By Sadia Dehlvi
Sep 26, 2011
When Nuri, a leading Sufi of Baghdad in the ninth century, spoke, light radiated from his mouth.
The name Nuri comes from the Arabic word Nur, meaning light. Abul Hasan Nuri of Baghdad taught the philosophy of mohabbat, love of God. He preached that passionate fervour must accompany the practice of worship and spoke of being an ashiq, lover of God.
The Syrian, Ahmad Hawaari, was Nuri's Sufi Master. Together, they made several pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Nuri succeeded Abu Hamza in the late ninth century as the leader of the Hululs, the extreme faction of the Baghdad circle of Sufis. Nuri defined a true mystic as, 'One who belongs to no one and nothing belongs to him.' He believed that Sufis gain knowledge through God and every action of the enlightened mystic is through Him.
For Friend's Sake
During the orthodox Baghdad Caliphate under Ghulam Khalil, some mystic friends of Nuri's, including the famed mystic Shibli, were to be executed on charges of heresy for preaching the Sufi doctrine. In a gesture of rare friendship, Nuri volunteered to go to the gallows in place of the accused.
Hearing of Nuri's gesture, the Caliph was moved, and deferred the execution. The case was sent to the ombudsman, who thought he would trap the Sufi by quizzing him on the legalities of Shariah law. However, his heart softened on hearing Nuri's responses that reflected deep mystic wisdom.
To legal questions, Nuri replied, "You have asked all these questions, but nothing relevant. God has servants who stand through Him, and move and rest through Him, who live all through Him and abide in contemplation of Him. If, for a single instant, they held back from contemplating Him, their souls would go out of them. Through Him they sleep, through Him they eat, through Him they take, through Him they go, through Him they see, through Him they hear and through Him they are. This is the true science, not that on which you put questions."
Bewildered, the ombudsman sent a message to the Caliph. "If these men are atheists and heretics, then I give the judgement that on the whole face of the earth, not one true believer exists." The Caliph summoned the prisoners. "Is there anything you want?" he asked them. The group of accused Sufis replied, "We want you to forget us. We want you to neither honour us with your approval nor banish us with your rejection. For us, your rejection is the same as your approval, your approval is the same as your rejection." The Caliph wept bitterly, dismissing them with all honour. After returning to Baghdad, Nuri had the audacity to smash the wine jars that were being carried to the palace and was exiled to the city of Basra.
Yearning for God
Nuri's death occurred in a peculiar fashion. One day, a blind man was crying, 'God. God!' Nuri went up to him saying, 'What do you know of Him? If you know, you still live?'
Having said that, Nuri lost his senses and overpowered with yearning for God, he walked into the freshly harvested reed beds. The reeds pierced Nuri's feet and with every drop of blood that fell, the word Allah appeared.
Unconscious of the pain, Nuri bled profusely. Some fellow Sufis brought Nuri to his home and realising he had little time, asked him to recite the Shahdah, declaration of Islamic faith, "Say, there is no god but God....". "Why, I am on my way There," he replied. And thereupon he died.
Nuri wrote wonderful mystic verses describing his passionate love for God:
So passionate my love is, I do yearn
To keep his memory constantly in mind:
But O, the ecstasy with which I burn
Sears out my thoughts, and strikes my memory blind.
And, marvel upon marvel, ecstasy
Itself is swept away; now far, now near
My Lover stands, and all faculty
Of memory is swept up in hope and fear.
The writer organises Sufi gatherings
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi