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Title: Mystics and Saints of Islam
Author: Field, Claud, 1863-1941
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                MYSTICS AND SAINTS
                    OF ISLAM


                   CLAUD FIELD

               FRANCIS GRIFFITHS,
           34 MAIDEN LANE, STRAND, W.C.


CHAP.                                         PAGE

   I. PANTHEISTIC SUFISM                         1

  II. HASAN BASRI                               18

 III. RABIA, THE WOMAN SUFI                     28

  IV. IBRAHIM BEN ADHAM                         36

   V. FUDHAYL BEN AYAZ                          46

  VI. BAYAZID BASTAMI                           52

 VII. ZU'N NUN OF EGYPT                         60

VIII. MANSUR HALLAJ                             68

  IX. HABIB AJAMI                               79

   X. AVICENNA (IBN SINA)                       86

  XI. AL GHAZZALI                              106

 XII. FARIDUDDIN ATTAR                         123

XIII. SUHRAWARDY                               141

 XIV. JALALUDDIN RUMI                          148

  XV. SHARANI, THE EGYPTIAN                    164

 XVI. MULLAH SHAH                              174


    "    II. EXPOSITION OF SUFISM              196

                MOHAMMEDAN LITERATURE          202



It is a custom in some quarters to represent Mohammadan mysticism as
merely a late importation into Islam, and an altogether alien element in
it. But however much later Islamic mysticism may have derived from
Christian, Neo-platonic, and Buddhist sources, there is little doubt
that the roots of mysticism are to be found in the Koran itself. The
following verse is an instance: "God is the Light of the heavens and the
earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp encased in
glass--the glass as it were a glistening star. From a blessed tree is it
lighted, the olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would
well nigh shine out even though fire touched it not! It is light upon
light!" (_Koran Sura_ 24).

Indeed it seems strange to accord the title of "a practical mystic" to
Cromwell and to deny it to Mohammad, whose proclivity for religious
meditation was so strong that the Arabs used to say "Muhammad is in love
with his Maker,"[1] and whose sense of the "terror of the Lord" was so
intense that it turned his hair prematurely white. Many of the reported
sayings of the Early Companions of Muhammad show that they shared this
terror. "Verily, you shall see hell, you shall see it with the eye of
certainty" says the Koran, and they thought it very probable. Thus Ali
exclaimed "Alas for the shortness of the provision and the terrors of
the way!" Abu'l Darda said "If ye knew what ye shall see after death, ye
would not eat nor drink, and I wish that I were a tree that is lopped
and then devoured."[2]

This "fear of the Lord" led naturally to an almost fierce asceticism.
Abu Bekr and Ali both founded communities of ascetics,[3] and during the
first and second centuries of Islam there were many orthodox mystics.
Professor Nicholson in the work just quoted, rightly says "I do not
think that we need look beyond Islam for the origin of the Sufi
doctrines.... The early Sufis are still on orthodox ground, their
relation to Islam is not unlike that of the mediæval Spanish mystics to
the Roman Catholic Church."

       *       *       *       *       *

The following sketches are for the most part translations of papers by
continental scholars such as Alfred Von Kremer, Pavet de Courteille, and
A.F. Mehren. The essays on Ghazzali and Jalaluddin Rumi are, however,
founded on original study of those writers. The translator hopes a
wholesome tonic may be found in some of these Moslem mystics at a time
when many "Christian" pulpits and presses seem anxious to dilute
Christianity "into a presumptuous and effeminate love which never knew

He desires to thank the Editors of the _Expository Times_, _Church
Missionary Review_, _Irish Church Quarterly_, and _London Quarterly
Review_ for permission to include papers which have appeared in those


   [1] Ghazzali, Munqidh.

   [2] Nicholson. Literary History of the Arabs (p. 225).

   [3] Tholuck. Sufismus.

   [4] Sir John Seeley.




The moral law proclaimed by Moses three thousand years ago agrees with
that which governs men to-day, irrespective of their various stages of
culture; the moral precepts of a Buddha and Confucius agree with those
of the Gospel, and the sins for which, according to the Book of the Dead
of the ancient Egyptians, men will answer to the judges of the other
world are sins still after four thousand years. If the nature of the
unknown First Cause is ever to be grasped at all, it can only be in the
light of those unchanging moral principles which every man carries in
his own breast. The idea of God is therefore not an affair of the
understanding, but of the feeling and conscience. Mysticism has always
so taken it, and has therefore always had a strong attraction for the
excitable and emotional portion of mankind whom it has comforted in
trial and affliction. Every religion is accordingly rather intended for
the emotions than for the understanding, and therefore they all contain
mystical tendencies. The mysticism of Islam and Christendom have many
points of contact, and by mysticism perhaps will be first bridged the
wide gulf which separates Islam from Christendom, and thereby from
modern civilisation. Just in proportion as the various religions express
the ideals of goodness and truth they approximate to one another as
manifestations of the unchanging moral principle. Inasmuch as they
surmised this, the Motazilites (or free-thinkers in Islam), at a time
when Europe lay in the profoundest intellectual and moral bewilderment,
fought for one of those ideas which, although they are quickly submerged
again in the stormy current of the times, continue to work in silence
and finally emerge victorious. On that day when the Moslem no longer
beholds in God simply omnipotence, but also righteousness, he will
simultaneously re-enter the circle of the great civilised nations among
whom he once before, though only for a short time, had won the first

It is not perhaps too fanciful to hail, as an omen of the triumph of
moral mysticism over the dogmatic rigidity of Islam, the fact that the
present Sultan Muhammad V. was girded with the sword of Osman by the
head of the Mevlevi dervishes, a sect founded by the great mystic
teacher Jalaluddin Rumi of Iconium. Forty-three years ago a Persian
Orientalist Mirza Kasim Beg wrote in the _Journal Asiatique_:--

  "_L'unique voie qui dans l'Islam puisse conduire a la reforme
    c'est la doctrine du mysticisme._"


The period during which the asceticism practised by the earlier Sufis
passed into the dreamy pantheism which characterises the later Sufism
is the end of the third century after Muhammad. This introduced a new
element into Islam which for centuries exercised a powerful influence on
national culture, and is still partially operative at present. The
conception of God and of the relation of the finite and human with the
infinite and divine from this time onward formed the chief subject of
inquiry and meditation.

The man who was destined to be the first to give those ideas, which had
hitherto been foreign to Arabian Sufism, definite expression was a poor
workman, a cotton-carder, bearing the name of Hellaj. He was an Arabised
Persian, born in Persia, but educated in Irak, where he enjoyed the
privilege of being instructed by Junaid. The story of his life as handed
down by Shiah or Sunni writers has been much exaggerated. It is clear,
however, that he had a great number of disciples who revered him as
their spiritual guide and ascribed to him almost supernatural powers.
His ever-growing popularity much scandalised the orthodox mullahs, who
moved the authorities to proceed against him, and were successful in
procuring his execution 922 A.D. Before his death he was subjected to
terrible tortures, which he bore with wonderful composure.

The reason of his condemnation was declared to be that he regarded
himself as an incarnation of the Godhead. His disciples honoured him as
a saint after his death. They ascribed to him the famous saying, "I am
the Truth" (_i.e._ God), which they took in a pantheistic sense. He is
said to have taught the doctrine of the incarnation of the Godhead in a
man and to have uttered the exclamation:

   Praise to the Most High Who has revealed His humanity and
   concealed the overpowering splendour of His Deity. Whoso purifies
   himself by abstinence and purges himself from every trace of
   fleshiness, unto him the Spirit of God enters, as it entered into
   Jesus. When he has attained to this degree of perfection,
   whatever he wills, happens, and whatever he does is done by God.

His letters to his disciples are said to have commenced with the
formula, "From the Lord of Lords to His slaves." His disciples wrote to

   O Spirit of the Spirit! O highest Aim of the holy: We bear
   witness that Thou hast incarnated Thyself in the form of Hosain
   the cotton-carder (Hellaj). We flee for protection to Thee and
   hope in Thy mercy, O Knower of secrets.

The genuineness of these fragments has much to support it, but is not
entirely beyond doubt. This much, however, is clear, that the disciples
of Hellaj after his death regarded him as a divine being. Ibn Hazm, a
trustworthy author who wrote only 150 years after the execution of
Hellaj, says so expressly. Ghazzali, who wrote about fifty years later
still, does not mention this, but shelters Hellaj from the charge of
blasphemy by construing his exclamation "I am the Truth" in a
pantheistic sense, and excuses it by ascribing it to an excess of love
to God and to mystic ecstacy. In another place he says:

   The first veil between God and His servant is His servant's
   soul. But the hidden depth of the human heart is divine and
   illuminated by light from above; for in it is mirrored the
   eternal Truth completely, so that it encloses the universe in
   itself. Now when a man turns his gaze on his own divinely
   illumined heart he is dazzled by the blaze of its beauty, and the
   expression "I am God!" easily escapes him. If from this stage he
   does not advance further in knowledge, he often falls into error
   and is ruined. It is as though he had allowed himself to be
   misled by a little spark from the light-ocean of Godhead instead
   of pressing forward to get more light. The ground of this
   self-deception is that he in whom the Supernatural is mirrored
   confuses himself with it. So the colour of a picture seen in a
   mirror is sometimes confounded with the mirror itself.

Hellaj was no more than the representative of an old idea, Indian in
origin, which he combined with Sufism, thereby giving an entirely new
direction to Islamic thought, which was important, as leading to an
entirely new development of the conception of God. Even previous to
Hellaj, the doctrine of incarnation had emerged in Islam. The Caliph Ali
was reported to have been such, and was accordingly venerated by the
Shiahs. The sect of the Khattabiyah worshipped the Imam Jafar Sadik as
God. Another sect believed that the Divine Spirit had descended upon
Abdallah Ibn Amr.

In Khorassan the opinion was widely spread that Abu Muslim, the great
general who overturned the dynasty of the Ommeyads and set up that of
the Abbasides, was an incarnation of the spirit of God. In the same
province under Al Mansur, the second Abbaside Caliph, a religious leader
named Ostasys professes to be an emanation of the Godhead. He collected
thousands of followers, and the movement was not suppressed without much
fighting. Under the Caliph Mahdi a self-styled Avatar named Ata arose,
who on account of a golden mask which he continually wore was called
_Mokanna_, or "the veiled prophet." He also had a numerous following,
and held the Caliph's armies in check for several years, till in 779
A.D., being closely invested in his castle, he, with his whole harem and
servants, put an end to themselves.

Towards the end of the second century after Muhammad, Babek in Persia
taught the transmigration of souls and communism. His followers, named
Khoramiyyah, long successfully resisted the Caliph's troops. He claimed
that the soul of an ancient law-giver named "Bod" had passed into him,
which meant perhaps that he wished to pass for a "Buddha."

It is well known that Shiite teachers were especially active in Persia.
In the apotheosis of Ali, as well as in the cases of Abu Muslim, we find
an assertion of the ideas peculiar to the Persians in pre-Islamic times.
The infusion or indwelling of the Godhead in man as with the Hindu
Avatars was also popular, and widely spread in Persia. In Bagdad, from
the time of the early Abbasides, the Persians had exercised great
influence. Shiahs were able to profess their views freely under the
tolerant or rather religiously indifferent Caliph Mamoun. Bagdad early
harboured within its walls a number of communities imbued with Shiah
doctrine, and the Persian conception of God silently, but widely

Hellaj, educated in the orthodox Sunni school of Junaid, which, through
its laying stress on the idea of love to God, possessed rather a mystic
than dogmatic character, allowed himself to be carried away by his
passionate temperament into not only preaching, but practically applying
to himself the above-mentioned doctrines, which though known to many,
had been discreetly veiled in reserve. When once the populace have been
prepared for a new idea, the mere expression of it is sufficient to act
as a spark on tinder. The fatal word was spoken by Hellaj; the
authorities did their duty, seized the daring innovator and put him to
death in the cruel fashion of the time. But the word once spoken had
been borne on the winds in all directions, and the execution of Hellaj
gave a powerful impulse to the spread of his doctrine. There are periods
in the lives of some nations when the longing for a martyr's crown
becomes epidemic. A few years after the execution of Hellaj, a man of
the people, Ibn Aby Azkyr, from the same village, Shalmaghan, where
Hellaj had spent his youth, gave himself out as an incarnation of the
Godhead. He was put to death with several of his followers under the
reign of the Caliph Radhi, 933 A.D. A century after Hellaj an Egyptian,
Ismail Darazy, from whom the Druses derive their name, proclaimed the
Fatimite Caliph Hakim to be an incarnation.

How great was the influence exercised in general by those ideas for
which Hellaj died a martyr's death we learn most clearly from the pages
of Ghazzali, who wrote not quite two hundred years later. He says:

   The speculations of the Sufis may be divided into two classes: to
   the first category belong all the phrases about love to God and
   union with Him, which according to them compensate for all
   outward works. Many of them allege that they have attained to
   complete oneness with God; that for them the veil has been
   lifted; that they have not only seen the Most High with their
   eyes, but have spoken with Him, and go so far as to say "The Most
   High spoke thus and thus." They wish to imitate Hellaj, who was
   crucified for using such expressions, and justify themselves by
   quoting his saying, "I am the Truth." They also refer to Abu
   Yazid Bistamy, who is reported to have exclaimed, "Praise be to
   me!," instead of "Praise be to God!" This kind of speculation is
   extremely dangerous for the common people, and it is notorious
   that a number of craftsmen have left their occupation to make
   similar assertions. Such speeches are highly popular, as they
   hold out to men the prospect of laying aside active work with the
   idea of purging the soul through mystical ecstasies and
   transports. The common people are not slow to claim similar
   rights for themselves and to catch up wild and whirling
   expressions. As regards the second class of Sufi speculation, it
   consists in the use of unintelligible phrases which by their
   outward apparent meaning and boldness attract attention, but
   which on closer inspection prove to be devoid of any real sense.

These words of the greatest thinker among the Muhammadans at that time
afford us a deep insight into the remarkable character of the period.
From them we gather with certainty that the division of Sufism into two
classes, one orthodox and outwardly conforming to Islam, and the other
free-thinking and pantheistic, was already an accomplished fact before
Ghazzali's time. We recognise also that the latter kind of Sufism was
very popular among the lowest classes of the people and even among the
agricultural population. The fundamental characteristic of mysticism,
the striving after the knowledge of God by way of ecstatic intuition,
had already come into open conflict with the fundamental principles of
Islam. "Mystical love to God" was the catchword which brought people to
plunge into ecstatic reverie, and by complete immersion in contemplation
to lose their personality, and by this self-annihilation to be absorbed
in God. The simple ascetic character of the ancient Arabian Sufism was
continually counteracted by the element of passive contemplation which
was entirely foreign to the Arab mind. The terms "ascetic" and "Sufi,"
which were formerly almost synonymous, henceforward cease to be so, and
often conceal a fundamental variance with each other. We shall not go
very far wrong if we connect the crisis of this intellectual development
with the appearance of Hellaj, so that the close of the third and
commencement of the fourth century after Muhammad marks the point of
time when this philosophico-religious schism was completed. In Persia
the theosophy of Hellaj and his supporters found a receptive soil and
flourished vigorously; on that soil were reared the finest flowers of
Persian poetry. From the Persians this tendency passed over to the
Turks, and the poetry of both nations contains strongly-marked
theosophical elements.


Already in the second century of Islam great stress was laid upon the
cultivation of love to God, an outstanding example of which is the
female Sufi Rabia. With it was connected a gradually elaborated doctrine
of ecstatic states and visions which were believed to lead by the way of
intuition and divine illumination to the spiritual contemplation of God.
We have already endeavoured to describe the religious enthusiasm which
took possession of the Moslems in the first and second century after
Muhammad and have partly traced the causes which led to this phenomenon.

Ecstasy is an invariable concomitant of religious enthusiasm. In the
endeavour to break through the narrow bounds which confine the human
spirit pious and credulous natures are only too easily led astray. The
instruments which man has at his command when he wishes to investigate
the supernatural do not suffice to procure him an even approximately
correct image of the object which he would fain observe. While the
optician with the aid of mathematics can reduce errors arising from the
convexity of his magnifying lens to an infinitesimally small amount, the
theologian has never found a device, and never will find one, to obviate
the errors which arise from the fact that his intellectual insight has
to be exercised through the medium of material senses, which obscure the
clearness of his observation. And yet it is precisely this ceaseless
striving, this irresistible impulse after something higher, this
unquenchable thirst for the fountain-head of knowledge, which
constitutes the highest and noblest side of humanity, and is the most
indubitable pledge of its spiritual future. The net result of these
strivings has been an endless series of self-delusions, and yet humanity
takes on a grander aspect in them than in all its other manifold efforts
and successes. The history of this spiritual wrestling, this hopeless
and yet never relaxed struggle against the impossible, forms the noblest
aspect of the history of mankind.

The phenomena produced by Islam in this respect do not fundamentally
differ from those produced by Christianity and Buddhism. Sufism exhibits
a more remarkable development of these phenomena, simply because it grew
up in an environment which favoured their more luxuriant growth.

The Koran, which Muhammad came, as he said to preach, was regarded as
the very word of God, and must therefore have produced an overpowering
impression on the minds of the faithful. Of this numerous instances are
reported. Abd al Wahid ibn Zaid heard one day a Koran-reader recite the
following verse (Sura 45: 28):--"This is Our book, which announces to
you the truth; for We have caused to be recorded all that ye have done.
Those who believe and do good works shall their Lord admit to His
favour; verily this is the most manifest recompense." On hearing this
Abd al Wahid broke into loud weeping and fainted. Miswar ibn Machramah
was not even able to hear any verse of the Koran read, being so
powerfully affected thereby as to become senseless. Of Jobair ibn Motim
it is reported that he said: "I heard the Prophet recite the following
verses of the Koran:--

   1. I swear by Tur.
   2. By a book which stands written on outspread parchment.
   3. By the house to which pilgrimage is made.
   4. By the lofty dome of heaven.
   5. And by the swelling ocean.
   6. That the judgment of thy Lord is at hand.

Then it appeared to me," said Jobair, "as if my heart would burst in
twain." The pious Cadi Ijad adduces as a special proof of the
inspiration of the Koran the deep impression of fear and terror which
its recital produced on the minds of the hearers.

Muhammad ibn Mansur relates that once passing a house at midnight he
heard the voice of a man praying to God loudly and fervently, lamenting
his sins with deep contrition. Muhammad ibn Mansur could not resist the
temptation; he put his mouth to the keyhole and uttered the verse which
threatens the unbelievers with hell-fire. He heard a heavy fall within
the house, and all was still. As he went down the same street the next
morning he saw a corpse being carried out of the same house, followed by
an old woman. He inquired of her whose body it was, and she answered:
"Last night my son heard a verse of the Koran recited, and it broke his
heart." We are far from believing all these stories, but they show what
a view was held in the earliest times regarding the effect produced by
the Koran on the minds of those who heard it.

The ecstatic bent of mind of the ascetics of Islam and the later Sufis
arose from these beginnings. Then, as now, self-originated phases of
feeling were attributed to outer causes; from the remotest times men
have sought without them the Divinity which they carried within.

The wider spread and greater permanence of ecstatic phenomena among the
Moslems than elsewhere was due to the concurrence of various conditions,
chief among which was the peculiar temperament of the Arab. Capable of
the fiercest momentary excitement, he quickly subsided into a state of
complete apathy which is pain-proof. I[6] have a lively recollection of
the cases mentioned by my late friend Dr. Bilharz, who spoke of the
astonishing anæsthesia which the patients in the medical school of Kasr
al 'ain in Cairo, where he was professor, exhibited under the most
painful operations. They uttered hardly a sound when operated upon in
the most sensitive nerve-centres. The negro, notoriously excitable as he
is, and therefore still more exposed to complete prostration of the
organs of feeling, exhibits this apathy in a yet more marked degree than
the Arab and Egyptian. Many examples of this are found in old Arabic
authors--_e.g._, in the narratives of the martyrdoms of Hatyt, of Hellaj
and of a young Mameluke crucified in 1247 A.D. Of the last Suyuti has
preserved a psychologically detailed description.

Although Christian martyrology is rich in such instances of unshakable
fortitude under the most painful tortures, yet in Islam the ecstatic
temper has attained a higher significance and been more constantly
exhibited. A chief reason of this was the religious fanaticism, which
was incomparably stronger and more widely diffused in Islam than in
mediæval Christendom. The minds of the Moslems were kept in perpetual
tension by severe religious exercises, the effect of which was
intensified by fasts and pilgrimages. The peculiar manner of life in the
desert, the birthplace of Islam, also contributed to this; the scanty
diet, the loneliness of the desert, and in the towns the want of civic
life, the poverty of ideas among the Arabs, all helped to produce the
same result. Finally, deception, hypocrisy, and superstition, as, alas,
so often is the case in religious matters, played a great part. Whoever
did not feel ecstatically moved at the recitation of the Koran pretended
to be so, and often thereby, perhaps unconsciously, exercised a great
effect on others. Men began by pretending to feel religious enthusiasm
and ended by believing that they really felt it. Ghazzali mentions in
the Ihya ul-ulum that the prophet commanded that whoever did not feel
moved to tears at the recitation of the Koran should pretend to weep
and to be deeply moved; for, adds Ghazzali sagely, in these matters one
begins by forcing oneself to do what afterwards comes spontaneously.
Moreover, the fact that religious excitement was looked upon as the mark
of a fervent mind and devout intensity, vastly increased the number of
those who claimed mystic illumination.

When verses of the Koran through frequent repetition lost their power to
awaken ecstasy, single lines of fragments of poems sufficed to produce
it. Once the mystic Taury found himself in the midst of a company who
were discussing some scientific question. All took part in it with the
exception of Taury, who suddenly rose and recited:--

   Many cooing doves mourn in the mid-day heat,
   Sadly under the roof of foliage overhead,
   Remembering old companions and days gone by;
   Their lament awakens my sorrow also,
   My mourning rouses them, and often theirs disturbs my sleep;
   I do not understand their cooing, and they do not understand
     my weeping:
   But through, my sorrow of heart I know them, and through
     their heart-sorrow they know me.

Hardly had those present heard these verses than they all fell into a
state of ecstatic contemplation.

Ibrahim ben Adham, the celebrated Sufi, once heard the following

   Everything is forgiven thee, except estrangement from Us:
   We pardon thee all the past, and only that remains which has
     escaped Our eyes (_i.e._, nothing).

They immediately caused him to fall into a trance which lasted
twenty-four hours. Ghazzali, who himself borrowed much from the Sufis,
and was a diligent student of their doctrine, seeks to explain these
strange phenomena on psychological grounds. He divides the ecstatic
conditions which the hearing of poetical recitations produces into four
classes. The first, which is the lowest, is that of the simple sensuous
delight in melody. The second class is that of pleasure in the melody
and of understanding the words in their apparent sense. The third class
consists of those who apply the meaning of the words to the relations
between man and God. To this class belongs the would-be initiate into
Sufism; he has necessarily a goal marked out for him to aim at, and this
goal is the knowledge of God, meeting Him and union with Him by the way
of secret contemplation, and the removal of the veil which conceals Him.
In order to compass this aim the Sufi has a special path to follow; he
must perform various ascetic practices and overcome certain spiritual
obstacles in doing so. Now when, during the recitation of poetry, the
Sufi hears mention made of blame or praise, of acceptance or refusal, of
union with the Beloved or separation from Him, of lament over a departed
joy or longing for a look, as often occurs in Arabic poetry, one or the
other of these accords with his spiritual state and acts upon him, like
a spark on tinder, to set his heart aflame. Longing and love overpower
him and unfold to him manifold vistas of spiritual experience.

The fourth and highest class is that of the fully initiated who have
passed through the stages above-mentioned, and whose minds are closed to
everything except God. Such an one is wholly denuded of self, so that he
no longer knows his own experiences and practices, and, as though with
senses sealed, sinks into the ocean of the contemplation of God. This
condition the Sufis characterise as self-annihilation (Fana).

But he who is bereft of self-consciousness is none the less aware of
what is without him; it is as if his consciousness were withdrawn from
everything but the one object of contemplation, _i.e._, God. While he
who is completely absorbed in the contemplation of the object seen is as
little capable of theorising regarding the act of contemplation as
regarding the eye, the instrument of sight, or the heart, the seat of
joyful emotion. Just in the same way a drunken man is not conscious of
his intoxication, so he who is drowned in joy knows nothing of joy
itself, but only knows what causes it. Such a condition of mind may
occur with regard to created things as well as with regard to the
Creator Himself, only in the latter case it is like a flash of
lightning, without permanence. Could such a condition of the soul last
longer, it would be beyond the power of human nature to endure and would
end in overwhelming it. So it is related of Taury that once in a meeting
he heard this verse recited:--

   In my love to Thee I attained to a height where to tread
     causes the senses to reel.

He immediately fell into an ecstatic condition and ran into a field
where the newly-cut stubble cut his feet like knives. Here he ran about
all night till the morning, and a few days afterwards died.

In this highest condition of ecstasy the soul is to be compared to a
clear mirror, which, itself colourless, reflects the colours of the
object seen in it. Or to a crystal, whose colour is that of the object
on which it stands or of the fluid which it contains. Itself colourless,
it has the property of transmitting colours. This exposition of Sufistic
ecstasy by Ghazzali shows that in his time, far from being on the wane,
such phenomena were on the increase. For when a man of such
comprehensive mind, such a deep thinker, so well versed in the knowledge
of men and especially of his fellow-Moslems, speaks so plainly and
without doubt upon the matter and seeks to explain it psychologically,
this idea must have already taken deep root and spread widely. Ghazzali
is consequently to be regarded as a decided adherent of Sufism and as
approving of the enthusiastic tendencies accompanying it. He narrates in
his autobiography[7] how he left his family in Bagdad and went to
Damascus, where for two whole years he studied Sufism. Afterwards he
made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. In his lonely musings things
were revealed to him, which, he said, could not be described, and he
arrived at last at the firm conviction that the Sufis were on the way of
God and that their teaching was the best. It must be admitted that by
Sufism Ghazzali meant that kind of it which held fast to the general
principles of Islam and was in accord, even though only externally, with
the orthodox party. These Sufis adhered to the Koran and the traditions,
but interpreted them allegorically. Mysticism must always be propped up
by a positive religion, as it has no support in itself.

   [5] From Von Kremer.

   [6] Von Kremer.

   [7] "The Confessions of Al Ghazzali" (Wisdom of the East


(D 728 AD)

Hasan Basri was born in Arabia at Medina, where his mother had been
brought as a captive and sold to Omm Salma, one of the wives of the
Prophet. Arrived at man's estate, and having received his liberty, he
retired to Basra on the Persian gulf, a stronghold of the ascetic sect.
Here he lived undisturbed, though his open disavowal of the reigning
family of Ommeyah exposed him to some danger. The following incident,
illustrating his independence of character is narrated by Ibn Khalliqan.
When Omar ibn Hubaira was appointed to the government of Irak in the
reign of the Caliph Abd-al Malik (A.D. 721) he called for Hasan Basri,
Muhammad Ibn Sirin and as Shabi to whom he said, "Abd al Malik has
received my promise that I will hear and obey him; and he has now
appointed me to what you see, and I receive from him written orders.
Must I obey him in whatever orders he takes upon himself to give?" To
this Ibn Sirin and as Shabi gave a cautious reply, but Hasan Basri,
being asked his opinion, made this answer: "O Ibn Hubaira! God outweighs
Abd al Malik, and Abd al Malik cannot outweigh God; God can defend thee
from Abd al Malik, and Abd al Malik cannot defend thee from God. He
will soon send an angel to take thee from thy throne, and send thee from
the width of thy palace into the narrowness of the tomb. Then thy deeds
alone can save thee." Ibn Hubaira then rewarded them, but bestowed a
double reward on Hasan Basri, upon which as Shabi said to Ibn Sirin, "We
gave him a poor answer, and he gave us a poor reward."

Hasan Basri's adoption of the ascetic life was brought about in the
following way. When a young man he was a lapidary, and had gone to Roum
(Asia Minor) to practise his craft. He there lived on friendly terms
with the vizier of that country. One day the vizier said to him, "We are
going out of the city to a certain place; will you come with us?" Hasan
Basri assented, and went. "We came," he said afterwards, "to a plain
where there was a vast tent the ropes of which were of silk and its
stakes of gold. I saw a large number of soldiers marching round it; they
repeated some words which I could not hear, and then retired. Then came
about four hundred mullahs and learned men, who did the same. These were
followed by a similar number of old men. Then about four or five hundred
beautiful maidens, each holding in her hand a dish containing rubies,
pearls, turquoises, and other precious stones. They went in procession
round the tent in the same way. Finally the sultan and the vizier went
into the tent and came out again.

"As for me, I remained transfixed with astonishment. 'What does all this
mean?' I asked the vizier. 'The King,' he said, 'had an extremely
beautiful child of a happy disposition, who fell ill and died. His tomb
is within this tent, and they visit it once a year. First come the
soldiers, who circle round the tent and say, 'O son of the sultan, if we
could have ransomed thy life by the strokes of our swords, we would have
done it, even had it cost us our own; but God willed otherwise, and we
cannot change his decree.' Having so said, they go away. Then the
mullahs and learned men, coming in their turn, say, 'O son of the
sultan, if we could have ransomed thee by knowledge or by eloquence, we
would have done so; but all the knowledge and eloquence in the world
cannot arrest the decrees of Allah.' Then they depart. After them come
the old men, who cry, 'If we could have saved thee by groanings and
prayers, we would have done so; but our intercession is useless.'
Finally come the young maidens, who say, 'O son of the sultan, if we
could have ransomed thee at the price of beauty and wealth, we would
have done it; but the steps of fate turn aside for neither.' After them
the sultan and the vizier enter the tent. The sultan says, 'O my son, I
have done all that I could do. I have brought all these soldiers, these
mullahs, these learned men, these old men, these beautiful maidens
bearing treasures, and yet I cannot bring thee back. It depends not on
me, but on Him before Whom all power is powerless. May the mercy of the
Lord be multiplied upon thee for another year.' Having thus spoken, they
return by the way they came.'"

Hasan Basri, having heard this, felt stirred to the depths of his heart.
Leaving Roum, he retired to Basra, where he took an oath that he would
not smile again till he knew what his eternal destiny would be. He
practised the severest asceticism, and many came to hear him preach.

Hasan Basri had a disciple who was in the habit of casting himself on
the ground and uttering groans when he heard the Koran recited. "If thou
art able to restrain these groans," said he, "they will prove like a
destructive fire to thee; but if they are really beyond thy power to
control, I declare that I am six stages behind thee in the way of piety.
Such groanings," he added, "are generally the work of Satan."

One day Hasan Basri was preaching when Hejaj ben Yusuf, the bloodthirsty
and formidable governor of Irak, accompanied by a great number of his
retinue with drawn swords, entered the mosque. A person of distinction
in the audience said, "We must watch to-day whether Hasan will be
embarrassed by the presence of Hejaj." When the latter had taken his
place, Hasan Basri, without paying the least attention to him, so far
from shortening his discourse, prolonged it. When it was finished, the
person who was watching him exclaimed, "Bravo, Hasan!" When he came down
from the pulpit, Hejaj came forward, and, taking him by the hand, said,
addressing the people, "If you wish to see him whom the Lord has
distinguished among you, come and look on Hasan Basri."

Hasan had in his heart such a fear of the Lord that, like a man seated
near an executioner, he was always in a state of apprehension. Seeing
one day a man who wept, he asked him what was the matter. "To-day,"
answered the man, "I heard a preacher say that there were a great many
among the Moslems who, by reason of their sins would remain several
years in hell, and then be taken out." "May God grant," cried Hasan,
"that I be one of those who come out of hell at last; may I be even as
that man, who, as the prophet of God said, will come out eighty-four
years after all the rest."

One night he was overheard weeping and groaning in his house. "Why these
tears and laments?" he was asked. "I weep," he answered, "thinking that
perhaps to-day I have set my foot in an unlawful place, or allowed an
evil word to escape my lips which will cause me to be chased from before
the throne of the most high. 'Away!' it will be said to me; 'thou hast
no access here, thy works of piety are not accepted.' And what answer
shall I make? Behold the reason of my fear." One of his sayings was, "I
never saw a certainty of which there is no doubt bear a greater
resemblance to a doubtful thing of which there is no certainty than
death does."

Hasan Basri had a neighbour named Shamaun, who was an infidel and a
fire-worshipper. He fell ill, and his last hour approached. Some one
said to Hasan, "Shamaun is your neighbour, and his last hour is come;
why don't you go to see him?" Hasan having come to see him, saw that by
reason of his assiduous fire-worship, his hair and beard were quite
blackened by smoke. Hoping that he would become a Moslem, he said to
him, "Come, Shamaun, fear the punishment which the Lord prepares for
thee who hast passed thy life of seventy years in infidelity and
fire-worship." "As for me," answered Shamaun, "I see on the part of you
Moslems three characteristics which I cannot explain, and which hinder
me from becoming a Moslem:--(1) You never cease repeating that the world
is perishable and impure, and yet day and night, without interval or
repose, you heap up its treasures; (2) You say that death is certain and
inevitable, and yet you put the thought of it aside, and practise none
of the works which should fit you for another world; (3) You assert your
belief that in that world it will be possible to contemplate the face of
the Most High, and yet you commit acts which He abhors." "Thou speakest
like one of the initiated," said Hasan, "but although the faithful
commit sins, none the less they confess the unity and the existence of
the Most High, whilst thou hast spent thy life in worshipping the fire.
At the day of judgment, if they cast us both into hell, the fire will
carry thee away at once, but if the grace of the Lord is accorded to me,
it will not be able to scorch one of my eyebrows; this shows that it is
only a creature. And, moreover, you have worshipped it for seventy
years, and I have never worshipped it."

These words made such an impression on Shamaun that he made a profession
of the faith of Islam, dying soon afterwards. On the night of his death,
Hasan in a dream saw Shamaun wearing a crown of gold, clothed in raiment
of resplendent beauty, and walking in Paradise. "My God," he cried when
he awoke, "Thou hast had mercy on him who spent seventy years in
infidelity; is it strange that Thou shouldest show mercy to the

Hasan was a man of such humility of mind that he considered everyone
whom he saw his superior. One day when he was walking along the bank of
the river Tigris he saw a negro seated near a woman; before them was a
jar and a cup. Each of them in turn poured from the jar into the cup and
drank. Seeing this man, Hasan, according to his wont, said to himself,
"There is a man better than myself." At the same time he secretly
thought, "As regards the observance of the ceremonial law, it is
possible that he is not superior to me, for he is sitting near a woman
of doubtful character and drinking wine." While he was thus reflecting,
there appeared on the river a boat heavily laden, and containing seven
persons. Just as it was approaching the shore, it foundered. The negro,
casting himself into the water, drew out six persons in succession;
then, going to Hasan, he said to him, "Rise, if thou art better than I.
I have saved six, for my part; thou save one, for thine." Then he added,
"O true believers, this jar contains water, and this woman is my mother.
I have wished to tempt Hasan." Then, addressing the latter, he said,
"See, thou hast looked with the outer eye only, and hast not been
capable of looking with the inner eye." At these words, Hasan, falling
at his feet, kissed his hand, and understood that he was one of the
Lord's chosen servants. "Sir," he said, "as thou hast drawn these
drowning men from the water so save me from the abyss of self-worship."
The negro replied, "Go, thou art saved." From that time Hasan considered
no one smaller than himself, but everyone his superior.

