Al-Junayd al-Baghdadi

Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd, Abu al-Qasim al-Qawariri al-Khazzaz al-Nahawandi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i (d. 298). The Imam of the World in his time, shaykh of the Sufis and “Diadem of the Knowers,” he accompanied his maternal uncle Sari al-Saqati, al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and others. Abu Sahl al-Su`luki narrates that as a boy al-Junayd heard his uncle being asked about thankfulness, whereupon he said: “It is to not use His favors for the purpose of disobeying Him.” He took fiqh from Abu Thawr – in whose circle he would give fatwas at twenty years of age – and, it was also said, from Sufyan al-Thawri. He once said: “Allah did not bring out a single science on earth accessible to people except he gave me a share in its knowledge.” He used to go to the market every day, open his shop, and commence praying four hundred rak`as until closing time.

Among his sayings about the Sufi Path: “Whoever does not memorize the Qur’an and write hadith is not fit to be followed in this matter. For our science is controlled by the Book and the Sunna.” To Ibn Kullab who was asking him about tasawwuf he replied: “Our madhhab is the singling out of the pre-eternal from the contingent, the desertion of human brotherhood and homes, and obliviousness to past and future.” Ibn Kullab said: “This kind of speech cannot be debated.” His student Abu al-`Abbas ibn Surayj would say, whenever he defeated his adversaries in debate: “This is from the blessing of my sittings with al-Junayd.” Al-Qushayri relates from al-Junayd the following definitions of tasawwuf:

* “Not the profusion of prayer and fasting, but wholeness of the breast and selflessness.”1

* “Tasawwuf means that Allah causes you to die to your self and gives you life in Him.”

* “It means that you be solely with Allah with no attachments.”

* “It is a war in which there is no peace.”

* “It is supplication together with inward concentration, ecstasy together with attentive hearing, and action combined with compliance [with the Sunna].”

* “It is the upholding of every high manner and the repudiation of every low one.”

When his uncle asked him to speak from the pulpit he deprecated himself, but then saw the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — in his dream ordering him to speak. Ibn Kullab once asked al-Junayd to dictate for him a comprehensive definition of tawhid he had just heard him say. He replied: “If I were reading from a record I would dictate it to you.” The Mu`tazili al-Ka`bi said: “My eyes did not see his like. Writers came to hear him for his linguistic mastery, philosophers for the sharpness of his speech, poets for his eloquence, and kalam scholars for the contents of his speech.” Al-Khuldi said: “We never saw, among our shaykhs, anyone in whom `ilm and hal came together except al-Junayd. If you saw his hal you would think that it took precedence over his `ilm, and if he spoke you would think that his `ilm took precedence over his hal.”

Like the Sunni imams of his generation, al-Junayd hated theological disputations about Allah and His Attributes: “The least [peril] that lies within kalam is the elimination of Allah’s awe from the heart. And when the heart is left devoid of Allah’s awe, it becomes devoid of belief.”

At one time a young Christian asked him: “What is the meaning of the Prophet’s hadith: `Beware the vision of the believer for he sees with the light of Allah’?”2 Al-Junayd remained immersed in thought then lifted his head and said: “Submit, for the time has come for you to accept Islam.” The young man embraced Islam on the spot. Al-Junayd defined the Knower (al-`arif) as “He who addresses your secret although you are silent.” Ibn al-Jawzi cites another example of Junayd’s kashf in his Sifa al-Safwa:

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