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Al-Junayd al-Baghdadi


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by Sh. G. F. Haddad

Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd, Abu al-Qasim al-Qawariri al-Khazzaz

al-Nahawandi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i (d. 298). The Imam of the World in his
time, shaykh of the Sufis and "Diadem of the Knowers," he accompanied his
maternal uncle Sari al-Saqati, al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and others.
Abu Sahl al-Su`luki narrates that as a boy al-Junayd heard his uncle being
asked about thankfulness, whereupon he said: "It is to not use His favors for
the purpose of disobeying Him."
He took fiqh from Abu Thawr - in whose circle he would give fatwas at twenty
years of age - and, it was also said, from Sufyan al-Thawri. He once said:
"Allah did not bring out a single science on earth accessible to people except
he gave me a share in its knowledge." He used to go to the market every day,
open his shop, and commence praying four hundred rak`as until closing time.

Among his sayings about the Sufi Path: "Whoever does not memorize the
Qur'an and write hadith is not fit to be followed in this matter. For our science
is controlled by the Book and the Sunna."
To Ibn Kullab who was asking him about tasawwuf he replied: "Our madhhab
is the singling out of the pre-eternal from the contingent, the desertion of
human brotherhood and homes, and obliviousness to past and future." Ibn
Kullab said: "This kind of speech cannot be debated."
His student Abu al-`Abbas ibn Surayj would say, whenever he defeated his
adversaries in debate: "This is from the blessing of my sittings with al-
Al-Qushayri relates from al-Junayd the following definitions of tasawwuf:

* "Not the profusion of prayer and fasting, but wholeness of the breast and

* "Tasawwuf means that Allah causes you to die to your self and gives you life
in Him."

* "It means that you be solely with Allah with no attachments."

* "It is a war in which there is no peace."

* "It is supplication together with inward concentration, ecstasy together with

attentive hearing, and action combined with compliance [with the Sunna]."

* "It is the upholding of every high manner and the repudiation of every low

When his uncle asked him to speak from the pulpit he deprecated himself, but
then saw the Prophet in his dream ordering him to speak.
Ibn Kullab once asked al-Junayd to dictate for him a comprehensive definition
of tawhid he had just heard him say. He replied: "If I were reading from a
record I would dictate it to you."

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The Mu`tazili al-Ka`bi said: "My eyes did not see his like. Writers came to
hear him for his linguistic mastery, philosophers for the sharpness of his
speech, poets for his eloquence, and kalam scholars for the contents of his
Al-Khuldi said: "We never saw, among our shaykhs, anyone in whom `ilm and
hal came together except al-Junayd. If you saw his hal you would think that it
took precedence over his `ilm, and if he spoke you would think that his `ilm
took precedence over his hal."

Like the Sunni imams of his generation, al-Junayd hated theological

disputations about Allah and His Attributes: "The least [peril] that lies within
kalam is the elimination of Allah's awe from the heart. And when the heart is
left devoid of Allah's awe, it becomes devoid of belief."

Once a young Christian asked him: "What is the meaning of the Prophet's
hadith: 'Beware the vision of the believer for he sees with the light
of Allah'?"2 Al-Junayd remained immersed in thought then lifted his head
and said: "Submit, for the time has come for you to accept Islam." The young
man embraced Islam on the spot.
Al-Junayd defined the Knower (al-`arif) as "He who addresses your secret
although you are silent." Ibn al-Jawzi cites another example of Junayd's kashf
in his Sifa al-Safwa:

Abu `Amr ibn `Alwan relates: I went out one day to the market of al-Ruhba
for something I needed. I saw a funeral procession and I followed it in order
to pray with the others. I stood among the people until they buried the dead
man. My eyes unwittingly fell on a woman who was unveiled. I lingered
looking at her. Then I held back and began to beg forgiveness of Allah the
Exalted. On my way home an old woman told me: "My master, why is your
face all darkened?" I took a mirror and behold! my face had turned dark. I
examined my conscience and searched: Where did calamity befall me? I
remembered the look I cast. Then I sat alone somewhere, asking Allah's
forgiveness assiduously. I decided to live austerely for forty days. [During that
time] the thought came to my heart: "Visit your shaykh al-Junayd." I travelled
to Baghdad. When I reached the room where he lived I knocked at his door
and heard him say: "Come in, O Abu `Amr! You sin in al-Ruhba and we ask
forgiveness for you here in Baghdad."3

About the Sufis al-Junayd said:

* "They are the members of a single household that none other than they can

* "The Sufi is like the earth: every kind of abomination is thrown upon it, but
naught but every kind of goodness grows from it."

* "The Sufi is like the earth: both the righteous and the sinners walk upon it.
He is like the clouds: they give shade to all things. He is like the raindrop: it
waters all things."

* "If you see a Sufi caring for his outer appearance, then know that his inward
being is corrupt."

