Dhul-Nun is one of the most prominent saints of early Islamic tradition, appearing “in the earliest accounts of Ṣūfism as the leading figure of his generation.”Often depicted as the spiritual master of Sahl al-Tustari (c. 818-896), the traditional hagiographies relate that the latter refused to engage in mystical discourse until after Dhul-Nun’s death, on account of his recognition of Dhul-Nun’s elevated rank in wisdom and gnosis.
Dhul-Nun al-Misri is considered among the most prominent saints of early Sufism and holds a position in the Sufi chronicles as high as Junayd Baghdadi (d. 910) and Bayazid Bastami (d. 874). He studied under various teachers and travelled extensively in Arabiaand Syria. The Muslim scholar and Sufi Sahl al-Tustari was one of Dhul-Nun al-Misri’s students.In 829 he was arrested on a charge of heresy and sent to prison in Baghdad, but after examination he was released on the caliph’s orders to return to Cairo, where he died in 859; his tombstone has been preserved.
Dhul-Nun’s name came about in relation to an incident on a sea voyage. He was falsely accused of stealing a jewel from a merchant. He cried out “O Creator, Thou knowest best”, whereupon a large number of fish raised their heads above the waves, each bearing a jewel in its mouth.
“Truthfulness [sidq] is God’s sword on His earth—it is placed upon
nothing except that it cuts through it.”
“Sincerity [ikhlas] is that which is free from being corrupted by the
enemy [i.e., Satan].”
When Dhu’l-Nun was imprisoned, he did not eat or drink for days. One
of the female slaves whom he knew came to the prison with some food,
saying, “This is lawful [halal].” But he did not eat it. When she repeated
herself, he replied, “This food is lawful, but it has come to me through
an unlawful means, so I will not eat it.” “How is that?,” she asked. Dhu’lNun
answered, “It has come to me from the hand of the prison keeper,
who is an oppressor, so I will not eat it.”
Hazrat Zunoon Misri(rehmatullah alaih) apne waqt ke bohat paye ke buzurg hai aur inke pardey ke bad jab apka janaza lejaya raha tha us waqt dhoop bohat thi tab apke janazay ko chidiya ne apne saye main le liya tha aur cahon kardi thi aur kabarstan tak apke janaze ke upar chidyon ka jhund sath gaya saya karke.
He died on 26th Shabaan 205 hijri. When the time for his death came close someone asked him that what would you like now? He replied: my desire is that I recognise/realise him a second before my death. (Ihyaul-uloom (Urdu version) pg 679 Vol 4)
Abu Jafar Awar states that I was with Shaikh Zun-noon and a few of his friends. They were discussing obedience of materials. There was a seat there. Shaikh Zun-noon said that materials obey saints in such a manner that if I was to tell this seat to circle this house then it wood. Immediately that seat started to move and circling the house returned to its position. When he saw this he cried so much that he gave his life and he was given a bath (Ghusl) on this same seat. (Zaheerul-Asfiyah pg118)
When he was close to dying someone asked him for some advice, he said: I am amazed by the wonders of his mercy. Do not disturb me now.â€™ (Fazail Sadaqaat pg 483)
It is narrated that when he passed away, seven people saw the prophet that night, and he was saying: Allahâ€™s friend Zun-noon is coming. I have come to welcome him. When his funeral was being taken there were so many birds flying over head with their wings flapping that its shade covered everyone. No one had seen such birds before the likes of which where seen at his funeral. Many people that where linked with him repented from their sins. (Safeyatul-Awleyah pg 167)
Some thing more about hazrat:
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1. Prior to his renunciation of the world, Zunnoon Misri (rahmatullah alayh) was told of an Aabid (worshipper) who had imposed severe penances on himself. When Zunnoon Misri located the Aabid, he found the latter hanging upside down from a tree. The Aabid was addressing himself, saying:”O nafs! As long as you do not comply with my wishes in worshipping Allah, I shall keep you in this suffering until you perish.”
This sight reduced Zunnoon to tears. The Aabid said: “Who is weeping for a shameless sinner?” After exchanging salaams, Zunnoon went in front of the Aabid who said: “My body is not co-operating in the ibaadat of Allah. I am therefore punishing it.”
