Sufi Wisdom from Zan-Noon al-Masri

On Sufism

Zan-noon Al-Masri was asked about the character of a Sufi and responded, “Sufi is the one that the ‘seeking’ (of the Lord) does not tire him and anything taken away from him does not faze him. They are a nation that chose the Lord above all and the Lord has chosen them above all”.

He has said in other occasions, “Sufi is the one whose words are the truth within him i.e. says nothing that is not within him and if he is silent the way of his dealings are indicative of what is within him and (his actions) speak of his cut-off desires.” (Source: Al-Lama’)

Zan-noon said, “The one who loves the Lord avoids lowering himself in front of others. The needlessness is the decisive sign of a friend of the Lord”. (Source: Helyatol Awlia)

Befriending the Lord

Yusuf Bin Hussein Razzi quoted Zan-noon saying, “If the Lord loves you, has Qayrat (Divine Sole Vigilance: wants no other than Itself around) for you and once you love It, brings you much fame and calls out the people to come to you”. (When Beloved loves and closeness of Qorb (Divine Nearness) is felt, then due to the nature of Tawhid (Oneness) less and less people are left (thus approaching 1) so your are betrayed, forgotten… But when you love the Beloved the perpetual force of Jazb (gravitation) between you & Beloved, pulls others in and many come to you…)

Moreover he said, “There is nothing more endearing than the love of Lord but within the heart fits not this Love and the love of something else”.

Sincerity in Friendship of the Lord

Zan-noon said, “Once I met an ailing person and in the midst of the discussion I said, “It is not sincere not being patient enduring Its (Lord’s) Dharb (beat or hit)” and he replied immediately, “It is not sincere to befriend It and not to revel within Its Dharb (beat or hit)”. (Dharb here means the beating or impact of the hardship and afflictions. When the hardships come your way and your heart is strained, you find the Beloved midst the troubles in close proximity)  (Source: Sharh Ta’r-rof)

The Goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Love)

Zan-noon said, “The lover of the Divine Lord is not given the goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) unless & until the blood within his heart is smoldered (sever heartbreak)”. (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia”, Attar)

And again said, “The lover of the Divine Lord tastes not the goblet of Mahab-bat (Divine Loving) until the Khawf (Affright) boils his heart (hurt his feelings)”. (Source: The Lantern of Guidance, Kashani)

Ons (Divine Intimacy) with the Lord

Zan-noon has said on Ons (Divine Intimacy), “If the Lord makes you intimate with people really means you are scared away from Itself, and if you are scared of the people then It has brought you to Its Ons (Divine Intimacy)”. (Source: Al-Lama’)

Zan-noon said, “Whoever is in Ons (Divine Intimacy) with the Lord, finds himself intimate and drawn to pleasant and beautiful things. But within this there are secrets for the Aref (Divine Cognoscenti) and they should not be divulged to people at large in fear of evil-end and afflictions”. (I guess he means to become intimate with beautiful things may misguide a person into lewdness or lusts)

Zan-noon said, “If you are intimate with people, if you are not greedy then you are becoming intimate with the Lord”. (Indeed it is the Ons the Divine feeling of intimacy that draws us to other people, as long as you do not abuse them with greed & lust, and then you are becoming more and more intimate with the Lord) (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia)

On Intimacy with People

Zan-noon said, “Whomsoever is intimate (Ons) with people shall reside upon the throne of Pharaoh, vice-a-versa if left people alone and contained his Self then resides upon Ikhlaas (Sincerity). Whomsoever receives his due portion and not more than what he needs fears nothing and if all is lost still has the Lord. Once the Divine Presence of the Lord is felt how can there be fear of loss (or poverty)?” (Source: Tazkeratol Awlia)

About Zan-Noon al-Masri, may Allah sanctify his soul

Sheikh Thawbaan Ibn Ibrahim a.k.a Zan-noon (Zun Nun or Dhun Nun) also known as Abul-Faydh or Abu-Abdullah - was one of the Sufi Sages of 3rd century of Islam around 800 (CE).

