Friday, May 25, 2012

Bayazid Bastami



Bayazid Bastami also known as Abu Yazid Bistami or Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bustami
(804-874 or 877/8 CE) was a Persian Sufi born in Bastam, Iran.

Background:

 

The name Bastami means "from the city of Bastam". Bayazid's grandfather was a Zoroastrian who converted to Islam. His grandfather had three sons, Adam, Tayfur and 'Ali. All of them were ascetics. Abayazid was born to Tayfur. Not much is known of his childhood, but Bayazid spent most of his time in isolation in his house and the mosque. Although he remained in isolation, he did not isolate himself from the Sufi realm. He welcomed people into his house to discuss Sufism. Bayazid also led a life of asceticism and renounced all worldly pleasures in order to be one with God. Ultimately, this led Bayazid to a state of "self anhiliation", which, according to Sufism, is the only state a person could be in order to be closest with God. Bayazid became known as the first "intoxicated" Sufi because of the openness of his expressions he felt towards God (shatahat). Bayazid is regarded as being one of the most influential mystics due to the fact of how controversial he was at the time.


Influence:

 

Bayazid was in close contact with the Twelve Imams. He received initiation from Imam Ali ar-Ridha and died in either 874 or 877/8, indicating it is most likely he would have also associated with the succeeding Shia Imams, including Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (d.835 CE), Imam Ali al-Hadi (d.868 CE), and Imam Hasan al-Askari (d.874 CE), the paternal ancestors Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari, who would later lend his name to the chain of Central Asian Sufi Masters from the 10th to the 16th century known collectively as the Khwajagan. Bayazid's successor was Abu al-Hassan al-Kharaqani, who transmitted belief in the Twelve Imams to both Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, at whose shrine the names of the Twelve Imams are inscribed, and to Abu al-Hassan al-Kharaqani's successor Abul Qasim Gurgani (d. 1076), at whose shrine these names are also inscribed.
Bastami's predecessor Dhu'l-Nun al-Misri (d. CE 859) was a murid of Jābir ibn Hayyān, who was a student of the sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, as well. Al-Misri had formulated the doctrine of ma'rifa (gnosis), presenting a system which helped the murid (initiate) and the shaykh (guide) to communicate. Bayazid Bastami took this a step further and emphasized the importance of ecstasy, referred to in his words as drunkenness (sukr or wajd), a means of self-annihilation in the Divine Presence. Before him, Sufism was mainly based on piety and obedience and he played a major role in placing the concept of divine love at the core of Sufism.
Bastami was one of the first to speak of "annihilation of the self in God" (fana fi 'Allah') and "subsistence through God" (baqa' bi 'Allah). The "annihilation of the self" (fana fi 'Allah') refers to disregarding everything in this world because of one's love towards God. When a person enters the state of fana it is believed that one is closest to God. His paradoxical sayings gained a wide circulation and soon exerted a captivating influence over the minds of students who aspired to understand the meaning of the wahdat al-wujud, Unity of Being.
When Bayazid 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.”
Bayazid died in 874 CE and is buried either in the city of Bistam in north central Iran, or in Semnan, Iran.

 

Intoxicated Sufi

 

An intoxicated Sufi is one that expresses their feelings openly without disregarding the social consequences in doing so. Bayazid was most famous for openly expressing himself. Unlike the sufi Junayd who was a sober sufi, meaning that he reserved his feelings within himself and not allowing for such expressions to be observed to the outside world. This was the acceptable comportment of a Sufi, however when Bayazid began to express himself openly, many shunned him. The people opposed to his openness accused Bayazid of being a heretic due to his bizarre sayings. Not only his sayings are controversial, but Bayazid also claimed to have traveled through the 7 heavens in his dream. This journey proclaimed by Bayazid is similar to the Mi'raj of the Prophet Muhammad (Sells, pg 213).
These sayings are some of Bayazid's famous sayings that caused him to be labeled as an intoxicated Sufi.
  • "Glory be to me! How great is My majesty!"
  • "Thy obedience to me is greater than my obedience to Thee"
  • "I am the throne and the footstool"
  • "By my life, my grasp is firmer than His"
  • "I saw the Kaba walking round me"
  • "Moses desired to see God; I do not desire to see God;He desires to see me"

 

The Mystery About Shrine of Bayazid Bostami in Bangladesh

Interestingly enough, there is a shrine in Chittagong, Bangladesh that local people believe to be Bastami's tomb as well. This seems unlikely to be true, as Bastami was never known to have visited Bangladesh. However, Sufi teachers were greatly influential in the spread of Islam in Bengal and this might explain the belief. The Islamic scholars of Bangladesh usually regard the tomb at Chittagong attributed to him as a jawab, or imitation.
One explanation is the local legend that Bayazid did indeed visit Chattagong. At the time of his return, he found that his local followers did not want to leave. Overwhelmed by the love of his local followers, he pierced his finger and dropped a few drops of his blood on the ground and allowed his followers to build a shrine in his name where his blood drops fell.
This also explained by the traditional Sufi masters as a mash-had, or site of witnessing, where the spiritual presence of the saint has been witnessed, and is known to appear. This is explained through the Sufi concept of the power of the saint's soul to travel and in its spiritual form, even after death, to appear to the living. The Quran mentions that some of those who have proven their sincerity have achieved a life beyond the grave (سَبِيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاء عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ; Wala tahsabanna allatheena qutiloo fee sabeeli Allahi amwatan bal ahyaon AAinda rabbihim yurzaqoona; Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; 3:169

