The Prince and The Four Dervishes

The night sky was coal black; the Moon was hidden by a blanket of thick grey clouds, but the prince could see a fire burning at a distance. Four dervishes crouched around the flames to keep the howling icy wind at bay; the graves around them whispering stories of days gone by. One was a minister; another a soldier; one a farmer; another a beggar. The prince had cremated his father, the king, two nights ago. There was no trace of the royal life he had lived; there was nothing to mark his reign, thought the prince to himself. The life of absolute power; of arrogance; of intolerance to a diverse thought. The land was rich and fertile, but the people were filled with a sadness in their hearts. The king would not listen to their clamour for reform. The crooked nobility thrived; the subjects lived a life of poverty. And the prince wondered: how is it that in this graveyard, the minister and the beggar share the same earth?

He edged closer to the dervishes. And one spoke up: “The prince is to be crowned seven days from now. How do we help him learn from the mistakes of his father, who listened to no one but himself?” The prince muttered to himself: “The reason I have wandered into this graveyard is because I have set out to learn from life.”

The prince decided to follow the four dervishes. They had covered themselves with patched blankets and retired for the night. The prince, shivered; he shifted restlessly. He was tired, but sleep seemed a distant comfort on the cold ground. Fatigue eventually overcame the harshness of the elements and the hard bed. The prince slept. One thought swirled through his head: how could a minister and a beggar share the same earth?

He was awakened by voices. The Sun was creeping through the blanket of clouds. He smelt a fire smouldering. The dervishes were preparing to leave. As they walked out of the graveyard, the prince hurried behind. They came upon a temple. The dervishes greeted the priest, who gave them puffed rice. The dervishes stood in prayer as the bells rang. How strange? the prince thought. What is their belief? And one dervish seemed to speak on cue: “There are as many paths to The One as there are grains of sand.” The prince and his father knew just one path; their path.

The dervishes stopped by a hut. They shouted out. A one-legged man hobbled out. The dervishes handed him the puffed rice. The one-legged man said: “You don’t have to pray again today. For your prayer is this puffed rice. There is no one to take care of us. The king didn’t bother. Will the prince look after us?”

The dervishes continued their journey. A trader sat by a dusty lane selling bread. “How do you do business, my friend?” asked one of the dervishes. “I place bread on one scale and the customer places coins on the other scale. If the scale with the coins is heavier, I give the customer bread.” “But what if the customer is poor?” another dervish queried. “I must accept his humility and give him bread,” the trader replied. The prince was in awe. Such compassion he had not seen within the walls of his grand palace. This was a trader; his livelihood was selling bread.

The dervishes wandered through the village until they came upon an ashram. A scholar was speaking to a group of students: “You will now go out into the world to make the best of your education. But I ask this: you have mastered all the texts, but now journey to your soul and master your thoughts, which will translate into deeds.”

Evening fell, the dervishes returned to the graveyard. The prince saw the graves of the minister and the beggar. And he understood the meaning of life.

He returned to his palace and the next morning he formed his council ministers: there were four dervishes, a priest, a one-legged man, a trader and a scholar. The kingdom saw prosperity and peace. The land was happy.


Hazrat Abu Bakr Sadiq: In words of Allama Iqbal


Hazrat Abul Bakr Siddiq R.A. was the first Caliph of Islam. He was the first male adult to be converted to Islam. While other persons argued and raised questions at the time of their acceptance of Islam Abu Bakr accepted the new faith without asking any questions. He was most truthful and he could discern where the Truth lay. He was also the father-in-law
of the Holy Prophet SAW, since he was father of Hazrat Aisha R.A.

When the Holy Prophet SAW decided to migrate from Mecca to Madina, Abu Bakr had the honour of being his companion. In the Holy Quran God has referred to Abu Bakr as ‘the second of the two*.

Abu Bakr’s devotion and love for the Holy Prophet SAW is proverbial and unique.

One day the Holy Prophet of Islam asked his companions that those who were wealthy should contribute a part of their wealth for financing a campaign of ‘Jihad* against the Byzantines.

When the companions heard this call, they hastened to contribute all they could to finance the campaign. Hazrat Umar had with him considerable amount and he felt very happy at having been afforded an opportunity to play his part in the Jihad.

Usually Abu Bakr excelled Umar in the matter of contributions in the name of God,

Umar went home and returned laden with considerable wealth. In his heart of hearts he thought that that day he would excel Abu Bakr in the matter of contribution, to the cause of Islam.

As the Holy Prophet SAW took count of the contribution that Umar had made, Hazrat Muhammad (peace be on him) felt very happy.

