Al-Sulami

                Al-Khat.īb narrates that Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī said that when his teacher, Abū ‘Alī al-Daqqāq, heard that al-Sulamī practiced samā‘ in the fashion of the Fuqarā’ – the S.ūfīs – he said: “For such as him, in his state, stillness would have been more appropriate.” Then al-Daqqāq said to Abū al-Qāsim: “Go to him, you will find him sitting in his library. On top of his books you will find a small square red volume containing the poetry of al-H.usayn ibn Mans.ūr [al-H.allāj]. Bring it to me without letting him know.” Al-Qushayrī went and found al-Sulamī in his library and the book in full view as his teacher had said. He sat down then al-Sulamī said: “A certain man used to criticize one of the Ulema for moving during samā‘. That man was glimpsed one day, in the privacy his house, whirling like one overwhelmed with emotion. He was asked why and replied, ‘A difficult question had been on my mind which makes sense to me now, so I could not control myself out of joy, and got up and whirled around.’ We say to him: Such is their state.” When al-Qushayrī, on the one hand, saw exactly what Abū ‘Alī had described as he had described it and, on the other hand, Abū ‘Abd al-Rah.mān speaking as if to address what Abū ‘Alī had said in private before, he found himself in a dilemma. He decided to reveal everything to al-Sulamī and told him: “I fear to offend you and yet cannot disobey my teacher.” Al-Sulamī said: “Take the book and tell him I sometimes cite excerpts from this poetry in my works.”[1]

                Al-Qushayrī narrates that al-Sulamī asked Abū ‘Alī al-Daqqāq: “What is more perfect, invocation (dhikr) or reflection (fikr)?” Al-Daqqāq replied: “What is it that constitutes a spiritual opening for the Shaykh?” Al-Sulamī said: “For me, dhikr is more perfect because the Real (al-H.aqq) is described by dhikr and not by reflection.” Abū ‘Alī approved.

                Al-Sulamī said: “The root of tas.awwuf is adherence to the Book and the Sunna; aban­donment of lusts and innovations; high respect of the Shaykhs; sight of the excuses of creatures; and perseverance in the recitation of daily devotions.”[2]

                One day al-Sulamī went to Marw only to find that his teacher Abū Sahl al-Su‘lūkī had replaced his gathering of early-morning Qur’an recitation with a gathering of poetry recita­tion. Later, Abū Sahl asked: “Abū ‘Abd al-Rah.mān, what do the people say about me?” Al-Sulamī replied: “They say, he has replaced the gathering of Qur’an recitation with a gath­ering of poetry recita­tion.” Abū Sahl said: “Whoever says to his Shaykh: ‘Why?’ shall never succeed.” Al-Dhahabī comments: “Only if he is infallible; but if the Shaykh is not in­fal­lible and yet hates questioning then he shall never succeed. Allāh I said [help one an­other unto righteousness and pious duty] (5:2), [and exhort one another to truth] (103:3), [and exhort one another to pity] (90:17). True, now the murīds are peevish boors, always objecting and never following, talking and not acting – such shall never succeed.”

                Al-Sulamī narrated with his chain from Ibn al-Mubārak that the latter said: “It is in­cumbent upon a wise person that he not make light of three things: Ulema, Sultans, and brothers. Whoever makes light of the Ulema, his hereafter is lost; whoever makes light of the Sultan, his worldly life is lost; and whoever makes light of his brothers, his dignity is lost.” Al-Dhahabī cites it.

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