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ABU Y A Z i D OF BISTAM A T U R N I N G - P O I N T IN ISLAMIC MYSTICISM by

R. C. Z A E H N E R

Oxford

In his little book on .Sfifism Professor A. J. Arberry declined to discuss the various influences that may or may not have contributed to the making of .Sfifism (and rightly so in so small a book). "No time w i l l . . . be wasted [he wrote] upon reviewing or restating the argument, in progress for more than a century, that the .Safis owed much or little of what they did or said to Christian, Jewish, Gnostic, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, Zoroastrian or Buddhist example. "1 The presence or absence of such influences is, however, of cardinal importance in any study of the history of mysticism S at least if we accept the view that all preaternatural manifestations, all so-called "mystical" experiences, are not reducible to one pattern. This is not the place to discuss the varieties of mystical experience which has been done elsewherep but no meaningful discussion of AbO Yazid of Bist.~m's relation to Indian thought is possible unless we make clear at the outset what we consider to be the essential differences between the mysticism of the advaita or non-dualist Vedanta in India on the one hand and that type of Christian mysticism which so clearly influenced early Islamic mysticism as represented by such figures as Rabi'a and Muh. asibi on the other. This distinction can be traced in all the great religions and cuts clear across purely dogmatic differences. According to the Advaita in its extreme form there is one absolute Being, Brahman, one without a second, and apart from this absolute Being nothing can be said to have any real existence at all. This being so, the human soul the existence of which we are bound to concede, must be identical with the Absolute. This rules out the unio mystica of the Christians, the union of the soul with God in love, for where there is only "One" union has no meaning: we can only speak of "unity". 1 A. J. Arberry, Sufism, An Account of the Mystics of Islam (London, Allen and Unwin, 1950), p. 11. 2 This is now recognized by Professor Arberry: see his Revelation and Reason in Islam (London, 1957), p. 90. In my Mystic&m, Sacred and Profane (Oxford, 1957).

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There is wa.hdat but no taw.hid. I do not propose to discuss here the validity of either of these assertions, but would merely point out that some mystics claim to have experienced "union", others "unity". In his Mystics of Islam Nicholson saw that AbQ Yazid's doctrine of land, the destruction of the empirical self in God or the Absolute, might well be traceable to an Indian origin, and he did not fail to observe that its first great exponent was Ab~ Yazid and that he may well have received the idea from his teacher, Ab~ 'Ali of Sind. a This idea was taken up and defended with passion by Max Horten, 5 who also emphasized the fact that Abfi Yazid's teacher was precisely a man of Sind. Horten considered that AbQ Yazid was decisively influenced by Buddhism 6 and that in him Neo-Platonic and Indian, whether Buddhist or Brahmanical, influences met. Massignon too, in his Essai sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane, tried to show that Islamic mysticism might have been influenced by the classical Yoga of Patafijali. 7 He went so far as to draw up a list of technical terms used in Muslim and Indian sources which were alleged to correspond. In actual fact there is rarely any correspondance between the Arabic and Sanskrit members. The principal defect of these and earlier attempts to trace an Indian influence on Islam is that they tend to be content with generalizations which are at the most only partially convincing. The only way that we can prove that a particular mystical doctrine is dependent on another is to show that the later of the two has taken over not only ideas but also similes and, best of all, whole phrases from the earlier, and that these similes and phrases do not occur elsewhere. Now, of the influences other than Indian which can almost certainly be traced in .Sflfism, the Christian, Manichaean, and Neo-Platonic would seem to be the most important. In her book Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East, 8 Dr. Margaret Smith made a convincing case that Muslim mysticism is little more than a continuation of its Christian predecessor in the lands in which Islam was triumphant. I do not think that her broad conclusions can well be disputed, but I think it necessary to modify her general thesis to some extent: for it seems plain that Christian influence exerted itself not through literary sources or through the polemics of such men as St. John Damascene, but through oral
4 5 in 6 7 8 R . A . Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam (London, 1914), p. 17. See especially Festgabe Jaeobi (Bonn, 1926), pp. 397-405; also Indische Strrmungen der islamischen Mystik, I (Heidelberg, 1927), pp. 17-25. Festgabe, p. 399. Reprinted Paris, Vrin, 1954, pp. 81-98. London, The Sheldon Press, 1931.

