< Thoughts & Readings


Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

On Hunger (Ju') and the Abandonment of Lust (Tark al-Shahwah) God Most High has said, "And We shall try them with something of fear and hunger" [2:155], and at the end of the verse, "and give good news to the patient." So He sent them good news of a beautiful reward following patience in the endurance of hunger. And He has said, "And they prefer [others] over themselves even though they may be in need." [59:9]. Ali bin Ahmad al-Ahwazi informed us ... that Anas bin Malik said, "Fatimah went to the Messenger of God with a bit of bread. 'What is this morsel, Fatimah?' he asked. 'A piece of flat bread [or barley bread] I baked,' said she. 'I could not feel at ease in myself until I had brought it to you.' 'It was the first food that had entered your father's mouth for three days,' he told her." On this account hunger is one of the characteristics of the Sufis. It is the first pillar of spiritual struggle. Travelers on the Way are graded according to how habituated they have become to hunger and forsaking food. They have found springs of wisdom in hunger and there are many stories told of them about this. I heard Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Sufi say ... that Ibn Salim said, "The proper conduct with regard to hunger is for a person to diminish what he is accustomed to eating by an amount no larger than a cat's ear." It is said that Sahl bin Abd Allah ate food only once every twenty-five days. When the month of Ramadan came he did not eat until the next new moon and broke his fast every evening only with water. Yahya bin Muadh said, "If hunger were a thing sold in the marketplace, it would not have been right for people who hope for the hereafter to buy anything else there." We have been told that Muhammad bin Abd Allah bin Ubayd said ... that Sahl bin Abd Allah said, "When God Most High created the world, he placed sin and ignorance in satiation and knowledge and wisdom in hunger." He also said, "For novices, hunger is an act of discipline. For the repentant, it is an experiment. For ascetics, it is a policy. For gnostics, it is a gift." I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, "A Sufi visited a shaykh and found him crying. He asked, 'What makes you weep?' The shaykh replied, 'I am hungry.' 'How could someone like you cry out of hunger?' the dervish exclaimed. 'Be silent!' returned the shaykh. 'Don't you know that His object in my hunger is for me to cry?'" I heard Abu Abd Allah al-Shirazi say ... that Mukhallad said, "Hajjaj bin Farafisah, who was with us in Damascus, would go fifty nights without drinking or satisfying his hunger with something to eat." And I heard him say ... that Abu Abd Allah Ahmad bin Yahya al-Jalla said, "Abu Turab al-Nakhshabi left to go to Mecca through the desert. Afterwards we asked what he had eaten on the way. He answered, 'When I left Basra I ate once at Nabaj and once in Dhat Irq. From Dhat Irq I came to you.' He had crossed the desert eating only twice." And I heard him say ... that Abd al-Aziz bin Umayr said, "A certain type of bird would fly forty mornings without eating anything. When these birds came after many days, the fragrance of musk would emanate from them." Sahl bin Abd Allah used to gather strength when he was hungry and weaken when he ate. Abu Uthman al-Maghribi said, "The one who attaches himself to divine Lordship will not eat for forty days. The one who attaches himself to Absolute Plenitude will not eat for eighty days." I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say ... that Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, "The key of this world is satiation and the key of the next world is hunger." I heard Muhammad bin Abd Allah bin Ubayd Allah say ... that Abu Muhammad al-Istikhari said, "Sahl bin Abd Allah was asked the state of a person who eats one meal a day. "It is the meal of the sincere." And two meals a day?" It is the meal of the believers." And three? "Tell your family to build a trough for you!" said he." And I heard him say ... Yahya bin Muadh said, "Hunger is a light while satiation is a fire. Desire is like the firewood from which the conflagration is generated. Its flame will not be extinguished until it burns the one who keeps it." I heard Abu Hatim al-Sijistani say that he heard Abu Nasr al-Sarraj al-Tusi say, "A Sufi once visited a shaykh who presented him food and then asked him, 'For how many days have you not eaten?' 'For five days,' the man replied. 'Your hunger is the hunger of a miser,' the shaykh told him. 