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Dhul-Nun al-Misri

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Dhūl-Nūn Abū l-Fayḍ Thawbān b. Ibrāhīm al-Miṣrī
Born796
Upper Egypt
Died245/859 or 248/862
Giza
Resting placeCairo's City of the Dead
Other namesDhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī, Zūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī
EducationScholastic disciplines of alchemy, medicine, and Greek philosophy
Known forMuslim mystic and ascetic

Dhūl-Nūn Abū l-Fayḍ Thawbān b. Ibrāhīm al-Miṣrī (Arabic: ذو النون المصري; d. Giza, in 245/859 or 248/862), often referred to as Dhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī or Zūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī for short, was an early Egyptian Muslim mystic and ascetic.[1] His surname "al Misri" means "The Egyptian". He was born in Upper Egypt in 796, Dhul-Nun is said to have made some study of the scholastic disciplines of alchemy, medicine, and Greek philosophy in his early life,[1] before coming under the mentorship of the mystic Saʿdūn of Cairo, who is described in traditional accounts of Dhul-Nun's life as both "his teacher and spiritual director."[1] Celebrated for his legendary wisdom both in his own life and by later Islamic thinkers,[2] Dhul-Nun has been venerated in traditional Sunni Islam as one of the greatest saints of the early era of Sufism.[1]

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Egypt

Egypt

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip of Palestine and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. The Gulf of Aqaba in the northeast separates Egypt from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt, while Alexandria, the second-largest city, is an important industrial and tourist hub at the Mediterranean coast. At approximately 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the 14th-most populated country in the world.

Mysticism

Mysticism

Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Upper Egypt

Upper Egypt

Upper Egypt is the southern portion of Egypt and is composed of the Nile River valley south of the delta and the 30th parallel N. It thus consists of the entire Nile River valley from Cairo south to Lake Nasser.

Scholasticism

Scholasticism

Scholasticism was a medieval school of philosophy that employed a critical organic method of philosophical analysis predicated upon the Aristotelian 10 Categories. Christian scholasticism emerged within the monastic schools that translated scholastic Judeo-Islamic philosophies, and thereby "rediscovered" the collected works of Aristotle. Endeavoring to harmonize his metaphysics and its account of a prime mover with the Latin Catholic dogmatic trinitarian theology, these monastic schools became the basis of the earliest European medieval universities, contributing to the development of modern science; scholasticism dominated education in Europe from about 1100 to 1700. The rise of scholasticism was closely associated with these schools that flourished in Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and England.

Alchemy

Alchemy

Alchemy is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscientific tradition that was historically practiced in China, India, the Muslim world, and Europe. In its Western form, alchemy is first attested in a number of pseudepigraphical texts written in Greco-Roman Egypt during the first few centuries AD.

Medicine

Medicine

Medicine is the science and practice of caring for a patient, managing the diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, treatment, palliation of their injury or disease, and promoting their health. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word Sunnah, referring to the tradition of Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims arose from a disagreement over the succession to Muhammad and subsequently acquired broader political significance, as well as theological and juridical dimensions. According to Sunni traditions, Muhammad left no successor and the participants of the Saqifah event appointed Abu Bakr as the next-in-line. This contrasts with the Shia view, which holds that Muhammad appointed his son-in-law and cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor.

Wali

Wali

A wali, the Arabic word which has been variously translated "master", "authority", "custodian", "protector", is most commonly used by Muslims to indicate an Islamic saint, otherwise referred to by the more literal "friend of God".

Sufism

Sufism

Sufism, also known as Tasawwuf, is a mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spirituality, ritualism, asceticism and esotericism. It has been variously defined as "Islamic mysticism", "the mystical expression of Islamic faith", "the inward dimension of Islam", "the phenomenon of mysticism within Islam", the "main manifestation and the most important and central crystallization" of mystical practice in Islam, and "the interiorization and intensification of Islamic faith and practice".

Name

It has been speculated by scholars whether "Dhul-Nun" was an honorific (laqab) for the mystic rather than his name proper, which is sometimes believed to be Thawbān.[1] As "Dhul-Nun," literally meaning "the one of the fish [or whale]," is another name for the Hebrew prophet Jonah in Islamic tradition, it is sometimes believed that this title was given to Dhul-Nun in commemoration of Jonah.[1]

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Life

Dhul-Nun is one of the most prominent saints of early Islamic tradition, appearing "in the earliest accounts of Ṣūfism as the leading figure of his generation."[1] Often depicted as the spiritual master of Sahl al-Tustari (c. 818–896), the traditional hagiographies relate that the latter refused to engage in mystical discourse until after Dhul-Nun's death, on account of his recognition of Dhul-Nun's elevated rank in wisdom and gnosis.[1]

Tomb of Dhul-Nun al-Misri (AD 796–859) in Cairo's City of the Dead.
Tomb of Dhul-Nun al-Misri (AD 796–859) in Cairo's City of the Dead.

Dhul-Nun al-Misri is considered among the most prominent saints of early Sufism and holds a position in the Sufi chronicles as high as Junayd Baghdadi (d. 910) and Bayazid Bastami (d. 874). He studied under various teachers and travelled extensively in Arabia and Syria. The Muslim scholar and Sufi Sahl al-Tustari was one of Dhul-Nun al-Misri's students.[3] In 829 he was arrested on a charge of heresy and sent to prison in Baghdad, but after examination he was released on the caliph's orders to return to Cairo, where he died in 859; his tombstone has been preserved.[4]

Dhul-Nun's name came about in relation to an incident on a sea voyage. He was falsely accused of stealing a jewel from a merchant. He cried out "O Creator, Thou knowest best", whereupon a large number of fish raised their heads above the waves, each bearing a jewel in its mouth.[5]

A legendary alchemist and thaumaturge, he is supposed to have known the secret of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. His sayings and poems, which are extremely dense and rich in mystical imagery, emphasize knowledge or gnosis (marifah) more than fear (makhafah) or love (mahabbah), the other two major paths of spiritual realization in Sufism. None of his written works have survived, but a vast collection of poems, sayings, and aphorisms attributed to him continues to live on in oral tradition.[6]

Osho mentions him as "an Egyptian Sufi mystic, one of the greatest who has ever walked on the earth".[7]

Contemporary Sufi Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee mentions an incident from the life of Dhul-nun in his work Catching the Thread

A story from the life of the ninth-century Sufi, Dhu-l-Nun, the Egyptian, illustrates this:

I was wandering in the mountains when I observed a party of afflicted folk gathered together. “What befell you?” I asked. “There is a devotee living in a cell here,” they answered. “Once every year he comes out and breathes on these people and they are all healed. Then he returns to his cell, and does not emerge again until the following year.” I waited patiently until he came out. I beheld a man pale of cheek, wasted and with sunken eyes. The awe of him caused me to tremble. He looked on the multitude with compassion. Then he raised his eyes to heaven, and breathed several times over the afflicted ones. All were healed. As he was about to retire to his cell, I seized his skirt. “For the love of God,” I cried. “You have healed the outward sickness; pray heal the inward sickness.” “Dhu-l-Nun,” he said, gazing at me, “take your hand off me. The Friend is watching from the zenith of might and majesty. If He sees you clutching at another than He, He will abandon you to that person, and that person to you, and you will perish each at the other’s hand.”

So saying, he withdrew into his cell.

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Sahl al-Tustari

Sahl al-Tustari

Sahl al-Tustarī or Sahl Shushtarī according to Persian custom, born Abū Muḥammad Sahl ibn ʿAbd Allāh, was a Persian Sunni Muslim scholar and early classical Sufi mystic. He founded the Salimiyah Muslim theological school, which was named after his disciple Muhammad ibn Salim.

Gnosis

Gnosis

Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge. The term was used among various Hellenistic religions and philosophies in the Greco-Roman world. It is best known for its implication within Gnosticism, where it signifies a spiritual knowledge or insight into humanity's real nature as divine, leading to the deliverance of the divine spark within humanity from the constraints of earthly existence.

City of the Dead (Cairo)

City of the Dead (Cairo)

The City of the Dead, or Cairo Necropolis, also referred to as the Qarafa, is a series of vast Islamic-era necropolises and cemeteries in Cairo, Egypt. They extend to the north and to the south of the Cairo Citadel, below the Mokattam Hills and outside the historic city walls, covering an area roughly 4 miles long. They are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of "Historic Cairo".

Sufism

Sufism

Sufism, also known as Tasawwuf, is a mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spirituality, ritualism, asceticism and esotericism. It has been variously defined as "Islamic mysticism", "the mystical expression of Islamic faith", "the inward dimension of Islam", "the phenomenon of mysticism within Islam", the "main manifestation and the most important and central crystallization" of mystical practice in Islam, and "the interiorization and intensification of Islamic faith and practice".