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channels, that is, the day to day contact of the Christian population with its conquerors. Time and again we find .SOfi writers quoting as actual traditions of the Prophet or as words of a ,"wise man" passages that actually derive from the Gospels. This is quite natural. Even to-day it would never occur to a pious Muslim to turn to the Old or New Testaments for spiritual guidance. How much more true must this have been in the early centuries of Islam when the Qur'~m was still a recent revelation - the final revelation sent down as God's eternal Word to man, the Word that corrected earlier revelations which indeed had not differed from it in any way but which had been falsified by the followers of Moses and Jesus respectively. It was not, then, by the reading of the sacred books of the older faiths that the Muslims came to have knowledge of the sayings of Jesus, it was by personal contact with Christians and particularly, perhaps, with Christian monks whom in some cases the S.fffis seem consciously to have imitated. It would be easy to quote a number of passages that are derived from the Gospels and which have become embedded in .SQfi literature. Mu.h~tsibi, for example, quotes the parable of the sower without having any idea of its origin :9 Ghaz~tli has the parable of the tares TM and the simile of the whited sepulchre :11 Qushayri and others quote a tradition that one should love one's neighbour as oneself, 12 and so on. Further Ghaz~tli quotes Christ's saying "I was sick and ye visited me not" and His explanation of it that inasmuch as the guilty man did not visit the least of his brethren it was tantamount to not visiting Him, as proof of his own doctrine that God is immanent in all human souls. Again Ghaz~li is quite unaware of the origin of these words and quotes them as being addressed by God to Moses. lz The presence of such unmistakeably Christian logia often quoted almost word for word yet without any knowledge of their origin, shows that Christian ideas seeped into Islam through oral channels through which, it appears, the main ideas of Christian mysticism made themselves felt - above all the doctrine that it is possible for the human soul to be united with God through love. Massignon, in his later work, seems to have veered round to the opinion that all later .SOfi ideas are present at least in germ in the Qur'fin. This is not only to stretch the meaning
Kitflb al.Ri'aya li-.huqgtq Allah, ed. Margaret Smith (London, Luzac, Kfmiya-yi Sa'adat (Tehran, 1319 A. H. [solar]), vol. II, p. 739. Ibid. Risala (Cairo, 1367/1947), p. 74. Kimiya, vol. II, p. 952.

1940), p. 2.

lo n 12 la

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of the Qur'~n unbearably, it is also to fly in the face of the Muslim dogma of the absolute transcendance of God - His total unlikeness to all creatures - an accepted doctrine which Ghaz~tli covers pages in refuting before he considers that he can discuss the love of God at all. Thus, there seems to be no denying that along with the sayings of Jesus the essential Christian doctrine of the love of God for man and man for God captured Muhammadan mysticism at a very early stage: and the proof that Christian influence is actually at work must always be the actual reproduction of phrases and ideas which we can immediately trace to the Gospels but which the .S0fis, who did not read the Gospels, could not. The same is true of Neo-Platonism, a late arrival in the Sunni-.S~ffi field. Neo-Platonism makes its way into .Sfifism via Ghaz~li who was a philosopher before he became a .SQfi. There is little trace of it in the I.hyd, or even in the K~miyd-yi Sa'ddat, the Persian abbreviated version of the I.hyd which he wrote in later fife. It only becomes unmistakeably apparent in the Risdlat al-Ladunniyya, which must be a very late work. Neo-Platonism in Muslim dress is always easy to recognize. The key conceptions are, of course, the Universal Mind and the Universal Soul, the 'aql al-kulli and the nafs al-kulliyya. Both these appear in the Risdlat al-Ladunniyya, in which Ghazali makes a first attempt to marry the traditional .Sfifism of Junayd with Neo-Platonic philosophy. Thus, Christian and Neo-Platonic influences in .Sfifism can be traced primarily by spotting almost direct quotation and secondly by the exact correspondance of technical terms. There is, however, a distinct difference in the way in which the two influences made themselves felt. Christian ideas were passed on by word of mouth; Neo-Platonic ideas came into .Sflfism via the philosophers, that is to say, as far as .Sflfism proper is concerned, via Ghaz~li who, however, borrows from both Fgtrftbi and Avicenna. The golden age of .Sftfism, that is, the age of Mu.hgsibi, Dhfl 'l-Nfm, Abfi Yazid, and Junayd, was never affected by Neo-Platonism. .S~fism before Ghazftli had no metaphysics: it was a spiritual askesis designed to bring the soul into direct communion with God. Indian influence on .Sf~fism is not nearly so apparent as the Hellenistic or Iranian. Islam was the heir to both Byzantine and Iranian culture; but even after its inroads into India it never succeeded in absorbing Hinduism. There were, of course, translations of popular Hindu classics like the Pafzcatantra, which was first translated into Pahlavi under Khusraw I. Hinduism itself, however, was dismissed by the Muslim invaders asbeing mere idol-worship, and Hindus, ff anyone, were regard-