'You are wearing [decent] clothing while you go hungry? This is not the hunger of dervishes!'" I heard Muhammad bin al-Husayn say ... that Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, "To give up one bite of my supper is dearer to me than to stand in prayer until the end of the night." And I heard him say that he heard Abu-l-Qasim Jafar bin Ahmad al-Razi say, "For years Abu-l-Khayr al-Asqalani had a craving for fish. Then one day it appeared to him in a lawful context. When he stretched out his hand in order to eat it, the point of a fishbone caught his finger and entered that hand. He cried, "O Lord, this is what happens to someone who reaches for a desire that is lawful - what will happen to someone who reaches for an unlawful desire?" I heard Abu Bakr bin Furak say, "The result of following lawful desire is preoccupation with one's family. What do you suppose is the outcome of unlawful desire?" I heard Rustam al-Shirazi say, "Abu Abd Allah bin Khafif was at a banquet when one of his companions, because of the need he was in, reached for food before the shaykh did. Some of the shaykh's other companions wanted to reproach him for the fault thus displayed in his behavior, so one of them set just a bit of something to eat in front of that dervish. The dervish knew that he had been reproached for his bad conduct, so he resolved not to eat for fifteen days as a punishment and discipline for his lower self and a manifestation of his repentance for his fault - and he had already been in need before that." I heard Muhammad bin Abd Allah al-Sufi say ... Malik bin Dinar says, "When someone conquers the desires of this world, satan is afraid of his shadow!" And I heard him say ... that Abu Ali al-Rudhbari said, "When a Sufi said, after five days without food, 'I am hungry' - they would send him to the marketplace and command him to earn a living!" I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq tell of a shaykh who said that the lust of the people of the fire had overcome their honor and manifested itself in their being assigned to the fire. And I heard him say, "Someone asked a dervish, 'Do you desire nothing?' He said, 'I desire, but I abstain.'" A Sufi was asked, "Aren't you hungry?" He replied, "I hunger not to hunger." And it is just so. I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say ... that Abu Nasr al-Tammar said, "One night Bishr [al-Hafi] came to see me. I said, 'Praise be to God Who has brought you to me! Cotton reached us from Khurasan, so I give it to my daughter, and she sold it and bought us meat. So break your fast with us.' He said, 'Were I to eat with anyone, I would eat with you.' Then he said, 'For years I have wished for eggplant and it has never fallen to me to eat it!' 'Surely in all that time there must have been eggplant that was lawful,' I objected, 'Not until the love of eggplant becomes pure for me,' he replied." I heard Abd Allah bin Bakawiya al-Sufi say that he heard Abu Ahmad al-Saghir say, "Every night Abu Abd Allah bin Khafif ordered me to set before him ten raisins with which he would break his fast. One night I was worried for him and put out fifteen raisins. He looked at me and said, 'Who ordered you to do this?' He ate ten of them and left the rest." I heard Muhammad bin Abd Allah bin Ubayd Allah say ... that Abu Turab al-Nakhshabi said, "Only once did I grant my lower self its desires. It wanted bread and eggs. I was traveling. I turned off toward a village. Someone stood up and grabbed me and said, 'This one was with the thieves!' So they beat me seventy blows. Then one of them recognized me and cried, 'This is Abu Turab al-Nakhshabi!' They apologized. A man took me to his house out of hospitality and sympathy and laid before me bread and eggs. So I said to my lower self, 'Eat, after seventy blows!'" -Imam Abu-l-Qasim al-Qushayri, Principles of Sufism (Risalah Qushayriyyah)



posted by SuFiSTiC | 3/23/2004 07:46:00 PM |
As for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains the ego its desires, the Garden is shelter.
(The Snatchers:40)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "The Fire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked, undesirable things."
(Bukhari)
Whoever does good at night is rewarded during the day and whoever does good during the day is rewarded at night. Whoever is sincere in abandoning a desire is saved from catering to it. God is too noble to punish a heart that has abandoned a desire for His sake.
(Abu Sulayman ad-Darani)
Beware of your ego, and trust not its mischief;
The ego is worse than seventy devils.
(Arabic Poem)
Abu Bakar Balkhi
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I seek God's forgiveness, and do not claim that my intention in producing this Blog is confined to good religious purposes; how may I do so when I am aware of the hidden desires, egotistic passions, and worldly wishes that I harbour? I do not claim innocence for myself; the ego is indeed an inciter to evil, save when my Lord shows mercy; my Lord is indeed Forgiving, Merciful. O God! I seek Your protection against my committing idolatry [shirk] knowingly, and Your forgiveness for that of which I am not aware! I ask God to make me and all other believers benefit from this Blog and to render my production of it purely for the sake of His Noble Countenance.

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