Sufi Biography: Shaqiq of Balkh

Sufi Biography: Shaqiq of Balkh

Abu ‘Ali Shaqiq ibn Ebrahim al-Azdi of Balkh, a man of wide learning, began his career as a merchant but later turned to the ascetic way. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and was martyred fighting in the holy wars in 194 (810).

The career of Shaqiq-e Balkhi

Shaqiq-e Balkhi was a master of many sciences, and wrote many books. He taught Hatem the Deaf, whilst he learned the Way from Ebrahim-e Adham. He claimed to have studied under I,700 teachers, and to have acquired several camels’ loads of books. The circumstances of his conversion were as follows.

Shaqiq went to Torkestan on a trading expedition. On the way he paused to look at a temple, where he saw an idolater worshipping an idol and making humble obeisance.

 

“You have a Creator who is living and omnipotent and omniscient,” he told the man. “Worship Him. Have some shame; do not worship an idol from which neither good nor evil comes.”

‘If it is as you say,” the idolater replied, “is He not able to provide you with your daily bread in your own city? Must you then come all this way here?”

These words awakened Shaqiq to the truth, and he turned back towards Balkh. A Zoroastrian happened to travel along with him.

“What are you engaged upon?” asked the Zoroastrian.

“Trading,” Shaqiq replied.

“If you are going in search of sustenance that has not been preordained for you, you can travel till the resurrection and you will not attain it,” said the other. “And if you are going after sustenance that has been foreordained for you, do not trouble to go; it will come to you of itself.”

These words awakened Shaqiq still further, and his love for worldly things grew chill.

Finally Shaqiq returned to Balkh, where his friends gave him a warm welcome; for he was famous for his generosity. Now the Prince of Balkh at that time was Ali ibn Isa ibn Haman, and he kept hunting-dogs. It so happened that one of his dogs was missing.

“It is with Shaqiq’s neighbour,” they told him.

The man was arrested and accused of stealing the dog. They beat him about, and he turned to Shaqiq for protection. Shaqiq went to the Prince.

“Give me three days, and I will bring your dog back to you. Set my friend free,” he begged.

The Prince set Shaqiq’s neighbour free. Three days later by chance a man found and captured the dog.

“I must take this dog to Shaqiq,” he thought. “He is a generous man, and will give me something.”

So he brought the dog to Shaqiq. Shaqiq brought it to the Prince, and thus he was quit of his pledge. Thereupon he resolved to turn his back on the world entirely.

Later there was a great famine in Balkh, so that men were devouring one another. In the market Shaqiq saw a young slave laughing happily.

“Slave, what occasion for merriment is this?” Shaqiq demanded. “Do you not see how the people are suffering from hunger?”

“Why should I be worried?” the slave answered. “My master owns a whole village and has plenty of grain. He will never let me go hungry.”

Shaqiq lost all self-control on hearing this reply.

“O God,” he cried, “this slave is so happy in having a master who owns a stack of corn. Thou art the King of Kings, and hast undertaken to give us our daily bread. Why then should we be anxious?”

He thereupon abandoned all worldly occupation and made sincere repentance. He set forth on the path to God, in whom he put perfect trust. He used to say, “I am the pupil of a slave.”

Hatem the Deaf relates the following anecdote. I went with Shaqiq to the holy war. One day the

fighting was very fierce; the ranks were drawn up so closely that nothing could be seen but the tips of lances, and arrows were raining from the sky.

“Hatem,” Shaqiq called to me, “how are you enjoying yourself? May be you are thinking it is last night, when you were sleeping in your bedclothes with your wife!”

“Not at all,” I replied.

“In God’s name why not?” Shaqiq cried. “That is how I feel. I feel as you did last night in your bedclothes.”

Then night came on, and Shaqiq laid down and, wrapping himself in his gown, fell fast asleep. So completely did he rely upon God that in the midst of so many enemies he slept soundly.

One day Shaqiq was lecturing when news ran through the city that the infidels were at the gates. Shaqiq ran out and routed the unbelievers, then he returned. A disciple placed a handful of flowers near the Master’s prayer rug. He picked them up and smelt them.

An ignorant fellow saw this and shouted,

“An army at the gates, and the imam of the Muslims holds flowers to his nose!”

“The hypocrite sees the smelling of flowers all right, but he does not see the routing of the infidels,” Shaqiq commented.

Shaqiq-e Balkhi before Harun al-Rashid

When Shaqiq set out on the Mecca pilgrimage and reached Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid summoned him.

“Are you Shaqiq the Ascetic?” Harun demanded when he came into his presence.

“I am Shaqiq,” he replied, “but not the Ascetic.”

“Counsel me,” Harun commanded.

“Then attend,” Shaqiq proceeded. “Almighty God has set you in the place of Abu Bakr the Trusty, and requires trustiness from you as from him. He has set you in the place of Omar the Discriminator, and requires from you as from him discrimination between truth and falsehood. He has set you in the place of Othman of the Two Lights, and requires from you as from him modesty and nobility. He has set you in the place of Ali the Well-approved, and requires from you as from him knowledge and justice.”

“Say more,” Harun cried.

“God has a lodging-place called Hell,” Shaqiq said. “He has appointed you its doorkeeper, and has equipped you with three things—wealth, sword and whip. ‘With these three things,’ He commands, ‘keep the people away from Hell. If any man comes to you in need, do not grudge him money. If any man opposes God’s commandment, school him with this whip. If any man slays another, lawfully exact retaliation on him with this sword.’ If you do not these things, you will be the leader of those that enter Hell.”

“Say more,” Harun repeated.

“You are the fountain, and your agents are the rivulets,” said Shaqiq. “If the fountain is bright, it is not impaired by the darkness of the rivulets. But if the fountain is dark, what hope is there that the rivulets will be bright?”

“Say more,” Harun said again.

“Suppose you are thirsting in the desert, so that you are about to perish,” Shaqiq went on. “If in that moment you come upon a draught of water, how much will you be willing to give for it?”

“As much as the man demands,” said Harun. “And if he will not sell save for half your kingdom?”

“I would give that,” Harun replied.

“And suppose you drink the water and then it will not come out of you, so that you are in danger of perishing,” Shaqiq pursued. “Then someone tells you, ‘I will cure you, but I demand half your kingdom.’ What would you do?”

“I would give it,” answered Harun.

“Then why do you vaunt yourself of a kingdom,” said Shaqiq, “the value of which is one draught of water which you drink, and then it comes out of you?”

Harun wept, and sent Shaqiq away with all honour.

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