Chapter XXIII (k)
The Rules of Sufis about Requesting
Allah has said:
لاَ يَسْأَلُونَ النَّاسَ إِلْحَافًا
“They beg not importunately from all:” (Q 2:273),
i.e. they do not ask from people but if anyone of them ask should not be repulsed, for Allah said to Prophet (peace be upon him),
وَأَمَّا السَّائِلَ فَلَا تَنْهَرْ
nor repulse the petitioner (unheard);” (Q 93:10).
As far as possible they do not beg from anyone save Allah only, for begging involves turning away from Allah to another, and when a man turns away from Allah there is danger that Allah may leave him in that predicament. Some worldling asked Rabia (may Allah have mercy on her) to request something of him that he might procure for her. Rabia replied, “I feel ashamed to ask any worldly thing from the Creator of the world, how then can I ask anything of a fellow-creature?”
In the time of Abu Muslim, the head of the (Abbasid) propaganda, an innocent dervish was seized on suspicion of theft, and was imprisoned in a cell. On the same night Abu Muslim dreamed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to him and said, “Allah has sent me to tell you that one of His friends without committing any offence is put in your prison. Get up and set him free.” Abu Muslim bare feet and head immediately ran to the prison, got its door opened and released the dervish. He begged his pardon and bade him ask a boon. The dervish replied, “O Amir! One whose Master rouses Abu Muslim at midnight, and sends him to deliver a poor dervish from affliction, it is not worthy of him that he asks for his needs from others.” Abu Muslim started weeping, and the dervish went on his way.
Some however hold that a dervish may beg of his fellow creatures, since Allah says that
لاَ يَسْأَلُونَ النَّاسَ إِلْحَافًا
they beg not importunately from all:” (Q 2:273), i.e. they may ask but should refrain from importunity.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
اطلبوا الحواءج عند حسان الوجوه
seek your wants from those whose faces are comely.”
The Sufi Sheikhs allow begging under following three circumstances:
Firstly, with the object of freeing one's mind from preoccupation. They say that the value of two breads is not so much that they wait for it day and night, for eating habits consume ones maximum time. Therefore, when the disciple of Shaqiq visited Bayazid, and in answer to Bayazid’s question as to the state of Shaqiq, informed him that he was entirely disengaged from mankind, and was putting all his trust in Allah. Bayazid said:
“When you return to Shaqiq, tell him to beware of again testing Allah with two loaves of bread, for if he is hungry, let him beg of his fellow-creatures and should do away with his trust on Allah so that his dwelling area and city may not sunken because of the misfortune of his acts.”
It is permissible to beg with the object of training the nafs (lower soul), so that they may endure the humiliation of begging, and may perceive what is their worth in the eyes of other men, and may not be proud. When Shibli came to Junaid, he said to him, “O Abu Bakr, you are still filled with conceit that you are the son of the Caliph’s principal chamberlain and the governor of Samara. No good shall come from you until you go to the bazaar and beg of everyone whom you see, that you may know your true worth.” Shibli obeyed and he begged for three years, with ever decreasing success. One day, having gone through the whole bazaar and got nothing, he returned to Junaid and told him the whole story, who said, “Now, you see that you have no worth in the eyes of people, so you also do not fix your heart on them. This all was for the sake of discipline of your nafs (lower soul), and not for the sake of any livelihood.”
Dhu al-Nun told that he had a friend. Allah called him to Himself and he was blessed with Eternal Beneficence. After his death I saw him in dream, and asked him how Allah had dealt with him. He answered that Allah had forgiven him. I asked on account of what virtue? He replied that Allah raised him to his feet and said, “My servant, you suffered with patience much contumely and tribulation from base and avaricious men, to whom you stretched out your hands, therefore I forgive you.”
The third state of allowable begging is that to beg from mankind because of their reverence for Allah. They recognize that all worldly possessions belong to Allah, and the mankind is His agents, therefore, they ask through the agent for their needful. He, who begs something from Allah through His agent, is more honored than one who directly begs from Allah. To ask through agent is a sign of presence and good fortune and not a veil or turning away from Allah.
One day the daughter of Yahya b. Maud asked her mother for something. The mother said that she should ask that from Allah. The girl replied to her mother that she was ashamed of asking a material want from Him. What you give me is His too and is my allotted portion.
The rules of begging are as follow:
- If you beg unsuccessfully you should be more cheerful than when you succeed, and
- One should not keep eye on people, and avoid begging from women or market-folks
- One should tell his wants only to that about which one is sure that his money is lawful.
- As far as possible one should beg unselfishly, and should not use the takings for worldly show and for house keeping, or convert them into property.
- One should live in the present, and let no thought of future enter in his mind; else he will incur everlasting perdition.
- One should not make Allah a net to catch alms, and should not display piety in order that more alms may be given to him on account of his piety.
I once met an old venerable Sufi, who had lost his way in the desert and hunger stricken came into the market place at Kufa with a sparrow perched on his hand, crying:
“Give me something for the sake of this sparrow!”
The people asked him why he said like that. He replied, “It is impossible that I should ask for any thing for the sake of Allah, one must employ the intercession of an insignificant creature to obtain worldly goods.”
This is but small part of the obligations involved in begging. I have abridged the topic for t fear of its extra ordinary length.