A certain famous, well-liked and influential merchant came to Bahaudin Naqshband. He said, in open assembly:
‘I have come to offer my submission to you and to your teaching, and beg you to accept me as a disciple.’
Bahaudin asked him:
‘Why do you feel that you are able to profit by the teaching?’
The merchant replied:
‘Everything that I have known and loved in the poetry and the teaching of the ancients, as recorded in their books, I find in you. Everything that other Sufi teachers preach, extol and report from the Wise Ones I find in actuality in you, and not in completeness and perfection with them. I regard you as at one with the ‘great ones, for I can discern the aroma of Truth in you and in everything connected with you.’
Bahaudin told the man to withdraw, saying that he would give him a decision as to his suitability in due time.
After six months, Bahaudin called the merchant to him, and said: ‘Are you prepared to appear publicly with me in an interchange?’
‘Yes, by my head and eyes.’
When a morning meeting was in progress, Bahaudin called the other man from the circle and had him sit beside him. To the hearers he said: ‘This is so-and-so, the distinguished King of Merchants of this city. Six months ago he came here and believed that he could discern the aroma of truth in everything connected with me.’
The merchant said:
‘This period of trial and separation, this six months without a glimpse of the Teacher, this exile, has caused me to plunge even more deeply into the classics, so that I could at least maintain some relationship with him whom I wish to serve, Bahaudin El-Shah, himself visibly identical with the Great Ones.’
‘Six moons have passed since you were in here. You have not been idle: you have been working in your shop, and you have been studying the lives of the Great Sufis. You could, however, have been studying me, whom you regard as identifiably one with the Knowers of the past, for I have been twice a week in your shop. During this six months during which we “have not been in contact” I have been forty-eight times in your shop. Many of those occasions passed with my making some kind of transaction with you, buying or selling merchandise. Because of the goods and because of a simple change of dress and appearance, you did not recognise me. Is this “discerning the aroma of truth”?’
The other man remained silent.
‘When you come near to the man whom others call “Bahaudin”, you can feel that he is the truth. When you meet the man who calls himself the merchant Khaia Alavi (one of Bahaudin’s pseudonyms) you cannot discern the aroma of truth from that which is connected with Alavi. You find perceptibly in Naqshband only what others preach and themselves are not. In Alavi you do not find what the Wise are but do not appear to be. The poetry and the teaching to which you have referred is an outward manifestation. You feed on outward manifestation. Do not, please, give that the name of spirituality.’
This merchant was Mahsud Nadimzada, later a famous saint, who became a disciple of Bahaudin’s after he had submitted to studying under the cook of the Khanqa, who was quite uninstructed in poetry, spiritual talk or exercises.
He once said:
‘If I had not studied what I imagined to be a spiritual path, I would not have had to forget the numerous errors and superficialities which Khalifa-Ashpaz (the cook) burned out of me by ignoring my pretensions.’