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ed as being a most legitimate object of the holy war. The externals of their religion so manifestly represented everything that was abhorrent to the Prophet that it never seems to have occurred to any Muslim scholar except BirQni that their religion might have been worth investigating. Even Shahristfmi, usually a good source, seems to be woefully misinformed in his treatment of Brahmanism. If, then, we wish to trace the infiltration of Hindu ideas into .Sflflsm, it will not be through literary sources; for even Birfini did not have access to the Vedas, which form the canon of the Hindu sacred literature, nor to the Upani.sads, which constitute the veddnta or "end of the Vedas" and are the foundation on which all subsequent esoteric Hinduism is built. He 0nly appears to have had access to the Pur~.nas and a version of the Bhagavad-gitft which differed very considerably from the Git~ as Hindu tradition knows it to-day. Moreover, as far as my limited knowledge goes, BirOni was not read by the .SQfis nor does he himself anywhere suggest that .Sfifism was influenced by written Indian sources, although he frequently notices the close similarity existing between .Sfffi and Hindu esoteric doctrine. Thus, just as Christian influence percolated into Islam by word of mouth, so, we must assume, did Indian influence, if indeed it percolated at all. Now, when we come to study the so-called shath, iyydt or "ecstatic utterances" of Abfi Yazid of Bis.t[tm, we find parallelisms to Indian sources so close that it would seem almost certain that he must have heard these sources repeated to him. Moreover, AbQ Yazid was a native of Bist.~m in Khur~ts~m and therefore, living in this part of Iran, he was more likely to be affected by Indian (and more particularly Buddhist) ideas than were his contemporaries in Clr~q. Primafacie, then, there is nothing unlikely in AbO Yazid's having been in contact with Indian faq?rs. But there is more than this. Of our sources on AbO Yazid the most reliable is still the earliest, Abfl Na.sr al-Sarr~j, who has been so admirably edited by Nicholson. Sarr~tj has a whole chapter devoted to shat..hiyydt or "ecstatic utterances". These utterances, which, among the earlier .SOfis, are associated primarily with AbO Yazid, were a grave embarassment to those .Sfifis who tried to defend their orthodoxy; and it is significant that it is only Sarr~j who preserves them among the earliest sources, 14 and he quotes Junayd's *a The recently published AI-N~r rain Kalimat Abf T. ayfgtr, ed. A. Badawi (Cairo, 1949,) which contains a mass of sayings attributed to Abfi Yazid and which appears to be the principal source of 'At.t.~tr'sarticle on him in the Tadhkirat al-Awliya, is later than Sarr~j and far more uncritical. The author of this work, as Badawi has pointed

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i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the m o r e outrageous of his sayings. CAt.t.ftr, of course, follows Sarr~j a n d gives a n elaborate a c c o u n t of the so-called mi'rdj of Abfl Yazid (his ascent into heaven); b u t by 'At.t.~r's time these "ecstatic utterances" had become part a n d parcel of S.gfism, a n d n o one a m o n g the .SOfts a t t e m p t e d to deny them. A g a i n it is only Sarr~j who tells us who A b ~ Yazid's shaykh or ustddh, his spiritual director, was. Sulami, who is usually meticulous i n telling us with what other S.Ctfis a particular .Sfffi associated, is m u t e as far as Abfi Yazid is concerned, whereas the Kitdb al-nftr assigns 313 masters to him, which seems excessive. Sarrgj, however, tells us that his ustddh was one AbO 'AII al-Sindi,15 who is otherwise u n k n o w n . The fact that Abfi 'Ali was a m a n of Sind 1~ w o u l d indicate that he was either a convert f r o m H i n d u i s m or the son of a convert (Ab~ Yazid was himself the g r a n d s o n o f a Zoroastrian), a n d the following passage seems to confirm this: Abfi Yazid said: "I used to keep company with Abf~ CAli al-Sindi and I used to show him how to perform the obligatory duties of Islam (fard.) and in exchange he would give me instruction in the Divine Unity (taw.hid)and in the ultimate truths (.haqa'iq). "'17 Now, this passage is obviously i m p o r t a n t ; for it m e a n s that A b ~ Yazid's teacher m u s t have been a n e w c o m e r to I s l a m ; otherwise he w o u l d n o t have needed i n s t r u c t i o n in the p e r f o r m a n c e of his r o u t i n e religious

