent it and begs that you will pray for him." The Shaykh ordered Ḥasan to pay the creditors and the cake-boy. It was exactly the sum required, neither more nor less. The Shaykh said, "It came in consequence of the tears of this lad 2."

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There was in Níshápúr a rich broker, Bú ‘Amr by name, who was such an enthusiastic admirer (muḥibbí) of Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd that he entreated Ḥasan-i Mu’addib to apply to him for anything that the Shaykh might want, and not to be afraid of asking too much. One day (said Ḥasan) the Shaykh had already sent me to him seven times with divers requisitions which he satisfied in full. At sunset the Shaykh told me to go to him once more and procure some rosewater, aloes-wood, and camphor. I felt ashamed to return to him; however, I went. He was closing his shop. When he saw me, he cried, "Ḥasan! what is it? You come late." I expressed to him the shame which I felt for having called upon him so frequently in one day and I made him acquainted with the Shaykh's instructions. He opened the shop-door and gave me all that I needed; then he said, "Since you are ashamed to apply to me for these trifles, to-morrow I will give you a thousand dínárs on the security of the caravanseray and the bath-house, in order that you may use that sum for ordinary expenses and come to me for matters of greater importance." I rejoiced, thinking that now I was quit of this ignoble begging. When I brought the rose-water, aloes-wood, and camphor to the Shaykh, he regarded me with disapproval and said, "Ḥasan! go and purge thy heart of all desire for worldly vanities, that I may let thee associate with the Ṣúfís." I went to the convent gate and stood with bare head and feet and repented and asked God to forgive me and wept bitterly and rubbed my face on the ground; but the Shaykh did not speak to me that night. Next day when he preached in the hall, he paid no attention to Bú ‘Amr, although he was accustomed to look at him every day in the course of his sermon. As soon as he had finished, Bú ‘Amr came to me and said, "Ḥasan! what ails the Shaykh? He has not looked at me to-day." I said that I did not know, and then I told him what had passed between the Shaykh and me. Bú ‘Amr went up to the Shaykh's chair and kissed it, saying, "O prince of the age, my life depends on thy look. To-day thou hast not looked at me. Tell me what I have done, that I may ask God's forgiveness and beseech thee to pardon my offence." The Shaykh said, "Will you fetch me down from the highest heaven to earth and demand a pledge from me in return for a thousand dínárs? If you wish me to be pleased with you, give me the money now, and you will see how little it weighs in the scales of my lofty spirit!" Bú ‘Amr

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immediately went home and brought back two purses, each containing five hundred Níshápúrí dínárs. The Shaykh handed them to me and said, "Buy oxen and sheep. Make a hotchpotch (harísa) of the beef and a zíra-bá of the mutton, seasoned with saffron and otto of roses. Get plenty of lawzína and rose-water and aloes-wood, and light a thousand candles in the daytime. Lay the tables at Púshangán (a beautiful village, which is a pleasure resort of the people of Níshápúr), and proclaim in the city that all are welcome who wish to eat food that entails neither obligation in this world nor calling to account in the next." More than two thousand men assembled at Púshangán. The Shaykh came with his disciples and entertained high and low and with his own blessed hand sprinkled rose-water over his guests while they partook of the viands.

Abú Sa‘íd's methods of raising money are further illustrated by the story in which it is recorded that, while preaching in public, he held up a sash and declared that he must have three hundred dínárs in exchange for it, which sum was at once offered by an old woman in the congregation 1. On another occasion, being in debt to the amount of five hundred dínárs, he sent a message to a certain Abú ’l-Faḍl Furátí that he was about to visit him. Abú ’l-Faḍl entertained him sumptuously for three days, and on the fourth day presented him with five hundred dínárs, adding a hundred for travelling expenses and a hundred more as a gift. The Shaykh said, "I pray that God may take from thee the riches of this world." "Nay," cried Abú ’l-Faḍl, "for had I lacked riches, the blessed feet of the Shaykh would never have come here, and I should never have waited upon him and gained from him spiritual power and peace." Abú Sa‘íd then said, "O God! do not let him be a prey to worldliness: make it a means of his spiritual advancement, not a plague!" In consequence of this prayer Abú ’l-Faḍl and his family prospered greatly and reached high positions in church and state 2. Apparently, Abú Sa‘íd did not scruple to employ threats when the prospective donor disappointed him. And his threats were not to be despised! For example, there was the Amír Mas‘úd who, after once paying the Shaykh's debts, obstinately

