al-Shibli رضي الله عنه

The Great grand shaykh of Qadri Silsila
The dome of Shaikh Abu Bakr Shibli (Baghdad, Iraq)
The Zariah (mazar) of Shaikh Abu Bakr Shibli (Baghdad, Iraq)

Abu Bakr Dolaf ibn Jahdar (Ja’far ibn Yunos) al- Shibli رضي الله عنه , His family was from Khorasan, from a village there called Shibla. He was born in Samarra or Baghdad. He grew up in Baghdad.  , son of a court official and himself promoted in the imperial service, As-Sulami said, “Ash-Shibli was the chamberlain of the Khalif al-Muwaffiq. His father had been the chamberlain in Baghdad.”  Joining the circle of al-Juned رضي الله عنه.

 The calling of Abu Bakr-e Shibli رضي الله عنه  

Abu Bakr-e Shibli رضي الله عنه  was originally Governor of Demavend. A dispatch came to him from Baghdad, and he set out with the Governor of Rayy and a retinue to present himself before the caliph. Having been invested by the caliph with robes of honour, they returned homewards. By chance the Governor of Rayy suddenly sneezed. He wiped his mouth and nose in his robe of honour. This being reported to the caliph, he commanded that he should be stripped of his robe, soundly cuffed and dismissed from his office of governor. This opened Shibli’s رضي الله عنه  eyes. “One who uses as a handkerchief a robe conferred by a mortal being,” he mused, “is accounted deserving to be deposed and slighted. He forfeits his robe of office. What then of him who uses as a handkerchief the robe conferred by the King of the world—what will be done to him?” At once he went to the caliph. “Prince,” he addressed the caliph, “you, a mortal being, do not approve that the robe conferred by you should be treated disrespectfully, and it is well known what your robe is worth. The King of the world has given me a robe of honour, even the love and knowledge of Him. How shall He ever approve my using it as a handkerchief in the service of a mortal?” And he left the court and proceeded to the assembly of Khair-e Nassaj. There a miracle happened to him, and Khair sent him to Juned رضي الله عنه. So Shibli came before Juned رضي الله عنه. “You are recommended as an expert on pearls,” he said. “Either give me one, or sell one to me.” “If I sell you one, you will not have the price of it, and if I give you one, having so easily come by it you will not realize its value,” Juned رضي الله عنه  replied. “Do like me; plunge head first into this Sea, and if you wait patiently you will obtain your pearl.” “Now what shall I do?” asked Shibli رضي الله عنه . “Go and sell sulphur for a year,” said Juned رضي الله عنه.  Shibli رضي الله عنه did so. When the year was up, Juned رضي الله عنه  gave him new instructions. “This work brings notoriety and commerce. Go and beg for a year, so that you be not busied with aught else.” For a whole year Shibli رضي الله عنه  wandered throughout Baghdad. No one gave him anything. He returned and reported to Juned رضي الله عنه. “Now realize your own worth, for you count for nothing in the eyes of your fellows,” said Juned رضي الله عنه. “Fasten not your heart on them, neither have any regard of them. For some days you were a chamberlain and for some days you acted as governor. Now repair to your former province and seek quittance of the inhabitants there.” Shibli رضي الله عنه  returned to Demavend and went from house to house, till only one victim of oppression remained. That man he could not