Go to the graveyard.
Sit there for a while in silence.
Listen to the voices of the mute!
A man came to a big city. While visiting the market place, he went to the street where the perfume vendors were located. The street was filled with the attar of roses and other fragrances. The man walked a few steps. The overwhelmingly wonderful aromas made him feel dizzy. He could not help but faint.
People gathered around him. They were trying to help him; some were checking his heart; some were rubbing his wrists, while some were washing his face with rose water. Nothing succeeded in helping him return to waking consciousness. All efforts proved to be fruitless; special medicinal perfumes and rose water were all employed in vain. On the contrary, his condition became even worse. Eventually, when they realized that they could not help, they decided to call his relatives but were unable to locate any. In the afternoon, a tanner was passing by. He recognized the man. He approached the crowd and said:
– Absolutely don’t pour rose water on him! I know what his illness is! Do not touch him! I will return soon and solve the problem.
The tanner left and soon returned with some dung in his hand. He brought the dung close to the nose of the man. Surprisingly, the comatose man came back to himself. After some time, he stood up and walked away with the tanner.
The cause behind this unlikely cure was that the man who had fainted was also a tanner. He was accustomed for years to the rancid smell of unprocessed leather. When he entered the perfume market, he could not withstand the wonderful aromas and consequently fainted.
The tanner, from carrying dung, has come to resemble the dung beetle: The dung beetle is driven to insensibility by rosewater.
The remedy for him consists of the same dog’s dung to which he has become accustomed.
Mentors marked by their wisdom and sincerity prepare medicine for the man steeped in this world with wise, beautiful worlds and ambergris or rosewater to open the gates of divine Mercy;
But such sweet words and remedies will not suffice for those who have been swallowed by this world: It is neither fitting nor suitable, O you trustworthy ones!
Strive in this short life to receive your share of spiritual light, spiritual admonition, goodness and beauty! Do not bury your nose in filth like the dung beetle! Be a human, a human!
The morning wind is permeated by beautiful fragrances after it has gently blown through gardens of flowers and roses. Men with pure hearts overflowing with the true knowledge of Allah similarly are imbued with love and ecstasy that may be experienced when in association with them. The secrets of their hearts are perceptible to the degree of the observer’s ability to taste what emanates from them. We must remember that the dog of the Seven Sleepers (Ashab al-Kahf) will enter Paradise because of the loyalty that drove it to wait at the entrance to its masters’ cave.
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, narrates this story as follows:
The dog of the Companions of the Cave (Seven Sleepers) was freed from impurity because of love. It was seated at the table of the king.
That dog was blessed with the drink of divine mercy because it chose to wait at the gate of their cave without food.
Similarly but in a contrary sense, a wind that passes through a rotten group of people is impressed by their putrid eminations. The strength of this wind may wax and wane, but ultimately the wind touches other people and spreads discomfort among them.
What radiates outward from the circles of hypocrites, who have had stolen from them the spiritual pleasures of service and worship, is darkness of heart. They share the darkness of their hearts and find pleasure in this companionship.
The great teacher Rumi said: “Go to the graveyard. Sit there for a while in silence. Listen to the voices of the mute!”
As it is impossible to keep a rat in a rose-garden, so too is it impossible to keep a bee out of its customary environment. The food of the bee is to be found in flowers. It cannot live far from them. Allah provides effortlessly for each creature through the environment that befits its nature.
Human beings are no exception to this rule.
Noble souls rich in spiritual inheritance are nourished by the divine knowledge reflected through the Prophet Muhammad, (pbuh). However, base souls are sustained by impurity.
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, when seeing the face of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said in astonishment, “So beautiful”! Abu Jahl, on the other hand, on perceiving it felt hate. The secret behind this difference is that they both observed solely their true nature reflected in the mirror of the Prophet (pbuh).
The saints, whose role in this world is to function as the heirs of the prophets, have remarked: “We are like brightly polished mirrors in which everyone sees his own reflection.”
No true mirror can either lie or distort a reflection. It is intrinsically incapable of portraying something that is ugly as though it is beautiful or vice versa. It is axiomatic that a reflection is identical in figure to what is being reflected. It is in this capacity that the friends of Allah function. Whatever we observe in their mirrors is what is beheld in the eye of Allah. It is objective and true in the deepest sense possible. Whoever gazes into them truly observes in their visage nothing more than the reality of their being.
Sheikh Niyazi Misri, quddisa sirruh, has also stated that his heart functioned as a mirror:
I am a mirror among people; whoever looks at it sees a moment.
