Sufism -- Sufis -- Sufi
al-Basri, (d. 110 AH/ 728 CE) from Basra in today's 'Iraq, is
of the earliest links in most Sufi lineages. He is generally noted in
Sufi chains of transmission and is listed as having received the
from 'Ali, who in
turn received it from the Prophet Muhammad. Linked here is an
translation of his well-known letter extolling
asceticism written to the Umayyad Caliph 'Umar ibn 'Abd
al-'Aziz (r. 717-720) (See Arberry, Sufism, pp. 33-35, whose source
was the Arabic of Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani, Hilyat al-awliya', vol.
2, pp. 134-140). (The Eliade archive that was the source of this is now --October 16, 2001--
back on line again
after a few years of being.) For a useful article see
Dr. G. Haddad's al-Hasan
Rabi'a al-Adawiya, certainly the most famous
woman Sufi saint, lived during the 2nd c. AH/ 8th c. CE and
died in Basra (in Iraq). See this Biography of Rabi'a.
is said [that Rabi'a (al-Adawiya ?)] used to kneel a thousand times
daily saying, 'I ask for no recompense, but [only] to satisfy the Almighty
God.' See some brief Excerpts
from Rabi'a's Poetry and Anecdotes told
about her. (See above for Rabi'a bint Isma'il) (corrected 3/22/98). See
Platt's Rabi'a site for more extensive and topically
organized quotes of Rabi'a as well as a short biography.
Bayazid-i Bistami, (d. 874 CE) whose
be visited through this gateway, was a Sufi shaykh who died before the
advent of the Sufi orders. He is
generally known as an exponent of "intoxicated" Sufism.
Sahl ibn 'Abdallah
al-Tustari (d. 896) wrote
some treatises as well as a commentary on the Qur'an, which has been published in
the original Arabic and was the subject of a scholarly study in English by Gerhard
professor at Yale University. The commentary has not yet been reliably edited, nor
has it been translated into English, even though it is short.
al-Hallaj (858-922) is one of Sufism's most
controversial figures. Executed in Baghdad for political reasons, Hallaj
became famous for his problematic saying, "I am the Real" (Ana
which can also be translated as "I am the Truth" and "I am God." The only
work of his translated into English is the Tawasin (Ta
wa-sin). It was translated by 'A'isha
al-Tarjumana and is now on-line, although there are errors in the scanned
collection of his Arabic poetry survives. One of his poems, translated
into English, can be found at the following link: Hallaj on
Kharaqani (b. 351- 352/962-964 and d. 425/1033)--whose
tomb is in the town of
Kharaqan, which is in the general region of Bastam and which today is in
the vicinity of Shahrud, within the administrative district of Semnan in
Iran--received a spiritual transmission from Abu Yazid Bastami and like
Abu Sa'id Abu al-Khayr
(967-1049 CE) received spiritual guidance from Shaykh Abu
al-'Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad 'Abd al-Karim Qassab-e Amuli. When he was
asked about being a dervish (darvishi)--which is roughly the
equivalent of faqr (spiritual poverty), namely the Sufi
"It is an ocean that derives from three springs: the first, abstenance;
the second, generosity; and the third, being independent of people." When
he was asked about the "gnostic" ('arif). He replied, "A gnostic
is like a bird
that has flown from its nest seeking food but has not found any. It
then tries to make its way back to the nest, loses its way, and becomes
bewildered--wishing but unable to go home." (From Nur al-'ulum,
ed. by 'Abd al-Rafi' Haqiqat, pp. 37, 39.)
Abu Sa'id ibn Abi'l-Khayr (d. 440/1049), was an early Sufi shaykh
who at different stages of his life was an ascetic, an antinomian
and a spiritual guide. He received a Sufi transmission from Abu al-Fadl
al-Hasan (or ibn al-Hasan) al-Sarakhsi, whom Abu Sa'id called his "pir" (a
refering to a spiritual guide and often equivalent to "shaykh"). After
the death of Abu al-Fadl, Abu Sa'id looked to Abu 'Abbas al-Qassab (the
butcher), whom Abu Sa'id called "shaykh," for spiritual guidance. The
hagiography Asrar al-tawhid is one of the two major sources for
what we know of his life and teachings. It has been translated as The Secrets of God's Mystical
Oneness (link to Mazda Press) by John O'Kane. A collection of
quatrains (ruba'iyat) is attributed to Abu Sa'id. See a selection
of some of these among the on-line excerpts from the book Abu Sa'id
Abu'l-Khayr and His Rubaiyat by the Sufi shaykh Dr. Zahurul Hasan
an important Hanbali Sufi author and saint, died in the 481 AH / 1089 AD.
His tomb in Herat,
Afghanistan, (link fixed, Nov. 30, 2000)
continues to be an important pilgrimage site. He wrote a number of
treatises in both Arabic and Persian. In a short treatise in Persian
titled "Discourses" (Maqulat) (ed. by Dastgirdi, pp. 147-48; translated
here by Dr. Godlas), he states
Do you know when the "one who affirms the reality of God" (muhaqqiq-e
Haqq) will become [at] one (yakta)? When three things become
apparent in him:
when what is God's becomes separated from what is man's;
when worldly existence (lit. water and earth) goes to Adam and Eve;
when the light of the unmanifest realm becomes one with God.
Come out of your self like a snake out of its skin! [Your identity of]
affirms reality" is a pretense. The truth of self is that all is He. Let
go of your self, since relationship to God is good. How can
the critics' criticism matter to one, when clear water is in the stream?!