out (op. cit., p. 40), was probably one Sahlaji (or Sahlagi) who is mentioned in a manuscript at Aries as being the author of a Kitab al-Nftr ]7 kalimat al-Bist.ami. 'At.t.~r, moreover (op. cir., I, p. 140, 12), quotes Sahlagi by name in the following context: "'Isa of Bist.~m says, 'I was associated with the Shaykh for thirteen years, yet I never heard him say a word. He used to lean his head on his knees, and when he raised it, he would sigh and would then return to his former condition.' We are told that Sahlagi said that this was due to a 'state of contraction'. If, on the other hand, he was in a 'state of expansion' (elation), all would derive great benefit from him." This passage is nearly, but not quite, a literal translation of the description of the same episode in the text edited by Badawi (19. 141). It seems then likely that the latter book is indeed the work of Sahlagi. In any case the author of the Badawi text was alive in A.H. 419/A.D. 1028 (p. 138) and also claims to have been present when Abfi Sa'id ibn Abi'l-Khayr visited Abfi Yazid's tomb at Bis~m. Abfi Sa'id's dates are given in the Asrgw al-Tawhid (Tehran, 1332 solar) as A.H. 357-440/A.D. 967-1048 (pp. 15 and 356). Sahlagi would, then, appear to be a contemporary of Abfi Nu'aym (mentioned on p. 134) and Qushayri among the earlier authors of standard works on .Sftfism. 15 See above, p. 287. 16 Arberry thinks that "Sindi" might refer to a village, Sind, in Khurftsfin. This does not seem likely. lr Sarrftj,ed. Nicholson, p. 177.

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duties, xs Yet, novice though he was, he was yet in a position to be Ab Yazid's teacher in the "ultimate truths" and the Divine Unity. He was, then, a convert, and his own doctrine was that of Taw.hfd which, as we shall see, means here not only the possibility of the union of the soul with G o d but the actual identity of the soul with God (a concept which Ghaz~li was later to call itti.hdd. 19 In confirmation of this there are two further passages in Sarr~j which tend to confirm this view. For the Muslims India was, of course, the classical country of magic, and .Hall~j, who probably went there to study esoteric Hinduism, was alleged by his enemies to have gone there to study magic. Similarly we find Abfi Yazid rebuking his master for turning water into jewels, a process which, according to AbQ Yazid, only showed that he had become distracted from God. ~~ This is the typical Yoga attitude towards miraculous powers (siddhis) and is traceable to the Yogasfttras of Patafijali. Thus the evidence of Sarraj which was conveniently forgotten by subsequent writers shows that AbO Yazid's spiritual guide was a Hindu convert to Islam whose cardinal doctrine was taw.hid or "union", the exact meaning of which we will have to discuss later. What of the internal evidence? Here again we must rely principally on Sarr~tj who preserves the more extraordinary sayings of AbQ Yazid in what was probably their original form. One very important saying, however, is not preserved by him but by Bir~mi, and this re-appears verbatim (one word only being different) in the recently published Al-Nftr

min kalimdt Ab~ .Tayfftr. Let us take the most remarkable as well as the most puzzling of these sayings first. In translation it runs as follows:
Abfi Yazid is reported to have said: "Once He raised me up and placed me before Him and said to me: 'O Abfi Yazid, verily my creation (khalq~) longs to see thee.' And I said: 'Adorn me with Thy Unity and clothemein Thine I-hess (and'iyya) and raise me up in Thy Oneness, so that when Thy creation sees me, they may say: "We have seen Thee (i.e. God) and Thou art That."' Yet I (Abfi Yazid) will not be there at all. ' ' 1 The idea, of course, is clear: it is that of fand, the annihilation or extinction of the human personality in the Divine unity. It is the doctrine supposed to have been originated by AbO Yazid himself. But what is is Cf. Horten, Festgabe Jacobi, p. 405. z, See especially Mishkat al-Anwar in AI-Jaw~hir al-Ghawali, ed. Cairo (1353/1934), p. 123. =0 San'~j, op. cir., p. 325. ~1 Sarr~tj,op. cir., p. 382.

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the meaning of "We have seen Thee and Thou art That"? What can "Thou art That" have possibly meant to a Muslim? Nothing, apparently, for 'A.tt.ar translates the passage into Persian and paraphrases it as follows: "Adorn me with Thy Unity so that when creation sees me and looks upon Thy handiwork, they may see the Creator (.sdniC).''22 CA.tt.ftr, then, seems to have rendered the sense all right, but he avoids the enigmatic "Thou art That". So, for that matter, does Nicholson, for he translates: "and that only Thou mayst be there, not I". 2z This does, I think, prove that the phrase "Thou art That" sounds so utterly strange to even the best Islamic scholar that rather than translate it in all its stark simplicity he should prefer to commit so elementary a mistake as to translate dhdka as "there". Massignon 24 does not make this mistake, but he offers no explanation for the offending phrase. Remembering that Ab~ Yazid's spiritual director, Abfl 'Ali al-Sindi, was almost certainly a Hindu convert and bearing in mind the fact that Abfl Yazid considered that he had learnt the "ultimate truths" from him, it is quite possible that the solution to the problem will be found in the sacred literature of the Hindus. In fact it is: for the phrase takfmu anta dhdka, "Thou art That" appears to be a literal translation of the Sanskrit tat tvam asi, which not only has meaning in that language but is also perhaps the most celebrated of all the so-called mahdvdkydni or "great sayings" of the Upani.sads. It would have been familiar to any Hindu in the ninth century as it is to any educated Hindu to-day. It is the classic formulation of the advaita or non-dualistic Vedanta, and it occurs as a refrain in the Chgndogya Upani.sad 6.8-16. This sequence is very famous and the doctrine propounded throughout is that the human soul or dtman is identical with the ground of all existence, the Absolute or Brahman. This teaching is illustrated by a series of similes, the first of which runs as follows: As bees prepare honey by collecting the pollen (rasa) of different trees and by reducing that pollen to a unity, and as (the different pollens) are not able to discriminate, (saying) "I am the pollen of this tree", or "I am the pollen of that tree", even so all creatures here when they reach Reality, do not know that they have reached Reality. Whatever they may be in this world, whether tiger, lion, wolf, boar, worm, fly, gnat, or mosquito, that Reality do they