On one occasion, Hasan Basri said, "I have been startled by the sayings
of four persons, (1) a drunkard, (2) a debauchee, (3) a child, (4) a
woman." "How was that?" he was asked. "One day," he said, "I saw a
drunkard staggering in the midst of the mire. I said to him, 'Try and
walk so as not to stumble.' 'O Hasan,' the drunkard replied, 'in spite
of all your efforts, do _you_ walk firmly in the way of God? Tell me,
yes or no. If I fall in the mire no great harm is done, I can get rid of
it by washing; but if you fall into the pit of self-conceit, you will
never emerge clean and your eternal welfare will be entirely ruined.'
These words pierced me to the heart. (2) Again, as I passed once close
to a man of infamous character, I drew my robes close about me lest they
should touch him. 'O Hasan,' he said, 'why draw thy robes away from
contact with me. Only the Most High knows what will be the end of each.'
(3) Another time I saw a child coming towards me holding a lighted torch
in his hand. 'Where have you brought this light from?' I asked him. He
immediately blew it out, and said to me, 'O Hasan, tell me where it is
gone, and I will tell you whence I fetched it.' (4) One day a beautiful
woman, with her face unveiled, came to me. She had just been quarrelling
with her husband, and no sooner had she met me than she began reporting
his words. 'O woman,' I said, 'first cover thy face and then speak.' 'O
Hasan,' she answered, 'In my excitement I lost reason, and I did not
even know that my face was uncovered. If you had not told me I should
have gone thus into the bazaar. But you who with so great zeal cultivate
the friendship of the Most High, ought you not to curb your eye, so as
not to see whether my face was uncovered or not?' Her words sank deeply
into my heart."

One day Hasan said to his friends, "You are like the companions of the
prophet, on whom be peace." They felt immensely gratified at this, but
he added, "I mean your faces and beards are like theirs, but nothing
else in you. If you had seen them, such was their absorption in divine
things, you would have thought them mad. Had they seen you, they would
not have regarded one of you as a real Moslem. They, in the practice of
the faith, were like horsemen mounted on swift steeds, or like the wind,
or like the bird which cleaves the air; while we progress like men
mounted on donkeys with sores on their backs."

An Arab visiting Hasan Basri asked him for a definition of patience.
Hasan answered, "There are two kinds of patience; one kind consists in
bearing afflictions and calamities bravely and in abstaining from what
the Lord has forbidden, the other kind consists in never lending an ear
to the suggestions of Satan." "As for me," said the Arab, "I have never
seen anyone more retiring from the world and more patient than thyself."
"Alas," answered Hasan, "my renouncement of the world and my patience
count as nothing." "Why dost thou say so?" exclaimed the Arab. "Because,
if I practise renouncement it is only from dread of hell-fire, and if I
keep patient it is only because I hope to enter Paradise. Now that man
alone deserves to be taken into account who, without self-regarding
motives practises patience for the sake of the Most High, and whose
renouncement of the world has not Paradise for its object, but only the
desire to please God. Such a way of acting is a manifest sign of
sincerity of heart."

Asked on another occasion what his spiritual state was like, Hasan
replied, "My state is like that of a man shipwrecked in the sea, who is
clinging to a solitary plank."

He never laughed. At the moment of death he smiled once, and called out
"What sin? What sin?" Someone saw him after his death in a dream, and
asked him, "O Hasan Basri, thou who never wert in the habit of smiling,
why, when dying, didst thou say with a smile, 'What sin? What sin?'"
Hasan answered, "When I was dying I heard a voice which said, 'O Azrael,
hold back his soul a little longer, it has still one sin,' and in my joy
I exclaimed, 'What sin?'"

The night of his death another of his friends had a dream, in which he
saw the gates of heaven open and heard a voice proclaim, "Hasan Basri
has come to his Lord, Who is satisfied with him."

   [8] These and the following eight sketches are taken from Attar's



Rabia, the daughter of Ismail, a woman celebrated for her holy life, and
a native of Basra, belonged to the tribe of Adi. Al Qushairi says in his
treatise on Sufism, "She used to say when holding converse with God,
'Consume with fire O God, a presumptuous heart which loveth Thee.' On
one of these occasions a voice spoke to her and said, 'That we shall not
do. Think not of us an ill thought.' Often in the silence of the night
she would go on the roof of her house and say, 'The lover is now with
his beloved, but I rejoice in being alone with Thee.'"

When Rabia grew up her father and mother died. At that time there was a
famine in Basra. She came into the possession of an evil man, who sold
her as a slave. The master who bought her treated her hardly, and
exacted all kinds of menial services from her. One day, when she was
seeking to avoid the rude gaze of a stranger, she slipped on the path
and fell, breaking her wrist. Lying there with her face to the ground,
she said "Lord, I am far from my own, a captive and an orphan, and my
wrist has just been broken, and yet none of these things grieve me. Only
this one thought causes me disquiet; it is that I know not if Thou art
satisfied with me." She then heard a voice, "Vex not thyself, O Rabia,
for at the day of Resurrection We shall give thee such a rank that the
angels nearest Us shall envy thee." Rabia went home with her heart at

One night, Rabia's master being awake, heard the sound of her voice. He
perceived Rabia with her head bent, saying, "My Lord, Thou knowest that
the desire of my heart is to seek Thy approbation, and that its only
wish is to obey Thy commands. If I had liberty of action, I would not
remain a single instant without doing Thee service; but Thou hast
delivered me into the hands of a creature, and therefore I am hindered
in the same." Her master said to himself that it was not possible any
longer to treat her as a slave, and as soon as daybreak appeared, he
said to her, "O Rabia, I make thee free. If thou desirest, remain here,
and we shall be at thy service. If thou dost not wish to stay here,
go whithersoever it pleaseth thee."

Then Rabia departed from them and devoted herself entirely to works of
piety. One day when she was making the pilgrimage to the Kaaba[9] she
halted in the desert and exclaimed, "My God, my heart is a prey to
perplexity in the midst of this solitude. I am a stone, and so is the
Kaaba; what can it do for me? That which I need is to contemplate Thy
face." At these words a voice came from the Most High, "O Rabia, wilt
thou bear alone that which the whole world cannot? When Moses desired to
see Our Face we showed It to a mountain, which dissolved into a thousand

Abda, the servant maid of Rabia, relates as follows, "Rabia used to pass
the whole night in prayer, and at morning dawn she took a light sleep
in her oratory till daylight, and I have heard her say when she sprang
in dread from her couch, 'O my soul, how long wilt thou sleep? Soon thou
shalt sleep to rise no more, till the call shall summon thee on the day
of resurrection.'"

Hasan Basri once asked Rabia if she ever thought of marrying. She
answered, "The marriage contract can be entered into by those who have
possession of their free-will. As for me, I have no will to dispose of;
I belong to the Lord, and I rest in the shadow of His commandments,
counting myself as nothing." "But," said Hasan, "how have you arrived at
such a degree of piety?" "By annihilating myself completely."

Being asked on another occasion why she did not marry, she answered,
"There are three things which cause me anxiety." "And what are they?"
"One is to know whether at the moment of death I shall be able to take
my faith with me intact. The second is whether in the Day of
Resurrection the register of my actions will be placed in my right hand
or not.[10] The third is to know, when some are led to Paradise and some
to hell, in which direction I shall be led." "But," they cried, "none of
us know any of these things." "What!" she answered, "when I have such
objects to pre-occupy my mind, should I think of a husband?"

Someone asked her one day, "Whence comest thou?" "From the other world,"
was her reply. "And whither goest thou?" "Into the other world." "And
what doest thou in this world." "I jest with it by eating its bread and
doing the works of the other world in it." "O Rabia," said another to
her, "dost thou love the Lord?" "Truly," she replied, "I love Him."
"And dost thou regard Satan as an enemy?" "I love the Lord so much," she
answered, "that I do not trouble myself about the enmity of Satan."

One night she saw the Prophet (on whom be peace) in a dream. He saluted
her and said, "Rabia, lovest thou me?" "O Prophet of God," she replied,
"is there anyone who does not love thee? Yet the love of the Most High
fills my heart to such a degree that there is no room for love or hatred
towards anyone else."

On one occasion she was asked, "Dost thou see Him Whom thou servest?"
"If I did not see Him," she said, "I would not serve Him." She was
frequently found in tears, and, being asked the reason why, replied, "I
fear that at the last moment a Voice may cry, 'Rabia is not worthy to
appear in Our court.'" The following question was put to her, "If one of
His servants truly repents, will the Lord accept it or not?" "As long as
God does not grant repentance," she replied, "how can anyone repent? And
if He does grant it, there is no doubt that he will accept it."

Once when Rabia had immured herself for a long while in her house
without coming forth, her servant said to her, "Lady, come forth out of
this house and contemplate the works of the Most High." "Nay," said
Rabia, "enter rather into thyself and contemplate His work in thyself."
Having kept a strict fast for seven days and nights in order to give
herself to prayer, on the eighth night she seemed to hear her emaciated
body say, "O Rabia, how long wilt thou torture me without mercy?" Whilst
she was holding this soliloquy with herself, suddenly someone knocked
at the door, and a man brought in some food in a bowl. Rabia took it and
set it down; then while she went to light the lamp, a cat came and ate
the food. No sooner had Rabia returned and seen what had happened than
she said to herself, "I will break my fast on water." As she went to
draw water her lamp went out. She then uttered a deep sigh, and said,
"Lord, why dost thou make me wretched?" Whereupon she heard a voice
saying, "O Rabia, if thou desirest it, I will give thee the whole world
for thine own; but I shall have to take away the love which thou hast
for Me from thy heart, for the love of Me and of the world cannot exist
together." "Hearing myself thus addressed," said Rabia, "I entirely
expelled from my heart the love of earthly things, and resolutely turned
my gaze away from them. For thirty years I have not prayed without
saying to myself, 'This prayer, perhaps, is the last which I shall
pray,' and I have never been tired of saying, 'My God, let me be so
absorbed in Thy love that no other affection may find room in my

One day some men of learning and piety came to her and said, "The Most
High has crowned His chosen saints with the gift of performing miracles,
but such privileges have never been granted to a woman. How didst thou
attain to such a high degree?" "What you say is true," she answered,
"but, on the other hand, women have never been so infatuated with
themselves as men, nor have they ever claimed divinity."

Hasan Basri relates, "One day when I had been to Rabia who had fallen
sick, to ask after her, I saw seated at her gate a merchant who wept.
'Why are you weeping?' I asked him. 'I have just brought for Rabia,' he
answered, 'this purse of gold, and I am troubled in mind, not knowing
whether she will accept it or not. Go in Hasan, and ask whether she
will.' Then I went in, and no sooner had I reported to her the words of
this merchant than she said to me, 'Thou knowest well, O Hasan, that the
Most High gives daily bread even to those who do not worship Him; how
then will He not give it to those whose hearts are aglow with love to
Him? Besides, ever since I have known God, I have turned my eyes away
from all except Him. How can I accept anyone's money when I know not
whether it has been gained by lawful or unlawful means? Present then my
excuses to this merchant, and let him go.'"

Another merchant visiting Rabia found her house in ill repair. He
presented her with a new house. Rabia had no sooner entered it than,
seeing paintings on the wall, she became absorbed in contemplating them.
Recovering herself, she quitted the house, and refused to re-enter it,
saying, "I fear lest my heart may become attached to this house to such
a degree that I neglect preparation for the other world."

One day Abdul Wahid and Sofiân Tsavri went to see Rabia in her illness.
They were so touched by the sight of her weakness that for some moments
they could not speak a word. At last Sofiân said, "O Rabia, pray that
the Lord may lighten thy sufferings." "O Sofiân," she answered, "who has
sent me these sufferings?" "The Most High," he said. "Very well," she
replied, "if it is his will that this trial come upon me, how can I,
ignoring His will, ask Him to remove it?" "Rabia," said Sofiân, "I am
not capable of talking to thee about thy own affairs; talk to me about
mine." "Well," answered Rabia, "if thou hadst not an inclination to this
low world, thou wouldst be a man without fault." "Then," relates Sofiân,
"I cried with tears, 'My God, canst Thou be satisfied with me?'" "O
Sofiân," said Rabia, "dost thou not blush at saying to the Lord, 'Canst
Thou be satisfied with me?' without having done a single thing to please

Malik Dinar recounts the following: "I went to see Rabia, and found her
drinking water out of a broken pitcher. She was lying stretched on an
old mat, with a brick for her pillow. I was pierced to the heart at the
sight, and said, "O Rabia, I have rich friends; if you will let me, I
will go and ask them for something for you." "You have spoken ill,
Malik," she replied; "it is the Lord who, to them as to me, gives daily
bread. He Who provides for the needs of the rich, shall He not provide
for the necessities of the poor? If He wills that it should be thus with
us, we shall gladly submit to His will.'"

On one occasion when Malik Dinar, Hasan Basri and Shaqiq were with her,
the conversation turned on sincerity of heart towards God. Hasan Basri
said, "He has not sincere love to God who does not bear with constancy
the afflictions which the Lord sends him." "That remark savours of
self-conceit," said Rabia. Shaqiq observed, "He is not sincere who does
not render thanks for afflictions." "There is a higher degree of
sincerity than that," said Rabia. Malik Dinar suggested, "He is not
sincere who does not find delight in the afflictions which the Lord
sends." "That is not the purest sincerity," she remarked. Then they
asked her to define sincerity. She said, "He is not sincere who does not
forget the pain of affliction through his absorption in God."

One of the learned theologians of Basra, once visiting Rabia, began to
enlarge upon the defects of the world. "You must be very fond of the
world," said Rabia, "for if you were not, you would not talk so much
about it. He who really intends to buy something keeps on discussing it.
If you were really disentangled from it, what would you care about its
merits or its faults?"

Other sayings of Rabia were these, "My God, if on the day of judgment
Thou sendest me to hell, I shall reveal a secret which will make hell
fly far from me." "O Lord, give all Thou destinest for me of the goods
of this world to Thy enemies, and all that Thou reservest for me in
Paradise to Thy friends, for it is Thou only Whom I seek." "My God, if
it is from fear of hell that I serve Thee, condemn me to burn in hell;
and if it is for the hope of Paradise, forbid me entrance there; but if
it is for Thy sake only, deny me not the sight of Thy face."

Rabia died A.D. 752, and was buried near Jerusalem. Her tomb was a
centre of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

   [9] The sacred shrine at Mecca.

   [10] A sign the person is acquitted.


(D 875)

Ibrahim Ben Adham was originally Prince of the city of Balkh, and had
control of the riches of many provinces. One night when he was in bed he
heard a sound of footsteps on the roof of his palace. "Who are you on
the roof?" he cried out. An answer came, "I have lost a camel, and I am
looking for it on this roof." "Well," he said, "you must be a fool for
your pains, to look for a camel on a roof." "And thou, witless man,"
returned the voice, "is it while seated on a throne of gold that thou
expectest to find the Most High? That is far madder than to seek a camel
on a roof." At these words, fear seized the heart of Ibrahim, who spent
the rest of the night in prayer, till the early dawn. The next morning
he took his seat upon his throne, round which were ranged all the
grandees of his kingdom and his guards, according to their rank, in the
usual manner. All of a sudden Ibrahim perceived in the midst of the
crowd a majestic figure, who advanced towards him unseen by the rest.
When he had come near, Ibrahim asked him, "Who art thou, and what hast
thou come to seek here?" "I am a stranger," he answered, "and I wish to
stay at this inn." "But this is not an inn," answered Ibrahim, "it is my
own house." "To whom did it belong before thee?" inquired the stranger.
"To my father." "And before thy father, to whom did it belong?" "To my
grandfather." "And where are thy ancestors now?" "They are dead." "Well
then, is this house anything but an hotel, where the coming guest
succeeds to the departing one?" So saying, the stranger began to
withdraw. Ibrahim rose, ran toward him, and said, "I adjure thee to
stop, in the name of the Most High." The stranger paused. "Who art
thou," cried Ibrahim, "who hast lit this fire in my soul?" "I am Khizr,
O Ibrahim. It is time for thee to awake." So saying, he disappeared.
Ibrahim, pierced with sorrow, awoke from his trance, and felt a keen
disdain for all earthly grandeur.

The next morning, being mounted and going to the chase, he heard a voice
which said, "O Ibrahim, thou wast not created for this." He looked round
him on all sides, but could see no one, and went on again. Presently
again the voice was heard, proceeding, as it were, from his saddle, "O
Ibrahim, thou wast not created for this." Struck to the heart, Ibrahim
exclaimed, "It is the Lord who commands; His servant will obey." He
thereupon dismounted, exchanged clothes with a shepherd whom he
discovered close by, and began to lead the life of a wandering dervish,
and became famous for his devoutness and austerity.

After some years, he undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca, and joined a
caravan which was bound thither. The news of his coming having reached
the chief men of the city, they all came out to meet him. Some of their
servants, going on, met Ibrahim (whom, of course, they did not know),
and asked him if Ibrahim ben Adham was approaching. "Why do you ask
me?" he said. "Because the chief men of the city are come out to meet
him." "And why make so much ado about that man," he said, "who is a
sinner and an infidel?" "What right hast thou to speak thus of him?"
they cried; and, seizing him, handled him roughly. After having beaten
him they went on their way. Ibrahim said to himself, "Thou hast had thy
deserts." When he was recognised afterwards, an ample apology was made
to him, and he was conducted to Mecca, where he remained several years,
supporting himself by money earned by his daily toil.

When Ibrahim left Balkh, he had a son who was then a child. When the
latter became a young man, he asked, "Where is my father?" Whereupon his
mother told him all that had occurred to his father. "Well," said the
youth, "where is he to be found now?" "At Mecca," his mother answered.
"Very well, I will go to Mecca," he replied, "and find my father." He
set out, and when he arrived there, he found in the sacred precinct
surrounding the Kaaba many fakirs clothed with rags. "Do you know
Ibrahim ben Adham?" he asked them. "He is one of ourselves," one of them
answered; "he has gone to gather and sell wood wherewith to buy bread
and bring it us." The younger Ibrahim immediately went out of the city
to seek his father. Presently he found an old man carrying a bundle of
wood on his head, whom he recognised as his father. At this sight he was
near weeping, but controlled himself, and walked behind him unobserved.

As for Ibrahim ben Adham, he carried his wood to the bazaar, sold it,
and bought bread, which he took to his fellow-fakirs, and then
performed his devotions. On the other hand, his son did not disclose
himself, for he feared that to do so suddenly would cause his father to

The next morning one of Ibrahim ben Adham's fellow-fakirs rose and went
to his son's tent. He found the young man reading the Koran and weeping.
The fakir advanced and saluted him, asking, "Who art thou? Whence comest
thou? Whose son art thou?" "I am the son of Ibrahim ben Adham," replied
the young man, "and I was never able to see my father until now; but I
fear that if I make myself known to him, he will repulse me brusquely
and flee away." "Come," said the fakir, "I will myself lead you to him."

Without further delay the wife and son of Ibrahim joined the fakir, and
went to seek him. No sooner had his wife perceived him than she uttered
a cry and said, "My son, behold thy father." All the bystanders burst
into tears, while Ibrahim's son fell down in a swoon. When he came to
himself he saluted his father, who returned his greeting, embraced him,
and said, "O my son, of what religion art thou?" "Of the religion of
Muhammad," he answered. "God be praised!" exclaimed Ibrahim. Then he
asked, "Dost thou know the Koran?" "I know it," was the reply. "Dost
thou read the books which treat of religious knowledge?" "I read them."
"God be praised!" again exclaimed Ibrahim. Then he prepared to leave
them and depart, but his wife and son would not let him, and began to
weep. But Ibrahim, lifting up his eyes to heaven, prayed, "My God, come
to my help," on which his son immediately died. The companions of
Ibrahim asked him, "What is the meaning of this?" "When I saw my son,"
he answered, "my paternal tenderness was aroused. But immediately I
heard a voice, 'What, Ibrahim! Dost thou pretend attachment to Us while
all the while thy heart is engaged with another person? How can two
loves co-exist in one heart?' On hearing this, I prayed to the Lord and
said, 'O my God, if my love to this child makes Thee withdraw from me,
take his soul or mine.' My prayer was heard, and He has taken the soul
of my son." On one occasion Ibrahim is reported to have said, "Many
nights in succession I sought to find the Kaaba unoccupied. One night
when it was raining very hard, I at last found it so. I entered it, and
lifting my heart to God, I said, 'O God, blot out my sins,' upon which I
heard a Voice, which said, 'O Ibrahim, all over the world men ask Us the
same thing; but if We blot out everyone's sins, whom shall We cause to
share in the ocean of Our mercy?'" On another occasion he was asked,
"Why hast thou given up thy rank and thy kingdom?" "One day," he said,
"When I was seated on my throne, I looked at a mirror. I saw reflected
in it my last resting-place, which was an obscure tomb, wherein I had no
one to keep me company. The road whereby to reach the other world was
long, nay infinite, and I had no provision for the way. I saw besides an
upright judge, who questioned me so rigorously that I could return him
no fit answer. Behold why my rank and my kingdom lost all value in my
eyes, and why I abandoned them." "But why," continued the questioner,
"didst thou flee Khorasan?" "Because," he said, "they kept on
questioning me." "And why dost thou not marry?" "Is there any woman who
would marry a man like myself, who am always hungry and naked? If I
could, I would divorce myself; how then can I attach anyone to myself?"

Once Ibrahim asked a dervish, "Have you a wife and children?" "No,"
answered the dervish. "It is all then well for thee." "Why so?" asked
the dervish. "Because," said Ibrahim, "everytime a dervish marries he is
like one who embarks on a vessel, but when children are born to him he
is like one who is drowning."

Seeing a dervish groaning, he said, "Doubtless thou hast bought this
position of dervish at a low price." "What, Ibrahim," answered the
other, "can the position of dervish be bought?" "Certainly," answered
Ibrahim; "I have bought it at the price of royalty, and I find I have
made a good bargain."

One day a man brought to Ibrahim a sum of a thousand pieces of gold,
which he had vowed to offer him. "I do not take anything from the
wretched," the latter said. "But," said the other, "I am a rich man."
"What," answered Ibrahim, "you are as rich as that, and still seek to
increase your wealth?" "As a matter of fact, I do." "Well then, you are
more wretched than anyone," and he added, "Listen! I possess nothing,
and I ask nothing of anyone. I have aspired after the condition of a
dervish and found riches in it; others have aspired after riches and
found poverty." Another person also offered Ibrahim a thousand pieces of
gold, which he refused, saying, "You wish doubtless by means of this
gold to erase my name from the list of dervishes."

Every day Ibrahim worked for hire, and whatever he earned he spent on
provisions to take to his companions; then they all broke their fast
together. He never returned in any case till he had performed his
evening devotions. One day when he had been absorbed in them, he
returned later than usual. His companions, who were waiting for him,
said to themselves, "We had better break our fast and all go to bed.
When Ibrahim sees what we have done, he will come earlier another time,
and not keep us waiting." Accordingly, they all ate and lay down. When
Ibrahim came and saw them asleep, he said to himself, "Perhaps they have
gone to bed hungry." He had brought with him a little meal, which he
made into dough; then he blew up the fire, and cooked supper for his
companions. They then rose and said to him, "What are you doing,
Ibrahim?" "I am cooking something for you, for it has occurred to me
that perhaps you have gone to bed without taking anything." They looked
at each other, and said, "See, while we were plotting against him, he
was engaged in thinking for us."

One day a man came to Ibrahim and said, "O Ibrahim, I have done myself a
great deal of harm (by sin). Give me some advice." "Listen then," said
Ibrahim, "here are six rules for you. First: When you have committed a
sin, do not eat the food which the Lord sends you." "But I cannot live
without food," said the other. "What!" exclaimed Ibrahim, "is it just
that you should profit by what the Lord supplies while you do not serve
Him and never cease to offend Him?" Second: "When you are on the point
of committing a sin, quit the Kingdom of the Most High." "But," said
the man, "His Kingdom extends from the East to the West; how can I go
out of it?" "Very well, remain in it; but give up sin, and don't be
rebellious." Third: "When you are about to sin, place thyself where the
Most High cannot see you." "But one cannot hide anything from Him."
"Very well then," said Ibrahim, "is it right that you should live on
what He supplies, and that you should dwell in His Kingdom, and commit
evil actions under His eyes?" Fourth: "When Azrael, the Angel of Death,
comes to claim your soul, say to him, 'Give me a respite, I wish to
repent.'" "But how will Azrael listen to such a prayer?" "If it is so,"
replied Ibrahim, "repent now, so as not to have to do so when Azrael
comes." Fifth: "When you are placed in the tomb, dismiss the angels
Munkir and Nakir,[11] who will come to examine thee." "But I cannot."
"Very well, live such a life as to be able to reply satisfactorily to
them." Sixth: "On the Day of Judgment, when the order goes forth to
conduct sinners to hell, say you won't go." "It suffices, Ibrahim, you
have said enough." The man repented, and the fervour of his conversion
lasted till his death.

Ibrahim is said to have told the following story. "One day I went to
glean, but as soon as I put any ears of corn in the lappet of my robe
they were shaken out. This happened something like forty times. At last
I cried, 'What does this mean, O Lord?' I heard a Voice say in reply,
'O, Ibrahim, in the time of your prosperity forty bucklers of red gold
were carried in front of thee. It was necessary that you should be thus
molested as a requital for the luxury of those forty golden bucklers.'"

Once Ibrahim was entrusted with the charge of an orchard. The owner one
day came down to visit it, and told Ibrahim to bring him some sweet
pomegranates. Ibrahim went and gathered the largest he could find, but
they all proved to be bitter. "What!" said the owner, "you have eaten
these pomegranates so long, and cannot distinguish the sweet from the
bitter?" "Sir," replied Ibrahim, "you told me to take charge of the
orchard, but you did not tell me to eat the pomegranates." "Ah," replied
the other, "to judge by your austerity, you must be no other than
Ibrahim ben Adham." The latter, seeing that he was discovered, left the
orchard and departed.

A story told by Ibrahim was as follows. "One night I saw in a dream
Gabriel, with a piece of paper in his hand. 'What are you doing?' I
asked him. 'I am writing on this sheet of paper the names of the friends
of the Lord.' 'Will you write mine among them?' Ibrahim asked. 'But you
are not one of His friends.' 'If I am not one of His friends, at least I
am a friend of His friends.' Immediately a Voice was heard, 'O Gabriel,
write Ibrahim's name on the first line, for he who loves Our friends is
Our friend.'"[12]

Once while Ibrahim was walking in the country, a horseman met him and
asked him who he was, "I am," answered Ibrahim, "the servant of the Most
High." "Well," said the horseman, "direct me to the nearest dwellings."
Ibrahim pointed to the cemetery. "You are jesting at me," the other
cried, and struck him on the head so severely that the blood began to
flow. Then he tied a cord round his neck, and dragged him forcibly into
the middle of the neighbouring town. The people cried out "Madman, what
are you doing? It is Ibrahim ben Adham." Immediately the horseman
prostrated himself before Ibrahim and implored his pardon. "O Ibrahim,"
he said, "when I asked you where were the nearest dwellings, why did you
point to the cemetery?" "Every day," he answered, "the cemetery becomes
more and more peopled, while the town and its most flourishing quarters
are continually falling into ruins."

When Ibrahim's last hour arrived, he disappeared from sight, and no one
has been able to say exactly where his tomb is. Some say it is at
Bagdad, others at Damascus, others at Pentapolis. When he died, a Voice
was heard saying, "The man who excelled all others in faith is dead;
Ibrahim ben Adham has passed away."

   [11] According to the Mahommadan belief every man as soon as he
   is buried is examined by these two angels.

   [12] Leigh Hunt's well known poem refers to this:

      "Abou ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)"
        Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
      And saw within the moonlight in his room,
        Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
      An angel writing in a book of gold.
        Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
      And to the presence in the room he said:
        "What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
      And with a look made all of sweet accord,
        Answered "The names of those who love the Lord,"
      "And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay not so,"
        Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low
      But cheerily still; and said: "I pray thee then
        Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
      The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
        He came again with a great wakening light,
      And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
        And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest."


(D 803 AD)

In the beginning of his career Fudhayl ben Ayaz was a highwayman, and
used to pitch his tent on the plains between Merv and Abiwerd. He had
collected many other robbers round him; when they brought in booty, he,
as their chief, apportioned it. He never neglected saying the Friday
prayers, and dismissed any of his servants whom he found neglecting

One day his men were lying in wait on the high road when a numerous
caravan arrived and fell into their clutches. In this caravan was a
merchant who had a large sum of money in his purse. Desirous of hiding
it, he fled towards the open plain; there he found a tent and a man
clothed in coarse garments seated in it. The merchant, having explained
the matter to him, was told to leave his money there. He did so, and
returned to the caravan. When he got there he saw that the robbers had
attacked it and taken all the goods, after having bound and laid on the
earth all the travellers. He ransomed them, and helped them to gather
together the remains of their property. When he returned to the tent he
found the robbers there dividing their booty. Seeing this, he said, "Woe
is me! Then he whom I trusted my money to was a robber." He was on the
point of departing when Fudhayl called out to him, "What is the matter?"
"I had come," he answered, "to take back my money which I had deposited
here." "Well," said Fudhayl, "you will find it where you placed it." The
merchant did so. "But," cried Fudhayl's companions, "we did not find any
coined money at all in this caravan; how is it that you hand over such a
large sum?" "This man," answered Fudhayl, "has trusted me in the
simplicity of his heart; now I, in the simplicity of my heart, trust in
the Lord; and just as I have justified the good opinion which the
merchant had of me, I hope the Lord will justify that which I have of

The conversion of Fudhayl to an ascetic life took place in the following
manner. As he was climbing over a wall to see a girl whom he loved, he
heard a voice pronounce this verse of the Koran: "Is not the time yet
come unto those who believe that their hearts should humbly submit to
the admonition of God?"[13] On this he exclaimed, "O Lord, that time is
come." He then went away from the place, and the approach of night
induced him to repair for shelter to a ruined edifice. A caravan was
encamped not far off, and Fudhayl heard one of the travellers say to
another, "We must rise and be going, lest Fudhayl should arrive and rob
us." Fudhayl then came forward and said, "I have good news for you.
Fudhayl has entered upon the path of penitence, and is more likely to
flee from you than you from him." Then he departed, after having asked
their pardon for his former misdeeds. For some time he resided at Mecca,
where he received instruction from Abou Hanifeh, and subsequently
returned to his own country, where his sanctity became widespread.

It is related that one night the Caliph Harun-al-Rashid said to Fazl the
Barmecide, "Take me to a man by whose aid I may rise out of the moral
torpor into which I have fallen." Fazl took him to the door of a
celebrated ascetic, Sofyan ibn Oyaina, who asked on their knocking, "Who
is there?" "The Prince of the Faithful," answered Fazl. "Why did you not
send for me?" said Sofyan, "I would have come myself in person to serve
him." Al-Rashid, hearing this, said, "This is not the man I seek." They
then departed, and knocked at the door of Fudhayl. As they arrived, the
latter was reciting the following verse of the Koran: "Do those who have
done evil imagine that we shall set them on the same level with those
who have done well?" Koran (Sura xlv., v. 20). The Caliph had no sooner
heard this verse than he said, "If it is good advice we are seeking,
here is enough for us." Then they knocked at the door. "Who is there?"
asked Fudhayl. "The Prince of the Faithful," Fazl answered. "What do you
want?" was the reply; "I have nothing to do with you, leave me alone and
don't waste my time." "But you should treat the Caliph with honour, and
let us in." "It is for you to come in if you must, in spite of me,"
answered Fudhayl. When the Caliph and his attendant entered, Fudhayl
extinguished the lamp in order not to see the intruders.
Harun-al-Rashid, having touched Fudhayl's hand in the dark, the latter
exclaimed, "How soft this hand is; may it escape hell fire." Having thus
spoken, he rose to pray. As for the Caliph, he began to weep, and said,
"Speak to me at least one word." Fudhayl, when he had finished his
prayers, said to him, "O Harun, thy ancestor Abbas, who was the
paternal uncle of the Prophet (on whom be peace!) said to him one day, O
Prophet of God, make me ruler over a nation. The Prophet replied, I have
made thee ruler over thyself. If thou rulest thine own body and keepest
it constant in the service of the Lord, that is better than ruling a
nation for a thousand years. Again, Omar, the son of Abd al Aziz, being
installed on the throne of the Caliphate, sent for three of his intimate
friends, and said to them, 'Behold me caught in the toils of the
Caliphate; how shall I get rid of them? Many people consider power a
blessing; I regard it as a calamity.'"

Then Fudhayl added, "O Harun, if thou wishest to escape the punishment
of the Day of Judgment, regard each old man among the Moslems as thy
father, the young men as thy brothers, the women as thy sisters. O
Harun, I fear lest thy handsome visage be scorched by the flames of
hell. Fear the Most High, and know that He will interrogate thee on the
Day of Resurrection." At these words, Harun-al-Rashid wept copiously.
Then Fazl said to Fudhayl, "Say no more; you have killed the Caliph with
grief." "Oh Haman!"[14] Fudhayl answered, "it is not I, it is thou and
thy relations who have misled the Caliph and destroyed him." Hearing
these words, Harun-al-Rashid wept still more bitterly, and said to Fazl,
"Be silent! If he has called you Haman, he has (tacitly) compared me to
Pharaoh." Then, addressing Fudhayl, he asked him, "Have you any debt to
pay?" "Yes," he answered, "that of the service which I owe to the Most
High. He furnishes me with subsistence, I have no need to borrow." Then
Harun-al-Rashid placed in Fudhayl's hand a purse in which were a
thousand pieces of gold, saying, "This money is lawfully acquired, I
have inherited it from my mother." "Ah!" exclaimed Fudhayl, "my advice
has been wasted; my object in giving it was to lighten thy burden; thou
seekest to make mine more heavy." At these words, Harun-al-Rashid rose,
saluted him, and departed. All the way home he kept repeating to
himself, "This Fudhayl is a great teacher." On another occasion the
Caliph is reported to have said to Fudhayl, "How great is thy
self-abnegation," to which Fudhayl made answer, "Thine is greater." "How
so?" said the Caliph. "Because I make abnegation of this world, and thou
makest abnegation of the next; now this world is transitory, and the
next will endure for ever."

Sofiân Tsavri relates the following anecdote. "One night I was talking
with Fudhayl, and after we had been conversing on all kinds of subjects,
I said to him, 'What a pleasant evening we have had, and what
interesting conversation.' 'No,' he said, 'neither the evening nor the
conversation have been good.' 'Why so?' I remarked. 'Because,' he said,
'you sought to speak words which might please me, and I sought to answer
so as to gratify you. Both of us, pre-occupied with our talk, had
forgotten the Most High. It would be better for each of us to sit still
in his place and to lift up his heart towards God.'"

A stranger coming to Fudhayl one day was asked by the latter for what
purpose he came. "I have come," he answered, "to talk with you, and to
find in so doing calm of mind," "That is to say," broke in Fudhayl, "you
wish to mislead me with lies, and desire me to do the same to you. Be
off about your business."

[15]But with all his austerity of life, his prolonged fasts and
watchings, his ragged dress and wearisome pilgrimages, he preferred the
practice of interior virtue and purity of intention to all outward
observances, and used often to say that "he who is modest and compliant
to others and lives in meekness and patience gains a higher reward by so
doing than if he fasted all his days and watched in prayer all his
nights." At so high a price did he place obedience to a spiritual guide,
and so necessary did he deem it, that he declared, "Had I a promise of
whatever I should ask in prayer, yet would I not offer that prayer save
in union with a superior."

But his favourite virtue was the love of God in perfect conformity to
His will above all hope or fear. Thus, when his only son (whose virtues
resembled his father's) died in early age, Fudhayl was seen with a
countenance of unusual cheerfulness, and, being asked by his intimate
disciple, Abou Ali, the reason wherefore, he answered, "It was God's
good pleasure, and it is therefore my good pleasure also."

Others of his sayings are the following: "To leave aught undone for the
esteem of men is hypocrisy, and to do ought for their esteem is
idolatry." "Much is he beguiled who serves God for fear or hope, for His
true service is for mere love." "I serve God because I cannot help
serving Him for very love's sake."

   [13] Koran, Sura 57, v 15.

   [14] According to the Koran, Haman was the vizier of Pharaoh whom
   he misled by bad advice.

   [15] Vide Palgrave: "Asceticism among Mohammedan nations."


(D 874 AD)

Bayazid Bastami, whose grandfather was a Zoroastrian converted to Islam,
was distinguished for his piety while still a child. His mother used to
send him regularly to the mosque to read the Koran with a mullah. When
he reached the chapter "Luqman," he read the verse, "Show thy gratitude
in serving Me, and show thy gratitude to thy parents in serving them."
He asked his teacher the meaning of the verse, and had no sooner heard
it explained than he immediately ran home. When she saw him, his mother
said, "Why have you come home so early, my child? Have they sent you for
the fees?" "Mother," answered Bayezid, "I have just read the verse in
which the Lord commands me to serve Him, and to serve thee; but, as I
cannot serve in two places at once, I have come to propose to you that
you should ask the Lord to give me to you in order that I may serve you,
or that you should yourself give me to the Lord that I may serve Him."
"Since that is the case," said his mother, "I give you up to the Lord,
and renounce all my rights over you." Accordingly, a few years
afterwards, Bayazid left his native village Bastam, and for thirty years
lived as a bare-footed ascetic in the deserts of Syria. Once during
this time Bayazid came home and listened at the door of his mother's
house before going in. He heard her saying in prayer, "May God bless my
poor exile, may the hearts of the pious be rejoiced by him and accord
him grace." Bayazid, hearing these words, wept, and knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" she asked. "Thy exile," he answered. No sooner had she
opened the door than, embracing Bayazid, she said to him, weeping, "O my
son, separated from thee as I have been, my eyes have lost the power to
see, and my back is bent," and they both mingled their tears together.

Some time after Bayazid said to a friend, "What I ought to have known
most clearly is just what I have only learnt when too late--to serve my
mother. That which I sought in devoting myself to so many religious
exercises, in putting myself at the service of others, and in exiling
myself far from my kindred and my country, see, how I have discovered
it. One night when my mother asked for water, as there was none in the
pitcher, I went to the canal to draw some. It was a winter night, and
the frost was very sharp. While I had gone for the water, my mother had
fallen asleep again. I stood waiting with the full pitcher in my hand
till she should awake. When she did so, she asked for water, but when I
wished to give it her, I found that the water was frozen, and the handle
of the jug stuck fast to my hand. 'Why,' said my mother, 'did you not
put it down?' 'Because I feared,' I answered, 'not to be ready when you
asked for it.' That same night the Lord revealed to me all that I wanted
to know."

Bayazid used to tell the following story. "A man came to see me, and
asked where I was going. 'I am going to Mecca,' I said, 'to make the
circuit of the Kaaba.'[16] 'How much money hast thou?' he asked. 'Two
hundred pieces of gold,' I answered. 'Very well,' he said, 'give them me
and walk seven times round me. By this act of charity thou wilt deserve
a greater recompense than thou wouldest obtain at the Kaaba.'[17] I did
as he asked, and that year I did not make the pilgrimage."

One day the thought crossed Bayazid's mind that he was the greatest Sufi
of the age. But no sooner had it done so, than he understood it was an
aberration on his part. "I rose immediately," he said, "and went some
way into the desert of Khorassan, where I sat down. I took then the
resolution of not moving from the spot where I was seated till the Lord
should send me someone who would make me see myself as I really was. I
waited thus for three days and three nights. On the fourth night a rider
on a camel approached. I perceived on his countenance the marks of a
penetrating mind. He halted, and, fixing his eyes on me, said, 'Thou
desirest doubtless, that in the twinkling of an eye I should cause to be
swallowed up the village of Bastam and all its population, together with
its riches, and Bayazid himself.' At these words I was seized with an
indescribable fear, and asked him, 'Whence comest thou?' 'O Bayazid,' he
answered, 'while thou hast been seated here I have travelled three
thousand miles. Take care, O Bayazid, to place a curb on thy heart, and
not to forget the road; else shalt thou infallibly perish.' Then he
turned his back and departed."

One night Bayazid, having gone out of his house, went to the
burial-ground to perform his devotions. There he found a young man
playing a guitar, who came towards him. Bayazid, considering music
unlawful, exclaimed, "There is no might or power except in God."[18] The
young man, irritated, struck the head of Bayazid with his guitar,
breaking it, and wounding him. Bayazid returned home. The next morning
very early he placed some sweetmeats and some pieces of gold in a dish
and sent it to the young man, charging the messenger to say from him,
"Last night you broke your guitar by striking my head with it; take,
therefore, this money, buy another guitar, and eat the sweetmeats so
that there may remain no rancour in your heart." When he had received
the message, the young man came in tears to Bayazid, asked his pardon,
and repented.

On another occasion, Bayazid was saying his prayers in company with a
friend. When they had finished their devotions, his friend said to him,
"Tell me, Bayazid, you do not ask anything of anyone, you do not engage
in any industry; whence do you get your provision?" "Wait a little,"
said Bayazid, "I am going to say my prayers again." "Why?" "Because it
is unlawful to pray with a man who does not know Who is the Bestower of
daily bread."

Hatim Assam used to say to his disciples, "If, on the Day of Judgment
you do not intercede for those who will be conducted to hell, you are
not my disciples." Bayazid, having heard this, said in his turn, "Those
only are my disciples who, on the Day of Judgment, will stand on the
brink of hell, in order to seize and save the wretches cast down
thither, even were it necessary to enter hell themselves for the
salvation of the others."

Bayazid related as follows. "One day I heard a Voice, which said, 'O
Bayazid, our treasure-house is brimmed full with acts of adoration and
devotion offered by men; bring Us something which is not in Our
treasury.' 'But, O God,' I cried, 'what then shall I bring?' And the
voice answered me, 'Bring Me sorrow of heart, humility, contrition.'"

Another time he said, "After having endured the rigours of asceticism
for forty years, one night I found myself before the doors and curtains
which hide the throne of God. 'For pity's sake,' I exclaimed, groaning,
'let me pass.' 'O Bayazid,' cried a Voice, 'you still possess a pitcher
and an old cloak; you cannot pass.' Then I cast away the pitcher and the
cloak, and I heard the Voice again address me, 'O Bayazid, go and say to
those who do not know: "Behold, for forty years I have practised
rigorous asceticism. Well, till I cast away my broken pitcher and torn
cloak, I could not find access to God; and you, who are entangled in the
ties of worldly interests, how shall you discover the way to Him?"'"

One night, after having said his evening prayer, Bayazid remained
standing till the morning, and shedding tears. When morning came, his
servant asked him, "What has happened to you to-night?" "Methought I had
arrived at the throne of God," replied Bayazid, and I said to it, 'O
Throne, we are taught that the Lord rests on thee.' 'O Bayazid,' replied
the throne, 'it is said here that the Lord dwells in a humble heart; but
where is the intelligence capable of penetrating this mystery? Heavenly
beings question earthly ones concerning it, and they only cast the
question back.'

Bayazid said once, "When I had arrived at the station of Proximity, I
heard a Voice say to me, 'O Bayazid, ask what thou hast to ask.' 'My
God,' I answered, 'Thou art the Object of my desire.' 'O Bayazid,' the
Voice replied, 'if there lingers in thee an atom of earthly desire, and
till thou art reduced to nothing in the station of Annihilation, thou
canst not find Me.' 'My God,' I answered, 'I shall not return from Thy
Court empty-handed; I wish to ask something from Thee.' 'Very well, ask
it.' 'Grant me mercy for all men.' The Voice said, 'O Bayazid lift up
thine eyes.' I lifted them, and I saw that the Most High was far more
inclined to have mercy on His servants than I. 'Lord,' I cried, 'have
mercy on Satan.' 'O Bayazid,' the Voice answered, 'Satan is made of
fire, and fire must needs go to the fire. Take heed lest thou thyself
deserve to go there.'"

One day, when Bayazid was walking along the road, a young man who
followed him closely, setting his feet in his tracks, said to him, "Tear
off a piece of thy cloak and give it me, in order that thy blessing may
rest upon me." Bayazid answered, "Although thou strip Bayazid of his
skin and clothe thyself with it, it will profit thee nothing, unless
thou reproduce the actions of Bayazid."

Amongst other remarkable utterances of Bayazid are the following. "When
from hatred to the world I fled to the Lord, His love so filled my heart
that I hated myself." "He who relies on his acts of piety is worse than
he who commits sin." "There are those among the servants of the Lord who
would utter groans like the damned in hell if one put them in possession
of the eight paradises without Him." "A single grain of the love of God
is worth more than a hundred thousand paradises." "He whom the Lord
loves is known by three distinct signs--his liberality is like the sea,
his kindness is like the sun, his humility is like the earth, which
allows itself to be trampled on by everyone." "Whoso has the knowledge
of the Lord receives from Him intuitional wisdom in such a manner that
he needs not to have recourse to anyone to learn anything."

Being asked his age, he replied, "I am four years old." "How is that,
Sheikh?" they said. "For seventy years," he said, "I have been enveloped
in the veils of this dull world; it is only four years since I
disentangled myself from them and see God." Being asked to define
Sufism, he said, "Sufism consists in giving up repose, and accepting

In the last moments of his life he put on a girdle and seated himself in
the "mihrab"[19] of the mosque. Then, turning his cloak and cap inside
out, he said, "My God, I ask for no reward for the austerities I have
practised all my life. I say nothing of the prayers which I have prayed
during whole nights, of the fasts I have kept during the day, of the
number of times I have said the Koran through. O my God, thou knowest
that I think nothing of the works which I have done, and that so far
from putting trust in them, I would rather forget them. Besides, is it
not thou who hast covered my nakedness with the raiment of these good
works? As for me, I consider myself as a fire-worshipper who has grown
to old age in a state of infidelity. But now I say 'Allah! Allah!' and I
cut the girdle of the idolator. I enter Islam as a new proselyte, and I
repeat the profession of the Moslem faith. I reckon all that I have done
nothing. Deign, for Thy mercy's sake, to blot out all my evil deeds and
transgressions." When he was dying, he again ejaculated "Allah! Allah!"
Then he cried, "My God, I have passed my life in neglect of thee; I have
not served Thee faithfully," and expired.

   [16] Pilgrims at Mecca go round the Kaaba seven times.

   [17] An allusion to the mystics' doctrine that man himself is the
   true Kaaba or House of God.

   [18] A formula used by devout Mussalmen at the sight of anything

   [19] The "Mihrab" is the niche or apse in the wall of the mosque
   facing towards Mecca.


(D 860 AD)

Ibn Khalliqan, the historian, calls Zu'n Nun "the first person of his
age for learning, devotion and communion with the Divinity." His father,
who was a native of Nubia, was a slave, enfranchised and adopted by the
tribe of Koraish. Zu'n Nun, being asked why he had renounced the world,
said, "I went forth from Misr (Egypt) journeying to a certain village,
and I fell asleep in one of the deserts on the way. And my eye was
opened, and lo, a little bird, still blind, fell from its nest to the
ground. Then the ground split open and two trays came forth, one of
gold, the other of silver; in one was sesame, and in the other water;
and the bird ate of that, and drank of this. 'That', said I, 'is a
sufficient warning for me; I renounce the world.' And then I did not
quit the door of divine mercy till I was let in."

Having been denounced by his enemies to the Caliph Mutawakkil of Bagdad,
he was summoned from Egypt to appear before him. On entering into his
presence, he addressed a pious exhortation to the Caliph, who shed
tears, and dismissed him honourably. After this, whenever men of piety
were spoken of before the Caliph, he would weep and say, "Speaking of
pious men, let me have Zu'n Nun."

At Cairo, however, Zu'n Nun did not come off so easily. He openly
rebuked the vices of the inhabitants, and especially of the local
governors, who caused him to be beaten and imprisoned. "All this is as
nothing, so I be not separated from thee, O my God," was his exclamation
while dragged through the crowded street with blows and insults by the
soldiers of the garrison.

Zu'n Nun related the following story of himself. "One day I saw a
beautiful palace on the bank of a river where I was performing my
devotions. On the roof of this palace I perceived a lovely maiden.
Curious of learning who she was, I approached and asked her the name of
her master. She answered, 'O Zu'n Nun when you were still a great way
off, I took you for a madman, when you came nearer, for a religious man,
when you came still nearer, for one of the initiated. I now perceive
that you are neither mad, nor religious, nor initiated. If you had been
mad, you would not have engaged in religious exercises; if you had been
religious, you would not have looked at a person whom you ought not to
approach; if you had been initiated, nothing would have drawn your
attention away from God.' So saying, she disappeared. I then recognised
that she was no mortal, but an angel."

[20]Zu'n Nun relates that he heard his spiritual teacher Schakran
recount the following story. "When I was young, I lived on the eastern
bank of the Nile, near Cairo, and gained my livelihood by ferrying
passengers across to the western side. One day, as I was sitting in my
boat near the river edge, an aged man presented himself before me; he
wore a tattered robe, a staff was in his hand, and a water-skin
suspended from his neck. 'Will you ferry me over for the love of God?'
said he. I answered, 'Yes.' 'And will you fulfil my commission for the
love of God?' 'Yes.' Accordingly, I rowed him across to the western
side. On alighting from the boat, he pointed to a solitary tree some
distance off, and said to me, 'Now go your way, and do not trouble
yourself further about me till to-morrow; nor indeed will it be in your
power, even should you desire it, for as soon as I have left you, you
will at once forget me. But to-morrow, at this same hour of noon, you
will suddenly call me to mind. Then go to that tree which you see before
you, I shall be lying dead in its shade. Say the customary prayers over
my corpse, and bury me; then take my robe, my staff and the water-skin,
and return with them to the other side of the river; there deliver them
to him who shall first ask them of you. This is my commission.'

"Having said this, he immediately departed. I looked after him, but soon
lost sight of him; and then, as he had himself already forewarned me, I
utterly forgot him. But next day, at the approach of noon, I suddenly
remembered the event, and hastily crossing the river alone, I came to
the western bank, and then made straight for the tree. In its shade I
found him stretched out at full length, with a calm and smiling face,
but dead. I recited over him the customary prayers, and buried him in
the sand at the foot of the tree; then I took the garment, the staff and
the water-skin, and returned to my boat. Arrived at the eastern side, I
found standing on the shore to meet me a young man whom I knew as a most
dissolute fellow of the town, a hired musician by profession. He was
gaudily dressed, his countenance bore the traces of recent debauch, and
his fingers were stained with henna. 'Give me the bequest,' said he.
Amazed at such a demand from such a character, 'What bequest?' I
answered. 'The staff, the water-skin and the garment,' was his reply.
Thereupon I drew them, though unwillingly, from the bottom of the boat,
where I had concealed them, and gave them to him. He at once stripped
off his gay clothes, put on the tattered robe, hung the water-skin round
his neck, took the staff in his hand, and turned to depart.

"I, however, caught hold of him and exclaimed, 'For God's sake, ere you
go, tell me the meaning of this, and how this bequest has become yours,
such as I know you.' 'By no merit of my own, certainly,' answered he;
'but I passed last night at a wedding-feast, with many boon companions,
in singing, drinking deep, and mad debauch. As the night wore away and
morning drew near, tired out with pleasure and heavy with wine, I lay
down to sleep. Then in my sleep one stood by me, and said, "God has at
this very hour taken to himself the soul of such an ascetic, and has
chosen you to fill his place on earth. Rise and go to the river bank,
there you will meet a ferryman in his boat; demand from him the bequest.
He will give you a garment, a staff and a water-skin; take them, and
live as their first owner lived."'

"Such was his story. He then bade me farewell, and went his way. But I
wept bitterly over my own loss, in that I had not been chosen in his
place as successor to the dead saint, and thought that such a favour
would have been more worthily bestowed on me than on him. But that same
night, as I slept, I heard a voice saying unto me, 'Schakran, is it
grief to thee that I have called an erring servant of Mine to
repentance? The favour is My free gift, and I bestow such on whom I
will, nor yet do I forget those who seek Me.' I awoke from sleep, and
repented of my impatient ambition."

Zu'n Nun had a disciple who had made the pilgrimage to the Kaaba forty
times, and during forty years had passed all his nights in devotional
exercises. One day he came to Zu'n Nun and said, "During the forty years
that I have practised austerity, nothing of the unseen world has been
revealed to me; the Friend (_i.e._, God) has not spoken to me, nor cast
upon me a single look. I fear lest I die and leave this world in
despair. Thou, who are the physician of sick souls, devise some means
for my cure." "Go," Zu'n Nun replied, "this evening, omit your prayers,
eat as much as you like, and go to sleep. Doubtless, if the Friend does
not look upon you with an eye of mercy, He will at any rate look upon
you with an eye of anger." The dervish went away, but said his prayers
as usual, saying to himself that it would be wrong to omit them. Then he
ate to satiety, and went to sleep. In his dreams he saw the Prophet, who
said to him, "O Dervish, the Friend sends thee his salutation, and says,
'Surely that man is pusillanimous who, as soon as he has arrived at My
court, hastens to return; set thy feet on this path like a brave man,
and then We will give thee the reward for all the austerities which
thou hast practised for forty years, and make thee reach the goal of thy

Perhaps someone may ask why Zu'n Nun told his disciple to omit his
prayers. We should consider that sheikhs are physicians knowing the
remedy for every kind of disease. Now there are many diseases whose
treatment involves the use of poisons. Besides, Zu'n Nun knew well that
his disciple would certainly not neglect his prayers. There are in the
spiritual path (_tariqat_) many things not justifiable according to the
written law (_shariat_). It is thus that the Lord ordered Abraham to
slay his son, an act unlawful according to the written law. But whoever,
without having attained to so high a degree in the spiritual life as
Zu'n Nun, should act as he did in this matter would be a being without
faith or law; for each one in his actions must conform to the decisions
of the written law.

Zu'n Nun related once the following. "When I was making the circuit of
the Kaaba, I saw a man with a pale face and emaciated frame. I said to
him, 'Dost thou really love Him?' 'Yes,' he answered. 'Does the Friend
come near thee?' 'Yes, assuredly.' 'Is He kind to thee?' 'Yes,
certainly.' 'What!' I exclaimed, 'the Friend approaches thee, He is kind
to thee, and look at the wretched state of thy body!' He replied,
'Simpleton! Knowest thou not that they whom the Friend approaches most
nearly, are the most severely tried?'"

"One day," said Zu'n Nun, "when I was travelling, I arrived at a plain
covered with snow. I saw a fire-worshipper who was strewing seeds of
millet there. 'O infidel,' I said, 'why are you strewing this millet?'
'To-day,' he said, 'as it has been snowing, I reflected that the birds
would find nothing to eat, and I strewed this millet that they may find
some food, and I hope that the Most High will perchance have mercy upon
me.' 'The grain which an infidel sows,' I replied, 'does not germinate,
and thou art a fire-worshipper.' 'Well,' he answered, 'even if God does
not accept my offering, may I not hope that He sees what I am doing?'
'Certainly He sees it,' I said. 'If He sees it,' he remarked 'that is
enough for me.'

"Long afterwards I met this infidel at Mecca making the circuit of the
Kaaba. He recognised me, and exclaimed, 'O Zu'n Nun, the Most High,
witnessing my act, has accepted it. The grain I sowed has indeed sprung
up, for God has given me faith, and brought me to His House.' "Seeing
him," added Zu'n Nun, "I rejoiced, and cried, 'My God, dost Thou give
paradise to an infidel for a handful of millet seed?' Then I heard a
voice reply, 'O Zu'n Nun, the mercy of the Lord is without limit.'"

Zu'n Nun daily asked three things of God in prayer. The first was never
to have any certainty of his means of subsistence for the morrow. The
second was never to be in honour among men. And the third was to see
God's face in mercy at his death-hour. Near the end of his life, one of
his more intimate disciples ventured to question him on this triple
prayer, and what had been its result. "As for the first and second
petitions," answered Zu'n Nun, "God has liberally granted them, and I
trust in His goodness that He will not refuse me the third."

During his last moments he was asked what he wished. "I wish," he
replied, "that if I have only one more breath left, it may be spent in
blessing the Most High." As he said this, he breathed his last.

He died 860 A.D., and his tomb is still an object of popular veneration
at Cairo.

   [20] Vide Palgrave: Asceticism among Muhammadan Nations.


(D 922 AD)

Mansur Hallaj ("the cotton-comber"), a Persian, of Zoroastrian lineage,
was a pupil of Junaid of Bagdad, a more sober-minded Sufi than his
contemporary Bayazid Bastami. Mansur himself however was of an
enthusiastic temperament, and took no pains to guard his language. One
of his extraordinary utterances, "I am the truth," led at last to his
execution, "the Truth" being one of the recognised names of God in
Muhammadan nomenclature. Notwithstanding this, even at the present day
he passes among the Sufis for one of their greatest saints, while the
more orthodox regard him as a daring blasphemer who received his
deserts. "His contemporaries," says a Muhammadan writer, "entertained as
many different views concerning him as the Jews and Christians with
respect to the Messiah." Certainly when we read the various accounts of
him by authors of different tendencies, if we did not know to the
contrary, we might suppose ourselves reading about different persons
bearing the same name. The orthodox regard him chiefly as a sorcerer in
league with supernatural powers, whether celestial or infernal, for he
caused, it is said, summer fruits to appear in winter and _vice versa_.
He could reveal in open day what had been done in secret, knew
everyone's most private thoughts, and when he extended his empty hand in
the air he drew it back full of coins bearing the inscription, "Say: God
is One." Among the moderate Shiites, who had more than one point of
contact with the Sufis, it is not a question of sorcery at all. For them
the doctrine of Hallaj, which he had also practised himself, meant that
by using abstinence, by refusing pleasure and by chastising the flesh,
man can lift himself gradually to the height of the elect and even of
angels. If he perseveres in this path he is gradually purged from
everything human, he receives the spirit of God as Jesus did, and all
that he does is done by God.

The Shiites say, moreover, that the reason for which Hallaj was put to
death should be found not in his utterances but in the astonishing
influence which he exercised over the highest classes of society, on
princes and their courts, and which caused much disquietude to others,
especially to the orthodox mullahs. Hallaj has even been judged not
unfavourably by those among the orthodox who were characterised by a
certain breadth of view, and who, like Ghazzali, although they disliked
free-thinking, yet wished for a religion of the heart, and were not
content with the dry orthodoxy of the great majority of theologians.
Ghazzali indeed has gone so far as to put a favourable construction on
the following sayings of Hallaj: "I am the Truth," "There is nothing in
Paradise except God." He justifies them on the ground of the speaker's
excessive love for God. In his eyes, as well as in those of other great
authorities, Hallaj is a saint and a martyr. The most learned
theologians of the tenth century, on the contrary, believed that he
deserved execution as an infidel and a blasphemer. Even the greatest
admirers of Hallaj, the Sufis, are not agreed regarding him. Some of
them question whether he were a thorough-going pantheist, and think that
he taught a numerical Pantheism, an immanence of the Deity in certain
souls only. But this is not the opinion of the majority of the Sufis.
The high esteem which they entertain for him is best understood by
comparing the account they give of his martyrdom with that by orthodox
writers. The latter runs as follows:

The common people of Bagdad were circulating reports that Hallaj could
raise the dead, and that the Jinn[21] were his slaves, and brought him
whatever he desired. Hamid, the vizier of the Caliph Muqtadir, was much
disturbed by this, and requested the Caliph to have Hallaj and his
partizans arrested. But the grand chamberlain Nasir was strongly in his
favour, and opposed this; his influence, however, being less than that
of the vizier, Hallaj and some of his followers were arrested. When the
latter were questioned, they admitted that they regarded their leader as
God, since he raised the dead; but when he was questioned himself, he
said, "God preserve me from claiming divinity or the dignity of a
prophet; I am a mortal man who adores the Most High."

The vizier then summoned two cadis[22] and the principal theologians,
and desired that they should give sentence against Hallaj. They answered
that they could not pronounce sentence without proofs and without
confession on the part of the accused. The vizier, foiled in his
attempt, caused Hallaj to be brought several times before him, and tried
by artfully devised questions to elicit from him some heretical
utterance, but in vain. Finally he succeeded in finding in one of his
books the assertion that if a man wished to make the pilgrimage to
Mecca, but was hindered from doing so by some reason or other, he could
perform the equivalent of it in the following way. He should go through
all the prescribed circuits in a chamber carefully cleansed and closed.
In this chamber also he should give a feast of the choicest food to
thirty orphans, should wait upon them himself, make them a present of
clothing, and give them each seven dirhems.[23] All this, he maintained,
would be a work more meritorious than the pilgrimage itself.

The vizier showed to the cadi Abou Amr this passage which scandalised
him. Abou Amr then asked Hallaj, "Whence did you derive this idea?"
Hallaj quoted a work of Hassan of Basra, from which he said he had taken
it. "It is a lie, O infidel, whose death is lawful," exclaimed the cadi;
"the book you speak of was expounded to us at Mecca by one of the
learned, but what you have written is not in it." The vizier eagerly
caught up the expressions "O infidel," etc., which escaped the cadi in
his excitement, and asked him to pronounce sentence of death. The cadi
refused; that, he said, was not his intention; but the vizier insisted,
and ended by obtaining the sentence of death, which was signed by all
the maulvies present. In vain Hallaj sought to prove that the
condemnation was unjust. "You have no right," he exclaimed, "to shed my
blood. My religion is Islam; I believe in the traditions handed down
from the Prophet, and I have written on this subject books which you can
find everywhere. I have always acknowledged the four Imams[24] and the
first four Caliphs. I invoke the help of God to save my life!"

He was taken to prison. The vizier despatched the sentence of death,
signed by the maulvies, to the Caliph, who ordered that Hallaj should be
handed to the Chief of Police and receive a thousand strokes of the rod,
and then another thousand if he did not die from the effects of the
first scourging, and finally be decapitated. The vizier, however, did
not transmit the order accurately, but modified it as follows: "If
Hallaj does not die under the blows of the rod, let him first have a
hand cut off, then a foot, then the other hand and foot. Lastly let his
head be cut off, and his body burnt."

Hallaj underwent the terrible punishment with admirable courage, and
when his body had been burnt the ashes were cast into the Tigris. But
his disciples did not believe in his death; they were persuaded that a
person resembling him had been martyred in his place, and that he would
show himself again after forty days. Some declared that they had met him
mounted on an ass on the road leading to Nahrawan, and had heard him
say, "Be not like those simpletons who think that I have been scourged
and put to death."

Thus far the theologians' account. That given by Fariduddin Attar in his
"Tazkirat-ul-Aulia" is as follows:

This is he who was a martyr in the way of truth, whose rank has become
exalted, whose outer and inner man were pure, who has been a pattern of
loyalty in love, whom an irresistible longing drew towards the
contemplation of the face of God; this is the enthusiast Mansur Hallaj,
may the mercy of God be upon him! He was intoxicated with a love whose
flames consumed him. The miracles he worked were such that the learned
were thunderstruck at them. He was a man whose range of vision was
immense, whose words were riddles, and profoundly versed in the
knowledge of mysteries. Born in the canton of Baida in the province of
Shiraz, he grew up at Wasit.

Abd Allah Khafif used to say, "Mansur really possessed the knowledge of
the truth." "I and Mansur," declared Shibli,[25] "followed the same
path; they regarded me as mad, and my life was saved thereby, while
Mansur perished because he was sane." If Mansur had been really astray
in error, the two learned men we have just quoted would not have spoken
of him in such terms. Many wise men, however, have reproached him for
revealing the mysteries of truth to the vulgar herd.

When he had grown up, he was two years in the service of Abd Allah
Teshtari. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his return became a
disciple of the Sufi Junaid. One day, when Mansur was plying him with
questions on certain obscure and difficult points, Junaid said, "O
Mansur, before very long you will redden the head of the stake."[26]
"The day when I redden the head of the stake," rejoined Mansur, "you
will cast away the garment of the dervish and assume that of ordinary
men." It is related that on the day when Mansur was taken to execution
all the Ulama[27] signed the sentence of death. "Junaid also must sign,"
said the Caliph. Junaid accordingly repaired to the college of the
Ulama, where, after putting on a mullah's robe and turban, he recorded
in writing his opinion that "though apparently Mansur deserved death,
inwardly he possessed the knowledge of the Most High."

Having left Bagdad, Mansur spent a year at Tashter, then he spent five
years in travelling through Khorassan, Seistan and Turkestan. On his
return to Bagdad, the number of his followers largely increased, and he
gave utterance to many strange sayings which excited the suspicions of
the orthodox. At last he began to say, "I am the Truth." These words
were repeated to the Caliph, and many persons renounced Mansur as a
religious leader and appeared as witnesses against him. Among these was
Junaid, to whom the Caliph said, "O Junaid, what is the meaning of this
saying of Mansur?" "O Caliph," answered Junaid, "this man should be put
to death, for such a saying cannot be reasonably explained." The Caliph
then ordered him to be cast into prison. There for a whole year he
continued to hold discussions with the learned. At the end of that time
the Caliph forbade that anyone should have access to him; in
consequence, no one went to see him for five months except Abd Allah
Khafif. Another time Ibn Ata sent someone to say to him, "O Sheikh,
withdraw what you said, so that you may escape death." "Nay, rather he
who sent you to me should ask forgiveness," replied Mansur. Ibn Ata,
hearing this, shed tears and said, "Alas, he is irreparably lost!"

In order to force him to retract, he was first of all given three
hundred blows with a rod, but in vain. He was then led to execution. A
crowd of about a hundred thousand men followed him, and as he looked
round on them, he cried, "True! True! True! I am the Truth!"

It is said that among them was a dervish who asked him, "What is love?"
"Thou shalt see," Mansur replied, "to-day and to-morrow and the day
after." And, as it happened, that day he was put to death, the next day
his body was burnt, and on the third his ashes were scattered to the
winds. He meant that such would be the results of his love to God. On
his son asking of him a last piece of advice, "While the people of the
world," he said, "spend their energies on earthly objects, do thou apply
thyself to a study, the least portion of which is worth all that men and
Jinn can produce--the study of truth."

As he walked along lightly and alertly, though loaded with many chains,
they asked him the reason of his confident bearing. "It is," he said,
"because I am going to the presence of the King." Then he added, "My
Host, in whom there is no injustice, has presented me with the drink
which is usually given to a guest; but when the cups have began to
circulate he has sent for the executioner with his sword and leathern
carpet. Thus fares it with him who drinks with the Dragon[28] in July."

When he reached the scaffold, he turned his face towards the western
gate of Bagdad, and set his foot on the first rung of the ladder, "the
first step heavenward," as he said. Then he girded himself with a
girdle, and, lifting up his hands towards heaven, turned towards Mecca,
and said exultantly, "Let it be as He has willed." When he reached the
platform of the scaffold, a group of his disciples called out to him,
"What do you say regarding us, thy disciples, and regarding those who
deny thy claims and are about to stone thee?" "They will have a two-fold
reward, and you only a single one," he answered, "for you limit
yourselves to having a good opinion of me, while they are carried on by
their zeal for the unity of God and for the written law. Now in the law
the doctrine of God's unity is fundamental, while a good opinion is
merely accessory."

Shibli the Sufi stood in front of him and cried, "Did we not tell thee
not to gather men together?"[29] Then he added, "O Hallaj, what is
Sufism?" "Thou seest," replied Hallaj, "the least part of it." "What is
then the highest?" asked Shibli. "Thou canst not attain to it," he

Then they all began to stone him. Shibli making common cause with the
others threw mud at him. Hallaj uttered a cry. "What," said one, "you
have not flinched under this hail of stones, and now you cry out because
of a little mud! Why is that?" "Ah!" he replied, "they do not know what
they are doing, and are excusable; but he grieves me because he knows I
ought not to be stoned at all."

When they cut off his hands, he laughed and said, "To cut off the hands
of a fettered man is easy, but to sever the links which bind me to the
Divinity would be a task indeed." Then they cut off his two feet. He
said smiling, "With these I used to accomplish my earthly journeys, but
I have another pair of feet with which I can traverse both worlds. Hew
these off if ye can!" Then, with his bleeding stumps, he rubbed his
cheeks and arms. "Why do you do that?" he was asked. "I have lost much
blood," he answered, "and lest you should think the pallor of my
countenance betokens fear, I have reddened my cheeks." "But why your
arms." "The ablutions of love must be made in blood," he replied.

Then his eyes were torn out. At this a tumult arose in the crowd. Some
burst into tears, others cast stones at him. When they were about to cut
out his tongue, he exclaimed, "Wait a little; I have something to say."
Then, lifting his face towards heaven, he said, "My God, for the sake of
these sufferings, which they inflict on me because of Thee, do not
inflict loss upon them nor deprive them of their share of felicity.
Behold, upon the scaffold of my torture I enjoy the contemplation of Thy
glory." His last words were, "Help me, O Thou only One, to whom there is
no second!" and he recited the following verse of the Koran, "Those who
do not believe say, 'Why does not the day of judgment hasten?' Those who
believe tremble at the mention of it, for they know that it is near."
Then they cut out his tongue, and he smiled. Finally, at the time of
evening prayer, his head was cut off. His body was burnt, and the ashes
thrown into the Tigris.

The high opinion entertained of Mansur Hallaj by Fariduddin Attar, as
seen in the above account, has been echoed by subsequent Sufi writers.
Jalaluddin Rumi, the great mystic poet, says of him:

   "Pharaoh said 'I am the Truth,'[30] and was laid low.
     Mansur Hallaj said 'I am the Truth,' and escaped free.
   Pharaoh's 'I' was followed by the curse of God.
     Mansur's 'I' was followed by the mercies of God.
   Because Pharaoh was a stone, Mansur a ruby,
     Pharaoh an enemy of light, Mansur a friend.
   Mansur's 'I am He,' was a deep mystic saying,
     Expressing union with the light, not mere incarnation."[31]

Similarly Abdurrahman, the chief poet of the Afghans says:

   "Every one who is crucified like Mansur,
   After death his cross becomes a fruitful tree."

   [21] Spirits.

   [22] Judges.

   [23] A small coin.

   [24] The founders of the four orthodox Sects.

   [25] A celebrated contemporary Sufi

   [26] Referring to punishment by impaling.

   [27] Learned men.

   [28] i.e. God.

   [29] Koran V, v 70.

   [30] According to the Koran, Pharaoh claimed divinity.

   [31] Whinfield's Masnavi p. 248.


(D 773 AD)

Habib Ajami was a rich usurer of Basra, and used to spend most of his
time going about and collecting the money which was due to him. He used
also to insist on being paid for the time so spent. One day he had gone
to the house of one of his debtors, and when he had knocked at the door
the debtor's wife said to him, "My husband is not at home." "If he is
not," said Habib, "pay me for my lost time and I will go." "But I have
nothing," replied the woman, "except a neck of mutton." She fetched it
and gave it to him. Habib took it home to his wife, and told her to cook
it. "But," said she, "we have no bread or wood." So Habib went off
again, exacted his indemnity for lost time from another debtor, and
bought wood and bread, which he took home. His wife set about cooking
the food, when a dervish appeared at the door asking alms. "Go away,"
said Habib to him; "you won't become rich with what you get here." The
dervish departed in silence. Habib's wife prepared to put the food on
the plates, but when she looked into the cooking pot she saw a mass of
blood. Filled with terror, she said to Habib, "Your harshness towards
the dervish has brought this misfortune on us. All the food in the
cooking pot has turned to blood." Habib, frightened himself, repented,
and, as a pledge of the reality of his conversion, vowed to abandon the
practice of usury. The following day was a Friday. Habib, having gone
out, saw as he was walking along, children playing on the road. They no
sooner saw him than they said to each other, "Here is the usurer coming;
let us be off, lest the dust raised by his feet touch us and we become
cursed like him." At these words Habib Ajami was profoundly stirred, and
went off to consult Hasan Basri, whom he found in the act of preaching
on the terrors of the judgment-day. Habib was so overcome with fear that
he fainted. When he came to himself, he made public confession of his
sins in the presence of Hasan Basri and the congregation.

Then he left the mosque and returned home. One of his debtors, seeing
him on the road, attempted to get out of his way, but Habib called after
him and said, "Don't fly away; formerly you used to avoid me, but now it
is I who seek to avoid you." As he approached his house he met the same
children as before, and heard them say to one another, "We must get out
of the way, lest the dust raised by our feet should soil Habib, who has
repented." Habib, hearing this, exclaimed, "O Lord, in that very hour,
when, returning from my errors, I have taken refuge with Thee, Thou hast
put affection for me in the hearts of Thy friends, and changed into
blessings the curses which used to greet my name."

He remitted all the debts that were due to him, and gave public notice
that all his debtors had only to come and take back their bonds. They
all came and did so. Then he gave away all the wealth he had been
amassing for years, till he had nothing left. He built a hermitage on
the banks of the Euphrates, where he gave himself up to a devotional
life, spending whole nights in prayer. During the day he attended the
instructions of Hasan Basri. At the commencement of his religious life
he received the appellation "Ajami" (ill-instructed) because he could
not pronounce the words of the Koran properly.

After some time his wife began to complain, saying, "I must really have
some money; we have neither food to eat nor clothes to wear." At this
time Habib was in the habit of going every day to his hermitage on the
banks of the river, and spending the day in devotional exercises. In the
evenings he came home. One evening his wife asked him where he had been
during the day. "I have been working," he replied. "Very well, where are
your wages?" she asked. "My employer," said Habib, "is a generous
person. He has promised to pay me at the end of ten days." So he
continued spending his time as before. On the tenth day, as he reflected
in his hermitage, he wondered what he should say to his wife when he
returned in the evening, and she wanted something to eat. That day four
men came to the house of Habib. One brought a quantity of flour, another
a sheep, a third a jar of honey, and the fourth a bottle of oil. Not
long after them a fifth came with a purse of gold. They gave all these
to Habib's wife, saying to her, "Your husband's Employer has sent
these," and they added, "Tell your husband that his Master bids him
continue his work, and He will continue his wages." Then they departed.

In the evening Habib came home, pensive and anxious. As he entered the
house an odour of cooking greeted him. His wife hastened to meet him,
and said, "O Habib, go on working for your employer, for he is very
generous, and has sent all that you see here, with this message that you
are to go on working, and he will continue to pay you." Hearing this,
Habib became more confirmed than ever in his resolve to give up the
world and to live to God.

One day Hasan Basri paid Habib a visit in his hermitage. The latter had
two barley loaves and a little salt, which he placed before his guest.
Just as the latter was commencing to eat and in the act of stretching
out his hand, a dervish appeared at the door and asked for alms. Habib
immediately handed him the two loaves. Hasan, somewhat ruffled, said,
"Habib, you are a good man, but you would be none the worse for a little
culture and intelligence. Don't you know that one ought never to take
food away from before a guest? At any rate, you might have given one of
those loaves to the dervish, and left the other." Habib made no reply.
Some minutes afterwards a man came carrying in a napkin a roast lamb, a
large plate of sweetmeats, and some money. He set them before Habib and
said, "Sir, so and so sends you these with his compliments." Habib and
Hasan made a hearty meal, and Habib distributed the money to some
passing mendicants. Then he said to Hasan Basri, "My master, you are a
good man, but it would have been better had you shown more sincerity in
this matter, for then you would have possessed both knowledge and
sincerity, and the two go well together."

On another occasion Hasan Basri arrived at Habib's hermitage just as the
latter was commencing his evening prayers. Hearing him pronounce the
words "al hamdu[32]" as "al hemdu," Hasan said to himself, "This man
cannot pronounce the words of the Koran properly; it is impossible to
pray with him," and he said his prayers apart. That same night he saw
the Lord in a dream, and asked him, "Lord, what must I do to gain Thy
approval." An answer came, "O Hasan, thou hadst gained it, but didst not
appreciate its value. Thou shouldest have prayed with Habib Ajami. Such
a prayer would have had more worth than all those which thou hast made
in the course of thy life. The tongues of others may speak rightly, but
the heart of Habib feels rightly."

One day Hasan Basri, flying from the agents of Hejjaj ibn Yusuf, the
bloodthirsty governor of Irak, took refuge in Habib's hermitage. The
pursuers, arriving, asked Habib whether Hasan had passed that way. "No,"
he said, "he is here in my dwelling." They entered, and seeing no one
said to Habib, "O Habib, whatever treatment Hejjaj deals out to you, you
will have richly deserved it. Why did you lie to us?" "I tell you," said
Habib, "Hasan is within this dwelling; if you don't see him, what can I
do?" They again made a search, but not succeeding in finding Hasan,
departed. Hasan then came out of his hiding-place, and said, "O Habib,
is this the way thou repayest thy debt to thy master, by betraying
him?" "Master," answered Habib, "it is thanks to my truthfulness that
thou hast escaped. If I had told a lie we should have both been caught."
Hasan then said, "What words didst thou recite as a safeguard?" "I
repeated ten times," said Habib, "the 'Verse of the throne,'[33] ten
times 'Believe in the Apostle,'[34] six times 'Say, there is one God,'
and in addition I said, 'Lord, I entrust Hasan to Thee; take care of

Hasan then asked Habib how he had arrived at such a high degree of
sanctity. "I spend my time," he said, "in purifying my heart, while you
spend yours in blackening paper" (Hasan having written many theological
works). "Alas!" said Hasan. "Must then my knowledge benefit others, only
while I have nothing but the outward show of it?"

"We must not suppose," says Fariduddin Attar in narrating the above
incident, "that Habib had really attained a higher degree of piety than
Hasan; for in the eyes of the Lord nothing is higher than knowledge. The
doctors of Islam have said truly, 'In the spiritual path the gift of
performing miracles is the fourteenth stage, while knowledge is the
eighteenth. The gift of miracles is the reward of many works of piety,
while the knowledge of mysteries is revealed only to profound
meditation. Consider the case of Solomon, upon whom be peace! He
understood the language of birds, and yet, though arrived at such a high
degree of knowledge, he submitted to the Law given by Moses, and acted
according to its instructions.'"

Every time that he heard the Koran read, Habib used to weep bitterly.
Some one said to him, "You are a barbarian (the literal meaning of the
word 'Ajami'). The Koran is in Arabic, and you don't understand it; why
then do you weep?" "It is true," he said "my tongue is barbarian, but my
heart is Arab."

   [32] "Praise to God."

   [33] Koran c. 2, v. 256.

   [34] Koran c. 4, v. 135.


(AD 980-1037)

Avicenna, now best known as a philosopher, was perhaps better known in
the middle ages as a kind of magician owing to the mastery of medical
science. His father was a native of Balkh, but removed from that city to
Bokhara; having displayed great abilities as a government tax collector
he was appointed to fill that office in a town called Kharmaithen, one
of the dependencies of Bokhara. Here Avicenna was born. At the age of
ten years he was a perfect master of the Koran, and had studied
arithmetic and algebra.

The philosopher An-Natili having visited them about that time,
Avicenna's father lodged him in his own house, and Avicenna studied
under him logic, Euclid and the Almagest (an astronomical treatise of
Ptolemy). He soon surpassed his master, and explained to him
difficulties and obscurities which the latter had not understood. On the
departure of An-Natili, Avicenna applied himself to the study of natural
philosophy, divinity, and other sciences. He then felt an inclination to
learn medicine, and studied medical works; he treated patients, not for
gain, but in order to increase his knowledge. When he was sixteen years
of age, physicians of the highest eminence came to him for instruction
and to learn from him those modes of treatment which he had discovered
by his practice. But the greater portion of his time was given to the
study of logic and philosophy. "When I was perplexed about any
question," he says in an autobiographical fragment, "I went to the
mosque and prayed God to resolve the difficulty. At night I returned
home; I lit the lamp, and set myself to read and write. When I felt
myself growing tired and sleepy I drank a glass of wine, which renewed
my energy, and then resumed reading. When finally I fell asleep I kept
dreaming of the problems which had exercised my waking thoughts, and as
a matter of fact often discovered the solution of them in my sleep."

When he came across the "Metaphysics" of Aristotle, that work in spite
of his acuteness seemed to present an insuperable difficulty. "I read
this book," he says, "but I did not understand it, and the purport of it
remained so obscure to me that though I read it forty times through and
could repeat it by heart, I was as far from understanding it as ever. In
despair, I said to myself, 'This book is quite incomprehensible.' One
day at the time of afternoon prayer I went to a bookseller's, and there
I met a friend who had a book in his hand, which he praised and showed
me. I looked at it in a listless way and handed it back, certain that it
was of no use to me. But he said to me, 'Buy it; it is very cheap. I
will sell it you for three dirhems; its owner is in need of money.' It
was a commentary of Al Farabi on the metaphysics of Aristotle. I bought
it, took it home and began to read it. Immediately all my difficulties
were cleared up, as I knew the "Metaphysics" by heart. I was delighted,
and the next day distributed alms to the poor in order to show my
gratitude to God."

About this time the Emir Nuh Ibn Mansur, prince of Khorassan, fell ill,
and having heard of Avicenna's talent, sent for him and was restored to
health under his treatment. As a reward, Avicenna was allowed to study
in the prince's library, which contained several chests of rare
manuscripts. Here he discovered treatises on the sciences of the
ancients, and other subjects, the essence of which he extracted. It
happened some time afterwards that this library was destroyed by fire,
and Avicenna remained the sole depository of the knowledge which it
contained. Some persons even said that it was he who had set fire to the
library because he alone was acquainted with its contents, and wished to
be their sole possessor.

At the age of eighteen he had completely mastered all the sciences which
he had studied. The death of his father and the fall of the Samanide
dynasty forced him to quit those literary treasures which he had learnt
to appreciate so well. At the age of twenty-two he left Bokhara and went
to Jorjan, the capital of Khwarezm where he frequented the Court of Shah
Ali ibn Mamoun. At this time the celebrated Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni,
having heard that there were several learned men, and among them
Avicenna, at the Court of Mamoun, requested the latter to send them to
him. Several of them went, but Avicenna refused, probably because his
orthodoxy was suspected, and Sultan Mahmoud was a strict Sunni. Mahmoud
was much displeased at not seeing Avicenna appear at his court with the
rest, and sent descriptions and drawings of him in several directions in
order that he might be arrested. In the meantime, Avicenna finding the
allowance made to him at the Court of Mamoun insufficient, left Jorjan
and wandered through the towns of Khorassan. Finally he settled in a
little village near Balkh. There he composed the greater part of his
philosophical works, and among others the book on the "Eternal Principle
and the Return of the Soul." Some time afterwards he was called to
Hamadan to treat the Buwayhid Sultan Shams-ed Dawla, who suffered from a
dangerous gastric malady. He was successful in curing the Sultan, who
showed his gratitude by appointing Avicenna his vizier.

The affairs of State did not prevent Avicenna from carrying on his
studies, for during his stay at Hamadan he found time to commence his
exposition of the philosophy of Aristotle entitled the "Shifa" which he
undertook at the Sultan's request. At this time Avicenna presented the
rare spectacle of a philosopher discharging the functions of a
statesman, without injury to either statesmanship or philosophy. His
great physical energy enabled him to spend the day in the service of the
Sultan and a great part of the night in philosophical discussions with
his disciples. His writings, which date from this time, allow us to
judge with what success he pursued his philosophical studies, and we
have every reason to believe that he was equally successful in the
conduct of affairs, for, after the death of Shams-ed-Dawla, his son and
successor Taj-ed-Dawla requested him to retain the post of vizier.

Avicenna appreciated this testimony to his worth, but declined the offer
in order to devote himself to the completion of his great work, the
Shifa. But even in his studious retirement he was not out of reach of
political disturbance. Suspected of carrying on secret correspondence
with Ala-ed-Dawla, the governor of Ispahan, an enemy of Taj-ed-Dawla,
Avicenna was imprisoned in a neighbouring fortress. He would probably
have remained there a long time had not the fortune of war put
Ala-ed-Dawla in possession of Hamadan, Avicenna was liberated after an
imprisonment of four months. Despite this misadventure he succeeded
during his stay at Hamadan in completing the Shifa and several medical
treatises, besides, a little mystical allegory, "Hay ibn Yokdhan" ("The
living one, son of the Waking One"). This shows the mystical side of
Avicenna's philosophy, and we therefore subjoin an abridgment and
explanation of it.

"During my sojourn in a certain country, I used to make excursions with
my friends to pleasant spots in our vicinity. One day when strolling out
with them I met an old man who, in spite of his advanced age, seemed
brimful of juvenile ardour, being neither bent nor having white hairs.
We felt attracted by him and accosted him. After the usual salutations,
I opened the conversation by requesting him to inform us about himself,
his trade, name, family, and country. 'As to my name and family,' he
answered, 'I am called Hay ibn Yokdhan, and I was born in Jerusalem; as
to my occupation, it consists in traversing all the regions of the
earth, always following the direction indicated by my Father. He has
entrusted to me the keys of all the sciences and guided me through all
ways even to the utmost bounds of the universe.' We continued to ask him
questions regarding different branches of science till we touched on the
science of physiognomy, on which he spoke with marvellous precision,
taking it as the starting point of a discourse which he delivered to

This exordium may be interpreted as follows: "During the sojourn of my
soul in the body I felt a desire under the guidance of my imagination
and my senses to examine whatever presented itself to me. While thus
engaged, I came in contact with active Intelligence (the old man), the
salutary effects of which I had long experienced and which had preserved
my vigour unabated. I commenced to examine the nature of this
Intelligence freed as it is from all material grossness and yet in a
certain way, linked to the material world. Since life includes the two
conditions necessary to actual development, consciousness and movement,
he calls himself 'Hay' 'the Living,' and adds 'ibn Yokdhan' 'Son of the
Waking,' meaning that he derives his origin from a Being higher than
himself, Who is always awake and has no need of repose. His birthplace
is the holy city of Jerusalem, free from all earthly stain, and his
occupation is to traverse the highest regions open to intelligence in
order to understand the nature of his heavenly Father, who has committed
to him the keys of all forms of knowledge. Thus, favoured by his help,
we arrive at Logic, a science which leads by sure and evident
conclusions to a knowledge of what is remote and occult. For this reason
logic is indicated by the term 'physiognomy' which judges of the hidden
by its outward manifestation."

After this commencement the allegory proceeds: "Logic," continued the
old man, "is a science whose income is paid in ready money; she brings
to light what nature conceals, and what may be a source of either joy or
sorrow; she points you out the way of freedom from earthly entanglements
and sensual propensities. If her healing hand touches you, it will give
you salutary support, but if your weakness cause you to stumble, you
will be exposed to ruin, accompanied as you always are by bad
companions[35] from which it is impossible to get free.

"As to thy nearest companion (imagination), he is a confused babbler,
abounding in futility and falsity; he brings you news in which truth and
falsehood are mingled together, and that, though he professes to be your
guide and enlightener. He often brings matters before you very
ill-suited to your dignity and position, and you must be at the pains of
distinguishing the false from the true in them. But for all that, he is
very necessary to you, and would exert a healthy influence on you, if
his false witness did not lead you into error.

"But your companion on the right (irascibility) is still more impetuous,
and it is only with the greatest difficulty that his attacks can be
repulsed by reason or avoided by dexterity. He is like a blazing fire, a
rushing torrent, a runaway horse, or a lioness deprived of its young.
Similarly with your left-hand companion (carnal concupiscence) whose
evil influence springs from insatiable appetite; he is like a famished
beast let loose to graze. Such are your companions, unhappy mortal, to
whom you are tied, and from whom no release is to be obtained except by
migrating to those countries where such creatures are unknown. But till
you are allowed to do so, your hand at any rate must tame them; beware
of flinging the rein on their necks and giving them free course; if you
hold the reins tight they will submit, and you will be master."

"After I had heard this description of my companions, I began to
recognise the justice of it, and accordingly I varied gentleness and
severity in my treatment of them. Alternately I and they had the upper
hand. But I constantly invoked the help of God in this respect, until I
was delivered. Meanwhile I prepared for the journey, and the old man
added this last counsel: 'You and those like you will be constantly
impeded in this journey, and the road will be very difficult for you,
unless you can succeed in quitting this world for ever; but you cannot
hasten the time fixed by God. You must therefore be content with a
frequently interrupted progress; sometimes you will make way, sometimes
you will be at the beck and call of your companions. When you apply
yourself with your whole heart to making progress, you will succeed, and
your companions will lose all influence over you; but if you connive at
their importunities, they will conquer you, and you will altogether lose
touch with me.'

"I then asked the old man for information on the various regions of the
universe, of which he possessed ample knowledge, and he replied: 'The
universe has three parts; first, the visible heaven and earth, the
nature of which is ascertainable by ordinary observation: But as to the
other two parts, they are marvellous indeed; one is on the East, the
other on the West. Each of these regions is separated from our world by
a barrier which only a few elect souls succeed in passing, and that only
by divine grace; the man who relies only on his natural powers is
excluded from them. What makes the passage thither easier is to wash in
the flowing waters of the fountain whose source is close to a stagnant
pool.[36] The traveller who has found the way to it and is refreshed by
its healing waters, will feel himself endued with a marvellous energy,
which will help him to traverse savage deserts. Unfatigued he will scale
the heights of Mount Kaf, and the guardians of hell will lose all power
to seize him and to cast him into the abyss.'

"We asked him to explain more precisely the situation of this fountain,
and he said: 'You are doubtless aware that perpetual darkness surrounds
the pole[37] unpenetrated by any ray of light till God permits. But he
who fearlessly enters this darkness will emerge into a clearly lighted
plain, where he will find this springing fountain.

"We then asked him to tell us more about the Western region bordering
our earth, of which he had spoken, and he gave us the following

"'In the extreme West is an immense sea called in the Divine
Revelation[38] "the miry sea," where the sun sets and along which
stretches a desolate and sterile land, where the inhabitants never abide
but are always passing away, and which is covered by thick darkness.
Those who go there are exposed to every kind of illusion. The sun only
gives a feeble light, the soil is completely barren, whatever is built
there is soon destroyed again, conflict and strife perpetually rage
there, whatever gets the upper hand tyrannises over those which were in
power before it. There are found all kinds of animals and plants passing
through strange developments.

"'Now if you turn to the East[39] you will see a region where there is
no human being, nor plant, nor tree, nor animal; it is an immense and
empty plain. Crossing it, you will reach a mountainous region, where are
clouds and strong winds and rapid rivers; there are also gold and silver
and precious stones, but no plants. From thence you will pass into a
region where there are plants but no animals, then into another where
there are animals but no men. Lastly you will arrive at a region where
there are human beings such as are familiar to you.

"'After passing the extreme limit of the East, you will see the sun
rising between the two horns of Satan, "the flying horn" and "the
marching horn." This latter is divided into two parts, one having the
form of a fierce animal, the other of a gross one; between these two
composing the left horn is perpetual strife. As to "the flying horn," it
has no one distinct form, but is composed of several, such as a winged
man, a serpent with a swine's head, or merely a foot or an arm. The
human soul which rules this region has established five ways of
communication under the care of a watchman who takes whatever comes
along them and passes it on to a treasurer who presents it to the King.

"'The two horns continually attack the human soul, even to the point of
driving it to madness. As to "the marching horn," the fierce animal of
which it is partly composed lays a trap for man by embellishing in his
eyes all his evil actions, murder, mutilation, oppression and
destruction, by exciting his hatred and impelling him to violence and
injustice; while the other part in the shape of a gross animal
continually attacks the human soul by casting a glamour over vileness
and foulness and urging her thereto; nor does it cease its assaults till
she is brought into complete subjection. It is seconded in its attacks
by the spirits of the flying horn, which make man reject whatever he
cannot see with his own eyes, whispering to him that there is no
resurrection nor retribution nor spiritual Lord of the universe.

"'Passing hence, we find a region inhabited by beings of angelic origin,
free from the defects above-mentioned. They enter into communication
with man, and contribute towards his spiritual progress. These are the
intellectual faculties, which, though they are far below the pure
Intelligences, have an instinctive desire to shake off the yoke of
irascibility and concupiscence. Beyond this region is that of the
angels, and further still, one directly governed by the Great King, and
dwelt in by his faithful servants, who are engaged in fulfilling His
commands. These are free from all evil inclination, whether to
concupiscence or injustice or envy or idleness. To them is committed the
defence of the frontier of this Kingdom, which they guard in person.
Allotted to different parts, they occupy lofty forts constructed of
crystal and precious stones, which surpass in durability all that may be
found in the region of earth. They are immortal, and subject to no
feebleness nor decay of force in discharging their duties.

"'Beyond this region again are beings in immediate and continual
relation with the supreme King, constantly occupied in His service, and
never replaced by others. They are allowed to approach the Lord, to
contemplate the throne of His Majesty and to adore Him, enjoying the
sight of Him continually and without intermission. They have the
gentlest natures, great spiritual beauty, and a keen faculty of
penetration and of arriving at the truth. To each has been assigned a
distinct place and fixed rank, which can be shared by no one. Highest of
all is that unique being, the nearest to the Lord, and the parent of all
the rest. Active Intelligence[40]; it is by his mediation that the word
and commandment of the Lord go forth to all the other beings of

"'In this highest region all are pure spirits, having no relation to
matter, except in so far as innate desire may set them in movement or
cause them to move others. From such desire only, the Lord himself is
absolutely exempt.

"'Those who think that He had a beginning are in complete error, and
those who think to describe Him fully are beside themselves. In relation
to Him all description and comparison are impossible. Those who attempt
to describe Him can only indicate the distance which separates Him from
all human attributes; the beauty of being is represented in scriptural
language by His Face and His infinite bounty by His Hand. If even one of
the cherubims wished to contemplate His essence, he would be dazzled and
frustrated by His glory. Since beauty is the veil of beauty, His
manifestation must always remain a mystery, in the same way as the sun,
when lightly obscured by a cloud allows its disc to be seen, but when it
blazes forth in all its splendour, its disc is veiled from human eye by
excess of light. The Lord, however, is always communicating His
splendour to His creation without grudging or reserve; He imparts
Himself generously and the plenitude of His bounty is without limit: He
who has the least glimpse of His beauty remains entranced by it for
ever; sometimes saints of extraordinary attainments who have given
themselves up to Him and have been favoured by His grace, aware of the
worthlessness of the perishable world, when, from their ecstatic state
they return to it, are haunted for the rest of their lives by regret and

"Here Hay ibn Yokdhan closed his discourse by adding:

"'If I had not, in thus addressing you, been acting in obedience to the
commands of my Lord, I would rather have left you for Him. If you will,
accompany me on the path of safety.'"

Thus concludes this brief allegory, which, like Avicenna's other
mystical treatises, is concerned with the progress and development of
the human soul. According to him, the soul is created for eternity, and
the object of its union with the body is the formation of a spiritual
and independent microcosm. During our earthly life we have but a dim
presentiment of this future condition; this presentiment produces in
different characters a lesser or greater desire for it, and the
thoroughness of our preparation depends on this desire. This preparation
is only accomplished by the development of the highest faculties of the
soul, and the inferior faculties of the senses furnish the indispensable
basis for this.

Every human faculty has some pleasure corresponding to it. The pleasure
of the appetitive faculty for example, is to receive a sensation which
accords with its desire; the pleasure of the irascible faculty is
attack; the pleasure of the surmising faculty, hope; that of the
recollective faculty, memory. Generally speaking, the pleasures
attending these faculties consist in their realising themselves in
action, but they differ widely in rank, the soul's delight in
intellectual perception of realities, in which the knower and the known
are one, being incomparably higher than any mere sensual satisfaction.
By attaining to such perceptions, the soul prepares itself for the
beatitude of the next life. The degree of this beatitude will correspond
to the intensity of spiritual desire awakened in it during its earthly

It is extremely difficult, not to say impossible, to determine the
degrees of beatitude of the soul after death. We may, nevertheless,
understand that the various impediments of passions, prejudices, etc.,
to which its union with the body has given rise, are not immediately
dissolved on its separation from the body. Souls thus hindered may pass
into a state depicted by Plato and other ancient philosophers, in which
they are still weighed down by the passions they indulged in. Every soul
is eternal and imperishable, and will finally attain the beatitude for
which it was created. But it may be punished after death by a shorter or
longer exclusion from that beatitude. To suppose with Alexander
Aphrodisius that an imperfect or ill-prepared soul may be annihilated,
would be to admit a belief at complete variance with its eternal essence
and origin.

But we may well conjecture that the punishment of such ill-prepared and
refractory souls would consist in their being in a state in which after
separation from the body they still pine after sensual enjoyments and
suffer from the impossibility of such gratification.

It may also be supposed that such ill-prepared souls remember the
notions that were current in this world regarding beatitude and
damnation; their conceptions would in that case resemble dreams which
are often more vivid than impressions received in waking moments. They
would imagine themselves undergoing the examination in the tomb and all
the other punishments depicted in the Koran, or it may be enjoying the
sensual pleasures there described. On the other hand, the noble and
well-prepared soul will pass at once to the contemplation of the
eternal, and will be exempt from every memory and every conception
relating to this world. For if anything of this kind remained in it as a
reminder of its union with the body, it would so far fall short of the
plenitude of its perfection.

Besides his mystical treatise "On the soul," Avicenna has left a short
but remarkable poem on the same subject, which runs as follows:--


"It descended upon thee from the lofty station (heaven); a dove rare and
uncaptured, curtained from the eyes of every knower yet which is
manifest and never wore a veil.[42] It came to thee unwillingly and it
may perhaps be unwilling to abandon thee although it complain of its
sufferings. It resisted at first, and would not become familiar, but
when it was in friendly union with the body, it grew accustomed to the
desert waste (the world). Methinks it then forgot the recollections of
the protected park (heaven), and of those abodes which it left with
regret; but when in its spiral descent it arrived at the centre of its
circle in the terrestrial world, it was united to the infirmity of the
material body and remained among the monuments and prostrate ruins. It
now remembers the protected park and weepeth with tears which flow and
cease not till the time for setting out towards the protected park
approacheth; till the instant of departure for the vast plain (the
spiritual world) draweth nigh. It then cooeth on the top of a lofty
pinnacle (for knowledge can exalt all who were not exalted) and it has
come to the knowledge of every mystery in the universe, while yet its
tattered vest hath not been mended.[43]

"Its descent was predestined so that it might hear what it had not
heard, else why did it descend from the high and lofty heaven to the
depth of the low and humble earth? If God sent it down by a decision of
His will, His motive is concealed from the intelligence of man. Why did
it descend to be withheld from the exalted summit of heaven by the
coarse net of the body, and to be detained in a cage? It is like a flash
of lightning shining over the meadow, and disappearing as if it had
never gleamed."

Although Avicenna's reputation in the Muhammedan world has always been
high, his mystical treatises have generally been regarded as heretical,
and many have only been preserved in Hebrew translations. He himself
says explicitly that he only intended them for his most intimate
disciples, and forbade them to be communicated to the multitude. For his
own part, he conformed to the religious law and customs. The celebrated
contemporary Sufi Abou Said Abi'l Khair having asked his opinion
regarding the custom of praying for the dead, and visiting their tombs,
he answers thus:

"God the Unique Being and Source of all that exists--angels,
intelligences exempt from connection with matter, souls united to
matter, elements in all their varied developments--animal, vegetable and
mineral, inspires His whole creation, and His omniscience embraces all.
His influence in the first place acts immediately on the Active
Intelligences and angels, who in their turn act on souls which in their
turn act on our sublunary world. If there were not homogeneity of
substance between celestial and terrestrial souls and likeness between
the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of man, the knowledge
of God would be impossible for us, as the Prophet himself hath said, 'He
who knows himself, knows God.' All creation, whose parts are linked
together, is subject to influences which all derive from a single
source--God. Terrestrial souls differ widely in rank; the highest are
endowed with gifts of prophecy, and perfected so far that they attain
the sphere of pure intelligence. A soul of this kind entering after
death into eternal beatitude, shared with its peers, continues along
with them to exercise a certain influence on terrestrial souls. The
object of prayer for the dead and visiting their tombs is to beg for the
help of those pure souls, a help which is realised sometimes in a
material, sometimes in a spiritual way. The former kind of help may be
compared with the direction which the body receives from the brain;
spiritual assistance is realised by the purification of the mind from
every thought but that of God."

Avicenna, after his liberation from imprisonment by Ala-ed-Dowla, being
anxious to quit Hamadan, left the city secretly with his brother, his
disciple Joujani and two servants, all five disguised as Sufis. After a
painful journey they reached Ispahan, where they were received in a
friendly manner by Ala-ed-Dowla. Avicenna here continued to hold
philosophical discussions as he had done at Hamadan. At Ispahan he also
composed two of his most important works, the "Shifa" and the "Najat,"
treating of medicine. Later on he followed Ala-ed-Dowla to Bagdad, but
on the way was seized with a gastric malady, accompanied by an attack of
apoplexy. He recovered at the time, but not long afterwards the sickness
returned, and he died at the age of 57, A.D. 1037.

In his Literary History of Persia (vo. II., p. 108) Professor Browne
points out that one of the most celebrated stanzas in Fitzgerald's
translation of Omar Khayyam was really composed by Avicenna:--

   "Up from earth's centre through the Seventh Gate
   I rose, and on the throne of Saturn sate,
   And many a knot unravelled by the road,
   But not the master-knot of human fate."

Another interesting link between the two philosophers is supplied by the
fact, mentioned by Professor Browne, that a few days before his death
Omar Khayyam was reading in the "Shifa" of Avicenna the chapter treating
of the One and of the Many.

   [35] The bad companions of man which hinder his intellectual
   progress are unregulated imagination, irascibility and carnal
   concupiscence. Death alone delivers him and transports him to the
   celestial country of true repose.

   [36] The flowing waters signify logic and metaphysics, which help
   man to attain to the unknown. Because they provoke argument and
   discussion, they are called "flowing." The stagnant pool
   signifies positive science, which is the basis of philosophy. The
   man who is refreshed by the flowing waters of philosophy will
   grasp the scheme of the universe without losing himself in the
   confusion of details; he will scale the heights of science (the
   encircling mountain of Kaf) without being held back by worldly

   [37] The pole surrounded by darkness signifies the soul of man
   which, though intended to govern the body, is without any power
   to attain truth unless guided by divine grace, but then it will
   emerge into the full light and attain the end for which it was

   [38] Koran, c. 18, v. 84. The "miry sea" indicates _Matter_
   stirred into life by the setting sun (Form), entering at every
   moment into union with some new form, birth and death and ebb and
   flow proceeding in ceaseless change.

   [39] In the kingdom of _Form_ at first nothing is found but the
   four elements mingled with each other, developed successively
   through mineral, vegetable and animal stages. After the last is
   found pure intellect struggling with powerful opponents, that is
   to say, the various human faculties. "The flying horn" signifies
   imaginitive faculties; "the marching horn" the passions, the
   fierce animal representing irascibility, and the gross one,
   concupiscence. "The flying horn," irregulated imagination, is in
   need of constant supervision by the human soul. The watchman is
   the perceptive faculty, which, gathering the various impressions
   of the five senses, conveys them to the King, the human soul.

   [40] c.f. the Logos of Philo.

   [41] c.f. Lowell

          "Perhaps the _longing_ to be so,
          Helps make the soul immortal."

   [42] The existence of the soul, though not manifest to the
   senses, is yet too manifest to leave any doubt.

   [43] The tattered vest of the soul or the body destroyed by death
   is not mended till the day of resurrection; and yet the soul is
   in heaven and in the enjoyment of all knowledge.


(AD 1058--1111)

Al Ghazzali is one of the deepest thinkers, greatest theologians and
profoundest moralists of Islam. In all Muhammadan lands he is celebrated
both as an apologist of orthodoxy and a warm advocate of Sufi mysticism.
Intimately acquainted with all the learning of his time, he was not only
one of the numerous oriental philosophers who traverse every sphere of
intellectual activity, but one of those rarer minds whose originality is
not crushed by their learning. He was imbued with a sacred enthusiasm
for the triumph of his faith, and his whole life was dedicated to one
purpose--the defence of Islam. As Browning says, "he made life consist
of one idea." His full name was Abu Hamid Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn
Ahmed Algazzali, and he was born at Tus in Khorassan, 1058 A.D., where a
generation earlier Firdausi, the author of the Shahnama, had died. Tus
was already famous for learning and culture, and later on Ghazzali's own
fame caused the town to become a centre of pilgrimage for pious Moslems,
till it was laid in ruins by Genghis Khan, a century after Ghazzali's

His birth occurred at a time when the power of the Caliphs had been long
on the wane, and the Turkish militia, like the Pretorian guards of the
later Roman empire, were the real dispensers of power. While the
political unity of Islam had been broken up into a number of
mutually-opposed states, Islam itself was threatened by dangers from
without. In Spain, Alphonso II. had begun to press the Moors hardly.
Before Ghazzali was forty, Peter the Hermit was preaching the First
Crusade, and during his lifetime Baldwin of Bouillon was proclaimed King
in the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem. But more serious than these outer
foes was the great schism which had split Islam into the two great
opposing parties of Shiahs and Sunnis--a schism which was embittered and
complicated by the struggle of rival dynasties for power. While the
Shiites prevailed in Egypt and Persia, the Turks and Seljuks were
Sunnis. In Bagdad the seat of the Caliphate during the reign of Al
Kasim, when Ghazzali was a youth, fatal encounters between the two
contending factions were of daily occurrence. Ghazzali's native city was
Shiite, and not till Khorassan had been conquered by the Ghaznevides and
Seljuks did Sunni teaching prevail there. Yet, however bitterly Shiahs
and Sunnis might be opposed to each other, they both counted as orthodox
and were agreed as to the fundamental principles of Islam, nor did their
strife endanger the religion itself. But besides the two great parties
of Shiahs and Sunnis, a mass of heretical sects, classed under the
common name of Mutazilites, had sprung up within Islam. These heretics
had studied Aristotle and Greek philosophy in Arabic translations, and
for a long time all that the orthodox could do was to thunder anathemas
at them and denounce all speculation. But at last Al Asha'ari, himself
formerly a Mutazilite, renounced his heresies, and sought to defend
orthodoxy and confute the heretics on philosophical grounds.

