We use cookies to enable some features of the website, visiting this site means you agree to save cookies

ON BLAME (Malamat)

The path of Blame has been trodden by some of the Sufi Shaykhs. Blame has a great effect in making love sincere. The followers of the Truth (ahl-i haqq) are distinguished by their being the objects of vulgar blame, especially the eminent ones of this community. The Apostle, who is the exemplar and leader of the adherents of the Truth, and who marches at the head of the lovers (of God), was honoured and held in good repute by all until the evidence of the Truth was revealed to him and inspiration came upon him. Then the people loosed their tongues to blame him. Some said, "He is a soothsayer;" others, "He is a poet;" others, "He is a madman;" others, "He is a liar;" and so forth. And God says, describing the true believers: "They fear not the blame of anyone; that is the grace of God which He bestows on whomsoever He pleases; God is bounteous and wise" (Qur.v,59). Such is the ordinance of God, that He causes those wtio discourse of Him to be blamed by the whole world, but preserves their hearts from being pre-occupied by the world's blame. This He does in His jealously: He guards His lovers from glancing aside to "other" (ghayr), lest the eye of any stranger should behold the beauty of their state; and He guards them also from seeing themselves, lest they should regard their own beauty and fall into self-conceit and arrogance. Therefore He hath set the vulgar over them to loose the tongues of blame against them, and hath made the "blaming soul" (nafs-i lawwama) part of their composition, in order that they may be blamed by others for whatever they do, and by themselves for doing evil or for doing good imperfectly.

Now this is a firm principle in the Way to God, for in this Path there is no taint or veil more difficult to remove than self-conceit. God in His kindness hath barred the way of error against His friends. Their actions, however good, are not approved by the vulgar, who do not see them as they really are; and they themselves do not regard their works of mortification, however numerous, as proceeding from their own strength and power: consequently they are not pleased with themselves and are protected from self- conceit. Whoever is approved by God is disapproved by the vulgar, and whoever is elected by himself is not among the elect of God. Thus Iblis was approved by mankind and accepted by the angels, and he was pleased with himself; but since God was not pleased with him, their approval only brought a curse upon him. Adam, on the other hand, was disapproved by the angels, who said: "Wilt Thou place there [on the earth] one who will do evil therein?" (Qur.ii,28), and was not pleased with himself, for he said: "O Lord, we have done ourselves a wrong" (Qur.vii,22); but since God was pleased with him, the disapproval of the angels and his own displeasure bore the fruit of mercy. Let all men, therefore, know that those accepted by us are rejected by the people, and that those accepted by the people are rejected by us. Hence the blame of mankind is the food of the friends of God, because it is a token of Divine approval; it is the delight of the saints of God, because it is a sign of nearness to Him: they rejoice in it even as other men rejoice in popularity. There is a Tradition, which the Apostle received from Gabriel, that God said: "My friends (saints) are under My cloak: save Me, none knowleth them except My friends."


Now blame (maiamat) is of three kinds: it may result

(1) from following the right way (malamat-i rast raftan), or
(2) from an intentional act (malamat-i qasd kardan), or
(3) from abandonment of the law (malamat-i tark kardan). In the first case, a man is blamed who minds his own business and performs his religious duties and does not omit any practice of devotion: he is entirely indifferent to the behaviour of the people towards him. In the second case a man is greatly honoured by the people and pointed out among them: his heart inclines to the honour in which he is held, and becomes attached to those by whom it is bestowed: he wishes to make himself independent of them and devote himself wrholly to God; therefore he purposely incurs their blame by committing some act which is offensive to them but which is no violation of the law: in consequcncc of his behaviour they wash their hands of him. In the third case, a man is driven by his natural infidelity and erroneous beliefs to abandon the sacred law and abjure its observances, and say to himself, "1 am treading the path of blame:" in this ease his behaviour depends on himself alone.

He who follows the right way and refuses to act hypocritically, the and refrains from ostentation, pays no heed to the blame of the vulgar, but invariabley takes his own course: it is all one to him what name they call him by. I find among the anccdotes (of holy men) that one day Shaykh Abu Tahir Harami was seen in the bazaar, riding a donkey and attended by one of his disciples. Some person cried out, "here comcs that old freethinker!" The indignant disciplc rushed at the speaker, trying to strike him, and the whole bazaar was filled with tumult. The Shaykh said to his disciple: "If you will be quiet, I will show you something that will save you from trouble of this sort." When they returned home, he bade the disciple bring a certain box, wrhich contained letters, and told him to look at them.

