Thursday, October 22, 2009

BAYAZID BISTAMI (RA) & THE 500 HERMITS

By Dr A Q Khan

God has created us in different tribes with different shapes, colours culture, taste and habits. Even our preference for literature varies from person to person. Personally, I have always been fond of reading books on Islamic history, Urdu literature, (auto)biographies and scientific books. I read, with great interest, books on Urdu poetry, Nasim Hijazi, Al-Farooq, Road to Mecca, Ghubar-e-Khatir, Urdu ki Aakhri Kitab, Ibn Batuta's Travelogue, Tazkiratul Aoulia, etc. The latter is extremely interesting, with detailed biographies of 96 auliya with special emphasis on their spiritual powers.

Tazkiratul Aulia was compiled by Hazrat Fariduddin Attar who himself was recognised as a sage. The book was written almost 800 years ago. Attar was born in 513 Hijra at Neshapur and was martyred there in 627 Hijra by a Tatar soldier.

The book contains the biography of Hazrat Bayazid Bastami (RA) who was recognised as a great sage (wali) of his time. One important story about Bastami (RA) which is not mentioned in Attar's book is given in that of Ruhaniat-e-Islam written by Maulana Alhaj Captain Wahid Baksh Sayyal (Al-Faisal Publishers/Traders, Lahore). I am reproducing the said story from the book because I am convinced many readers will find it interesting and informative. Since I did not have any contact details of Captain Wahid, I could not contact him about this, but I sincerely hope he has no objections to this. I would like to express my gratitude to Prof Ghazali for his assistance and translation."

Once on a journey, while enjoying the solitude and deeply immersed in reflection and remembrance of Allah, he heard a voice in his heart saying: 'O Bayazid! Go to Dayr Saman and join the Christians in their festivity and worship; a spectacular event will take place'. He recited aa'uzubillah and told himself: 'I will not let this suggestion cross my mind again.' That night he heard the same inner voice. When he woke, he was shivering. He started wondering whether or not he should obey this command. He then heard the inner voice saying: 'Don't be afraid! You are among the best auliya and your name is written in the scroll of the virtuous ones. Put on the dress of the hermits and there will be no blame or sin on you.'"

Early the next morning he put on the Christian hermit's dress and went to Dayr Saman. It was the day of their festivity and hermits were congregating from all over to listen to the sermon of their chief. He took a seat among them. When the chief took the pulpit, everyone was silent. He tried to speak but the pulpit started shaking and he could not say anything. The hermits asked him what prevented him from speaking. He told them that a 'Mohammadan' had come in their midst to test their faith and this had prevented him from speaking. 'Show us that person and we will kill him instantly', they responded to which he said 'don't kill him'. 'I will test him by putting some questions about theology to him. If he answers them all correctly, we will spare him. Otherwise we will kill him'. 'As you wish; we are all your followers', they replied. Thereupon the chief called out from the pulpit: 'O Mohammadan, I give you oath by Mohammad to stand up so that everyone could recognise you'. Bastami stood up. 'Ask whatever you want of rational or traditional matters', he replied. 'Allah is a witness between us'."

The chief then went on to ask: 'Tell us who is the one who has no second; what are the two that have no third; what are the three that have no fourth… what are the thirteen that have no fourteenth? Tell us who are the people who tell lies and enter paradise and the people who tell the truth and enter hell? Tell us which part of your body is the resting place of your name? What are the winds that scatter dust, the clouds that bear heavy weights of water, the ships that float with ease and the angels that distribute provisions by Allah's command? What is that which is dead and yet it breathes? Who are the fourteen who spoke with the Lord of the Worlds? Which was the grave that moved with the buried one? Which is the water that neither fell from the sky nor gushed out from the earth? Who are the four who were born without parents? Whose is the first blood that was shed on earth? What is it that was created by God; then purchased by him? What was created by God and then disliked by him? What was it God created and then expressed its gravity? What was it God created and then asked Himself what it was? Who are the best women in the world? Which rivers are the best in the world; the best mountain; the best animal; the best month of the year; the best night? What is the catastrophe (Tammah)? Which tree has twelve branches with each of them having thirty leaves; each leaf having five flowers, two of which are in the sun and three in the shade? What is it that performed the Pilgrimage of Baitullah (House of Allah) and performed Tawaf, but it has neither life nor is pilgrimage obligatory upon it? How many prophets were created by Allah and how many of them are fully-fledged messengers? What are the four things with different tastes and colours having one root? What is naqeer, qitmeer, fateel, sabad, labad, Tam and Ram? What does the dog say when it barks; the donkey when it brays? What do an ox, a horse, a camel, a peacock, a nightingale and a frog say? When the bell rings, what does it say? Who are the people to whom Allah sent a revelation, but they are neither jinn nor men nor angels? When the day dawns, where does the night go and when the night falls, where does the day go?'"

