Junaid and Bahlool – a spiritual story from Iraq

Bahlool simulated madness, though he was not mad. Junaid, a scholar of repute, knew him very well. One day as they met, Junaid requested him to give him some counsel and admonition.

“You do not need any advice. You are a well known learned man.” Bahlool said.

But Junaid insisted. Bahlool gave in and said: “Well, I shall ask you three questions. If you answer them correctly, you will be advised.”

And then he proceeded to ask:

“Do you know how to talk?”
“Do you know how to eat?”
“Do you know how to sleep?”

Junaid found these simple. He said:

“I know how to talk. I talk with a low voice, politely and to the point, so that the listeners are not at all offended. I eat after having washed my hands, say Bismillah (In the name of God) before I commence, and chew the food properly. When I finish, I thank Allah (God). Before I go to sleep, I do my ablution (Wudhu) and retire to a clean bed. Then I bear witness to my faith and sleep.”

“Well,” Bahlool said, “It is no use talking softly if it is a lie. Remembering Allah over a food which is Haram, forbidden or usurped, has no meaning. You have to ensure that what you eat is Halal (lawful in ingredients and also bought by lawful earnings) or that you are not misappropriating the funds of an orphan, a widow or fellowmen. And what is the use of sleeping with ablution and all the recitations if your heart is full of malice, jealousy and enmity towards your Faithful brothers ?”

-From Parent’s Love and other Islamic Stories (2003)

Photo: A painting of old Baghdad, Iraq