trace. “With him in mind,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  recalled, “I distributed a hundred thousand dirhams, but still my heart did not find rest.” Four years went by in this way. Then he returned to Juned رضي الله عنه. “Some fragment of pomp and pride still lingers in you,” said Juned رضي الله عنه. “Beg for another year.” “Every day I went begging,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  recalled. ‘I brought him all I got, and he would give it to the poor. At night he kept me hungry. When a year had gone by, he said to me, ‘Now I admit you to my companionship, but on one condition, that you shall be the servant of my companions.’ So for a year I served the companions. Then Juned رضي الله عنه  said to me, ‘Abu Bakr, what is your view of yourself now?’ ‘I regard myself as the least of Allah أزواجال ’s creatures,’ I replied. ‘Now,’ remarked Juned رضي الله عنه, ‘your faith is whole.”’ By then Shibli رضي الله عنه  had progressed to the point that he would fill his sleeve with sugar, and every boy he saw he would put a piece in his mouth. “Say Allah أزواجال !” he would say. After that he filled his sleeve with dirhams and dinars. “Every one who says Allah أزواجال  once, I will fill his mouth with gold.” Thereafter the spirit of jealousy stirred in him, and he unsheathed a sword. “Every one who mentions the name of Allah أزواجال , I will strike off his head with this sword,” he cried. “Hitherto,” they said, “you used to give sugar and gold. Now you will strike off heads?” “Then I supposed that they pronounced His name out of true experience and knowledge,” he explained. “Now I realize that they speak it unheeding and merely out of habit. I cannot permit Him to be name`1 by an impure tongue.” After that on every place he could find he inscribed the name of Allah أزواجال . Suddenly a voice addressed him. “How long will you go about the name? If you are truly a seeker, stride forth on the quest of the Named!” These words affected him deeply. Peace and composure altogether deserted him. So powerful was the love possessing him, so completely was he overwhelmed by mystical tumult, that he went and flung himself into the Tigris. The river surged and cast him up on the bank. Then he hurled himself into the fire, but the flames affected him not. He sought a place where hungry lions were gathered and cast himself before them; the lions all fled away from him. He threw himself down from the summit of a mountain; the wind picked him up and deposited him on the ground. His disquiet increased a thousand fold. “Woe to him,” he cried, “whom neither water nor fire will accept, neither the wild beasts nor the mountains!” “He who is accepted of Allah أزواجال,” came a voice, “is accepted of no other.” Then they loaded him with chains and fetters and carried him to the asylum. 381 “This man is mad,” some shouted. “In your eyes I am mad and you are sane,” he replied. “May Allah أزواجال augment my madness and your sanity, that by reason of that madness I may be admitted nearer and nearer, and because of that sanity you may be driven farther and farther!” The caliph sent one to care for him. The attendants came and by force thrust the medicine in his throat. “Do not put yourself to such pains,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  cried. “This sickness is not such as will yield to healing by medicine.”

