Al-Shāfiʿī and Tasawwuf
by Sh. G. F. Haddad - Shawwāl 1423

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Imām al-Shāfiʿī recommended tas.awwuf
on condition that knowledge accompany it.

He declared in his Dīwān:

Faqīhan wa-s.ufiyyan fakun laysa wāh.idan
fa'innī wa-h.aqqillāhi iyyāka ans.ah.u
Fadhālika qāsin lam yadhuq qalbuhu tuqan
wahādhā jahūlun kayfa dhūl-jahli yas.luh.u

Be both a jurisprudent and a s.ūfī - never just one of the two.
Truly, by the Divine Right, I am advising you sincerely!
For the former is hardened, his heart tastes no Godwariness,
While the latter is ignorant - of what use is the ignorant?

This is similar to Imām Sufyān al-Thawrī's statement that

“Among the best of people
is the S.ūfī learned in jurisprudence.”

Among al-Shāfiʿī's sayings on Sufism and S.ūfīs:

•  “I accompanied the S.ūfīs for ten years and benefited from them but from two words: their statement that
time is as word: if you do not cut it, it cuts you,

and their statement that
deprivation is immunity.”[3]

Some versions have “three words” and add “their statement that
if you do not keep your ego busy with truth
it will keep you busy with falsehood.

•  “If a rational man does not become a S.ūfī he does not reach noon except he is a dolt!”[4] Abū Nuʿaym narrates this from Muh.ammad ibn ʿAbd al-Rah.mān ibn al-Fad.l, from Abū al-H.asan [Ah.mad ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-H.ārith] ibn al-Qattāt [al-Mis.rī], from the thiqa Muh.ammad ibn Abī Yah.yā, from the thiqa Imām Yūnus ibn ʿAbdal-Aʿlā, from the Imām.

  A contrary version of the latter saying reads: “A rational man does not become a S.ūfī except he reaches noon a dolt!”[5] Al-Bayhaqī narrates this from al-H.ākim, from Abū Muh.ammad Jaʿfar ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-H.ārith,from al-H.asan ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-D.ah.h.āk (IbnBah.r), both of unknown reliability. For obvious reasons, this is the preferred version of the detractors of Sufis.

Imām al-Nawawī in his Bustān al-ʿārifīn fīl-Zuhd wal-Tas.awwuf
(“The Garden of the Knowers in Asceticism and Tas.awwufī”) narrated with his chain fromal-Shāfiʿī the saying:

“Only the sincere one (al-mukhlis.)
can recognize self-display (al-riyā').”

Al-Nawawī comments: “This means that it is impossible to know the reality of self-display and see its hidden shades except for one who resolutely seeks (arāda) sincerity. Such a one strives for a long time, searching, meditating, examining at length within himself until he knows, or knows something of what self-display is. This does not happen for everyone. Indeed, this happens only with special ones (al-khawās.s.). But for a given individual to claim that he knows what self-diplay is, this is real ignorance on his part.”[6]

In Makka al-Shāfiʿī was the student of al-Fud.ayl ibn ʿIyād.. It is said that he also took tas.awwuf from the ascetic shepherd Shaybān al-Rāʿī. Little is known of the latter and there is no report of the two having ever met but there is a narration that Shaybān went on pilgrimage on foot with Sufyān al-Thawrī who witnessed him tame a lion and tweak its ear [7]

- Allāh have mercy on them and be well-pleased with them! -


[1] Al-Shāfiʿī, Dīwān (p. 177 #45).

[2] Narrated by al-Harawī al-Ans.ārī in his T.abaqāt al-S.ūfiyya.

[3] Narrated from Muh.ammad ibn Muh.ammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī by al-Bayhaqī in Manāqib al-Shāfiʿī (2:208) cf. Ibn al-Qayyim in Madārij al-Sālikīn (3:128) and al-Jawāb al-Kāfī (p. 208-209) and al-Suyūt.ī in Ta'yīd al-H.aqīqat al-ʿAliyya (p. 15).

[4] Narrated from Yūnus ibn ʿAbd al-Aʿlā by Abū Nuʿaym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 9:142).

[5] Narrated by al-Bayhaqī, Manāqib (2:207) cf. Ibn al-Jawzī, S.ifat al-S.afwa (1:25) and Talbīs Iblīs (1985 ed. p. 447) and Ibn Taymiyya in his Istiqāma (p. 414).

[6] Al-Nawawī, Bustān al-ʿārifīn (p. 53-54).

[7] In Abū Nuʿaym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 7:68-69) and al-Dhahabī, Siyar (7:203-203=al-Arna'ūt. ed. 7:268). Another rare narration reports other of his miraculous gifts (karāmāt) in Abū Nuʿaym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 8:317 #434=1997 ed. 8:354 #425).

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