He looked at Umar admiringly and enquired “Umar, what have you left for your family?*’
Umar answered; “I divided all that I had in two equal parts. One part I have brought for being used in the name of God; the other part I have left for the benefit of my family”.

Then Abu Bakr came loaded with much money and other contributions. As the Holy Prophet SAW surveyed the contributions made by Abu Bakr the Holy Prophet SAW felt much impressed.

He put Abu Bakr the same question, namely : “What have you left for your family?”

Abu Bakr said “i have brought all the material wealth that I had. I have left God and the Holy Prophet SAW for my family?”

In the words of Allama Iqbal, Sidiq said:


“For the moth nought is needed but the lamp;
The nightingale needs nothing but the flower;
Sidiq needs nought but the Holy Prophet SAW of Islam”.


This story is illustrative of the height of Tuwakkol, which stands for complete confidence and trust in God. The doctrine Implies that if you repose perfect faith in God, God will certainly come to your help.

Umar contributed one half of his property in the way of Allah, and left one half for his family. Abu Bakr R.A. gave all that he had in the cause of Allah. He had perfect trust in God, and had the faith that if he gave all that he had in the name of God, God will Himself look after the needs of his family. That is the height of Sufism; faith in God and His Prophet SAW.

Story by Abu Hanifa and a man visiting him asking, is his neighbour a Muslim and should he pray Janazah prayer for him or not?


“A man once came to the learning-circle of Imām Abū Hanīfah (RA-may God have mercy on his soul) and asked the great Imam whether or not his neighbour was a Muslim. He asked the Imam that if his neighbour died, if he had to wash his body, bury him, and pray the Janazah prayer over him.

Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) asked him, “Why do you think that he is not a Muslim?”

The man replied, “My neighbour says the following seven things, and because of this, I do not know whether or not he is still a Muslim.

The first thing is that he says he has no Iman (faith) in the signs of Allah that he sees.
The second is that he says that he does not fear Allah.
The third is that he says he does not have any hope for Paradise.
The fourth is that he says he does not fear the Hell-Fire.
The fifth is that when he prays, we see him praying without any bowing (rukū`) or prostration (sajdah).
The sixth is that he says he eats meat that he already finds dead.
The seventh, and last statement, is that he says that he doesn’t like truth (haqq) and he loves corruption/chaos (fitnah).

The Imam smiled and looked around his circle of students and fellow scholars. He asked them, “What do you say after listening to this account? Is this man’s neighbour a Muslim?”…

The students all looked around at one another, confident that this matter was quite easy. They looked to the senior most student-scholar of the gathering, Qādī Abū Yūsuf (may God have mercy on his soul), who also had the same look on his face that this matter was quite clear. Abu Yusuf confidently said to the Imam that the opinion of all the scholar-students present was that this man was not a Muslim.

Abu Hanīfah (RA) smiled and asked if this was the students’ final decision, and they all replied in the affirmative. The Imam remained quite pensive for a while, then he smiled and said, “Have you not heard the hadith of the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) wherein he said, “Think good of the believers (Zunnu bi’l-mu’minīna khayran)”. He continued and said, “If a man’s faith can be divided into 100 parts, and if 99 of them are corrupted and false, and even one is sound and whole, then we look at that sound part first, disregard the other 99 parts, and consider him as a believer.”

Have you not heard the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (SWS,may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) wherein he said, “Think good of the believers (Zunnu bi’l-mu’minīna khayran)”. He continued and said, “If a man’s faith can be divided into 100 parts, and if 99 of them are corrupted and false, and even one is sound and whole, then we look at that sound part first, disregard the other 99 parts, and consider him as a believer.”

He continued, “However, this case goes beyond simply just that. In fact, after hearing this man’s description of his neighbour, I am quite pleased to listen to his narration and I wish that every believer would have a similar creed (Aqīdah) as this man’s neighbour.”

A hush fell over the students. They thought to themselves, How could the great Imam make such a statement? How could he not only give this man excuses, but then say that every believer should have a similar creed?

Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) continued, “I will now explain to you why I have made such a statement and tell you why that perhaps this man’s creed is a model for all believers.

“As for the first statement, that he says he has no faith in the signs of Allah that he sees. Have you not read the verses in the Qur’an when Prophet Musa (Alayhi al-salām) asks Allah to show him Himself: ‘And when Musa came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: My Lord! show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee. He said: You cannot (bear to) see Me but look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, then will you see Me; but when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain He made it crumble and Musa fell down in a swoon; then when he recovered, he said: Glory be to Thee, I turn to Thee, and I am the first of the believers.

