The Woman That Was Bu Yazid’s Pir (Old Sage)

It has been narrated that someone asked Bu Yazid, “Who is your Pir (Old Sage)?” replied, “An old woman! One day I was overwhelmed by Shawq (Divine Yearning) & Tawhid (Divine Oneness) as if the thinness of a hair could not fit within me. So I drifted away into the desert Self-less (his Self completely away or that was what he thought). Until I reached an old woman burdened by a load of flour who asked me to carry it for her. But I was in such state that could not even carry myself. So I pointed at a lion [1] and the animal came obediently, whereat placed the load upon its back and told the old woman, “If you made it to the town whom would you say you saw?” I wanted to make sure she did not know who I was. She replied, “I say I saw a Ra’naa (Dissembling) Zaalim (Cruel Transgressor) [2]”. Angrily I responded, “Huh! What are you talking about?” The old woman said, “Is this lion meant to carry out this kind of work?” and I said no [3] then she continued, “You are forcibly employing this animal while Lord Almighty did not oblige it (to carry loads) is this not cruelty?” I replied affirmative [4]. Further she said, “And even after all this (transgression) you want the people of the town to know you were the one who tamed the lion i.e. you are the bestower of Karaamaat (Sufi generosity & beneficence) is this not Riaa (Dissemblance or show off with Dissimulation)?” I replied affirmative again. I repented [5] and fell from the lofty (state of Sufism) into lowly (state of my behavior). This was the teaching of my Pir (Old Sage). [6]


[1] Bu Yazid had reached such lofty status of mental and spiritual powers that could tame animals by simply pointing at them.

[2] Ra’naa similar to Ra’y or Riaa is a common Arabic word in Koran and Sufism dealing with people doing good to show off i.e. dissembling and intentional eye-service. Allah dislikes such mannerisms. In Sufism it is the worse possible crime.

[3] Notice in all the questions the old woman asked Bu Yazid he answered promptly, truthfully without thinking of the consequences.

[4] Sufi is not on this earth to change anything as a matter of fact the less impact the Sufi has the more pious he is and closer to Orf (Divine Noesis).

[5] This is Bu Yazid the greatest erudite of Sufism, a renowned scholar and a pious man but took the admonishment from an old nobody woman—midst a male dominated society—and immediately, unconditionally and publicly repented.

[6] Look carefully into the past. Remember those PECULIAR moments when someone said or did something to you, that up to now, it is present fresh in front of your face. Something that touched your heart with perhaps some pain or shame. That someone was your Sheikh or Sheikhah (female wise woman). Beloved spoke to us through their tongue, often nobodies of little importance, but did we have ears to hear what was said to us?

Background: Haitian woman.  Photo by Baldek.

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda