Readings from the Mystics of Islam by Abu Sa`id ibn Abi Khayr

If men wish to draw near to God, they must seek Him in the hearts of men. They should speak well of all men, whether present or absent, and if they themselves seek to be a light to guide others, then like the sun, they must show the same face to all. To bring joy to a single heart is better than to build many shrines for worship, and to enslave one soul by kindness is worth more than the setting free of a thousand slaves. The (true saint) sits in the midst of his fellow men, and rises up and eats and sleeps and buys and sells and gives and takes in the bazaars among other people, and marries and has social intercourse with other folk, and never for an instant forgets God. — quoted in Readings from the Mystics of Islam (trans. Margaret Smith).

Abu Sa`id ibn Abi Khayr (967–1049) was a Persian and Muslim mystic and poet whose life and words were recorded by his grandson, Mohammad Ibn Monavvar in the Asrar al-Tawhid (“The Mysteries of Unification”), written 130 years after his death. A great influence on the direction which Sufism took, Abul-Khayr was the first to use ordinary love poems as a vehicle for expressing his mysticism — a practice most familiar to the West through the Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883) translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

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