6-The Soul’s Constant Returning: Repentance ( Tawba in the Sufi Legacy of Jaʿfar al- Ṣādiq

The Soul’s Constant Returning: Repentance ( Tawba  in the Sufi Legacy of Jaʿfar al- Ṣādiq

Repentance might seem out of place in a discussion of virtue or moral psychology. If one sees repentance as a moment in one’s life, a sudden and epiphanic decision, then it would seem to be more of a biographical event than a lasting feature, more of a determination to change than an indicator of change.1 Yet, in the context of Sufism, repentance is considered one of the stations of the path to ethical completion. Rather than a solitary resolution, repentance is a shift in perspective with lasting moral and psychological effects. It is an awareness of one’s place in existence—a constant spiritual intelligence that must be maintained throughout one’s life. To qualify for repentance, one must not only do good deeds but be humble of disposition, ever-cognizant of one’s shortcomings. With this proper outlook in mind, one can then move forward. It is probably for this reason that Sufi descriptions of a person’s progression toward the Real almost always begin with repentance or some variant thereof. It is also for this reason that our discussion of Sufism, virtue, and moral psychology will begin with repentance.


Since Sufis trace their lineage and the science of the heart that comes to be known as “the science of Sufism” (ʿilm al-taṣawwuf) to the Prophet Muhammad himself, it is difficult to settle on any particular early figure to usher in this discussion of virtue ethics and storytelling in Sufism. The Hadith tradition has a rich panoply of sayings of Muhammad that appear in Sufi writings about the perfection of the self; one can also find sayings of Muhammad’s companions, quite especially ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 661), and the generation that followed them. One among the generation following the Prophet’s own generation who particularly stands out, for example, is Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 728), who appears regularly in Sufi lineages and texts. The later Sufi ethicist Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 996) referred to al-Baṣrī as the “imam” in that science which he presents in his book, the “science of certitude” pertaining to the heart, the science that we might call “Sufism.”2 Mostly fragments of his sayings survive, along with hagiographical narratives about him, and so it is difficult to present an extended account of the thought of al-Baṣrī on any particular virtue.

Yet some of the most distinctive language of Sufism emerges only a few decades after al-Baṣrī, at the time that Islamic philosophy was forming, as well as the science of alchemy.3 In this context of developing terminology, a specific name arises recurrently as a source of learning in Islam generally and Sufism specifically: Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (d. 765). While much of that which is attributed to him is probably apocryphal, it is difficult to reconstruct an unobjectionably accurate depiction of anyone in the earliest phase of the Sufi sciences. Most of the earliest figures (such as Ḥasan al-Baṣrī) appear quoted in treatises by the next few generations of masters. Thus, the remembered legacy of Jaʿfar in Sufism has much to offer the student of Sufi virtue ethics. It will introduce the reader to Sufism’s early theoretical development, its intricate treatment of intentionality, and its emphasis on narrative (whether in Qurʾanic commentaries, hagiographies, or Hadith narrations) as a didactic method.


Jaʿfar lived at one of the most crucial turning points in the history of Islam, one that would see the decline of Islam’s first dynasty, the Umayyads, and the rise of the Abbasids. During that time, Jaʿfar managed to distance himself from the many insurrectionist political movements surrounding him, instead becoming an authority in the religious sciences of his day. Praised by rationalists, traditionalists, legalists, and ascetics, Jaʿfar’s knowledge and practice of Islam became legendary. It was reported that he not only predicted future events and interpreted dreams, but could discern the thoughts and intentions of those around him before they were expressed.4 His fame as a religious scholar and pious ascetic seems to have dovetailed with what he represented, namely a line of pious imams from the bloodline of the Prophet Muhammad on his father’s side, which would include both Muhammad’s daughter Fāṭima (d. 632) and her husband ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, as well as the family of the revered first caliph of Islam (Abū Bakr ibn Abī Quḥāfa, d. 634) on his mother’s side. As a saint and polymath of the noblest lineage, Jaʿfar is later claimed by so many that association with him becomes somewhat of a motif not always given to substantiation.

We can also say that there developed a “Shiʿi” legacy and identity for him as well as a “Sunni” one, the latter of which appears more often in later Sufi writings. In numerous non-Shiʿi Sufi sources naming the major saints of the past, Abū Nuʿaym Iṣfahānī (d. 1038), Abū Bakr al-Kalābādhī, ʿAlī Hujwīrī (d. ca. 1071), and Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. 1221), Jaʿfar figures prominently.5 Thus, for example, ʿAṭṭār begins his list of hagiographical accounts in Tadhkirat al-Awliyāʾ (“Memorial of Saints”) with Jaʿfar, not only to bring “blessings” upon his book as a whole, but also to start with the most major figure in Sufism after the Prophet’s generation, one who “has spoken more about the [Sufi] path than others from the Prophet’s family (Ahl al-Bayt) and has transmitted more in terms of Hadith.”6 ʿAṭṭār strongly emphasizes Jaʿfar’s antecedence to other Sufi figures, calling him the “model to all shaykhs,” the “absolute source of emulation,” “forerunner to the people of tasting,” “leader for the people of love,” and one who paved the way for recording the “secrets of realities.”7 Judging from his emphasis on Jaʿfar’s transmission of Hadith and contribution to the “subtleties of the secrets of revelation and exegesis,” it is likely that ʿAṭṭār has the early Qurʾan exegesis in mind that is discussed in this chapter, the exegesis of al-Sulamī in which Jaʿfar’s opinions are recorded.

