Al-Shâfi`î and Tasawwuf
by Sh. G. F. Haddad - Shawwâl 1423

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Imâm al-Shâfi`î recommended tas.awwuf
on condition that knowledge accompany it.

He declared in his Dîwân:

Faqîhan wa-s.ufiyyan fakun laysa wâh.idan
fa'innî wa-h.aqqillâhi iyyâka ans.ah.u
Fadhâlika qâsin lam yadhuq qalbuhu tuqan
wahâdhâ jahûlun kayfa dhûl-jahli yas.luh.u

Be both a jurisprudent and a s.ûfî - 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 Imâm Sufyân al-Thawrî's statement that

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

Among al-Shâfi`î's sayings on Sufism and S.ûfîs:

•  “I accompanied the S.ûfîs 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.ûfî he does not reach noon except he is a dolt!”[4] Abû Nu`aym narrates this from Muh.ammad ibn `Abd al-Rah.mân ibn al-Fad.l, from Abû al-H.asan [Ah.mad ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-H.ârith] ibn al-Qattât [al-Mis.rî], from the thiqa Muh.ammad ibn Abî Yah.yâ, from the thiqa Imâm Yûnus ibn `Abdal-A`lâ, from the Imâm.

  A contrary version of the latter saying reads: “A rational man does not become a S.ûfî except he reaches noon a dolt!”[5] Al-Bayhaqî narrates this from al-H.âkim, from Abû Muh.ammad Ja`far ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-H.ârith,from al-H.asan ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-D.ah.h.âk (IbnBah.r), both of unknown reliability. For obvious reasons, this is the preferred version of the detractors of Sufis.

Imâm al-Nawawî in his Bustân al-`ârifîn fîl-Zuhd wal-Tas.awwuf
(“The Garden of the Knowers in Asceticism and Tas.awwufî”) narrated with his chain fromal-Shâfi`î the saying:

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

Al-Nawawî 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 (arâda) 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-khawâs.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-Shâfi`î was the student of al-Fud.ayl ibn `Iyâd.. It is said that he also took tas.awwuf from the ascetic shepherd Shaybân al-Râ`î. Little is known of the latter and there is no report of the two having ever met but there is a narration that Shaybân went on pilgrimage on foot with Sufyân al-Thawrî who witnessed him tame a lion and tweak its ear [7]

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


[1] Al-Shâfi`î, Dîwân (p. 177 #45).

[2] Narrated by al-Harawî al-Ans.ârî in his T.abaqât al-S.ûfiyya.

[3] Narrated from Muh.ammad ibn Muh.ammad ibn Idrîs al-Shâfi`î by al-Bayhaqî in Manâqib al-Shâfi`î (2:208) cf. Ibn al-Qayyim in Madârij al-Sâlikîn (3:128) and al-Jawâb al-Kâfî (p. 208-209) and al-Suyût.î in Ta'yîd al-H.aqîqat al-`Aliyya (p. 15).

[4] Narrated from Yûnus ibn `Abd al-A`lâ by Abû Nu`aym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 9:142).

[5] Narrated by al-Bayhaqî, Manâqib (2:207) cf. Ibn al-Jawzî, S.ifat al-S.afwa (1:25) and Talbîs Iblîs (1985 ed. p. 447) and Ibn Taymiyya in his Istiqâma (p. 414).

[6] Al-Nawawî, Bustân al-`ârifîn (p. 53-54).

[7] In Abû Nu`aym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 7:68-69) and al-Dhahabî, Siyar (7:203-203=al-Arna'ût. ed. 7:268). Another rare narration reports other of his miraculous gifts (karâmât) in Abû Nu`aym, H.ilya (1985 ed. 8:317 #434=1997 ed. 8:354 #425).

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