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He is placed by the Sufi Shaykhs at the head of those who have adopted the contemplative life (mushahadat), on account of the fewness of the stories and traditions which he related; while 'Umar is placed at the head of those who have adopted the purgative life (mujahadat), because of his rigour and assiduity in devotion. It is written among the genuine Traditions, and is well known to scholars, that when Abu Bakr prayed at night he used to recite the Quran in a low voice, whereas 'Umar used to recite in a loud voice. The Apostle asked Abu Bakr why he did this. Abu Bakr replied: "He with whom 1 converse will hear." 'Umar, in his turn, replied: "I wake the drowsy and drive away the Devil." The one gave a token of contemplation, the other of purgation. Now purgation, compared with contemplation, is like a drop of water in a sea, and for this reason the Apostle said that 'Umar, the glory of Islam, was only (equivalent to) a single one of the good deeds of Abu Bakr (hal anta ilia hasanat min hasanati Abi Bah'). It is recorded that Abu Bakr said: "Our abode is transitory, our life therein is but a loan, our breaths are numbered, and our indolence is manifest." By this he signified that the world is too worthless to engage our thoughts; for whenever you occupy yourself with what is perishable, you are made blind to that which is eternal: the friends of God turn their backs on the world and the flesh which veil them from Him, and they decline to act as if they were owners of a thing that is really the property of another. And he said: "O God, give me plenty of the world and make me desirous of renouncing it!" This saying has a hidden sense, viz.: "First bestow on me worldly goods that I may give thanks for them, and then help me to abstain from them for Thy sake, so that I may have the treble merit of thanks giving and liberality and abstinence, and that my poverty may be voluntary, not compulsory." These words refute the Director of mystical practice, who said: "He whose poverty is compulsory is more perfect than he whose poverty is voluntary; for if it be compulsory, he is the creature (san'at) of poverty, and if it be voluntary, poverty is his creature; and it be better that his actions should be free from any attempt to gain poverty for himself than that he should seek to acquire it by his own effort." I say in answer to this: The creature of poverty is most evidently that person who, while enjoying independence, is possessed by the desire for poverty, and labours to recover it from the clutches of the world; not that person who, in the state of poverty, is possessed by the desire for independence and has to go to the houses of evildoers and the courts of governors for the sake of earning money. The creature of poverty is he who falls from independence to poverty, not he who, being poor, seeks to become powerful. Abu Bakr is the foremost of all mankind after the prophets, and it is not permissible that anyone should take precedence of him, for he set voluntary poverty above compulsory poverty. This doctrine is held by all the Sufi Shaykhs except the spiritual Director whom we have mentioned.

Zuhri relates that, when Abu Bakr received the oaths of allegiance as Caliph, he mounted the pulpit and pronounced an oration, in the course of which he said: "By God, I never coveted the command nor desired it even for a day or a night, nor ever asked God for it openly or in secret, nor do I take any pleasure in having it." Now, when God causes anyone to attain perfect sincereity and exalts him to the rank of fixity (tamkin) he waits for Divine inspiration, that it may guide him; and according as he is bidden, he will be either a beggar or a prince, without exercising his own choice and will. Thus Abu Bakr, the Veracious, resigned himself to the will of God from first to last. Hence the whole sect of Sufis have made him their pattern in stripping themselves of worldly things, in fixity (tamkin), in eager desire for poverty, and in longing to renounce authority. He is the Imam of the Muslims in general, and of the Sufis in particular.


He was specially distinguished by sagacity and resolution, and is the author of many fine sayings on Sufi'ism. The Apostle said: "The Truth speaks by the tongue of 'Umar;" and again, "There have been inspired relaters (muhaddathun) in the peoples of antiquity, and if there be any such in my people, it is 'Umar." 'Umar said: "Retirement ('uzlat) is a means of relieving one's self from bad company. Retirement is of two sorts: firstly turning back on mankind (I'rad az khalq), and secondly, entire severance from them (inqita' azishan). Turning one's back on mankind consists in choosing a solitary retreat, and in renouncing the society of one's fellow creatures externally, and in quiet contemplation of the faults in one's own conduct and "in seeking release for one's self from intercourse with men, and in making all people secure from one's evil actions. But severance from mankind is a spiritual state, which is not connected with anything external. When a person is severed from mankind in spirit, he knows nothing of created beings and no thought thereof can take possession of his mind. Such a person, although he is living among the people, is isolated from them, and his spirit dwells apart from them. This is a very exalted station.

'Umar followed the right path herein, for externally he lived among the people as their Commander and Caliph. His words show clearly that although spiritualists may outwardly mix with mankind, their hearts always cling to God 'and return to Him in all circumstances. They regard any intercourse they may have with men as an affliction sent by God; and that intercourse does not divert them from God, since the world never becomes pure in the eyes of those whom God loves. 'Umar said: "An abode which is founded upon affliction cannot possibly be without affliction." The Sufis make him their model in wearing a patched frock (muraqqa'a) and rigorously performing the duties of religion.


It is related by 'Abdallah b. Rabah and Abu Qatada as follows: "We were with the Commander of the Faithful, 'Uthman, on the day when his house was attacked. His slaves, seeing the crowd of rebels gathered at the door, took up arms. 'Uthman said: 'Whoever of you does not take up arms is a free man.1 We went forth from the house in fear of our lives. Hasan b. 'Ali met us on the way, and we returned with him to 'Uthman, that we might know on what business he was going. After he had saluted 'Uthman and condoled with him he said: 'O Prince of the Faithful, I dare not draw sword against Muslims without thy command. Thou art the true Imam. Give the order and 1 will defend thee1 'Uthman replied: 'O my cousin, go back to thy house and sit there until God shall bring His decree to pass. We do not wish to shed blood.'"
These words betoken resignation in the hour of calamity, and show that the speaker had attained the rank of friendship with God (khullat). Similarly, when Nimrod lit a fire and put Abraham in the sling [pala)x of a catapult, Gabriel came to Abraham and said, "Dost thou want anything?" He answered, "From thee, no," Gabriel said, "Then ask God." He answered, "Since He knows in what plight I am 1 need not ask Him." Here 'Uthman was in the position of the Friend (Khali!)2 in the catapult, and the seditious mob was in the place of the fire, and Hasan was in the place of Gabriel; but Abraham was saved, while 'Uthman perished. Salvation (najat) is connected with subsistence (baqa) and destruction (halak) with annihilation (fana)\ on this topic something has been said above. The Sufis take 'Uthman as their exemplar in sacrificing life and property, in resigning their affairs to God, and in sincere devotion.


His renown and rank in this Path (of Sufi'ism) were very high. He explained the principles (usul) of Divine truth with exceeding subtlety, so that Junayd said: "Ali is our Shaykh as regards the principles and as regards the endurance of affliction," i.e. in the theory and practice of Sufism; for Sufis call the theory of this Path "principles" (usul), and its practice consists entirely in the endurance of affliction. It is related that some one begged 'Ali to give him a precept (wasiyyat). 'Ali replied: "Do not let your wife and children be your chief cares; for if they be friends of God, God will look after His friends, and if they are enemies of God, why should you take care of God's enemies?" This question is connected with the severance of the heart from all things save God, who keeps His servants in whatever state He willeth. Thus Moses left the daughter of Shu'ayb3 in a most miserable plight and committed her to God; and Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael and brought them to a barren valley and committed them to God. Both these prophets, instead of making wife and child their chief care, fixed their hearts on God" (ghana al-qalb billah). The heart that is so enriched is not made poor by having no worldly goods nor glad by having them. This subject really turns on the theory regarding poverty and purity, which has been already discussed. 'Ali is a model for the Sufis in respect to the truths of outward expressions and the subtleties of inward meanings, the stripping one's self of all property either of this world or of the next, and consideration of the Divine providence.

1 Arabic kiffat. See Dozy, Supplement, ii, 476.
2 Abraham is called by Muslims "the Friend of God" (al-Khalil).
3 Moses is said to have married one of the daughters of Shu'ayb. See Qur.xxviii, 22-8, where Shu'ayb. however, is not mentioned by name.