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya related from al-Sulami that al-Junayd said: "The
truthful seeker (al-murid al-sadiq) has no need for the scholars of knowledge"
and: "When Allah desires great goodness for the seeker, He makes him flock
to the Sufis and prevents him from accompanying those who read books (al-

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This is similar to al-Junayd's saying reported by al-Dhahabi: "We did not take
tasawwuf from what So-and-So said and what So-and-So-said, but from
hunger, abandonment of the world, and severance of comforts."
Al-Junayd also said: "Among the marks of Allah's wrath against a servant is
that He makes him busy with that which is of no concern to him."5

Ibn al-Qayyim in al-Fawa'id asserts the superiority of the struggle against the
ego (jihad al-nafs) over all other struggles and quotes al-Junayd:

Allah said: {Those who have striven for Our sake, We guide them to Our
ways} (29:96). He has thereby made guidance dependent on jihad.
Therefore, the most perfect of people are those of them who struggle the
most for His sake, and the most obligatory of jihads (afrad al-jihad) are the
jihad against the ego, the jihad against desires, the jihad against the devil,
and the jihad against the lower world. Whoever struggles against these four,
Allah will guide them to the ways of His good pleasure which lead to His
Paradise, and whoever leaves jihad, then he leaves guidance in proportion to
his leaving jihad.
Al-Junayd said: "[The verse means] Those who have striven against their
desires and repented for our sake, we shall guide them to the ways of
sincerity. And one cannot struggle against his enemy outwardly except he who
struggles against these enemies inwardly. Then whoever is given victory over
them will be victorious over his enemy. And whoever is defeated by them, his
enemy defeats him."6

Ibn `Abidin related in his fatwa on the permissibility of dhikr gatherings:

The Imam of the Two Groups,7 our master al-Junayd was told: "Certain
people indulge in wajd or ecstatic behavior, and sway with their bodies." He
replied: "Leave them to their happiness with Allah. They are the ones whose
affections have been smashed by the path and whose breasts have been torn
apart by effort, and they are unable to bear it. There is no blame on them if
they breathe awhile as a remedy for their intense state. If you tasted what
they taste, you would excuse their exuberance."8

In his Kitab al-Fana' ("Book of the Annihilation of the Self") al-Junayd states:

As for the select and the select of the select, who become alien through the
strangeness of their conditions - presence for them is loss, and enjoyment of
the witnessing is struggle. They have been effaced from every trace and every
signification that they find in themselves or that they witness on their own.
The Real has subjugated them, effaced them, annihilated them from their own
attributes, so that it is the Real that works through them, on them, and for
them in everything they experience. It is the Real which confirms such
exigencies in and upon them through the form of its completion and

Al-Junayd went on pilgrimage on foot thirty times. On his deathbed he recited

the Qur'an incessantly. Al-Jariri related that he told him: "O Abu al-Qasim! Put
yourself at ease."
He replied: "O Abu Muhammad! Do you know anyone that is more in need of
Qur'an at this time, when my record is being folded up?" He finished one
khatma then started over until he recited seventy verses of Sura al-Baqara,
then he died. Ibn `Imad al-Hanbali said: "If we were to speak of his merits we
could fill volumes."

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Main sources: al-Qushayri, Risala 148-150; Ibn `Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab

2:228-230; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 11:153-155 #2555; Ibn al-
Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 2:260-275 #60.


1In al-Qushayri, Kitab al-Sama` in al-Rasa'il al-Qushayriyya (Sidon and

Beirut: al-Maktaba al-`Asriyya, 1970) p. 60.

2Narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri by al-Tirmidhi (gharib) with a weak chain,
Abu Imama by al-Tabarani with a fair (hasan) chain according to al-Haythami
in the chapter on firasa in Majma` al-Zawa'id, Ibn `Adi, al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi,
and al-Quda`i in Musnad al-Shihab (1:387). Also narrated by al-Bukhari in his
Tarikh, Ibn al-Sani, and from Ibn `Umar by Ibn Abi Hatim, al-Tabari, and Ibn
Kathir in their commentaries of the verse (Therein lie portents for those who
read the signs( (15:75). Ibn al-Jawzi includes it in the forgeries. Al-Sakhawi in
al-Maqasid al-Hasana (#23) rejects Ibn al-Jawzi's grading of mawdu`, but
considers its chains all weak, as do al-Albani in his Silsila Da`ifa (4:299-302)
and al-Ahdab in Zawa'id Tarikh Baghdad (4:340-343 #687). However, al-
Suyuti declares it hasan in al-La'ali' al-Masnu`a (2:329-330) as do al-
Shawkani in al-Fawa'id (p. 243-244) and al-Zuhayri - Albani's student - in his
edition of Ibn `Abd al-Barr's Jami` Bayan al-`Ilm (1:677 #1197). The
purported weakness of al-Tabarani's chain revolves around the narrator `Abd
Allah ibn Salih al-Juhani. Cf. al-Dhahabi, Mizan (2:440-445 #4383).

Al-Sakhawi cites another narration whereby the Prophet said: "Allah has
servants who know (the truth about people) through reading the signs"
(tawassum). Narrated from Anas with a fair chain by al-Bazzar in his Musnad,
al-Tabarani, and Abu Nu`aym in al-Tibb al-Nabawi as stated by al-`Ajluni in
Kashf al-Khafa'.

3In Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifa al-Safwa 1(2):271, chapter on al-Junayd (#296).

4Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Madarij al-Salikin (2:366).

5In Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifa al-Safwa, chapter on al-Junayd.

6Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, al-Fawa'id, ed. Muhammad `Ali Qutb (al-

Iskandariyya: Dar al-Da`wa, 1992) p. 50.

7I.e. Sufis and fuqaha'.

8Seventh Letter in Shifa` al-`Alil wa Ball al-Ghalil fi Hukm al-Wasiyya bi al-

Khatamat wa al-Tahalil (p. 172-173).

9Translation communicated to the author by Michael Sells, Haverford College.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

GF Haddad ©

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