Bû Shu`aib al-Ubayy was a leader in religion whom everyone used to praise; one who rose in the night and fasted continually, one who was distinguished in that age for his asceticism. He betook himself from the city to a cell on the mountain, and made his escape from pain and sorrow.
It chanced that a certain woman had an affection for him; she said, "O Shaikh, would it be fitting for thee to have a wife? If thou wilt, I place myself at thy disposal, and will willingly become thy wife; my soul will cheerfully be satisfied with little, and. I shall never think of my former ease." He answered, "Excellent; it is very fitting; I approve. If thou art satisfied, I am content."
She was a modest woman called Jauhara, and had a full share of beauty and grace; chaste, refined, of sweet disposition, an incarnation of good deeds; content with the decree of the revolving heavens, she left the city for the hermit's cell, and there seeing a piece of matting lying on the floor, she straightway took it up. The
devout Bû Shu`aib said to her, "O thou, now my cherished wife, why hast thou taken up the carpet? For the black earth is only the place for our shoes." She said, "I did it because it was best so; for I have heard you say that any act of devotion is best performed when no screen interposes; and the mat was an obstacle between my forehead and the actual earth.
Every night Bû Shu`aib's daily meal consisted of two round cakes for his querulous belly; with these two barley-cakes that pious man broke his fast and was always content. But he fell ill from the risings that so affected his nights; and so, being helpless, the good man, because of the weakness brought on by fasting, said the jarz and sunnah prayers that night sitting. His wife laid one cake before him, and gave him a drop of vinegar,--nothing more. Said the Shaikh, "O wife, my allowance is more than this! Why is it so little, wife! She said, "Because the worshipper who says his prayers sitting receives only half the full reward; and if thou sittest to say thy prayers, thou eatest the half of thy usual allowance. Ask no more from me, O Shaikh, than half thy dole; I have warned thee. For the portion that belongs to prayers said sitting is the half of the reward given for those said standing; why expect the reward of the whole when thou performest but half thy devotions? Perform the whole, and then ask for the whole reward; otherwise such worship is absolutely wrong."
O thou, in the path of sincerity thou art feebler than a woman, laggest far behind such of thy fellow-creatures as she. By such prayer as comes not from the heart thou canst not anywise obtain thy soul's release. No one regards as of any worth the service whose life
principle comes not from the heart; for a bone is of itself no delicacy on one's plate without the marrow. Know that at the resurrection no prayer that is imperfect will be taken into account; the marrow of prayer consists in lowliness, and if there be not lowliness it will not be received. A man must come to prayer as one wounded, sorrowing, and in poverty; and if there be not lowliness and trust the devil derides him.
Whoso is wholly taken up with fasting and prayer, poverty ever locks the door of his soul; in this world of deceit and desire, in this hundred-thousand-years-enduring cage, the cap of thy degree is the compliment thou offerest it; but thy head is greater than the cap.
Whoso enters into prayer with fitting preparation, the reward of his prostration is the eave of the West.
Go then, perform thy prayers without breath of desire, for the dew of desire utterly corrupts them; the baseness of thy prayers and thy fasting is such that the slipper of thy foot is the only present in thy hand.
Speak in pleasant tones on coming to the mountain; why offer it the braying of an ass? Thou hast raised up a hundred thousand ruffians in the path of prayer, who drown thy cries. It must needs be that the words of thy prayer come back in their entirety, like an echo, from the mountain of the world.