Dhūl-Nūn Abū l-Fayḍ Thawbān b. Ibrāhīm al-Miṣrī (Arabic: ذو النون المصري; d. Giza, in 245/859 or 248/862), often referred to as Dhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī or Zūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī for short, was an early Egyptian Muslim mystic and ascetic. His surname "al Misri" means "The Egyptian". He was born in Upper Egypt in 796, Dhul-Nun is said to have made some study of the scholastic disciplines of alchemy, medicine, and Greek philosophy in his early life, before coming under the mentorship of the mystic Saʿdūn of Cairo, who is described in traditional accounts of Dhul-Nun's life as both "his teacher and spiritual director." Celebrated for his legendary wisdom both in his own life and by later Islamic thinkers, Dhul-Nun has been venerated in traditional Sunni Islam as one of the greatest saints of the early era of Sufism.
It has been speculated by scholars whether "Dhul-Nun" was an honorific (laqab) for the mystic rather than his name proper, which is sometimes believed to be Thawbān. As "Dhul-Nun," literally meaning "the one of the fish [or whale]," is another name for the Hebrew prophet Jonah in Islamic tradition, it is sometimes believed that this title was given to Dhul-Nun in commemoration of Jonah.
Dhul-Nun is one of the most prominent saints of early Islamic tradition, appearing "in the earliest accounts of Ṣūfism as the leading figure of his generation." Often depicted as the spiritual master of Sahl al-Tustari (c. 818-896), the traditional hagiographies relate that the latter refused to engage in mystical discourse until after Dhul-Nun's death, on account of his recognition of Dhul-Nun's elevated rank in wisdom and gnosis.
Dhul-Nun al-Misri is considered among the most prominent saints of early Sufism and holds a position in the Sufi chronicles as high as Junayd Baghdadi (d. 910) and Bayazid Bastami (d. 874). He studied under various teachers and travelled extensively in Arabia and Syria. The Muslim scholar and Sufi Sahl al-Tustari was one of Dhul-Nun al-Misri's students. In 829 he was arrested on a charge of heresy and sent to prison in Baghdad, but after examination he was released on the caliph's orders to return to Cairo, where he died in 859; his tombstone has been preserved.
Dhul-Nun's name came about in relation to an incident on a sea voyage. He was falsely accused of stealing a jewel from a merchant. He cried out "O Creator, Thou knowest best", whereupon a large number of fish raised their heads above the waves, each bearing a jewel in its mouth.
A legendary alchemist and thaumaturge, he is supposed to have known the secret of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. His sayings and poems, which are extremely dense and rich in mystical imagery, emphasize knowledge or gnosis (marifah) more than fear (makhafah) or love (mahabbah), the other two major paths of spiritual realization in Sufism. None of his written works have survived, but a vast collection of poems, sayings, and aphorisms attributed to him continues to live on in oral tradition.
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In the book catching the thread mentions one of the incidents of Dhul-nun ... ."A story from the life of the ninth-century Sufi, Dhu-l-Nun, the Egyptian, illustrates this: I was wandering in the mountains when I observed a party of afflicted folk gathered together. “What befell you?” I asked. “There is a devotee living in a cell here,” they answered. “Once every year he comes out and breathes on these people and they are all healed. Then he returns to his cell, and does not emerge again until the following year.” I waited patiently until he came out. I beheld a man pale of cheek, wasted and with sunken eyes. The awe of him caused me to tremble. He looked on the multitude with compassion. Then he raised his eyes to heaven, and breathed several times over the afflicted ones. All were healed. As he was about to retire to his cell, I seized his skirt. “For the love of God,” I cried. “You have healed the outward sickness; pray heal the inward sickness.” “Dhu-l-Nun,” he said, gazing at me, “take your hand off me. The Friend is watching from the zenith of might and majesty. If He sees you clutching at another than He, He will abandon you to that person, and that person to you, and you will perish each at the other’s hand.” So saying, he withdrew into his cell.
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