By Abu 'l-Qasim Al-Qushayri, Alexander Knysh

Translated via Alexander D. Knysh

The writer of the Epistle on Sufism, Abu'l-Qasim al-Qushayri (376-465 H / 986-1074 CE), used to be a recognized Sunni Shafi'i Ash'ari pupil and mystic (Sufi) from Khurasan in Iran. His Epistle is without doubt one of the preferred Sufi guide ever. Written in 437 H / 1045 CE, it has served as a main textbook for lots of generations of Sufi newcomers all the way down to the current. al-Qushayri has given us an illuminating perception into the typical lives of Sufi devotees of the 8th to 11th centuries CE and the ethical and moral dilemmas they have been dealing with in attempting to strike a fragile stability among their ascetic and mystical convictions and the exigencies of lifestyles in a society ruled by means of rank, wealth, and armed forces strength. In al-Qushayri's narrative, the Sufi 'friends of God' (awliya') are depicted because the actual, if uncrowned, 'kings' of this international, now not these worldly rulers who seem to be lording it over the typical herd of believers. but, even the main complex Sufi masters are not take salvation with no consideration. Miracle-working, irrespective of how staggering, can't warrantly the Sufi a 'favorite consequence' within the afterlife, for it can be yet a ruse at the a part of God who desires to try out the ethical integrity of his servant. within the Epistle, those and plenty of different Sufi motifs are illustrated via the anecdotes and parables that exhibit al-Qushayri's fellow Sufis in a large choice of contexts: struggling with starvation and thirst within the barren region, whereas acting pilgrimage to Makkah, engaging in 'spiritual auditions', reciting the Qur'an, waging struggle opposed to the 'infidel' enemy and their very own wishes, incomes their livelihood, meditating in a retreat, praying, operating miracles, interacting with the 'people of the market-place', their kinfolk and friends, dreaming, and demise.

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60 That is, a member of the invisible hierarchy of the saints who are the real rulers of the universe. The peg (watad) is a high, although not the highest, rank in this saintly hierarchy. His name indicates that his function is to keep the universe stable. 61 Another great Sunni scholar, the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence. On him see the article “Ahmad b. Hanbal” in EI. 62 Siddiq (lit. “faithful”, “truthful” or “just”); in the Sufi tradition this Qurπanic term (Q. 4:71) denotes an advanced rank of sainthood.

Shadhan say: I heard Yusuf b. al-Husayn say: “One day I was at Dhu πl-Nun’s teaching session. ’ Dhu πl-Nun said: ‘I wanted to go from [old] Cairo25 to a village in the countryside. I fell asleep in the desert, and when I opened my eyes I saw a small blind fledgling that fell from its nest onto the ground. [Suddenly] the earth cleft and there appeared [from the crack] two food bowls, one silver and the other gold. In one there were sesame seeds, in the other water. The fledgling ate from one bowl and drank from the other.

He then recited the following verse: When something becomes too expensive for me, I abandon it. Therefore the more expensive it becomes, the cheaper it is [for me]. 8 On him, see IM, pp. 18–20. 9 Presently in northern Afghanistan. 10 On this renowned early scholar and jurist see the article “Sufyan al-Thawri” in EI. He died in 161/777. 11 A famous early ascetic, whom a pious legend portrays as a repented highway robber. See his biography on pages 20–21 and IM, pp. 23–24. 12 According to the Islamic tradition, God has ninety-nine “most beautiful names”.

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