2~ Farid al-Din 'At~tr, Tadhkirat al-Awliya, ed. Nicholson (London/Leyden, Luzac/ Brill, 1905), p. 174. 33 P. 102 in his "Abstract of Contents". ~4 Essai, p. 278. Arberry (Sufism, p. 55, and Revelation and Reason, p. 95) renders takfma in a future sense.

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become. That which is the finest essence - this whole world has it as its soul. That is Reality. That is the ~tman (soul). That art Thou. 25 The Upanis.ad then develops further similes illustrating the fact that all things are one and that the eternal soul of m a n is one thing with the ultimate ground of reality. Each simile ends with the phrase "Thou art That", meaning that the "deep ground" of each human soul is identical with the first principle of the Universe. Only if we know this does Ab~ Yazid's takfmu anta dhaka make any sense. He asks G o d to show him to the world "adorned in His unity", and when G o d ' s creatures see him so adorned, they see him not as Ab~ Yazid, the man of Bis.t~tm, but as the "finest essence" of Ab~ Yazid, that is, as God, the ground of the universe; so they exclaim: "We have seen Thee, and That art Thou." They recognize Abet Yazid as God. This, of course, was the most appalling blasphemy to the Muslim, but to a Hindu it sounds perfectly natural: it was (and is) the very essence of the Vedanta. The occurrence of this phrase in one of the shat.h,iyydt of AbQ Yazid coupled with the fact that his spiritual director was, in all probability, a convert from Hinduism, seems to me to amount to p r o o f that it was Abfi Yazid of Bist.gm who was ultimately responsible for the introduction of Ved~ntin ideas into Islam. The resemblances of other shat.hiyydt quoted by Sarr~tj to Upani.sadic passages are less striking, and there is no need to insist on them unduly. There is, however, a passage in BirOni which is equally striking and on which we shall have to insist. However, let us take the passages from Sarraj first. The second of these runs as follows: As soon as I reached His unity, I became a bird whose body was of oneness and whose wings were of everlastingness, and I went on flying in the atmosphere of relativity (kayfiyya) for ten years until I entered into an atmosphere a million times as large; and I went on flying until I reached the expanse of eternity and in it I saw the tree of oneness. Then [says Sarr~tj] he described the soil in which it grew, its root and branch, its shoots and fruits, and then he said, "And I knew that all this was deceit (khad'a). T M It would be idle to pretend that there is any exact parallel to this remarkable passage in the Upanis.ads, but we are, perhaps, justified in insisting on the simile of the tree, which appears both in the Upanisads and the Bhagavad-gitfi, and even more on the use of the word khad'a, "deceit". The simile of the cosmic tree appears both in the Ka.tha and the Svet~gvatara Upani.sads, and the Kat.ha version reappears in a modified version 25 Ch~ndogya Upani.sad, 6.9.1-4. 2~ Sarr~j,op. cit., p. 384.