Jaʿfar’s links to early Sufi figures, serving as their teacher and model, fall into three major categories: likely, possible, and historically impossible. Even that last category must be stated carefully, because it assumes the framework of academic historical methods, especially methodological naturalism. By “methodological naturalism” I refer to the presumption that although that which is supernatural might certainly be “true,” it will not be included as historical fact. In Sufism, encounters, guidance, and even initiatic chains include those who might not have ever met in a physical sense, or even have been conterminously living. In the case of Jaʿfar, such claims are made for Abū Yazīd al-Basṭāmī, a seminal saint in the Sufi tradition, who could not have met Jaʿfar physically based on the dates of his lifespan.8 In a realm beyond time and space, however, such meetings are possible. Al-Basṭāmī’s preternatural affiliation with Jaʿfar is of particular importance because it connects the two figures in the primary chain of affiliation associated with the Naqshbandī order, one of the largest living Sufi orders.9

Others who Sufi authorities have claimed learned from Jaʿfar include Mālik ibn Dīnār (d. 748), Dāʾūd al-Ṭāʾī (d. 775), Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 776), Ibrāhīm ibn Adham (d. ca. 777–8), and Shaqīq al-Balkhī (d. 810).10 Among these affiliations, those of Sufyān and Shaqīq become echoed in Shiʿi narrations. Sufyān comes to Jaʿfar on multiple occasions seeking to learn more details of the Prophet’s Sunna, and yet also receives reproof for what Jaʿfar deems to be his promotion of an excessive asceticism that lacks an awareness of the context of the Prophet’s world-renouncing practices, such that true renunciation should be hidden from others.11 A similar exchange between the two occurs in the Sufi text ʿIlm al-Qulūb (Science of the Hearts), composed perhaps by Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī or by someone in his circle, when Jaʿfar reveals to the suspicious Sufyān that, while he wears a silken cloak for others to see, he secretly wears a coarse woolen garment beneath it “for God.”12 Despite his possible leanings toward the emerging Ḥanafī approach, Shaqīq appears in the Shiʿi Hadith as a transmitter of the excellences of the Ahl al-Bayt, a verifier of the sainthood (and thus, for Twelver Shiʿis, imamate) of Jaʿfar’s son Mūsā al-Kāẓim (d. 799), and, along with his teacher Ibrāhīm ibn Adham, an ascetic whose zeal for avoiding the pursuit of wealth stands corrected by Jaʿfar.13

It is, however, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Sulamī’s (d. 1021, henceforth simply “Sulamī”) devotion to Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq’s teachings that pertain most to this discussion, because of his Sufi exegesis (tafsīr) in which Jaʿfar’s observations appear, one of the earliest Sufi exegeses. From a strictly historical perspective, to call Jaʿfar’s sayings “Sufi” is anachronistic. Sufism was a term initially applicable to an interior-oriented, ascetic movement in Baghdad in the ninth century. In the tenth century this movement began to merge with other movements in Iraq, Iran, and central Asia, movements focused on renunciation and the soul’s relationship with God.14 As a result of this growth, Sufism became an approach to Islamic thought so renowned for its laying claim to the perfection of the heart and the encounter with God that it was recognizable even when looking backwards, before its existence. This allowed, for example, ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad al-Būshanjī (d. 959–60), a disciple of Sulamī’s main source Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAṭāʾ (d. 921–2 or 923–4), to lament that Sufism had become “a name without a reality, but it used to be a reality without a name,” referring to “Sufism” not as a historical phenomenon, but as the science of inner perfection that existed for the Prophet, his companions, and, before them, for humanity since the dawn of God–human relationships.15 It also allowed Sulamī, as a Shāfiʿī Hadith specialist and Sufi, to locate Sunni Sufi thought in the Qurʾanic readings of Jaʿfar, the imam of the Shiʿis, frequently using Shiʿi chains of narration and transmitters for his exegesis.16


Sulamī’s materials mainly came from other texts, either in his possession or recited to him, but he was much more than a compiler. His careful structuring of his exegesis or tafsīr through selected sayings qualifies him as an author, so that we are reading Sulamī’s presentation of his saintly predecessors. In other words, the Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr (“Realities of Exegesis”) and the appendix that Sulamī wrote to it (Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr, or “Appendix to ‘Realities of Exegesis’”), in which Jaʿfar features more prominently than others, present Sulamī’s own Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, that is, his understanding of what Sufism’s antecedents said about the Qurʾan. Hamid Algar has overviewed the manifold problems with attributing this text to Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, and Gerhard Böwering has gone so far as to declare the author “pseudo-Jaʿfar.”17 Yet attribution to Jaʿfar for at least parts of the exegesis cannot be denied outright, according to the text’s translator into English, Farhana Mayer, whose arguments consider the content of the text itself and the possibility that Jaʿfar’s teachings might have been suited differently for various groups of students.18 Akbar Thubūt has also located some of the phrasings found in the exegesis within Shiʿi books, while still maintaining an overall skeptical stance.19 And while Paul Nwyia’s emphatic assertion that the exegesis mirrors one found in Shiʿi collections has been refuted convincingly, ʿAlī Zayʿūr offers a nuanced consideration of the possibilities of attribution.20 Zayʿūr considers ways in which Jaʿfar’s exegesis might have circulated among his elite students, and how it was written and disseminated either without the approval of that circle or because of an emerging trend to record on paper.21

Even though the exegesis’s appendix, Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr, was only recently discovered by Böwering in a library vault in Sarajevo, the text clearly left its mark on generations of Sufi Qurʾan commentators following Sulamī, since we know that Rūzbihān Baqlī (d. 1209) uses around five hundred quotations from this text in his seminal ʿArāʾis al-Bayān (“Brides of Elucidation”).22 Sulamī’s exegesis (the original and the appendix) seems to be one of the earliest sources for technical terms and themes that would be developed in the “science” of Sufism.23 Böwering compares the influence that Sulamī’s exegesis as a whole had on Sufism before the twelfth century to the influence that Ibn ʿArabī’s major writings had on Sufism after that point.24 Perhaps most interesting for Sufi approaches to the Qurʾan is Jaʿfar’s presentation of a theory of esoteric readings of the Qurʾan, a fourfold hermeneutic that preserves the apparent, confirms the hidden and contradictory, and reserves the comprehensive truth for those capable of receiving revelation.25

Another important “Sufi” text that I will consider in this discussion on repentance is Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa wa Miftāḥ al-Ḥaqīqa (“Lantern of the Sharia Path and the Key to Reality”), which has been attributed to Jaʿfar. Muna Bilgrami has translated the text into English under the title The Lantern of the Path. Scholars have also questioned the attribution of this text to Jaʿfar, but a closer consideration of those doubts might support the veracity of this attribution. Mīrzā Ḥusayn al-Nūrī al-Ṭabarsī (d. 1902) undertakes a persuasive defense of Jaʿfar’s (oral) composition of Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, in which he weighs the affirmation of his authorship among early Hadith scholars against the doubts of later ones.26 Of particular interest is that an influential judgment against this attribution was made by Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisī (d. 1699). Yet al-Majlisī seems to reject Jaʿfar’s authorship of this book out of his notorious intellectual aversion to Sufism, ignoring precedent cases in Shiʿi Hadith scholarship that might verify the attribution.27 Among those earlier scholars who affirm this book’s attribution to Jaʿfar is al-Majlisī’s own father, Muḥammad Taqī (d. 1659), who did indeed sympathize with Sufism.28 Shaqīq al-Balkhī has been named as a possible author of the text, in which case the text would be a case of the author projecting his wisdom into the mouth of his master, as some have thought Plato did with Socrates, for example.29


Definitions of tawba or “repentance” abound, yet all agree that the human turns away either from disobeying God, or from everything other than God, returning to God. Tawba, in fact, means “turning back,” and Atif Khalil, who has written about repentance in Sufism, has also discussed the limitations in translating tawba as “repentance,” even though it is the most suitable English equivalent available.30 In Sufi readings of the Qurʾan, God turns back toward the servant first, awakening the servant’s desire to return to Him; then the servant turns in repentance; and then God turns back in forgiveness (see Q 9:118). In other words, while repentance often occasions discussions about the minutiae of intentionality, ultimately, there is a flicker of realization that starts with God, comparable to inspiration. Thus, according to Abū Bakr al-Kalābādhī, who cites this verse as evidence, God’s aspirational desire (irādatuhu) for those who repent was “the cause of their aspirational desire for Him.”31 The verse is interpreted similarly in a short treatise by Sulamī, as well as by the later Sufi master Ibn ʿArabī, as part of a much more detailed spiritual cosmology than presented in earlier Sufism.32

Most Sufi manuals will list repentance as the first station for the wayfarer. At the station of repentance, a person struggles between the calls of the lower self and the call of God, and yet such struggle seems to be the very purpose of human existence. In this regard, the Prophet Muhammad has been reported to declare, “By the one who holds my soul I swear, were you not to sin, God would do away with you and bring a people who would sin; they would seek God’s forgiveness, and he would in turn forgive them.”33 Much as Søren Kierkegaard (d. 1855) contemplated the necessity of sin and even the cultivation of “negative capabilities” as a realization of essential human fragility, this narration points to the irony of the human condition: While one must strive to avoid sinning, the process of sinning, repenting, and being forgiven is crucial to the relationship between humans and God.34

The perpetuity of repentance appears center stage in Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa. “Repentance is the rope of God,” Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq says, “and the [very principle of] aid in his attentive care.”35 What follows this statement implies that this rope separating the Helper and the helped cannot be severed, even if it shortens for those—such as prophets—who have become closer to Him:

The servant must be continuously in repentance, in every state. [Therefore,] there is a different repentance for each of the categories of God’s servants. The repentance of prophets is a turn away from the innermost heart’s having been disrupted. The repentance of God’s friends is a turn away from the tinges of passing thoughts. The repentance of the pure is a turn away from the relief of being made cheerful. The repentance of the elite is a turn away from being occupied with anything but God the Exalted. And the repentance of the common is a turn away from sins.36

Sins in the outward sense, as infractions against divine legislation, have inward counterparts of various grades. These inward counterparts can be summarized as failures to be utterly God-conscious, even in the subtlest manner. It is noteworthy, however, that Jaʿfar follows this passage with an in-depth discussion entirely focused on the lowest, or perhaps “primary” repentance, that of “the common,” namely the sinners. As tears of regret cleanse them from within, the repentant ones strive outwardly to make up for their past actions, exerting themselves through self-discipline and renunciation, undergoing a process that bestows knowledge upon them and raises their rank. Here Jaʿfar speaks of what might be called the station of repentance, for indeed he refers to the “rank (daraja) of the repentant ones” as a milestone; one must be careful not to regress and “fall” from this rank, he says.37

There is a difference, then, between the phenomenon of repentance and the station of repentance. Repentance as a phenomenon characterizes the entire process of the journey itself. One is always and at every station turning away from oneself and toward God, such that even prophets—in this latter sense—repent. The sentiment that a person can never be free from the phenomenon of repentance is captured in a half-line of poetry quoted often by Sufi writers, such as Najm al-Dīn Kubrā (d. 1221):

I said to her, “What sin have I committed?” She said in reply,

Your existence is a sin to which no sin can be compared.”38

While the “she” here is as unknown as the poem’s speaker, although sometimes imagined to be the female saint Rābiʿa, the meaning is clear. The need to turn away from oneself will exist as long as there exists a “self” separate from the beloved. In this sense, repentance might be a “virtue,” since the change that occurs in one’s will and self-awareness should be permanent and acquired after effort and practice.

The station of repentance is an initial phase in the soul’s journey to its Lord. Some Sufi masters argued that, once this station has been passed completely, then one has abandoned the wavering that defines the soul before its absolute repentance. In Sufi terminology, this was called “abandoning repentance” (tark al-tawba), which defined those who were so engrossed in God that they had become oblivious not only to their past faults, but even to their very own identities.39 For that reason, Ruwaym ibn Aḥmad (d. 915) described the highest realization of repentance as “repentance from repentance,” or, in the gloss of Abū Naṣr al-Sarrāj (d. 988), “repenting from even seeing good works and acts of obedience.”40 Abandonment of repentance or awareness of good acts seems to be partly about sincerity. The poet Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār considers at length the way in which love can become so encompassing that the lover loses his sense of self, causing him to “repent from reputation and [Sufi] states.”41 The association made between sincere love and a lack of self-awareness eventually became epitomized as the metaphor of drunkenness in Persian poetry:

You’re both a poseur and a hypocrite,

if you walk upon the path of love pretending,

but those, the silent ones, who tread on it

say so much, with all the hush they’re sending.

The true man’s tongue is only thought and sight

O how precise this vocabulary is!

His icy sighs, his tears, his face so white:

these symptoms three are true, and they are his.

In judging lovers drunk on the wine of yearning,

Desist from giving them a sinner’s sentence,

No hope for repenting for him who in love’s burning—

You just can’t make them fit: love and repentance.

Hearts in men by love alone survive,

The heart that’s not in love is not alive.

