Imam Junayd ibn Muhammad Abu al-

Imam Junayd ibn Muhammad Abu al-

Imam Junayd ibn Muhammad Abu al-Qasim al-Khazzaz al-Baghdadi (d. 297 AH/  909-910 CE)

By GF Haddad and Dr. Alan Godlas


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.

He is referred to by the sufis as sayyid-ut taifa i.e. the leader of the group. He lived and died in the city of Baghdad. He laid the groundwork for “sober” mysticism in contrast to that of “God-intoxicated” Sufis like al-Hallaj, Bayazid Bistami and Abu Sa`eed Abul-Khayr.

Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami stated:

His father used to sell glasses.  Hence he was called the flask seller (al-Qawariri).  His family origin was from Nahawand, and he was born and raised in ‘Iraq–that is what I heard Abu al-Qasim al-Nasrabadhi saying.  He was a scholar of jurisprudence (faqih), having studied it according to the method of Abu Thawr [Ibrahim ibn Khalid ibn al-Yaman al-Kalbi].  He would issue legal judgments in his circle of students.  [As a student] he [had] been in the company (sahiba) of Sari al-Saqati, Harith al-Muhasibi, and Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Qassab al-Baghdadi, and others.  He was among the leaders of the folk and among their masters, being well spoken of by all.”

Sulami included Junayd as being among the transmitters of the following hadith:  The Prophet said, “Beware of the perspicacity of the believer, since he sees by the light of God, may He be exalted.  Then he recited [the ayah]: Indeed in that are signs for those who have insight (Qur’an 15:75).”

Sulami stated that Junayd said, “Nearness through ecstasy (wajd) is ‘in-gathering’ (jam’); and absence through humanness is separation (tafriqah).”

Sulami stated that Junayd used to say

We did not learn (lit. take) Sufism by discourse, rather by hunger, abandoning the world, and severing [one's attachments to] familiar and pleasant things; since Sufism consists of purity of [one's] relationship with God.  Its foundation is in turning away from the world, as Harith [al-Muhasibi] said, “My self (nafs) has turned away from the world; so I have spent my nights in wakefulness and my days in thirst.”

Sulami stated that Junayd said, “Whoever knows God is only made happy by Him.”

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 Sunnah.”

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 Sunnah].”

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

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