After this Bastami said: 'If you have any more questions, ask them now'. The chief replied: 'No more questions". Bastami then asked the chief: 'If I answer all these questions to your satisfaction, will you believe in Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)'. 'Yes, indeed', all of them replied. He then said: 'O Allah! You are witness to this statement of theirs'. "

Thereafter Bastami replied as follows: 'The one who has no second is Allah, the only One who is all-powerful. The two that have no third are the day and the night, for Allah says: 'We have appointed the night and the day as two signs'. (17:12)

The three that have no fourth are the throne (arsh), chair (kursi) and pen (qalam). The four that have no fifth are the four major Divine Books – the Torah, the Bible, the Zabur and the Holy Quran. The five that have no sixth are the five obligatory prayers.

The six that have no seventh are the six days in which Allah created the heavens and the earth, for Allah says: 'Indeed we created the heavens and the earth and all between them in six days'. (50:38) The seven that have no eighth are the seven heavens, for Allah says: '… seven heavens, one above the other'. (67:3)

The eight that have no ninth are the eight angels who are the bearers of the Divine Throne, for Allah says: '… and eight angels will, that day, bear the Throne of Your Lord'. (69:17)"

The nine that have no tenth are the nine mischief-makers of Bani Israel, for Allah says: "….and there were in the city nine men who made mischief in the land and would not reform" (27:48).

The ten that have no eleventh are the ten days of fasting prescribed for one who is performing the Pilgrimage of Tamatu (one of the three procedures of pilgrimage), but who cannot afford to sacrifice an animal, for Allah says: "...(but if he cannot afford it), he should fast for three days during the pilgrimage and seven days after his return, making ten days in all." (2:196)

The eleven that have no twelfth are the Prophet Yusuf and his brothers, for Allah says: "…indeed I saw eleven stars." (12:4)The twelve that have no thirteenth are the twelve months of the years, for Allah says: "Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve; so was ordained by Allah." (9:36)

The thirteen that have no fourteenth are what is mentioned in Yusuf's dream, for Allah says: "...verily I saw eleven starts and the sun and the moon prostrating themselves to me." (12:4)The people who lied but went to heaven were the brothers of Yusuf who said: "O our father! We went racing with one another and left Yusuf by our belongings and a wolf devoured him." (12:17) Yet Allah forgave them their sins.

The people who told the truth, yet they will go to hell are the Jews and the Christians, as Allah says: "The Jews said that the Christians follow nothing and the Christians said that the Jews follow nothing." (2:113) Each is right in rejecting the authenticity of the other's religion, yet both will go to hell.My ears are the true resting place of my name.The winds that scatter dust are the winds that blow from the north, south, east and west. (51:1)

Hamelaat-e-wiqra are the clouds that bear heavy weights of water. (51:2) The ships that float with ease are those ships that sail the high seas. (51:3) The angels who distribute by Allah's command are those who distribute provisions from the fifteenth of Shaaban to the next fifteenth of Shaaban. (51:4)

That which is dead and yet breathes is the morning, for Allah says: "…and by the dawn as it breaths." (81:18)The fourteen who spoke with the Lord of the Worlds are seven heavens and seven earths, for Allah says: "...and said to them and to the earth: 'Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.' They both said: 'We come willingly." (41:11). The grave that moved with the buried one was the whale that swallowed Prophet Yunus.