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refused to comply with a second demand; whereupon Abú Sa‘íd caused the following verse to be put into his hands by Ḥasan-i Mu’addib:

Perform what thou hast promised, else thy might
And valour will not save thy life from me!

[paragraph continues] The Amír flew into a rage and drove Ḥasan from his presence. On being told of this Abú Sa‘íd uttered no word. That same night Mas‘úd, as is the custom of Oriental princes, slipped out from his tent in disguise to make a round of the camp and hear what the soldiers were saying. The royal tent was guarded by a number of huge Ghúrí dogs, kept in chains by day but allowed to roam at night, of such ferocity that they would tear to pieces any stranger who approached. They did not recognise their master, and before any one could answer his cries for help he was a mangled corpse 1.

Stories of this type, showing the saint as a minister of divine wrath and vengeance, must have influenced many superstitious minds. The average Moslem's fatalism and belief in clairvoyance lead him to justify acts which to us seem desperately immoral. Abú Sa‘íd is said to have corresponded with his famous contemporary, Ibn Síná (Avicenna) 2. I cannot regard as historical the account of their meeting in the monastery at Níshápúr, or the report that after they had conversed with each other for three days and nights the philosopher said to his pupils, "All that I know he sees," while the mystic declared, "All that I see he knows 3." Even less probable is the statement that Avicenna's mystical writings were the result of a miracle wrought by Abú Sa‘íd, which first opened his eyes to the reality of saintship and Ṣúfisim 4.

Among the eminent Persian mystics of this epoch none was so nearly akin to Abú Sa‘íd in temperament and character as Abú ’l-Ḥasan of Kharaqán 5. Before leaving Níshápúr and

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finally settling at Mayhana, Abú Sa‘íd paid him a visit, which is described with great particularity 1. A complete version would be tedious, but I have translated the most interesting passages in full. When Abú Ṭáhir, the eldest son of Abú Sa‘íd, announced his intention of making the pilgrimage to Mecca, his father with a numerous following of Ṣúfís and disciples resolved to accompany him. As soon as the party left Níshápúr behind them, Abú Sa‘íd exclaimed, "Were it not for my coming, the holy man could not support this sorrow." His companions wondered whom he meant. Now, Aḥmad the son of Abú ’l-Ḥasan Kharaqání had just been arrested and put to death on his wedding-eve. Abú ’l-Ḥasan did not know until next morning, when, hearing the call to prayer, he came forth from his cell and trod upon the head of his son, which the executioners had flung away. On arriving at Kharaqán, Abú Sa‘íd went into the convent and entered the private chapel where Abú ’l-Ḥasan usually sat. Abú ’l-Ḥasan rose and walked halfway down the chapel to meet him, and they embraced each other. Abú ’l-Ḥasan took Abú Sa‘íd's hand and led him to his own chair, but he declined to occupy it; and since Abú ’l-Ḥasan was equally averse to take the place of honour, both seated themselves in the middle of the chapel. While they sat there weeping, Abú ’l-Ḥasan begged Abú Sa‘íd to give him a word of counsel, but Abú Sa‘íd said, "It is for thee to speak." Then he bade the Koran-readers who were with him read the Koran aloud, and during their chant the Ṣúfís wept and wailed. Abú ’l-Ḥasan threw his gaberdine (khirqa) to the readers. After that, the bier was brought out, and they prayed over the dead youth and buried him with manifestations of ecstasy. When the Ṣúfís had retired to their cells, a dispute arose between them and the readers for the possession of Abú ’l-Ḥasan's khirqa, which the Ṣúfís claimed in order that they might tear it to pieces. Abú l-Ḥasan sent a message by his servant to say that the readers should keep the khirqa, and he gave the Ṣúfís another khirqa, to be torn to pieces and distributed among them. A separate chamber was prepared for Abú Sa‘íd, who lodged with Abú

