Said Nursi and the Animals
From his Anatolian childhood onwards the great thinker Bediuzzaman Said Nursi had a close relationship with and a real love for the animals and the natural world, which he perceive as the handiwork of God and as a signpost pointing to him. He was fascinated by the living creatures, mountains and streams of the land, and for all the creatures he felt an inner sense of love and compassion.
In his biography Bediuzzaman recorded how, when engaged in study staying in retreat in the mausoleum in Tillo, he shared the food that was brought to him by the villagers, with the ants of that place, calling these little believers and praising them as examples hard work and cooperation.
Bediuzzaman would discourage people from harming or killing wild animals, such as stopping a gamekeeper from shooting nearby partridges, by reminding him it was the nesting season.
One time on of Bediuzzaman’s students killed a lizard and Bediuzzaman became angry with him, asking him whether it was he who had created it? Thus reminding him that it was a creature created by the Creator for a reason that he had killed, one that was merely living in Islam according to Divine designs.
Another time when Bediuzzaman was imprisoned by the tyrannical state apparatus he saw that flies were being killed by spraying for no great reason. He was most upset by this and responded by writing a short treatise on flies.
Bediuzzaman used to develop close ties and companionship with all sorts of creatures, although they may be often limited in intelligence and form compared to the human beings, he could see their essential selves for the pure hearted non-human believers that they are, servants of God who, unlike human beings, never deviate from Islam.
Although not a Sufi in the commonly understood meaning of the word, Bediuzzaman was infused with the inner spirit of Islam and through it he formed relations with the universe and everything around him, enabling him to establish a deep empathic and real relationship with all creatures founded on wisdom that we are all the creations and servants of God and compassion like that which was demonstrated to the creatures by the Holy Prophet.
Abu Yazid and the Animals
One day the great Sufi Abu Yazid Bistami (ra) was walking along a narrow way with his disciples, when a dog approached, coming the other way. Abu Yazid moved to the side to kindly allow the dog to pass, but one of his disciples inwardly disapproved of this act of mercy and secretly he thought to himself that;
‘God Almighty honoured humankind above the creatures and Abu Yazid is the King of the Sufis, with such a following of disciples, yet he makes way for a dog! How can this be?’
Intuiting the disapproval of the disciple Abu Yazid explained to him that upon seeing the dog in this predicament the intuition had come into his head that the dog had mutely communicated; What failings was I guilty of at the dawn of time that I was given the form of a dog and what exceptional merit did you acquire that you were robed in honour as the King of the Sufis?
Sofyan al Thauri and the Animals
And that this was why he had given it the right of way. One day the great Sufi Sofyan al Thauri (ra) was walking through the market when he saw a caged bird for sale that was fluttering and making a pitiful sound. Feeling mercy for it he bought it and set it free, but rather than fly away it lingered round Sofyan’s home and would accompany and watch him as he prayed, sometimes even perching upon him.
When Sofyan passed away the bird was bereaved and it followed the Sufi’s shrouded body as it was carried away by the funeral procession. When Sofyan’s body was buried the sorrowful bird dashed itself upon the ground trying to reach its beloved friend and patron, and as a result it too passed away.
It is said that the people then heard a heavenly voice declare that Almighty God had forgiven Sofyan as a result of the compassion that he had shown to the animals.
Sahl ibn Abdullah and the Animals
In Nawawi’s Bustan ul Arifeen it is recorded that many people of Tustar noticed how Sheikh Sahl ibn Abdullah (ra) used to receive visits from wild carnivorous beasts and he would entertain them as guests, feeding them meat before sending them home.
Rumi and the Animals
Jellaludeen Rumi’s life was an act of charity and from the gifts which the nobles and powerful people would give him he was able to assist many poor people in the city. He would even give things away until he had nothing left and on those days when he had even given his food away he would say that he was being blessed by having the smell of saintliness in his home.
Rumi was an exemplar of mercy and although he was normally mild he would become angry if he saw someone mistreating the weak or needy and remind them that all people were brothers and sisters to one another.
He was a paragon of mercy to all creatures and one day he saw a dog sleeping in an alley thus blocking the way, but rather than move it or step over it he merely waited for it to awaken, however, another pedestrian came along and moved the dog so that he could pass and Rumi chided him for causing needless trouble to the dog.
Another time Rumi was traveling in the country with one of his disciples. He explained to his companions that although asses are the vehicle of the humble many Prophets (may God bless him and give him peace) had ridden upon them, such as Seth, Ezra, Jesus and Muhammad (may the peace and blessings be upon them all).
Soon afterwards one of the asses upon which they were riding began to bray very loudly and the disciple upon it responded by beating the poor beast upon the head to try and quieten it. Rumi ordered him to desist from this and reminded him that the animal was only remonstrating because of his worldly needs and pointed out that as all animals were motivated by such then why would the student not beat all of them upon the head. Seeing the cruelty and foolishness of his ways the disciple dismounted and then kissed and stroked the poor animal.
It is recorded in the Acts of the Adepts that some butchers purchased a heifer to be slaughtered, she broke loose and ran away. A crowd ran after her, trying to return her to the butchers, but she would not return and became aggressive.
Rumi happened to be passing and on seeing him the heifer became calm and quiet. She gently came towards him and then stood as though talking to him with her heart and pleading for her life. Rumi patted and hugged her.
When the butchers arrived Rumi begged for the heifer’s life, explaining that she had placed herself under his protection. The butcher’s therefore let her go free and Rumi said to his disciples that if an animal being led to slaughter, breaks loose and takes refuge with me, God granting it immunity for my sake, how much greater so is the case when a human being seeks God with heart and soul, devoutly turning to Him? …
God certainly saves such people from Hell and leads him to Heaven, an eternal abode. The disciples were made happy by these words and thus began a celebration of song and worship that lasted into the night.