Now Musa did not see this sign of Allah that he asked for, yet he believed. Compare this to Fir’awn, who at the moment of his drowning saw the sign of Allah and said he believed: “…until when drowning overtook him, he said: ‘I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the children of Israel believe and I am of those who submit.’ And then Allah said to him, “What, now? and indeed you disobeyed before and you were of the mischief-makers.

So here, Fir’awn saw the sign of Allah but it was too late for him since he brought faith only after seeing. So perhaps it may be that this man is saying he has no faith in those types of signs of Allah that when upon seeing them, it is too late for him to benefit from such a witnessing.

“As for the second statement, that he says he doesn’t fear God. Now, you know that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will have complete dominion over all things and there is no one who can question Him in His decisions and choices. He has the choice to judge with fairness and equity or to judge without it. Yet, He says that He will judge with truth and balance, “…and they shall be judged with truth and they shall not be wronged.”, and in another place, He says, “…and they shall be judged with equity.” So perhaps it may be that this man is saying that he doesn’t fear that Allah will judge without truth and fairness, and he has full certainty that God will judge with fairness.

“As for the third and fourth statements, wherein he said that he has no hope for Paradise and no fear of the Hell-fire. We know that both of these things are creations of Allah, and they have no power or authority to determine who will enter them and who will not. Only the One who created them has the authority to decree who will enter Paradise and who will enter Hell-fire. Why should anyone fear Hell or put their hope in Paradise. So perhaps it may be that this man is saying that he doesn’t fear Hell or hope for Paradise since he knows that God will decide who goes where.

“So perhaps it may be that this man is saying that he doesn’t fear Hell or hope for Paradise since he knows that God will decide who goes where.”

“As for the fifth thing, which is that you say that when you see him praying, he doesn’t make any bowing or prostration. Know then that the Prophet said that a believer has six rights over another believer: when he meets him, he should greet him; when he is sick, he should visit him; when he invites him, he should accept the invitation; when he sneezes, he should pray for mercy on him; whether he is present or absent, he should think only good of him; and when he dies, he should pray the funeral prayer over him.

Now, when this man prays, he is only standing and not making any bowings or prostrations. So perhaps it may be that this man is taking part in a Janazah prayer that is going on anywhere in the Muslim lands when you see him like this. We know that one does not have to be present in front of the dead body to pray the Janazah prayer, as the Prophet SWS prayed the funeral prayer of the Negus (who was in Abyssinia) while he was in Madinah. So perhaps he is always praying the Janazah prayer for any Muslim that has passed away and therefore fulfilling his obligations.

“As for the sixth thing, which is that he says that he eats meat that is already dead (al-maytah). Know that the Prophet said in a hadith, “Made lawful for us are two bloods and two dead meats (Uhillat lana al-damān wa’l-maytatān) [i.e., the two bloods are the liver and spleen of a lawful animal and the two dead things are fish and locusts… a person may freely eat these if he chooses]”. So perhaps it may be that he is referring to dead fish or dead locusts that he finds and he eats of them. So therefore, perhaps this statement is correct.

“As for the seventh and final thing, wherein he said that he loves fitnah and hates the Haqq. How is he any different from any of you in this statement. When he said that he hates the Haqq, don’t you recall that the Qur’an says, “and the stupor of death will come in truth.” There is not a man amongst us who loves the stupor of death and does not hate it. No man in his right mind would love the stupor of death, so perhaps it may be that he when he says he hates the truth, that he is referring to this. Now, the Qur’an also says, “Indeed your wealth and your children are a fitnah.” There is not a man amongst us who does not love his wealth and his children. What makes him any different than us? So perhaps it may be that when he says he loves Fitnah, that he is in fact referring to this.

“You did not meet this man’s neighbour or ever speak to him, yet you all unanimously agreed that he was not a Muslim. You did not think good of him after you heard these seven things. And now that you have heard my responses, perhaps this is why his creed is indeed sound, and why every Muslim should have a similar creed.”

Those who were present were astonished and amazed by the Imam’s insight, intelligence, leniency, and wisdom.

A hush fell over the students and scholars as they became silent out of respect.

Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) had spoken.

Bir hurmati Habib bir hurmati Anzalta Surat al-Fatiha for Imam Abu Hanifa (RA)

The Sesame Presser Turned Saint Who Almost Threw a Qadi in the Water

Divan of Mahmud `Abd al-Baqi Abu Sa'ad teaching
A depiction, from a mid-sixteenth century illumined copy of the Divân of Mahmûd ‘Abdülbâkî, of the most prominent Ottoman jurist of the century, Muhammad Ebussuûd Efendi, (d. 1574), and a circle of students, wearing clothing typical of the Ottoman ‘ilmiye hierarchy from which kâdîs, such as the one in the story below, were recruited. 