Whatever he sees is nothing but a reflection of himself,
Whether what he sees is positive or negative.
How shall mirror and scale stop their breath (suppress the truth) for fear of hurting or shaming any one?
Mirror and balance are noble touchstones: if you serve them for a hundred years,
Only to say, ‘Conceal the truth for my sake, display the surplus and do not display deficiency,’
They will retort, ‘do not laugh at your beard and moustache: mirror and balance, and then deceit and trickery!’ (The idea that mirror and scale should deceive is absurd).
Since Allah has raised us up in order that by means of us it may be possible to know the truth,
If this does not happen (if we fail to display the truth), what worth have we O young man? How shall we become a standard for the face of the fair?
A physically wounded or ill person cannot cure himself and thus is in need of a physician. The same is true for one who is spiritually ill or wounded; he also needs to be under the care of a perfect human (insan-i kamil) or a doctor who knows how to purify hearts.
Some people think that they have attained spiritual perfection and try to exhibit humility. They discuss their shortcomings and weaknesses. Yet this display is not genuine. Instead, it is only to impress others. If their true state is explored more deeply, one will come face to face with a heart full of self-love and arrogance.
Rumi said, “For this quagmire to be dried and cleaned, receiving support from and being trained by a perfect teacher is essential.”
Some people think, however, that they can rise above self-love and arrogance simply by reading books. This is similar to a person who is suffering from cancer and is trying to cure himself by just studying books. Nevertheless, we must observe that even physicians enter under the care of other physicians when they suffer from illnesses. Similarly, a judge cannot try himself; instead, he has to appear before another court and rise before a different judge.
Those who try to grasp the truth solely through their own mind are like children who try to grasp the shadow of a bird flying high in the sky. In misery, such children eventually exhaust themselves in vain without even having realized that the bird is high in the sky. Not knowing the truth, they have exhausted themselves running feverishly after only an empty shadow. In the same way, shortsighted hunters take aim at shadows and eventually their energy and arrows are exhausted without gain.
Many people have exhausted their arrows. The value of the arrows in the drama of their lives was equal to the weight of them in gold. It is analogous to children playing with plastic toys. The one who spends his entire life running after worldly gains does not realize that this world is but a shadow of the real. Therefore, it is no different than forgetting or ignoring the real while running after illusions and thus remaining in darkness with an empty hand and heart after a wasted life.
Only those true guides, who are the authorized servants of Allah alone, can save one from these illusions. These guides represent the divine light. The intelligent person follows their advices and paths in order to save himself from living a life rooted in naught. Such an existence is nothing but the vast and abiding emptiness of a life consumed by chasing empty illusions.
The feelings of arrogance, self-love, and self-praise are rooted within every individual. This arrogance originates in the superiority we see in ourselves. In spite of these deep tendencies, when we enter a genuine spiritual path we grow to realize that perfections belong only to Allah and that everything belonging to us is but a trust from our Creator.
Zayd ibn Haritha, may Allah be pleased with him, was a slave who was freed by the Prophet (pbuh). He was initially bought by our blessed mother Khadija who in turn offered him as a gift to the Prophet (pbuh). After receiving him, the Prophet (pbuh) granted him his freedom. Nevertheless, Zayd did not sever his connection with him because of the unparalleled character attributes and virtues he witnessed in him; instead, he bore witness that serving him would be a greater honor and blessing. Even when his father discovered where he was and came to take him home, he refused to depart with him and said to the Prophet (pbuh):
– O the Messenger of Allah! You are everything to me! For me, there is no one in this world preferable to you.
He thus declared that he preferred to be the servant of the Prophet (pbuh) over a free life with his family.
For this reason, the Prophet (pbuh) loved him, cared for him and in his company shared with him great words of wisdom. Zayd, may Allah be pleased with him, used to listen to these sermons of the Prophet (pbuh) with great ecstasy.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked him:
– What is the sign of the blooming flowers in the garden of your faith? Can you describe to me a sign of them?
– Since I lost interest in the world, my days have been spent without water and my nights without sleep. I have passed through these days and nights just like a spear goes through a shield. I have attained to the secret of certainty in knowledge through direct experience. In the abiding moment of the arising of that awareness, I observe that time does not exist there. One hour is equal to one century. Every visible thing is but a manifestation of the One and the Unique. Day and night, do not exist there. There is only eternity with no beginning and no end. It is a world, which is beyond the horizon of limited human reason, where there is neither time nor place. When this moment first arose, I felt as if I saw the throne of my Lord, and as if I saw the people of Paradise who visit each other and the people of Hellfire who hate each other.
