6. Mawlana Shaykh Tayfur
Abu Yazid al Bistami(Q)
مولانا شيخ طيفورأبو يزيدالبسطامى ق
804 CE – 261 AH/875 CE
Mawlana Tayfur Abu Yazid al Bistami’s grandfather was a Zoroastrian from Persia. Tayfur Abu Yazid al Bistami [the 6th Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain] made a detailed study of the statutes of Islamic Law and practiced self-denial. All his life he was assiduous in the practice of his religious obligations and in observing voluntary worship.
He urged his disciples to put their affairs in the hands of God. He encouraged them to accept sincerely the pure doctrine of the Oneness of God.
This doctrine consisted of five essentials:
- To keep the obligations according to the Qur’an and Sunnah,
- To always speak the truth,
- To keep the heart free from hatred,
- To avoid forbidden food, and
- To shun innovations.
Tayfur Abu yazid al Bistami said: “I made four mistakes in my preliminary steps in this way. I thought that;
- I remember Him,
- I know Him,
- I love Him,
- I seek Him;
But, when I reached Him, I saw that His remembering of me preceded my remembrance of Him, that His knowledge about me preceded my knowledge of Him, that His love towards me was more ancient than my love towards Him, and that He sought me in order that I would begin to seek Him.”
I have planted love in my heart
And shall not be distracted until Judgment Day.
You have wounded my heart when You came near me.
My desire grows, my love is bursting.
He has poured me a sip to drink.
He has quickened my heart with the cup of love
Which He has filled at the ocean of friendship.
— Tayfur Abu yazid al-Bistami
From His Sayings:
One of his sayings was, “I have come to God through God. I have come to know what is other than God with the Light of God.” He said, “God has granted His servants favors for the purpose of bringing them closer to Him. Instead, they are fascinated with the favors and are drifting further from Him.” And he said, praying to God, “O Lord, You have created this creation without its knowledge. You have placed on it a trust without its will. If You do not help it, who will?”
Mawlana Tayfur said, the ultimate goal of the Sufi is to experience the vision of God in the hereafter.
To that effect he said, “There are special servants of God who, if God veiled Himself from their sight in Paradise, would implore Him to take them out of Paradise just as the inhabitants of the Fire implore Him to release them from Hell.”
He said about God’s love for His servant, “If God loves His servant, He will grant three attributes that are the proofs of His Love:
- Generosity like the generosity of the ocean,
- Favor like the favor of the sun in its giving of light, and
- Modesty like the modesty of the earth.
The true lover never considers any affliction too great and never decreases his worship because of his pure faith.”
Love of Saints:
A man asked Tayfur Abu Yazid, “Show me a deed by which I will approach my Lord.” He said:
“Love the Friends of God in order that they will love you. Love His saints until they love you. Because God looks at the hearts of His saints, and He will see your name engraved in the heart of His saints, and He will forgive you.“
For this reason, the Naqshbandi followers have been elevated by their love for their Shaykhs. This love lifts them to a station of continuous pleasure and continuous presence in the heart of their beloved.
Many Muslim scholars in his time, and many after his time, said that Tayfur Abu Yazid al Bistami was the first one to spread the reality of annihilation. Even that strictest of scholars, Ibn Taymiyya, who lived in the seventh Hijri century, admired Tayfur Abu Yazid for this and considered him to be one of his masters. Ibn Taymiyya said about him:
“There are two categories of annihilation: one is for the perfect prophets and saints and one is for seekers from among the saints and pious people. Abu Yazid al Bistami is from the first category of those who experience annihilation, which means the complete renunciation of anything other than God. He accepts none except God. He worships none except Him. He asks from none except Him.” He continues, quoting
Tayfur Abu Yazid`s saying, “I want not to want except what He wants.”
It was reported that Tayfur Abu Yazid said:
“I divorced the lower world three times in order that I would not have to return to it, and I moved to my Lord alone, without anyone, and I called on Him alone for help by saying, “O God, O God, no one remains for me except You.” At that time I came to know the sincerity of my supplication in my heart and the reality of the helplessness of my ego. Immediately the acceptance of that supplication was perceived by my heart. This opened to me a vision that I was no longer in existence, and I vanished completely from myself into Him. He brought up all that I had divorced before in front of me, dressed me with light, and with His Attributes.”
Tayfur Abu Yazid said, “Praise to me, for my greatest Glory!” And he continued saying, “I set forth on an ocean when the prophets were still by the shore.” And he said, “O My Lord, Your obedience to me is greater than my obedience to You,” meaning, “O God, You are granting my request and I have yet to obey You.”
Then the ship began to toss about on the high waves. The captain of the ship said, “There must be a great sinner on board who is causing this calamity.” He said, “I am that sinner; throw me in the ocean.”
He said to himself, “I am going into that ocean and I am going to seek the presence of God.” As soon as he was thrown in, the water stopped tossing about, and Tayfur Abu Yazid without thinking of any other purpose and using his utmost spiritual power—began to plunge into that ocean at a speed greater than that of light, and he reached a place where it was complete darkness and complete void. There he heard a voice, described as, “Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”
God had granted Tayfur Abu yazid al Bistami extraordinary spiritual powers, similar to those given to Shah Bahauddin Naqshband . Using his spiritual power, he was trying to count the number of all the people saying “Hu” at that location. Despite applying all his power, he could not count them. He realized it was a presence he could not reach, and he knew it was that of Shah Naqshband with his followers. Although Shah Naqshband appeared many centuries after Shaykh Tayfur Abu yazid al-Bistami, on this occasion Tayfur Abu yazid was able to reach his spiritual presence, along with Shah Naqshband’s mureeds.
Adh-Dhahabi further relates that Tayfur Abu yazid said:
O God, what is your fire? It is nothing. Let me be the one person to go into your fire and everyone else will be saved.
What is your paradise? It is a toy for children. Who are those unbelievers whom you want to torture? They are your servants. Forgive them.
Ibn Hajar said in reference to Tayfur Abu yazid’s famous utterances:
God knows the secret and God knows the heart.
Whatever Tayfur Abu yazid spoke from the knowledge of Realities the people of his time did not understand.
They condemned him and exiled him seven times from his city.
Every time he was exiled, terrible afflictions would strike the city until the people would call him back, pledge allegiance to him, and accept him as a real saint.
Attar and Alusi related that when he was exiled from his city, [He asked what is my fault. They said you are a disbeliever. ] Tayfur Abu Yazid said: “Blessed is the city, whose refuse is Abu yazid!”
Tayfur Abu yazid al Bistami said:
God, the Most Just, called me into His Presence and said to me, “O Abu yazid, how did you arrive in My Presence?” I replied, “Through self-denial, by renouncing the world.” He said, “The value of the lower world is like the wing of a mosquito. What kind of renunciation have you come with?” I said, “O God, forgive me. I came to You by dependence on You.” He said, “Did you ever betray the trust which I promised you?” I said, “O God, forgive me. I came to You through You.” At that time God said, “Now We accept you.”
- I stood with the pious, but I did not progress with them.
- I stood with the warriors in the cause, but I did not progress a single step with them.
- I stood with those who pray excessively and those who fast excessively, but I did not progress a footstep.
- Then I said, “O God, what is the way to You?” and God said, “Leave yourself and come.” [ Leave your physicality and approach with your soul]
Ibrahim Khawwas said:
The way that God showed to him, with the most delicate word and the simplest explanation, was to leave self-interest in the two worlds, this world and the hereafter. “Leave everything other than Me behind.” That is the best and easiest way to come to God, Almighty and Exalted. The most perfect and highest state of affirming Oneness is not to accept anything or anyone except God, the Most High.
Adh-Dhahabi quoted him in many great matters, among which were “Praise to Me, for My greatest Glory!” and “There is nothing in this robe I am wearing except God.”
Adh-Dhahabi’s teacher, Ibn Taymiyya, explained, “He did not see himself as existing any longer, but only saw the existence of God, due to his self-denial.”
One of the followers of Dhun Nun al-Misri was a follower of Abu yazid. Tayfur Abu yazid asked him, “Whom do you want?” He replied, “I want Abu yazid.” He said, “O my son, Tayfur Abu yazid has wanted Abu yazid for forty years and has still not found him.” That disciple of Dhun Nun then went to him and narrated this incident to him. On hearing it, Dhun Nun fainted. He explained later saying, “My master Abu yazid has lost himself in God’s Love. That causes him to try to find himself again.”
They asked him, “Teach us about how you reached true Reality.”
- He said, “By training myself, by seclusion.” They said, “How?”
He said, “I summoned myself to accept God, Almighty and Exalted, and it resisted.
- I took an oath that I would not drink water and I would not taste sleep until I brought my self under my control.
- ”He also said, “O God! It is not strange that I love You because I am a weak servant, but it is strange that You love me when You are the King of Kings.”
- He said, “For thirty years, when I wanted to remember God and do dhikr (God`s remembrance), I washed my tongue and my mouth for His glorification.”
- He said, “As long as the servant thinks that there is among the Muslims someone lower than himself, that servant still has pride.”
- They asked him, “Describe your day and describe your night.” He said, “I do not have a day and I do not have a night, because day and night are for those who have characteristics of creation. I have shed my self the way the snake sheds its skin.”
- Of Sufism, Tayfur Abu yazid alBistami said: It is to give up rest and to accept suffering.
- Of the obligation to follow a guide, he said: Who does not have a shaykh, his shaykh is Satan.
- Of seeking God he said: Hunger is a rain cloud: If a servant becomes hungry, God will shower his heart with wisdom.
- Of his intercession he said: If God will give me permission to intercede for all the people of my time I will not be proud, because I am only interceding for a piece of clay.