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in the Gitft 15.1-3. The Ka.tha speaks of this eternal fig-tree in the following terms: This eternal fig-tree has its roots above, its branches below. This is the pure, this is Brahman, this is called the immortal. All the worlds rest upon it and no one goes beyond it. 2r The Gitfi elaborates on this theme and speaks of the branches of the tree as growing through the so-called gun.as, "qualities" or "modes" of existence (Skt. gun.a = Ar. kayfiyya?), and of the roots as stretching down into the world of man. 2s This tree - and here the Gifft is at variance with the Ka.tha - must be cut down with the weapon of detachment. There would be no point in maintaining that the tree of Abfi Yazid is identical with the eternal fig-tree of either the Ka.tha Upani.sad or with that of the Gitft. In the Gifft this tree is both in eternity and in the phenomenal world, and this too is true of Abfl Yazid's shajarat ala.hadiyya which turns out in the end to be khad'a or "deceit". There is a further resemblance in that Abfi Yazid described himself as flying through the atmosphere of kayfiyya, lit. "quality", whereas the Gitft speaks of the tree as being gu.na-prav.rddhd, "growing out of the gun.as or qualities". Thence Ab~ Yazid flies to the mayddn al-azaliyya, "the expanse of eternity", and in both the Kat.ha and the Gifft we find that the tree is described as sandtana and avyaya, "eternal" or "imperishable". Finally when he surveys the tree itself Abfl Yazid realizes that it is khad'a or "deceit"; and it is because, in the Gita, the tree does not represent the ultimate reality that it must be cut down "with the weapon of detachment". Both in the Gitfi and the Ka.tha the basic idea of the tree, which has its roots above and its branches beneath, is that the one reality, Brahman, is the root, and the phenomenal world is its branches; and in the classical Ved~nta, though not earlier than the Svefftgvatara Upani.sad, the phenomenal world is called mdyd. In fact if you try to translate mdyd into Arabic, the nearest equivalent you witl find is khad'a. For khad'a Lane gives "a single act of deceit, delusion, guile, circumvention, or outwitting", and for rndyd Monier-Williams gives inter alia "illusion, trick, artifice, deceit, deception, fraud, jugglery". Khad'a is, then, an exact translation of mdyd. In Sanskrit the sentence "And I knew this was all a fraud (mdyd = khadCa) '', i.e. "I knew that this (the phenomenal world) was mdyd or an illusion", is immediately compre27 Kat.haUp., 6.1. 28 BhagGitfi, 15.3. This seems to contradict w 1, in which the roots are described as being above as in the Katha.

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hensible as being a statement of the Vedfintin position. To a Muslim of Ab~ Yazid's time it can have had little meaning. Yet impressive though these parallelisms with the Kat.ha Upani.sad and the Bhagavad-gith may be as corroborative evidence, there are two passages in another Upanis.ad, the Svetggvatara, which are even closer to the particular Shat..h of Abfi Yazid which we are discussing. The first (3.9) speaks of Puru.sa (the Primal Person, here used in the sense of God) in the following terms: There is nothing beyond Him, nothing more minute than He or greater than He. Firmly established in heaven he stands like a tree, the One. This whole world is filled by Him who is Puru~a. ~9 The metaphor of the tree certainly have just quoted. Here it is rooted or pervades the phenomenal world. Upani.sad (4.6-10) the similarity to even more striking: derives from in heaven (as In the second Abg Yazid's the Ka.tha passage we the Absolute), yet fills passage from the same "ecstatic utterance" is

Two birds, closely linked companions, cling to the same tree. One of them eats its sweet fruit, while the other looks on without eating. (7) On the same tree a person, sunken and deluded, grieves at his impotence; when he sees the other, the Lord contented, and his greatness, his grief departs. (8) All the gods are seated in highest heaven on that syllable of the sacred hymn (.re). What use can the sacred hymn be to him who does not know that? They who know that (the highest secret doctrine) are here assembled. (9) From that (Brahman?) the master of delusion (rn~yi) emits this whole (world) - metres, sacrifices, ceremonies, ordinances, the past, the future, and what the Vedas proclaim. In it, by delusion (rn~yay~) the other (the individual soul) is confined. (10) Now one should know that the phenomenal world (prakrtirn) is delusion and that the Great Lord is the master of delusion. Now, according to the commentaries, both ancient and modern, of the two birds the one that "eats sweet fruit" is the individual soul while still in bondage to "the world", whereas the other is the soul which has cut itself free from the world and realized itself as the Absolute. This contrast is made clear in w7. The simile of the bird is striking since it reappears in Abfl Yazid. The stanza of the "two birds" (w 6) is taken from the Rig-Veda (I, 164.20) and is interpreted in a wholly new manner by the Upani.sad. Moreover, it calls to mind, as Aliette Silburn has 29 Mas'fldi, ~Mut'ftj al-dhahab, ed. Barbier de Meynard, IV, p. 65, knows this simile, but attributes it to Plato: "Plato said, 'Man is a heavenly plant as is shown by the fact that he resembles an inverted tree with its roots in heaven and its branches on earth.'" Al-insan "man" would be a literal translation of Slit. puru~a, the original meaning of which is "a male person"!

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pointed out in her edition of the Svetfi~vatara, ~~ another Rig-Vedic passage (X, 114.4): eka.h suparna.h sa samudram ~ vivega: sa idarh vigvain bhuvana/n vi cas.te. That one bird entered the atmosphere: 31 (thence) it scans this whole world.

This exactly corresponds to Abfl Yazid's idea of himself as a "bird whose body was of oneness" which reaches an atmosphere (hawd = Skt. samudram, glossed antarik.sam) a million times as large as the atmosphere of relativity (lit. "quality", kayfiyya). It is not by any means certain whether we are justified in regarding kayfiyya as being an Arabic rendering of Skt. gun. a, since a more natural translation might be .s/fa. The idea of God being concealed by his own gu.nas or qualities does, however, also appear in the Svefftgvatara Upani.sad itself (1.3): te dhyana-yoganugata apa~yan devatma-gaktiht sarva-gun.air nighd.ham, Those who have practised the yoga of meditation have witnessed God's own power concealed in all "qualities".

