~ The Ascetic Sayings of Jesus ~
by Lecturer of Arabic Studies, Glasgow University
Rev. James Robson, M.A.
as·cet·ic: practicing strict self-denial of anything material as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline 2 :austere in appearance, manner, or attitude.
This is a collection of ascetic teachings attributed to Jesus as taken from Islamic literature. This large a number of ascetic passages may surprise some readers, but one must remember that the first Christians laid great emphasis on asceticism, and that Monks and the ancient Essenes often secluded themselves in the remote deserts. Another point to note is that there is an even greater element of asceticism in the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament than most commonly recognize. Allowing for these considerations it becomes evident that this practice is regarded by many as necessary for salvation.
A., 6; M., 11.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "How can he be one of the learned whose journey is towards the next world and who is turning towards the way of the present world? And how can he be one of the learned who seeks words to report them, and not to act according to them?"
A., 20; M., 24.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Blessed is he who abandons a present desire for a distant promise which he has not seen."
A., 21; M., 25.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Make your livers hungry and your bodies naked; perhaps your hearts may see God (Great and glorious is He!)"
A., 22; M., 26.--It is related that Jesus (Peace be upon him!) remained for sixty days in secret communion with his Lord without eating. Then the thought of bread occurred to him, and the communion ceased, and behold a loaf was placed before him. Then he sat down weeping over the loss of the communion. Then behold an old man approached him, and Jesus p. 64 said to him, "God bless you, O friend of God! Pray for me to God (Exalted is He!), for I was in an ecstasy and the thought of bread occurred to me, and the ecstasy ceased." Then the old man said, "O God, if Thou knowest that the thought of bread has occurred to me since I have known Thee, then do not pardon me. On the contrary, whenever anything came to me, I ate it without thought or consideration."
A., 26; M., 29.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Devotion has ten parts, nine of which are found in silence and one in flight from men."
A., 30.--John [the Baptist] said to Jesus (Peace be upon them!), "Do not be angry." He replied, "I am unable to keep from anger; I am only a man." He said, "Do not acquire wealth." He replied, "This is possible."
A., 34; M., 35.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Do not take the world as a master, for it will take you as slaves. Lay up your treasure with him who will not lose it, for he who possesses treasure in this world fears lest some calamity may come upon it, but he who possesses God's treasure has no fear of calamity coming upon it."
A., 34; M., 36.--And he said (The richest blessing and peace be upon him!), "O company of the disciples, I have overturned the world for you on its face, so do not raise it up after me. For part of the wickedness of the world is that disobedience to God is in it; and part of the p. 65 wickedness of the world is that the next world is attained only by abandoning it. Is it not so? Therefore pass through the world, but do not stay in it; and know that the root of all sin is the love of the world. And the desire of an hour often leaves those who indulge in it an inheritance of grief which lasts for long."
A., 34; M., 37.--And he said also, "I have thrown down the world for you and you have sat on its back, so let not kings or women quarrel with you about it. As regards kings, do not quarrel with them about the world, for they will not oppose you so long as you leave them and their world alone, protect yourselves against them by fasting and prayer."
A., 34; M., 38.--And he said also, "The world is both seeking and sought. He who seeks the next world, this world seeks him until his provision in it is complete; and he who seeks the present world, the next world seeks him until death comes and seizes him by the neck."
A., 35; M., 39.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "The love of this world and of the next cannot stay in the heart of a believer, just as water and fire cannot stay in one vessel."
A., 36; M., 40.--Someone said to Jesus (Peace be upon him!), "If you were to take a house to cover you [it would be good]." He replied, "The rags of those who lived before us are sufficient for us."
A., 37; M., 41.--It is related that one day the rain and thunder and lightning were fierce about Jesus (Peace be upon him!), so he began to seek something under which he might shelter. His eye fell on a tent far off, so he came to it; but behold there was a woman in it, so he turned away from it. Then he saw a cave in a hill and came to it, but behold there was a lion in it. Then he put his hand on it and said, "My God, Thou hast given everything an abode, and Thou hast not given me an abode." Then God (Exalted is He!) revealed to him, "Your abode is in the dwelling of My mercy. Verily I will give to you in marriage on the Day of Resurrection a hundred houris whom I have created with My hand, and I will give a feast at your wedding for four thousand years, each day of which is like the duration of the present world, and I will command one to proclaim, 'Where are those who were ascetics in the world? Visit the marriage of the ascetic in the world, Jesus, son of Mary.'"
