A Sufi Life

Here is another selection from Aḥmad ibn Muṣṭafá Ṭāshkubrīʹzādah’s collection of biographies of early Ottoman scholars. Here we have a man who is unambiguously a Sufi, though his order (perhaps Halveti?) is not given (for this order specifically, see the recent work by John Curry on the Halveti order in part of Anatolia[1] ). At any rate, a couple of things stand out. One, Ṭāshkubrīʹzādah does not have a great deal of information to go on, other than perhaps the letter (risala-also, a treatise) al-Amasyi wrote. Much of the rest- the ragged clothing, the small livelihood- is pretty standard, though it does reveal what was expected of a Sufi scholar in this period. Most notable though is the saying Ṭāshkubrīʹzādah tentatively attributes to al-Amasyi about his vision of the Preserved Tablet, followed by al-Amasyi’s other dreams, namely, of Muhammad. Dreams and their interpretation were a major component not just of Sufi thought and practice, but across the ranks of the ‘ulama and even beyond. Here, perhaps ironically, it is through dreams and their being written down that one man’s life has come down to us, albeit in a very tiny fragment through which we can only imagine a larger whole.

Among them is the Knowledgeable, the Virtuous, the Noble Mulla Bakhshi Khalifa al-Amasyi, God be merciful to him.

He was born in a village close to Amasya and studied under the ‘ulama of his homeland. He then traveled to the Arab lands and studied under those ‘ulama as well. Then he chose the Sufi path and received from it glorious rank. He was lowly, humble, watchful, shari’a-minded, content with a small livelihood, dressing in raggedy old clothes. He used to teach, many people sitting for his sermons and dhikr-recitation. He was skillful in tafsir, and had many books of tafsir in his memory, with many studying under him and gaining benefit from him. He was also skillful in fiqh, and in all the sciences. And perhaps he said: “I saw on the Preserved Tablet lines written like thus.” His words were never off the mark, and it was as he transmitted. And I saw a letter of his in which he collected all of his visions in his dreams of the Prophet, peace and prayers be upon him, and his conversations with him, and they were very many. He reposed—God be merciful to him—around the year 930 (1523), God illumine his repose and in the highest chamber of the Gardens give him rest.

Aḥmad ibn Muṣṭafá  Ṭāshkubrīʹzādah, Al-Shaqāʼiq Al-Nuʻmānīyah Fī ʻulāmāʼ Al-Dawlah Al-ʻUthmānīyah (Bayrūt, Lubnān: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʻArabī, 1975)

1 John J. Curry The Transformation of Muslim Mystical Thought in the Ottoman Empire: The Rise of the Halveti Order, 1350-1650. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010)

One thought on “A Sufi Life

  1. Pingback: War, Travel, Commentary, Alchemy: An Ottoman Life « Thicket & Thorp

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