The Mutazilites had cultivated the study of philosophy with especial
zeal, and therefore the struggle with them was a fierce one, complicated
as it was by political animosity. The most dangerous sect of all was
that of the Ismailians and Assassins, with their doctrine of a hidden
Imam or leader. In some of his works Ghazzali gives special attention to
confuting these.

The whole aspect and condition of Islam during Ghazzali's lifetime was
such as to cause a devout Moslem deep distress and anxiety. It is
therefore natural that a man who, after long and earnest search, had
found rest and peace in Islam, should have bent all the energies of his
enthusiastic character to oppose these destructive forces to the utmost.
Ghazzali is never weary of exhorting those who have no faith to study
the Muhammadan revelation; he defends religion in a philosophical way
against the philosophers, refutes the heretics, chides the laxity of the
Shiites, defends the austere principles of the Schafiites, champions
orthodoxy, and finally, by word and example, urges his readers towards
the mysticism and asceticism of the Sufis. His numerous writings are all
directed to one or another of these objects. As a recognition of his
endeavours, the Muhammadan Church has conferred upon him the title of
"Hujjat al Islam," "the witness of Islam."

It is a fact worthy of notice that when the power of the Caliphs was
shattered and Muhammadanism, already in a state of decline, precisely at
that period theology and all other sciences were flourishing.

The reason of this may be found in the fact that nearly all the
Muhammadan dynasties, however much they might be opposed to each other,
zealously favoured literature and science. Besides this, the more
earnest spirits, weary of the political confusions of the time, devoted
themselves all the more fervently to cultivating the inner life, in
which they sought compensation and refuge from outward distractions.
Ghazzali was the most striking figure among all these. Of his early
history not much is known. His father is said to have died while he was
a child, but he had a brother Abu'l Futuh Ahmed Alghazzali, who was in
great favour with the Sultan Malik Shah, and owing to his zeal for Islam
had won the title of "Glory of the Faith." From the similarity of their
pursuits we gather that the relationship between the brothers must have
been a close one. Ibn Khalliqan the historian informs us that later on
Abu'l Futuh succeeded his brother as professor, and abridged his most
important literary work, "The Revival of the religious sciences." While
still a youth, Ghazzali studied theology at Jorjan under the Imam Abu
Nasr Ismail. On his return journey from Jorjan to Tus, he is said to
have fallen into the hands of robbers. They took from him all that he
had, but at his earnest entreaty returned to him his note books, at the
same time telling him that he could know nothing really, if he could be
so easily deprived of his knowledge. This made him resolve for the
future to learn everything by heart.

Later on Ghazzali studied at Nishapur under the celebrated Abu'l-Maali.
Here also at the court of the Vizier Nizam-ul-mulk (the school-fellow of
Omar Khayyam) he took a distinguished part in those discussions on
poetry and philosophy which were so popular in the East. In 1091
Nizam-ul-mulk appointed him to the professorship of Jurisprudence in the
Nizamiya College at Bagdad, which he had founded twenty-four years
previously. Here Ghazzali lectured to a class of 300 students. In his
leisure hours, as he informs us in his brief autobiography, "Al munkidh
min uddallal" ("The Deliverance from error") he busied himself with the
study of philosophy. He also received a commission from the Caliph to
refute the doctrine of the Ismailians.

In the first chapter it has been mentioned how a deep-seated unrest and
thirst for peace led him, after many mental struggles, to throw up his
appointment and betake himself to religious seclusion at Damascus and
Jerusalem. This, together with his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina,
lasted nearly ten years. Ibn Khalliqan informs us that he also went to
Egypt and stayed some time in Alexandria. Here the fame of the
Almoravide leader in Spain, Yusuf ibn Tashifin, is said to have reached
Ghazzali, and to have made him think of journeying thither. This prince
had begun those campaigns in Spain against the Cid and other Christian
leaders which were destined to add Andalusia to his Moroccan dominions.
By these victories in the West he had to some extent retrieved the
decline of Islam in the East. It is natural to suppose that the
enthusiastic Ghazzali would gladly have met with this champion of
Muhammadanism. The news of Yusuf ibn Tashifin's death in 1106 seems to
have made him renounce his intention of proceeding to Spain.

The realisation of Ghazzali's wish to withdraw from public affairs and
give himself to a contemplative life was now interrupted. The requests
of his children and other family affairs, of which we have no exact
information, caused him to return home. Besides this, the continued
progress of the Ismailians, the spread of irreligious doctrines, and the
increasing religious indifference of the masses not only filled Ghazzali
and his Sufi friends with profound grief but determined them to stem the
evil with the whole force of their philosophy, the ardour of vital
conviction, and the authority of noble example.

In addition, the governor of Nishapur, Muhammad Ibn Malikshah, had asked
Ghazzali to proceed thither in order to help to bring about a religious
revival. Thus, after an absence of ten years, he returned to Nishapur to
resume his post as teacher. But his activity at this period was directed
to a different aim than that of the former one. Regarding the contrast
he speaks like a Muhammadan Thomas á Kempis. Formerly, he says, he
taught a knowledge which won him fame and glory, but now he taught a
knowledge which brought just the opposite. Inspired with an earnest
desire for the spiritual progress of his co-religionists and himself,
and convinced that he was called to this task by God, he prays the
Almighty to lead and enlighten him, so that he may do the same for

How long Ghazzali occupied his professorship at Nishapur the second time
is not precisely clear. Only five or six years of his life remained, and
towards the close he again resigned his post to give himself up to a
life of contemplation to which he felt irresistibly drawn, in his
native city of Tus. Here he spent the rest of days in devotional
exercises in friendly intercourses with other Sufis and in religious
instruction of the young. He died, devout as he lived, in the
fifty-fourth year of his age, A.D. 1111. He founded a convent for Sufis
and a professorship of jurisprudence.

Ghazzali's activity as an author during his relatively short life was
enormous. According to the literary historians, he is the author of
ninety-nine different works. These are not all known to us, but there
are existing in the West a considerable quantity of them, some in Latin
and Hebrew translations, as he was much studied by the Jews in the
Middle Ages. A writer in the Jewish Encyclopædia says (_sub. voc._),
"From his 'Makasid-al-Falasifah' in which he expounded logic, physics
and metaphysics according to Aristotle, many a Jewish student of
philosophy derived much accurate information. It was not, however,
through his attacks on philosophy that Ghazzali's authority was
established among Jewish thinkers of the middle ages, but through the
ethical teachings in his theological works. He approached the ethical
idea of Judaism to such an extent that some supposed him to be actually
drifting in that direction."

Although Ghazzali was a Persian, both by race and birthplace, most of
his works are composed in Arabic, that language being as familiar to
Muhammadan theologians as Latin to those of Europe in the Middle Ages.
One of his most important works is the "Tahafut al falasifah,"
"Destruction of the Philosophers," which the great Averroes endeavoured
to refute. Somewhat in the style of Mr. Balfour's "Defence of
philosophic doubt," Ghazzali attempts to erect his religious system on
a basis of scepticism. He denies causation as thoroughly as Hume, but
asserts that the divine mind has ordained that certain phenomena shall
always occur in a certain order, and that philosophy without faith is
powerless to discover God. Although chiefly famous in the West as a
philosopher, he himself would probably have repudiated the title. He
tells us that his object in studying philosophy was to confute the
philosophers. His true element was not philosophy but religion, with
which his whole being was penetrated, and which met all his spiritual
needs. Even in his most heterogeneous studies he always kept before him
one aim--the confirmation, spread, and glorification of Islam.

It is true that more than one of his contemporaries accused him of
hypocrisy, saying that he had an esoteric doctrine for himself and his
private circle of friends, and an exoteric for the vulgar. His Sufistic
leanings might lend some colour to this accusation, it being a
well-known Sufi habit to cloak their teaching under a metaphorical veil,
wine representing the love of God, etc., as in Hafiz and Omar Khayyam.
Against this must be set the fact that in his autobiography written near
the close of his life, he constantly refers to his former works, which
he would hardly have done had he been conscious of any striking
discrepancy between his earlier and his later teaching. There is no
reason to doubt his previously-quoted statement that he "studied
philosophy in order to refute the philosophers."

He was, at any rate, intensely indignant at having his orthodoxy
impugned, as appears from a striking story narrated by the Arabic
historian Abu'l Feda. He tells us that Ghazzali's most important work,
"The revival of the religious sciences" had created a great sensation
when it reached Cordova. The Muhammadan theologians of Spain were
rigidly orthodox, and accused the work of being tainted by heresy. They
represented to the Caliph Ali Ibn Yusuf that not only this but all
Ghazzali's other works which circulated in Andalusia should be collected
and burnt, which was accordingly done. Not long after, a young Berber
from North Africa named Ibn Tumart wandered to Bagdad, where he attended
Ghazzali's lectures. Ghazzali noticing the foreigner, accosted him, and
inquired regarding religious affairs in the West, and how his works had
been received there. To his horror he learned that they had been
condemned as heretical and committed to the flames by order of the
Almoravide Caliph Ali. Upon this, Ghazzali, raising his hands towards
heaven, exclaimed in a voice shaken with emotion, "O God, destroy his
kingdom as he has destroyed my books, and take all power from him." Ibn
Tumart, in sympathy with his teacher, said, "O Imam[44] Ghazzali, pray
that thy wish may be accomplished by my means." And so it happened. Ibn
Tumart returned to his North African, proclaimed himself a Mahdi, gained
a large following among the Berbers, and overthrew Ali and the dynasty
of the Almoravides. This story is not entirely beyond doubt, but shows
the importance attached by Ghazzali's contemporaries to his influence
and teaching.

As an example of Ghazzali's ethical earnestness, we may quote the
following from his Ihya-ul-ulum ("Revival of the religious sciences").
He refers to the habit common to all Muhammadans of ejaculating, "We
take refuge in God." "By the fear of God," he says, "I do not mean a
fear like that of women when their eyes swim and their hearts beat at
hearing some eloquent religious discourse, which they quickly forget and
turn again to frivolity. There is no real fear at all. He who fears a
thing flees from it, and he who hopes for a thing strives for it, and
the only fear that will save thee is the fear that forbids sinning
against God and instils obedience to Him. Beware of the shallow fear of
women and fools, who, when they hear of the terrors of the Lord, say
lightly, 'We take refuge in God,' and at the same time continue in the
very sins which will destroy them. Satan laughs at such pious
ejaculations. They are like a man who should meet a lion in a desert,
while there is a fortress at no great distance away, and when he sees
the ravenous beast, should stand exclaiming, 'I take refuge in that
fortress,' without moving a step towards it. What will such an
ejaculation profit him? In the same way, merely ejaculating 'I take
refuge in God' will not protect thee from the terrors of His judgment
unless thou really take refuge in Him."

Ghazzali's moral earnestness is equally apparent in the following
extract from his work "Munqidh min uddallal" "The Deliverance from
error," in which he sets himself to combat the general laxity and
heretical tendencies of his time:--

"Man is composed of a body and a heart; by the word 'heart' I understand
that spiritual part of him which is the seat of the knowledge of God,
and not the material organ of flesh and blood which he possesses in
common with the animals. Just as the body flourishes in health and
decays in disease, so the heart is either spiritually sound or the prey
of a malady which ends in death.

"Now ignorance of God is a deadly poison, and the revolt of the passions
is a disease for which the knowledge of God and obedience to Him,
manifested in self-control, are the only antidote and remedy. Just as
remedies for the body are only known to physicians who have studied
their secret properties, so the remedies for the soul are devotional
practices as defined by the prophets, the effects of which transcend

"The proper work of reason is to confess the truth of inspiration and
its own impotence to grasp what is only revealed to the prophets; reason
takes us by the hand and hands us over to the prophets, as blind men
commit themselves to their guides, or as the desperately sick to their
physicians. Such are the range and limits of reason; beyond prophetic
truth it cannot take a step.

"The causes of the general religious languor and decay of faith in our
time are chiefly to be traced to four classes of people: (1)
Philosophers, (2) Sufis, (3) Ismailians[45], (4) the Ulema or scholastic
theologians. I have specially interrogated those who were lax in their
religion; I have questioned them concerning their doubts, and spoken to
them in these terms: 'Why are you so lukewarm in your religion? If you
really believe in a future life, and instead of preparing for it sell it
in exchange for the goods of this world, you must be mad. You would not
give two things for one of the same quality; how can you barter eternity
for days which are numbered? If you do not believe, you are infidels,
and should seek to obtain faith.'

"In answer to such appeals, I have heard men say, 'If the observance of
religious practices is obligatory, it is certainly obligatory on the
Ulema or theologians. And what do we find amongst the most conspicuous
of these? One does not pray, another drinks wine, a third devours the
orphans' inheritance, and a fourth lets himself be bribed into giving
wrong decisions, and so forth.'

"Another man giving himself out as a Sufi said that he had attained to
such a high pitch of proficiency in Sufism that for him religious
practice was no longer necessary. An Ismailian said, 'Truth is very
difficult to find, and the road to it is strewn with obstacles;
so-called proofs are mutually contradictory, and the speculations of
philosophers cannot be trusted. But we have an Imam (leader) who is an
infallible judge and needs no proofs. Why should we abandon truth for
error?' A fifth said, 'I have studied the subject, and what you call
inspiration is really a high degree of sagacity. Religion is intended as
a restraint on the passions of the vulgar. But I, who do not belong to
the common herd, what have I to do with such stringent obligations? I am
a philosopher; science is my guide, and dispenses me from submission to

"This last is the fate of philosophic theists, as we find it expressed
in the writings of Avicenna and Farabi. It is no rare thing to find men
who read the Koran, attend public worship at the mosque, and outwardly
profess the greatest respect for the religious law, in private indulging
in the use of wine and committing other shameful actions. If we ask such
men how it comes that although they do not believe in the reality of
inspiration, they attend public worship, they say that they practise it
as a useful exercise and as a safeguard for their fortunes and families.
If we further ask them why they drink wine, which is absolutely
prohibited in the Koran, they say, "The only object of the prohibition
of wine was to prevent quarrelling and violence. Wise men like ourselves
are in no danger of such excesses, and we drink in order to brighten and
kindle our imaginative powers.'

"Such is the faith of these pretended Moslems and their example has led
many astray who have been all the more encouraged to follow these
philosophers because their opponents have often been incompetent."

In the above extracts Ghazzali appears as a reformer, and it would not
be difficult to find modern parallels for the tendencies which he
describes. Professor D.B. Macdonald compares him to Ritschl in the
stress which he lays on personal religious experience, and in his
suspicion of the intrusion of metaphysics into the domain of religion.
Although intensely in earnest, he was diffident of his powers as a
preacher, and in a surviving letter says, "I do not think myself worthy
to preach; for preaching is like a tax, and the property on which it is
imposed is the acceptance of preaching to oneself. He then who has no
property, how shall he pay the tax? and he who lacks a garment how shall
he cover another? and 'When is the stick crooked and the shadow
straight?' And God revealed to Jesus (upon whom be peace). Preach to
thyself, then if thou acceptest the preaching, preach to mankind, and if
not, be ashamed before Me."[46]

Like other preachers of righteousness, Ghazzali strove to rouse men out
of lethargy by laying stress on the terrors of the world to come and the
Judgment Day. He was not one of those who think fear too base a motive
to appeal to; he strikes the note of warning again and again. Towards
the close of his life he composed a short work on eschatology "Al Durra
al Fakhirah" ("The precious pearl") of a sufficiently lurid character.
In it he says: "When you watch a dead man and see that the saliva has
run from his mouth, that his lips are contracted, his face black, the
whites of his eyes showing, know that he is damned, and that the fact of
his damnation in the other world has just been revealed to him. But if
you see the dead with a smile on his lips, a serene countenance, his
eyes half-closed, know that he has just received the good news of the
happiness which awaits him in the other life.

"On the Day of Judgment, when all men are gathered before the throne of
God, their accounts are all cast up, and their good and evil deeds
weighed. During all this time each man believes he is the only one with
whom God is dealing. Though peradventure at the same moment God is
taking account of countless multitudes whose number is known to Him
only. Men do not see each other, nor hear each other speak."

Regarding faith, Ghazzali says in the Ihya-ul-ulum:

"Faith consists of two elements, patience and gratitude. Both are graces
bestowed by God, and there is no way to God except faith. The Koran
expounds the excellence of patience in more than seventy passages. The
Caliph Ali said, 'Patience bears the same relation to faith as the head
does to the body. He who has no head, has no body, and he who has no
patience has no faith.'"

Ghazzali's philosophy is the re-action of his intensely religious
personality against the naturalistic tendencies of men like Avicenna and
Averroes. They believed in the eternity of matter, and reduced God to a
bare First Cause. He also, though sympathising with the Sufis,
especially on the side of their asceticism, was opposed to Sufistic
Pantheism. He conceived God chiefly as an active Will, and not merely as
the Self existent.

While his contemporaries were busying themselves with metaphysical
theories concerning matter and creation, Ghazzali laid stress on
self-observation and self-knowledge ("He who knows himself, knows God").
As St. Augustine found deliverance from doubt and error in his inward
experience of God, and Descartes in self-consciousness, so Ghazzali,
unsatisfied with speculation and troubled by scepticism, surrenders
himself to the will of God. Leaving others to demonstrate the existence
of God from the external world, he finds God revealed in the depths of
his own consciousness and the mystery of his own free will.

He fared as innovators in religion and philosophy always do, and was
looked upon during his lifetime as a heretic. He admits himself that his
"Destruction of the philosophers" was written to expose their mutual
contradictions. But he has no mere Mephistophelic pleasure in
destruction; he pulls down in order to erect. He is not a mere sceptic
on the one hand, nor a bigoted theologian on the other, and his verdict
on the Mutazilite heretics of his day is especially mild. Acute thinker
though he was, in him will and feeling predominated over thought. He
rejected the dogmatic and philosophic systems of his contemporaries as
mere jejune skeletons of reality, and devoted the close of his life to
study of the traditions and the Koran.

Like Augustine, he finds in God-derived self-consciousness the
starting-point for the thought, and like him emphasizes the fundamental
significance of the will. He sees everywhere the Divine Will at work in
what philosophers call natural causes. He seeks the truth, but seeks it
with a certain consciousness of possessing it already within himself.

He is a unique and lonely figure in Islam, and has to this day been only
partially understood. In the Middle Ages his fame was eclipsed by that
of Averroes, whose commentary on Aristotle is alluded to by Dante, and
was studied by Thomas Aquinas and the schoolmen. Averroes' system was
rounded and complete, but Ghazzali was one of those "whose reach exceeds
their grasp"; he was always striking after something he had not
attained, and stands in many respects nearer to the modern mind than
Averroes. Renan, though far from sympathising with his religious
earnestness, calls him "the most original mind among Arabian
philosophers," and De Boer says, "Men like Ghazzali have for philosophy
this significance that they are a problem alike for themselves and for
philosophy, because they are a fragment of spiritual reality that
requires explanation. By the force of their personality they remove
what hinders them in the construction of their systems without troubling
about correctness. Later thinkers make it their business to explain the
impulses that guide such men both in their work of destruction and of
restoration. Original minds like his supply food for reflection to
future generations."

   [44] Imam, _i.e._ leader.

   [45] A sect which declared the impossibility of arriving at truth
   except through an "Imam" or infallible guide.

   [46] D.B. Macdonald "Life of Ghazzali."


Fariduddin Attar
(AD 1119-1229)

Fariduddin Attar was born in the village of Kerken near Nishapur in
Khorassan, A.D. 1119 under the Sultan Sandjar. Some years after his
birth his father removed to Schadbakh, where he kept a druggist's shop.
On his father's death, Fariduddin carried on the business, whence he
received his cognomen Attar (druggist). His call to the religious life
was as follows: One day while he was seated in his shop surrounded by
servants busily attending to his orders, a wandering dervish paused at
the door and regarded him silently, while his eyes slowly filled with
tears. Attar sharply told him to be off about his business. "That is
easily done," replied the dervish; "I have only a light bundle to carry,
nothing in fact but my clothes. But you with your sacks full of valuable
drugs, when the time comes to go, what will _you_ do? Had you not better
consider a little?" The appeal went home. He promptly abandoned his
business in order to devote himself to a religious life. Bidding a
decisive adieu to the world, he betook himself to a Sufi convent,
presided over by Sheikh Ruknuddin. Here he resided for some time engaged
in devotional practices, and then made the pilgrimage to Mecca, where he
met with many devotees and conceived the idea of compiling a collection
of stories of the holy men of Islam. To this work he devoted several
years of his long life; he also composed a Pand-nama or "Book of
Counsels." But the work by which he is chiefly known is the
"Mantiq-ut-tair" or "Parliament of Birds," and of this we proceed to
give some account.

In this allegorical poem various birds representing mystics, unite
themselves under the leadership of the hoopoe in order to journey to the
court of the Simurgh, a mysterious bird whose name signifies "thirty
birds," dwelling in Mount Kaf, the mountain which encircles the world.
At the commencement of the poem there is a long debate between the
hoopoe and the other birds, who at first allege various excuses for not
undertaking the journey, while he rebukes them for their lukewarmness,
not concealing, however, the fact that the journey is full of peril, and
that though many start few will reach the goal. The hoopoe's description
of the road is as follows: "We have seven valleys to traverse.[47] The
first is the Valley of Search; the second the Valley of Love, which has
no limits; the third is the Valley of Knowledge; the fourth is the
Valley of Independence; the fifth is the Valley of Unity, pure and
simple; the sixth is the Valley of Amazement; last of all is the valley
of Poverty and Annihilation, beyond which there is no advance. There
thou wilt feel thyself drawn, but will have no power to go any further.

"(1) When thou enterest the Valley of Search, at every step new trials
will present themselves; there the parrot of the celestial sphere is as
mute as a fly. There thou must cast away all thy possessions and imperil
all thy riches. Not only must the hand be empty, but thy heart must be
detached from all that is earthly. Then the Light of the Divine Essence
will begin to cast upon thee some rays.

"(2) In order to enter the second valley (of love) thou must be made all
of fire; he who is not composed of fire will find no pleasure in that
valley; he must not think of the future, but be ready to sacrifice a
hundred worlds to the flames, if needs be. Faith and infidelity, good
and evil, religion and irreligion, are all one for him who has arrived
at the second stage; for where love reigns, none of them exist any more.

"(3) In the third valley (of knowledge) the progress of the pilgrims is
in proportion to their innate powers. In the path traversed by Abraham
the Friend of God, can a feeble spider keep pace with an elephant? Let
the gnat fly as hard as he may, he will never keep up with the wind.
Thus the degrees of knowledge attained to by the initiated are
different; one only reaches the entrance of the temple, while another
finds the Divinity who dwells in it. When the Sun of Knowledge darts its
rays, each is illumined in proportion to his capacity, and finds in the
contemplation of the truth the rank which belongs to him. He sees a path
lie open before him through the midst of the fire, the furnace of the
world becomes for him a garden of roses. He perceives the almond within
the shell, that is to say, he sees God under the veil of all apparent
things. But for one happy man who penetrates into these mysteries, how
many millions have gone astray? Only the perfect can dive with success
into the depths of this ocean.

"(4) In the fourth valley (of independence) thou hast done with
everything but God. Out of this disposition of mind, which no longer
feels the need of anything, there rises a tempestuous hurricane, every
blast of which annihilates whole kingdoms. The seven seas are then no
more than a pool of water; the seven planets are a spark; the eight
paradises are only a single curtain; the seven hells a mass of ice. In
less time than it takes the greedy crow to fill its crop, out of a
hundred caravans of travellers there remains not one alive.

"(5) The Valley of Unity which succeeds to that of Independence, is the
valley of privation of all things and reduction to unity, that is to
say, the attainment of a degree of spirituality, in which the Divine
Essence, apart from every attribute, is the object of contemplation.

"(6) In the sixth valley, that of Amazement, the pilgrim's lot is to
suffer and to groan; each breath he draws is like a sword; his days and
nights are passed in sighs; from each of his hairs distils a drop of
blood, which, as it falls, traces in the air the letters of the word
"alas!" There he remains in a state of stupefaction, and finds his way
no more."

To make the meaning of "Amazement" clearer, Attar gives the following
allegory. He supposes that the young companions of a princess wished one
day to amuse themselves at the expense of a slave. They made him drink
wine in which they had dropped a narcotic drug, and when he was asleep
had him carried to the harem. At midnight, when he woke, he found
himself on a gilded couch surrounded by perfumed candles, scent-boxes of
aloes, and lovely women whose songs ravished his ear. "Disconcerted and
stupefied," says the poet, "he no longer retained reason nor life. He
was no longer in this world, nor was he in the other. His heart was full
of love for the princess, but his tongue remained mute. His spirit was
in ecstacies. When he awoke in the morning he found himself again a
slave at his old post. The memory of the past night was so vivid that it
caused him to utter a cry; he tore his garments, and threw dust upon his
head. They asked him what was the matter, but he knew not what to reply.
He could not say whether what he had seen was a dream or a reality;
whether he had passed the night in drunkenness or in full possession of
his faculties. What he had seen had left a profound impression on his
mind, and yet he could not trace it out accurately. He had contemplated
Beauty beyond all words, and yet he was not sure whether he had seen It
after all. The only effect of his vision was a trouble of mind and

(7) At last comes the seventh valley, that of Poverty and Annihilation.
"But these words are insufficient to describe it; forgetfulness,
deafness, dumbness, fainting--such is the condition of the pilgrim in
this valley. One sun causes millions of shadows to vanish. When the
ocean is agitated, how can the figures traced on its waters remain? Such
figures are this world and the world to come, and he who knows them to
be nothing is right. He who is plunged in this sea, where the heart is
astray and lost, has by means of his very annihilation found immutable
repose. In this ocean, where reigns a constant calm, the heart finds
nought but annihilation."

Attar also illustrates the Sufi doctrine of annihilation (which
resembles the Buddhistic nirvana) by an allegory. "One night," he says,
"the butterflies were tormented by the desire to unite themselves with
the candle-flame. They held a meeting, and resolved that one of them
should go and experiment, and bring back news. A butterfly was sent to a
neighbouring house, and he perceived the flame of the candle which was
burning within. He brought back word and tried to describe the flame
according to the measure of his intelligence; but the butterfly who
presided over the assembly said that the exploring butterfly had
attained no real knowledge of the candle-flame. A second butterfly went
forth, and approached so close to the flame as to singe his wings. He
also returned, and threw a little light on the mystery of union with the
flame. But the presiding butterfly found his explanation not much more
satisfactory than the preceding one.

"A third butterfly then flew forth; he was intoxicated with love for the
flame, and flung himself wholly into it; he lost himself, and identified
himself with it. It embraced him completely, and his body became as
fiery-red as the flame itself. When the presiding butterfly saw from
afar that the flame had absorbed the devoted butterfly and communicated
its own qualities to it; 'That butterfly,' he exclaimed, 'has learnt
what he wished to know, but he alone understands it. Only he who has
lost all trace and token of his own existence knows what annihilation
is. Until thou ignorest thyself, body and soul, thou canst not know the
object which deserves thy love.'"

The foregoing terrible description of the seven mysterious valleys was
well calculated to discourage the birds, and Attar tells us that after
hearing it they stood with hearts oppressed and heads bent. "All
understood," he says, "that it was not for a feeble hand to bend this
bow. They were so terrified by the discourse of the hoopoe that a great
number died on the spot where they were assembled. As to the others, in
spite of their dismay, they consented to commence the journey. During
long years they travelled over hill and dale, and spent a great part of
their lives in pilgrimage.

"Finally, of all who set out, a very small band arrived at the goal.
Some were drowned in the ocean, others were annihilated and disappeared.
Others perished on the peaks of high mountains, devoured by thirst and a
prey to all kinds of ills.[48] Others had their plumes burnt and their
hearts dried up by the scorching heat of the sun; others fell a prey to
the wild beasts which haunted the road, falling panic-struck, without
resistance, into their claws; others died of sheer exhaustion in the
desert; others fought and killed each other madly for chance grains of
corn; others experienced all kinds of pains and fatigues, and ended by
stopping short of the goal; others, engrossed in curiosity and
pleasure, perished without thinking of the object for which they had
set out.

"When they started, their numbers were countless, but at last only
thirty arrived, and these without feathers and wings, exhausted and
prostrated, their hearts broken, their souls fainting, their bodies worn
out by fatigue. They had arrived at the Palace of the Simurgh. A
chamberlain of the King, who saw these thirty hapless birds without
feathers or wings, questioned them whence they came, and why. 'We have
come,' they answered, 'that the Simurgh may become our king. The love
that we feel for him has unsettled our reason. We have denied ourselves
all rest to follow the road that leads to Him. It is very long since we
started, and of our many millions, only thirty have reached the goal.
The hope of appearing here has buoyed us up hitherto; may the King think
kindly of the perils we have undergone, and cast upon us at least a
glance of compassion.' The chamberlain returned a harsh answer, and
ordered them to go back, telling them that the King had no need of their
homage. This answer at first cast them into despair, but afterwards,
imitating the moth which seeks certain death in the flame of the lamp,
they persisted in their request to be admitted to the presence of the
Simurgh. Their steadfastness did not remain unrewarded. The "chamberlain
of grace" came out, opened a door, and presented them with a document
which he ordered them to read. This contained a list of all the sins
which the birds had committed against the Simurgh. The perusal of it
caused them nothing less than death, but this death was for them the
birth into a new life."

Attar says: "By reason of the shame and confusion which these birds
experienced, their bodies became dust, and their souls were annihilated.
When they were entirely purified from all earthly elements, they all
received a new life. All that they had done or omitted to do during
their earthly existence passed entirely out of mind. The sun of
proximity burnt them, that is to say, their former existence was
consumed by the sun of the Divine Essence which they had approached, and
a ray of this light produced a life which animated them all. At this
moment they beheld themselves reflected in the Simurgh.[49] When they
stole a glance at Him, He appeared to be the thirty birds themselves;
when they looked at themselves, they seemed to be the Simurgh; and when
they looked at both together, only one Simurgh appeared. The situation
was inexpressible in words. They were all submerged in an ocean of
stupefaction, with all faculties of thought suspended. Without moving a
tongue, they interrogated the Awful Presence for an explanation of the
mystery of apparent identity between the Divinity and his adorers.

"Then a voice was heard saying, 'The Majesty of the Simurgh is a
sun-resembling mirror; whosoever contemplates Him beholds his own
reflection; body and soul see in Him body and soul. As you are thirty
birds, you appear in this mirror as thirty birds; if forty or fifty
birds came here they would see forty or fifty. Although you have passed
through many changes, it is yourselves only whom you have seen
throughout. Can the eye of an ant reach the Pleiades? Then how can your
inch of inkling attain to Us?

"In all the valleys which you have traversed, in all the acts of
kindness which you have done to others, it was by Our impulse alone that
you were acting. All this while you have been asleep in the Valley of
the Essence and the Attributes. You thirty birds have been unconscious
hitherto. The name "thirty birds" belongs rather to Us, who are the
veritable Simurgh. Find then in Us a glorious self-effacement, in order
to find yourselves again in us.'

"So they vanished in Him for ever, as the shadow disappears in the sun.
While on pilgrimage they conversed; when they had arrived, all converse
ceased. There was no longer a guide; there were no longer pilgrims; the
road itself had ceased to be."

Such is this allegory, or Sufi's "Pilgrim's Progress," which contains
nearly five thousand couplets. Attar varies the monotony of the long
speeches of the Hoopoe and the other birds by inserting anecdotes, of
which the following is one of the most striking:--


The Sheikh Sanaan was one of the saints of his age; four or five times
he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca; his prayers and fasts were
countless; no practice enjoined by the religious law was omitted by him;
he had passed through all the degrees of the spiritual life; his very
breath had a healing influence upon the sick. In joy and in grief, he
was an example for men, and, as it were, a standard lifted up.

One night, to his distress, he dreamt that he was fated to leave Mecca
(where he was then residing) for Roum (Asia Minor), and there become an
idolator. When he awoke, he said to his disciples, of whom he had four
hundred, "My decision is taken; I must go to Roum in order to have this
dream explained." His four hundred disciples accompanied him on the
journey. They went from Mecca to Roum, and traversed the country from
one end to another. One day, by chance they saw on an elevated balcony a
young and lovely Christian girl. No sooner had the Sheikh seen her than
he became violently in love, and seemed to lose all regard for his
religious duties. His disciples tried to rouse him out of his perilous
state, but in vain. One said to him, "O thou knower of secrets, rise and
perform thy prayers." He replied, "My 'mihrab'[50] is the face of my
Beloved; only thither will I direct my prayers." Another said, "Dost
thou not repent? Dost thou not preserve any regard for Islam?" "No one,"
he said, "repents more deeply than I do for not having been in love
before." A third said, "Anyone with intelligence can see that though
thou wast our guide, thou hast gone astray." He answered, "Say what you
like, I am not ashamed; I break with a stone the vase of hypocrisy."

To many similar remonstrances he made similar replies. At last, finding
their efforts of no avail, his disciples left him. Lost in a kind of
stupor, he remained the whole night motionless before the balcony.

In the morning the young Christian came out, and seeing that he did not
got away, understood that he was in love. He poured out a passionate
appeal, when she would have dismissed him, and refused to depart. At
last she said, "If thou art really in earnest, thou must utterly wash
thy hands of Islam; thou must bow to idols,[51] burn the Koran, drink
wine, and give up thy religious observances." The Sheikh replied, "I
will drink wine, but I cannot consent to the three other conditions."
She said, "Rise, then, and drink; when thou hast drunk, thou mayest,
perchance, be able." Accordingly the Sheikh drank wine, and, having done
so, lost his senses entirely, complied with her requests, and became her
abject slave. He then said to her, "O charming maiden, what remains to
be done? I have drunk wine, I have adored idols; no one could do more
for love than I have done." She, though she began to requite his
affection, wishing still further to prove him, answered, "Go, then, and
feed my swine for a year, and then we will pass our lives together in
joy or in sorrow."

So this saint and great Sheikh consented to keep swine for a year. The
news of his apostasy spread all over Roum, and his disciples again came
to remonstrate with him, and said, "O thou who disregardest religion,
return with us again to the Kaaba." The Sheikh answered, "My soul is
full of sadness; go whither your desires carry you. As for me, the
Church is henceforth my place, and the young Christian the happiness of
my life." He spoke, and turning his face from his friends, went back to
feed his swine. They wept, and looked at him wistfully from afar. At
last they returned sadly to the Kaaba.