The water that neither fell from the sky nor gushed from the earth is the sweat of the horses that was sent by Bilqees to the Prophet Sulaiman to test him.

The four born without parents are the sheep slaughtered in place of Prophet Ismail, the female camel of Prophet Salim, and Prophet Adam and his wife, Hawwa (Eve).

The first bloodshed on earth was that of Habeel (Abel) who was killed by his brother Qabeel (Cain). The thing created by Allah and then purchased by Him is the life of a true believer, for Allah says: "Indeed, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and properties for the price that theirs shall be Paradise." (9:111).

The thing created by Allah and then disliked by Him is the braying of a donkey, for Allah says: "Indeed, the most unpleasant of all voices is the braying of asses." (31:19)The thing Allah created and then expressed its gravity is that plotted by women, for Allah says: "…certainly mighty is your plot." (12:28)

The thing Allah created and then asked Himself what it was is the staff of Prophet Musa, for Allah says: "…and what is that in your right hand?" (20:17)

The best women in the world are Hawwa, the mother of mankind, Khadija, Ayesha, Aasia and Maryam. May Allah be pleased with them all.

The best rivers in the world are the Oxus, Tigris, Euphrates and Nile; the best mountain is Tur; the best animal is the horse; the best month is Ramazan, for Allah says: "….the month of Ramazan in which was revealed the Quran" (2:185); the best night is Lailatul-Qadr, for Allah says: "...the night of Al-Qadr is better than one thousand months." (97:3).

The catastrophe (Tammah) is Doomsday.The tree with the twelve branches is the year; twelve branches for the months; thirty leaves for the days of every month; five flowers for the five daily prayers, two of which are offered in daylight and three while it is dark.

The lifeless thing that performed the Pilgrimage is the ship of Prophet Nuh.The total number of prophets is one hundred and twenty-four thousand, out of whom three hundred and thirteen are Messengers. The rest are non-messengers.

The four things with different tastes and colours but with a common root are the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Their root is the brain. The water from the eyes is saltish; that of the mouth is sweet; that of the nose is sour and that of the eyes is bitter.

Naqeer is the speck on the back of a date stone as mentioned in the Quran (4:124). Qitmeer is the thin membrane covering the date stone. (35:13)

Fateel is the thin white layer inside the date stone. (17:71). Sabad and labad are the names of the wool on the body of sheep.

Tam and Ram are the names of creations before the creation of the Prophet Adam.

When the dog barks it says: "Woe to the inmates of fire by the wrath of the All Powerful.

"When the donkey brays it looks at satan and says: "Curse be upon the devil that misguides."

The ox says: "Allah be glorified above all imperfections, and praise be for Him."The horse says: "Glorified be the One who protects me when brave men fight and men are engaged in fierce battle."The camel says: "Allah is enough for me and Allah is sufficient as my Protector."The peacock says: "The most gracious rose over the mighty throne." (20:5)

The nightingale says: "Glorify Allah when you come up to the evening and when you enter the morning." (30:17)

The frog says: "Glorified be the Lord who is worshipped in the populated as well as the deserted places and glorified be the All Powerful King."

When the bell rings it says: "Glorified be Allah; truly, truly observe, O son of Adam; in this world westwards and eastwards, you will not find anyone surviving here."

Allah sent revelation to the bees, for He says: "Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect." (16.68)

When the day dawns, the night goes to the other side of the Earth (due to the earth's rotation on its axis) and when the night falls, day goes to the other side, which cannot be altered by any prophet or angel (save by His own will).

After having said all this, Hazrat Bayazid asked them: "Are any of your questions still unanswered?" To which they replied: "No, you have correctly answered all the questions."

Then Bastami asked the Chief to answer only one question: "What is the key to Paradise?" The Chief declared that the key is: "La IlahaIllallah, Muhammad'ur-Rasulullah."

The rest of them repeated the Kalimah in unison. They immediately took off their hermit's robes and embraced Islam.

Courtsy The News
Mahtab Bashir- 0333-5363248

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