Anecdotes of Shibli رضي الله عنه

When Shibli رضي الله عنه  was confined in chains a group of his companions one day went to visit him. “Who are you?” he cried. “Your friends,” they told him. He at once began to throw stones at them, and they all fled. “Liars!” he shouted. “Do friends run away from their friend because of a few stones? This proves that you are friends of yourselves, not of me!” Once Shibli رضي الله عنه  was observed running with a burning coal in his hand. “Where are you going?” they asked. “I am running to set fire to the Kaaba,” he answered, “so that men may henceforward care only for the Lord of the Kaaba.” On another occasion he was holding in his hand a piece of wood alight at both ends. “What are you going to do?” he was asked. “I am going to set Hell on fire with one end and Paradise with the other,” he replied, “so that men may concern themselves only with Allah أزواجال .” Shibli رضي الله عنه  danced once for several days and nights beneath a certain tree crying, “Hoo, Hoo.” “What is all this?” his friends demanded. “This ringdove in yonder tree is saying Coo Coo,” he explained. “I am accompanying it with Hoo Hoo.” It is said that the ringdove did not stop cooing until Shibli رضي الله عنه  ceased hooing. It is said that when Shibli رضي الله عنه  first began his self-mortification, for many long years he used to rub salt in his eyes so that he should not sleep. It is stated that he put seven maunds of salt in his eyes in this way. “Almighty Allah أزواجال  is watching me,” he would say. “The man who sleeps is heedless,” he added, “and the heedless man is veiled.” One day Juned رضي الله عنه visited him to find him pulling up the skin of his eyebrows with tweezers. “Why are you doing that?” he asked. “Truth has become manifest, and I cannot endure it,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  answered. “I am pricking myself that haply He may grant me one glance.” Shibli رضي الله عنه  had a grotto where he used to go, carrying with him a bundle of sticks. Any time his heart was invaded by inattention he would beat himself with those sticks. Once it happened that he had broken all the sticks, so he beat his hands and feet against the wall. Overpowered by mystic ecstasy, Shibli رضي الله عنه  began to preach, and proclaimed before the people the secret. Juned   رضي الله عنه  reproached him. “We utter these words in grottos,” he said. “Now you have come and declare them in the market-place.” “I am speaking and I am listening,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  replied. “In both worlds who is there but I? Nay rather, these are words proceeding from Allah أزواجال  to Allah أزواجال , and Shibli رضي الله عنه  is not there at all.” “If that is the case, you have dispensation,” Juned رضي الله عنه  said. One day Shibli رضي الله عنه  was repeatedly uttering the word Allah أزواجال , Allah أزواجال . An earnest young disciple addressed him. “Why do you not say, There is no Allah أزواجال  but Allah أزواجال ?” Shibli رضي الله عنه  sighed. “I am afraid,” he explained, “that if I say ‘no Allah أزواجال ’ my breath may be stopped before I reach ‘but Allah أزواجال ’ and I shall be utterly desolated.” These words made such an impression on the youth that he trembled and expired. His friends came and haled Shibli رضي الله عنه  to the caliph’s palace. He, being still in the throes of ecstasy, walked along like one drunk. They accused him of murder, “Shibli رضي الله عنه , what do you say?” demanded the caliph. “It was a soul wholly consumed by the flame of the fire of love, in eager expectancy of confronting the majesty of Allah أزواجال ,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  replied. “It was a soul severed from all connections, passed away from all carnal corruption. It was a soul come to the end of its tether that could endure no longer, visited successively inwardly by the importunate envoys of the Presence Divine. A lightning-flash of the beauty of the contemplation of this visitation leaped upon the very core of his soul. His soul bird-like flew out of the cage of the body. What was Shibli’s رضي الله عنه offence or crime in this?” “Send Shibli رضي الله عنه  home immediately,” ordered the caliph. “His words have produced such a state in me inwardly that there is danger that I may fall from this throne!” Once Shibli رضي الله عنه  was in Baghdad. He said, “We require a thousand dirhams, to buy shoes for the poor and despatch them on the pilgrimage.” A Christian jumped up and said, “I will give them, only on one condition, that you take me with you.” “Young sir, you are not qualified for the pilgrimage,” said “There is no mule in your caravan,” the youth replied. “Take me along as your mule.” The dervishes set out, the Christian along with them loins girded to the trail. “How are you faring, young man?” asked Shibli رضي الله عنه. ‘I am so happy at the thought of accompanying you that I cannot sleep,” he replied. On the road the Christian took a brush and at every halting place he swept the floor for the pilgrims and plucked out the thorns. When the time came for putting on the white robes, he saw what the rest were doing and followed their example. At last the party arrived at the Kaaba. “With your girdle I cannot let you enter the Holy House,” Shibli رضي الله عنه told the Christian. “O Allah أزواجال ,” the Christian cried, laying his head on the threshold, “Shibli رضي الله عنه  says he will not allow me into Thy House.” “Shibli, رضي الله عنه ” came a voice out of heaven, “We have brought him here from Baghdad. Kindling the fire of love in his heart, We have dragged him to Our House with the chains of loving kindness. Shibli رضي الله عنه , get out of the way! You, friend, come in!” The Christian entered the Holy House and performed the visitation. The rest of the party then entered and in due course emerged, but the youth still did not come out. “Young man, come out!” Shibli  رضي الله عنه called. “He will not let me out,” the youth replied. “Every time I make for the door of the House I find it shut. What will become of me?”