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[paragraph continues] ’l-Ḥasan three days and nights. In spite of his host's entreaties he refused to speak, saying, "I have been brought hither to listen." Then Abú ’l-Ḥasan said, "I implored God that He would send to me one of His friends, with whom I might speak of these mysteries, for I am old and feeble and could not come to thee. He will not let thee go to Mecca. Thou art too holy to be conducted to Mecca. He will bring the Ka‘ba to thee, that it may circumambulate thee." Every morning Abú ’l-Ḥasan came to the door of Abú Sa‘íd's room and asked—addressing the mother of Khwája Muẓaffar, whom Abú Sa‘íd had brought with him on this journey—"How art thou, O faqíra? Be sage and vigilant, for thou consortest with God. Here nothing of human nature remains, nothing of the flesh (nafs) remains. Here all is God, all is God." And in the daytime when Abú Sa‘íd was alone, Abú ’l-Ḥasan used to come to the door and draw back the curtain and beg leave to come in and beseech Abú Sa‘íd not to rise from his couch; and he would kneel beside him and put his head close to him, and they would converse in low tones and weep together; and Abú ’l-Ḥasan would slip his hand underneath Abú Sa‘íd's garment and lay it upon his breast and cry, "I am laying my hand upon the Everlasting Light.…" Abú ’l-Ḥasan said, "O Shaykh, every night I see the Ka‘ba circumambulating thy head: what need for thee to go to the Ka‘ba? Turn back, for thou wast brought hither for my sake. Now thou hast performed the pilgrimage." Abú Sa‘íd said, "I will go and visit Bisṭám and return here." "Thou wishest to perform the ‘umra," said Abú ’l-Ḥasan, "after having performed the ḥajj." Then Abú Sa‘íd set out for Bisṭám, where he visited the shrine of Báyazíd-i Bisṭámí. From Bisṭám the pilgrims journeyed westward to Dámghán, and thence to Rayy. Here Abú Sa‘íd made a halt and declared that he would go no farther in the direction of Mecca. Bidding farewell to those who still persisted in their intention of performing the pilgrimage, the rest of the party, including Abú Sa‘íd and his son Abú Ṭáhir, turned their faces towards Kharaqán and Níshápúr.

The last years of Abú Sa‘íd's life were spent in retirement

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at Mayhana. We are told that his final departure from Níshápúr was deeply regretted by the inhabitants, and that the chief men of the city urged him in vain to alter his decision 1. With advancing years he may have felt that the duties which devolved upon him as a director of souls (not to speak of bodies) were too heavy a burden: in his old age he could not rise without being helped by two disciples who took hold of his arms and lifted him from his seat 2. He left no money in the convent, saying that God would send whatever was necessary for its upkeep. According to the biographer, this prediction was fulfilled, and although the convent never possessed a sure source of income (ma‘lúm), it attracted a, larger number of dervishes and received more spiritual and material blessings than any other religious house in Níshápúr, until it was destroyed by the invading Ghuzz 3.

Abú Sa‘íd lived 1000 months (83 years + 4 months). He died at Mayhana on the 4th of Sha‘bán, a.h. 440 = 12th of January, a.d. 1049, and was buried in the mosque opposite his house 4. His tomb bore the following lines in Arabic, which he himself had chosen for an epitaph:

I beg, nay, charge thee: Write on my gravestone,
"This was love's bondsman," that when I am gone,
Some wretch well-versed in passion's ways may sigh
And give me greeting, as he passes by 5.

