Sufi Biography: Abu Bakr al-Kattani

Sufi Biography: Abu Bakr al-Kattani

Abu Bakr Mohammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Ja’far al- Kattani, a native of Baghdad, belonged to the circle of al-Jonaid. He proceeded to Mecca on the pilgrimage, and took up residence there until his death in 322 (934).

The piety of Abu Bakr-e Kattani

Abu Bakr-e Kattani was called the Lamp of the Sanctuary. He was a resident in Mecca up to the day of
his death. He used to pray all the night through and chant the entire Koran; in the course of circling the
Kaaba he completed twelve thousand recitations in all. For thirty years he was seated in the sanctuary under
the waterspout, and in all those thirty years one ritual washing every twenty-four hours sufficed him.


Throughout the whole period he never slept. At the beginning of his career he sought permission
from his mother to go on the pilgrimage. “When I was proceeding into the desert,” he
recalled, “a state overtook me compelling me to wash for self-purification. I told myself that perhaps I had
not set out under the proper auspices; so I turned back. I reached home to find my mother seated behind the
door of the house, waiting for me. ‘Mother,’ I said, ‘did you not give me leave?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘But without
you I could not bear to look at the house.

Since you departed I have been seated here. I resolved that I would not rise up until you came back again.’ It was not until my mother died that I ventured into the desert once more.”

Abu Bakr-e Kattani tells the following story. I was deep in the desert when I caught sight of a dead
man. He was smiling. “What, are you dead and still smiling?” I cried.
“Such is the love of God,” he replied. “I felt a little resentment in my heart towards the
Prince of the Faithful, Ali,” Abu Bakr confessed. “That was for no other reason than because the Prophet had
said, ‘There is no true knight but Ali.’ It was a part of that knightliness that, although Mo’awiya was in the
wrong and he was in the right, nevertheless Ali abdicated in Mo’awiya’s favour in order that so much
blood should not be spilled.

“Now I had a little house between Marwa and Safa,” he continued. “There I saw the Prophet in a
dream, together with his blessed companions. He came up to me and, taking me into his embrace, pointed to
Abu Bakr and said, ‘Who is he?’ ‘Abu Bakr,’ I replied. Then he pointed to Omar. ‘Omar,’ I said. Then he
pointed to Othman. ‘Othman,’ I said. Lastly he pointed to Ali. I felt ashamed because of the resentment I
entertained. Then the Prophet gave me to Ali in brotherhood and we embraced each other. After that they all
departed, and only myself and Ali remained. ‘Come,’ said Ali to me, ‘let us go to Mount Abu Qobais.’ We
climbed to the top of the mountain and looked down on the Kaaba. When I awoke, I found myself on Mount
Abu Qobais. Not a trace of that resentment remained in my heart.

“I was once in the company of a certain man,” he also related, “and his society bore heavily on me. I
made him a present, but still that heaviness did not go away. I took him to my house and said to him, ‘Put
your foot on my face.’ He would not do so, but I insisted until finally he put his foot on my face and kept it
there so long that the heaviness vanished and changed into love. Now I had received as a gift from a lawful
source two hundred dirhams. I fetched them and placed them on the corner of his prayer rug. ‘Spend
these on yourself,’ I told him. Looking at me out of the corner of his eye he said, ‘I have purchased this occasion
at a cost of seventy thousand dinars. Do you want to delude me with this?’ Then he rose up, shook out his
prayer rug and departed. I had never experienced anything like his dignity and my humiliation as when I was
picking up those dirhams.”

Abu Bakr-e Kattani had a disciple who was in the agonies of death. He opened his eyes and gazed upon
the Kaaba. A camel came along at the moment and kicked his face, gouging out his eye.
Immediately Abu Bakr heard a voice saying within him, “In this state when authentic revelations from the
Unseen were coming to him, he gazed at the Kaaba. So he was punished. It is not right in the presence of the
Lord of the House to gaze at the House.” One day a luminous elder majestically wrapped in a
cloak entered by the Gate of the Banu Shaiba and went up to Kattani, who was standing with head bowed.
“Why,” he asked after the exchange of greetings, “do you not go to the Station of Abraham? A great
teacher has come and is relating noble traditions. Come and listen to him.”
“On whose authority is he relating, sir?” Kattani asked.
“On the authority of Abd Allah ibn Ma’mar, from
Zohri, from Abu Horaira, from the Prophet,” the elder replied.
“Master, you have produced a long chain of authorities,”
Kattani remarked. “Whatever they are reporting there by authoritative chain of transmission, we are
hearing here without any chain.”

“From whom are you hearing?” asked the elder. “My heart reported to me direct from my Lord . . .”
said Kattani. “Do you have any proof of your assertion?” demanded the elder.
“My proof,” replied Kattani, “is that my heart is telling me that you are Khezr.”
“Till then,” Khezr remarked, “I had always thought that there was no friend of God whom I did not know.
That was until I saw Abu Bakr-e Kattani. I did not know him, but he knew me. Then I realized that God
has friends who know me but whom I do not know.” Kattani also related as follows.
I saw in a dream an extremely handsome youth. “Who are you?” I enquired.
“Piety,” he replied. “Where do you dwell?” I asked.
“In the heart,” he a nswered, “of the sorrowful.”
Then I saw a most hideous, black woman.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“Laughter and gaiety and enjoyment,” she answered.
“Where do you dwell?” “In the hearts of the heedless and those who amuse themselves.”

When I awoke, I resolved that I would never laugh again, except when I could not help myself.