A glass merchant like his father, Junayd gave up the family business to devote his life to Islamic studies.
By Sadia Dehlvi
Abul Qasim al Junayd of the ninth century is one of the most famous of early Muslim mystics. They called him “Peacock of the Poor”, “Lord of the Group” and “Master of Masters”. A central figure in many Sufi orders, Junayd is considered the greatest exponent of the sober school of Sufism. His family came from Iran and settled in Baghdad.
A glass merchant like his father, Junayd gave up the family business to devote his life to Islamic studies. Sari Saqti, the brother of Junayd’s mother, was the leading Sufi of the time. As a child Junayd accompanied him on pilgrimages and participated in Sufi assemblies. Junayd narrated that he heard his Master say, “the slave may reach a point that if his face were struck with a sword, he would not notice it.”
He held that mystic knowledge was for the select few and should not to be divulged to everyone. He based the Sufi path on eight different attributes including submission, sincerity, liberality, patience, separation, woollen dress, wandering and poverty as in the lives of the prophets.
“A Sufi must have the heart of Abraham which found salvation in this world by fulfilling God’s commandments, the sorrow of David, the poverty of Jesus, the longing for communication with God like Moses, and the sincerity of Prophet Muhammad.”
Junayd developed the Sufi doctrine of Fana and Baqa that later determined the whole philosophy of orthodox Sufism.
“Fana is the assimilation of the individual will in the will of God and is experienced by the grace of God. Sufism is that He should cause thee to die from thyself and exist in Him. Baqa is the persistence of the real self in God. The departure of the lower self implies the appearance of the True self”, he said.
Junayd taught that the Sufi has no fear, because fear is the expectation of some future calamity or the loss of some object of desire, whereas the Sufi is the son of the time. He has no future and no fear, no hope, since hope is the expectation of gaining something or being relieved of misfortune, which belongs to the future; nor does he grieve, because grief arises from the rigor of time, and how should he feel grief when he is in the radiance of satisfaction and harmony with the Lord.
(Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam).