Sahl al-Tustari

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Persian Muslim scholar, Sufi
Sahl al-Tustari
Born c818 C.E. (203 AH) in Shushtar, Iran
Died c896 C.E. (283 AH) in Basra, Iraq
Ethnicity Persian
Era Islamic golden age
Region ahwaz
Main interest(s) Sufism, Islamic Theology
Notable work(s) Tafsir

Sahl al-Tustari (Persian: سهل شوشتری‎) or al-Tustari, born Abu Muhammed Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah (c818 C.E. (203 AH) - c896 C.E. (283 AH)), was a Persian Muslim scholar and early classical Sufi mystic.[1] He founded the Salimiyah Muslim theological school, which was named after his disciple Muhammad ibn Salim.[2]

Tustari is most famous for his controversial claim that "I am the Proof of God for the created beings and I am a proof for the saints (awliya) of my time"[1] and for his well-known Tafsir, a commentary on and interpretation of the Qur'an.


Sahl Al-Tustari was born in the fortress town of Tustar (Arabic) or Shushtar (Persian) in Khūzestān Province in what is now southwestern Iran.[1]

From an early age he led an ascetic life with frequent fasting and study of the Qur'an and Hadith, the oral traditions, of the Prophet Muhammad. He practised repentance (tawbah) and, above all, constant remembrance of God (dhikr). This eventually culminated in a direct and intimate rapport with God with whom he considered himself a special friend and one of the spiritual elect.[1]

Tustari was under the direction of the Sufi saint Dhul-Nun al-Misri for a time, and Tustari in his turn was one of the Sufi mystic and later martyr Mansur Al-Hallaj's early teachers.[3] In these early days when the Sufis were becoming established mostly in Baghdad (the capital of modern Iraq), the most notable Sufis of the time elsewhere were: Tustari in southwestern Iran, Al-Tirmidhi in Central Asia and the Malamatiyya or "People of Blame".[4]

An Islamic scholar who commented on and interpreted the Qur'an, Tustari maintained that the Qur'an "contained several levels of meaning", which included the outer or zahir and the inner or batin. Another key idea that he unravelled was the meaning of the Prohet Muhammad's saying "I am He and He is I, save that I am I, and He is He", explaining it "as a mystery of union and realization at the center of the Saint's personality, called the sirr ('the secret'), or the heart, where existence joins Being."[5] Tustari also "was the first to put" the Sufi exercise of remembrance of God, Dhikr, "on a firm theoretical basis."[6]

[Tustari] maintained that ultimately [...] it became clear to the recollector that the true agent of recollection was not the believer engaged in recollection but God Himself, who commemorated Himself in the heart of the believer. This realisation of God's control over the heart led the believer to the state of complete trust in the Divine.[1]


  • al-Tustari, Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah; Meri, Yousef (editor), Keeler, Annabel and Keeler, Ali (translators) (Dec 2009). Tafsir Al-Tustari: Great Commentaries of the Holy Qur'an. Fons Vitae. ISBN 1-891785-19-2. 


  • "I am the Proof of God for the created beings and I am a proof for the saints (awliya) of my time"[1]
  • Asked "What is food?" Tustari replied: "Food is contemplation of the Living One."[7]
  • "Whoever wakes up worrying about what he will eat -- shun him!"[8]
  • "If any one shuts his eye to God for a single moment, he will never be rightly guided all his life long"[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Karamustafa, Ahmet T. (Professor) (2007). Sufism: The Formative Period. University of California Press. pp. 38–43. ISBN 0-520-25269-1. Co-publisher: Edinburgh University Press.
  2. ^ Staff. "Salimiyah (Muslim theological school)". Encyclopaedia Britannica (online). Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  3. ^ Mason, Herbert W. (1995). Al-Hallaj. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 83. ISBN 0-7007-0311-X. 
  4. ^ Cornell, Vincent J. (2006). Voices of Islam, Volume 1: Voices of Tradition. Praeger Publishers. pp. 254–255. ISBN 0-275-98732-9. 
  5. ^ Glasse, Cyril (2008). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 393. ISBN 0-7425-6296-4. 
  6. ^ Hovannisian, Richard G.; Sabagh, Georges (1998). The Persian presence in the Islamic world. Cambridge University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-521-59185-6. 
  7. ^ Shah, Idries (1983). Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way. Octagon Press. p. 149. ISBN 0-900860-59-6.  First published 1978. According to Idries Shah this refers to the fact that "Sufi learning comes through nutrition."
  8. ^ Jami, Al-Ghazzali and Hakim Sanai (1980). Four Sufi Classics: "Salaman and Absal", "Niche for Lights", "Way of the Seeker" and "Abode of Spring". Octagon Press. p. 191. ISBN 0-900860-69-3. 
  9. ^ Nicholson, Reynold A. (2002). The Mystics of Islam. World Wisdom. p. 41. ISBN 0-941532-48-8. 


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