Checked & Annotated
Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansaari
A Strange Lecture By A Sūfī Shaīkḫ
Once I went to the Masjid to listen to a lecture with a Shaīkḫ. When we arrived at the Masjid there were other Shuyūkh and Teachers sitting around an individual. He was reading from a book called al-Hikam (The Book Of Wisdom) of Ibn Ajība. The lecture was in regards to the Sūfī way of achieving Tazkīya Nafs (purification of oneself) and a person from the group started reading a story from this book which is as follows.
A Sūfī person entered a bathroom to take a bath. When he finished having a bath and came out, he stole a towel from there however he didn’t hide it properly. He allowed the end part of it to be visible so when people see it they would catch him, tell him off, get angry at him and humiliate him so he could use that to punish his own nafs and train it according to the Sūfī way and that is exactly what happened.
When he left the bathroom area he easily got caught since the towel was visible from below the Sūfī person’s clothes and so the person who caught him started rebuking him and saying bad things about him loudly. When other people heard this they started gathering there and were all looking at the Sūfī person who stole the towel. When they saw that he stole the towel the people started to beat him up and say bad things about him just like how a thief is treated when they are caught red handed. The people really punished the Sūfī person heavily and from this he was able to reform his nafs.
The second story which was narrated went as follows.
Another Sūfī individual wanted to train and humiliate his nafs. So he got a bowl, filled it with walnuts then put it around his neck and went to the market. On the way to the market whenever he saw a child he said to them, if you spit on my face I will give you a walnut. So the child would spit on the Sūfī person’s face and he would give them a walnut in return. He got to the market and continued to do this, children would spit on his face and he would give them a walnut. So the Sūfī got really happy from doing this because he humiliated his nafs at a high level.
(T.N. This group of Sūfīs is well known as the “Malāmatīya” i.e the blameworthy ones. They carry out blameworthy acts on purpose and think by doing so helps make them closer to Allah by lowering their ego. They believe that the more they humiliate themselves the closer and high in rank they will be with Allah. It is said that this group originated from Nishapur, an old town from Khorasān, in the 9th century (Tarīkh Nishapur). Unfortunately stories of the misguided group Malāmatīya are still present in the modern books of Indo-Pak Sufīs, such as the story of a Sufī elder who wanted to carry out a blameworthy act in the Masjid to train his nafs so he stole someones piece of clothing in front of everyone until people caught him and gave him the nickname of “The Masjidʾs Thief “.(Fayzan Sunnat pg no.306). Some of the Sufī Shaikhs also pay people to humiliate and swear at them openly in front of others in order to lower their anger, ego and nafs. (Ihya Ulūm ad-Dīn 3/60). May Allah guide them)
When I heard these two stories I became angry and my heart got upset about these dirty, wrong and dramatic types of training because Islam gave honor and nobility to humans and these people are doing the opposite by dishonoring and humiliating themselves. Allah says in the Qurān:
“Indeed, We have dignified the children of Ādam, carried them on land and sea, granted them good and lawful provisions, and privileged them far above many of Our creatures.” (Surah al-Isrā āyah no.70)
When I came out of that Masjid I said to the Shaīkḫ who I went with, Is this the Sūfī way of training the nafs? Can someone really train and purify their nafs by stealing which the Sharīa has declared as a criminal act and commanded that, as a punishment the thief’s hand is to be cut? Or does training the nafs happen by being immoral, disrespecting humans and humiliating oneself? The religion of Islām has rejected and rebuked these type of acts. Common sense and sound intellect, which Allah has made as a sign of honor and reverence for humans, also rejects these types of acts. Are these words of wisdom which the author Ibn Ajība has said in his book of wisdom?
Believe it or not the Shaīkḫ who was the chairman of this lecture had a lot of students and followers. Once this so called guided Shaīkḫ made an announcement that he intends to go for Hajj. All of his students and followers went to him to also make the intention and enlist to go for Hajj with him. Women also came to enlist in this group so they could also go for Hajj and a lot of them sold their jewelry for it. So there became a lot of people who desired to go for Hajj. When this Shaīkḫ collected a lot of money, he suddenly announced that he doesn’t have the ability to perform Hajj and therefore is not going for Hajj anymore. He didn’t even give the people their money back, but rather consumed all of their money which is harām. Allah’s saying in the Qurān became true on him:
“O believers! Indeed, many rabbis and monks consume people’s wealth wrongfully and hinder ˹others˺ from the Way of Allah. Give good news of a painful torment to those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s cause.” (Surah at-Tawbah, āyah no.34)
After this situation a really pious and wealthy follower of this Shaīkḫ said very angrily, and I heard it with my own ears, that this Shaīkḫ is the biggest deceiver and the biggest liar.