Zunnoon: “I was under the impression that you had committed murder or some other major sin, hence this server self-imposed punishment.”
Aabid: “There is no greater sin than association with people. All sins stem from this sin.”
Zunnoon: “Truly, you are a great Zaahid.”
Aabid: “If you want to see a great Zaahid, go onto that mountain.”
Zunnoon Misri climbed the mountain. When he reached the top he saw in the distance a hut, as he approached the hut, he saw a decomposed human leg laying nearby. From inside the hut emerged a buzrug with one leg. Obviously, the cut-off leg had belonged to him. When Zunnoon asked for an explanation, the buzrug said:”One day while sitting in my place of ibaadat, a beautiful woman passed nearby. In a moment of weakness my nafs urged me to get up to take a look. As I got up and took a step forward, I heard a Voice rebuking: ‘Have you no shame! For 30 years you have been worshipping Allah Ta’ala, but today you are obeying shaitaan!”
Overcome with fear, shame and remorse, I cut off the leg which had taken the first step in the direction of transgression. Why have you come to this evil sinner? If you wish to meet a great Aabid, go to the peak of that mountain.” (He pointed in the direction of the mountain.)
The height of the mountain deterred Zunnoon Misri from making an attempt to climb it. The buzrug then narrated the following account of the Aabid:
“He has been worshipping on that mountain for a considerable period of time. Once when someone said to him that a person obtains food only by working and earning a living, he vowed not to eat any food earned by human being. He passed his time in ibaadat. After undergoing the rigours of hunger for some time. Allah Ta’ala sent a swarm of bees. He lived on the honey prepared by these bees.”
The meetings and talks of these saints made a profound impact on Zunnoon Misri. He repented and resolved to spend his life in the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala. As he came down the mountain he observed a blind bird on a tree. While he was reflecting on the source of the blind bird’s sustenance, he saw the bird settling on the ground and pecking the soil with its beak. Miraculously a tray filled with seeds, emerged. Then there emerged a second container filled with water having the fragrance of roses. After satisfying itself, the bird returned to the tree-top and the utensils miraculously disappeared. Zunnoon’s tawakkul and yaqeen were solidified by this episode.
As he walked in the forest he met a few of his old friends who had discovered a trunk of treasure. They were busy sharing the treasure. A board on which was inscribed the Name of Allah Ta’ala was also with the treasure. When they offered Zunnoon a share of the treasure, he declined and took the board and kissed the Name of Allah Ta’ala. That night in a dream a Voice said to him: “The others chose the wealth of the world. You chose Our Name. We have opened the doors of knowledge and wisdom for you.”
2. Soon after his reformation, Zunnoon Misri was making wudhu at the river. Nearby was a mansion. A beautiful woman was standing on the veranda. Zunnoon approached and greeted. The woman said:”O Zunnoon, at first I thought you were a mad man. As I took a closer look and reflected, I thought you were an Aalim. As I examined you more, I thought you were an Aarif. Now that you have approached me, I have realised that you are none of the three.”
Zunnoon asked for an explanation. The woman said:”If you were a madman, you would not have made wudhu. If you were an Aalim, you would not have looked at a ghair mahram female. If you were an Aarif, your mind would not have been occupied with anyone besides Allah Ta’ala.”
The woman then miraculously became invisible, disappearing from sight. It was then that Zunnoon understood that the figure was not a woman, but a being appointed by Allah Ta’ala for his admonition.
3. One day while in a boat, a merchant’s pearl was missing. Zunnoon was accused of having stolen it. He was severely assaulted. While the people were beating him, he raised his head to the heaven and said:”O Allah! You know that I am not a thief.” Instantaneously thousands of fish, each with a pearl in its mouth, appeared on the surface of the water. Zunnoon took one pearl and handed it to the merchant. When the people observed this wonderful miracle they were full of remorse and apologised profusely. From that day he was called Zunnoon which means the man of the fishes.