Now there was a friend of the Sheikh, who happened to have been absent
when the Sheikh left Mecca. On the arrival of the Sheikh's disciples, he
questioned them, and learned all that had happened. He then said, "If
you are really his friends, go and pray to God night and day for the
Sheikh's conversion." Accordingly, forty days and nights they prayed and
fasted, till their prayers were heard, and God turned the sheikh's heart
back again to Islam. The secrets of divine wisdom, the Koran, the
prophecies, all that he had blotted out of his mind, came back to his
memory, and at the same time he was delivered from his folly and his
misery. When the fire of repentance burns, it consumes everything. He
made his ablutions, resumed his Moslem garb, and departed for Mecca,
where he and his old disciples embraced with tears of joy.

In the meantime the young Christian saw the Prophet appearing to her in
a dream, and saying, "Follow the Sheikh! Adopt his doctrine; be the dust
under his feet. Thou who wert the cause of his apostasy, be pure as he
is." When she awoke from her dream, a strong impulse urged her to seek
for him. With a heart full of affection, though with a feeble body, she
went to seek for the Sheikh and his disciples. While she was on the way,
an inner voice apprised the Sheikh of what was passing. "This maiden,"
it said, "has abandoned infidelity; she has heard of Our sacred
House,[52] she has entered in Our way; thou mayest take her now, and be

Forthwith, the Sheikh set out on the way towards Roum to meet her; his
disciples essayed to stop him and said, "Was thy repentance not real?
Art thou turning back again to folly?" But he told them of the
intimation which he had received, and they set out together till they
arrived where the young Christian was. But they found her prostrate on
the ground, her hair soiled by the dust of the way, her feet bare, her
garments torn. At this sight tears ran down the Sheikh's cheeks; she,
when she saw him, said, "Lift the veil that I may be instructed, and
teach me Islam."

When this lovely idol had become one of the Faithful, they shed tears of
joy, but she was sad; "O Sheikh!" she cried, "my powers are exhausted; I
cannot support absence. I am going to leave this dusty and bewildering
world. Farewell, Sheikh Sanaan, farewell! I can say no more; pardon me
and oppose me not." So saying, her soul left the body; the drop returned
to the ocean.

Other anecdotes which occur in the Mantiq-ut-tair are the following:--


One night Gabriel was near the Throne, when he heard Allah pronouncing
words of acquiescence in answer to someone's prayer. "A servant of God,"
said Gabriel to himself, "is invoking the Eternal just now; but who is
he? All that I can understand is that he must be a saint of surpassing
merit, whose spirit has entirely subdued his flesh. Gabriel wished to
know who the happy mortal was, but though he flew over lands and seas,
he did not find him. He hastened to return to the proximity of the
Throne and heard again the same answer given to the same prayers. In his
anxiety to know the suppliant, he again sought for him throughout the
world, but in vain. Then he cried, "O God, show me the way that conducts
to his dwelling." "Go," was the answer, "to the country of Roum; enter a
certain Christian convent, and thou shalt find him." Gabriel hastened
thither, and saw the man who was the object of the divine favour; at
that very moment he was adoring an idol. Then Gabriel said to God, "O
Master of the world, reveal to me this secret; How canst Thou hear with
kindness him who prays to an idol in a convent?" God answered him, "A
veil is upon his heart; he knows not that he is astray. Since he has
erred through ignorance, I pardon him, and grant him access to the
highest rank of saints."


One day the Prophet drank of a stream and found its taste more sweet
than rose-water. As he was sitting by the stream, someone came and
filled his clay pitcher from it, and the Prophet drank out of that also.
To his amazement, he found the water bitter. "O God," he said, "the
water of the stream and the water in the pitcher are one; disclose to me
the secret of the difference in their taste. Why is the water in the
pitcher bitter, and the other sweet as honey?" From the pitcher itself
came the answer. "I am old; the clay of which I am made has been worked
over and over again into a thousand shapes. But in every shape I am
impregnated with the bitter savour of mortality. It exists in me in such
a way that the water which I hold cannot be sweet."


A poor criminal died, and as they were carrying him to burial, a devotee
who was passing by stood aloof, saying that funeral prayers should not
be said over such an one. The next night, in a dream, the devotee saw
the criminal in heaven, with his face shining like the sun. Amazed, he
said to him, "How hast thou obtained so lofty a place, thou who hast
spent thy life in crime, and art foul from head to foot?" He answered,
"It is because of thy want of compassion towards me that God has shown
me mercy, though so great a sinner. Behold the mystery of God's love and
wisdom. In His wisdom, He sends man, like a child with a lamp, through
the night as black as a raven; immediately afterwards he commands a
furious wind to blow and extinguish the lamp. Then He asks His child why
the lamp is blown out."

"Night and day, O my child, the seven spheres carry on their revolutions
for thee. Heaven and hell are reflections of thy goodness and of thy
wickedness. The angels have all bowed down to thee.[53] The part and
whole are lost in thy essence. Do not, therefore, despise thine own
self, for nothing is higher than it. The body is part of the Whole, and
thy soul is the Whole. The body is not distinct from the soul, but is a
part of it, neither is the soul distinct from the Whole. It is for thee
that the time arrives when the rose displays its beauty; for thee that
the clouds pour down the rain of mercy. Whatever the angels do, they
have done for thee."


One night Sheikh Bayazid went out of the town, and found reigning
everywhere profound silence. The moon was shining at the full, making
the night as clear as day. The sky was covered with constellations, each
fulfilling its course. The Sheikh walked on for a long while without
hearing the least sound, and without perceiving anyone. He was deeply
moved, and said, "O Lord, my heart is pained. Why is such a sublime
audience-hall as Thine without throngs of worshippers?" "Cease thy
wonder," an inner voice replied to him. "The King does not accord access
to His Court to everyone. When the sanctuary of Our splendour is
displayed, the careless and the slumbering are without. Those who are to
be admitted to this Court wait whole years, and then only one in a
million enters."

       *       *       *       *       *

In his latter years, Fariduddin Attar carried his asceticism to such a
degree that he gave up composing poetry altogether. The story of his
death illustrates in a striking way the indifference to external things
cultivated by the Sufis. During the invasion of Persia by Jenghiz Khan
(1229 A.D.) when Attar had reached the great age of 110, he was taken
prisoner by the Mongols. One of them was about to kill him, when another
said, "Let the old man live; I will give a thousand pieces of silver as
his ransom." His captor was about to close with the bargain, but Attar
said, "Don't sell me so cheaply; you will find someone willing to give
more." Subsequently another man came up and offered a bag of straw for
him. "Sell me to him," said Attar, "for that is all I am worth." The
Mongol, irritated at the loss of the first offer, slew the saint, who
thus found the death he desired.

   [47] _i.e.:_ The stages of the Sufi's progress to God.

   [48] c.f. G. Meredith

                "Out of hundreds who aspire,
                Eighties perish, nineties tire;
          Those who bear up in spite of wrecks and wracks,
          Were seasoned by celestial blows and thwacks."

   [49] It should be remembered that the name Simurgh means "thirty

   [50] The niche in the mosque wall facing Mecca, towards which
   Muhammadans pray.

   [51] Christians are regarded as idolators by Moslems.

   [52] The Kaaba.

   [53] Alluding to the Koran (Sura 18) where the angels are
   represented as worshipping Adam by the command of God.


(1153-1191 AD)

Very few remains in writing, except their Persian poems, have come down
to us from the older Pantheistic mystics. In the Kingdom of the Caliphs
heretical books were suppressed by stronger measures than being placed
on the Index. To express views openly at variance with the established
religion was to imperil one's life. The Persian Sufis, therefore, who in
their mystical works generally used Arabic, veiled their views in a sort
of technical language, which was quite unintelligible to the
uninitiated. Still some works are preserved which give us an insight
into their tendencies.

The Sheikh Suhrawardy, who was a martyr to his convictions, must be
regarded as the chief representative of this free-thinking tendency in
Sufism. His works have been more appreciated by the Persians and Turks
than by the Arabs, among whom copies of them are no longer to be found,
while they may be met with in Turkish libraries.

Suhrawardy belonged to the orthodox school of the Shafiites, and gained
a great reputation for his learning. He studied jurisprudence in
Maraghah, then went to Ispahan, and later to Bagdad and Aleppo, where he
occupied himself chiefly with philosophical studies. He gave himself
the title "Disciple of the Spirit-world." In the Arabic biographies of
him, his teaching is said to have aimed at overthrowing Islam; this,
however, is always said of anyone who ventures to oppose the dominant
orthodox party. As a matter of fact, he founded a sect who bore the name
Ishrakiyya--"The Illumined." For them he composed a work, "Hikmat al
Ishrak," _i.e._, "The philosophy of illumination," containing mystical
and fantastic teaching. In Aleppo, where he finally took up his abode,
he seems to have exercised a powerful influence on Prince Malik Zahir,
the son of the famous Saladin. The orthodox party persuaded the latter
to pass sentence of death on him as a heretic, which sentence Malik
Zahir caused to be carried out (1191 A.D.), but not till he had received
a threatening letter from his father for his dilatoriness. Suhrawardy is
said when he heard the sentence, to have quoted a Persian verse:

   "It is not worth while to draw the sword."

By his own consent, he was then shut up in a separate chamber and
deprived of meat and drink till he passed into the world for which he
longed. His tomb is still preserved in Aleppo, where the memory of him
as "the murdered Suhrawardy" has by no means faded. The inhabitants say
that no tree or shrub will grow in the tomb-enclosure. His real
character has, for the most part, been forgotten, and he is represented
as a magician and sorcerer who possessed the philosopher's stone, and
knew how to make gold. Many even believe that he was never killed at
all, but disappeared, while a phantom was put to death in his place.
They say that at night weird sounds are heard from his grave.

These popular legends give us reason to suppose that Suhrawardy's life
and death in Aleppo really made an extraordinary impression on the
people, and that his teaching penetrated more deeply than Muhammedan
writers find convenient to admit. Suhrawardy's writings were preserved
from entire destruction by the Persians and Turks. The most important of
them are the above-mentioned Hikmat al Ishrak, Haikal-un-nur (The Temple
of Light) and others. From the two first a few passages may be quoted,
which suffice to show that the theosophy of this Persian Sufi took a
much bolder flight than that of the Arabian Sufis, and that for it Islam
was a mere outward form.

In the Hikmat al Ishrak we find the influences of two entirely different
schools of thought fantastically blended into an extraordinary compound
of philosophy and mysticism. In this, Neo-platonic ideas are brought
into connection with a theory of light obviously derived from
Zoroastrian doctrine, and both are variously modified by the influence
of Islamic monotheism and presented in the abstract terminology of the
Arabic Sufis. With these last, Suhrawardy found himself in harmony with
regard to their "ecstatic" stages and arrival at the knowledge of God by
way of intuition. He also betrays the influence of the Perso-Shiite
dogma of the hidden spiritual Imams, of whom only one is believed to be
on earth at any given time, and he is the highest spiritual and
religious authority among his contemporaries.

The following is an abridged translation of the preface to the "Hikmat
al Ishrak": "Long have ye, O worthy friends and companions--may God
protect you!--prayed me to write for you a book wherein I should
describe what has been revealed to me by way of inspiration in my lonely
contemplations and soul-combats. Spiritual science is no class privilege
reserved for the elect, behind whom the doors of the spirit-world are
closed, and thereby he who would learn somewhat of the supernatural is
excluded. Nay, He who graciously granted us this knowledge, He, the
Horizon of Illumination, is not miserly with the secrets of the other
world. The worst of all ages is that in which the carpet of free
spiritual investigation is rolled up, the wings of thought are cramped,
the gates of intuition closed and the road of contemplation barricaded.

"The world was never wholly without philosophy, and without someone who
cultivated it and was declared a philosopher by manifest proofs and
facts. This man is the real Caliph or representative of God on earth,
and his successors will be so, as long as heaven and earth shall endure.
The difference between the old and new philosophers only consists in the
variations of their phraseology and of their methods of exposition and
proof. All in common acknowledge the three worlds (the earthly world,
the spirit world, and the world of Deity); all alike are agreed in
Monotheism and in their fundamental principles.

"As regards the first teacher, Aristotle, it is clear that he is of
incomparable value, that his wisdom is great and his faculty of
penetration profound; yet we should not so exaggerate our reverence for
him as to undervalue his masters, among whom especially are to be
counted the travelling and law-giving philosophers, such as Agathodæmon,
Hermes, Æsculapius and others. The line of their succession is long;
the chief classes into which they may be divided are as follows: (1) The
Theosophist without philosophy; (2) the speculative philosopher without
theosophy; (3) the philosopher who is equally strong in both; (4) the
Theosophist who is strong in theosophy but mediocre or weak in
philosophy; (5) the philosopher who is strong in philosophy but mediocre
or weak in theosophy, etc. Now if the complete mastery of both
philosophic and theosophic science is found in one man, _this_ man is
the representative of God on earth. Failing such a person, the title
devolves on him who is complete in theosophy, though he may be mediocre
in philosophy. Failing him, the representative of God is he who is
complete in theosophy without possessing any philosophy at all. There
never fails to be in the world _one_ great theosophist.

"But the speculative philosopher, fully equipped in philosophy, has no
claim to the rule in this earth. For there is always a theosophist on
earth and he is better fitted for the post than the philosopher, as the
place of God's Vicar on earth cannot remain unoccupied. By this 'rule,'
however, I do not mean the possession of political power; only the Imam
who is also a theosophist _may_ take over the political power and
exercise it publicly, or he may rule in secret. In the latter case he is
termed the mystical pole ("qutb"); to him the rule belongs, even though
he live in the deepest poverty. If the political power should really
come into his hand, the age becomes illuminated; but if it lacks such
divine guidance, it is overwhelmed by darkness.

"It is nobler to aim at a high attainment at theosophy and philosophy
alike than to confine one's effort to one or the other. This book is
intended for those who devote themselves to both, and not to the latter
only; in it we address ourselves only to the untrammelled thinker in the
reign of theosophy; the lowest step which the reader of it should have
attained, if he would derive any benefit therefrom, is at any rate to
have felt a flash of the divine light reach him, and in some measure to
have made it his own. Whoever merely wishes to study philosophy, let him
attend the school of the Peripatetics; for that purpose it is good and
sufficient. Just as we form certain sense-perceptions and recognise
their conditions with certainty, and base further scientific
investigations upon them, so in the spiritual realm we form certain
perceptions and build upon them; but he who does not adopt this method,
understands nothing of philosophy."

Continuing, he assumes a peculiar theory of light, which betrays a
really Persian origin. One special light he designates by the old
Persian word "Isfahbad." The Godhead Itself he calls the "light of
lights." In other places he borrows from Neo-Platonism. He assumes a
region in the heavenly spheres where the ideal prototypes of existing
things are found. The saints and devout ascetics, according to him, have
the power to call those ideal prototypes into real existence, and these
can produce at their wish, food, figures or melodies, etc.

Suhrawardy's optimistic way of conceiving the world is peculiar for a
Moslem. While Islam regards the world as a vale of tears, and earthly
life as a time of temptation, he finds the evil in this world much less
than the good. The following sentences of his work are noteworthy:
"Know that souls in whom the heavenly illuminations are lasting, reduce
the material world to obedience. Their supplication is heard in the
Upper World, and fate has already decreed that the supplication of such
a person for such an object should be heard. The light which streams
from the highest world is the Elixir of power and knowledge and the
world obeys it. In the purified souls is reproduced a reflex of God's
light, and a creative ray is focussed in them. The 'evil eye' is only a
light-power, which influences objects and injures them." Soon after
Suhrawardy had been put to death, nearly the whole of his books were
committed to the flames by order to the Caliph Nasir.

   [54] From Von Kremer.



Jalaluddin Rumi has been called by Professor Ethé (in the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_) "the greatest pantheistic writer of all ages." However that
may be, he is certainly the greatest mystical poet of Persia, though not
so well known in Europe as Saadi, Hafiz and Omar Khayyam. Saadi,
Jalaluddin's contemporary, seems to have been conscious of this, for
when asked by the Prince of Shiraz to send him the finest poem which had
been published in Persia, he sent an ode from Jalaluddin's "Diwan."

Jalaluddin ("the glory of religion") was born at Balkh, in Central Asia
(1207 AD), where his father, Behauddin, was a professor of theology
under the Sultan Khwarezm Shah. His discourses were largely attended by
great and small, but for some reason he seems to have excited the
Sultan's displeasure. He therefore left Balkh with the whole of his
family and dependants, taking an oath not to return thither while the
Sultan was on the throne. Behauddin's way led him to Nishapur, where he
met the Sheikh Fariddudin Attar, who, pointing to Jalaluddin, said,
"Take care! This son of yours will light a great flame in the world."
Attar also presented the boy with his _Asrarnama_, or "book of
secrets." In every town which they visited the chief men came to see
Behauddin and listened to his teaching. Behauddin and his son made the
pilgrimage to Mecca, after which the former settled at Konia (Iconium),
in Asia Minor ("Roum"), whence the poet received the title "Rumi." Here
Behauddin obtained as great a reputation as he had done at Balkh, and on
his death Jalaluddin succeeded him as "Sheikh," or spiritual instructor.
He soon grew tired of the ordinary round of Mohammedan learning and gave
himself up to mysticism. This tendency of his received an additional
impulse from the arrival in Iconium of an extraordinary man, the fakir
Shams-i-Tabriz, a disciple of the celebrated Sheikh Ruknuddin.

One day Ruknuddin, when conversing with Shams-i-Tabriz, had said to him,
"In the land of Roum is a Sufi who glows with divine love; thou must go
thither and fan this glow to a clear flame." Shams-i-Tabriz immediately
went to Iconium. On his arrival he met Jalaluddin riding on a mule in
the midst of a throng of disciples who were escorting him from the
lecture hall to his house. He at once intuitively recognised that here
was the object of his search and his longing. He therefore went straight
up to him and asked, "What is the aim of all the teaching that you give,
and all the religious exercises which you practise?" "The aim of my
teaching," answered Jalaluddin, "is the regulation of conduct as
prescribed by the traditions and the moral and religious law." "All
this," answered Shams-i-Tabriz, "is mere skimming the surface." "But
what then is under the surface?" asked Jalaluddin. "Only complete union
of the knower with the known is knowledge," answered Shams-i-Tabriz and
quoted the following verse of Hakim Sanai:--

   Only when knowledge frees thee from thyself,
     Is such knowledge better than ignorance.

These words made a most powerful impression on Jalaluddin, so that he
plied Shams-i-Tabriz with questions and resorted with him to lonely
desert places for uninterrupted converse. This led to a neglect of
teaching on his part, and his pupils and adherents persecuted and
ridiculed Shams-i-Tabriz, calling him "a bare-footed and bare-headed
fakir, who has come hither to lead the pattern of believers astray."
Their treatment caused Shams-i-Tabriz to flee to his native city without
telling Jalaluddin. The latter, however, overcome by love and longing,
went after him, found him and persuaded him to return.

Shams-i-Tabriz did so, and for some time longer they lived in friendly
intercourse together; but Jalaluddin's disciples again began to
persecute the former, who departed to Syria, where he remained two
years. During this interval, in order to soften the pain of separation,
Jalaluddin instituted mystical dances, which he ordered to be
accompanied by the flute. This was the beginning of the celebrated order
of Mevlevis, or dancing dervishes, which has now existed for over six
hundred years, successively presided over by descendants of Jalaluddin.
Their gyrations are intended to symbolise the wheelings of the planets
round their central sun and the attraction of the creature to the
Creator. They exist in large numbers in Turkey, and to this day the
coronation of the Sultan of Turkey is not considered complete till he
is girded with a sword by the head dervish of the Mevlevi order.

Shams-i-Tabriz subsequently returned to Konia and perished there in a
tumult, the details of which are not known. To commemorate his friend
Jalaluddin composed his "Diwan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz," putting the latter's
name in place of his own as the author. It is a collection of spirited
odes setting forth the doctrines of Sufistic Pantheism. The following
lines on pilgrimage to the Kaaba afford a good instance of the way in
which the Sufi poets endeavour to spiritualise the rites of Islam:--

   Beats there a heart within that breast of thine,
   Then compass reverently its sacred shrine:
   For the essential Kaaba is the heart,
   And no proud pile of perishable art.

   When God ordained the pilgrim rite, that sign
   Was meant to lead thy thoughts to things divine;
   A thousand times _he_ treads that round in vain
   Who gives one human heart a needless pain.

   Leave wealth behind; bring God thy heart, Whose light
   Will guide thy footsteps through the gloomiest night
   God spurns the riches of a thousand coffers,
   And says, 'The saint is he his heart who offers;

   Nor gold nor silver seek I, but above
   All gifts the heart, and buy it with My love:
   Yea! one sad, contrite heart which men despise
   More than My throne and fixed decree I prize';
   The meanest heart that ever man has spurned
   Is a clear glass where God may be discerned.

The following ode, translated by the late Professor
Falconer, is frankly pantheistic:--

   I was, ere a name had been named upon earth,
   Ere one trace yet existed of aught that has birth:
   When the locks of the Loved One streamed forth for a sign
   And Being was none, save the Presence Divine.
   Named and name were alike emanations from Me,
   Ere aught that was 'I' yet existed, or 'We';
   Ere the veil of the flesh for Messiah was wrought,
   To the Godhead I bowed in prostration of thought;
   I measured intently, I pondered with heed
   (But, ah, fruitless my labour!) the Cross and its Creed:
   To the pagod I rushed and the Magian's shrine,
   But my eye caught no glimpse of a glory divine;
   The reins of research to the Kaaba I bent,
   Whither hopefully thronging the old and young went;
   Candahàr and Herat searched I wistfully through,
   Nor above nor beneath came the Loved One to view.
   I toiled to the summit, wild, pathless and lone,
   Of the globe-girding Kàf,[55] but the Anka[56] had flown!
   The seventh earth I traversed, the seventh heaven explored,
   But in neither discerned I the court of the Lord.
   I questioned the Pen and the Tablet of Fate,
   But they whispered not where He pavilions His state;
   My vision I strained, but my God-scanning eye
   No trace that to Godhead belongs could descry.
   My glance I bent inward: within my own breast
   Lo, the vainly sought elsewhere! the Godhead confessed!

Jalaluddin's chief work, the Masnavi, containing upwards of 26,000
couplets, was undertaken at the instance of one of his disciples and
intimates, Husam-ud-din, who had often urged him to put his teaching
into a written form. One day when Husam-ud-din pressed the subject upon
him, Jalaluddin drew from his turban a paper containing the opening
couplets of the Masnavi, which are thus translated by Mr. Whinfield:--

   Hearken to the reed flute, how it discourses,
   When complaining of the pains of separation:--
   'Ever since they tore me from my ozier-bed,
   My plaintive notes have moved men and women to tears.
   I burst my breast, striving to give vent to sighs,
   And to express the pangs of my yearning for my home.
   He who abides far away from his home
   Is ever longing for the day he shall return;
   My wailing is heard in every throng,
   In concert with them that rejoice and them that weep.'

The reed flute is one of the principal instruments in the melancholy
music which accompanies the dancing of the Mevlevi dervishes. It is a
picture of the Sufi or enlightened man, whose life is, or ought to be,
one long lament over his separation from the Godhead, for which he
yearns till his purified spirit is re-absorbed into the Supreme Unity.
We are here reminded of the words of Novalis, "Philosophy is, properly
speaking, home sickness; the wish to be everywhere at home."

Briefly speaking, the subject of the Masnavi may be said to be the love
of the soul for God as its Origin, to Whom it longs to return, not the
submission of the ordinary pious Moslem to the iron despotism of Allah.
This thesis is illustrated with an extraordinary wealth of imagery and
apologue throughout the six books composing the work. The following
fable illustrates the familiar Sufi doctrine that all religions are the
same to God, Who only regards the heart:--

   Moses, to his horror, heard one summer day
   A benighted shepherd blasphemously pray:
   'Lord!' he said, 'I would I knew Thee, where Thou art,
   That for Thee I might perform a servant's part;
   Comb Thy hair and dust Thy shoes and sweep Thy room,
   Bring Thee every morning milk and honeycomb.'
   Moses cried: 'Blasphemer! curb thy blatant speech!
   Whom art thou addressing? Lord of all and each,
   Allah the Almighty? Thinkest thou He doth need
   Thine officious folly? Wilt all bounds exceed?
   Miscreant, have a care, lest thunderbolts should break
   On our heads and others perish for thy sake.
   Without eyes He seeth, without ears He hears,
   Hath no son nor partner through the endless years,
   Space cannot contain Him, time He is above,
   All the limits that He knows are Light and Love.'

   Put to shame, the shepherd, his poor garment rent,
   Went away disheartened, all his ardour spent.

   Then spake God to Moses: 'Why hast thou from Me
   Driven away My servant, who goes heavily?
   Not for severance it was, but union,
   I commissioned thee to preach, O hasty one!
   Hatefullest of all things is to Me divorce,
   And the worst of all ways is the way of force.
   I made not creation, Self to aggrandize,
   But that creatures might with Me communion prize.
   What though childish tongues trip? 'Tis the heart I see,
   If it really loves Me in sincerity.
   Blood-stains of the martyrs no ablution need,
   Some mistakes are better than a cautious creed,
   Once _within_ the Kaaba,[57] wheresoe'er men turn,
   Is it much to Him Who spirits doth discern?
   Love's religion comprehends each creed and sect,
   Love flies straight to God, and outsoars intellect.
   If the gem be real, what matters the device?
   Love in seas of sorrow finds the pearl of price.'

A similar lesson is taught by the apologue of the "Elephant in the

   During the reign of an Eastern sovereign, he remarked that the
   learned men of his time differed widely in their estimate of the
   Deity, each ascribing to Him different characteristics. So he had
   an elephant brought in secret to his capital and placed in a dark
   chamber; then, inviting those learned men, he told them that he
   was in possession of an animal which none of them had ever seen.
   He requested them to accompany him to the chamber, and, on
   entering it, said that the animal was before them, and asked if
   they could see it. Being answered in the negative, he begged them
   to approach and feel it, which they did, each touching it in a
   different part. After returning to the light, he asked them what
   they thought the animal was really like. One declared that it was
   a huge column, another that it was a rough hide, a third that it
   was of ivory, a fourth that it had huge flaps of some coarse
   substance; but not one could correctly state what the animal was.
   They returned to the chamber, and when the light was let in,
   those learned men beheld for the first time the object of their
   curiosity, and learned that, whilst each was correct in what he
   had said, all differed widely from the truth.

Though a pantheist, Jalaluddin lays great stress on the fact of man's
sinfulness and frailty and on the personality of the Devil, as in the
following lines:--

   Many a net the Devil spreads, weaving snare on snare,
   We, like foolish birds, are caught captive unaware;
   From one net no sooner free, straightway in another
   We are tangled, fresh defeats aspirations smother;
   Till upon the ground we lie, helpless as a stone,
   We, who might have gained the sky, we, who might have flown.
   When we seek to house our grain, pile a goodly store,
   Pride, a hidden mouse, is there nibbling evermore;
   Till upon the harvest day, lo, no golden heap,
   But a mildewed mass of chaff maggots overcreep.
   Many a brilliant spark is born where the hammers ply,
   But a lurking thief is there; prompt, with finger sly,
   Spark on spark he puts them out, sparks which might have soared
   Perish underneath his touch. Help us then, O Lord!
   What with gin and trap and snare, pitfall and device,
   How shall we poor sinners reach Thy fair paradise?

Again, in contradiction to logical pantheism Jalaluddin lays stress on
man's free-will and responsibility, as in the following illustration:--

   On the frontier set, the warden of a fort,
   Far from his monarch and his monarch's court,
   Holds the fort, let foemen bluster as they may,
   Nor for fear or favour will his trust betray;
   Far from his monarch, on the empire's edge,
   He, with his master, keeps unbroken pledge;
   Surely then his lord his worth will higher own,
   Than their prompt obedience who surround his throne;
   In the Master's absence a little work done well
   Weighs more than a great one when his eyes compel;
   _Now_ is the time to show who faith and trust will keep,
   Once probation over, faith and trust are cheap.

However much individual Sufis may have fallen into Antinomianism and
acted as if there was no essential difference between good and evil, the
great Sufi teachers have always enjoined self-mortification, quoting the
saying, "Die before you die." This dying is divided by them into three
kinds: "black death" (suffering oppression from others), "red death"
(mortifying the flesh), and "white death" (suffering hunger). Jalaluddin
illustrates this by the following parable:--

   A merchant from India a parrot had brought,
   And pent in a narrow cage, sorrow-distraught
   With longing for freedom. One day the good man
   Determined to try with his wares Hindustan;
   So he said to his parrot, 'What gift shall I bring
   From the land you were born in--what curious thing?'
   The parrot replied, 'There are kinsfolk of mine
   Flying blithe in those woods, for whose freedom I pine;
   (Oh, the green woods of India!). Go, tell them my state--
   A captive in grip of implacable fate--
   And say, "Is it justice that I should despair
   While you, where you list, can flash swift through the air,
   Can peck at the pineapples, bathe in the springs,
   And spread in the sunlight your green-gleaming wings?"
   His message the man took, and made his word good
   When he came where the parrots flew free in the wood;
   But no sooner the message was given than one
   Like lead to the earth fell as dead as a stone.
   The merchant upbraided himself, 'It is clear
   This parrot of mine was a relative dear,
   And the shock has been fatal; myself am to blame.'
   When his journey was finished and homeward he came,
   His parrot inquired, 'Hast brought me a crumb
   Of comfort in sorrow where, caged, I sit dumb?'
   The merchant said, 'No; 'twas a pity you sent,
   For the message you gave proved of fatal content;
   As soon as I gave it one shuddered and fell
   Stone-dead, as if struck by some magical spell.'
   No sooner that bird's fate it heard, than his own
   On the floor of its cage fell as dead as a stone.
   'Alas!' cried the merchant, 'my own bird I've killed--
   My own pretty parrot, so Allah has willed!'
   Sadly out from the cage the dead body he drew,
   When, to his amazement, straight upwards it flew
   And perched on a tree. 'Lo! the message,' he said,
   'My friend sent--"Die thou, as I make myself dead,
   And by dying win freedom." Farewell, master dear,
   I caught the plain hint with intelligence clear.
   Thyself reckon dead, and then thou shalt fly
   Free, free, from the prison of earth to the sky!
   Spring may come, but on granite will grow no green thing;
   It was barren in winter, 'tis barren in spring;
   And granite man's heart is, till grace intervene,
   And, crushing it, clothe the long barren with green.
   When the fresh breath of Jesus shall touch the heart's core,
   It will live, it will breathe, it will blossom once more.'

The last couplet is a good illustration of the different ways in which
Christ is regarded by the Sufi poets and by Mohammed in the Koran. In
the latter, it is true, He is acknowledged as the Word of God and the
Spirit of God, but His work among men is done, having been entirely
superseded by the coming of Mohammed, the last and greatest of the
prophets. Jalaluddin on the other hand, as in the above couplet, speaks
of Christ as still exercising healing influences. Elsewhere he says,
referring to the Gospel narrative of Christ's entry into Jerusalem (not
mentioned in the Koran), and taking the ass as the symbol of the body
pampered by the sensualist:--

   You deserted Jesus, a mere ass to feed,
   In a crowd of asses you would take the lead;
   Those who follow Jesus, win to wisdom's ranks;
   Those who fatten asses get a kick for thanks.
   Pity keep for Jesus, pity not the ass,
   Let not fleshly impulse intellect surpass.
   If an ass could somewhat catch of Jesus' mind,
   Classed among the sages he himself would find;
   Though because of Jesus you may suffer woe,
   Still from Him comes healing, never let Him go.

In another place, speaking of the importance of controlling the tongue
because of the general sensitiveness of human nature, he says:--

   In each human spirit is a Christ concealed,
   To be helped or hindered, to be hurt or healed;
   If from any human soul you lift the veil
   You will find a Christ there hidden without fail;
   Woe, then, to blind tyrants whose vindictive ire,
   Venting words of fury, sets the world on fire.

But though he speaks with reverence of Christ, he shares the common
Mohammedan animus against St. Paul. As a matter of fact St. Paul is
rarely mentioned in Mohammedan writings, but Jalaluddin spent most of
his life at Iconium, where, probably, owing to the tenacity of Oriental
tradition, traces of St. Paul's teaching lingered. In the first book of
the Masnavi a curious story is told of an early corrupter of
Christianity who wrote letters containing contradictory doctrines to the
various leaders of their Church, and brought the religion into
confusion. In this case Jalaluddin seems to have neglected the
importance of distinguishing between second-hand opinion and first-hand
knowledge, on which he elsewhere lays stress:--

   Knowledge hath two wings, Opinion hath but one,
   And opinion soon fails in its orphan flight;
   The bird with one wing soon droops its head and falls,
   But give it two wings and it gains its desire.
   The bird of Opinion flies, rising and falling,
   On its wing in vain hope of its rest;
   But when it escapes from Opinion and Knowledge receives it,
   It gains its two wings and spreads them wide to heaven;
   On its two wings it flies like Gabriel
   Without doubt or conjecture, and without speech or voice.
   Though the whole world should shout beneath it,
   'Thou art in the road to God and the perfect faith,'
   It would not become warmer at their speech,
   And its lonely soul would not mate with theirs;
   And though they should shout to it, 'Thou hast lost thy way;
   And thinkest thyself a mountain and art but a leaf,'
   It would not lose its convictions from their censure,
   Nor vex its bosom with their loud reproof;
   And though sea and land should join in concert,
   Exclaiming, 'O wanderer, thou hast lost thy road!'
   Not an atom of doubt would fall into its soul,
   Nor a shade of sorrow at the scorner's scorn.

     (_Professor Cowell's translation._)

Like all quietists, Jalaluddin dwells on the importance of keeping the
mind unclouded by anger and resentment, as in the following little

   One day a lion, looking down a well,
   Saw what appeared to him a miracle,
   Another lion's face that upward glared
   As if the first to try his strength he dared.
   Furious, the lion took a sudden leap
   And o'er him closed the placid waters deep.
   Thou who dost blame injustice in mankind,
   'Tis but the image of thine own dark mind;
   In them reflected clear thy nature is
   With all its angles and obliquities.
   Around thyself thyself the noose hast thrown,
   Like that mad beast precipitate and prone;
   Face answereth to face, and heart to heart,
   As in the well that lion's counterpart.
   'Back to each other we reflections throw,'
   So spake Arabia's Prophet long ago;
   And he, who views men through self's murky glass,
   Proclaims himself no lion, but an ass.

As Ghazzali had done before him, Jalaluddin sees in the phenomena of
sleep a picture of the state of mind which should be cultivated by the
true Sufi, "dead to this world and alive to God":--

   Every night, O God, from the net of the body
   Thou releasest our souls and makest them like blank tablets;
   Every night thou releasest them from their cages
   And settest them free: none is master or slave.
   At night the prisoners forget their prisons,
   At night the monarchs forget their wealth:
   No sorrow, no care, no profit, no loss,
   No thought or fear of this man or that.
   Such is the state of the Sufi in this world,
   Like the seven sleepers[58] he sleeps open-eyed,
   Dead to worldly affairs, day and night,
   Like a pen held in the hand of his Lord.

     --(_Professor Cowell._)

As we have seen, Jalaluddin's conception of God is a far higher one than
is embodied in the orthodox formula of the Koran, "Say: God is One. He
neither begetteth nor is begotten." With Jalaluddin God is far more
immanent than transcendent. In one place he says, "He who beholdeth God
is godlike," and in another, "Our attributes are copies of His
attributes." In a remarkable passage anticipating the theory of
Evolution he portrays man ascending through the various stages of
existence back to his Origin:--

     From the inorganic we developed into the vegetable kingdom,
     Dying from the vegetable we rose to animal,
     And leaving the animal, we became man.
     Then what fear that death will lower us?
     The next transition will make us an angel,
   Then shall we rise from angels and merge in the Nameless,
   All existence proclaims, "Unto Him shall we return."

Elsewhere he says:--

     Soul becomes pregnant by the Soul of souls
     And brings forth Christ;
     Not that Christ Who walked on land and sea,
   But that Christ Who is above space.

The work of man in this world is to polish his soul from the rust of
concupiscence and self-love, till, like a clear mirror, it reflects God.
To this end he must bear patiently the discipline appointed:--

   If thou takest offence at every rub,
   How wilt thou become a polished mirror?

He must choose a "pir," or spiritual guide who may represent the Unseen
God for him; this guide he must obey and imitate not from slavish
compulsion, but from an inward and spontaneous attraction, for though it
may be logically inconsistent with Pantheism, Jalaluddin is a thorough
believer in free-will. Love is the keynote of all his teaching, and
without free-will love is impossible. Alluding to the ancient oriental
belief that jewels are formed by the long-continued action of the sun on
common stones, he says:--

   For as a stone, so Sufi legends run,
   Wooed by unwearied patience of the sun
   Piercing its dense opacity, has grown
   From a mere pebble to a precious stone,
   Its flintiness impermeable and crass
   Turned crystalline to let the sunlight pass;
   So hearts long years impassive and opaque
   Whom terror could not crush nor sorrow break,
   Yielding at last to love's refining ray
   Transforming and transmuting, day by day,
   From dull grown clear, from earthly grown divine,
   Flash back to God the light that made them shine.

Jalaluddin did not live to finish the Masnavi, which breaks off abruptly
near the end of the sixth book. He died in 1272, seven years after
Dante's birth. His last charge to his disciples was as follows:--

   I bid you fear God openly and in secret, guard against excess in
   eating, drinking and speech; keep aloof from evil companionship;
   be diligent in fasts and self-renunciation and bear wrongs
   patiently. The best man is he who helps his fellow-men, and the
   best speech is a brief one which leads to knowledge. Praise be to
   God alone!

He is buried at Iconium, and his tomb, like those of all Mohammedan
saints, in a greater or lesser degree, is a centre of pilgrimage. The
reverence with which he is regarded is expressed in the saying current
among Moslems:--

   Paigumbar nest, wali darad Kitab
   (He is not a prophet, but he has a book)

   [55] The mountain which encircles the world.

   [56] The Eastern Phoenix.

   [57] All Mohammedans pray towards the Kaaba.

   [58] Koran, c. 18.


(AD 1550)

One of the last representatives of the mystical school of Islam is
Sharani, who wrote in the middle of the sixteenth century. In his time
Egypt had just been conquered by the Turks, whose military despotism
took the place of the feudal anarchy which had prevailed under the
Mameluke sultans. The supremacy of Islam was not affected by the change,
the Turks being as sincere Moslems as the Arabs. The administration of
the country was centralised in the hands of a Pasha, who resided at
Cairo as governor-general. As elsewhere in the Muhammadan world, the
most powerful class was that of the Ulema, or learned men. The generous
gifts which the Sultan showered upon them and the privileged position he
allowed them quickly reconciled them to the new regime. But there was
another numerous body, who, though deprived of the substantial
advantages which the Ulema enjoyed, had, however, with the masses a
prestige almost as great. These were the Sufis. Poor and humble, they
were lost in the crowd, whence they drew their origin, and whose
miseries they shared. A smouldering animosity existed between these
Essenes of Islam and the Ulema, who corresponded to the Pharisees. These
last claimed to be the exclusive depositaries of religious knowledge
and divine wisdom; they administered justice and monopolised benefices.

The doctrine of the Sufis was in diametrical opposition to this. In
their eyes the knowledge derived from books and theological science was
far inferior to the inner perception of the supernatural, the mystic
intuition to which they claimed to attain in their religious ecstacies.
They regarded the theosophist as far superior in every respect to the
theologian. Besides this, they considered the different sects of Islam
as equally good, and attached no importance to any of the formalities of
the ceremonial law, the strict observation of which was considered by
the orthodox as binding on every good Moslem. Thus, the reading of the
Koran, with rhythmical intonation, as practised in every mosque, had in
their eyes no value. To adore God with a pure heart, according to them,
was infinitely more important than all outward observances.

Such ideas could not be acceptable to the Ulemas, who saw the absolute
authority in religious matters slipping from their hands. Only a
moderate power of perception was needed to understand what dangers for
the official hierarchy lurked in the ideas of these enthusiasts who
claimed to derive divine wisdom from a source so different to that of
which the Ulemas believed themselves to be the sole dispensers.

It is true that Arab mysticism had never taken such a bold flight as
Persian theosophy, which proclaimed openly a Pantheistic system, in
which the authority of the books revealed to different prophets was
displaced by a poetic belief. According to this faith, the universe was
an emanation of God, the human soul a spark of the Divine Essence gone
astray in this transitory world, but destined to return finally to God,
after having been purified of its earthly stains. The Arab Sufis did not
go so far; for them the Koran was always the Word of God, and Muhammed
was His prophet. They conformed externally to the precepts of Islam, but
claimed at the same time to understand God and His law better than the
theologians, and that not by the study of large volumes of exegesis and
traditions, but by celestial inspiration. The orthodox mullahs
understood the danger, and did not conceal their growing irritation
against these audacious heretics. The government and the great majority
of Moslems were on the side of the Ulema, but the mystics found sympathy
among the people, and their ideas spread with incredible rapidity.

In the eleventh century, a man of great ability, of whom the Muhammadans
are justly proud, made a vigorous effort to reconcile orthodox Islam
with the Sufi doctrines current in his time. This man was Ghazzali. He
consecrated the labour of a lifetime to this task, and his chief work,
"The Revival of the Religious Sciences," is a veritable encyclopædia of
Islam. He did not work in vain, but succeeded in erecting a system in
which dogmatic theology is cleverly combined with the theosophy of the
Arab school of mysticism. But Islam such as Ghazzali conceived it is no
longer that of ancient times. Another order of ideas has been insensibly
substituted for the austere creed of the Prophet of Mecca, the very
foundations of which they have undermined. Muhammad's religious edifice
remains standing, its framework and external outlines are the same; but
the spirit which informs it is profoundly different. Arab mysticism has
succeeded in finding a footing in the official circles of the Moslem

The reconciliation, however, of the mystics with the theologians was
only apparent, and could not be otherwise. At the bottom of the question
there were two incompatible principles. For the theologians the letter
of the Koran and written tradition contained all religious knowledge.
For the mystics the dead letter was nothing, and the inspiration of
their own hearts was the sole source of all knowledge. Of these two
principles, one subordinates reason to tradition and tends to the almost
complete abdication of thought in favour of absolute faith; the other
results in enthroning imagination, spiritual hallucination and mystic
ecstacy. The first confines religion to too narrow limits; the second
robs it of all palpable substance and positive form, and makes it as
vague and intangible as the clouds.

Egypt has always been a soil favourable to the development of mystic
tendencies. Christian asceticism took early root there, and during the
first centuries of our era thousands of anchorites inhabited the deserts
of the Thebaid, and carried on there religious exercises of extreme
austerity. We do not know what secret connection may exist between the
climate of the valley of the Nile and the character of its inhabitants,
but if the Arab chroniclers deserve any credit, Arab mysticism
originated in this country. The celebrated theosophist Zu'l Noun is
known as the first who introduced into Islam visions and mystic
ecstacies. Some centuries later the famous poet Omar Ibn Faridh saw the
light at Cairo, and since then Egypt has produced a long series of
Muhammadan ascetics more or less famous. Sharani is one of the last of
this theosophic school of Egypt, the doctrines of which he expounds in
his numerous works. We do not know if the impression he made on his
contemporaries was as great as the zeal with which he pleads the cause
of mysticism, but up to the present day his memory is religiously
preserved at Cairo, where a mosque still bears his name. The natives
revere his memory as that of a saint. He himself informs us that the
publication of his work entitled "Al bahr al Maurud" gave rise to
serious disturbances at Cairo.

In this work Sharani expounds the duties of the true Sufi, the perfect
theosophist, and at the same time in very energetic language he exposes
the defects and weakness of the Muhammadan society of his day. His most
virulent attacks are naturally directed against the Ulema, as in the
following extract:

"We Sufis have entered into an engagement never to allow one of our body
to have recourse to intrigues to obtain employment such as those
practised by self-styled doctors of the law. The endeavour to obtain
such a post is all the more contemptible when it has belonged to a
person recently deceased who has left sons or brothers or when it is
already occupied by a poor man who has no protector or support in the
world. Such acts of injustice, however, are often committed by the
so-called Ulema. The plot to supplant men of merit, with the aim of
obtaining for themselves lucrative posts, which they straightway
dispose of for money to incompetent individuals.

"Often one man occupies more than one office, _e.g._, that of preacher
in mosques so far apart that it is impossible for him to attend to both
properly; in which case he puts in a deputy-preacher (sometimes he does
not even do that) and pays him part of the emolument of the post,
pocketing the rest.

"We have also entered into an engagement to rise before our superiors
when they appear, and to kiss their hands even when they are unjust. We
do this with the Ulema, although they do not act in a manner conformable
to the science which they profess."

In speaking of the Christians and the Jews, he praises their demeanour,
in order to censure all the more sharply the pretensions of the Ulema.
"See," he says, "how modestly they conduct themselves towards the
meanest subordinates, and you will see that their manners and demeanour
are more noble and worthy of imitation than those of the Ulema. They are
not angry if people do not make room for them when they enter a public
assembly; and if they are offered to drink water which has been sullied
by the hands of children, slaves or beggars, they do not change
countenance, but on the contrary consider themselves as the last of men.
When they are allowed to sit down in an assembly they look upon it as a
favour. They take their places with heads bent, praying God to cover
their faults with the veil of his clemency, and not to expose them to
the scorn of others. These are the distinctive qualities of the truly
learned; for if learning does not increase the modesty of him who has
it, it is good for nothing."

These extracts make it sufficiently plain with what courage the daring
theosophist censured the most influential class of Moslem society in his
day. Sharani reproaches the Ulema, with their ambition, their cupidity,
their pride, their hypocrisy, and he advises them to confine themselves
in their sermons simply to dwelling on the precepts of the moral law and
to abstain from speaking of the recompenses and punishments of the
future life, since the destiny of souls after death depends on God, and
not on them.

As a natural consequence of these ideas, Sharani goes on to inveigh
against the Turkish Government, which, wishing to create for itself a
support in the powerful class of the Ulema, made them great concessions,
and by doing so annoyed their antagonists the Sufis. Thus Sharani does
not hesitate to say that since a.d. 1517 real learning had ceased to
exist, that being the date of the conquest of Egypt by the Sultan Selim.

The lot of the Egyptian fellahin or peasants has never been an enviable
one. Successive Roman and Arab dominations brought no change favourable
to them. Under the Mamelukes, when the country was parcelled out among
petty feudal lords ruling over their domains with absolute authority,
the condition of the peasants was one of extreme wretchedness. Sharani
finds that in his time the state of the agricultural class was worse
than formerly.

"In past times," he says, "when a peasant died, there was often found in
the corner of his house a jar, a pot or other vessel filled with pieces
of gold. It was what the poor man had saved from his harvests after
having paid his taxes and the daily expenses of his family and his
guests. But in our day, in order to pay his taxes, the peasant is often
obliged to sell the produce of his land, the ox with which he ploughs,
and the cow which gives him milk.

"If part of his tax is unpaid he is taken to prison, and often his wife
and children accompany him thither. Often the Kashif or governor
disposes of the hand of his daughter without consulting him, and her
dowry is kept back to pay the arrears of his tax. It sometimes happens
that the tax charged upon him is not really due from him at all, but
from his fellow-villagers who have gone away to avoid molestation."

Elsewhere he says, "We Sufis have entered into an engagement not to buy
merchandises, gardens or water-wheels, for in our time the taxes on
these are so heavy that no one can afford to possess them. Let him who
listens not to our counsel and acquires such property, blame himself if
he has to undergo all kinds of humiliations; if, in order that the
Government may pay for naval expeditions, it demands of him in advance a
year's taxes on his houses, his merchandise or his lands. Then he will
say with a sigh, 'How happy are they who possess nothing.'"

It is not difficult to see in these passages a profound dissatisfaction,
not only with the ruling class, but with the Government itself.
Notwithstanding this, Sharani enjoins his disciples to respect the
temporal authority and to submit to the laws. Passive obedience has
always characterised the Oriental.

We do not know precisely whether Sharani had in view a veritable reform
of Muhammadan society. Probably the contrary. He felt deeply the
general uneasiness of the time; he understood that Islam was entering a
period of decadence, but he had, as far as we can see, no clear plan for
its regeneration. Mysticism, in which he was such a fervent adept, here
hindered him. But this mystical tendency, which was in one respect his
weakness, was his glory in another. A tone of high moral purity marks
his utterances on the social and religious state of his time, and, led
rather by instinct than by philosophical considerations, he hits the
blot on Muhammadan society--polygamy. We may judge by the following
extract: "We Sufis have entered into an engagement to espouse only one
wife, and not to associate others with her.

"The man who has only one wife is happy; his means are sufficient to
support his home; but as soon as he takes a second wife, the prosperity
of his house decreases, and when he opens his money-box he finds it
empty. A pure-hearted wife is a great happiness in the house. Oh, how
often while I was weaving[59] have I stolen a glance at my wife, the
mother of my son Abdurahman, sewing garments for the poor. I understood
then that I had happiness in my house. Often she opened her larder which
sufficed us for whole months, and distributed the contents to the poor,
who quickly emptied it. May God be merciful to her."

As a religious reformer, Sharani endeavoured to restore Islam to its
primitive unity. Many sects existed in it from the earliest times[60]
four of which preserved the title of orthodox. Sharani sought to unite
these sects on a common basis, and numerous passages in his writings
attest that this idea remained with him all his life. His efforts
apparently had no success, but for those who have faith in the power of
ideas, it is certain that Sharani has not lived nor laboured in vain. In
the East, reforming ideas do not make way so quickly as in Europe, but
their effect is none the less great when they come to the front. Few
details of Sharani's life are known. He informs us that he belonged to
the order of the Shadiliyah dervishes, and that his instructor in
mysticism was the Egyptian Sufi, Ali Khawass. He died at Cairo, A.D.

   [59] Sharani was a weaver by trade.

   [60] They are generally reckoned at 73.


(D 1661)

Mullah Shah was born A.D. 1584, in the village of Erkesa in Badakshan, a
mountainous and inaccessible country to the north of the Indian
Caucasus. His family, which was of Mongol origin, held a certain
position, and his grandfather had been judge of the village. At the age
of twenty-one the young man quitted his relatives and his country, and
went back to Balkh, then a centre of learning in Central Asia. He made
great progress there, especially in the knowledge of Arabic. After some
time he left Balkh, and turning his steps southward, arrived at Kashmir,
where he continued his studies, but an irresistible thirst after truth
made him feel the necessity of seeking a spiritual guide, and he
resolved to go to Lahore, where there lived a celebrated saint, Sheikh
Mian Mir.

The reception he met with was not favourable. Mian Mir at first repulsed
him, but allowed himself at last to be overcome by the perseverance of
the young man, and taught him Sufi exercises according to the rule of
the Qadiri order of dervishes.[61] The stifling heat of Lahore did not
suit the health of Mullah Shah, who accordingly resolved to spend the
summers in Kashmir, returning to Lahore for the winter. He led this
life for several years, till he had passed through all the stages of
asceticism, but his spiritual guide would not lead him to the supreme
goal of mystical science, which is termed "Union with God," or
"knowledge of oneself."[62]

Mian Mir only spoke to him of it in an enigmatic way and said, "Do not
cease to study thyself and thine own heart, for thy goal is in thyself."

In the year 1636 A.D. he returned again, as usual, from Lahore to
Kashmir, and practised his austerities without relaxation, when one day,
by the special favour of the Divinity, and without the assistance of any
spiritual preceptor, "the desired image" revealed itself to him. By this
expression is understood, in mystic phraseology, union with God, and the
conception of Absolute Being, which is equivalent to the knowledge of
one's self. When Mullah Shah thus attained the goal of his mystical
aspirations he was in his forty-seventh year, and had been engaged
twenty-seven years in the spiritual exercises of the Sufis. When he
returned to Lahore, he informed his spiritual guide that he had attained
union with God. The latter advised him not to divulge the fact, and not
to give up his ascetic practices. In Kashmir Mullah Shah had collected
round him a little circle of devoted disciples. The strong emotional
condition into which Mullah Shah's new spiritual experience had brought
him did not prevent him from doing his best not to offend against the
religious law, and he was in the habit of saying to his friends, "Whoso
does not respect the precepts of the religious law is not one of us."

Mullah Shah had always been of a retiring disposition, but in his
present mood he carried his self-isolation so far that he closed the
door of his house and only received his intimates at fixed times, when
he dropped his habitual reserve. The spiritual power of Mullah Shah had
become so great that every novice whom he caused to sit in front of him
and to concentrate his mental faculties on his own heart, became
clairvoyant to such a degree that his internal senses were unfolded, and
the unseen world appeared to him.

Mullah Shah expressed himself in very bold terms regarding the manner
with which he conceived God and His relation to humanity. Thus he said,
"Since I have arrived at understanding the absolute Reality and that I
know most positively that nothing exists besides God, existence and
non-existence are in my eyes the same thing." In one of his poems he
says, "The sage who knows himself has become God, be sure of that, my
friend." In another poem, which caused a temporary estrangement between
himself and the Sheikh Mian Mir, he said:

"My heart by a thousand tongues cries to me 'I am God.' What reproach of
heresy can they bring against me that this utterance comes to my lips?

"Those who had attained union with God used to say, 'I am Absolute

"But I only say what I have heard from the mouth of Sheikh Mian Mir."

In the meantime the number of his adherents daily increased; persons of
all classes in society became his adherents; even women became capable
of mystical intuitions by the effect of his prayers and without having
seen him. However, the increasing number of those who wished to approach
him commenced to be inconvenient, and he said, "I am not a sheikh of
dervishes who receives novices and builds convents."

   "Neither the mosque nor the dervish-convent attract me,
   But the purity of the desert and the freedom of the open country."

In the year 1634 A.D., a certain Mir Baki, a descendant of the prophet,
attached himself to Mullah Shah, and experienced in a short time
ecstatic states; he then preached the doctrine of union with God without
any reserve. At the same time he claimed to be free from the precepts of
the religious law. The following lines were composed by him:--

   "Why should my hand let go this sparkling cup of my soul,
   I already realise the aspirations of to-morrow."

Which lines, rendered into prose, seem to mean, "Why should I pass my
life sadly on in self-maceration and austerity? I prefer to anticipate
now the delights which they speak of as belonging to the future life."
This is epicureanism, pure and simple, such as we find it in the odes of
Hafiz and the Quatrains of Omar Khayyam. When Mullah Shah heard of these
extravagant utterances, he caused Mir Baki to be expelled from the town.
At the same time the doctrines of Mullah Shah regarding union with God
began to make a great deal of sensation, and a large number of
influential men who belonged to the Conservative party raised against
him the accusation of heresy without really understanding his teaching.
They quoted some of his verses against him, and said, "Mullah Shah is
beginning to imitate Mansur Hellaj.[63] He should be brought to trial
and sentenced to death." They unanimously drew up an indictment against
him and affixed their seals; a large number of religious functionaries
joined them, and they submitted their petition to the Emperor
Shah-jehan, requesting him to pronounce sentence of death against Mullah
Shah. The Emperor consented, and despatched a firman to that effect to
Zafer-Khan, governor of Kashmir. Shah-jehan's son, the prince
Dara-Shikoh, had been absent, and only learned what had happened when he
returned. He immediately went to his father and represented to him that
Mullah Shah was a pupil of Sheikh Mian Mir, a man renowned for piety,
and that the Emperor ought, before pronouncing final judgment, to ask
the latter regarding the conduct of his former disciple. The prince
concluded by saying that in such a matter haste was ill-omened, because
to deprive a man of life is to pull down a building of which God is the
Architect. The Emperor accepted this appeal graciously, and ordered the
execution to be deferred. Meanwhile the news of the condemnation of
Mullah Shah had spread and reached Kashmir, but the respite obtained by
the Prince was still unknown there. The friends of Mullah Shah were in
despair, and used their utmost endeavours to persuade him to fly. But he
answered, "I am not an impostor that I should seek safety in flight; I
am an utterer of truth; death and life are to me alike. Let my blood in
another life also redden the impaling stake. I am living and eternal;
death recoils from me, for my knowledge has vanquished death. The
sphere where all colours are effaced has become my abode."

"Once," he added, "I used to bar the door of my house with a bolt in
order not to be disturbed by anyone, but now I will leave it wide open,
in order that whoever wishes to make me a martyr may enter at his

Mullah Shah thus awaited death in an attitude of imperturbable calm, but
fate had decided otherwise. Not long afterwards the Emperor Shah-jehan
went to Lahore, and in the company of Prince Dara-Shikoh paid a visit to
the Sheikh Mian Mir, and questioned him concerning Mullah Shah. Mian Mir
told him that Mullah Shah was apt to be carried out of himself when in
an ecstatic state, and that then he sometimes spoke without observing
the reserve necessary on the doctrine of union with God; but he adjured
the Emperor at the same time to take no steps against his old pupil,
"For," he said, "this holy man is a consuming fire, and woe to you if he
be irritated, for he could destroy the world. In any case prevent the
orthodox party from persecuting him, otherwise some dreadful disaster
may happen."

This advice made a deep impression on the Emperor, who thanked Prince
Dara-Shikoh for having prevented his carrying out the sentence of death.
He said, "These theologians have tried to persuade me to kill a
visionary dervish; I thank thee, my son, for having prevented my
committing an act of injustice." Some time afterwards the Emperor went
to Kashmir, but he did not see Mullah Shah, who had become so fond of
solitude that he rarely showed himself in the city.

In 1635 A.D., the Sheikh Mian Mir died at Lahore, and in the
same year one of the chief nobles of the court named Najat Khan became a
disciple of Mullah Shah. About the same time, Mozaffer Beg, one of the
Emperor's suite, devoted himself to his service, and his example was
followed by several of his friends. But no sooner had they been
initiated into the mystical doctrines than they believed themselves
privileged to dispense with the prescribed fast of Ramazan and the
obligatory prayers, considering that the religious law no longer applied
to them. Being informed of these irregularities, Mullah Shah prayed the
governor to have them removed from the town.

About this time he made a collection of his verses, among which are the

   "If alchemy can change dust into gold, thou marvellest;
   But asceticism is an alchemy which changes dust into God.
   If a man dives into the ocean of Deity what does he become?
   As a drop which falls from the clouds into the sea."

Regarding pedantic theologians, he says:--

     "Well I know these preachers who do not practise,
   Their memory stored with a hundred thousand traditions,
   While their mind is empty of ideas."

In 1639 the Emperor Shah-jehan came a second time to Kashmir, and took
up his dwelling in the park called Zafer-abad, in a pavilion which
commanded a delightful view of the lake. No sooner had he arrived than
he sent for Mullah Shah, who came without delay. The Emperor received
him with marked kindness and conversed long with him on subjects
relating to the Sufi sciences.

This same year is remarkable for an event which had important results
for Mullah Shah and his followers. The Prince Dara-Shikoh, who had saved
Mullah Shah's life by his intervention, had always been marked by keen
religious feeling, and often spent whole nights in prayer and
meditation. He had often heard of the extraordinary powers of Mullah
Shah, but had never had the opportunity of seeing him, as the sheikh
still maintained his habits of retirement. Little by little, a feeling
of irresistible curiosity took possession of the Prince; he determined
to see the holy man who was so highly spoken of, and one night,
accompanied by a single servant named Mujahid, he left his palace and
directed his steps towards the dwelling of Mullah Shah. The latter had
in his courtyard an ancient plane-tree, and was in the habit of sitting
at the foot of it during the night, lost in meditation. Having arrived
at the house, the prince ordered his servant to wait near the door, and
entered the courtyard alone. Seeing the Sheikh seated at the foot of the
tree, he stopped and remained standing till the master should speak to
him. The latter knew very well who the new-comer was, and that little
persuasion was needed to make him one of his disciples; but he made as
though he did not see him. A long time passed thus, till the Sheikh
broke the silence by asking the Prince "Who art thou?" The Prince did
not speak. Mullah Shah then said again, "Why dost thou not answer?
Speak, and tell thy name."

The Prince, filled with embarrassment, replied, "My name is
Dara-Shikoh." "Who is thy father?" "The Emperor Shah-jehan," "Why hast
thou come to see me?" "Because I feel drawn towards God, and seek for a
spiritual guide." On this Mullah Shah exclaimed sharply, "What are
emperors and princes to me? Know that I am a man devoted to asceticism.
Is this hour of the night the time to come and trouble me? Go, and do
not show thyself here a second time."

Deeply wounded by this reception, the Prince withdrew and re-entered his
palace, where he spent the whole night weeping. But in spite of all his
disappointment, he felt himself drawn the next night by an irresistible
attraction towards the saint's dwelling, but the latter this time did
not even condescend to speak to him. Mujahid, the servant who
accompanied the Prince, became angry, and said to his master, "What
miracles has this crabbed dervish shown you that you should come here
every night and expose yourself to such indignities? Ordinary dervishes
are cheerful folk, not uncivil and morose like this old man. For my own
part, I set no great store by this asceticism, and the only thing that
makes me uneasy is your putting faith in it." The Prince answered, "If
Mullah Shah was an impostor, so far from treating me as he has done, he
would, on the contrary, have prayed God to bring me to him. It is
precisely his independent spirit and irritated manner which proves him
to be an extraordinary man." That same night when Mujahid returned home,
he was seized by fever and carried off in a few hours. Dara-Shikoh, when
informed of this terrible event, was profoundly moved. He reproached
himself bitterly for not having at once punished his servant's
insolence, and considered the death of Mujahid as a divine punishment
which menaced him also. He immediately sent for the Qazi Afzal, one of
his most devoted friends, and told him of his anxiety. The latter was a
friend of Akhund Mullah Muhammad Synd, a disciple of Mullah Shah, and at
his instance the Sheikh consented to see the prince.

Dara-Shikoh could not pay his visit during the day, from fear of
arousing public curiosity, but as soon as night fell, he presented
himself before the Sheikh, whom this time he found seated in his cell.
Before crossing the threshold, the Prince saluted the holy man with
profound respect, and the latter bade him enter and be seated. The cell
was lighted by a single lamp, whose wick was smoking; in his eager
desire to discern the venerable features of the Sheikh, the Prince
dressed the wick with his own fingers. This simple action gained him the
Sheikh's affection. At the end of some days he bade him to blindfold
himself, then he concentrated his attention upon him in such a way that
the invisible world was revealed to the view of the Prince, who felt his
heart filled with joy.

Dara-Shikoh had a sister, the Princess Fatimah, to whom he was deeply
attached. As soon as he had become a disciple of Mullah Shah and his
heart had been opened to the intuition of the spiritual world, he
hastened to inform his sister. This news made such an impression on the
mind of the Princess that she wrote to the Sheikh several letters full
of humility and devotion. He read them all, but made no reply for more
than a month, till he was convinced that Fatimah was animated by an
invincible resolution. At last he accorded his sympathy to her also, and
admitted her to the circle of the initiates. The Princess persevered
ardently in these mystical studies, and received the instructions of her
spiritual guide by correspondence. She attained to such perfection that
she arrived at intuitive knowledge of God and union with Him. Although
the Sheikh was full of affection for all his disciples, he had a
particular regard for her, and was in the habit of saying that "she had
attained to such an extraordinary degree of knowledge that she was fit
to be his successor."

Mullah Shah was now old and infirm; he had passed several winters at
Lahore, surrounded by the care and attention of his friends and pupils.
In the year 1655 A.D., the Emperor wrote to him to invite him
to pass the winter with him at Shahjahanabad, his ordinary residence,
but the Sheikh was beginning to suffer from weakness of the eyes, and
did not feel strong enough to undertake the journey. For some years he
remained in Kashmir, and would often say, "The theosophist ought to
profit by length of life. My life is approaching its end; let us then
enjoy our stay in Kashmir, and not leave it."

In A.D. 1658 Aurangzeb, Dara-Shikoh's younger brother, seized on the
person of his father the Emperor Shah-jehan, whom he kept in confinement
for the rest of his life, and had Dara assassinated in prison. Aurangzeb
was a bigoted Muhammadan, and his accession to the throne threatened to
have serious consequences for Mullah Shah. As soon as he had assumed the
reins of government, the clerical party began to represent to him that
Mullah Shah taught doctrines contrary to revealed religion. There were
not wanting witnesses on the other side, but the Emperor, on hearing
the complaints against Mullah Shah, sent an order to the governor of
Kashmir to send him to the capital. The governor pleaded for a delay on
account of Mullah Shah's advanced age and weakness till he was strong
enough to make the journey. A year thus passed by; some verses which
Mullah Shah composed in honour of Aurangzeb made a favourable impression
on the Emperor, and the Princess Fatimah having interceded on behalf of
her old teacher, Aurangzeb revoked his first order, and merely enjoined
him to take up his residence at Lahore as soon as possible.

It was not till 1660 A.D. that Mullah Shah could obey this order; he
left Kashmir at the beginning of winter and came to Lahore, where he
continued to live a retired life, only granting interviews to a few
chosen disciples. But when from time to time he had an access of
mystical emotion he would speak of union with God without any reserve,
in a loud voice, and without noticing who was present. One of his
friends said to him one day, "We live in a strange time, and people are
disquieted by your discourses on this matter; it would be more prudent
to expound your doctrines with a little more reserve." The Sheikh
answered him, "Up to the present I have never been afraid for my life;
books containing such doctrine are known to all, and everyone has read
them. What precautions, then, at my time of life, ought I to observe? I
cannot abandon or change my habits of thinking and speaking now."

Some of his other sayings reported at this time show that he had already
a presentiment of his approaching death. Kabil Khan, one of his friends,
said to him one day, "Formerly our sovereign Aurangzeb loved to listen
to discourses on the subject of mysticism, and I have often had the
honour of reading before him passages from the Masnavi of Jalaluddin
Rumi.[64] The Emperor was often so touched by them that he shed tears;
certainly when he comes to Lahore he will wish to see you." "No,"
replied Mullah Shah; "we shall never see him:

   'The night is great with child, see what it will bring forth.'"

In 1661 he had an attack of fever which lasted about fifteen days. That
year fever became epidemic at Lahore, and on the 11th of the month of
Safar Mullah Shah had another attack, which carried him off on the night
of the 15th of the same month. He was buried in a plot of ground which
he had already acquired for the purpose. The Princess Fatimah bought the
surrounding land, and erected a shrine of red stone over his tomb. The
foregoing sketch of Mullah Shah gives a general view of oriental
spiritualism as it prevailed two and a half centuries ago over a great
part of Asia. The first point worthy of notice in it is the immense
popularity of mystical ideas at that time, and the wide influence which
they exercised over all minds. Round Mullah Shah gathered persons of
every condition; poor peasants as well as princes were seized with the
same enthusiasm for his doctrines; the same ascetic training produced
the same results in the most varying temperaments. The Master seems to
have exercised a kind of magnetic influence over his neophytes. He fixes
his gaze upon them for a longer or shorter time, till their inward
senses open and render them capable of seeing the wonders of the
spiritual world. All the accounts are unanimous in this respect, and
they carry such a stamp of sincerity that their veracity is
indisputable. We are then obliged to admit that at this period many
minds shared a predisposition to religious ecstacy and enthusiasm.

Under the apparent stagnation of the East, there is continually going on
a collision between two opposing forces--the official hierarchy of the
Ulema, conservative to the core, and mysticism in its early phases,
pietistic and enthusiastic, but gradually tending to scepticism, and
finally to pantheism and the negation of all positive religion. The
Mussalman hierarchy, which in its own interests desired to maintain the
prestige of dogma and of the revealed law, combatted this tendency to
mysticism, but, as we have seen, without success. The orthodox mullahs
made fruitless efforts to obtain the condemnation of Mullah Shah, who
had on his side the members of the imperial family of Delhi and the
Emperor himself, all more or less imbued with mystical ideas.

The biography of Mullah Shah also throws a great deal of light on the
fundamental ideas of oriental mysticism. They spring from a pantheistic
philosophy in many respects, startlingly resembling those of modern
times. Mullah Shah often insists that individual existence counts for
nothing, and that nothing in reality exists outside of God, the Absolute
Being; every particular life dissolves in this universal unity, life and
death are mere changes in the form of existence. The individual is only
in some way a part of the Infinite Being who fills the universe; a
particle which has been momentarily detached therefrom, only to return
thither. To know oneself is therefore the equivalent of knowing God. But
in order to acquire this knowledge the pupil must submit to long and
painful self-discipline; he must pass through all the tests of the
severest asceticism; only after he has thus prepared himself will the
spiritual master open his heart and render him capable of perceiving the
mysteries of the spiritual world.

But this great secret must not be divulged; it is only permissable to
speak of it to the initiate, as Mullah Shah says, in the following

   We must say that only One exists,
   Though such a saying excite astonishment;
   The universe is He, though we must not say so openly,
   Such doctrines must be kept secret.

This Eastern Pantheism does not lack a certain grandeur, but it has also
a dangerous side, and tends to atheism and materialism. Of this some
instances occur in the life of Mullah Shah. The passage from pantheism
to epicureanism is not a long one. If the human soul only possesses a
transient individuality, and after death is merged like a drop in the
ocean of divinity, why, many will argue, not have done with asceticism
for good, and enjoy the pleasures of existence as long as possible
during the little while our individuality endures? Thus Omar Khayyam

   Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
   Before we too into the dust descend,
   Dust into dust, and under dust to lie,
   Sans wine, sans song, sans singer, and--sans end.

It is precisely this dangerous side of oriental philosophy which has
unhappily attained a much greater development and an incomparably more
complete success than the elevated moral systems of the chief
theosophists of Persia. A mocking cynicism has been, up to modern times,
a common characteristic of the great majority of Sufis and dervishes.
The dangerous consequences of theosophical ideas and of oriental
spiritualism in general became at an early date so apparent that
Ghazzali, although a fervent partisan of Sufism, did not hesitate to
avow that if these doctrines were generally accepted society would
necessarily fall into a state of anarchy.

In face of the wild aberrations caused by Sufism, we should not grudge
all the greater credit to the few distinguished men who, although
adherents of Sufism and dominated by its doctrines, kept their
characters clear of stain. In spite of their conviction that there was
no individual life after death, these men spent their lives in
mortification of the senses and in abstinence, and often braved death
with a truly Roman stoicism.

