A Soaring Minaret: Abu Bakr Al-Wasiti and the Rise of by Laury Silvers

By Laury Silvers

The advance of early Islamic mysticism and metaphysics is gifted in the course of the lifestyles and paintings of theologian Abu Bakr al-Wasiti.

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Companions and less regular visitors would frequent the circle of a shaykh to sit and hear his discourse on knowledge of God and take general and personal instruction on spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines such WASITI IN IRAQ 29 as fasting, late night prayer vigils, seclusion, close observation of the soul to root out shortcomings, and the repeated recitation of sacred formulae such as “There is no god but God,” might be required or suggested by the shaykh. The shaykh might advise his students on proper company and proper conduct.

There are several reports of Junayd’s instructions to his companions, which indicate the practices Wasiti would have undertaken with him. Junayd emphasized spiritual struggle over discussion. In the following saying, Junayd emphasizes the importance of a sincere struggle with one’s soul on the Sufi path over discussion in order to purify one’s interactions with God. We do not take Sufism from idle talk, but rather from hunger, abandoning this world, cutting off all that is familiar and agreeable, because Sufism is making [one’s] interactions with God limpid.

As Chittick points out, “This does not imply that the sober are no longer drunk. ”21 The teaching relationship in early Sufism can be understood—in the broadest sense—to be the transmission of a shaykh’s outward and inward knowledge of God in order to bring about his companion’s own realization (tahqiq) of knowledge of God. The transmission involved guiding his companion’s spiritual life through commands, suggestions, and advice concerning spiritual discipline, explanations of what is experienced on the path, the assigning of litanies, disclosures of the inward meanings of the Qurªan and Hadith, as well as the clarification and explanation of more mundane matters in all areas—all of which might to a lesser or greater degree apply to an infrequent visitor of a shaykh.

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