Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bistami ق
“I made four
mistakes in my preliminary steps in this way:
I seek Him; but when I reached Him, I saw that His remembering of me
preceded my remembrance of Him, that His knowledge about me preceded my
knowledge of Him, that His love towards me was more ancient than my love
towards Him, and that He sought me in order that I
would begin to seek Him.”
I have planted love in my heart
And shall not be distracted until Judgment Day.
You have wounded my heart when You came near me.
My desire grows, my love is bursting.
He has poured me a sip to drink.
He has quickened my heart with the cup of love
Which He has filled at the ocean of friendship.
Bayazid al-Bistami’s grandfather was a
Zoroastrian from Persia. Bayazid made a detailed study of the statutes of
Islamic Law and practiced self-denial. All his life he was assiduous in the
practice of his religious obligations and in observing voluntary worship.
He urged his disciples to put their affairs in the hands of God. He
encouraged them to accept sincerely the pure doctrine of the Oneness of God.
doctrine consisted of five essentials:
the obligations according to the Quran and Sunnah,
always speak the truth,
the heart free from hatred,
avoid forbidden food, and to shun innovations.
One of his sayings was, “I have come to God through God. I have come to know
what is other than God with the Light of God.” He said, “God has granted His
servants favors for the purpose of bringing them closer to Him. Instead,
they are fascinated with the favors and are drifting further from Him.”
And he said, praying to God, “O Lord, You have created this creation without
its knowledge. You have placed on it a trust without its will. If You do
not help it, who will?”
Bayazid said the ultimate goal of the Sufi is to experience the vision of
God in the hereafter.
effect he said, “There are special servants of God who, if God veiled
Himself from their sight in Paradise, would implore Him to take them out of
Paradise just as the inhabitants of the Fire implore Him to release them
He said about God’s love for His servant,
“If God loves His servant,
grant three attributes that are the proofs of His Love:
generosity like the generosity of the ocean,
like the favor of the sun in its giving of light,
modesty like the modesty of the earth.
The true lover never considers any affliction too
never decreases his worship because of his pure
A man asked Bayazid, “Show me a deed by which I
will approach my Lord.” He said:
the Friends of God in order that they will love you. Love His saints until
they love you. Because God looks at the hearts of His saints, and He
will see your name engraved in the heart of His saints, and He will
reason, the Naqshbandi followers have been elevated by their love for
their Shaykhs. This love lifts them to a station of continuous pleasure
and continuous presence in the heart of their beloved.
Many Muslim scholars in his time, and many after his time, said that Bayazid
al-Bistami was the first one to spread the reality of annihilation. Even
that strictest of scholars, Ibn Taymiyya, who lived in the seventh Hijri
century, admired Bayazid for this and considered him to be one of his
masters. Ibn Taymiyya said about him:
There are two categories of annihilation: one is for the perfect prophets
and saints and one is for seekers from among the saints and pious people.
Bayazid al-Bistami is from the first category of those who experience
annihilation, which means the complete renunciation of anything other than
God. He accepts none except God. He worships none except Him. He asks from
none except Him.
He continues, quoting Bayazid saying, “I want not to want except what He
reported that Bayazid said:
I divorced the lower world three times in order that I would not have to
return to it, and I moved to my Lord alone, without anyone, and I called on
Him alone for help by saying, “O God, O God, no one remains for me except
You.” At that time I came to know the sincerity of my supplication in my
heart and the reality of the helplessness of my ego. Immediately the
acceptance of that supplication was perceived by my heart. This opened to me
a vision that I was no longer in existence, and I vanished completely from
myself into Him. He brought up all that I had divorced before in front of
me, dressed me with light, and with His Attributes.
Bayazid said, “Praise to me, for my greatest Glory!” And he continued
saying, “I set forth on an ocean when the prophets were still by the shore.”
And he said, “O My Lord, Your obedience to me is greater than my obedience
to You,” meaning, “O God, You are granting my request and I have yet to obey
When Bayazid al-Bistami had been persecuted
and stoned by his tribe, he went on a ship and said, “O My Lord take me to a
place where I will feel happy.”
the ship began to toss about on the high waves. The captain of the ship
said, “There must be a great sinner on board who is causing this calamity.”
