by A. J. Arberry from his translated book Muslim Saints and Mystics
Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’ (Memorial of the Saints) by
Shaykh Farid al-Din Attar.
Sufism is the
name given to the mystical movement within Islam; a Sufi is a Muslim who
dedicates himself to the quest after mystical union (or, better said,
reunion) with his Creator. The name is Arabic in origin, being derived
from the word suf meaning “wool”; the Sufis were distinguishable from
their fellows by wearing a habit of coarse woollen cloth, in time when
silks and brocades had become the fashion of the wealthy and
mundane-minded, symbolic of their renunciation of worldly values and
their abhorrence for physical comforts.
ascetic outlook and practice, an indispensable preparation to mystical
communion, characterized the life not only of Mohammad himself but of
many of his earliest followers.
Even when the rapid spread of Islam and the astonishing military
conquests of neighbouring ancient kingdoms brought undreamed-of
riches to the public exchequer, not a few of the leading men in
the new commonwealth withstood all temptation to abandon the
austere life of the desert, and their example was admired and
emulated by multitudes of humbler rank. Nevertheless with the
passage of time, and as Islam became increasing secularized
consequent upon further victories and rapidly augmenting
complications of state craft, the original ascetic impulse
tended to be overwhelmed in the flood of worldly preoccupation.
al-Din Attar, author of the book Tadhkirat al-Auliya here presented in
an abridged translation, is to be accounted amongst the greatest poets
of Persia; his dimensions as a literary genius increase with the further
investigation of his writings.
Below are the
biographies of Sufis and Saints, mostly as accounted by Shaykh Faridudin
Attar in his book
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