"Observe," he said, "how the writers address me. One calls me 'the Shaykh of Islam', another 'the pure Shaykh', another 'the ascetic Shaykh', another 'the Shaykh of the two Sanctuaries', and so on. They are all titles, there is no mention of my name. 1 am none of these things, but every person gives me the title which accords with his belief concerning me. If that poor fellow did the same just now, why should you quarrel with him?"
He who incurs blame purposely and resigns honour and withdraws from authority is like the Caliph 'Uthman who, although he possessed four hundred slaves, one day came forth from his plantation of date palms carrying a bundle of firewood on his head. On being asked why he did this, he answered: "I wish to make trial of myself" He would not let the dignity which he enjoyed hinder him from any work. A similar tale related of the Imam Abu Hanifa will be found in this treatise. And a story is told about Abu Yazid, that, when he was entering Rayy on his way from the Hijaz, the people of that city ran to meet him in order that they might show him honour. Their attentions distracted him and turned his thoughts away from God. When he came to the bazaar, he took a loaf from his sleeve and began to eat. They all departed, for it was the month of Ramadan. He said to a disciple who was travelling with him: "You see! as soon as I perform a single article of the law,1 they all reject me." In those days it was necessary, for incurring blame, to do something disapproved or extraordinary; but in our time, if anyone desires blame, he need only lengthen a little his voluntary prayers or fulfil the religious practices which are prescribed: at once everybody will call him a hypocrite and imposter.

He who abandons the law and commits an irreligious act, and says that he is following the rule of "blame", is guilty of manifest wrong and wickedness and self- indulgence. There are many in the present age who seek popularity by this means, forgetting that one must already have gained popularity be fee deliberately acting in such a way as to make the people reject him; otherwise, his making himself unpopular is a mere pretext for winning popularity. On a certain occasion 1 was in the company of one of these vain pretenders. He committed a wicked act and excused himself by saying that he did it for the sake of blame. One of the party said, "That is nonsense." He heaved a sigh. 1 said to him: "If you claim to be a Malamati and are firm in your belief, this gentleman's disapproval of what: you have done ought to encourage you to preserve: and since he is seconding you in your chosen course, why are you so unfriendly and angry with him? Your behaviour is more like pretence than pursuit of blame. Whoever claims to be guided by the Truth must give some proof of his assertion, and the proof consists in observing the Sunnah (Ordinances of the Prophet). You make this claim, and yet 1 see that you have failed to perform an obligatory religious duty. Your conduct puts you outside the pale of Islam."


The doctrine of Blame was spread abroad in this scct by the Shaykh of his age, Hamdun Qassar. He has many find sayings on the subject. It is recorded that he said: Al- malamat tark al-salamat, "Blame is the abandonment of welfare." If anyone purposely abandons his own welfare and girds himself to endure misfortune, and renounces his pleasures and familiar ties, in hope that the glory of God will be revealed to him, the more he is separated from mankind the more he is united to God. Accordingly, the votaries of Blame turn their backs on that thing, namely welfare (salamat), to which the people of this world turn their faces, for the aspirations of the former are Unitarian (wahdani). Ahmad b. Fatik relates tht Husayn b. Mansur, in reply to the question "Who is the Sufi?" said: "He who is single in essence" (wahdani al-dhat). Hamdun also said concerning Blame: "It is a hard way for the vulgar to follow, but I will tell one part thereof: the Malamati is characterized by the hope of the Murjites and the fear of the Qadarites". This saying has a hidden meaning which demands explanation. It is the nature of man to be deterred by popularity more than any other thing from seeking access to God. Consequently he who fears this danger is always striving to avoid it, and there are two perils which confront him: firstly, the fear that he may be veiled from God by the favour of his fellow creatures; and secondly, the fear of committing some act for which the people will blame him and thereby fall into sin. Accordingly, the Malamati must, in the first instance, take care to have no quarrel with the people for what they say of him, either in this world or the next, and for the sake of his own salvation he must commit some act which, legally, is neither a great sin (kabira) nor a trivial offence (saghira), in order that the people may reject him. Hence his fear in matters of conduct is like the fear of the Qadarites, and his hope in dealing with those who blame him is like the hope of the Murjites. In true love there is nothing sweeter than blame, because blame of the Beloved makes no impression on the lower's heart: he heeds not what strangers say, for his heart is ever faithful to the object of his love.

li,Tis sweet to be reviled for passion's sake.'"

This sect (the Sufis) are distinguished above all creatures in the universe by choosing to be blamed in the body on account of the welfare of their souls; and this high degree is not attained by the Cherubim or any spiritual beings, nor has it been reached by the ascetics, devotees, and seekers of God belonging to the nations of antiquity, but it is reserved for those of this nation who journey on the path of entire severance from the things of the world.

In my opinion, to seek Blame is mere ostentation, and ostentation is mere hypocrisy, the ostentatious man purposely acts in such a way as to win popularity, while the Malamati purposely acts in such a way that the people reject him. Both have their thoughts fixed on mankind and do not pass beyond that sphere. The dervish, on the contrary, never even thinks of mankind, and when his heart has been broken away from them he is as indifferent to their reprobation as to their favour: he moves unfettered and free. I once said to a Malamati of Transoxania, with whom 1 had associated long enough to feel at my ease: "O brother, what is your object in these perverse actions?" He replied: "To make the people non-existent in regard to myself." "The people," I said, "are many, and during a lifetime you will not be able to make them non existent in regard to yourself; rather make yourself non-existent in regard to the people, so that you may be saved from all this trouble. Some who are occupied with the people imagine that the people are occupied with them. If you wish no one to see you, do not see yourself. Since all your evils arise from seeing yourself, what business have you with others? If a siek man whose remedy lies in abstinence seeks to indulge his appetite, he is a fool," Others, again, practise the method of Blame from an ascetic motive: they wish to be despised by the people in order that they may mortify themselves, and it is their greatest delight to find themselves wretched and abased. Ibrahim b. Adham was asked, "Have you ever attained your desire?" He answered: "Yes, twice; on one occasion I was in a ship where nobody knew me, I was clad in common clothes and my hair was long, and my guise was such that all the people in the ship mocked and laughed at me. Among them was a buffoon, who was always coming and pulling my hair and tearing it out, and treating mc with contumely after the manner of his kind. At that time 1 felt entirely satisfied, and I rejoiccd in my garb. My joy reached its highest pitch one day when the buffoon rose from his place and super me minxit. One the second occasion 1 arrived at a village in heavy rain, which had soaked the patched frock on my body, and I was overcome by the wintry cold. 1 went to a mosque, but was refused admittance. The same thing happened at three other mosques where I sought shelter. In despair, as the cold strengthened its grip on my heart, T entered a bathhouse and drew my skirt close up to the stove. The smoke enveloped me and blackened my clothes and my face. Then also I felt entirely satisfied."

Once I, Ali b. 'Uthman al-Jullabi, found myself in a difficulty. After many devotional exercises undertaken in the hope of clearing it away. 1 repaired — as 1 had done with success on a former occasion — to the tomb of Abu Yazid, and stayed beside it for a space of three months, performing every day three ablutions and thirty purifications in the hope that my difficulty might be removed. It was not, however; so I departed and journeyed towards Khurasan. One night I arrived at a village in that country where there was a convent (khanaqah) inhabited by a number of aspirants to Sufi'ism. I was searing a dark-blue frock (muraqqa'-i khishan), such as is prescribed by the Sunnah;" but 1 had with me nothing of the Sufi's regular equipment (aiat-i ahl-i rasm) except a staff and a leathern water-bottle (rakwa). I appeared very contemptible in the eyes of these Sufis, who did not know me. They regarded only my external habit and said to one another, "This fellow is not one of us." And so in truth it was: I was not one of them, but I had to pass the night in that place. They lodged me on a roof, while they themselves went up to a roof above mine, and set before me dry bread which had turned green, while I was drawing into my nostrils the savour of the viands with which they regaled themselves. All the time they were addressing derisive remarks to me from the roof. When they finished the food, they began to pelt me with the skins of the melons which they had eaten, by way of showing how pleased they were with themselves and how lightly they thought of me. I said in my heart: "O Lord God, were it not that they are wearing the dress of Thy friends, I would not have borne this from them." And the more they scoffed at me the more glad became my heart, so that the endurance of this burden was the means of delivering me from that difficulty which I have mentioned; and forthwith I perceived why the Shaykhs have always given fools leave to associate with them and for what reason they submit to their annoyance.

1 Abu Yazid. being at that time on a journey, was not legally bound to observe the fast.
2 1. Adds iu margin "for travellers".