Such shining characters are not of frequent occurrence in oriental
history; but certainly Mullah Shah is one and Prince Dara-Shikoh
another. In a path strewn with pitfalls he kept a name without stain and
without reproach, thanks to the austere moral principles instilled into
him by his master. He faced death with calm resignation, and knew how to
die as a prince and as a philosopher.

   NOTE.--Prince Dara-Shikoh has left a curious fragment of
   spiritual autobiography in his preface to a Persian translation
   of the Upanishads or chapters from the Vedas which he had caused
   to be translated from Sanskrit. It is indeed strange to see this
   son of a Muhammadan Emperor ranking these selections from the
   Vedas above the Koran, the Pentateuch, Psalms and Gospels, all of
   which he says he had read. The Preface runs as follows:--

   "When Dara-Shikoh, the resigned worshipper of God, visited
   Kashmir in the year of the Hegira 1050 (A.D. 1640), by the
   blessing of the Most High he met with Mullah Shah, the chief of
   the learned, the teacher of teachers, versed in the subtleties of
   "Tauhid" (Unity); may he be joined with God!

   "As that prince already relished the pleasure of seeing the
   learning of each sect, had perused various treaties of the Sufi
   philosophers, and even composed some himself, the thirst of
   exploring the doctrine of the Unity (which is a boundless ocean)
   daily increased, and his mind attained a degree of acuteness and
   subtlety which would have been impossible without the immediate
   assistance and favour of the Divine will. Now the sacred Koran,
   being frequently obscure, and few at this day being found capable
   of explaining it, he determined to read all inspired works; that
   the word of God might furnish a commentary on itself, and what is
   concisely expressed in one book might be elucidated by a
   reference to others; the abridged being the more diffuse. With
   this view he perused the Pentateuch, the Gospels and the Psalms,
   but the unity of God was obscurely and enigmatically expressed in
   these works; nor did he derive more instruction from the simple
   translations of hired linguists.

   "He next desired to ascertain how it happened that in Hindustan
   the Unity of God is the frequent theme of discourse, and that the
   ancient philosophers of India neither denied nor objected to the
   doctrine of the Divine Unity, but on the contrary held it as an
   axiom. Unlike the ignorant race of the present day who set up for
   philosophers, though they have fallen into the track of bloodshed
   and infidelity, denying the attributes and unity of God, and
   contradicting the proofs of that doctrine derived from the Koran
   and authentic traditions; these may be considered as banditti on
   the path of God.

   "In the cause of this inquiry it was discovered that amongst the
   Hindus, four inspired books were held peculiarly sacred, viz.:
   the Rig Veda, the Jajur Veda, the Sam Veda and Atharva Veda,
   which had descended from the skies to the prophets of those
   times, of whom Adam (purified by God; may blessings attend him!)
   was the chief, containing rules and precepts; and this doctrine
   (viz.: the Unity of God) is clearly expressed in those books. As
   the object of this explorer of truth (Dara-Shikoh) was not the
   acquisition of languages, whether Arabic, Syriac or Sanskrit, but
   the proofs of the Unity of the Supreme Being, he determined that
   the Upanishads (which might be considered as a treasure of
   Unitarianism) should be translated into Persian without adding or
   expunging, and without bias or partiality, but correctly and
   literally that it might appear what mysteries are contained in
   those books which the Hindus so carefully conceal from Moslems.

   "As the city of Benares, which is the seat of Hindu science, was
   a dependency of this explorer of truth (Dara-Shikoh), having
   assembled the Pundits and Sanyasis who are the expounders of the
   Vedas and Upanishads, he caused a translation to be made of the
   latter into Persian. This was completed in the year of the
   Hegira, 1067, A.D., 1656. Every difficulty was elucidated
   by this ancient compilation, which, without doubt, is the first of
   inspired works, the fountain of truth, the Sea of the Unity; not
   only consentaneous with the Koran, but a commentary on it."

   [61] Founded by Abdul Qadir Gilani.

   [62] According to the reported saying of Muhammad, "He who knows
   himself, knows God."

   [63] Chapter 5.

   [64] The great mystic poet of Persia (A.D. 1207-1272).



By Mohammedan Conversion is not here meant conversion from Christianity
to Mohammedanism, or _vice versa_, but those spiritual crises which take
place _within_ Mohammedanism, as within Christianity, by which the soul
is stung as with a regenerating shudder to use George Eliot's phrase, to
rise from a notional to a real belief in God. Mohammedan theologians are
as aware of this distinction as Christian ones. Thus Al Ghazzali, in his
_Revival of the Religious Sciences_, is very sarcastic on the indulgence
in the common expletive, "We take refuge in God," by Mohammedans without
attaching any real meaning to it. He says: "If you see a lion coming
towards you, and there is a fort close by, you do not stand exclaiming,
'I take refuge in this fort!' but you get into it. Similarly, when you
hear of the wrath to come, do not merely _say_, 'I take refuge in God,'
but take refuge in Him."

This transformation of a notional into a real belief has proved the
crisis in the lives of many of the saints and mystics of Islam, without,
as far as it appears, any contact on their part with Christianity. Thus,
Ibn Khalliqan, in his great Biographical Dictionary, tells of Al-Fudail,
a celebrated highwayman, who, one night, while he was on his way to an
immoral assignation, was arrested by the voice of a Koran-reader
chanting the verse, "Is not the time yet come unto those who believe,
that their hearts should humbly submit to the admonition of God?" On
this he exclaimed, "O Lord! that time is come." He then went away from
that place, and the approach of night induced him to repair for shelter
to a ruined edifice. He there found a band of travellers, one of whom
said to the others, "Let us set out"; but another answered, "Let us
rather wait till daylight, for Al-Fudail is on the road, and will stop
us." Al-Fudail then turned his heart to God, and assured them that they
had nothing to fear. For the rest of his life he lived as an ascetic,
and ranked among the greatest saints. One of his recorded sayings is,
"If the world with all it contains were offered to me, even on the
condition of my not being taken to account for it, I would shun it as
you would shun a carrion, lest it should defile your clothes."

Another striking "conversion" is that of Ibrahim Ben Adham, Prince of
Khorassan. He was passionately addicted to the chase, and one day when
so employed heard a voice behind him exclaiming, "O Ibrahim, thou wast
not born for this." At first he took it for a delusion of Satan, but on
hearing the same words pronounced more loudly exclaimed, "It is the Lord
who speaks; His servant will obey." Immediately he desisted from his
amusement, and, changing clothes with an attendant, bade adieu to
Khorassan, took the road towards Syria, and from thenceforth devoted
himself entirely to a life of piety and labour.

A third example is that of Ghazzali himself, who, in his work _The
Deliverance from Error_, has left one of the very few specimens of
Eastern religious autobiography, and one bearing a certain resemblance
to Newman's _Apologia_. He was professor of theology at the University
of Bagdad in the eleventh century. In his autobiography he says:
"Reflecting upon my situation, I found myself bound to this world by a
thousand ties; temptations assailed me on all sides. I then examined my
actions. The best were those relating to instruction and education; and
even there I saw myself given up to unimportant sciences, all useless in
another world. Reflecting on the aim of my teaching, I found it was not
pure in the sight of the Lord. I saw that all my efforts were directed
towards the acquisition of glory to myself." After this, as he was one
day about to lecture, his tongue refused utterance; he was dumb. He
looked upon this as a visitation from God, and was deeply afflicted at
it. He became seriously ill, and the physicians said his recovery was
hopeless unless he could shake off his depression. "Then," he continues,
"feeling my helplessness, I had recourse to God, as one who has no other
recourse in his distress. He compassionated me as He compassionates the
unhappy who invoke Him. My heart no longer made any resistance, but
willingly renounced the glories and the pleasures of this world."

We may close this short list with the name of the Sufi poet,
Ferid-eddin-Attar. He was a druggist by trade, and one day was startled
by one of the half-mad fakirs, who swarm in Oriental cities, pensively
gazing at him while his eyes slowly filled with tears. Ferid-eddin
angrily ordered him to go about his business. "Sir," replied the fakir,
"that is easily done; for my baggage is light. But would it not be wise
for you to commence preparations for your journey?" The words struck
home, Ferid-eddin abandoned his business, and devoted the rest of his
life to meditation and collecting the sayings of the wise.

These four cases, the highwayman, the prince, the theologian, the poet,
are sufficient to show that the Recognition (anagnorisis) and Revolution
(peripeteia), to use Aristotle's phrase, which turns life from a chaotic
dream into a well-ordered drama, of which God is the Protagonist, may
receive as signal though not as frequent illustration in the territory
of Islam as in that of Christianity. They also serve to illustrate
Professor W. James' thesis in his Gifford Lectures, that "conversion,"
whether Christian or extra-Christian, is a psychological fact, and not a
mere emotional illusion.



Sufism consists essentially in giving up oneself constantly to
devotional exercises, in living solely for God, in abandoning all the
frivolous attractions of the world, in disregarding the ordinary aims of
men--pleasures, riches and honours--and finally in separating oneself
from society for the sake of practising devotion to God. This way of
life was extremely common among the companions of the Prophet and the
early Moslems. But when in the second century of Islam and the
succeeding centuries the desire for worldly wealth had spread, and
ordinary men allowed themselves to be drawn into the current of a
dissipated and worldly life, the persons who gave themselves up to piety
were distinguished by the name of "Sufis," or aspirants to Sufism.

The most probable derivation is from "suf" (wool), for, as a rule, Sufis
wear woollen garments to distinguish themselves from the crowd, who love
gaudy attire.

For an intelligent being possessed of a body, thought is the joint
product of the perception of events which happen from without, and of
the emotions to which they give rise within, and is that quality which
distinguishes man from animals. These emotions proceed one from another;
just as knowledge is born of arguments, joy and sadness spring from the
perception of that which causes grief or pleasure. Similarly with the
disciple of the spiritual life in the warfare which he wages with
himself, and in his devotional exercises. Every struggle which he has
with his passions produces in him a state resulting from this struggle.
This state is either a disposition to piety which, strengthening by
repetition, becomes for him a "station" (_maqam_), or merely an emotion
which he undergoes, such as joy, merriment, &c.

The disciple of the spiritual life continues to rise from one station to
another, till he arrives at the knowledge of the Divine Unity and of
God, the necessary condition for obtaining felicity, conformably to the
saying of the Prophet: "Whosoever dies while confessing that there is no
god but God, shall enter Paradise."

Progress through these different stages is gradual. They have as their
common foundation obedience and sincerity of intention; faith precedes
and accompanies them, and from them proceed the emotions and qualities,
the transient and permanent modifications of the soul; these emotions
and qualities go on producing others in a perpetual progression which
finally arrives at the station of the knowledge of the Unity of God. The
disciple of the spiritual life needs to demand an account of his soul in
all its actions, and to keep an attentive eye on the most hidden
recesses of his heart; for actions must necessarily produce results, and
whatever evil is in results betokens a corresponding evil in actions.

There are but a few persons who imitate the Sufis in this practice of
self-examination, for negligence and indifference in this respect are
almost universal. Pious men who have not risen to this class (the
mystics) only aim at fulfilling the works commanded by the law in all
the completeness laid down by the science of jurisprudence. But the
mystics examine scrupulously the results of these works, the effects and
impressions which they produce upon the soul. For this purpose they use
whatever rays of divine illumination may have reached them while in a
state of ecstacy, with the object of assuring themselves whether their
actions are exempt or not from some defect. The essence of their system
is this practice of obliging the soul often to render an account of its
actions and of what it has left undone. It also consists in the
development of those gifts of discrimination and ecstacy which are born
out of struggles with natural inclinations, and which then become for
the disciple stations of progress.

The Sufis possess some rules of conduct peculiar to themselves, and make
use of certain technical expressions. Of these Ghazzali has treated in
_Ihya-ul-ulum_ ("Revival of the Religious Sciences"). He speaks of the
laws regulating devotion, he explains the rules and customs of the Sufis
and the technical terms which they use. Thus the system of the Sufis,
which was at first only a special way of carrying on worship, and the
laws of which were only handed on by example and tradition, was
methodised and reduced to writing, like the exegesis of the Koran, the
Traditions, Jurisprudence, and so forth.

This spiritual combat and this habit of meditation are usually followed
by a lifting of the veils of sense, and by the perception of certain
worlds which form part of the "things of God" (knowledge of which He has
reserved for Himself). The sensual man can have no perception of such

Disentanglement from the things of sense and consequent perception of
invisible things takes place when the spirit, giving up the uses of
exterior senses, only uses interior ones; in this state the emotions
proceeding from the former grow feebler, while those which proceed from
the spirit grow stronger; the spirit dominates, and its vigour is

Now, the practice of meditation contributes materially to this result.
It is the nourishment by which the spirit grows. Such growth continues
till what was the knowledge of One absent becomes the consciousness of
One present, and the veils of sense being lifted, the soul enjoys the
fullness of the faculties which belong to it in virtue of its essence,
_i.e._, perception. On this plane it becomes capable of receiving divine
grace and knowledge granted by the Deity. Finally its nature as regards
the real knowledge of things as they are, approaches the loftiest heaven
of angelic beings.

This disentanglement from things of sense takes place oftenest in men
who practise the spiritual combat, and thus they arrive at a perception
of the real nature of things such as is impossible to any beside
themselves. Similarly, they often know of events before they arrive; and
by the power of their prayers and their spiritual force, they hold sway
over inferior beings who are obliged to obey them.

The greatest of the mystics do not boast of this disentanglement from
things of sense and this rule over inferior creatures; unless they have
received an order to do so, they reveal nothing of what they have learnt
of the real nature of things. These supernatural workings are painful,
and when they experience them they ask God for deliverance.

The companions of the Prophet also practised this spiritual warfare;
like the mystics, they were overwhelmed with these tokens of divine
favour such as the power to walk on the water, to pass through fire
without being burnt, to receive their food in miraculous ways, but they
did not attach great importance to them. Abu-bekr, Omar, and Ali were
distinguished by a great number of these supernatural gifts, and their
manner of viewing them was followed by the mystics who succeeded them.

But among the moderns there are men who have set great store by
obtaining this disentanglement from things of sense, and by speaking of
the mysteries discovered when this veil is removed. To reach this goal
they have had recourse to different methods of asceticism, in which the
intellectual soul is nourished by meditation to the utmost of its
capacity, and enjoys in its fullness the faculty of perception which
constitutes its essence. According to them, when a man has arrived at
this point, his perception comprehends all existence and the real nature
of things without a veil, from the throne of God to the smallest drops
of rain. Ghazzali describes the ascetic practices which are necessary to
arrive at this state.

This condition of disentanglement from the things of sense is only held
to be perfect when it springs from right dispositions. For there are, as
a matter of fact, persons who profess to live in retirement and to fast
without possessing right dispositions; such are sorcerers, Christians,
and others who practise ascetic exercises. We may illustrate this by the
image of a well-polished mirror. According as its surface is convex or
concave, the object reflected in it is distorted from its real shape;
if, on the contrary, the mirror has a plane surface, the object is
reflected exactly as it is. Now, what a plane surface is for the mirror,
a right disposition is for the soul, as regards the impressions it
receives from without.



The almost miraculous renaissance in Islam which is now proceeding in
Turkey and other Mohammedan countries reminds one forcibly of Dante's

                     For I have seen
   The thorn frown rudely all the winter long,
   And after bear the rose upon its top.

      _Paradiso_, xiii. 133.

It is not perhaps fanciful to conjecture that one of the hidden causes
of this renaissance is the large quantity of Christian truth which Islam
literature holds, so to speak, in solution. It is a well-known fact that
the Koran has borrowed largely from the Old Testament and the Apocryphal
Gospels, but it is not so generally known that Mohammedan philosophers,
theologians, and poets betray an acquaintance with facts and incidents
of the Gospels of which the Koran contains no mention.

Leaving the Koran on one side, in the "Traditions," _i.e._, sayings of
Mohammed handed down by tradition, we find God represented as saying at
the Judgment, "O ye sons of men, I was hungry and ye gave Me no food,"
the whole of the passage in Matt. xxv. being quoted. This is remarkable,
as it strikes directly at the orthodox Mohammedan conception of God as
an impassible despot. Other sayings attributed to God which have a
Christian ring are, "I was a hidden Treasure and desired to be known,
therefore I created the world"; "If it were not for Thee, I would not
have made the world" (addressed to Mohammed), evidently an echo of Col.
I. 17, "All things have been created through Him and unto Him" (R.V.).
The writer has often heard this last saying quoted by Indian Mohammedans
in controversy.

Another traditional saying attributed to Mohammed is not unlike the
doctrine of the Holy Spirit: "Verily from your Lord come breathings. Be
ye prepared for them." The Second Advent is also referred to in others:
"How will it be with you when God sends Jesus to judge you?" "There is
no Mahdi but Jesus." It is a well-known fact that a certain gate in
Jerusalem is kept walled up because the Mohammedans believe that Jesus
will pass through it when He returns.

Some traditions have twisted Gospel parables, &c., in favour of
Mohammedanism. Thus in the mention of the parable of the hired
labourers, the first two sets of labourers are said to mean Jews and
Christians, and the last comers, who receive an equal wage, though
grumbled at by the others, are believed to indicate the Mohammedans.
Other traditions give one of Christ's sayings a grotesquely literal
dress. Thus our Lord is said to have met a fox, and to have said, "Fox!
where art thou going?" The fox replied, to his home. Upon which our Lord
uttered the verse, "Foxes have holes," &c. Once when entering an Afghan
village the writer was met by a Pathan, who asked if the New Testament
contained that verse. This shows how even garbled traditions may
predispose the Mohammedan mind for the study of the Gospels.

Tabari, the historian (d. 923 A.D.), gives an account of the Last Supper
and of Christ washing the disciples' hands (_sic_)--topics entirely
ignored by the Koran--and quotes the saying of our Lord regarding the
smiting of the Shepherd and the scattering of the sheep.

Sufi literature, representing as it does the mystical side of Islam,
abounds with allusions to Scripture. Al Ghazzali, the great opponent of
Averroes (1058-1111 A.D.), in his _Ihya-ul-ulum_ ("Revival of the
Religious Sciences") quotes the saying of Christ regarding the children
playing in the market-place. In his _Kimiya-i-Saadat_ ("Alchemy of
Happiness") he writes, "It is said that Jesus Christ in a vision saw
this world in the form of an old woman, and asked how many husbands she
had lived with. She said they were innumerable. He asked her if they had
died, or had divorced her. She replied that it was neither, the fact
being that she had killed all." Here we seem to have a confused echo of
the episode of the woman of Samaria. Again in the same work he says, "It
is a saying of Jesus Christ that the seeker of the world is like a man
suffering from dropsy; the more he drinks water the more he feels
thirsty." In the _Ihya-ul-ulum_, the verse "Eye hath not seen," &c., is
quoted as if from the Koran, where it nowhere occurs. Ghazzali was an
ardent student of the Neo-Platonists, and through him the phrases
Aql-i-Kull (--Logos) and Nafs-i-Kull (--Pneuma) passed into Sufi
writings (v. Whinfield, Preface to the _Masnavi_).

Saadi (b. 1184 A.D.), the famous author of the _Gulistan_ and
_Bostan_, was for some time kept in captivity by the Crusaders. This may
account for echoes of the Gospels which we find in his writings. In the
_Gulistan_ he quotes the verse, "We are members of one another," and in
the _Bostan_ the parable of the Pharisee and Publican is told in great

Nizami (b. 1140) gives a story which, though grotesque, seems to show
that he had apprehended something of the Christian spirit. Some
passers-by were commenting on the body of a dead dog, saying how
abominably it smelt, &c. Christ passed, and said, "Behold, how white its
teeth are!"

But of all the Mohammedan writers, none bears such distinct traces of
Christian influence as Jalaluddin Rumi, the greatest of the Sufi poets,
who is to this day much studied in Persia, Turkey and India. In the
first book of his _Masnavi_ he has a strange story of a vizier who
persuaded his king, a Jewish persecutor of the Christians, to mutilate
him. He then went to the Christians and said, "See what I have suffered
for your religion." After gaining their confidence and being chosen
their guide, he wrote epistles in different directions to the chief
Christians, contradicting each other, maintaining in one that man is
saved by grace, and in another that salvation rests upon works, &c. Thus
he brought their religion into inextricable confusion. This is evidently
aimed at St. Paul, and it is a curious fact that Jalaluddin Rumi spent
most of his life at Iconium, where some traditions of the apostle's
teaching must have lingered. Other allusions to the Gospel narrative in
the _Masnavi_ are found in the mention of John the Baptist leaping in
his mother's womb, of Christ walking on the water, &c., none of which
occur in the Koran. Isolated verses of Jalaluddin's clearly show a
Christian origin:

       I am the sweet-smiling Jesus,
       And the world is alive by Me.

   I am the sunlight falling from above,
   Yet never severed from the Sun I love.

It will be seen that Jalaluddin gives our Lord a much higher rank than
is accorded to Him in the Koran, which says, "And who could hinder God
if He chose to destroy Mary and her son together?"

A strange echo of the Gospel narrative is found in the story of the
celebrated Sufi, Mansur-al-Hallaj, who was put to death at Bagdad, 919
A.D., for exclaiming while in a state of mystic ecstacy, "I am
the Truth." Shortly before he died he cried out, "My Friend (God) is not
guilty of injuring me; He gives me to drink what as Master of the feast
He drinks Himself" (Whinfield, preface to the _Masnavi_).
Notwithstanding the apparent blasphemy of Mansur's exclamation, he has
always been the object of eulogy by Mohammedan poets. Even the orthodox
Afghan poet, Abdurrahman, says of him:

   Every man who is crucified like Mansur,
   After death his cross becomes a fruit-bearing tree.

Many of the favourite Sufi phrases, "The Perfect Man," "The new
creation," "The return to God," have a Christian sound, and the modern
Babi movement which has so profoundly influenced Persian life and
thought owes its very name to the saying of Christ, "I am the Door"
("Ana ul Bab"), adopted by Mirza Ali, the founder of the sect.

When Henry Martyn reached Shiraz in 1811, he found his most attentive
listeners among the Sufis. "These Sufis," he writes in his diary, "are
quite the Methodists of the East. They delight in everything Christian
except in being exclusive. They consider they all will finally return to
God, from whom they emanated."

It is certainly noteworthy that some of the highly educated Indian
converts from Islam to Christianity have been men who have passed
through a stage of Sufism, _e.g._, Moulvie Imaduddin of Amritsar, on
whom Archbishop Benson conferred a D.D. degree, and Safdar Ali, late
Inspector of Schools at Jabalpur. In one of the semi-domes of the Mosque
of St. Sophia at Constantinople is a gigantic figure of Christ in
mosaic, which the Mohammedans have not destroyed, but overlaid with
gilding, yet so that the outlines of the figure are still visible. Is it
not a parable?



The following brief article is an attempt to bring together some of the
passages in Mohammedan writers in which Christ is accorded a higher
place than in the Koran, and in which deeds and words of His are
mentioned regarding which the Koran is quite silent. For though the
Koran calls Him 'the Spirit of God' and 'a Word proceeding from Him,' at
the same time it says 'What could hinder God if He chose to destroy the
Messiah and His mother both together?'

In the traditional sayings of Mohammed collected by Al Bokhari, accepted
by all Sunni Mohammedans, we have the following:--

1st. The sinlessness of Christ. The Prophet said, 'Satan touches every
child at its birth and it cries out from the touch of Satan. This is the
case with all, except Mary and her son.'

2nd. A famous utterance of Christ is attributed to God. The Prophet
said, 'At the resurrection God shall say, "O ye sons of men, I was sick
and ye visited Me not." They shall say, "Thou art the Lord of the worlds
how should we visit Thee?" He will say, "A certain servant of Mine was
sick; if you had visited him you would have found Me with him."' This
tradition is noteworthy as it brings out the affinity between God and
man which the Koran for the most part ignores.

3rd. Christ returning to judgment. The Prophet said, 'How will it be
with you when God sends back the Son of Mary to rule and to judge
(hakiman, muqsitan)?'

In the 'Awarifu-l-Mawarif of Shahabu-d-Din Suhrawardi the doctrine of
the New Birth is definitely attributed to Christ: 'The death of nature
and of will which they call "the second birth" even as Christ has

Ghazzali in the Ihya-ul-ulum thus refers to St. Matt. xi. 17: 'Some one
said, "I saw written in the Gospel, We have sung to you but ye have not
been moved with emotion; we have piped unto you but ye have not
danced."' He also quotes St. Matt. vi. 25, 'Jesus said, Consider the
fowls, etc.'

The historian Tabari mentions the institution of the Last Supper,
Christ's washing His disciple's hands, requesting them to watch with
Him, predicting Peter's denial, and quotes the text, 'The shepherd shall
be smitten, and the sheep shall be scattered.'

In the Bostan of Sa'di the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee
takes the following curious shape:--

   In Jesus' time there lived a youth so black and dissolute,
   That Satan from him shrank appalled in every attribute;
   He in a sea of pleasures foul uninterrupted swam
   And gluttonized on dainty vices, sipping many a dram.
   Whoever met him on the highway turned as from a pest,
   Or, pointing lifted finger at him, cracked some horrid jest.
   I have been told that Jesus once was passing by the cave
   Where dwelt a monk who asked Him in,--
   When suddenly that slave of sin appeared across the way,
   Far off he paused, fell down and sobbingly began to pray;
   And like a storm or rain the tears pour gushing from his eyes.
   'Alas, and woe is me for thirty squandered years,' he cries;
   The pride-puffed monk self-righteous lifts his eyebrows with a sneer,
   And haughtily exclaims, 'Vile wretch! in vain hast thou come here.
   Art thou not plunged in sin, and tossed in lust's devouring sea?
   What will thy filthy rags avail with Jesus and with me?
   O God! the granting of a single wish is all I pray,
   Grant me to stand far distant from this man at Judgement Day.'
   From heaven's throne a revelation instantaneous broke,
   And God's own thunder-words through the mouth of Jesus spoke:
  'The two whom praying there I see, shall equally be heard;
   They pray diverse,--I give to each according to his word.
   That poor one thirty years has rolled in sin's most slimy steeps,
   But now with stricken heart and streaming eyes for pardon weeps.
   Upon the threshold of My grace he throws him in despair,
   And faintly hoping pity pours his supplications there.
   Therefore forgiven and freed from all the guilt in which he lies
   My mercy chooses him a citizen of paradise;
   This monk desires that he may not that sinner stand beside,
   Therefore he goes to hell and so his wish is gratified.'

      (_Alger: Poetry of the Orient_)

It is refreshing to find one of the classical Moslem writers so strongly
denouncing self-righteousness. The poet Nizami in the following apologue
seems to have caught no little of the spirit of the Gospel:--

   One evening Jesus lingered in the market-place
   Teaching the people parables of truth and grace,
   When in the square remote a crowd was seen to rise
   And stop with loathing gestures and abhorring cries.
   The Master and His meek Disciples went to see
   What cause for this commotion and disgust could be,
   And found a poor dead dog beside the gutter laid;
   Revolting sight! at which each face its hate betrayed.
   One held his nose, one shut his eyes, one turned away,
   And all amongst themselves began loud to say,
  'Detested creature! he pollutes the earth and air!'
  'His eyes are blear!' 'His ears are foul!' 'His ribs are bare!'
  'In his torn hide there's not a decent shoe-string left!'
  'No doubt the execrable cur was hung for theft!'
   Then Jesus spake and dropped on him this saving wreath:
  'Even pearls are dark before the whiteness of his teeth!'

      (_Alger: Poetry of the Orient._)

The entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem is referred to in the following
passage from the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi:--

   Having left Jesus, thou cherishest an ass,
   And art perforce excluded like an ass;
   The portion of Jesus is knowledge and wisdom,
   Not so the portion of an ass, O assinine one!
   Thou pitiest thine ass when it complains;
   So art thou ignorant, thine ass makes thee assinine,
   Keep thy pity for Jesus, not for the ass,
   Make not thy lust to vanquish thy reason.

      (_Whinfield's Translation_).

Elsewhere in the Masnavi Jalaluddin Rumi says:--

   Jesus, thy Spirit, is present with thee;
   Ask help of Him, for He is a good Helper.

In the Diwan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz, by the same author, we have the lines:--

   I am that sweet-smiling Jesus,
   And the world is alive through Me.

Elsewhere he says, 'The pure one is regenerated by the breath of Jesus.'
It is a significant fact that Jalaluddin Rumi spent most of his life at
Iconium, where very likely some apostolic traditions lingered.

One aspect of our Lord which has strongly impressed itself on the
Mohammedan imagination is His homelessness.[65] Once on entering a
Pathan village the writer was met by a youth, who asked, 'Is this verse
in the Injil: "The Son of Mary had nowhere to lay His head"?'
 In the
Qissas-al-ambiya (Stories of the Prophets) this takes the following
grotesque shape:--

   One day Jesus saw a fox running through the wilderness. He said
   to him, 'O fox! whither art thou going?' The fox answered, 'I
   have come out for exercise; now I am returning to my own home.'
   Jesus said, 'Every one has built himself a house; but for Me
   there is no resting-place.' Some people who heard it, said, 'We
   are sorry for Thee and will build Thee a house.' He replied, 'I
   have no money.' They answered, 'We will pay all the expenses.'
   Then he said, 'Very well, I will choose the site.' He led them
   down to the edge of the sea and, pointing where the waves were
   dashing highest, said, 'Build Me a house there.' The people said,
   'That is the sea, O Prophet! how can we build there?' 'Yea, and
   is not the world a sea,' He answered, 'on which no one can raise
   a building that abides?'

A similar echo of Christ's words is found in the famous inscription over
a bridge at Fatehpur Sikri: 'Jesus (upon Whom be peace) said, "The world
is a bridge; pass over it, but do not build upon it."'

This keen sense of the transitoriness of everything earthly is a
strongly-marked feature of the Oriental mind, and characterized all
their saints and mystics. There is no wonder that this side of the
gospel should make a special appeal to Orientals, and that the
Fakir-missionary should seem to them to approximate most closely to his

The following account of the trial of our Lord before the Sanhedrin and
Pilate which occurs in the Dabistan of Mohsin Fani (A.D. 1647)
approximates more nearly to the Gospel narrative than that which is
ordinarily current among Mohammedan writers:--

   When Jesus appeared, the high-priest said, 'We charge Thee upon
   Thy oath by the living God, say art Thou the Son of God?' The
   blessed and holy Lord Jesus replied to him, 'I am what thou hast
   said. Verily We say unto you, you shall see the Son of man seated
   at the right hand of God, and He shall descend in the clouds of
   heaven.' They said, 'Thou utterest a blasphemy, because,
   according to the creed of the Jews, God never descends in the
   clouds of heaven.'

   Isaiah the prophet has announced the birth of Jesus in words the
   translation of which is as follows:--'A branch from the root of
   I'shai shall spring up, and from this branch shall come forth a
   flower in which the Spirit of God shall dwell, verily a virgin
   shall be pregnant and bring forth a Son.' I'shai is the name of
   the father of David.

   "When they had apprehended Jesus, they spat upon His blessed face
   and smote Him. Isaiah had predicted it. 'I shall give up My body
   to the smiters, and My cheek to the diggers of wounds. I shall
   not turn My face from those who will use bad words and throw
   spittle upon Me.' When Pilatus, a judge of the Jews, scourged the
   Lord Jesus in such a manner that His body from head to foot
   became but one wound, so was it as Isaiah had predicted, 'He was
   wounded for our transgressions; I struck Him for His people.'
   When Pilatus saw that the Jews insisted upon the death and
   crucifixion of Jesus, he said, 'I take no part in the blood of
   this Man; I wash my hands clean of His blood.' The Jews answered,
   'His blood be on us and on our children.' On that account the
   Jews are oppressed and curbed down in retribution of their
   iniquities. When they had placed the cross upon the shoulders of
   Jesus and led Him to die, a woman wiped with the border of her
   garment the face, full of blood, of the Lord Jesus. Verily she
   obtained three images of it and carried them home; the one of
   these images exists still in Spain, the other is in the town of
   Milan in Italy, and the third in the city of Rome."

The same author, Mohsin Fani, says:--

   The Gospel has been translated from the tongue of Jesus into
   different languages, namely, into Arabic, Greek, Latin, which
   last is the language of the learned among the Firangis; and into
   Syriac, and this all learned men know.

Fragments of our Lord's teaching are found not only in religious but
also in secular Mohammedan books; thus in the Kitab Jawidan of Ibn
Muskawih we have the following:--

   The hatefullest of learned men in the eyes of God is he who loves
   reputation and that room should be made for him in the assemblies
   of the great, and to be invited to feasts. Verily I say they have
   their reward in the world.

In the Kitab-al-Aghani, a history of Arabic poetry, it is related:--

   Satan came to Jesus and said, 'Dost Thou not speak the truth?'
   'Certainly,' answered Jesus. 'Well then,' said Satan, 'climb this
   mountain and cast Thyself down.' Jesus said, 'Woe to thee, for
   hath not God said, O Son of Man, tempt Me not by casting thyself
   into destruction, for I do that which I will.'

From the above instances taken from well-known Mohammedan writers it
will be seen that the Christ of post-Koranic tradition is far more
life-like than the Christ of the Koran. The latter is a mere lay-figure,
bedecked with honorific titles indeed, such as the 'Spirit of God and a
word proceeding from Him,' and working miracles, but displaying no
character. In the post-Koranic writers, on the other hand, we have His
sinlessness, His return to judgment, His humility, His unworldliness,
His sufferings, His doctrine of the New Birth, topics upon which the
Koran is entirely silent. An open-minded Moslem perusing the above
passages in the original Persian and Arabic (and many might be added)
would certainly gain a far higher conception of our Lord than from
anything he would find in the Koran.

   [65] In one tradition He is called 'Imam al ashin,' 'Leader of
   the wanderers.'

   [66] Although Mohammed said, 'There is no monkery in Islam,' and
   rebuked one of his followers who showed a tendency to it,
   celibacy and homelessness have often marked the saints of Islam.

   One of them, Bishr Hafi, being asked why he did not marry,
   answered, 'I am afraid of that verse in the Koran, "The rights of
   women over men are the same as the rights of men over women."'

  | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
  |                                                           |
  | There are a number of words, mostly Arabic, spelled in    |
  | different ways in the present book. As many of these are  |
  | variants often used in the transliteration of Arabic      |
  | names, these differences have been retained. Below is     |
  | the list of the words which have been spelled differently |
  | at different places in the book:                          |
  |                                                           |
  | Adham, Adhem.                                             |
  | Alghazzali, Algazzali.                                    |
  | Bayazid, Bayezid.                                         |
  | Hassan, Hasan.                                            |
  | Hejaj, Hejjaj.                                            |
  | Judgment, Judgement.                                      |
  | Kaf, Kàf.                                                 |
  | Khorassan, Khorasan.                                      |
  | Muhammad, Mohammed, Muhammed, Mohammad.                   |
  | Mohammedan, Muhammadan, Muhammedan, Mahommadan,           |
  |   Mohammadan.                                             |
  | Mohammedanism, Muhammedanism.                             |
  | Saadi, Sa'di.                                             |
  | Sofiân, Sofyan.                                           |
  | Suhrawardy, Suhrawardi.                                   |

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