Apart from several allusions to his corpulence, the only description of Abú Sa‘íd's personal appearance that his biographers have preserved is the following, which depicts him as he was seen by an old man whom he saved from dying of thirst in the desert:

tall, stout, with a white skin and wide eyes and a long beard falling to the navel; clad in a patched frock (muraqqa‘); in, his hands a staff and a ewer; a prayer-rug thrown over his shoulder, also a razor and toothpick; a Ṣúfí cap on his head, and on his feet shoes of cotton soled with linen-rags (jumjum); light was shining from his face 6.

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This sketch of his life has shown us the saint and the abbot in one. Before coming into closer touch with the former character, I should like to refer to a few passages of specially monastic interest.

The first gives ten rules which Abú Sa‘íd caused to be put in writing, in order that they might be observed punctiliously by the inmates of his convent. In the original, after every rule there follow some words of the Koran on which it is based.

I. Let them keep their garments clean and themselves always pure.

II. Let them not sit 1 in the mosque or in any holy place for the sake of gossiping.

III. In the first instance 2 let them perform their prayers in common.

IV. Let them pray much at night.

V. At dawn let them ask forgiveness of God and call unto Him.

VI. In the morning let them read as much of the Koran as they can, and let them not talk until the sun has risen.

VII. Between evening prayers and bedtime prayers let them occupy themselves with repeating some litany (wirdí ú dhikrí).

VIII. Let them welcome the poor and needy and all who join their company, and let them bear patiently the trouble of (waiting upon) them.

IX. Let them not eat anything save in participation with one another.

X. Let them not absent themselves without receiving permission from one another.

Furthermore, let them spend their hours of leisure in one of three things: either in the study of theology or in some devotional exercise (wirdí) or in bringing comfort to some one. Whosoever loves this community and helps them as much as he can is a sharer in their merit and future recompense 3.

p. 47

Pír Abú Ṣáliḥ Dandání, a disciple of Shaykh Abú Sa‘íd, used continually to stand beside him with a pair of nail-scissors in his hand. Whenever the Shaykh looked at his woollen gaberdine and saw the nap (purz) on it, he would pull the nap with his fingers, and then Abú Ṣáliḥ would at once remove it with the nail-scissors, for the Shaykh was so absorbed in contemplation of God that he did not wish to be disturbed by perceiving the state of his clothes. Abú Ṣáliḥ was the Shaykh's barber and used regularly to trim his moustache. A certain dervish desired to be taught the proper way of doing this. Abú Ṣáliḥ smiled and said, "It is no such easy matter. A man needs seventy masters of the craft to instruct him how the moustache of a dervish ought to be trimmed." This Abú Ṣáliḥ related that the Shaykh, towards the end of his life, had only one tooth left. "Every night, after supper, I used to give him a toothpick, with which he cleansed his mouth; and when he washed his hands, he would pour water on the toothpick and lay it down. One evening I thought to myself, 'He has no teeth and does not require a toothpick: why should he take it from me every night?' The Shaykh raised his head and looked at me and said, 'Because I wish to observe the Sunna and because I hope to win divine mercy. The Prophet has said, May God have mercy upon those of my people who use the toothpick in their ablutions and at their meals!' I was overcome with shame and began to weep 1."

Pír Ḥubbí was the Shaykh's tailor. One day he came in with a garment belonging to the Shaykh which he had mended. At that moment the Shaykh was taking his noonday siesta and reclining on a couch, while Khwája ‘Abdu ’l-Karím, his valet, sat beside his pillow and fanned him. Khwája ‘Abdu ’l-Karím exclaimed, "What are you doing here?" Pír Ḥubbí retorted, "Wherever there is room for you, there is room for me." The valet laid down the fan and struck him again and again. After seven blows the Shaykh said, "That is enough." Pír Ḥubbí went off and complained to Khwája Najjár, who said to the Shaykh, when he came out for afternoon prayers, "The young men lift their hands against the elders: what says the Shaykh?" The Shaykh replied, "Khwája ‘Abdu ’l-Karím's hand is my hand," and nothing more was said about it 2.