If Sanāʾī is no lover, then declare:

“His words amount to nothing but hot air.”42

The poem, a ghazal by Majdūd ibn Ādam Ghaznawī (“Sanāʾī”) (d. ca. 1131), considers the contrast between ecstatic love (ʿishq) and conforming to social expectations, so it is little wonder that parts of it have been spuriously attributed to the paragon of renegade ecstatic love, Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj (d. 922).43 While the poetic voice declares that repentance has no place in the drunken lover’s vocabulary, the poem does concern a turn away from everything and a turn toward one all-absorbing beloved, involving the sort of tears, pain, and inwardness that Jaʿfar prescribes for the repentant in Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, “spending his nights awake and his days in thirst.”44

Certainly from the perspective of tone, the lover’s refusal to repent is antithetical to Jaʿfar’s sober descriptions of repentance. Yet, in another sense, the complete and utter turn toward the beloved (or the divine beloved, God) is the essence of the higher reaches of repentance, according to Jaʿfar. This can be seen in his comments on Abraham’s declaration, in his disassociation from idolaters, that “I turn my face toward the One who originated the heavens and the earth” (Q 6:79). Jaʿfar notes that Abraham’s declaration means, “I submit my heart to the One who created it, and I cut myself off from everything but Him.”45 Abraham is aware, according to Jaʿfar, that idols in their archetypal form represent the passions, that is, they represent desires for anything but the one divine beloved, and he has renounced them forever.46 When, at the more primary station of repentance, we disassociate ourselves from the idols of the passions and yet are faced with the fact that our past selves worshipped them, even in the subtlest of ways, then a sense of dissonance surfaces we call “regret.” Regret is in fact the essence of repentance: “[Merely] to regret is a repentance,” according to a hadith of Muhammad narrated by Jaʿfar’s father and discussed by the later master Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 1072).47

Even the themes of ecstatic love, rejection, and retreat found in Persian poetic accounts such as Sanāʾī’s can be seen in Jaʿfar’s discussions of repentance. Thus, Moses asks God to show himself to him. It is a profoundly suggestive request, because it both resembles and yet reverses the demand of Moses’s recalcitrant followers that he “show us God out in the open” (Q 4:153). That which they sought out of disbelief he seeks out of conviction and ecstatic love. Like the lover of Sanāʾī’s poem, he has separated himself from others, and, like the lover, he is denied the intimacy he requests. God tells him that “you will not see Me,” but that he should “gaze upon this mountain, and, if it stands in place, then you will see Me” (Q 7:143). When God divulges Himself to the mountain, it crumbles, and Moses falls, losing consciousness. When he comes to, Moses declares: “Glory be Yours, I repent to You! And I am the first of those who believe” (Q 7:143). In Jaʿfar’s interpretation of Moses’ repentance, the prophet “disassociates himself from his intellect.”48 It is a process of declaring not only God to be transcendent, but the human intellect to be transcended, unable to fathom God’s essence. Hearing God, according to Jaʿfar, occurs on the plane of God’s attributes. To hear is to be exposed to someone’s effects, someone’s words; one can even hear someone indirectly. Yet to see is “to have a vantage perspective upon the essence”; vision is always direct, and thus cannot be applied to God.49 Moses’ turn toward God here is one away from his own knowledge, recognizing the limits of that knowledge. Sulamī tells us in his exegesis that “those who repent,” as described in Q 9:112, are those who “return to God in their entirety, away from everything they have of attributes and states.”50 Ironically, then, the higher reaches of the phenomenon of absolute repentance, in which one turns away from the self completely, seem to contrast with the station of repentance, in which one is still concerned with more fundamental matters of obedience concerning the self. If one takes “repentance” to mean not the phenomenon of turning toward the beloved, but rather concern with one’s own situation or salvation (or, even worse, one’s reputation), then Moses’ disassociation from his own sense of self is precisely the reason that Sanāʾī says that love and repentance are irreconcilable.


It is fascinating to see the way in which later, detailed discussions in Sufism can be found in “nucleus” form as pithy sayings attributed to the early saints, whether this occurs by projection or by sound historical fact. This correspondence can be seen in comparing Jaʿfar’s sayings to the important discussion of repentance found in the thirty-second chapter of Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī’s Qūt al-Qulūb (“Nourishment for the Hearts”). According to Atif Khalil, who has considered this chapter in detail, al-Makkī’s is the “longest single sustained treatment of tawba, written from a Sufi perspective, currently available to us from the first four centuries of Islam.”51 According to al-Makkī, writing roughly two centuries after Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, repentance, unlike some of the higher ethical stations, applies to all believers. It is not optional.52 Moreover, it requires a determined intention never to return to the sin; an attempt to compensate for the sin, through a good deed; and an awareness that one is responsible for the sin but also that the sin has emerged from God’s just decree.53 This last condition seems to offer a contradictory description of sin and repentance, such that one acts freely but lives within a framework determined by God. Determinism is one of the most difficult and debated points in Islamic theology, although it should be clear that choice or volition is a key part of al-Makkī’s presentation of repentance. In fact, one can say that volition is an essential part of being alive for humans. Upon death, according to al-Makkī, one’s desires—which cause one to sin—become null. It is then that a person will long to turn back toward God, but the doors of volitional acts will be closed, and it will be too late.54 This idea later becomes expounded upon powerfully by the Sufi master Najm al-Dīn Kubrā, who defines repentance as “a return to God, the Exalted, by choice, just as death is a return without choice.”55 Everyone repents or “returns,” in other words, but some do so by force, when they die and the soul returns to God involuntarily. Others return by choice, while alive, and hence die before they die. Jaʿfar too describes the death of the human lower soul as the ultimate form of repentance, using Q 2:54 as evidence, according to a later Egyptian Shāfiʿī Sufi commentator, Zakariyyā ibn Muḥammad al-Anṣārī (d. 1520).56

Material from Jaʿfar on human choice in the context of repentance in the Shiʿi tradition is rich; so rich, in fact, that it would involve a lengthy discussion, one that would matter more to the study of Shiʿi Islam than the study of ethics in Sufism. Yet one does find an incredibly pertinent saying attributed to Jaʿfar by the Egyptian Sufi historian Zayn al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raʾūf al-Munāwī al-Ḥaddādī (d. 1621): “When you have sinned, seek forgiveness, for [sins] are nothing but lapses wrapped around the necks of men before they were created. But beware not to persist in it.”57 Jaʿfar here discusses a central issue in notions of repentance, namely, hope in God’s forgiveness accompanied by resoluteness not to return to the transgression in question. More interesting is the notion that one’s sins originate prior to one’s creation. This seems to support the notion of the “predetermination” of sin, emphasized in al-Makkī’s discussion of repentance, as well as in Abū Ḥāmid Ghazālī’s.58 Two factors might, on the other hand, encourage us to see this saying differently. First, there are Jaʿfar’s own views on predetermination, in which he advocates “a position between the two [determinism and free-will] in which is the truth,” even though his statements appear in Shiʿi sources, and not those that would be favored by Sunni Sufis.59 Second is the language of the saying itself, in which “lapses” and the human being itself (or human “necks”) are connected closely. It is as if sins inhere within those in question, as inseparable parts of their being. Thus, another reading of the saying might be possible as well: A human, by nature of being human, has certain propensities to sin inherent in his or her very being. We might call this, today, our genetic makeup as developed in our moral environment. Alternatively, considering the conversation about premodern philosophical ethics preceding this chapter, we might call it our individual constitution as developed in our particular clime and society, called al-sajīya in Jaʿfar’s terminology.60 In either case, assuming that God knows in advance when, how, and where each person will come to be, it makes sense to say that there are “lapses wrapped around” our necks before we are born, from the perspective of a divine creator standing outside of time.

This contradiction, that one is simultaneously free and subject to God’s will, is reflected in the very relationship at the crux of repentance, which is also a seeming contradiction. Repentance as a turning away from the self and back toward God is the ultimate act of humility, and yet, contradictorily, it bestows glory upon the servant. This becomes clear, once again, in al-Munāwī’s attribution to Jaʿfar of a saying: “Whoever seeks a glory that needs no tribe and an awe that needs no worldly power should find his way out of the ignominy of disobedience and into the glory of obedience.”61 In Jaʿfar’s presentation of self-perfection, much as one finds in the Qurʾan and Hadith, worldly expectations are inverted. Submission is power, obedience is glory, and even servitude is lordship, as he clarifies in Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa: “Servitude is a precious gemstone the essence of which is lordship. Thus, whatever is missing in servitude is found in lordship, and whatever is hidden from lordship appears in servitude.”62 God’s power appears in human servitude, so that servitude becomes an inverted mirror image of divine ascendancy. Without human admissions of neediness, God’s self-sufficiency does not become manifest.

In obeying and worshipping God, one becomes a servant-lord, that is, a servant whose admitted nothingness allows for God’s attributes of greatness to appear, through self-effacing acts. Jaʿfar makes this clear, as well, in Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa: “Servitude means abandonment of all. Preventing the lower soul from that which it desires and compelling it to do that which it hates is the means to that. The key to this is abandoning comfort, loving seclusion, and taking a path toward neediness of God the Exalted. The Prophet said, ‘Worship God as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, He sees you.’”63 Countering the demands of the lower self (one’s passions) becomes a way to return to God, and returning to God—turning away from all but God—can become a way to see Him. Jaʿfar explains this in Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, indicating that God continues to appear, even as the servant perceives himself or herself going in and out of existence.64 The formula for drawing near to God and seeing him lies in the very letters of the word “servant,” or ʿabd in Arabic. The first letter, ʿayn, is the servant’s knowledge of God (ʿilmuhu), which brings the servant to realize that he or she has no power or qualities of good, for all perfection exists with God. This brings the servant to return to God and distance himself or herself from all but Him. Indeed, the middle letter of ʿabd, the , stands for the servant’s distance (bawnuhu) from all but God. Lastly, comes proximity and direct vision: The last letter, dāl, stands for the servant’s “proximity (dunūwuhu) to God the Exalted, without qualification or veiling.”65 God’s beauty is the reward for the pains of turning away from the passions of the self and returning to Him.



Within Sufism, an important debate developed about forgetting or remembering sins. Some argued that keeping one’s sins in mind, even after repentance, led to humility and a fear of returning to error, while others argued that remembering sins made too much of them, holding the forgiven person back from moving forward. Remembering a past sin might even tempt a person to commit it again, when its pleasures are remembered. Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī seems to have held a middling position, such that a person should determine which approach works best in his or her particular circumstances.66 There is one thing that is certain, however, and that is that a realization of one’s sins—early on—can bring one to awaken and undertake a decisive shift in the condition and orientation of the soul. This is a major theme, of course, in the writings of the Christian “Church Fathers,” such that the driving force of St. Augustine of Hippo’s (d. 430) Confessions is an awareness of the ontological implications of his sinfulness vis-à-vis God’s perfection. In Islam, realization of one’s shortcomings is such an important element of repentance, that Khwāja ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī (d. 1089) gives it its own category in his Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn (“Waystations of the Journeyers”). He distinguishes such realization from repentance and describes it as a precursor to the station of repentance; it is called “awakening” (yaqẓa), the very first station on the path to self-perfection.67

The theme of remembering one’s sins becomes the topic of a hadith narrated by Jaʿfar in Shiʿi collections. Since Jaʿfar would not have considered himself a storyteller, but was—in fact—celebrated for narrating accounts from his ancestor the Prophet Muhammad, or, in this case, from the Hebrew prophets perhaps as related by Muhammad, it seems fitting to end on this narration. The narration highlights important themes found in Sufism (such as the retreat from society), in addition to its consideration of repentance. Nevertheless, both historically and in terms of genre, the narration does not fall under the corpus of “Sufi texts,” and must be categorized instead as “texts attributed to Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq.”

While the text is not “Sufi,” still, to overemphasize the distinction between the Shiʿi Hadith corpus and Sufi texts is to miss the point when it comes to Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq. Indeed what makes Jaʿfar’s case so interesting to historians of Sufism is the possibilities of interchange between two proto-traditions. Neither “Sufism” nor even “Shiʿism” meant then what they mean today, although Shiʿism was much more demarcated as an affiliation in the eighth century than Sufism, in part on account of Jaʿfar’s teachings about the role of the “imam.” The interconnectedness between Shiʿi teachings and Sufi texts has been seen already, for example, in Sulamī’s interest in Shiʿi lines of narration, and in Sufyān al-Thawrī’s putative association with Jaʿfar for the express purpose of gathering narrations going back to Muhammad, as well as in the possibility of Shaqīq al-Balkhī’s authorship of Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa. Especially since this particular narrative considers the “spiritual intelligence” (as I will call it) of a prostitute, and since the association of Jaʿfar with the intelligence or intellect (al-ʿaql) even appears among Sunni Sufi writers, the hadith seems a fitting choice.68 My use of “spiritual intelligence” is meant to capture a difference in Jaʿfar’s notion of ʿaql, a word that I have previously translated as “intellect.” In many of the reports traced to Jaʿfar, ʿaql is a moral entity, endowed with forces of virtue and disposed to know God, one at variance with the Neoplatonic sense of “intellect” that appears later in Islamic thought, and in line with that of another forebear to Sufism, al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī (d. ca. 912).69 This sort of intelligence might be thought of as a wisdom that is both practical and theoretical, one that reveals itself as moral and intellectual clarity of thought.

The narration appears in one of the most famous Shiʿi collections, al-Kāfī (“The Sufficient Book”) of Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb al-Kulaynī (d. 941). It is as follows:

There was a devout worshipper among the children of Israel who was not tempted at all when it came to the worldly, such that Iblis (Satan) gave out a snort of wrath and gathered his troops [of devils] before him. Then he said, “Who can take his case for me?”

One of them replied, “I can take him.”

“How will you get at him?” Iblis said.

“From the way of [the love of] women,” he replied.

“You’re not fit for him. He’s never even experienced women,” Iblis said.

“Then I can take him,” another said.

“How will you get at him?” Iblis said.

“From the way of drinking and pleasures,” he replied.

“You’re not fit for him. He has nothing to do with such things,” Iblis said.

“Then I can take him,” another said.

“How will you get at him?” Iblis said.

“From the way of piety,” he replied.

“Set out, for you are his compeer!” Iblis said.

Thus, he went to the man’s location, stood opposite him, and began worshipping.

[Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq continued:] The [devout] man would sleep but the devil wouldn’t. The man would rest, but the devil wouldn’t.

The man began to admire him; his opinion of himself had begun to shrink; and he reckoned his own deeds as trivial.

Thus he said, “O God’s servant! From where do you draw the strength for such worship?”

He did not answer.

The man repeated himself.


Then he repeated himself once more.

So [the devil] replied, “O God’s servant, I committed a sin, and I have repented of it. Whenever I recall the sin, I find new strength for worship.”

The man said, “Tell me your sin, that I can commit it and repent, so, once I’ve done that, I too can find new strength for worship.”

He said, “Enter the city and ask for so-and-so the prostitute. Then give her two dirhams and be intimate with her.”

The man said, “Where would I get two dirhams? What would I know of two dirhams?”

So the devil pulled out two dirhams from beneath where he stood and handed them to him.

The man rose and entered the city, wearing his ascetic’s frock, asking around for the house of so-and-so the prostitute. The people directed him there. They thought that he had come to preach moral reform to her, so for that reason they directed him.

He came to her and threw the dirhams before her. He said, “Arise.”

So she did, and she entered her home, saying, “Come in.” She said, “You’ve called on me looking like one who doesn’t come to someone like me. So tell me what’s going on with you.” And he did.

Then she said to him, “O God’s servant, it is much easier to avoid a sin than to seek repentance for one. Not everyone who seeks repentance finds it. This must have been a devil who took human form for you. Turn away from this, and you won’t see anything anymore.”

Thus he turned away from it.

She died that very night. Morning arrived and upon her door was written, “Be present for so-and-so[’s burial prayer], for indeed she is among the people of Paradise.”

The people were suspicious and lingered for three days without burying her, so doubtful were they about her case.

God, the Glorious and Exalted, revealed to one of His prophets—whom I [the narrator reporting from Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq] do not know to be anyone but Moses son of Amram, peace be upon him—to “go to so-and-so and pray upon her, and command the people to do so as well, for I have forgiven her and guaranteed Paradise for her, because she kept My servant such-and-such from disobeying Me.”70

The devout man’s mistake of course is that remembering one’s sin alone is never a means to grow closer to God. Rather, remembering one’s sin as an instance of one’s shortcomings might be. The difference between the two is important. Sinfulness emanates naturally from desires; it cannot be imitated by a conscious decision to disobey God for the sake of improving one’s rank. To turn away from sin and back toward God requires an earnest realization of one’s place as a very imperfect being in God’s universe. The devout man’s preoccupation with his own spiritual perfection, and especially outward acts of worship, places him in a category often found in the teachings of Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, namely, the unflagging ascetic who has little understanding of the lord he worships. The “spiritually intelligent” sinner always has a higher station than the spiritually dimwitted ascetic. In one account, for example, Jaʿfar tells of a man, again from the children of Israel (making it another reference to Hebraic wisdom), on a verdant, wooded island who uses the island not for pleasure, but for the worship of God. When God reveals the man’s reward to an angel, the angel is surprised at its meagerness. Thus, the angel assumes human form and visits the man, who seems to be the only inhabitant of the island. It is not until the man tells the angel that he laments that “if only our Lord had a donkey,” then the island’s grass would not go unconsumed and wasted, that God reveals to the angel the wisdom of the human’s paltry reward. The man had indeed worshipped persistently, but the object of his worship was a deity deformed by ignorance and a lack of insight, and God rewards entirely “according to the measure of his spiritual intelligence (ʿaql).”71

In this case, it is the prostitute who reveals her great spiritual intelligence, an intelligence that is at the heart of repentance. (Her profession places this narration among others in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions that consider the salvation of socially stigmatized female sex workers as examples of God’s mercy.)72 She knows sin firsthand. One gleans from her words that she also knows the difficulty of turning away from sin, once one has entered upon it. Moreover, she cares sincerely for one who has not yet tasted disobedience, and strives to reform him, even though everyone had thought that he might be trying to reform her. To couch the account in Qurʾanic terms, the devout man has succumbed to the logic of Iblis, whose concern with his own superiority caused him to be rash. When God commands him to bow before Adam, Iblis instead vows to prove God wrong in His choice of Adam as His representative (Q 7:12–17). He betrays his own spiritual dimwittedness in failing to repent, instead blaming God for “misleading me” (Q 7:16; 15:39). On the other hand, the prostitute, like her ancestors Adam and Eve, knows her own inherent weakness, and, in fact, the weaknesses of all of the sons and daughters of this pair. Just as Adam and Eve, in their spiritual intelligence, somehow knew to blame themselves, admit their regret, and turn back toward God (Q 7:23), she too knows that repentance is not a tool or a mere technicality; it is a sincere movement of the soul. Even sins must be committed with sincerity for repentance to occur. It is fascinating that the story begins by having one protagonist, the devout man, but ends by redirecting its focus on the prostitute, so compelling is the purity of her action. Her action seems to qualify as a repentance that needs no formal repentance, a manifestation of heartfelt regret in which she turns another person back toward God. As one who guides others, she becomes prophet-like, subject to two instances of revelation: one inscribed on her door, and another communicated to the prophet of her age.