In the beginning of his life he was a slave but later on freed. He has been renowned amongst the Sufis as a pious, righteous, scholar and a literary figure. He also was an expert in Alchemy and medical sciences of the time. He was the student of the luminary Malek Bin Anas, the founder of the Maleki Mazhab of Islam and his name is mentioned in the Mowatta the guiding book of Maleki followers.

He is the founder of Sufism in Egypt and one the first preachers of the principles of Sufism in that country. Irts believed that Zan Nun was the first (or prominent pioneer) to use allegorical and symbolic language in sufi discourses.Some people hold that it was he who introduce Neo-Platonic philosophy in Islamic mysticism.

About his nickname Zan-noon

People said once Zan-noon was on a ship sailing with number of great wealthy people and a pearl was lost. He was accused of theft thus was humiliated and bothered a lot. Finally he raised his head to the skies and prayed, “Allah you are witness for me (my innocence)” when suddenly many fish put their heads out of the water with a pearl in their mouths. Zan-noon took the pearls and gave it back to the accusers. Therefore his nickname is Zan-noon from Koran [21:87]:

And remember Zan-noon, when he departed in wrath: He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness (fish belly), "There is no god but thou: glory to thee: I was indeed wrong!"

In Arabic Noon means fish and Zan-noon means the possessor or owner of the fish.  (Source: Rayhaanatol Adab)

His Sufi Methodology

His words were all about Tawhid (Oneness) and Tajrid (Yearning closeness to the Divine without the hope for recompense & reward) and believed that secrets of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) should not be divulged to the public indiscriminately.

In meditation, solitude and Ibaadat (worship) he was unsurpassed. Once he was found kneeling by a wall for very long period of time and he was asked why? And responded, “In Moshaahedat (Divine Perception) I would like to be slave-like".  (Source: Safinatol-Awlia)

His Sufi Literary Innovation

He is acclaimed to be the first to take Sufism into Egypt. And all the entrances of phraseology of worldly love (beloved, love and yearning etc.) into Sufism are attributed to him. He made a glossary of such terminologies, which was spread around the Islamic world rapidly, and the Farsi speaking poets immediately employed these literary innovations with much skill.

The concept was not to allow the general public to understand the inner meanings of the poems e.g. wine, beloved except those with Sufi training.  (Source: Mulla Sadra, Henry Carbon)

His Reputation

Most of the Egyptians considered him a disbeliever and many were bewildered at his actions. While he was alive most people hated & denied him. After he died people uncovered what he was all about (a true believer) and this was due to his extreme secrecy about his righteousness.  (Source: Tazkertol Awlia) 

- Credit: Untired with Loving, Dara O Shayda, may Allah bless him for his wonderful and tireless contribution

That Taste

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be the sincere friend to all the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall belittle himself to all the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be the solace on the paths of the slaves

He who tasted the everlasting love
Shall be intimate with the Lord of the slaves.

- Original: Zan-Noon al-Masri
English version by Dr. Javad Noorbakhsh

The haunt of the hearts of the gnostics

The haunt of the hearts of the gnostics is a mead
Celestial -- beyond it are the veils of the Lord.
His nearness their sole boundary from the world of the Secret --
Melt they would with love if their moment had come.
For their thirst is a cup purely filled from His love,
And the cool of a breeze beyond words to describe.
Hearts near the Throne-Lord -- they had sought to be near --
With what blessings the King in their nearness hath graced them!

Pleased with them, He hath pleased them unto ultimate pleasure:
The Beloved's welcome is the abode wherein they dwell,
Most penetrant their resolve; by it they have travelled,
By it their thoughts pierce to what is hidden by the Veils.
Their secret ever goeth between the Beloved and themselves,
From other than nearness by nearness made safe.

- Original: Zan-Noon al-Masri
English version by Martin Lings



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Technology of the Heart: Sufi Wisdom from Zan-Noon al-Masri
Sufi Wisdom from Zan-Noon al-Masri
Technology of the Heart
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