3:1 In referring to these two works I shall use the abbreviations H = Ḥálát and A =Asrár. Since A includes almost the whole of H, I have usually given references to the former only.

3:2 The oldest notice of Abú Sa‘íd occurs in the Kashf al-Malḥjúb of his contemporary, Hujwírí, who mentions him frequently in the course of that work. See especially pp. 164-6 of the translation.

3:3 A 13, 4.

4:1 A 13, 9.

4:2 H 8, 10. A 14, 16.

4:3 H 54, 3. The following is a translation of the text as it stands in Zhukovski's edition: "Whenever I have addressed poetry to any one, that which falls from my lips is the composition of venerable Ṣúfís (‘azízán), and most of it is by Shaykh Abú ’l-Qásim Bishr." I am not sure that instead of the first clause ( ) we ought not to read . The statement will then run: "I have never composed poetry. That which falls from my lips, etc." In another passage (A 263, 10) it is stated on the authority of the writer's grandfather (Abú Sa‘íd's grandson) that of all the poetry attributed to Abú Sa‘íd only one verse and one rubá‘í, which are cited, were his own composition, the remainder being quoted from his spiritual directors. The credibility of this is not affected by the explanation that he was too absorbed in ecstasy to think about versifying. In addition to the single rubá‘í, of which Abú Sa‘íd is expressly named as the author, H and A contain twenty-six which he is said to have quoted on different occasions. Of the latter, two occur in Ethé's collection (Nos. 35 and 68).

5:1 A 16, 9.

5:2 A 16, 20.

6:a [This Luqmán was one of the "intelligent madmen" (‘uqalá’u ’l-majánín6. At first he practised many austerities and was scrupulous in his devotions. Then of a sudden he experienced a revelation (kashf) that deprived him of his reason. Abú Sa‘íd said: "In the beginning Luqmán was a man learned p. 7 in the law and pious, but afterwards he ceased to perform the duties of religion. When he was asked how this change had come to pass, he replied: 'The more I served God, the more service was required of me. In my despair I cried, "O God! kings set free a slave when he grows old. Thou art the Almighty King. Set me free, for I have grown old in Thy service." I heard a voice that said, "Luqmán! I set thee free."'" The sign of his freedom was that his reason was taken away from him. Abú Sa‘íd used often to say that Luqmán was one whom God had emancipated from his commandments.]

6:1 H 8, 20. A 17, 16.

6:2 H 9, 1. A 17, 18; 22, 6.

6:3 Died a.h. 389 (a.d. 999). See Subkí, Ṭabaqátu ’l-Sháfi‘iyya al-Kubrá, Cairo, a.h. 1324, II. 223. Yáqút, Mu‘jamu ’l-Buldán, IV. 72, 12.

6:4 A 22, 14.

6:5 H 10, 14-12, 7. A 23, 6-26, 50. There is not much to choose between the two versions. I have generally preferred the latter, which adds some interesting details, although it is not quite so tersely and simply written.

6:6 Concerning this numerous class of Mohammedan mystics see Paul Loosen, Die weisen Narren des Naisābūrī (Strassburg, 1912).

7:b [Abú Sa‘íd was standing in such a position that his shadow fell on Luqmán's gaberdine.]

7:c [Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl was exceedingly venerable. When, after the death of Abú ’l-Faḍl, Abú Sa‘íd became an adept in mysticism, he was asked what was the cause of his having attained to such a degree of perfection. He answered, "The cause was a look that Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl gave me. I was a student of theology under Shaykh Abú ‘Alí. One day, when I was walking on the bank of a stream, Shaykh Abú ’l-Faḍl approached from the opposite direction and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. From that day to this, all my spiritual possessions are the result of that look."]

7:1 This rendering of Abú ’l-Faḍl's admonition agrees with H II, 5 foll., where the text is given most fully.

8:1 Kor. 6, 91.

8:2 Though printed as prose in both texts, this line appears to belong to a rubá‘í, since it is written in one of the metres peculiar to that form of verse.