1 Such objections have arisen in a different context. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) concedes his own set of challenges in his argument that the Christian sacrament of penance—analogous in certain respects to repentance (tawba)—is indeed a virtue. The objections to which he responds resemble the problem here that repentance might be seen as a passionate, sudden, and solitary turn away from sin. See Aquinas, Summa Theologica III, Q. 85, Art. 1, pp. 5:2533–2534, as well as III, Q. 85, Art. 3, ad. 4, p. 5:2536.

2 Ritter, “Ḥasan al-Baṣrī”; al-Makkī, Qūt al-Qulūb, p. 1:269.

3 Indeed, early Sufi figures were often associated with alchemy, even if the degree and type of involvement for most of these figures is not entirely clear: Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, Sufyān al-Thawrī, Dhū al-Nūn al-Miṣrī, and al-Junayd, as well as most famously Jābir ibn Ḥayyān al-Ṣūfī (d. 815?) and his putative teacher Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq. See Elias, Aisha’s Cushion, p. 188. In the case of Jābir and Jaʿfar, see al-Hāshimī, al-Kīmīyāʾ Tafkīr al-Islām, pp. 191–6. Fascination with alchemy seems to have been based on the proposition that God has revealed Himself through the order of creation; to understand the former, an important early theorist such as al-Miṣrī says one must understand the latter. See Elias, Aisha’s Cushion, p. 182; Melchert, “The Transition from Asceticism to Mysticism at the Middle of the Ninth Century C.E.,” p. 57.

4 Crow, “The Teaching of Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq,” p. 29.

5 Algar, “Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq iii. And Sufism.”

6 ʿAṭṭār, Tadhkirat al-Awliyāʾ, p. 11. Interestingly, ʿAṭṭār follows the chapter on Jaʿfar with chapters on Uways al-Qaranī (d. 657) and Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, who both lived prior to Jaʿfar.

7 Ibid., p. 11.

8 Algar, “Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq iii. And Sufism.”

9 While this chain of affiliation (silsila) is considered “primary” today, Naqshbandī writers have advocated other chains as primary. See Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, p. 190, n. 2.

10 Algar, “Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq iii. And Sufism.”

11 The Shiʿi collection al-Kāfī presents a generally negative view of Sufyān, even though he is a Hadith narrator in some entries. See al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, no. 7499 (pp. 8:564–5) for an account of his seeking advice on the Hajj, and nos. 8352 (p. 9:510) and 12,449 (pp. 13:18–19) for Jaʿfar’s criticisms. One narration presents Sufyān and an unnamed friend seeking a sermon of the Prophet from Jaʿfar, writing it down, but then destroying it upon realizing its dangerous Shiʿi implications; see no. 1059 (pp. 2:337–340). See also no. 1028 (p. 2:309). By contrast, Dāʾūd al-Ṭāʾī appears only once in al-Kāfī, as a reporter of a narration, no. 14,000 (p. 14:213).

12 Al-Makkī, Qūt al-Qulūb, p. 179; for attribution see Yazaki, “A Pseudo-Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī?” pp. 682–3.

13 For an account of Shaqīq’s praise for Abū Ḥanīfa Nuʿmān ibn Thābit (d. 767), see Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Ḥāshiyyat Radd al-Muḥtār, pp. 71–2. Shaqīq writes about the excellences of the Ahl al-Bayt in Abū al-Qāsim ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad [or Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā] al-Khazzāz al-Qummī al-Rāzī’s (d. ca. 1009–10) Kifāyat al-Athar fī al-Naṣṣ ʿalā al-Aʾimma al-Ithnay-ʿashar, p. 29. A lengthy account of Shaqīq’s encounter with Musā al-Kāẓim appears in Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār, pp. 48:80–2. Jaʿfar’s opposition to the ascetic abandonment of seeking sustenance can be found in al-Jindī, al-Imām Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, pp. 352–3.

14 Karamustafa, Sufism, p. 56.

15 Ibid., p. 100.

16 Böwering, “The Major Sources of Sulamī’s Minor Qurʾān Commentary,” p. 55.

17 Algar, Review of Spiritual Gems, pp. 507–11.

18 Al-Sulamī, Spiritual Gems, pp. xxv–xxxi.

19 Thubūt, “Nigāhī bi Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr wa Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr,” p. 58. See also Algar, Review of Spiritual Gems, p. 508.

20 Böwering, “The Qurʾān Commentary of al-Sulamī,” p. 53.

21 Zayʿūr, Kāmil al-Tafsīr al-Ṣūfī al-ʿIrfānī li-l-Qurʾān ʿind al-Imām Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, p. 31.

22 Böwering, “The Qurʾān Commentary of al-Sulamī,” p. 49, n. 17; al-Sulamī, Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr, p. 18 (Böwering’s introduction); see also Nwyia, Exégèse coranique et langage mystique, pp. 156–88.

23 Thubūt, “Nigāhī bi Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr wa Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr,” p. 59.

24 Böwering, “The Qurʾān Commentary of al-Sulamī,” p. 56.

25 See Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, p. 55; Sands, Ṣūfī Commentaries on the Qurʾān in Classical Islam, p. 13.

26 Al-Nūrī al-Ṭabarsī, Khātimat al-Mustadrak, pp. 1:194–8. Those earlier scholars include Raḍī al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 1266)—who considered this book so important that in his al-Amān min Akhṭār al-Asfār wa-l-Azmān he encouraged people to take it while traveling—as well as Taqī al-Dīn Ibrāhīm ibn ʿAlī al-Kafʿamī (d. ca. 1494) and al-Shahīd al-Thānī Zayn ibn ʿAlī (d. 1557–8 or 1558–9). The two later scholars are al-Majlisī (see main text) and Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī (d. ca. 1693), both renowned Hadith scholars, but both also known for their hostility toward Sufism.

