Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": AL-HASAN EXTOLS ASCETICISM


Al-Hasan al-Barri flourished in the eighth century A.D. (Died A.D. 728=110 A.H).

Beware of this world (dunya)with all wariness; for it is like to a snake, smooth to the touch, but its venom is deadly. . . . The more it pleases thee, the more thou be wary of it, for the man of this world, whenever he feels secure in any pleasure thereof, the world drives him over into some unpleasantness, and whenever he attains any part of it and squats him down in it, the world turns him upside down. And again beware of this world, for its hopes are lies, its expectations false; its easefulness is all harshness, muddied its limpidity. . . . Even had the Almighty not pronounced upon the world at all or coined for it any similitude . . . yet would the world itself have awakened the slumberer and roused the heedless; how much more then, seeing that God has Himself sent us a warning against it! . . . For this world has neither worth nor weight with God, so slight it is. . . . It was offered to our Prophet, with all its keys and treasures . . . but he refused to accept it, and nothing prevented him from accepting it-for there is naught that can lessen him in God's sight-but he disdained to love what his creator hated, and to exalt what his Sovereign had debased. As for Muhammad, he bound a stone upon his belly when he was hungry; and as for Moses . . . it is said of him in the stories that God revealed to him, 'Moses, when thou seest poverty approaching, say, 'Welcome to the badge of the righteous!' And when thou seest wealth approaching, say, 'Lo! a sin whose punishment has been put on aforetime.' If thou shouldst wish, thou mightest name as a third the Lord of the Spirit and the Word [Jesus], for in his affair there is a marvel; he used to say, 'My daily bread is hunger, my badge is fear, my raiment is wool, my mount is my foot, my lantern at night is the moon, and my fire by day is the sun, and my fruit and fragrant herbs are such things as the earth brings forth for the wild beasts and the cattle. All the night I have nothing, yet there is none richer than I!'


Translation by A. J. Arberry, in his Sufism (London, 1950), PP. 33-5; as abridged by John Alden Williams, Islam (New York, 1961), pp. 139-40

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