8:3 According to H: "the doors of the spiritual gifts ( ) of this word."

8:4 H has merely: "a terrible figure appeared in front of the niche."

9:1 A 50, 12.

10:1 A 55, 15.

11:1 H 12, 7.

11:2 A 41, 3.

12:1 H 18, 17. About 200 of Abú Sa‘íd's discourses were in circulation when the Ḥálát ú Sukhunán was written (H 55, 21).

12:2 A 26, 10; 27, 2.

12:3 A 27, 17; 30, 7.

12:4 A 27, 18.

13:1 A 28, 8.

13:2 A 28, 15.

14:1 A 32, 4.

14:2 A 34, 5.

14:3 A 35, 4.

14:4 A 35, 25.

15:1 A 36, 8.

16:1 Kor. 2, 131.

16:2 Reading .

16:3 Kor. 41, 53.

17:1 Kor. 21, 36.

17:2 H 19, 6. A 37, 8.

17:3 A 40, 19.

17:4 A 43, 9.

17:5 According to the Asrár, 44, 9, the inhabitants of Báward called the p. 18 village Shámína ( ) or Sháhína ( ), but changed its name to Sháh Mayhana ( ) on the suggestion of Abú Sa‘íd. This story appears to indicate that was pronounced Míhna, and that the pronunciation Mayhana (which I have adopted in deference to Yáqút) is not the original one. In this case and , the two names of the town, may be compared with such parallel forms as , etc. Sam‘ání gives (Míhaní) as the pronunciation of the nisba.

18:1 A 44, 11.

18:2 A 46, 7.

19:1 A 46, 11.

19:2 A 45, 14.

19:3 In the Nafaḥátu ’l-Uns (ed. by Nassau Lees), p. 327, 2, where this passage is quoted, the name of the village is written (Basma).

19:4 A pupil of Abú ’Uthmán Ḥírí. It is stated in the Asrár, 48, 1, that his name is given by Abú ‘Abú al-Raḥmán al-Sulamí in the Ṭabaqátu ’l-Ṣúfiyya as Muḥammad ’Ulayyán al-Nasawí, but that in Nasá he is generally known by the name of Aḥmad ‘Alí. According to the British Museum Ms. of the Ṭabaqát, f. 96 a, his name is Muḥammad b. ‘Alí and he is generally known as Muḥammad b. ’Ulayyán.

19:5 Cf. Nafaḥátu ’l-Uns, No. 357.

19:6 A 47, 10.

20:1 I.e., thou wilt never serve God truly until thou art free from 'self.'

20:2 A 49, 4.

20:3 A 50, 1.

21:1 A 51, 18.

21:2 A 52, 7.

21:3 Reading for .

21:4 A 51, 14.

21:5 Two and a half years, according to another tradition which has less authority (A 52, 17).

21:6 Záwiya-gáh. It seems to have been a place surrounded by a railing or lattice, since it is compared in the text to a penfold (ḥaẓíra).

21:7 A 53, 1.

22:1 Khashan is properly the name of a grass from which coarse garments are made.

22:2 See p. 14 supra.

22:3 A 54, 6-59, 5. Cf. the fourth chapter of Hujwirí's Kashf al-Maḥjúb, pp. 45-47, in my translation.

23:1 Pír-i ṣuḥbat, i.e., the Pír to whom one stands in the relation of disciple (ṣáḥíb). The pír-i ṣuḥbat of Abú Sa‘íd was Abú ’l-Faḍl Ḥasan of Sarakhs (A 26, 10). Abú Sa‘íd used to call him 'Pír,' while he spoke of Abú ’l-‘Abbás Qaṣṣáb simply as 'the Shaykh' (A 43, 18). The second question implies that a Pír might confer the khirqa upon a novice whom he had not personally trained.

23:2 A 56, 1.

23:3 The khirqa with which the novice is invested by a Pír is named "the khirqa of origin" (khirqa-i aṣl) or "the khirqa of blessing" (khirqa-i tabarruk). A 57, 7, where should be read in place of .

