Abusa’id Abolkhayr or Abū-Sa’īd Abul-Khayr (Persian: ابوسعید ابوالخیر) (December 7, 967 – January 12, 1049), also known as Sheikh Abusaeid or Abu Sa’eed, was a famous Persian Sufi and poet who contributed extensively to the evolution of Sufi tradition.
The majority of what is known from his life comes from the book Asrar al-Tawhid (اسرارالتوحید, or “The Mysteries of Unification”) written by Mohammad Ibn Monavvar, one of his grandsons, 130 years after his death.
The book, which is an important early Sufi writing in Persian, presents a record of his life in the form of anecdotes from a variety of sources and contains a collection of his words.
During his life his fame spread throughout the Islamic world, even to Spain. He was the first Sufi writer to widely use ordinary love poems as way to express and illuminate mysticism, and as such he played a major role in foundation of Persian Sufi poetry. He spent most of his life in Nishapur.
Statue of Abū-Sa’īd Abul-Khayr in Nishapur.
Abū-Sa’īd was born in the village of Mihne, part of Greater Khorasan, today located near Torbat-e Heydarieh in Khorāsān-e Razavī Province. His father was a herbalist and physician with an interest in Sufism.
He then moved and lived a few years in the city of Nishapur, and subsequently moved back to Meyhaneh after a few years. Abū-Sa’īd’s formal education included Islamic scholarship and Arabic literature that he continued until the age 23 when he left them for Sufism.
He also traveled to and spent time in small towns around the same province visiting other Sufis or his teachers.
His mysticism is a typical example of the Khorasani school of Sufism. He extracted the essence of the teachings of the past Sufis of this school (and to some extent other schools as well) and expressed them in a simpler, and in a sense deeper, form without the use of philosophy.
He held a special reverence for earlier Sufis, especially Bayazid Bastami and Hallaj. Moreover, in Asrar al-Tawhid, Tazkiratul Awliyā and Noorul Uloom it has been written that Abū-Sa’īd went for the visit of Shaikh Abul Hassan Kharaqani and got deeply influenced by his personality and state.
His system is based on a few themes that appear frequently in his words, generally in the form of simple emotional poems.
The main focus of his teachings is liberation from “I”, which he considered the one and only cause of separation from God and to which he attributed all personal and social misfortunes. His biography mentions that he would never call himself “I” or “we” but “they” instead. This idea of selflessness appears as Fotovvat (a concept very near to chivalry) in his ethical teachings and as Malaamat, a kind of selflessness before the Beloved which he considers a sign of perfect love in his strictly mystical teachings.
Both of these concepts in a certain sense are spiritual forms of warrior ethics. Despite their simplicity he believed that the full application of these teachings to one’s life requires both divine grace and the guidance of an experienced Sufi, and is impossible through personal efforts alone. His picture as portrayed in various Sufi writings is a particularly joyful one of continuous ecstasy. Other famous Sufis made frequent references to him, a notable example being the Persian Sufi poet Farid al-Din Attar, who mentions Abū-Sa’īd as his spiritual guide. Many miracles are attributed to him in Sufi writings.