Bayazid Bastami

Bayazid Bastami

Abū Yazīd Ṭayfūr bin ʿĪsā bin Surūshān al-Bisṭāmī (al-Basṭāmī), commonly known in the Iranian world as Bāyazīd Bisṭāmī, was a Persian Sufi from north-central Iran. Known to future Sufis as Sultān-ul-Ārifīn, Bisṭāmī is considered to be one of the expositors of the state of fanā, the notion of dying in mystical union with Allah. Bastami was famous for "the boldness of his expression of the mystic’s complete absorption into the mysticism." Many "ecstatic utterances" have been attributed to Bisṭāmī, which lead to him being known as the "drunken" or "ecstatic" school of Islamic mysticism. Such utterance may be argued as, Bisṭāmī died with mystical union and the deity is speaking through his tongue. Bisṭāmī also claimed to have ascended through the seven heavens in his dream. His journey, known as the Mi'raj of Bisṭāmī, is clearly patterned on the Mi'raj of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Bisṭāmī is characterized in three different ways: a free thinking radical, a pious Sufi who is deeply concerned with following the sha'ria and engaging in "devotions beyond the obligatory," and a pious individual who is presented as having a dream similar to the Mi'raj of Muhammed. The Mi'raj of Bisṭāmī seems as if Bisṭāmī is going through a self journey; as he ascends through each heaven, Bisṭāmī is gaining knowledge in how he communicates with the angels and the number of angels he encounters increases.

Arabian Peninsula

Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula, or Arabia, is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At 3,237,500 km2 (1,250,000 sq mi), the Arabian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the world.

Syria

Syria

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a Western Asian country located in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. It is a unitary republic that consists of 14 governorates (subdivisions), and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and southeast, Jordan to the south, and Israel and Lebanon to the southwest. Cyprus lies to the west across the Mediterranean Sea. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the majority Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, and Chechens. Religious groups include Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Yazidis. The capital and largest city of Syria is Damascus. Arabs are the largest ethnic group, and Sunni Muslims are the largest religious group. Syria is the only country that is governed by Ba'athists, who advocate Arab socialism and Arab nationalism. Syria is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Baghdad

Baghdad

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and the second-largest city in the Arab world after Cairo. It is located on the Tigris near the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon. In 762 CE, Baghdad was chosen as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, and became its most notable major development project. Within a short time, the city evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center of the Muslim world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, including the House of Wisdom, as well as a multiethnic and multi-religious environment, garnered it a worldwide reputation as the "Center of Learning".

Cairo

Cairo

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the city-state Cairo Governorate, and is the country's largest city, home to 10 million people. It is also part of the largest urban agglomeration in Africa, the Arab world and the Middle East: The Greater Cairo metropolitan area, with a population of 21.9 million, is the 12th-largest in the world by population. Cairo is associated with ancient Egypt, as the Giza pyramid complex and the ancient cities of Memphis and Heliopolis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta, the city first developed as Fustat, a settlement founded after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 next to an existing ancient Roman fortress, Babylon. Under the Fatimid dynasty a new city, al-Qāhirah, was founded nearby in 969. It later superseded Fustat as the main urban centre during the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo's historic center was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1979. Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC.

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used for writing the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with some 1,000 distinct characters. Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing, as was the Proto-Sinaitic script that later evolved into the Phoenician alphabet. Through the Phoenician alphabet's major child systems, the Egyptian hieroglyphic script is ancestral to the majority of scripts in modern use, most prominently the Latin and Cyrillic scripts and the Arabic script, and possibly the Brahmic family of scripts.

Rajneesh

Rajneesh

Rajneesh, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and later as Osho, was an Indian godman, philosopher, mystic, and founder of the Rajneesh movement. He was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader during his life. He rejected institutional religions, insisting that spiritual experience could not be organized into any one system of religious dogma. As a guru, he advocated meditation and taught a unique form called dynamic meditation. Rejecting traditional ascetic practices, he advocated that his followers live fully in the world but without attachment to it. In expressing a more progressive attitude to sexuality he caused controversy in India during the late 1960s and became known as "the sex guru".

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi mystic and lineage successor in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. He is an extensive lecturer and author of several books about Sufism, mysticism, dreamwork and spirituality.

Source: "Dhul-Nun al-Misri", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, March 20th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhul-Nun_al-Misri.

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Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Mojaddedi, Jawid, “Dhū l-Nūn Abū l-Fayḍ al-Miṣrī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online.
  2. ^ Mojaddedi, Jawid, “Dhū l-Nūn Abū l-Fayḍ al-Miṣrī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, SDSD, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online.
  3. ^ Mason, Herbert W. (1995). Al-Hallaj. RoutledgeCurzon. pp. 83. ISBN 0-7007-0311-X.
  4. ^ Dho'l-Nun al-Mesri, from Muslim Saints and Mystics, trans. A.J. Arberry, London; Routledge & Kegan Paul 1983
  5. ^ "Man of the fish". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2013-08-04. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  6. ^ John Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press 2003
  7. ^ Osho (December 1976). Journey to the Heart. Rebel Publishing House, India. ISBN 3-89338-141-4.
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