23:4 A 59, 1.

23:5 A 57, 12.

24:1 A 59, 16.

24:2 A 62, 9.

24:3 Concerning these terms see my translation of the Kashf al-Maḥjúb, pp. 374-376.

24:4 A 62, 18.

25:1 A 64, 6.

25:2 A 61, 1.

25:3 Kor. 46, 14.

25:4 A 65, 9.

26:1 A village near Bisṭám. According to Sam‘ání and Yáqút, the correct pronunciation is Kharaqán. Khurqán, the spelling preferred by Mr Le Strange (Eastern Caliphate, pp. 23 and 366), has less authority.

26:2 The words "He was one year in Níshápúr" (A 94, 4) refer, as the context makes plain, only to the first year of his stay in that city. Possibly the period of his residence there was not continuous. It is worth notice that, according to H 72, 17, he usually spent the winter at Mayhana and the summer at Níshápúr.

27:1 A 69, 14.

27:2 A 70, 8. Cf. A 115, 16. According to another version (A 233, 5 foll.), the prophecy was made after Abú Sa‘íd's return from Níshápúr to Mayhana, where he was visited by Niẓámu ’l-Mulk, who was then a young student.

27:3 A 73, 4. The MSS. give the name of the street as or (A 73, 14; 119, 15). Cf. . (A 463, 9).

27:4 This convent was destroyed by the Ghuzz who sacked Níshápúr in A.H. 548 = a.d. 1154 (A 195, 11).

27:5 A 84, 10.

28:1 A 75, 12.

28:2 He compares his reception to that of a dog who on entering a parish where he is unknown is set upon and mauled by all the dogs belonging to it (A 265, 12).

28:3 The Karrámís interpreted the Koran in the most literal sense. See Macdonald, Muslim Theology, p. 170 foll.

29:1 Lawzína and gawzína. For the former see Dozy. The latter is said to be a sweetmeat made of walnut kernels.

32:1 Kor. 109, 6.

32:2 A 84, 10-91, 17.

33:1 A 94, 3.

34:1 See, for example, my abstract of the contents of the Kitáb al-Luma‘, 69 foll., and Hujwírí, Kashf al-Maḥjúb, 393 foll. It is certain that Qushayrí did not condemn samá‘ outright. He seems to have held the view, which was favoured by many Ṣúfís that same is bad for novices, but good for adepts. Cf. Richard Hartmann, Al-Ḳuschairîs Darstellung des Ṣûfîtums, 134 foll.

34:2 A 95, 15.

34:3 A 97, 10.

34:4 A 106, 8.

35:1 A 102, 10.

36:1 A 103, 14.

36:2 A 109, 17; 179, 12.

36:3 A 294, 11.

37:1 A 117, 16.

37:2 A 110, 3.

37:3 .

37:4 Extravagance (isráf) is forbidden in the Koran, 6, 142; 7, 29, etc.

37:5 A 134, 9. In another version of this story (A 157, 11) the offender is smitten with paralysis.

39:1 A 113, 1.

39:2 A 123, 19.

41:1 A 280, 3.

41:2 A 299, 16.

42:1 A 236, 21.

42:2 The Arabic text of a letter written by Avicenna in reply to one from Abú Sa‘íd is given in H 65, 3.

42:3 A 251, 16.

42:4 A 252, 12.

42:5 See his biography in ‘Aṭṭár's Tadhkiratu ’l-Awliyá, 11. 201-255. Some of his sayings are translated in my Mystics of Islam, p. 133 foll.

43:1 A 175-191.

45:1 A 193, 18.

45:2 A 110, 16.

45:3 A 195, 3.

45:4 A 67, 1.

45:5 H 78, 19. A 445, 12.

45:6 A 80, 14.

46:1 Reading .

46:2 , i.e., I suppose, at the commencement of their monastic life.

46:3 A 416, 5.

47:1 A 146, 4.

47:2 A 271, 5.

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