By Sadia Dehlvi
Oct 08, 2014 -
Abu Yazid of Tayfur of Bistam, Iran, who lived in the 9th century, was popularly known as Bayazid. He founded the “ecstatic” or “drunken” school of Sufism in Persia. This “drunkenness” meant to be intoxicated with the love of God. This expression did not go down well with the orthodoxy and they hounded him.
Bayazid’s mother had a deep impact on him and he remained devoted to her. He would later recall how she sent him to school to study the Quran. When he read the chapter which emphasises obedience and gratitude to parents, the boy asked for permission to go home. He told his mother that Allah had asked Muslims to serve both Him and her and he could not do both: “Either you ask for me from God, so that I may be yours entirely, or apprentice me to God, so that I may dwell wholly with Him.”
His mother replied, “My son, I resign you to God, and exempt you from your duty to me, go and be God’s.” Abu Yazid left Bistam, wandering from land to land for 30 years, disciplining himself with continuous vigil and hunger. The mystics look upon the intoxicated Sufi as one through whom God spoke. Imam Junayd of Baghdad, the acclaimed Sufi said, “Bayazid’s rank amongst us is similar to Archangel Gabriel’s rank amongst the angels.”
Bayazid expressed unity with God in an unusual way. “For 30 years, God most High, was my mirror and that which I was, am no more, for ‘I’ and ‘God’ are a denial of the Unity of God. Since I am no more, God most High is His own mirror. Now I say that God is the mirror of myself, for with my tongue He speaks and I have passed away.”
When someone inquired of the mystic’s age, Bayazid put it at four years explaining, “I have been veiled for 70 years, but I have seen Him for four years, the period when God is not seen does not belong to one’s life.”
Once on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Bayazid met a poor man who asked how much money he had. Bayazid admitted to possessing 200 Dirhams. The man requested Bayazid to give him the money and save his children from dying of hunger. On learning that the mystic intended to use the money to facilitate the journey, he suggested that Bayazid circumambulate around him seven times instead of the Kaa’bah. Bayazid acted accordingly and went into a state of ecstasy proclaiming: “Subhaani: Glory be to me. How great is My Majesty.” Soon, accusations of heresy were hurled at Bayazid.
Bayazid’s disciples attacked him for a similar ecstatic utterance: “Under my garment there is nothing but God.” It is said that when they tried to kill him, their knives wounded them instead. Bayazid demonstrated the perfect mystic state where love, the lover, and the beloved become one. He wrote:
If you aspire communion with God
Be kind, magnanimous, just to your fellow beings
If you desire effulgence like the dawn
Be generous to all like the Sun.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.