5. Once along his travels, he saw thousands of people had assembled by a mountain. When he enquired he was informed that once a year a buzrug emerged from the mountain. He would blow on the crowd and all the ailing people would immediately be cured. Zunnoon Misri also waited. Ultimately, a very old, frail and weak man emerged from the mountain side. His eyes were deep in their sockets. As he emerged, the mountain trembled. The buzrug faced the crowd and blew on the people. As he turned to leave, Zunnoon grabbed hold of his cloak and said: “You have cured the people of their physical ailments. Cure me of my spiritual ailments.”
The buzrug said: “Leave my cloak. Allah is watching. He is observing that you have turned to another being besides Him. I fear that He may assign me to you and you to me.”
He then violently broke free and disappeared into the mountain.
Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) Travels for Truth
Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) has been an exalted saint in the path of understanding Allah Almighty and a short sketch of how he didn’t reveal his real status during his lifetime has already been given. That is the path of modesty that the beloved of Allah chose for themselves.
The event that changed Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) includes a great lesson for all of us and it has been reproduced here as follows.
Once Hazrat Zunnoon (r.a) was given the news of a very pious young man, by a friend. Hazrat decided to have the honor of meeting that beloved of Allah in person, this also shows the importance of being in touch with the beloved of Allah to the extent that it is said that the mere sight of them is a cause of blessings for a believer.
According to a hadith:
“Give glad tidings to a believer who witnessed me and believed in what I brought…”
Thus, Hazrat Zunnoon (r.a) went to meet him but when he reached the place that had been told to him, he saw that the young man was hanging upside down on a tree and talking continuously to himself, saying:
“I will not relieve you of this pain, until you support me in the worship of Allah Almighty. And I will continue to torture you until you get the taste of death.”
When Hazrat Zunnoon (r.a) saw this, he pitied the young man and started crying. When the young man saw him, he asked:
“Who is this person pitying and crying over a sinner.”
Then Hazrat went over to that young man, sent peace of Allah Almighty on him. The young man told him that he was giving pain to his self (nafs) because it was not supporting him in the worship of Allah Almighty. Hazrat said that he thought that perhaps the young man had committed a great sin such as murder.
The young man replied:
“All sins generate from meeting with people that is why I consider the meeting with people as a great sin. Now if you really want to see a truly pious worshipper of Allah Almighty then go to that mountain over there.”
So Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) set off towards that mountain to find the pious
man but when he reached the place he saw a young man whose one foot had been severed and the chopped off foot was lying on the ground, while the body of that man was rotting away and being eaten by ants.
Hazrat was greatly distressed when he saw the man in such a miserable condition and asked him about it. The young man told him:
“One day I was busy in my prayer right at this place, when a beautiful woman passed by and when I saw a glimpse of her satan deceived me into following him and supporting my self (nafs). So I went near her with a bad intention.
Then I heard a voice that said to me:
- “Shame on you! Having obeyed and worshipped Allah Almighty for a period of thirty years, now you are going to obey the devil?”
At that very moment I chopped off my foot that had moved ahead in the disobedience of Allah Almighty. Now you tell me what have you come to get from a sinner such as myself?”
“If you really want to witness a true obedient and friend of Allah Almighty you have to climb to the top of this mountain.”
When this miserable man saw that Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) was not able to climb the mountain because the climb was difficult and Hazrat was already worn out, he began telling Hazrat Zunnoon about the pious man on the mountain top. He said to Hazrat:
- “Once somebody said to that pious man that you earn a living through your effort.”
From that day that pious man decided not to get his sustenance from people and to only depend on Allah Almighty, the Creator of everything. When some days had passed with this pious man not eating anything, Allah Almighty ordered a group of honey bees to stay with that person and provide him honey. Thus, that pious man always used honey.
Having witnessed and heard all of this, Hazrat Zunnoon Misri (r.a) returned with the fear of Allah Almighty surrounding him, and all his time and effort was dedicated to the obedience and worship of Allah Almighty since that day.
The lesson to be learned from this story is that the believers, who really fear Allah Almighty, are greatly ashamed when a sin is committed by them. We must not let our personal desires override the commandments of Allah Almighty.
May Allah Almighty bless us with the capacity to give up the desire of the self (nafs) and do not live in concordance with satan, but live in the obedience of Allah Almighty.