A., 38; M., 42.--Jesus, son of Mary (Peace be upon him!) said, "Woe to him who loves the world! How can he die and leave it and what is in it! It deceives him, yet he trusts in it and puts his confidence in it and he is taken away. And woe to those who are deceived! How what they abhor has caused dissension among them, and what they like has left them, and what they p. 67 were threatened with has come to them! And woe to him whose care is the world, and whose work is sins! How he shall be covered with shame to-morrow for his offence!"
A., 40; M., 43.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Who is he who builds a house on the wave of the sea? The world is [like] that, so do not take it as an abiding place."
A., 41; M., 44.--Some people said to Jesus (Peace be upon him!), "Teach us one piece of knowledge for which God will love us." He replied, "Detest the world, and God (Exalted is He!) will love you."
A., 42; M., 45.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "O company of the disciples, be pleased with what is worthless in the world along with welfare in religion, just as the people of the world are pleased with what is worthless in religion along with welfare in the world."
A., 43; M., 46.--The Messiah (Peace be upon him!) said, "O you who seek the world to be charitable with it, your leaving of it alone is more charitable." And he said, "The least thing is such that looking after it occupies one to the exclusion of glorifying God, and glorifying God is greater and more important."
A., 44; M., 47.--If you wish you may follow him who was the Spirit and the Word, Jesus, son of Mary (Peace be upon him!), for he used to say, "My seasoning is hunger, my under-garment p. 68 is fear [of God], my outer-garment is wool, my fire in winter is the rays of the sun, my lamp is the moon, my riding-beast is my feet, and my food and fruit are what the earth brings forth [i.e. without cultivation]. At night I have nothing and in the morning I have nothing, yet there is no one on earth richer than I."
A., 45; M., 48.--It is related that the world was revealed to Jesus (Peace be upon him!) and he saw it in the form of a toothless old woman upon whom was every kind of ornament. Then he said to her, "How many have you married?" She replied, "I cannot count them." He said, "Did they all die and leave you, or did they all divorce you?" She said, "Nay, I killed them all." Then Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "It is a pity for the rest of your husbands. How do they not take warning from your past husbands how you have been destroying them one after another, and [how] are they not on their guard against you! "
A., 46.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "The world is a bridge, so pass over it and do not inhabit it." [Cf. A., 75, p. 71.]
A., 47; M., 49.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Verily I say unto you, as a sick man looks at food and takes no delight in it because of the severity of the pain, so he who loves the world takes no delight in worship and does not discover its sweetness along with what he finds p. 69 of love of the world. And verily I say unto you, if a riding-beast is not ridden and taken into service, it becomes intractable and its nature changes; similarly when hearts are not softened by the thought of death and the discipline of worship, they become hard and coarse. And verily I say unto you, as long as a skin is not torn or shrivelled it may nearly serve as a receptacle for honey; similarly hearts, as long as desires do not tear them, or greed defile them, or comfort harden them, may be vessels for wisdom."
A., 48; M., 50.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "He who seeks after the world is like one who drinks sea-water; the more he drinks the more his thirst increases, until it kills him."
A., 49; M., 51.--The disciples said to Jesus (Peace be upon him!), "How is it that you can walk on water and we cannot?" Then he said to them, "What do you think of the dīnār and the dirhem?" [pieces of money]. They replied, "They are good." He said, "But they and mud are alike to me." [Cf. A., 126, p. 74.]
A., 50; M., 52.--Jesus (Blessing and peace be upon him!) said, "In wealth there are calamities: that one should get it unlawfully." Someone interrupted, "Suppose one gets it lawfully?" Then he said, "He may apply it unlawfully." The other said, "But suppose he applies it lawfully?" Then he said, "Its p. 70 management occupies him to the neglect of God (Exalted is He!)."
A., 60; M., 57.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Fine clothing is vanity of heart."
A., 63 (Cf. M., 22).--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) attained to the use of a stone for his pillow while sleeping; but the devil came to him and said, "Have you not renounced this world for the next?" He said, "Yes, but what has happened?" Then he said, "Your use of this stone as a pillow means that you are being comfortable in the world; so why do you not put your head on the ground?" Then Jesus (Peace be upon him!) threw away the stone and put his head on the ground.
A., 70; M., 61.--The Messiah (Peace be upon him!) said, "O companies of the disciples, fear of God and love of Paradise produce patience in affliction and estrange men from the world. Verily I say unto you, eating barley and sleeping on dunghills with dogs is a small matter when one seeks Paradise."
A., 71; M., 62.--It is related that the Messiah (God bless him and grant him peace!) passed in his wandering a man asleep wrapped up in his cloak; then he wakened him and said, "O sleeper, arise and glorify God (Exalted is He!)." Then the man said, "What do you want from me? Verily I have abandoned the world to its people." So he said to him, "Sleep, then, my friend."
A., 72.--The Messiah (God bless him and grant him peace!) said, "With difficulty does a rich man enter heaven."
A., 73; M., 18.--The Messiah (God's blessings and peace be upon him!) said, "Verily I love poverty and hate comfort." And the dearest of names to him (God's blessings be upon him!) was that he should be called, "O poor one."
A., 74; M., 63.--The Messiah (Peace be upon him!) said, "Do not look at the wealth of the people of this world, for the splendour of their wealth takes away the light of your faith."
A., 75.--The Messiah (God bless him and grant him peace!) said, "The world is a bridge, so pass over it and do not inhabit it." And some people said to him, "O prophet of God, if you would only order us to build a house in which we might worship God!" He replied, "Go and build a house on water." They said, "How will a building stand on water?" He replied, "And how will worship stand along with love of this world?" [Cf. A., 46, p. 68.]
A., 77.--`Obaid, son of `Omair, said, The Messiah, son of Mary (Peace be upon him!) used to wear hair clothing, and eat wild fruits [lit. trees], and he had no son to die, and no house to be demolished, and he stored up nothing for the morrow. He slept wherever the evening overtook him. [Cf. A., 118, p. 73.]
A., 79.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) sat down p. 72 in the shade of someone's wall, and the owner of the wall made him get up. Then he said, "You have not made me get up; He who has made me get up is only He [i.e. God] who was not pleased that I should be comfortable in the shade of the wall."
A., 80.--The Messiah (God bless him and grant him peace!) used to say, "O Children of Israel, use pure water and wild vegetables and barley bread, and avoid wheaten bread, for you will not remain thankful to God."
A., 81; M., 65.--Jesus, the Messiah (God's blessings and peace be upon him!), used to take nothing with him but a comb and a jug. Then he saw a man combing his beard with his fingers, so he threw away the comb; and he saw another drinking from a river with the palms of his hands, so he threw away the jug.
A., 82.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Look at the birds; they do not sow, or harvest, or store up, yet God (Exalted is He!) feeds them day by day. But if you say, We have larger bellies, look at the cattle, how God (Exalted is He!) has appointed for them this creation as provision."
A., 146.--Mohammad, son of al Fadl, told us on the authority of Sālim, son of Abū al Ja`d (God be pleased with him!) that Jesus, son of Mary (God's blessings and peace be upon him!), said, "Do not store food for the morrow, for the p. 73 morrow comes bringing along with it its provision. And look at the ants and who gives them provision. But if you say, The ants' bellies are small, look at the bird. And if you say, The bird has wings, look at the wild beasts, how corpulent and fat they are."
A., 86; M., 66.--Someone said to Jesus (Peace be upon him!), "Why do you not buy an ass to ride?" Then he replied, "I am too dear to God (Exalted is He!) for Him to allow me to be occupied with an ass to the neglect of Himself."
A., 103.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "How many healthy bodies and beautiful faces and eloquent tongues will lie to-morrow among the strata of hell!"
A., 111.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said to the disciples, "Take the mosques as houses and the houses as alighting-places; and eat wild vegetables and drink pure water, and escape safe from the world."
A., 113.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said to the disciples, "It is astonishing how you work for this world, yet you receive provision in it without work; and how you do not work for the next world, yet you receive provision in it only with work."
A., 117.--The Messiah (Peace be upon him!) said, "The world is a field belonging to Iblīs [Satan], and its people are his ploughmen."
A., 118 .--The Messiah (Blessing and peace be upon him!) said to the disciples, "I am he who p. 74 has inverted the world on its face; so I have no wife to die and no house to be demolished." [Cf. A., 77, p. 71.]
A., 123.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) used to say to the world, "Away from me, O swine!"
A., 125.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) used to say, "The sweetness of this world is the bitterness of the next, and fine clothes are vanity of heart, meaning conceit and pride of heart; and fullness of the belly is abundance of passion, meaning its sustenance and its accumulation." [Cf. A., 60; M., 57, p. 70.]
A., 126.--The disciples said, "O Spirit of God, we pray as you pray, and we fast as you fast, and we glorify God (Exalted is He!) as you have ordered us, yet we are unable to walk on the water as you do." Then he said, "Tell me how your love of the world is." They replied, "Verily we love it." So he said, "Verily the love of it spoils religion, but in my opinion it is merely like stone and mud." And in another story [it is said] that he lifted up a stone and asked, "Which of the two is dearer to you, this or a dīnār and a dirhem?" They replied, "A dīnār." He said, "They are both alike to me." [Cf. A., 49; M., 51, p. 69.]
A., 139.--If you desire the fast of the son of the virgin maid, meaning Jesus, son of Mary (Peace be upon them!), then he used to fast all the time and eat barley bread and wear p. 75 coarse hair; and wherever the night overtook him he used to arrange his feet in prayer until he saw that the sign of the dawn had arisen; and he never stayed anywhere without praying two rek`as in it. And if you desire the fast of his mother, then she used to fast for two days and break her fast for two days.
A., 145.--It is mentioned concerning Jesus, son of Mary (Blessing and peace be upon him!), that he went out one day to his companions wearing a woollen tunic, a woollen outer-garment, and clothes of wool, with his head and his moustaches shorn, weeping and looking pale from hunger, with his lips dry from thirst, with the hair on his chest and arms long; then he said, "Peace be upon you! Verily I am he who has lowered the world in its rank by the permission of God, and there is no wonder or boasting. O Children of Israel, despise the world and it will be easy for you, and scorn the world and the next world will be made honourable for you, and do not despise the next world and this world will be made honourable for you. For the world is not worthy of honour; every day it calls to temptation and loss." Then he said, "If you are my companions and friends, accustom yourselves to enmity and hatred towards the world, for if you do not do so, you are not my friends or my brethren. O Children of Israel, take the mosques as houses, and the graves as homes; p. 76 be like guests. Do you not see the birds of the heaven? they do not sow or reap, and God in heaven gives them provision. O Children of Israel, eat barley bread and wild vegetables; and know that you have not given thanks for that, so how about what is more than that?"
A., 162.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "This world in relation to the next is like a man who has two wives; if he is pleased with one of them, he is displeased with the other."
A., 168.--It is related that Jesus (Peace be upon him!) passed by a man asleep on the ground with a brick under his head and his face and his beard in the dust, and he had a woollen cloak tied round him. Then he said, "O Lord, this servant of Thine is astray in the world." Then God (Exalted is He!) revealed to him, "O Jesus, do you not know that when I look at My servant with my whole face, I remove from him the whole world?"
A., 169.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) said, "Verily I have two friends; he who loves them loves me, and he who hates them hates me:--poverty and distress."
A., 174 bis.--In the Israelite history it is said that Iblīs [Satan] appeared to Jesus (Peace be upon him!), and he saw things hanging on him coloured with all kinds of dyes. Then he said to him, "What are these hanging things?" He replied, "These are the desires of the children p. 77 of men." Then he asked, "Is there anything of mine among them?" He replied, "You have often eaten your fill and we have made you too heavy for prayer and for glorifying God." He asked, "Is there anything else?" He replied, "No." He said, "I swear to God that I will never fill my belly with food." Iblīs said, "And I swear to God that I will never advise a Muslim."
A., 193.--Jesus (Blessing and peace be upon him!) said, "O Children of Israel, know that the relation of your present life to your future life is like the relation of the east to the west. The more you approach the east, the farther you are from the west; and the more you approach the west, the farther do you increase in distance from the east."
A., 220.--Jesus (Peace be upon him!) struck the ground with his hand and took up some of it and spread it out, and behold, he had gold in one of his hands and clay in the other. Then he said to his companions, "Which of them is sweeter to your hearts?" They said, "The gold." He said, "They are both alike to me." [Cf. A., 49; M., 51, p. 69; and A., 126, p. 74.]
A., 221.--Jesus, son of Mary (Peace be upon him!), said, "By God, the world has not settled in the heart of a worshipper without three of its things sticking to it: labour whose distress does not cease, poverty which does not catch up on its wealth, and hope which does not attain its goal."
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The Ascetic Sayings of Jesus