As I’ve discussed in these digital pages before, one of the most fascinating and insightful ‘variety’ of Muslim saint in the early modern Ottoman world was the majdhūb (Ott. Turk. meczûb), the ‘divine attracted one,’ a strange and often disruptive and even antinomian figure who became a fixture of many Ottoman cities and towns in both the Arabic and Turkish speaking portions of the empire. Like the holy fool (yurodivy) in the Russian lands during the same period, [1] the majdhūb often engaged in public acts of disrespect towards holders of political power and authority, often with a sharp edge of political critique which might not have been tolerated from other actors. Such an act of transgressive, symbolic political intervention featured strongly in the remembered life story of the majdhūbI’m profiling today, one Abū Bakr al-Mi’ṣarānī al-Majdhūb (d. 1605), of Damascus.

He was profiled by the prominent Damascene scholar and biographer Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī, who personally knew and revered the saint, to the point that towards the end of Abū Bakr’s life he would even spend nights in the al-Ghazzī family home, talking with Najm al-Dīn deep into the night. Abū Bakr had humble origins and source of livelihood, having worked, as his laqab al-Mi’ṣarānī indicates, as an oil-presser, until one night while in a dhikr assembly (that is, a session of ritual remembrance of God) under the leadership of Shaykh Sulimān al-Ṣawāf al-Ṣufī, Najm al-Dīn’s brother Shihāb al-Dīn in attendance as well, ‘lightning flashes from God flashed out to him and seized him, so that he entered divine attraction, stripping off his clothes and going naked, save for his genitals. Then the state left him after some months, returning to him every year for three or four months. He was hidden in it from his senses, and would utterly shave away his beard and go naked [2].’ Besides embracing the typical majdhūb distaste for proper clothing and facial hair, both also characteristics of ‘antinomian’ dervishes, Abū Bakr also engaged in playful ‘assaults’ on people, demanding money from them, which he would then distribute to the poor. When not in his state of jadhb he would practice silence and acts of worship, secreting himself in the Umayyad Mosque. When ‘under the influence’ his state was clearly a fierce and potentially dangerous one, especially to members of the Ottoman elite. His inner potency was further indicated by a dream al-Ghazzī reports, in which, having asked God to reveal Abū Bakr’s true ‘form’ to him, the scholar behold the majdhūb transmuting into the form of a lion, then back to his human form. ‘That made manifest that he was from among the Abdāl. When day came I saw him, in his condition, and he laughed at me, and said to me: “How did you see me last night?”’ [3]

The central wondrous story that al-Ghazzī relates has to do with Abū Bakr’s curious interaction with the then chief judge (Ar. qāḍī, Turk. kâdî) of the city. In the Ottoman system, kâdîs were regularly circulated through different posts, being transferred frequently in order to avoid having them build up a local power base and to avoid corruption. As this story suggests, they did not always prove to be acceptable to local subjects:

‘Abd al-Raḥman Efendī, when he was chief qāḍī in Damascus, believed in [Abū Bakr al-Mu’asirānī al-Majdhūb]. Concerning the matter of the harvest he had injustice in mind, and the people were distressed concerning him. One day the qāḍī said to [the majdhūb], who was in his retreat (khalwa): “O Shaykh Abū Bakr, I want to ride you!” So he said to him, “Stand up oh Efendi!” So he bore him on his back, holding on to his thighs with his hands. He stood up with him, then stopped alongside a basin of water nearby and said to him: “How do you think of yourself now Efendi? Should I throw you into the water?” There was no one else with the qāḍī, so he took to flattering Abū Bakr, supposing that he was indeed going to throw him in. [The majdhūb] did not stop but rather intensified what he was doing, until finally Abū Bakr set him down from his back. The qāḍī tossed him three silver coins, and left his presence. The report came of his dismissal from office two days later. The people knew that what [the majdhūb] did to him was an indication (ishāra) of the lifting of his assault on the Muslims and his dismissal from office.