27 Al-Nūrī al-Ṭabarsī, Khātimat al-Mustadrak, p. 1:197.

28 Muḥammad Taqī al-Majlisī, Rawḍ.at al-Muttaqīn, p. 13:201.

29 Gleave, “Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq, ii. Teachings.”

30 Khalil, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib Al-Makkī (d. 996),” p. 295, n. 11. See also al-Qushayrī, al-Risāla al-Qushayriyya fī ʿIlm al-Taṣawwuf, pp. 91–2.

31 Al-Kalābādhī, al-Taʿarruf li-Madhhab Ahl al-Taṣawwuf, p. 158.

32 The treatise by Sulamī has been edited by Muḥammad Sūrī, based on a manuscript in the Malik Library of Tehran, dated 673 AH (1274–5 CE), and given by the editor the title “What is Sufism and who is a Sufi?” ( al-Taṣawwuf wa Man al-Ṣūfī?). See al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, p. 3:328. For Ibn ʿArabī’s readings of the verse in question, see al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīyya, pp. 2:139, 2:589, 3:374, 4:302–3.

33 Al-Naysābūrī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2749, p. 1470.

34 Mahn, Fortunate Fallibility, pp. 40–2.

35 Jaʿfar, Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, p. 97.

36 Ibid., p. 97.

37 Ibid., p. 98.

38 See Khwārazmī, Sharḥ Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam, p. 1:308; Zargar, “The Ten Principles,” pp. 114, n. 30, 126.

39 Khalil, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib Al-Makkī,” p. 321.

40 Al-Sarrāj, Kitāb al-Lumaʿ al-Taṣawwuf, pp. 43–4.

41 ʿAṭṭār, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr, l. 1281, p. 289.

42 Sanāʾī, Dīwān-i Ḥakīm Sanāʾī Ghaznawī, pp. 375–6.

43 Al-Ḥallāj (attributed), Dīwān-i Manṣūr-i Ḥallāj, p. 236.

44 Jaʿfar, Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, p. 98.

45 Al-Sulamī, Ziyādāt Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr, no. 91, p. 41.

46 Ibid., no. 152, p. 71; see also Q 4:27.

47 Al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, no. 20986, p. 16:62; al-Qushayrī, al-Risāla, p. 91.

48 Al-Sulamī, Ḥaqāʾiq al-Tafsīr, p. 1:242.

49 Ibid., p. 1:242.

50 Ibid., p. 1:288.

51 Khalil, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib Al-Makkī,” p. 296.

52 Ibid., p. 301.

53 Ibid., p. 303.

54 Ibid., p. 301.

55 Zargar, “The Ten Principles,” p. 125.

56 See al-Anṣārī, Natāʾij al-Afkār al-Qudsiyya fī Bayān Sharḥ al-Risāla al-Qushayriyya, p. 1:90.

57 Al-Munāwī al-Ḥaddādī, al-Kawākib al-Durriyya fī Tarājim al-Sāda al-Ṣūfiyya, p. 1:252.

58 Khalil, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib Al-Makkī,” p. 303.

59 See al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, no. 410, p. 1:387; Gleave, “Jaʿfar, ii. Teachings.” Many Sunni and Twelver Shiʿi narrations agree that—to some extent—God has determined the range of a particular human being’s actions, including sins. Theologically, things become much more complex and such narrations (and Qurʾanic verses) have been read according to a range of determinism and free will. For helpful discussions, see Schmidtke, The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, especially chapters 1, 2, 17, 23, and 26. An excellent narration (or rather series of narrations) can be found in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, recording an otherworldly discussion between the prophets Moses and Adam, in which Moses blames Adam for his lapse, which caused the entire human race to be exiled from Paradise. To this Adam responds, “God selected you for His words and wrote for you with His own hand; do you blame me for something that God decreed for me forty years before creating me?” (al-Naysābūrī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2652, pp. 1425–6).

60 Crow, “The Role of al-ʿAql in Early Islamic Wisdom,” p. xxvi, n. 13.

61 Al-Munāwī, al-Kawākib al-Durriyya, p. 1:252.

62 Jaʿfar, Miṣbāḥ al-Sharīʿa, p. 7.

63 Ibid., pp. 7–8.

64 Ibid., p. 7.

65 Ibid., p. 8.

66 Khalil, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib Al-Makkī,” p. 309.

67 This view of “awakening” (yaqẓa) as a precursor to “repentance” (tawba) occurs later in Anṣārī’s thought. Originally, in an earlier treatise titled Ṣad Maydān, Anṣārī had made “repentance” the first station and “awakening” the twelfth, occurring after other changes. See Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil, pp. 1:258, 1:266, for the references in Ṣad Maydān; see also Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, pp. 16, 19.

68 One finds Jaʿfar discussing the matter of the truly intelligent or rational (ʿāqil) one with Abū Ḥanīfa in ʿAṭṭār’s Tadhkirat al-Awliyāʾ (p. 14). Abū Ḥāmid Ghazālī quotes Jaʿfar as proclaiming that “there is no property more useful than the intellect (al-ʿaql) and no affliction greater than ignorance.” See Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn, p. 3:241.18.

69 Crow, “The Role of al-ʿAql in Early Islamic Wisdom,” pp. 12–13, 134, 164–77.

70 Al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, no. 10,400, pp. 15:841–3. That the narrator (and not Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq) asserts Moses’ identity, albeit with some degree of doubt, is made clear in p. 15:843, n. 2.

71 Ibid., no. 8, pp. 1:27–8.

72 There is a well-known account in Muslim’s Ṣaḥīḥ in which God forgives a prostitute (also from the children of Israel) because she gives a thirsty dog water to drink on a hot day. See al-Naysābūrī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, nos. 2244, 2245, p. 1233. The theme can be found, as well, in Jewish and Christian scriptures; see Joshua 6:17–25, Matthew 21:31–2, Luke 7:36–50, Hebrews 11:31, and b. Menaḥot 44a.