If God gave me permission for intercession, first I would intercede for those who harmed me and those who denied me.
To a young man who wanted a piece of his old cloak for blessing, Tayfur Abu yazid said:
Should you take all Abu yazid’s skin and wear it as yours, it would avail you nothing unless you followed his example.
Shahada (Bearing Witness):
They said to him, “The key to Paradise is bearing witness that there is no god but God.”
He said: It is true, but a key is to open a lock.
The key of such witnessing can only operate with the following conditions:
- A tongue that does not lie or backbite;
- A heart without betrayal;
- A stomach without unlawful or doubtful provision;
- and deeds without desire or innovation.
The ego or self always looks at the world, and the spirit always looks at the next life. Spiritual knowledge always looks at God, Almighty and Exalted. He whose self defeats him is from those who are destroyed. He whose spirit is victorious over his “self” is of the pious, and he whose spiritual knowledge enlightens his spirit is of the God-conscious.
Once I asked Abd ar-Rahman ibn Yahya about the state of trust in God. He said, “If you put your hand in the mouth of a lion, do not be afraid of other than God.” I went in my heart to visit and ask Tayfur Abu yazid about this matter. I knocked and I heard from inside, “Was not what Abd ar Rahman said to you enough? You came only to ask and not with the intention of visiting me.” I understood, and I came again another time one year later and knocked at his door. This time he answered, “Welcome my son, this time you came to me as a visitor and not as a questioner.”
They asked him, “When does a man become a man?” He said:
When he knows the mistakes of his self and he busies himself in correcting them.
- For twelve years I was the blacksmith of my self.
- For five years I was the polisher of the mirror of my heart.
- For one year I looked in that mirror and I saw on my belly the girdle of unbelief.
- I tried hard to cut it. I spent twelve years in that effort.
- Then I looked in that mirror and I saw that girdle inside my body.
- I spent five years cutting it.
- Then I spent one year looking at what I had done.
- God opened for me the vision of all creations. I saw all of them dead. I prayed four exaltation of the funeral prayer for them.
If the Throne, what is around It, and what is in It were placed in the corner of the heart of a knower, they would be lost completely inside it.
Of Tayfur Abu yazid’s state:
Al-Abbas ibn Hamza related the following:
I prayed behind Tayfur Abu yazid the noon prayer. When he raised his hands to say Allahu akbar he was unable to pronounce the words, fearing from God’s Holy Name. His entire body trembled. Sounds of breaking bones could be heard. I was seized by fear and awe.
One day Tayfur Abu yazid attended the class of a jurisprudence who was explaining the laws of inheritance, “When a man dies and leaves such-and-such, his son will have such-and-such, etc.” Tayfur Abu yazid exclaimed, “O faqih, O faqih! What would you say of a man who died leaving nothing but God?”
People began to cry. Tayfur Abu yazid continued, “The slave possesses nothing. When he dies, he leaves nothing but his own Master. He is such as God created him in the beginning.” He recited, “You shall return to us alone, as We created you the first time.” (6:94)
وَلَقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا فُرَادَىٰ كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَتَرَكْتُم مَّا خَوَّلْنَاكُمْ وَرَاءَ ظُهُورِكُمْ ۖ وَمَا نَرَىٰ مَعَكُمْ شُفَعَاءَكُمُ الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ أَنَّهُمْ فِيكُمْ شُرَكَاءُ ۚ لَقَد تَّقَطَّعَ بَيْنَكُمْ وَضَلَّ عَنكُم مَّا كُنتُمْ تَزْعُمُونَ ٩٤
[It will be said to them], “And you have certainly come to Us alone as We created you the first time, and you have left whatever We bestowed upon you behind you. And We do not see with you your ‘intercessors’ which you claimed that they were among you associates [of Allah]. It has [all] been severed between you, and lost from you is what you used to claim.” (Surat Al An’am 6:94)
Sahl at Tustari sent a letter to Tayfur Abu Yazid al Bistami that read, “Here is a man who drank a drink which leaves him forever refreshed.” Tayfur replied, “Here is a man who has drunk all existences, but whose mouth is dry and burns with thirst.”
When Tayfur Abu Yazid died, he was over seventy years old. Before he died, someone asked him his age. He said, “I am four years old. For seventy years I was veiled. I got rid of my veils only four years ago.”
The thirty-ninth Shaykh of the Golden Chain, Sultan al Awliya Shaykh Abd Allah ad Daghestani, referred to this saying in his encounter with Khidr , who told him, as he was pointing to the graves of some great scholars in a Muslim cemetery, “This one is three years old. That one, seven. That one, twelve.”
Grandshaykh Tayfur Abu Yazid al Bistami died in 261 AH/875 CE. It is said that he is buried in two places; in Damascus and Bistam, in Iran. The secret of the Golden Chain was passed from Mawlana Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bistami to Shaykh Abul Hasan al-Kharqani.