Junayd of Baghdad

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Abu al-Qasim ibn Muhammad Junayd, al-Baghdad
Title Sayyid-ut Taifa
Born 220 AH
Died 297/298 AH
Religion Islam
Jurisprudence Shafi'i
Main interest(s) Sufism, Divine Love,theology, philosophy, logic, Islamic jurisprudence
Notable idea(s) Divine love

Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd, Abu al-Qasim al-Qawariri al-Khazzaz al-Nahawandi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi’i (Persian: جنید بغدادی‎‎) was one of the most famous of the early Persian[1][2] Muslim mystics (sufi), of Islam and is a central figure in the golden chain of many Sufi orders. Junayd taught in Baghdad throughout his spiritual lifetime and was an important figure in the development of central Sufi doctrine. Junayd, like Hasan of Basra before him, was widely revered by his students and disciples as well as quoted by other mystics. Because of his importance in Sufi theology, Junayd was often referred to as the "Sultan".[3]

Early Years[edit]

Since childhood, Junaid felt the pain of Divine separation and was a devout seeker of God. Regardless of spiritual sorrow, he was known was for his quick understanding and discipline. When Sirri Saqti accepted him, it was because he presented a purely theological statement as he insisted Sirri Saqti to take the alms given by his father. “I beg you to take it. by the God who has dealt so graciously with you and so justly with my father.” “Junaid. How did God deal graciously with me and justly with me? “demanded Sirri Saqti. Junaid replied, “God vouchsafed your poverty and God occupied my father with worldly affairs. You are free to accept or reject whereas my father has to deliver these alms to the one worthy of it.” Sirri Saqti was pleased, “I accept you before I accept your alms.” As Junaid had a special place in the heart of Sirri Saqti, he would take him along in the religious discussions he would have. Junaid was only 7 years of age when Sirri Saqti took him along for Haj. In Masjid-e-Nabwi, there were 400 shaikhs discussing the concept of ‘thankfulness’ whereby each expounded his own view. When Sirri Saqti told him to present his definition, Junaid said, “Thankfulness means that should not disobey God by means of the favour which he has bestowed upon you nor make of His favour a soruce of disobedience.” The 400 shaikhs unanimously agreed that no other words could define the term better. Sirri Saqti asked Junaid from where he learn all this. Junaid replied, “From sitting with you.” [4]

Spiritual Journey[edit]

Junaid went back to Baghdad and took up selling glasses. However, he spent most of the time in prayer. Hence, he retired to the porch of Sirri Saqti’s house and kept himself away from worldly matters devoting his thoughts only to God. People need to “relinquish natural desires, to wipe out human attributes, to discard selfish motives, to cultivate spiritual qualities, to devote oneself to true knowledge, to do what is best in the context of eternity, to wish good for the entire community, to be truly faithful to God, and to follow the Prophet in the matters of the Shari’a”.[5] This starts with the practice of renunciation (zuhd) and continues with withdrawal from society, intensive concentration on devotion (ibadat) & remembrance (dhikr) of God, sincerity (ikhlas), and contemplation (muraqaba) respectively; contemplation produces fana.[5] Junaid spend 40 years in his mystic course praying while sacrificing his sleep and any other worldly desires but then a conceit in his heart arose that he has achieved his goal. By then he inspired by Allah that “He who is not worthy of union, all his good works are but sins.” This meant that the prayers which become a source of pride are useless as true prayer makes a person more humble and devoted to God. His name became famous in many parts of the world despite the persecution he faced and the tongues of slander shot at him. Even then, he did not start preaching until 30 of the great saints indicated to him that he should now call men to God. However, he chose not to preach as yet saying, “While the master is there, it is not seemingly for the disciple to preach.” But after witnessing Hazrat Mohammad in his dream commanding him to preach, he had to listen to Master Sirri Saqti. The intensity of Divine Love poured out of speech of Junaid such that out of the 40 people he first preached, 18 died and 22 fainted.[6] His khalifah and most dear disciple was Abu Bakr Shibli.[4]