This is perhaps the earliest appearance of gakti, God's creative power which originates the phenomenal world either as prak.rti or pradhdna (corresponding approximately to primal matter) or as mdyd, the famous "illusory" creation of the advaita Vedfinta - a term which is first used in this sense in this same Svefftgvatara Upani.sad (4.9-10 see above). Thus we see that this particular shat..h of Ab~ Yazid can be derived entirely from the ~vetggvatara, from the Rig-Vedic passages on which, according to Aliette Silburn, it draws, and from the Kat.ha Upani.sad on which it depends for the simile of the tree. Let us list the correspondances: ABU YAZID I became a bird whose body was of oneness . . . . . . and I went on flying in the atmosphere of relativity (quality) until I entered an atmosphere a million times as large, and I went on flying until I reached the expanse of eternity, and in it I saw the tree of oneness . . . . . . and I knew that all this was deceit. BRAHMANICALSOURCES (RV.X, 114.4) That one bird entered the atmosphere (of) (SvUp. 1.3) God's own power concealed in all qualities (which is) (Kat.hUp. 6.1) the eternal fig-tree with its roots above and its branches below (cf. SvUp. 3.9 and 4.6-7): (RV. ibid.) (thence the one bird) scans this whole worm (which is prak.rti): (~vUp. 4.10) and prak.rti is deceit.

It may well be objected that in this case we have reconstructed Abfi Yazid's saying from a variety of Indian sources. This is true, but the ao Paris, Maisonneuve, 1948, p. 14. 31 samudram antarik.sam (Says.ha).

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main source remains the ~vetagvatara Upani.sad, in which alone are to be found the simile of the bird, the tree, the idea of God's qualities, and the conclusion that the whole phenomenal world is mdyd. The simile of the tree itself is drawn from the Ka.tha, whereas the relevant Rig-Vedic passage belongs to the same world of ideas in which the Svetagvatara was developed. The exactness of the parallels so reconstructed is arresting, particularly if we remember that Abfl Yazid's utterance would be the result of verbal transmission in which the different themes, all apparently deriving from different texts associated with the Svet~vatara, were combined. The fact that the Svetggvatara is a sectarian Saivite Upani.sad will be seen to be significant when we come to discuss AbQ Yazid's classic dictum, and hftwa, "I am He". There would seem little point in trying to elucidate the third of the shat..hiyydt reported by Sarraj, nor would even a translation serve any useful purpose since even in the original it is incomprehensible and was probably intended to be so. In it Abfi Yazid embarks on what is usually called the via negativa, the way of detachment from all things and then of detaching oneself even from detachment (technically called fand 'an al-fand), the final stage of which Abfi Yazid describes as al-taw.hidff'lghaybftbat al-khalq Can al-Cdriffl 2 "unity consisting in the disappearance of all creation from the sight of the mystic". This too corresponds to the ultimate state of the Vedantin in which the self is realized as the Absolute and all contingent being is forgotten since, from the point of view of the Absolute, it does not exist at all. There is identity of idea but not identity of terminology. 33 Again, let us consider the most famous of all Ab~ Yazid's sayings, sub.hdnT, md a'z.ama sha'n~, "Glory be to me, how great is my glory". Sarrajfla incidentally, quotes only sub.hdnf without the second sentence, and this is exactly paralleled in one of the later Upani.sads, where we find the phrase mahyam eva namo namah., which means precisely "Glory be to me"? 5 Again in Sanskrit the phrase does not shock since, for the Vedanta, man's eternal soul, his dtman, is identical with Brahman, the Absolute, and therefore to say "Glory be to me" is anything but bias3~ See Sarrftj, op. tit., p. 387. 3a I see no reason to suppose that this shat.h of Abfi Yazid's marks a transition from "negative" Buddhism to "positive" Brahmanism, as Horten (Indische Str6mungen, p. 21) seems to have supposed. There is plenty of "negativism" in the Upani.sads (see Hume's translation, index under "negatives"). The constant use of laysa in this shat.h may possibly reflect the neti neti which figures so largely in the B.rhad~ranyaka. 34 Op. cit., p. 390. 3~ See F. O. Schrader, The Minor Upani.sads (Madras, 1912), vol. I, p. 257.