 Sayings

Some of his words quoted from Tadhkiratul Awliya تذکره الاولیا by Farid al-Din Attar:
  • I never saw any lamp shining more brilliantly than the lamp of silence.
  • I went to a wilderness, love had rained and had covered earth, as feet penetrate snow, I found my feet covered with love.
  • I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause and I didn’t find a single step of progress with them. Then I said, ‘O Allah, what is the way to You?’ and Allah said, ‘Leave yourself and come.’
Osho mentions him as one of the great Sufi masters.

 


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY:
Birth Name: Abu Yazid Bistami or Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bustami
Born in: Bostam, Iran

In depth:

Hazrat Bayazid Bustami [, may Allah be pleased with him], also known as Yazid Bistami or Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bustami, was a Persian Sufi Master.

Not much is known about his childhood and youth, except that he would enjoy solitude in his house or the Masjid, and also welcomed people to his house to discuss Sufism.

Influence on Sufism

In his quest to seek unity with Almighty Allah, he renounced worldly pleasures and eventually reached the state of self-annihilation which is the only way one can be closest to Allah.

He also became known as the first ‘intoxicated’ Sufi, referring to his complete devotion to God, which reached such an extent that he would openly express his love for Allah. For this reason, he was controversial during his time yet extremely influential in the world of Sufism.

Before him, Sufism was mainly based on piety & obedience and he played a major role in placing the concept of Divine Love at its core.

Hazrat Bayazid Bustami was the first to speak openly of 'self-annihalation in God' (fana fillah) and 'existence through God' (baqa billah).
The 'annihilation of the self' (fana fillah) refers to disregarding everything in this world due to one's love of God. When a person enters the state of ‘fana’, at that time it is believed that one is closest to God.

Hazrat Bayazid Bustami's sayings gained a wide circulation and soon exerted a captivating influence over the minds of students who aspired to understand the meaning of 'wahdat al-wujud', Unity of Being.

Exile & Controversy about His Utterances

Unlike many Sufis who reserve their feelings within themselves and not allowing such expressions to be observed to the outside world, Hazrat Bayazid expressed himself openly and as a result, many shunned him. Those who opposed to his openness would accuse him of being a heretic due to his controversial sayings which they could not comprehend at the time.

Hazrat Ibn Hajar Asqalani said, in reference to Hazrat Bayazid's famous utterances, "Allah knows the secret and Allah knows the heart. Whatever Abu Yazid spoke from his 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."

Hazrat Fariduddin Attar relate that Hazrat Bayazid said, when he was exiled from his city, "O Blessed city, whose refuse is Bayazid!"

Advice to His Mureeds

He urged his students (Mureeds) to put their affairs in the Hands of Allah and to accept sincerely the pure doctrine of Tawheed (the Oneness of God).

He also taught five essentials:
to follow 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 (bid`a).

Sayings & Quotes

- He said about Allah's love for His servant, "If Allah loves His servant He will grant three attributes that are the proofs of His Love: generosity like the generosity of the ocean, and 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."

- He once said, ""Praise to Me, for My greatest Glory!"
This sparked much controversy, but his followers understood his sayings because they were able to comprehend something which most Sufis at the time did not; that Hazrat Bayazid had reached a stage of self-annihilation so strongly infused with the Divine Presence that there was only space for God and no room for his own existence.

- They asked him, "Describe your day and describe your night." He said, "I don't have a day and I don't have a night, because day and night are for those who have characteristics of creation. I have shed myself the way the snake sheds its skin."

Hazrat Bayazid’s Shrine in Bangladesh

There is a shrine in Chittagong, Bangladesh that local people believe to also be Hazrat Bayazid's tomb.
This is unlikely but there may be explanation as to why this shrine is atributed to him:
A local legend tells that Hazrat Bayazid did indeed visit Chittagong. At the time of his return, he found that his local followers did not want him to leave. Overwhelmed by the love of his local followers, he pierced his finger and dropped a few drops of his blood on the ground and allowed his followers to build a shrine in his name where his blood drops fell.

This also explained by the traditional Sufi masters as a mash-had, or site of witnessing, where the spiritual presence of the saint has been witnessed, and is known to appear.
This is explained through the Sufi concept of a Saint's power to travel and in its spiritual form, even after death, to appear to the living. The Qur'an mentions that some of those who have proven their sincerity have achieved a life beyond the grave:

"Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord."
[Holy Qur'an 3:169]

Death & Departure of Hazrat Bayazid

When Hazrat Bayazid 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."

Bayazid died in 261 H. It is said he is buried in two places, one is Damascus and the other is Bistam in Persia.