The Reality behind Forms

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It is related that the Sufi Master, Imam Abu al-Qasim Junayd al-Baghdadi (q.s.), once went for a walk outside of Baghdad, his disciples following him.  The Shaykh (q.s.) then asked them how Bahlul was.  They answered, “He is a crazy person, what do you need from him?”

“Bring me to him because I have a need for him,” he said.

The students searched for Bahlul, whose reputation was that of a mad mystic, and found him in the desert.  They took Imam Junayd (q.s.) to him.  When Imam Junayd (q.s.) went near Bahlul, he saw Bahlul lying in a state of agitation, with a brick under his head for a pillow.

Imam Junayd (q.s.) greeted him with the salutation of peace.

Bahlul replied thus, and then asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Junayd al-Baghdadi.”

Bahlul asked, “Are you Abu al-Qasim?”

“Yes.” replied Imam Junayd (q.s.).

“Are you the same Shaykh al-Baghdadi who gives people spiritual instructions?”


Then Bahlul asked, “Do you even know how to eat?”

“Yes!” answered Imam Junayd (q.s.). “I say ‘Bismillah.’  I eat what is in front of me.  I take small bites, put them in the right side of my mouth, and slowly chew.  I do not stare at others.  I remember Allah while eating.  For whatever morsel I eat, I say, ‘al-Hamdulillah.’  I wash my hands before and after eating.”

Bahul stood up and shook the dirt of his garment on Imam Junayd (q.s.), and said, “You want to be the spiritual teacher of the world but you do not even know how to eat.”  Saying this, he walked away.

Imam Junayd’s (q.s.) students said, “O Shaykh!  He is a crazy person.  Let him be”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) replied, “He is a madman who is spiritually intelligent in his words.  Listen to the correct statements from him.”  Saying this, he went after Bahlul, saying, “I have a need for Bahlul.”

When Bahlul reached a deserted building, he sat down.  Imam Junayd (q.s.) came near him.

Bahlul asked, “Who are you?”

“Shaykh al-Baghdadi who does not even know how to eat.”

“You do not know how to eat, but do you know how to talk?”


“How do you talk?”

“I talk in moderation and to the point.  I do not speak without purpose or too much.  I speak so the listeners can understand.  I call the world’s people towards Allah and the Prophet.  I do not talk so much that the people would get bored.  I care about the deepness of inner and outer knowledge.”  Then he described whatever was connected with manners and etiquette.

Bahlul said, “Forget about eating, you do not know how to talk either.”

He stood up, shook his garment on the shaykh and walked away.

The students said, “O Shaykh!  You saw, he is crazy.  What do you expect from a lunatic!”

Shaykh Junayd (q.s.) said, “I have a need for him.  You do not know.”

Again he went after Bahlul until he reached him.

Bahlul asked, “What do you want from me?  You who do not know the manners of eating and speaking; do you know how to sleep?”

“Yes, I know.”

“How do you sleep?” Bahlul asked.

“When I am finished with swalah ‘isha’ and reciting supplications, I don my sleepwear.”  Then he described the manners of sleeping which were transmitted to him by the learned people of religion.

Bahlul then said, “I understand that you do not know how to sleep either.”

He wanted to get up, but Imam Junayd (q.s.) caught hold of his garment and said, “O Bahlul!  I do not know; so for the Sake of Allah, teach me.”

Bahlul said, “You claimed knowledge and said you knew so I was avoiding you.  Now that you confessed your lack of knowledge, I will teach you.  Know that whatever you described is secondary,” said Bahlul.  “The truth behind eating meals is that you eat lawful morsels.  If you eat forbidden food even with one hundred kinds of good manners, it will not benefit you, but will be the reason for blackening the heart.”

“May Allah Grant you Great Reward.” remarked Imam Junayd (q.s.).

Bahlul continued, “The heart must be pure, and have good intentions before you begin to talk.  And your conversation must be to please Allah (s.w.t.).  If it is for any worldly or useless work, then however you express yourself, it will become a calamity for you.  That is why silence and quietude would be best.

Whatever you said about sleeping is also of secondary importance.  The truth of it is that your heart should be free of enmity, jealousy, and hate.  Your heart should not be greedy for this world or its wealth, and remember Allah (s.w.t.) when going to sleep.”

Imam Junayd (q.s.) then kissed Bahlul’s hand and prayed for him.  The students who saw this incident and had thought that Bahlul was crazy and nothing more, realised the error of judging by appearances and their spiritual states increased.


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