Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sahl al-Tustari

Bismillah.

O son, I will say this again to you and I will repeat it a thousand times if need be, that the blessings one could get when learning from habaib is simply incredible. You will know this is so when whatever 'ilm (knowledge) they transmit to you would just stick with you in your heart.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to sit before Sheikh Habib Yusuf Bakhour al-Hassani at 'Ijtima Ulama' organized by Al-Jenderami. It was my first experience being in the presence of a habib whose aura simply overwhelmed me. The beauty of his face and his charming persona would remind a discerning heart of Nabi Yusuf a.s.

One lesson I learned from Habib Yusuf was the story of Sahl al-Tustari (Abu Muhammad Sahl Bin Abdullah Al Tustari: 818 -896 CE) - how a young Sahl learned a simple wirid from his uncle, but profound enough that it had transformed Sahl into a great sufi.

Sahl would often wake up in the middle of the night only to see his devout uncle engrossed in his prayers. So he asked his uncle if he could be like him, to which his uncle, Muhammad ibn al-Sawwar replied, "You are still young, suffice that every night you remember Allah in your heart by repeating these words 3 times without moving your tongue. When you are strengthened by it, increase it to 7 times. This will be benificial for you for if you know Allah is witnessing you, Allah is looking at you and Allah is with you, surely you will not do anything that would displease Him."
So say:
Allahu shahidi
Allahu naziri
Allahu ma'i
Allah is watching me.
Allah is looking at me.
Allah is with me.

Sahl grew up to be, as al-Dhahabi described, "the master of knowers (Shaykh al-`ârifîn), the ascetic sufi (al-Suufî al-zâhid) who has a firm foothold in the path." It was narrated that Sahl had said to one of his disciples: "Try to say continuously for one day Allah, Allah, Allah and do the the same the next day, the day after, until it becomes a habit." Then he told him to repeat it at night also, until it became so familiar that the disciple repeated it even during his sleep. Then Sahl said "Do not consciously repeat the Name anymore, but let your whole faculties be engrossed in remembering Him!" The disciple did this until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood that dripped to the ground bore the legend Allah, Allah, Allah.

It is also worth mentioning that one of Sahl's famous disciples was Mansur al-Hallaj (858-922 CE) - the Persian sufi mystic who was executed for proclaiming 'Anal Haqq' (I am the Truth). 'Many if not most of the Ulema consider him one of the Friends (awliyâ’) of Allah, such as Ibn Khafif who visited him in jail, Abu al-Qasim al-Nasir Abadi, al-Qushayri, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah..' 'Among his sayings: “Take care of your ego; if you do not make it busy, it shall make you busy” and “Whoever points to Him is an aspirant-Sufi whereas whoever points on His behalf is a Sufi.”

Sahl's rare works have only recently been made available by a favorite publisher of mine Fons Vitae: TAFSIR AL TUSTARI - "The earliest surviving Sufi commentary on the Qur'an, this record is not only one of the few authenticated works in Tustari's name but is also a key source for understanding the mystical thought and teachings of this important and influential Sufi. In addition to insights into the spiritual significance of almost 1,000 verses of the Qur'an, this commentary, presented in complete English translation for the first time, includes numerous references to traditions of the Prophet, explanations of the ethical and mystical dimensions of the religious life, stories of the prophets, and anecdotes about earlier mystics. Generously augmented with explanatory footnotes throughout, the book will provide readers with an invaluable introduction to the Sufi tradition of Qur'anic interpretation and acquaint them with spiritual doctrines fundamental to the later development of Sufism."

Tafsir Al-Tustari
By Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah al-Tustari, Annabel Keeler, Ali Keeler, Yousef Meri
Translated by Annabel Keeler, Ali Keeler
Edition: illustrated
Published by Fons Vitae, 2009
ISBN 1891785192, 9781891785191
310 pages


May Allah Kareem Wills that this valuable and priceless book makes its way to my hands soon and most importantly may Allah make us practise what Sahl al-Tustari had practised: Allahu shahidi, Allahu naziri, Allahu ma'i.
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7 comments:

  1. Ahh Sh Yusuf Bakhour, who could forget him?
    Did you notice he once interrupted and corrected the younger ustaz who translated his speech for us?
    I mean, how could he know that the translator translated it wrongly?

    And I've been saying Allahu ma'i, Allahu naziri, Allahu shahidi 3x every morning since the that day in Jenderam. (No, he didn't give me ijazah...:)

    wallahua'lam.

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  2. MashaAllah, yes I noticed that too. Didn't he give us ijazah a'miyah? I thought/assumed he did. Obviously I was overly excited about meeting one as 'aleem and handsome as Habib Yusuf! May we continue to recite those affirmation til our last breath.

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  3. If he did give ijazah, then alhamdulillah.
    About his good looks, and this is just a hypothetical question I throw out to anybody who care to research:
    Being al-hasani, any chance he inherit Rasulullah (saw) features? I kept wondering this.

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  4. Well, my heart says yes, being al-hasani, some features of Habib Yusuf may have come from the Prophet s.a.w And your question reminds me of a book 'Classical Islam - Naqshabandi Sufi Tradition' where it's mentioned that one of the early shuyukhs in the Naqshabandi lineage whose name I've forgoten was said to resemble the Prophet s.a.w and I asked a guru about it and he confirmed. I promise once I get home (balik kampung) and get hold of the book, I will scan the sheikh's photo and quote the relevant para for you. In the meantime we should be steadfast in recitig Dalail Khayrat and pray that we will meet Rasulullah s.a.w in our dreams (or thru 'yaqazah' for that matter) if we are yet to do so, bi-iznillah. Allah is most Generous, may He makes our love for the Prophet pure.

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  5. SA,

    Could you provide the references to the following information:

    "Sahl grew up to be, as al-Dhahabi described, "the master of knowers (Shaykh al-`ârifîn), the ascetic sufi (al-Suufî al-zâhid) who has a firm foothold in the path." It was narrated that Sahl had said to one of his disciples: "Try to say continuously for one day Allah, Allah, Allah and do the the same the next day, the day after, until it becomes a habit." Then he told him to repeat it at night also, until it became so familiar that the disciple repeated it even during his sleep. Then Sahl said "Do not consciously repeat the Name anymore, but let your whole faculties be engrossed in remembering Him!" The disciple did this until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood that dripped to the ground bore the legend Allah, Allah, Allah."

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  6. Salam,
    Kindly click on the links provided at the bottom of the post.
    # References: Al Tustari/Al Hallaj as Sahl's Disciple/ Doctrine of Mansur al-Hallaj

    It will take you to the sources:
    http://www.abc.se/~m9783/tust_e.html

    http://www.salaam.co.uk/knowledge/biography/viewentry.php?id=1435


    http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/Hallaj_doctrine.htm

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete