This work includes an interesting section on the practices of the ascetics and Sufis of al-Muhasibi's time and proceeding times, showing their scrupulous anxiety to refrain from anything including the least taint or possibility of what was unlawful. Some, he says, betook themselves to the mountains and the valleys, and gathered tamarisk leaves and what could be picked up in the way of seeds and pulse and herbs, which had a value if stored, and these they collected in summer for use in wi1?ter. Others chose to exist on windfalls and fresh herbs and grass and such vegetation as was to be found growing wild, when hunger drove them to eat. Some were content with what had been thrown away, while another group preferred to beg for food. Some ascetics living in the regions of Syria
used to glean what they could of corn and barley, following the reapers, but this, al-Muhasibi notes, was not a practice in his time. He refers also to those who would not glean behind the reapers on land bought with money wrongfully acquired, or land bestowed by the Government upon "its supporters, or consisting of estates of which the rightful owners had been despoiled. Others, again, chose to earn a living by manual labor, or by taking up the sword in the service of God, in preference to gleaning at the harvest, because the latter procedure had no precedent under the rule of the first four Imams, and these were agreed upon fighting under the banner of every Commander of the Faithful, whether good or bad. Others chose to retire into a monastery and live there in seclusion, unless there was a call for the services of Muslims, on account of the advance or invasion of some enemy into the territory of Islam, and in these circumstances, it was obligatory for them to wield the sword,' but when the need had passed, and the community no longer required their services, they would retire once more into the monastery they had established, holding that it was the more excellent way. This group among the Sufis, al-Muhasibi considers to be much in error.