Sufi Biography: Dawud al-Tai (Daud al Tai)
Abu Solaiman Dawud ibn Nosair al-Tai of Kufa was a man of notable erudition, a pupil of Abu Hanifa; he was converted to the ascetic life by Habib al-Rai and threw all his books into the Euphrates. He died between 160 (777) and 165 (782)
The poverty of Dawud-e Tai
From the beginning Dawud-e Tai was overwhelmed by an inner grief and always avoided the society of his fellow
creatures. The cause of his conversion was that he heard a mourning-woman recite these verses.
On which of your cheeks has decay begun, And which of your eyes has started to run?
Great sorrow invaded his heart, and all comp osure deserted him. In this state he went to lessons with his
teacher Abu Hanifa. What has transpired with you? Abu Hanifa asked. Dawud related to him the foregoing incident.
The world has lost its attractions for me, he added.; Something has happened inside of me which I
cannot under-~ stand, nor can I discover an explanation of it in any book ort legal pronouncement. Turn away from other men, Abu Hanifa prescribed.
So Dawud turned his face from other men and shut himself up in his house. After a long interval, Abu
Hanifa went to see him. This is not the solution, for you to hide in your house and utter not a word. The proper course is for you to sit at the feet of the imams and listen to them propounding novel ideas. You should attend to what
they have to say patiently, uttering not a word. Then you will know those problems better than they.
Recognizing the good sense of what Abu Hanifa said, Dawud resumed his studies
For a year he sat at the feet of the imams, never opening his mouth and accepting their pronouncements with patience, being content simply to listen and not to reply. This one years patience, he remarked at the end of
that time, is equivalent to thirty years strenuous work.
He then encountered Habib-e Rai, who initiated him into the mystic path. He set forth upon it manfully.
He flung his books into the river, went into retirement and cut off all expectation of other men.
Now he had received twenty dinars as an inheritance.These he consumed in twenty years. Certain of
the shaikhs reproved him for this. The path stands for giving to others, not keeping to
I hold on to this amount to secure my peace of mind, he explained. I can make do with this until I
He spared himself no austerity, to such an extent that he would dip bread in water and then sip the
water, saying, Between this and eating the bread I can recite fifty verses of the Koran. Why should I waste my
life? Abu Bakr-e Aiyash reports, I went to Dawuds chamber and saw him holding a piece of dry bread and
weeping. What has happened, Dawud? I asked. I want to eat this piece of bread, he replied, and I do
not know whether it is hallowed or unhallowed. Another reports, I called on him, and saw a pitcher
of water placed in the sun. I asked, Why do you not place it in the shade? When I put it there, it was in the
shade, he replied. Now I am too ashamed before God to indulge myself.
Anecdotes of Dawud
It is said that Dawud owned a great palace with many apartments. He would occupy one apartment until it
fell into ruins; then he would move to another apartment . Why do you not repair the apartment? he was
I have made a covenant with God not to repair this world, he replied.
Gradually the whole palace collapsed, nothing remaining except the portico. On the night on which
Dawud died, the portico also fell in. The roof of the apartment is broken, remarked
another visitor. It is about to fall. ] have not looked at this roof for twenty years,
answered Dawud. Why do you not marry? Dawud was asked.
I do not wish to deceive a believing woman, he replied.
How is that?
If I propose to a woman, Dawud explained, that will mean that I have undertaken to manage her affairs.
Since I cannot attend both to my religious duties and the world, that means that I will have deceived her.
Well, at least comb your beard, they said. That implies being at leisure to do it, he answered.
One moonlit night Dawud went up on his roof and gazed at the sky. He fell to meditating on the splendor
of Gods kingdom, and wept until he was beside himself. He fell off on to the roof of his neighbour. The latter,
thinking that a thief was on his roof, rushed up with a sword. Seeing Dawud there, he took him by the
Who threw you down here? he asked. I do not know, Dawud replied. I was beside
myself. I have no idea at all. Once Dawud was seen running to prayers.
What is the hurry? he was asked. This army at the gates of the city, he replied.
They are waiting for me. Which army? they exclaimed.
The men of the tombs, he replied. Harun al-Rashid asked Abu Yusof to take him to
visit Dawud. Abu Yusof went to Dawuds house, but was refused admission. He begged Dawuds mother to
intercede. Admit him, his mother pleaded.
What business have I with worldlings and evildoers?
Dawud replied, refusing to comply.
I implore you, by the right of my milk, admit him,
his mother said.
O God, said Dawud, Thou hast said, Observe the right of thy mother, for My good pleasure is in her
good pleasure. Otherwise, what business have I with them?
He then granted audience. They entered and seated themselves. Dawud began to preach, and Harun wept
copiously. When he withdrew, he put down a gold moidore.
This is hallowed, he said. Remove it, Dawud said. I have no need of it. I
sold a house which was mine by hallowed inheritance, and live on the proceeds. I have asked God that when
that money is spent He shall take my soul, so that I may not be in need of any man. I am hopeful that God
has answered my prayer. Harun and Abu Yusof then returned to the palace.
Abu Yusof went to see the keeper of the purse. How much is left of Dawuds money? he asked.
Two dirhams, the keeper replied. He has been spending a silver penny daily.
Abu Yusof calculated. Another day, standing with his back to the prayer-niche, he announced, Today
Dawud has died. Enquiry was made, and it was found to be so.
How did you know? they asked. I calculated from his expenditure that today nothing
remained to him, Abu Yusof explained. I knew that his prayer would be answered.