Abu Bakr ash-Shibli

Abu Bakr ash-Shibli

Abu Bakr ash-Shibli

(247/861 – 334/946), a famous Sufi and Maliki faqih

from Qadi ‘Iyad’sTartib al-Madarik

translated by Aisha Bewley

The shaykh of the Sufis and Imam of the people of knowledge of the inward about whom there are miraculous reports and rare traditions. He was one of those with great skill in the sciences of the Shari’a. There is a disagreement about his name. It is said to be Dulaf ibn Jahdar or Ibn Ja’far. Other things are said.

His family was from Khorasan, from a village there called Shibla. He was born in Samarra or Baghdad. He grew up in Baghdad.

Abu Bakr al-Khatib said, “His uncle was the Amir of the Amirs in Alexandria.”

As-Sulami said, “Ash-Shibli was the chamberlain of the Khalif al-Muwaffiq. His father had been the chamberlain in Baghdad.”

Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman said: “He was a man of knowledge and a faqih in the school of Malik. He wrote out many hadiths. He mentioned that the beginning of his repentance was in the assembly of Khayr an-Nassaj. He kept the company of al-Junayd and the shaykhs of his time. He was unique in his age in state and knowledge. He transmitted hadith with isnad.”

He related from Muhammad ibn Mahdi al-Basri. ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Hammal, al-Husayn ibn Ahmad as-Saffar, Isma’il ibn al-Husayn ibn Bandar, Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn al-Muthanna al-‘Anbari, Abu Sahl as-Sa’luki, Abu Bakr ar-Razi and Abu Bakr al-Abhuri related from him.

As-Sulami said, “While al-Muwaffiq was in power, one day ash-Shibli attended the assembly of Khayr an-Nassaj. He returned to Nihawand where he the governor. Ash-Shibli said to them, ‘I have been appointed over your city, so put me in the lawful.’ They did that. They tried to have him accept something from them, but he refused.”

Abu ‘Abdullah ar-Razi said: “The shaykhs of Iraq say, ‘The wonders of Baghdad in Sufism are three: the indications (isharat) of ash-Shibli, the fine sayings of al-Murta’ish and the stories of Ja’far, i.e. al-Khuldi.


Concerning his virtues, miracles, knowledge, worship, fear and his Indications (al-Isharat)

As-Sulami reported¬†that Abu ‘Abdullah ar-Razi said, “I did not see anyone in Sufism with more knowledge than ash-Shibli.”

Al-Junayd said, “Do not look at ash-Shibli with the eye by which you look at others.” He said, “Every people has a crown and the crown of these people is ash-Shibli.”

He said on tawhid: “Majestic is the One known before the limits and before the letters.”

One day ash-Shibli came to ‘Ali ibn Musa ibn al-Jarrah the Wazir. Ibn Mujahid al-Muqri’ was with him. Ibn Mujahid said to the Wazir, “I will expose him now.” Part of what ash-Shibli did is that when he put something on, he would tear it in a place. When he sat down, Ibn Mujahid said to him, ‘Abu Bakr, where in knowledge is it that one ruins that which is useful?” Ash-Shibli said to him, “Where in knowledge is ‘And he began to stroke their shanks and necks’ (38:33)?” Ibn Mujahid was silent. Ibn al-Jarrah said to him, “I wanted you to silence him and he has silenced you!” Then ash-Shibli said, “The people agree that you are the recitor of the moment, so where is it in the Qur’an that the Beloved will not punish His lovers?” Ibn Mujahid was silent. He said to him, “Say then, Abu Bakr!” He said, “The words of the Almighty: ‘The Jews and the Christians say: “We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones.” Say: “Then why does He punish you for your wrong actions?”‘ (5:18)” Ibn Mujahid said, “It was as if I had never heard it before.”

Ibn Mujahid came to him one day and ash-Shibli asked him about his state. He said, “We hope for good. Every day we do two or three full recitations of the Qur’an.” Ash-Shibli said to him, “Shaykh, in this corner I have done 13,000 full recitations. If anything of them is accepted, I would give it to you. I have been doing a full recitation for three or four years and I have only reached a fourth of the Qur’an.”

It is said that a slavegirl of ash-Shibli remarked to him, “I have counted six months in which you have not slept.”

Ash-Shibli used to say, “This side is guarded by me (i.e. from the Daylamites)” He died on Friday and the Daylamites came to the eastern side on Saturday.

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