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phemous. This is far from the case in Islam, Christianity, and even Neo-Platonism. In this instance the complete verbal identity would seem to prove our case. Of all the parallelisms between A b a Yazid and the religious classics of Brahmanism perhaps the most striking of all is a saying of the saint preserved not by Sarrfij, but by Birfmi. It reads as follows: I sloughed off my self as a snake sloughs off its skin: then I looked into my essence (dhdti) and lo, I was He. a~ This saying also appears in the Al-nftr rain kalimdt Abi .Tayfflr - but with a significant variant. For "I looked into my essence" this text reads "I looked into myself" (nafsO. 37 I find it hard to believe that the two versions do not represent the two meanings of the Sanskrit word dtman, which is used either as a simple reflexive pronoun or else as the technical term for the "essence" of the human soul, which is at the same time identical with Brahman (wa-idhd and hf~wa, "and lo, I was He", as Abfi Yazid puts it). This, however, is not mere speculation, for once again we have an almost exact parallel in one of the Upani.sads, this time the B.rhadfiran.yaka. There we read (4.4.7 and 12): As the sloughed off skin of a snake lies on an ant-hill, dead, cast off, so does this body lie. But this incorporeal, immortal spirit is Brahman indeed, is light indeed . . . . If a man should know himself (or the essence of all things - dtmdham) and say "I am He", what could he possibly wish for or desire that would make him cling to the body? Here again the resemblance is too close to be fortuitous: there is the same simile of the snake sloughing off its skin and the same conclusion framed in the same words ("I am He", ayam asmi, and hf~wa) and expressing in the shortest possible compass the basic doctrine of the Ved~mta, viz., the identity of the individual human soul with the Absolute. It is perhaps worth noting in this connexion that the formula "I am He" (so'ham) became the slogan and the credo of the Saivite Hindus, 38 and it is therefore probable that Abfl Yazid's spiritual director was a convert from this sect. To sum up: There seem to be enough close verbal correspondences between the shat..hiyydt of Abfl Yazid and the Hindu religious classics to make it as certain as such things can be that Abfi Yazid received oral

3~ 37 38 p.

Birfini, India, ed. Sachau, p. 43: translation, pp. 8%88. Badawi, op. cit., p. 77. Cf. particularly the concluding verses of the Maitreya Upani.sad (Schrader, Ol). cit., 119 ff with the recurring so'smy aham.

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instruction from his master, Ab~ 'AII al-Sindi, in the basic doctrines of the Vedanta as expressed in the Upani.sads. This is implicit in Sarr~tj's statement that al-Sindi taught Abfa Yazid tawh. fd and the .haqd'iq in return for instruction in the correct performance of the externals of Islam. This seems to be conclusively confirmed by the appearance in Sarr~tj of the formula "Thou art That", which can only derive from the Ch~mdogya Upani.sad and by the appearance of the simile of the snake sloughing off its skin in conjunction with the formula "I am He", and this again is directly traceable to the B.rhad~ra.nyaka. This would seem to constitute a sufficient proof that Abet Yazid, albeit unwittingly, was responsible for introducing into .Sfafism a monistic type of mysticism, which is quite at variance with the mysticism of love which had preceded it; and this mysticism he took over, probably without knowing it, from India. Our case must rest primarily upon these passages alone. The other passages quoted serve as corroborative evidence only: in themselves they would only have established a probability, not a proof. The fact that sub.hdnf appears to be a direct translation of a Sanskrit phrase in a minor Upani.sad is less impressive because the Upanis.ad in question is not "canonical", whereas both the B.rhad~ran.yaka and the Chandogya are universally admitted as having scriptural authority. Similarly the equation khad'a = m~yd, though striking, cannot be regarded as more than corroboration of our two basic texts. If the arguments advanced in this article are accepted, it means that Ved~tntin ideas came into Islam through Abfi Yazid of Bist.~tm. Whether or not they were independently introduced by .Hallaj half a century later, cannot be discussed here. In any case it is immaterial: for, from the point of view of the history of .Sfifism, Abfi Yazid is the more important character, for he was regarded as a saint even by the most orthodox .S~is. What he said could not so easily be dismissed as heretical, and so it is that even Junayd of Baghdad whom orthodox .SOfis regarded as their model, did not attempt to denounce Abf~ Yazid's wildly heretical utterances; he merely tried to explain them away. Monism, then, was not a natural growth in Islam: it was imported in the ninth century from India, expounded by a loveable and saintly man who himself had no idea of what he was doing, and who was nonetheless to leave his imprint on the whole subsequent development of .SQfism which was soon, under his influence, to adopt an ever more uncompromising monism. The belief that the soul is actually identical with God was later to become the "verity of verities" of esoteric .SOfism. It was a doctrine that Ghaz~di was to combat in all his works written for a wide public, but it was

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"truth" that he himself accepted in his heart of hearts as the Mishkdt aLAnwdr clearly shows. It was a "truth" that Abfi Yazid, the peasant of Bist.am, seems to have learnt from an Indian sage and passed on to a baffled Islam.