Qoshairi Manifest

Chapter 9

Zohd (Asceticism) [0]

Abu-Khaled narrated from the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him:

If you see, within this world, a man is given Zohd (Asceticism) the reason & rationalism accost him because Hekmah (Firm Wisdom) was bestowed upon him (already)”. [1]

Imam has said that people (Sufis) have had varied opinions about Zohd (Asceticism). (He means there are many facets to this practice)

Some said that Zohd (Asceticism) is for Haram (Forbidden) (One has to renounce the worldly things that are forbidden in the religion). But the Halal (Lawful) provision is from Allah sent to Its subjects they MUST enjoy the consumption and offer gratitude in return, and they are not allowed to refuse the provisions and doing so is incongruent to Adab (Morals & Decency).

Some others said that it is better for the man to be content & patient with scant provision than abundance & wealth. Since Allah has said, “Say: "Short is the enjoyment of this world”” (Koran [4:77]) and there are other verses with the same supporting argument—belittling this world.

Some others said the person spends in charitable causes during the prosperous times and (during the hard times) inclined towards patience to avoid the Haram (Forbidden). Therefore his Zohd (Asceticism) is perfected during the prosperous times.

Some said the slave should not stop seeking after the Halal (Lawful) provision instead not to seek more than what he needs. He plays it by the ear: If given much provision offers gratitude and when given just enough does not seek after more. The best part of being a Dervish is the patience and the best of being wealthy is to offer gratitude.

About Zohd (Asceticism) much has been argued, each to its own according to the times and personal capacity & experience. (In other words no one out there should put a seal of finality on some definition of Zohd (Asceticism) and claim it all his own)

People have heard from Sofian Thowry that Zohd (Asceticism) is the shortening of the worldly hopes & expectations and Zohd (Asceticism) is not about wearing rags and eating harsh food. (Being a monk in a cave and eating scraps is not Zohd (Asceticism))

Serri said, “Lord has snatched away this world from Its Awlia (Divine Noble Patricians) and prevented it from Asfia (Pure Souls). And ejected the love of this world from the hearts of Its lovers since It was not satisfied and pleased (with this world) as has been said by Allah, “In order that ye may not despair over matters that pass you by, nor exult over favors bestowed upon you” (Koran [57:23]). (Zahid (Ascetic) keeps a cap-limit on the joys & sorrows of gain & loss. So he does enjoy pleasures of receiving provisions but to a limit, and he does suffer with sorrow about the losses but again to some limit. Settings of these limits are a personal matter and a matter a teacher can help a student with)

Abu-Othman said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is unclasping the hands from this world while not worrying about whose hands clasps at it”.  (This is really pretty, lets not worry about grabbing much wealth and power but if others do, not to worry about their success. If you forsake this world but then worry about why others have so much, that is not Zohd (Asceticism))

I heard from Abu-Ali, “Zohd (Asceticism) is unclasping hands from this world. (Even) preventing one’s Self from saying, “I will build a homeless shelter or a Mosque””. (He is warning about lofty Self-promoting projects. To renounce this world, even in acts of charity and worship to do away with the consumption as much as possible. Wish to feed a person sandwich rather than building a charitable corporate empire)

Ibn Jalla said, “Zahid (Ascetic) is the one looking down at this world with the eyes of cessation & extinction until such time this world is so belittled to you that turning away from it is easy”.

Ibn Khafif said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is the respite by exiting from the kingdom (world)”. (The relief for a king suffering and managing a kingdom)

Some said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is pleasing the heart by emptying it from (the stress) of reasons & causes, and removing the hands from the possessions”.

Nasr Abadi has said, “Zahid (Ascetic) is a stranger in this world and ‘Aref (Divine Cognoscenti) is stranger in the World After”. (Zahid renounced this world never to struggle to gain more than what he needs and leaves the rest to others. Similarly, ‘Aref does not believe he deserves much of the Hereafter due to the lowbred nature of his Self thus in his heart he is entitled to the minimum of Hereafter, if anything)

And people have said, "If someone is true about his Zohd (Asceticism) then the world will come to him with humility”. If a hat falls of the sky, it shall fall on a head that wished it not!

Jonaid said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is an empty heart pursuant of an empty hand”. (Don’t be empty in hand and then heart filled with desires of that which was given away or lost)

Abu Solayman said, “The sign of sincere Zohd (Asceticism) is NEVER to wear a 3 derham (currency) woolen rags (Suf) and in the heart long for wearing a 5 derham suf (woolen rags)”.

