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Home Sufism Stories about Sufis Abu Yazid al Bistami

Abu Yazid al Bistami

The grandfather of Abu Yazid al Bistami was a Zoroastrian; his father was one of the leading citizens of Bestam. He showed remarkable characteristics even in the womb - his mother said that during her pregnancy if she put a doubtful morsel in her mouth, the baby would stir and not be stilled until she had put it out of her mouth.

Abu Yazid al-Bistami's Maqam When Abu Yazid was asked what was best for a man on the path he replied 'Congenital felicity' referring to this. The Conversation continued:
"And if that is missing?",
"A strong body."
"And if that is lacking?"
"An attentive ear."
"And without that?"
"A knowing heart",
"And without that?"
"A seeing eye."
"And without that?"
"A sudden death."

One day, at school, learning the Quran his teacher explained the meaning of the verse of Suratul Luqman which reads: "Give thanks unto Me, and unto thy parents" (31:14). This so moved him that he sought permission to go home and speak to his mother. When asked by his mother whether it was a special occasion that caused his return, he replied "No, but on reading the verse where God instructed me to serve both Himself and you, I was cut to the quick. I cannot serve two masters; eIther ask God that I may be yours entirely or apprentice me to Him so that I maybe wholly his".
She replied, "My son, I resign you to God and exempt you from your duty to me. Go and be with God"

After his mother had resigned him to God,Abu Yazid left Bestam and wandered for 30 years, disciplining himself with constant vigils and fasting, and visiting one hundred and thirteen spiritual masters and taking benefit from each of them. While sitting at the feet of one of these called Sadiq, the master suddenly addressed him saying, "Abu Yazid, fetch me the book by the window."
"Window? Which window?", asked Abu Yazid.
"What, you have been coming here for all this time and you have not noticed the window?"
"No", replied Abu Yazid, "What have I to do with windows? When I am here before you, my eyes are closed to anything else, I have not come to look about."
"In that case, return to Bestam, your work is complete" said the teacher.

Abu Yazid took twelve years to complete the pilgrimage, since at every oratory he passed he would lay out his prayer mat and perform two rakats. "This is not the abode of an earthly king, to which one can rush all at once." Eventually he arrived at the Kaaba, but did not go onto Medina. "It would be impolite to make such a visit (to the Prophet (saws)) an afterthought of this journey, I will don pilgrim's robes for Medina separately."
The following year he returned. Passing through one town a large crowd gathered around him and followed him. "Who are those people?" he asked as he looked back.
"Ones who wish to follow you." came the answer.
"Oh my Lord! I beg you - veil not thy creatures from Thee because of me!" he cried. Then, to drive out the love of him from their hearts and remove the obstacle of himself from their path, after praying the fajr prayer, he called to them saying "Truly I am Allah; there is no god but me, so serve me."
The crowd departed saying "The man has gone mad!"

Continuing upon his way, he espied a skull inscribed with the words: "Deaf, dumb, blind - they understand not!" Grasping it he kissed it saying,
"The head of a Sufi annihilated in God - no ear to hear the eternal voice, no eye to see the eternal beauty, no tongue to praise God's Greatness and no reason to understand even a speck of the real knowledge of Allah! These words concern him."

Once Abu Yazid was travelling with a camel which carried his provisions. A bystander commented "Poor little camel, carrying such a heavy load. Such cruelty."
After these had been repeated a number of times Abu Yazid eventually replied, "Young man, it is not the camel that carries this load."
Looking more closely the man saw that the load was a hand's breadth above the camel's back, and that the camel felt none of its weight. "Subhanallah, a most wonderful thing!" he cried.
"When the truth about me is hidden, you thrust out the tongue of reproach; When I disclose it you cannot bear the facts. What can one do with you?"



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