Imam Abu Muhammad Sahl ibn ‘Abdallah at-Tustari (q.s.) in Brief

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

Imam Abu al-Qasim ‘Abd al-Karim ibn Huzan al-Qushayri (r.a.) recorded, in his Risalah al-Qushayriyyah, Imam Abu Muhammad Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah at-Tustari (r.a.) was one of the greatest Sufi masters.  He had no peers in his age in regard to devotional acts and pious scrupulosity.  He performed many miracles.  He met Shaykh Dzu an-Nun Abu al-Faydh Tsawban ibn Ibrahim al-Miswri (q.s.) during the year when he came to Makkah on a pilgrimage.  It is said that he died in the year 283 AH, although some say that it was in 273 AH. 

Imam at-Tustari (r.a.) said, “When I was three years old, I used to stay awake during the night watching my uncle Muhammad ibn Sawwar perform his prayers.  He kept vigil during the night.  He used to tell me, ‘Go away, Sahl, and sleep.  You are distracting me!’” 

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Husayn (r.a.) said, that he heard from Shaykh Abu al-Fath Yusuf ibn ‘Umar az-Zahid (r.a.), who heard from Shaykh ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid (r.a.), who heard from Shaykh ‘Ubaydullah ibn Lu’lu’ (r.a.), who heard that Shaykh ‘Umar ibn Wasil al-Baswri (r.a.) who recounted that Imam at-Tustari (r.a.) told him, “One day my uncle asked me, ‘Do you not remember God, Who Created you?’ 

I asked him, ‘How can I remember Him?’ 

He said, ‘Say by your heart as you move around in your clothes, without however moving your tongue, ‘God is my Watcher.’’  I said this for three nights, then I told him about this and he said to me, ‘Say this seven times during the night.’  I said this, then told him about this.  He said to me, ‘Say this eleven times during the night.’  I said this and I felt the sweetness of this in my heart.  After one year, my uncle told me, ‘Keep on what I taught you and continue to do this until you enter your grave, for this will benefit you in this world and in the Hereafter.’  I kept doing this for many years and I felt the sweetness of this in my innermost heart.  One day, my uncle told me, ‘Sahl, how can a man with whom God is always present and whom He always watches and observes commit a sin?  So, stay away from sin!’” 

Imam at-Tustari (r.a.) said, “I used to seclude myself.  Then my parents sent me to a Qur’anic school.  I told them, ‘I fear that my internal concentration might dissipate.  Make arrangements with the teacher so that I would come to him for a short while, study with him, and then come back.’  So I began to go to the school. I learned the Qur’an by heart when I was six or seven years old.  I was fasting constantly and ate nothing but barley bread until I turned twelve years of age.  When I turned thirteen, I came across a problem and asked my family to send me to Baswra, so that I could inquire about it.  I arrived in Baswra and began to ask local scholars about it.  However, none of them was able to satisfy me.  Then I left for ‘Abbadan in order to meet a man known as Abu Habib Hamza ibm ‘Abdullah al-‘Abbadani.  I asked him about this problem and he answered me.  I stayed with him for a while benefiting from his teaching and imitating his good manners.  Then I returned to Tustar.  There my only meal consisted of a sack of barley that one could buy for one dirham, which I ground and from which I made bread for myself.  Every night, before dawn, I ate of this just one ounce without salt or seasoning.  Thus one dirham was enough for me for a whole year.  I decided to fast for three nights and to break my fast on the fourth, then on the fifth, then on the seventh, then on the fifteenth.  In this way I spent twenty years, whereupon I began to roam the land until I again returned to Tustar.  There I used to stay awake all night.” 

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Husayn (r.a.) said, he heard Shaykh Abu al-‘Abbas al-Baghdadi (r.a.) say, he heard Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Firas (r.a.) say, he heard Shaykh Naswr ibn Ahmad (r.a.) say, Imam at-Tustari (r.a.) said, “Every deed that the servant performs without imitation, be it obedience or disobedience, is done to please his own self, whereas every deed that he performs in imitation of the Prophet (s.a.w.) or his companions, is painful to the soul.”


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