Yezidi Reformer: Sheikh Adi (III)
A young person, ‘Adi b. Musafir moved to Baghdad and spent the first half of his life there. In this centre of culture and education, ‘Adi learned from the esteemed figures such as Ahmad al-Ghazali and ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani; he also won respect for his good manners [15:86-87; 16:15-16; 49:226].
Data on ‘Adi b. Musafir’s life in Baghdad alongside his works may explain why ‘Adi b. Musafir was prompted to leave Baghdad for Kurdish region.
First of all, in a devastated city he could hardly continue with his theological studies. Neither did ‘Adi have relatives or close friends, the fact which could have had smoothed the negative effect of political and economical hardships.
Secondly, ‘Adi’s interest in Sufism and his ancestral homeland must be mentioned. Since the names and terms mentioned in ‘Adi’s qasidas may well be explained by his acquaintance with Kurdish life, it is possible that while living in Baghdad, he visited the Hakkari mountains and established contacts with the locals. ‘Adi might also have been acquainted with the Kurds living in and around Baghdad. That is why, ‘Adi b. Musafir mentions the very name Lalish and alludes to Ahmad (b.) ar-Rifa’i's visit to Lalish in one of his qasidas, the motive appearing in Yezidi tradition, too.
Thirdly, as many Kurds assert, Shaikh ‘Adi might have had an intention to propagate Islam amongst the Kurds in Hakkari. In doing so, he might have been following al-Hallaj’s example [44:I,51].
One way or another, ‘Adi b. Musafir desired to attain a Sufi life and thus secluded himself from the mundane world. He found a quiet haven in Hakkari, the Kurdish region, once ruled by Marwan II. In the observed period, it lost its independence and became subordinated to the rulers of Mosul [16:15-16].
There exists more than sufficient evidence that the territory of the present-day Kurdistan was the important Zoroastrian centre from the ancient times until the Islamic age [6:6-7; 23:123-124; 33:49-50,96; 41:33; 49:166-167].
At first, Shaikh ‘Adi b. Musafir followed a life of solitude, and the local population invented implausible stories concerning his way of living. By way of illustration, there were legends that the Shaikh did not eat and never drank. And one day, in order to refute these rumours, Shaikh ‘Adi ‘ate something in the presence of people [16:7]. Here, ‘Adi b. Musafir appears to carry out the mortification of the flesh and the cult of poverty (faqr), of which he wrote in Baghdad in his Kitab fihi dhikr adab an-nafs. Gradually, Shaikh ‘Adi won respect from the local population thanks to his self-tortures, fasting and miracles – karamat [49:226].
Shaikh ‘Adi understands asceticism as a move against ego. Certainly, his maxims are only addressed to those who seriously desire to subjugate the acme of Sufi life. He indicates that before taking honeycombs one should be ready to suffer many bee-stings. Substantiating his position by the Qur’an he warns against passion for the earthly life, ‘Adi speaks of the necessity of keeping silence and of ruling over emotions shunning those being greedy of gain and fervent. An abundance of material things in the Shaikh’s views is not what a Sufi needs, for Sufism supposes breaking comfort off.
‘Adi’s special words mean censure when he describes those wearing Sufi clothes and ignorant in pure Islamic principles: all the actions of a Sufi are determined by strict asceticism. He finds convincing arguments for self-tortures and fasting in maxims ascribed to Moses, Solomon, and Jesus. Here is one of those:
“Jesus called his disciples to remain hungry, thirsty, and naked in order that they may see the Most High, for “starvation is a key to piety, and there is immortality in it [starvation]“. This and other references to the Biblical tradition once more emphasise ‘Adi’s ability to be beyond the exclusive Islamic views and limited fanaticism.
There is a story written by Shaikh ‘Adi’s nephew and successor as a ruler over the Yezidi community, Abu l-Barakat, which shows that the cult of poverty (faqr) was of special significance and success in ‘Adi’s Sufism:
“Once thirty poor men came to my uncle Shaikh ‘Adi. Ten of them said: O master! Tell us something about the Truth. He told them, and they melted, and in their place a gulf of water remained. Then the next ten came nearer saying: Tell us something about the essence of Love [of God]. He told them, and they died. After that the last [ten] came nearer and said: O master! Tell us something about the essence of poverty (faqr). He told them, and they rent their garments, and went out naked”.
Then with their questions and problems, the people started to come to this dark-complexioned, medium height person whose speeches “fascinated emotionally rather than rationally” [16:8; See also 12:29; 15:52].
Surrounded by his disciples, ‘Adi b. Musafir preached in both Arabic and Kurdish [15:103].
Before long, Christians, Muslims, and the members of other ethno-religious communities of the region joined the Yezidi Kurds, who had already regarded Shaikh ‘Adi as their teacher [24:77].