Know that people are a headache, the cure for
which is being alone. Neither do we associate with people, nor do people
have [a sense of] separateness from us. The self is the idol and
[people's] approval is the sign of duality (lit. zunnar). I have all at
once uttered the whole of the depths of the truth, whether you accept or
As long as there is duality, [one's] relationship is with Adam
and Eve. But when duality departs, the one [reality] is God. When the
path of Lordship (rububiyat) appears, the dust of humanness
He is not veiled; but He is not apparent to every eye. To this extent,
conceal with dignity, since time clarifies. In the scroll of the Sufi,
speech does not arise from the heart, but from the soul. [In fact,] it is
also not from the soul; speech is the pretense. If you can stand
drinking, drink. Otherwise, get to work and shut up!
This is the world of the mysterion (sirr); and this people
mysteria (asrar). What business does a watchman have with
the secrets of kings?!
For some time I would seek Him yet would find my
self. Now I seek my self and find Him.
Love arrived and became like my blood within veins and skin.
Until it emptied me and filled me with the Beloved.
The Beloved has completely taken possession of the parts of my body.
A name is given by me to me, and the rest is all Him.
Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111 CE) was arguably one of the
significant Sufis of what has been called the period of consolidation.
The article linked with his name is a well-documented survey of his
life and thought written in October 2001 by Mustafa Abu Sway of
al-Quds University. His lengthy
masterpiece, the The Revival of the Religious
Sciences (Ihya 'ulum al-din) clearly expressed the Sufi dimension
of Islam. Linked
here is his spiritual autobiography The
Deliverance from Error
(al-Munqidh min al-dallal), in which he beautifully portrays his
transformation from an intellectual who merely conjectures about
religious truths into a Sufi who experiences ultimate
reality and truth.
Hamadani (d. 1131 CE.) was a prominent disciple of the great Sufi
shaykh and writer on "love," Ahmad al-Ghazali, who was the younger brother
well-known mainstream Muslim scholar, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (d.
1111 CE.). For political reasons, 'Ayn al-Qudat was unfortunately sent to
prison, where he wrote the book Shakwa al-gharib (Complaint of the
Stranger), an excerpt of
which can be found at the previous link. Ultimately, he was executed.
Ruzbihan Baqli (d. 606/1209) was an ecstatic
Sunni Sufi shaykh and author from Shiraz (Iran). He was the subject of a
recent study, Ruzbihan
Baqli, by Professor Carl
Ernst. Although Ruzbihan wrote a number of books, only his diary of
visions The Unveiling of
Secrets (Kashf al-asrar)
(in Ernst's translation) is available in English. His most voluminous
work is his encyclopedic Qur'an commentary, 'Ara'is al-bayan, which
includes not only his
own view of the
Sufi implications of the Qur'an but also substantial Qur'an commentary
from the earliest Sufi shaykhs (taken from Sulami) and from Qushayri. See
his commentary on "Guide us on the straight
path" (Qur'an 1:6).
identified 65 manuscripts of 'Ara'is al-bayan and having edited and
it for my Ph.D. dissertation, I am currently in the process of editing
and translating its entirety. Although Henry Corbin translated part of a
work of Ruzbihan's
on Spritual Love (Le Jasmin des fideles d'amour), the first full
length French translations of Ruzbihan's
works have been published only recently by Paul Ballanfat as Le
secrets (Kashf al-asrar) and L'ennuagement du coeur
includes another work, Les Eclosions de la lumiere de l'affirmation de
Ibn 'Arabi by Prof. William C. Chittick
article, published in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, is by the chief authority
in the US on Ibn 'Arabi, whose writings were the dominant influence on
Sufi literature after the 13th c. CE. A less
detailed discussion is found in the article A
Biographical Sketch of Ibn 'Arabi Although Ibn 'Arabi is often
attacked (an example of which is The
Declaration that Ibn 'Arabi is a Disbeliever [Takfir Ibn 'Arabi]),
many consider him to be the greatest Sufi.
Hence his title is the "Greatest Shaykh" (al-Shaykh al-akbar).
Here you can see the excellent pictures of
'Arabi's mosque and its mihrab.(Fixed 12 Nov. 1998)
Ibn 'Arabi's ideas became the most significant
influence on Sufi literature. A selection of them, as expressed by the
great scholar of Sufism Henry Corbin, can be found in Creative
Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi. Ibn 'Arabi's greatest work
is the al-Futuhat al-Makkiya (Meccan Revelations). Prof. James
Morris discusses a part of it in his four-part article titled Listening for God:
Prayer and Heart in the Futuhat.
A number of chapters
of the Futuhat have been translated by the scholar
Ayesha Bewley. One of these in particular addresses the following issues:
beginning of the spiritual creation and the macrocosm and microcosm..
A brief guide to following the path towards God written by Ibn 'Arabi (translated by the
scholar A. Jeffrey) is What the Seeker
Poetry of Yunus
Emre (in Turkish and English translation). Yunus Emre is no doubt
the most beloved Sufi poet in the
Turkish language. Even if you do not know Turkish, you may catch a glimmer
of the beauty of Yunus if you listen to the some of his poems being sung
at the Yunus Emre (with
audio) page. Another interesting site for Yunus is Yunus Emre and
Humanism Surfers should realize, however, that the emphasis on
"humanism" often found in contemporary literature on Turkish Sufism
may lead to a misreading of Yunus.