The Golden Chain

6. Abu Yazid al-Bistami

Abu Yazid al-Bistami (may God sanctify his innermost being), also known as Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bistami or more commonly known as Bayazid al-Bistami, is the sixth Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, receiving the secret of the Golden Chain from Jafar as-Sidiq. He was from the ‘first tier of Shaykhs’ and is one of the best known of all the Sufi Masters.

He was born in Bistam in the north east of Persia. His father’s name was Tayfur, who like his two brothers, was an ascetic. Bayazid belonged to the Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence, making a detailed study of Islamic law and assiduously following these religious obligations, whilst also observing voluntary worship. After asking leave of his mother, Bayazid left Bistam and travelled widely for thirty seven years and met over one hundred spiritual teachers, performed the Hajj and visited Medina. He also corresponded with Dhul Nun al-Misri, the great Egyptian Sufi.

He urged his disciples to put their affairs in the hands of God, encouraging them to accept the pure doctrine of the Oneness of God, which consisted of the following five essentials:-
– To keep the obligations according to the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings upon him).
– Always speak the truth.
– Keep the heart free from hatred.
– Avoid forbidden food.
– Shun innovations.

Some of Bayazid’s sayings include:-

“I have come to know God through God. I have come to know what is other than God with the light of God.” Continuing, he said, “God has granted his servants favours for the purpose of bringing them closer to Him. Instead, they are fascinated with the favours and are drifting further from Him.”

A man asked Bayazid, “Show me a deed by which I can approach my Lord.” Bayazid replied, “Love the Friends of God in order that they will love you. Love his Saints until they love you. Because God looks at the hearts of His Saints, He will see your name engraved in the heart of His Saints and He will forgive you.”

Many Muslim scholars have said that Bayazid was the first person to spread the reality of annihilation. Even the strictest of scholars, Ibn Taymiyya, admired Bayazid for this and considered him to be one of his Masters. Ibn Taymiyya said about him,” There are two categories of annihilation: one is for the perfect Prophets and Saints, and one for the seekers among the Saints and pious people. Bayazid al-Bistami is from the first category of those who experience annihilation, which means complete renunciation of anything other than God. He accepts none except God. “

When Bayazid died, he was over seventy years old. Before he died, someone asked him his age, to which he replied, “I am four years old. For seventy years, I was veiled – I got rid of my veils only four years ago”. Bayazid died in 875 A.D. and it is said that he is buried in two places – one in Damascus and the other in Bistam, Iran.


Extracts from “The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain”, by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.