The Sufi ancestors have indeed disagreed on definition & characteristics of Zohd (Asceticism). Sofian Thowry, Ahmad Hanbal, Isa Bin Yosof and other Pirs (Old Sages) have agreed that Zohd (Asceticism) is the shortening of the longing for this world. [2]

Abdollah Mobarak said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is to be within the sanctuary of Allah by befriending mendicancy (being a Dervish)”. (When a man is not afraid of losing it all, he is under Allah’s protection and in that situation for him it does not matter having something or not)

Yosof Isbaat said, “The sign of Zohd (Asceticism) is when the slave knows he can not do Zohd (Asceticism) except by placing the trust upon Allah’s protection”.

Abu Solayman Darani said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is avoiding that which prevents you from the Lord (by busying you with something petty)”.

Serri said, “The pleasure of the Zahid (Ascetic) is compromised if he is busied and preoccupied by his Self”.

Yahya Bin Mo’Oz said, “You will not reach the true Zohd (Asceticism) as long as these three are not within you: Deeds without interest, Speech without greed and Righteousness without Ria (Dissimulation or showing off)”. (Deeds without interest [3] are when you perform acts for serving people or serving God but without personal interest in these actions to satisfy some innate need of your own. For example, raising orphans due to one’s lack of children to satisfy the throbbing paternal needs rather than raising the orphan to be seen by Allah)

Abu Othman said, “The Lord bestows upon the Zahid (Ascetic) much more that what he renounced and gave away. And for the desirous of something, gives less than what he desired and the person in between (moderation) he gives him what he asks”. (Just Wow!)

Yahya Bin Mo’Oz said, “Zahid (Ascetic) provides therapy by means of dripping vinegar and mustard in your nostrils (for disinfecting) and ‘Aref (Divine Cognoscenti) uses aromatherapy by means of musk and ambergris”. (Zahid causes much pain to clean you up while ‘Aref does the same by using perfumes)

Hasan Basari said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is to declare enmity upon anyone or anything that resides within this world”.

Zan-noon Al-Masri was asked when one becomes a Zahid (Ascetic) and replied, “That moment when you are a Zahid (Ascetic) within your body”. (No external sign, the Zohd (Asceticism) is entirely within the person. So people see you as an ordinary man but within you are renouncing the lusts & desires of this world)

Mohammad Bin Fadhl said, “Sacrifice of Zahid (Ascetic) is during the needlessness and the sacrifice of the Spartan Sufi is during the neediness as Allah has said, “but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)” (Koran [59:9]). (Zahid (Ascetic) sacrifices all during the good times when there were no reasons for any sacrifice. In contrast to Spartan Sufi who gives it up all when people are in need and times are bad)

Kat-tani said, “You wont go wrong anywhere e.g. Koofeh, Madan, Iraq or Syria with regards to Zohd (Asceticism) & generosity in this world. Giving advice to people means to say nothing that is not praiseworthy”. (Don’t go around advice people with insults and injuries)

Someone asked Yahya Mo’Oz when to sit in the company of the Zahid (Ascetic) and replied, “Secretly for three days meditate (with no provision) and if you are not weakened one bit then you can sit with Zahid (Ascetic), else if you are weak after three days then sitting with Zahid (Ascetic) is ignorance & embarrassment”.

Bashar Haafi said, “Zohd (Asceticism) is a king holding court no place except in an empty heart”.

Mohammad Bin Mohammad Bin Al-Ash’ath Al-Beykandi said, “Whomsoever encourages & advices people for Zohd (Asceticism) and his Self is greedy for their belongings, The Mighty Lord has ejected the Hereafter out of his heart”. (Don’t play with the Zohd (Asceticism) or the consequences are grave. Inviting people to renouncing the world yet your Self hunger for their money, shall bring you much torment)

It has been said that once the slave becomes a Zahid (Ascetic) the Lord assigns an angel to farm Hekma (Firm Wisdom) in his heart.

Someone was asked why he became a Zahid (Ascetic) and responded, “Because the world renounced me (first) and became a Zahid (Ascetic) for me”.

