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Thread: Sufis on alchemy

  1. #1
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    Sufis on alchemy

    To begin, here is a funny quote I found in Imam al-Haddad's Book of Assistance - a famous Sufi primer which is studied by beginner students all over the Islamic world.

    "A man once came to Shaykh Abu'l-Hasan al-Shidhili and
    asked him to teach him alchemy. The Shaykh promised to
    teach him, but only after he had stayed with him for a year and
    on condition that each time he broke his wudu'he renewed it
    and prayed two rak'as. At the end of the year the marl went to
    draw water from a well, and the bucket came up full of gold
    and silver; he poured it back into the well for he had no desire
    for them whatsoever. Then he went to the Shaykh and told
    him. The Shaykh replied: 'You have now become all alchemy,' and he made him a summoner to God [ie gave him ijaza to be a murshid (a spiritual guide)]."
    Last edited by Tannur; 11-26-2020 at 10:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    A quote about Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayyat taken from an internet version of the book The Elixir of Love:

    "An interesting account related by the Shaykh about love of God as an elixir as well as the real elixir is quoted as follows:

    "Once I was looking for the science of alchemy; I practiced self-discipline for a time until I reached a dead end and gained nothing.

    Then, in a spiritual state I was graced with the verse,

    (من كان يريد العزة فلله العزة جميعا)

    (If any do seek for glory and power-to Allah belong all glory and power) (Fatir: 10). I said I wanted the science of alchemy. I was told (by inspiration): 'They want alchemy for glory and power; the reality of glory and power is in this verse (the aforesaid verse). This set my mind at ease."

    Several days later, two men (following ascetic practice's) came to my house and asked to meet with me. When we met they said: 'It has been two years since we have been trying to acquire the science of alchemy but to no effect. We appealed to Hazrat Imam al-Reza (a), he referred us to you.

    The Shaykh smiled and told them the above story and then added: "I was permanently delivered (from such an aspiration); the reality of alchemy is attaining (proximity with) God Himself."

    Sometimes the Shaykh would recite the following statement from the supplication of 'Arafah to his friends in respect to the above verdict:

    "ماذا وجد من فقدك ومالذي فقد من وجدك."

    "The one who has not found (known) You, what has he found? And the one who has found you; what has he not found?"

    Imam al-Sajjad (a) has made an interesting reference to the elixir of love of God at the ending part of the supplication of Makarim al-Akhlaq (Noble Moral Traits).

    "وانهج لي الى محبتك سبيلا سهلة أكمل لي بها خير الدنيا والآخرة"

    "...Open a smooth road for me to Thy love, and complete for me thereby the good of this world and the next."3

    Hafiz has beautifully touched upon this point in his following couplets:

    'O ignorant one! Make an attempt to become insightful,
    You will not be a leader, unless you are a seeker on the path (yourself first).
    In the school of truth and with instructor of love, try, O son, to become a father some day.
    Give up the copper of your existence like the men on the (spiritual) path,
    So that you discover the elixir of love and turn into gold. If the light of love shines on your heart and soul,
    By God you will get brighter than the sun in the heaven.’"
    Last edited by Tannur; 11-26-2020 at 10:32 AM.

  3. #3
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    From footnote 27 in the English translation of Tafsir Tustari:

    "Sarrāj, Kitāb al-Lumaʿ, pp. 319 and 326ff.; Qushayrī, Risāla, p. 677. On the death of a person named Isḥāq b. Aḥmad
    (evidently an alchemist who had repented and then become Tustarī’s disciple), Tustarī entered his cell and found some
    alchemical materials there, a lump of gold, a lump of silver and two bottles containing red and yellow liquids. Tustarī
    threw the gold and silver into the River Tigris, and poured the bottles of liquid onto the ground, at the same time explaining to the disciple who was with him, Muḥammad b. Sālim, how the elixir of those liquids could transmute copper
    and lead into gold and silver."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
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    Note: Removed my "commentaries" on the quotes etc to avoid making this thread biased. My aim is only to share what different Sufis have said about alchemy (the art itself, not "spiritual alchemy" or other things) over time. I hope some users find this useful.

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