Once Juned رضي الله عنه  and Shibli both fell sick. A Christian physician visited Shibli رضي الله عنه “What pains are you feeling?” he asked. “None,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  replied. “What do you say?” the doctor repeated. “I have no pain,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  told him. The physician then visited Juned رضي الله عنه . “What pains do you have?” he enquired. Juned رضي الله عنه  described his symptoms in detail, enumerating each pain in turn. The Christian treated him, and departed. Later the two friends came together. “Why did you expose all your pains to a Christian?” Shibli رضي الله عنه  asked. “So that he might realize,” Juned رضي الله عنه  answered, “if His friend is treated so, what He will do to His foe! And you,” he added, “why did you not describe your pains?” ‘I was ashamed,” Shibli replied, “to complain to an enemy of the Friend!” One day as Shibli رضي الله عنه  was going along he encountered two boys quarrelling over a walnut they had found. He took the walnut from them. ‘Be patient, till I divide it between you!” he told them. When he broke it open, the nut proved to be empty. A voice proclaimed, “Go on, divide it, if you are the Divider!” “All that quarrelling over an empty nut,” Shibli  رضي الله عنه  commented shamefaced. “And all that pretension to be a divider over nothing!”

The death of Shibli رضي الله عنه  

When the hour of his death drew near, Shibli’s رضي الله عنه  eyes were shrouded in darkness. He asked for ashes and sprinkled them over his head, and was possessed of an indescribable restlessness. “Why all this agitation?” his friends asked him. “My soul is filled with envy and jealousy of Iblis,” he answered. “Here I sit athirst, and He gives of His own to another. Upon thee shall rest My curse till the Day of Doom. I cannot bear to see that attribution of the Divine curse to Iblis. I wish it to be mine; for even though it is a curse, yet is it not His, and is it not of His attribution? What does that accursed one know of its worth? Why did He not vouchsafe to the princes of the Community to set their feet on the crown of the Throne? The jeweller knows the value of the jewel. If a king sets a glass bead or a crystal on his hand, it appears as a jewel; but if a greengrocer makes a seal ring of a jewel and puts it on his finger, it appears as a bead of glass.” Thereafter Shibli رضي الله عنه was composed for a while. Then his agitation returned. “What is it?” they asked. “Two winds are blowing,” he answered. “One is the wind of loving kindness, the other the wind of wrath. Upon whomsoever the wind of loving kindness blows, he attains his goal; upon whomsoever the wind of wrath blows, he is imprisoned in the veil. Upon whom shall that wind alight? If the wind of loving kindness is to light on me, in that fond hope I can endure all this hardship and suffering. If the wind of wrath is to light on me, this my present suffering shall be naught in comparison with what will then befalI me. Nothing,” he added, “weighs more heavily on my heart than the one dirham of oppression I have been guilty of, though I have given a thousand dirhams in expiation thereof. My heart will not rest. Give me the water of purification.” They brought him water, but forgot to let it run through his beard till he reminded them. All that night Shibli رضي الله عنه recited these verses. Whatever house Thou tak’st for thine No lamp is needed there to shine. Upon the day that men shall bring Their proofs before the Judge and King, Our proof shall be, in that dread place, The longed-for beauty of Thy face. A company then gathered around him to say the funeral prayers. His end was come, and he realized what was passing. “How marvellous!” he exclaimed. “A throng of dead men are come to pray over one living.” “Say, There is no Allah أزواجال  but Allah أزواجال ,” they said. “Since there is no other than He,” he replied, “how can I utter a negative?” “There is no help. Say the words of attestation,” they urged him. “The King of Love says, I will not accept a bribe,” Shibli رضي الله عنه  retorted. Then one present raised his voice to prompt him. “Here is a dead man come, to awaken the living!” Shibli  رضي الله عنه  exclaimed. A little while passed. Then they said, “How are you?” “I have rejoined the Beloved,” he answered. Then he expired.

  1. Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman as-Sulami said, “Ash-Shibli  رضي الله عنه died on 27 Dhu’l-Hijja in 334.” Another said, “On Friday on the next to the last night of the month.” Ibn Nafi’ said that it was in 335.
  2. Al-Khatib said, “The first is sounder. It was when he was 87. He was buried in the al-Khayrazan cementary in Baghdad, and his grave is known there.”
  3. Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman said: “He was a man of knowledge and a faqih in the school of Malik. He wrote out many hadiths.
  4. As-Sulami reported that Abu ‘Abdullah ar-Razi said, “I did not see anyone in Sufism with more knowledge than ash-Shibli  رضي الله عنه.”

Virtues & Miracles of Shaih Shibli   رضي الله عنه 

Ibn Mujahid came to him one day and ash-Shibli رضي الله عنه  asked him about his state. He said, “We hope for good. Every day we do two or three full recitations of the Qur’an.” Ash-Shibli رضي الله عنه  said to him, “Shaykh, in this corner I have done 13,000 full recitations. If anything of them is accepted, I would give it to you. I have been doing a full recitation for three or four years and I have only reached a fourth of the Qur’an.”

Abu ‘Imran al-Ashyab had a circle and ash-Shibli   رضي الله عنه went to it . When Abu ‘Imran saw him, he rose for him and sat him at his side. One of the companions of Abu ‘Imran wanted to show people that ash-Shibli  رضي الله عنه was ignorant. He askedhim, “Abu Bakr,   رضي الله عنه when a woman’s menstrual blood resembles the blood of false menstruation, what does she do?” He gave him eighteen answers. Abu ‘Imran   رضي الله عنه  went to him and kissed his hand. He said, “Abu Bakr, I know twelve, and six I have never heard before!”

Ash-Shibli   رضي الله عنه stood one day at the Bab at-Taq with Abu’t-Tayyib al-Jalla  رضي الله عنه . He was one of the people of knowledge. He spoke a long time with him. The people gathered to Abu’-t-Tayyib  رضي الله عنه to ask him to ask ash-Shibli   رضي الله عنه to make supplication for them and to show them a sign. Abu’t-Tayyib pressed him in that. He raised his hands and made a supplication which was not understood. Then he gazed at the sky and did not cover his eyes from mid-morning until noon. People said, “Allah is greater,” made supplication, and there was tumult.

When he was at Jalawi with a sauce-pan boiling in front of him, he bought some of it for a friend of his. He scooped up a handful from the pan while it was boiling and put it in a flat loaf of bread and took it to Ibn Mujahid. He got up for him. His companions said, “You rise for ash-Shibli   رضي الله عنه  and you do not rise for Ibn ‘Isa, the wazir?” He said, “Shall I not rise for the one the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, respects? I saw the Messenger of Allah in a dream and he said to me, ‘Abu Bakr, tomorrow a man of the people of the Garden will come to you, so honour him.’” He said, “Two nights after this, Ibn Mujahid dreamt of the Prophet who told him, “Abu Bakr, Allah has honoured you for honouring a man of the people of the Garden.” “He said, ‘I asked, “Messenger of Allah, by what did he merit this from you?’ He replied, “Every Thursday he prayed five prayers in which he remembered me after every prayer and recited, “A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Grievous to you is what you suffer.” (9:128)’”

It is related that he said, “Once I decided that I would only eat from the lawful. I used to go around in the deserts. I saw two trees. I stretched my hand to them to eat. One of them called out, ‘Guard your agreement! Do not eat from me! I am an unbeliver!’”

As-Sa’luki said, “A beggar stood at his circle. He began to say: ‘O Allah! O Generous!’”Ash-Shibli   رضي الله عنه hesitated. Then he said, ‘How can I describe the Truth with generosity when creatures say that about their likes?’”

Then he wept and said, “Generosity! You brought these limbs into existence and expanded these aspirations, Then after that, You were kind to people without any need of them or of what is in their hands by You, You are the Generous, all-Generous. They give with a limit. Your giving does not have limit nor description, O Generous, above every generous one and the One by whom everyone who is generous is generous!”

He said, “Tasawwuf is the heart resting in the fans of purity, the thoughts being enveloped by the curtain of fidelity, and taking on the character of generosity and joy in the encounter.”

He also said, “Tasawwuf is to curb your senses and guard your breaths.”

He said, “Tasawwuf is love of the Majestic and hatred of the insignificant and following descent and fear of reversal.”

He was asked, “Who is the Sufi?” and he replied, “The one who does not ask, does not repel and does not store up.”

It was said, “Who is the faqir?” He said, “The one who is at home with non-existence as he is at home with oneness.”

He was asked about sama’ and the school of the Sufis in it. He said, “Its outward is temptation and its inward is admonition. Whoever recognises the allusion can lawfully listen to the admonition. Otherwise he invites temptation and exposes himself to affliction.”