‘I asked Shaykh Abū Bakr about his encounter with the qāḍī, while he was in his ḥāl [his spiritual state of jadhb, divine attraction], and he reported to me in a manner that agreed with what had been related to me from others about the matter. I said to him, “By the Doer! This was a diminishment of your adab [i.e. proper behavior] with the qāḍī of the sharī’a!” But he replied to me, “Quiet! God does not love the prideful!” [4]

Two things in particular stand out in this story: first, the kâdî is shown being a ‘believer’ in the majdhūb, a term that also has the sense of having ‘allegiance’ and ‘loyalty,’ with ‘believer’ capturing but part of the sense. The strange and seemingly ‘deviant’ practices of these saints were, by the end of the sixteenth century, recognized widely across the Ottoman world as markers of sainthood, including by members of the Ottoman elite. It is this recognition of his sainthood that allows the second notable aspect of this story, the saint’s freedom of political critique. Abū Bakr can mock, and indeed threaten with albeit mild violence, one of the most important members of the Ottoman power elite within a given locale, the kâdî, and can do so with impunity, precisely because of his exceptional status. Like the late antique holy man profiled by Peter Brown, or like the yurodivy St. Basil of Moscow who famously upbraided Tsar Ivan the Terrible, Abū Bakr’s widely recognized and venerated position as a ‘friend of God’ gave him certain leeway in his relations with the kâdî.

Now, that said, the oddest, to me, part of the story is the kâdî’s request to ‘ride’ on the saint’s back. What are we meant to make of that detail? I am not sure, honestly- there may be homoerotic undertones (is the kâdî proposing that he ‘mount’ the saint, with all the sexual and power dynamic connotations such a suggestion might carry?), or perhaps the kâdî wished to receive the saint’s baraka through close physical contact. It is also possible that we are meant to see it as absurd, a desire precipitated by the saint’s divinely bestowed power. Regardless, the story is deliberately comic, another ‘typical’ aspect of majdhūb behavior and this sort of saint’s propensity for inversion. Finally, note that al-Ghazzī, the narrator, was clearly uncomfortable with the saint’s behavior, even if he acknowledges in his account that the judge was unjust and worthy of removal (which, it is implied, was effected through the saint’s power). But it is the majdhūb who has the last word, not the scruples of the learned scholar of the sharī’a.


[1] On the tradition of holy foolishness in late medieval into early modern Russia, see S. A. Ivanov, Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond, (Oxford ; Oxford University Press, 2006).

[2] Najm al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazzī, Luṭf al-samar wa-qaṭf al-thamar: mintarājum aʻyān al-ṭabaqah al-ūlá min al-qarn al-ḥādī ʻashar (Dimashq: Manshūrāt Wizārat al-Thaqāfah wa-al-Irshād al-Qawmī, 1981), 258.

[3] Ibid., 259

[4] Ibid., 260-261.

Hazrat Dawood alaihis salam


Maqam of Prophet Dawud (upon him be peace)

Maqam of Prophet Dawud (upon him be peace)

This is believed to be the tomb of the Prophet Dawud (upon him be peace) who was the father of the Prophet Sulaiman (upon him be peace). Some historians believe that this is not his tomb but a ‘maqam’, to mark the place where he once stayed.

  • Dawud (upon him be peace) is mentioned by name 16 times in the Holy Quran.
  • Dawud (upon him be peace) ruled the Children of Israel [Banu Israil] for forty years, seven years in Hebron (al-Khalil) and thirty-three in Jerusalem, which became known as the City of Dawud.
  • According to Jewish and Christian belief (ref: Who’s Who in the Bible by Peter Calvocoressi), Dawud (upon him be peace) [David] committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Bathsheba became pregnant and David sent for Uriah, who was with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, so that he might lie with his wife and so conceal the identity of the child’s father. Uriah refused to do so while his companions were in the field of battle and David sent him back to Joab, the commander, with a message instructing him to abandon Uriah on the battlefield, “that he may be struck down, and die.“ In Islam, Dawud (upon him be peace) is regarded as one of the great Prophets, to whom the Zabur (Psalms) were revealed by Allah (ﷻ). The Islamic tradition includes many elements from the Jewish/Christian history of David, such as his battle with the giant Goliath, but completely rejects the Biblical portrayal of him as an adulterer and murderer.
  • Dawud (upon him be peace) was the first person skilled in making armour from iron. Allah (ﷻ) mentions in Surah Saba in the Holy Quran:“And certainly We gave Dawud bounty from Us (and said), ‘O mountains! Repeat Our praises with him, and the birds you too’. And we softened for him iron, (saying) ‘Make wide coats of mail, and measure well the links and do righteous deeds. Surely I am Seer of what you do.” [34:10-11]
  • The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The most loved Salat (prayer) in the sight of Allah is the Salat of Dawud and the most loved of Saum (fasting) in the sight of Allah is the Saum of Dawud. He used to sleep for the first half of the night and offer prayer for one-third of it and sleep (again) for one-sixth of it. And he used to observe fast on alternate days. And when he encountered an enemy he never fled.”[Bukhari]
  • Allah (ﷻ) had given him a very sweet voice such as not had been given to anyone before. When he used to recite the Zabur (Psalms) human beings, jinn, birds and animals stood devotedly listening to him.