Sufi Biography: Abu-Said-al-Kharraz
Abu Said Ahmad ibn Isa al-Kharraz of Baghdad, a cobbler by trade, met Dho l-Nun al-Mesri and
associated with Beshr al-Hafi and Sari al-Saqati. To him is attributed the formulation of the mystical
doctrine of passing-away (from human attributes) and continuance (in God). Author of several
books including some which have survived, the date of his death is uncertain but probably
occurred between Z79 (89z) and 286 (899).
The doctrine of Abu Said-e Kharraz
Abu Said-e Kharraz was called the Tongue of Sufism. They gave him this nickname because no one
in this community possessed a tongue of mystic truth such as he. He composed four hundred books on the
theme of disassociation and detachment, and was indeed a nonpareil.
Originally of Baghdad, Abu Said met Dho l-Nun-e Mesri and associated with Beshr and Sari-e Saqati. He
was the first to speak of the states of passing-away and continuance in the mystical sense, summing up
his whole doctrine in these two terms. Certain of the theologians who followed the exoteric school disapproved
of the subtleties of his teaching, and condemned him of blasphemy on account of certain expressions
which they found in his works. In particular they criticized his Book of the Secret, especially a passage occurring
in it which they failed to understand properly.
This is where Abu Said states, A servant of God who has returned to God and attached himself to God and has come to dwell in propinquity to God, such a man has completely forgotten himself and all other than God, so that if you were to say to him, Where are you from, and what do you seek? he would have no other answer but simply God.
Another passage in Abu Saids writings to which objection has been taken is where he says, If a certain
one of these mystics is asked, What do you want? he replies God. If he is in such a state that all the parts of
his body become vocal, they all say God. For his members and joints are fully bathed in the Light of
God, so that he is drawn into God. So far has he reached in propinquity to God, that in his presence no
one is able to say God; for whatever proceeds there proceeds from Reality unto Reality and from God to
God. Since here, in the state of ordinary men, nothing has resulted from God, how can anyone say God?
Here all reason of reasoning men ends in bewilderment. All men, Abu Said once said, have been given
the choice between remoteness and propinquity. I chose remoteness, because I could not support propinquity.
Similarly Lokman said, I was given the choice between wisdom and prophecy. I chose wisdom, because I could
not support the burden of prophecy.
Abu Said related the following dreams. Once I dreamed that two angels came down from Heaven and said to me, What is truthfulness? I replied, Fulfilling ones covenants. You have spoken the truth, they said, then they both departed to Heaven.
Again I dreamed that I saw the Prophet. He said to me, Do you love me? I replied, Excuse me. My love
for God has preoccupied me from loving you. The Prophet said, Whoso loves God loves me.
On another occasion in a dream I saw Iblis. I took a stick to beat him. I heard a Heavenly voice say, He is
not afraid of a stick. He is afraid of the light which is in your heart. Then I said to Iblis, Come! Iblis
replied, What can I do with you? You have cast out the thing whereby I beguile men. What is that? I
asked. The world, he answered. Then as he left me Iblis looked back and said, There is a little thing in
you men by which I attain my purpose. What is that? I asked. Sitting with boys, Iblis replied.
When I was in Damascus I again saw the Prophet in a dream. He approached me leaning on Abu Bakr and
Omar. I was reciting a verse of poetry, tapping my breast with my hunger. The Prophet said, The evil of
this is greater than its good. He meant that one should not practise audition.
Abu Said-e Kharraz had two sons, one of whom predeceased him. One night he saw him in a dream.
Son, what has God done with you? Abu Said asked.
He brought me close to Him and made much of me, his son replied.
Son, make me testament, Abu Said begged.
Father, his son answered, do not entertain dark thoughts of God.
Tell me more!
Father, if I speak, you will not be able to bear it.
I ask God to assist me, said Abu Said.
Father, said the son, do not suffer a single shirt to come between yourself and God.
It is said that in all the thirty years which Abu Said lived after this dream he never wore a shirt again.