He said, “I am that sinner; throw me in the ocean.”
He said to himself, “I am going into that ocean and I am going to seek the
presence of God.” As soon as he was thrown in, the water stopped tossing
about, and Bayazid—without thinking of any other purpose and using his
utmost spiritual power—began to plunge into that ocean at a speed greater
than that of light, and he reached a place where it was complete darkness
and complete void. There he heard a voice, described as, “Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”
God had granted Bayazid extraordinary spiritual powers, similar to those
given to Shah Naqshband . Using his
spiritual power, he was trying to count the number of all the people saying
“Hu” at that location. Despite applying all his power he could not count
them. He realized it was a presence he could not reach, and he knew it was
that of Shah Naqshband with his followers. Although Shah Naqshband appeared
many centuries after Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami, on this occasion Bayazid was
able to reach his spiritual presence, along with Shah Naqshband’s murids.
Adh-Dhahabi further relates
that he said:
what is your fire? It is nothing. Let me be the one person to go into your
fire and everyone else will be saved.
your paradise? It is a toy for children. Who are those unbelievers whom
you want to torture? They are your servants. Forgive them.
said in reference to Bayazid’s famous utterances:
knows the secret and God knows the heart.
Whatever Abu Yazid spoke from the knowledge of Realities the people of his
time did not understand.
condemned him and exiled him seven times from his city.
time he was exiled, terrible afflictions would strike the city until the
people would call him back, pledge allegiance to him, and accept him as a
Attar and Alusi related that Bayazid said when he was exiled from his
O blessed city, whose refuse is Bayazid!
God, the Most Just, called me into His Presence and said to me, “O Bayazid,
how did you arrive in My Presence?” I replied, “Through self-denial, by
renouncing the world.” He said, “The value of the lower world is like the
wing of a mosquito. What kind of renunciation have you come with?” I said,
“O God, forgive me. I came to You by dependence on You.” He said, “Did you
ever betray the trust which I promised you?” I said, “O God, forgive me.
I came to You through You.” At that time God said,
“Now We accept you.”
with the pious but I did not progress with them.
with the warriors in the cause but I did not progress a single step with
with those who pray excessively and those who fast excessively, but I did
not progress a footstep.
said, “O God, what is the way to You?” and God said, “Leave yourself and
come.” [ Leave your physicality and approach with your soul]
The way that God showed to him, with the most delicate word and the simplest
explanation, was to leave self-interest in the two worlds, this world and
the hereafter. “Leave everything other than Me behind.” That is the best and
easiest way to come to God, Almighty and Exalted. The most perfect and
highest state of affirming Oneness is not to accept anything or anyone
except God, the Most High.
Adh-Dhahabi quoted him in many great matters, among which were “Praise to
Me, for My greatest Glory!” and “There is nothing in this robe I am wearing
Adh-Dhahabi’s teacher, Ibn Taymiyya, explained, “He did not see himself as
existing any longer, but only saw the existence of God, due to his
One of the followers of Dhun Nun al-Misri was a follower of Bayazid. Bayazid
asked him, “Whom do you want?” He replied, “I want Bayazid.” He said, “O my
son, Bayazid has wanted Bayazid for forty years and has still not found
him.” That disciple of Dhun Nun then went to him and narrated this incident
to him. On hearing it, Dhun Nun fainted. He explained later saying, “My
master Bayazid has lost himself in God’s Love. That causes him to try to
find himself again.”
They asked him, “Teach us about how you reached
said, “By training myself, by seclusion.” They said, “How?”
said, “I summoned myself to accept God, Almighty and Exalted, and it
an oath that I would not drink water and I would not taste sleep until I
brought my self under my control.”
said, “O God! It is not strange that I love You because I am a weak
servant, but it is strange that You love me when You are the King of
said, “For thirty years, when I wanted to remember God and do dhikr, I
washed my tongue and my mouth for His glorification.”
said, “As long as the servant thinks that there is among the Muslims
someone lower than himself, that servant still has pride.”
asked him, “Describe your day and describe your night.” He said, “I do not
have a day and I do not have a night, because day and night are for those
who have characteristics of creation. I have shed my self the way the
snake sheds its skin.”
Sufism, Bayazid said:
It is to give up rest and to accept suffering.
Of the obligation to follow a guide, he said:
Who does not have a shaykh, his shaykh is Satan.
Of seeking God he said:
Hunger is a rain cloud: If a servant becomes hungry, God will shower his
heart with wisdom.
Of his intercession he said:
If God will give me permission to intercede for all the people of my time I
will not be proud, because I am only interceding for a piece of clay.
If God gave me permission for intercession,
first I would intercede for those who harmed
me and those who denied me.
To a young man who wanted a piece of his old cloak for blessing, Bayazid
Should you take all Bayazid’s skin and wear it as yours, it would avail you
nothing unless you followed his example.
They said to him, “The key to Paradise is bearing witness that there is
no god but God.”
It is true, but a key is to open a lock.
of such witnessing can only operate with the following conditions:
a tongue that does not lie or backbite;
a heart without betrayal;
a stomach without unlawful or doubtful provision;
and deeds without desire or innovation.
or self always looks at the world, and the spirit always looks at the next
life. Spiritual knowledge always looks at God, Almighty and Exalted. He
whose self defeats him is from those who are destroyed. He whose spirit is
victorious over his “self” is of the pious, and he
whose spiritual knowledge enlightens his spirit is of the God-conscious.
Once I asked Abd ar-Rahman ibn Yahya about the state of trust in God. He
said, “If you put your hand in the mouth of a lion, do not be afraid of
other than God.” I went in my heart to visit and ask Bayazid about this
matter. I knocked and I heard from inside, “Was not what Abd ar-Rahman said
to you enough? You came only to ask and not with the intention of visiting
me.” I understood, and I came again another time one year later and knocked
at his door. This time he answered, “Welcome my
son, this time you came to me as a visitor and not as a questioner.”
They asked him, “When does a man become a man?” He said:
When he knows the mistakes of his self and he busies himself in correcting
twelve years I was the blacksmith of my self.
five years I was the polisher of the mirror of my heart.
year I looked in that mirror and I saw on my belly the girdle of unbelief.
hard to cut it. I spent twelve years in that effort.
looked in that mirror and I saw that girdle inside my body.
five years cutting it.
spent one year looking at what I had done.
opened for me the vision of all creations. I saw all of them dead. I
prayed four exaltations of the funeral prayer for them.
If the Throne, what is around It, and what is in It
were placed in the corner of the heart of a knower, they would be lost
completely inside it.
Of Bayazid’s state, al-Abbas ibn
Hamza related the following:
I prayed behind Bayazid the noon prayer. When he raised his hands to say
Allahu akbar he was unable to pronounce the words, fearing from God’s Holy
Name. His entire body trembled. Sounds of breaking bones could be heard. I
was seized by fear and awe.
One day Bayazid attended the class of a jurisprudent who was explaining the
laws of inheritance, “When a man dies and leaves such-and-such, his son will
have such-and-such, etc.” Bayazid exclaimed, “O faqih, O faqih! What would
you say of a man who died leaving nothing but God?”
People began to cry. Bayazid continued, “The slave possesses nothing.
dies, he leaves nothing but his own Master. He is such as God created him in
the beginning.” He recited, “You shall return to us alone, as We created you
the first time.” (6:94)
Sahl at-Tustari sent a letter to Bayazid that read, “Here is a man who drank
a drink which leaves him forever refreshed.” Bayazid replied, “Here is a man
who has drunk all existences, but whose mouth is dry and burns with thirst.”
Bayazid died, he was over seventy years old. Before he died, someone asked
him his age. He said, “I am four years old. For
seventy years I was veiled. I got rid of my veils only four years ago.”
thirty-ninth Shaykh of the Golden Chain, Sultan al-Awliya Shaykh Abd Allah
ad-Daghestani, referred to this saying in his encounter with Khidr
, who told him, as he was pointing to the graves of some great scholars in a
Muslim cemetery, “This one is three years old. That one, seven. That one,
Grandshaykh Bayazid died in 261 AH/875 CE. It is said that he is buried in
two places; in Damascus and Bistam, in Iran.
The secret of the Golden Chain was passed from Mawlana Bayazid al-Bistami to
Shaykh Abul Hasan al-Kharqani.