Salaam and Greetings of Peace:
It is related that the Sufi Master, Shaykh Junayd Abul Qasim Baghdadi, once went for a walk outside of Baghdad, his disciples following him. The Shaykh then asked them how Bahlul was. They answered, “He is a crazy person, what do you need from him?”
“Bring me to him because I have a need for him,” he said.
The students searched for Bahlul, whose reputation was that of a mad mystic, and found him in the desert. They took Shaykh Junayd to him. When Shaykh Junayd went near Bahlul, he saw Bahlul lying in a state of agitation, with a brick under his head for a pillow.
The Shaykh greeted him with the salutation of peace.
Bahlul answered with peace, and asked, “Who are you?”
“I am Junayd Baghdadi.”
Bahlul asked, “Are you Abul Qasim?”
“Yes!” replied the Shaykh.
“Are you the same Shaykh Baghdadi who gives people spiritual instructions?”
Then Bahlul asked, “Do you even know how to eat?”
“Yes!” answered Junayd. “I say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah). I eat what is in front of me, I take small bites, put them in the right side of my mouth, and slowly chew. I don’t stare at others’ bites. I remember Allah while eating. For whatever morsel I eat, I say Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah). I wash my hands before and after eating.”
Bahul stood up and shook the dirt of his garment on the Shaykh, and said, “You want to be the spiritual teacher of the world but you don’t even know how to eat.” Saying this, he walked away.
The Shaykh’s students said, “O Shaykh! He is a crazy person. Let him be”
Junayd replied, “He is a madman who is spiritually intelligent in his words. Listen to the correct statements from him.”
Saying this he went after Bahlul, saying, “I have a need for Bahlul.”
When Bahlul reached a deserted building he sat down. Junayd came near him.
Bahlul asked, “Who are you?”
“Shaykh Baghdadi who doesn’t even know how to eat.”
“You don’t know how to eat, but do you know how to talk?”
“How do you talk?”
“I talk in moderation and to the point. I don’t speak without purpose or too much. I speak so the listeners can understand. I call the world’s people towards Allah and the Prophet. I don’t talk so much that the people would get bored. I care about the deepness of inner and outer knowledge.”
Then he described whatever was connected with manners and etiquette.
Bahlul said, “Forget about eating, you don’t know how to talk either.”
He stood up, shook his garment on the Shaykh and walked away.
The students said, “O Shaykh! You saw, he is a crazy person. What do you expect from a lunatic!”
Shaykh said, “I have a need for him. You do not know.”
Again he went after Bahlul until he reached him.
Bahlul asked, “What do you want from me? You who don’t know the manners of eating and speaking; do you know how to sleep?”
“Yes, I know.”
“How do you sleep?” Bahlul asked.
“When I am finished with Solat-e-Isha’ and reciting supplications, I don my sleepwear.” Then he described the manners of sleeping which were transmitted to him by the learned people of religion.
Bahlul then said: “I understand that you do not know how to sleep either.”
He wanted to get up, but Junayd caught hold of his garment and said, “O Bahlul! I don’t know; so for the sake of Allah, teach me.”
Bahlul said “You claimed knowledge and said you knew so I was avoiding you. Now that you confessed your lack of knowledge, I will teach you.”
“Know that whatever you described is secondary,” said Bahlul.“The truth behind eating meals is that you eat lawful morsels. If you eat forbidden food even with one hundred kinds of good manners, it won’t benefit you, but will be the reason for blackening the heart.”
“May Allah grant you great reward.” remarked the Shaykh.
Bahlul continued, “The heart must be pure, and have good intentions before you begin to talk. And your conversation must be to please Allah. If it is for any worldly or useless work, then however you express yourself, it will become a calamity for you. That is why silence and quietude would be best.”
“Whatever you said about sleeping is also of secondary importance. The truth of it is that your heart should be free of enmity, jealousy, and hate. Your heart should not be greedy for this world or its wealth, and remember Allah when going to sleep.”
Sheikh Junayd then kissed Bahlul’s hand and prayed for him. The students who saw this incident and had thought that Bahlul was crazy and nothing more, realized the error of judging by appearances and their spiritual states increased.
- This tale is posted on many websites, but all of them without naming a source. It most likely came from Attar’s Memorial of the Saints.