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Shibli was a pupil of the famous theosophist Junayd of Baghdad. On his conversion, he came to Junayd, saying:

"They tell me that you possess the pearl of divine knowledge: either give it me or sell it." Junayd answered: "I cannot sell it, for you have not the price thereof; and if I give it you, you will have gained it cheaply. You do not know its value. Cast yourself headlong, like me, into this ocean, in order that you may win the pearl by waiting patiently."

Shibli asked what he must do
"Go," said Junayd, "and sell sulphur."

At the end of a year he said to Shibli:

"This trading makes you well known. Become a dervish and occupy yourself solely with begging."

During a whole year Shibli wandered through the streets of Baghdad, begging of the passers-by, but no one heeded him. Then he returned to Junayd, who exclaimed:

"See now! You are nothing in people's eyes. Never set your mind on them or take any account of them at all. For some time" (he continued) "you were a chamberlain and acted as governor of a province. Go to that country and ask pardon of all those whom you have wronged."

Shibli obeyed and spent four years in going from door to door, until he had obtained an acquittance from every person except one, whom he failed to trace. On his return, Junayd said to him:

"You still have some regard to reputation. Go and be a beggar for one year more."

Every day Shibli used to bring the alms that were given him to Junayd, who bestowed them on the poor and kept Shibli without food until the next morning. When a year had passed in this way, Junayd accepted him as one of his disciples on condition that he should perform the duties of a servant to the others. After a year's service, Junayd asked him:

"What think you of yourself now?" Shibli replied: "I deem myself the meanest of God's creatures." " Now," said the master, "your faith is firm."

I need not dwell on the details of this training--the fasts and vigils, the vows of silence, the long days and nights of solitary meditation, all the weapons and tactics, in short, of that battle against one's self which the Prophet declared to be more painful and meritorious than the Holy War. On the other hand, my readers will expect me to describe in a general way the characteristic theories and practices for which the 'Path' is a convenient designation. These may be treated under the following heads: Poverty, Mortification, Trust in God, and Recollection. Whereas poverty is negative in nature, involving detachment from all that is worldly and unreal, the three remaining terms denote the positive counterpart of that process, namely, the ethical discipline by which the soul is brought into harmonious relations with Reality.

The fatalistic spirit which brooded darkly over the childhood of Islam--the feeling that all human actions are determined by an unseen Power, and in themselves are worthless and vain--caused renunciation to become the watchword of early Moslem asceticism. Every true believer is bound to abstain from unlawful pleasures, but the ascetic acquires merit by abstaining from those which are lawful. At first, renunciation was understood almost exclusively in a material sense. To have as few worldly goods as possible seemed the surest means of gaining salvation. Dawud al-Ta’i owned nothing except a mat of rushes, a brick which he used as a pillow, and a leathern vessel which served him for drinking and washing. A certain man dreamed that he saw Malik ibn Dinar and Mohammed ibn Wasi‘ being led into Paradise, and that Malik was admitted before his companion. He cried out in astonishment, for he thought Mohammed ibn Wasi‘ had a superior claim to the honour. "Yes," came the answer, "but Mohammed ibn Wasi‘ possessed two shirts, and Malik only one. That is the reason why Malik is preferred."

The Sufi ideal of poverty goes far beyond this. True poverty is not merely lack of wealth, but lack of desire for wealth: the empty heart as well as the empty hand. The 'poor man' (faqir) and the 'mendicant' (dervish) are names by which the Mohammedan mystic is proud to be known, because they imply that he is stripped of every thought or wish that would divert his mind from God. "To be severed entirely from both the present life and the future life, and to want nothing besides the Lord of the present life and the future life--that is to be truly poor." Such a faqir is denuded of individual existence, so that he does not attribute to himself any action, feeling, or quality. He may even be rich, in the common meaning of the word, though spiritually he is the poorest of the poor; for, sometimes, God endows His saints with an outward show of wealth and worldliness in order to hide them from the profane.

No one familiar with the mystical writers will need to be informed that their terminology is ambiguous, and that the same word frequently covers a group, if not a multitude, of significations diverging more or less widely according to the aspect from which it is viewed. Hence the confusion that is apparent in Sufi text-books. When 'poverty,' for example, is explained by one interpreter as a transcendental theory and by another as a practical rule of religious life, the meanings cannot coincide. Regarded from the latter standpoint, poverty is only the beginning of Sufism. Faqirs, Jami says, renounce all worldly things for the sake of pleasing God. They are urged to this sacrifice by one of three motives: (a) Hope of an easy reckoning on the Day of Judgment, or fear of being punished; (b) desire of Paradise; (c) longing for spiritual peace and inward composure. Thus, inasmuch as they are not disinterested but seek to benefit themselves, they rank below the Sufi, who has no will of his own and depends absolutely on the will of God. It is the absence of 'self' that distinguishes the Sufi from the faqir.

Here are some maxims for dervishes:
"Do not beg unless you are starving. The Caliph Omar flogged a man who begged after having satisfied his hunger. When compelled to beg, do not accept more than you need."
"Be good-natured and uncomplaining and thank God for your poverty."

"Do not flatter the rich for giving, nor blame them for withholding."

"Dread the loss of poverty more than the rich man dreads the loss of wealth."

"Take what is voluntarily offered: it is the daily bread which God sends to you: do not refuse God's gift."

"Let no thought of the morrow enter your mind, else you will incur everlasting perdition."
"Do not make God a springe to catch alms."

The Sufi teachers gradually built up a system of asceticism and moral culture which is founded on the fact that there is in man an element of evil--the lower or appetitive soul. This evil self, the seat of passion and lust, is called nafs; it may be considered broadly equivalent to 'the flesh,' and with its allies, the world and the devil, it constitutes the great obstacle to the attainment of union with God. The Prophet said: "Thy worst enemy is thy nafs, which is between thy two sides." I do not intend to discuss the various opinions as to its nature, but the proof of its materiality is too curious to be omitted. Mohammed ibn ‘Ulyan, an eminent Sufi, relates that one day something like a young fox came forth from his throat, and God caused him to know that it was his nafs. He trod on it, but it grew bigger at every kick that he gave it. He said:

"Other things are destroyed by pain and blows: why dost thou increase?" " Because I was created perverse," it replied; "what is pain to other things is pleasure to me, and their pleasure is my pain."
To be continued

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