Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Proto-Sufis Among the Salaf

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
والعاقبة للمتقين
The early, proto-Sufis were pious and devout worshipers among the Tabi’in. They were the students of the Sahabaرضى الله عنهم, and their tendency toward zuhd and emphasis on worship took particular hold over the town of Basra. These proto-Sufis were particularly attached to the likes of Hasan al-Basriرحمه الله and his spiritual successor, Abd ul-Wahid b. Zaydرحمه الله. Another early proto-Sufi was Farqad al-Sabakhiرحمه الله. He was an Armenian Christian who converted to Islam, then excelled in his new Religion in terms of piety and knowledge. The example of Farqad al-Sabakhiرحمه الله proves that the proto-Sufi tendency within early Islam, with its emphasis on worship, personal piety, and an ascetic lifestyle, was fueled by the conversion of Christians. Christianity, especially of that time and place, had a strong streak of asceticism within it. The Christian monks of yesterday became the Sufi saints of tomorrow. This was indeed one of the positive “imports” into the Islamic community which helped establish this great tendency and stream within our Religion. The Sahabaرضى الله عنهم did not object to the understanding and approach to Islam by these great proto-Sufis. Being from among the Tabi’in, these proto-Sufis fall under the Hadith of the Prophetصلاوات الله وسلامه عليه:
خَيْرُ النَّاسِ قَرْنِي، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ
“The best of mankind are my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them”
(al-Bukhari & Muslim)
What distinguishes the devout, proto-Sufis in the time of the Salaf from the contemporary libertine, pseudo-Sufis, is the former’s deep attachment to and reverence for the holy Quran. They truly understood the Quran as being the literal speech of Allah, and were in awe of its power and majesty, as a kind of manifestation of Allah’s sublime glory or tajalli. A great example of this is the proto-Sufi, devout worshiper, the qadi (judge) of Basra, Zurara bin Awfaرحمه الله. While offering his Fajr prayer in the Mosque of Bani Qushayr, he recited the Verse,
فَإِذَا نُقِرَ فِي النَّاقُورِ
When the Trumpet is blown
(Sura 74:8)
and immediately fell down dead (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, v.9 pp.150-151; Siyar A’lam an-Nubala, v.4 pp.515-516):

There are several other proto-Sufis who experienced the same thing, i.e., they suddenly died upon hearing the recitation of the Quran, as a result of being overcome by its compelling sublimity. No other scripture (Bible, Vedas, Gita, Sutras, Avesta, Adi Granth, Book of Mormon, etc.)  is known to have induced the same kind of awe-inspiring reaction in the people who read it.

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