Ahmad Bin Hanbal said there are three categories of Zohd (Asceticism):

  1. 1.    Renouncing the Haram (Forbidden) and that is the Zohd (Asceticism) of all people
  2. 2.    Renouncing more than what the person needs and that is the Zohd (Asceticism) of special dedicated people
  3. 3.    Renouncing that which preoccupies you with other than the Lord and that is the Zohd (Asceticism) of the ‘Aref (Divine Cognoscenti)

Abu’Ali Daq-qaaq said someone was asked why he is a Zahid (Ascetic)? And replied, “Because before the world did Zohd (Asceticism) for me i.e. renounced me previously, so I am ashamed to befriend or desire it now”.

Yahya Bin Mo’Oz said, “The world is a bride and its seeker like a hairdresser. Zahid (Ascetic) blackens her face, rips her hair and tears apart her gown and ‘Aref (Divine Cognoscenti) preoccupied with the Lord and not even once glance at her”.

Jonaid quotes Serry, “I did all the affairs of Zohd (Asceticism) and recovered all I wanted from this practice except Zohd (Asceticism) for people and never reached that rank and could not endure (being without people)”. (I assume Zohd (Asceticism) for people means to avoid them and not to love them, Serry loved the Mankind so he could not renounce them)

Nasr Abadi said, “Zohd (Asceticism) spared the Zahid (Ascetic) but spilled the blood of the ‘Aref (Divine Cognoscenti)”. (I guess this means the Zohd (Asceticism) can not harm the Zahid (Ascetic) since he is so tough but ‘Aref is an easy prey to harm)

Fadhl Bin Ayadh said, “The Lord placed & locked all evil within one vault and the key is the love of this world. And again the Lord placed & locked all goodness in one vault and the key is the Zohd (Asceticism)”.


[0] Zohd (Asceticism) is a practice of Islam where the person renounces the world and turns his back to the worldly life in order to purify his Self. However, many wrong interpretations of this word floats around the Muslim world, so the Sufis attempted to clarify the concept.

[1] This chapter is mixed with Kashani’s Lantern of Guidance since they are so similar. The Hadith (Narration) above was mistranslated into Farsi in Qoshairi, but I found the Arabic text in Kashani and I hope I translated it better.

The Hadith (Narration) indicates that Zohd (Asceticism) is the net-result of the Wisdom and again once Zohd (Asceticism) is reached knowledge and reasoning approached the person.

Kashani: The Arabic word Hekma which is similar to Hakim e.g. Hakim Sanaa-ee, means firm sturdy. In other words, Hekma (Wisdom) allows the person to build a firm foundation for his decisions and affairs. Therefore Zahid (Ascetic) because is given Hekma (Firm Wisdom), renounces this world and places his decisions and affairs on a sturdy and unshakeable foundation i.e. the World After. In another (Hadith), “Truly the Hakim (Wise Man) is the Zahid (Ascetic)”. In another, “Whoever practices Zohd (Asceticism) in this world, Allah stabilizes & settles the Hekma (Wisdom) in his heart and his mouth speaks (accordingly)”. Loqman Hakim said, “The Hekma (Firm Wisdom) benefits he who forgot this world and remembered the World After”. (Loqman Hakim is a legendary wise man with a chapter of Koran dedicated to his name)

[2] Kashani: Desirous proclivity to this world results in blindness and ignorance as has been narrated by the Prophet (?), “He who desires this world and prolongs the longing for it, Allah grants him knowledge without Divine Teaching and directs him without Divine Guidance”.

[3] Kashani: Zahid (Ascetic) should not be proud of his Zohd (Asceticism) because that in itself is attraction towards something of this world, which is beyond our needs. Therefore the Zahid (Ascetic) should belittle his own Zohd (Asceticism). There are three ranks for Zohd (Asceticism):

  1. 1.    Person renounces this world and in his heart forsakes going after desires as has been mentioned in the text.
  2. 2.    Person renounces the Zohd (Asceticism) itself because it is also a worldly act subject to human desires.
  3. 3.    Divine Zohd (Asceticism), which is bestowed upon very special people e.g. Prophets and Awlia (Divine Noble Patricians).

The mirror of the heart is rustic if the person commits evil and loves this world. But once repents and purifies his Self through Zohd (Asceticism) the mirror is polished again and reflects the Divine Light from the Hereafter so he can see better the shameful & evanescing nature of this world and studies the World After by means of the everlastingness of the beauty of this reflection.


© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda  

Kashani Scans