Spiritual Chain[edit]

Abu Bakr Shibli then continued the teachings of his master.[6]

Works by Juanid[edit]

Junaid helped establish the “sober” school of Sufi thought, which meant that he was very logical and scholarly about his definitions of various virtues, Tawhid, etc. Sober Sufism is characterized by people who “experience fana [and] do not subsist in that state of selfless absorption in God but find themselves returned to their senses by God. Such returnees from the experience of selflessness are thus reconstituted as renewed selves,” just like an intoxicated person sobering up.[7] For example, Junaid is quoted as saying, “The water takes on the color of the cup.” While this might seem rather confusing at first, ‘Abd al-Hakeem Carney explains it best: “When the water is understood here to refer to the Light of Divine self-disclosure, we are led to the important concept of ‘capacity,’ whereby the Divine epiphany is received by the heart of any person according to that person’s particular receptive capacity and will be ‘colored’ by that person’s nature”.[8] As one can see, such a simple phrase holds such deep meaning; it brings the reader back to a deeper understanding of God through a more thoughtful metaphor.

There are a few other problems when encountering Junaid’s texts. Also, according to Sells, “…Junaid seems to presuppose that his hearer or reader has had the experience about which he is speaking – or, even more radically, that the hearer or reader is able to enter that experience, or some re-creation of it – at the moment of encounter with Junaid’s words”.[6] This statement makes it seem like Junaid was writing to a specific sect of the elite that he described earlier. The elite that he refers to are the elect, or “a tightly-knit group of ‘brethren’ that Junaid designates by such phrases as ‘the choice of believers’ or ‘the pure ones.’ They play significant roles in the community of believers…”.[7] As mentioned, Junaid has always been difficult to read for scholars because most of his writings have been lost to time. Junaid constantly uses precise words & language specific to try and describe God, the longing for Him, and the human condition. His ornate language immediately turns off most people, but Junaid had a reason for writing so cryptically. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Junaid found out that a letter he had written was opened by a stranger before it got to its destination: “doubtless by some zealot desirous of finding cause for impugning his orthodoxy; and to this ever-present danger must in part be attributed the deliberate preciosity which marks the writings of all the mystics of J̲unayd's period”.[9] This constant worry about others getting a hold of his ideas caused Junaid to become very protective of his writings.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S.H. Nasr, "Iran" in History of Humanity: From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, edited by Sigfried J. de Laet, M. A. Al-Bakhit, International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind History of mankind, L. Bazin, S. M. Cissco. Published by Taylor & Francis US, 2000. p. 368.
  2. ^ Edward Granville Browne, "A Literary History of Persia", Published by Iranbooks, 1997. Originally published: 1902. excerpt 428: "It is noteworthy that both Bayazid and Junaid were Persians, and may very likely have imported to sufism.
  3. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, al-Junayd (p. 211), Suhail Academy co.
  4. ^ a b Tadhkirat Al-Auliya by Farid al-Din Attar. London, England.: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1990. ISBN 0-14-019264-6, 32-38
  5. ^ a b Ansari, Muhammad Abdul Haq. "The Doctrine of One Actor: Junaid's View of Tawhid." The Muslim World 1(1983): 33-56. Electronic.
  6. ^ a b c Sells, Michael A.. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Koran, Mi'raj, Poetic and Theological Writings. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1996. Print.
  7. ^ a b Karamustafa, Ahmet T.. Sufism: The Formative Period. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Print.
  8. ^ Carney, 'Abd al-Hakeen. "Imamate and Love: The Discourse of the Divine in Islamic Mysticism." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 3(2005): 705-730. Electronic.
  9. ^ Arberry, A.J. "al- ḎJ̲unayd, Abu 'l-Ḳāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Ḏj̲unayd al-Ḵh̲azzāz al-Ḳawārīrī al-Nihāwandī." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. Augustana. 30 April 2009 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/al-djunayd-SIM_2117>

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