Likewise, Zayd said:
– When I withdrew from the pleasures of this world, Allah bestowed a light on my heart and thus what was hidden earlier now became manifest.
Rumi explains the ecstasy of Zayd ibn Haritha in the Mathnawi as follows:
Zayd asked the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “O Messenger of Allah, shall I tell the mystery of the Gathering (on the Day of Judgment), shall I make the Resurrection manifest to the world today?
Let me be, that I may rend the curtains asunder, that my spiritual substance may shine forth like a sun;
That the sun may be eclipsed by me, and that I may show the difference between the fruitful date palm and the barren willow.
I will bring forth the mystery of the Resurrection, the sterling coin and the coin mixed with alloy,
The people of the left (the damned) with their hands cut off; I will bring forth the colour of infidelity and the colour of the (Prophet’s) followers.
I shall lay bare the seven rifts (sins) of hypocrisy in the light of the moon that suffers neither eclipse nor waning.
I shall reveal the woolen frocks of the damned, and cause the drums and kettle-drums of the prophets to be heard.
Hell and the Gardens of Paradise and the intermediate state I will bring to light before the eyes of the infidels.
I will disclose the body of water of Kawthar heaving with waves dashing water on the faces of the blessed ones, while its sound rings in their ears;
And those who are running in a state of thirst round Kawthar, I will name one by one and tell who they are:
Their shoulders are rubbing against my shoulders. Their cries are piercing my ears.
Before my eyes the people of Paradise, of free will, clasp each other to their bosoms,
Visiting one another’s highest places of honor and snatching kisses from the lips of the houris.
This ear of mine has been deafened by the cries of ‘Alas, Alas!’ uttered by the vile wretches in Hell and by the screams of ‘O sorrow!’
These are only hints. I would divulge the depth of my knowledge, but I fear to offend the Messenger of Allah.”
He was speaking in this wise, intoxicated, and distraught manner: the Prophet twitched his collar,
And said,” Beware! Draw in your reins, for your horse has become too hot. When the reflection of Allah not ashamed to speak the truth strikes the heart, shame vanishes.
Periodically, the ecstasy that filled the heart of the Prophet (pbuh) was of such proportions that it was difficult for him to bear. In particular, when he was receiving revelation he felt an overwhelming burden and beads of sweat would form on his forehead. When the ecstasy would pass a certain limit, he used to say to his wife Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her:
– O Aisha! This spiritual state has overtaken me. Please come and converse with me.
Through conversation with her, he hoped to be relieved of the state and thus be freed to return to the human world.
On the other hand, when worldly concerns became overpowering, he would ask Bilal:
– O Bilal! Call the adhan!
Through the ebb and flow between these two poles, the spiritual balance necessary for the support of human life gradually took shape.
Otherwise, it would not have been possible for the Prophet to maintain a balanced form of communication with all members of the caravan that was to follow him.
The one who was most drawn into the spiritual world during the sermons of the Prophet (pbuh) was Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him. They used to have private conversations, too. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, conveyed an experience of their spiritual exchange as follows:
“I entered the presence of the Prophet (pbuh). He and Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, were involved in a conversation on the knowledge of tawhid (Oneness of Allah). I sat between them. I could not understand anything in their discussion. It was as if I did not even know Arabic. I asked Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him:
– What is this conversation? Do you always talk like this with the Prophet (pbuh)?
Abu Bakr (r.a) replied:
– Yes. Sometimes, when we are alone, our discussions with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)are like this.
The Prophet (pbuh)said, “We, the community of prophets, are commanded
to descend to the level of ordinary people and speak in a way they can understand.”
In another hadith, he is reported to have said, “Speak to people, not in the way you know, but in a way they can understand.”
The sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) describe the world as the “house of deception” (dar al-ghurur). Beyond being a world that deceives people, his sayings also describe this world as the “enchanting world” (sakhkhara) and the “merciless world” (ghaddara).
Usually we are unable to protect ourselves from being deceived by this false and transitory world in spite of the fact that we frequently witness its true nature, as but a shadow, in which the most certain fact is death. The power of this deception is of such proportion that this predicament remains unchanged even after witnessing the death of our relatives.
This is a consequence of the fact that this world is enchanting (sakhkhara) to us. Our deception is the outcome of its spell.
Rumi has explained the spell of the world as follows:
It is a magician, who rolls a hundred meters of fabric in moonlight.
When he takes from you your life, which is like silver money, then your life is gone, the fabric disappears, and your capital is finished.
O the one who is under the spell of this world! You should recite “Qul A’uthu” and say:
“O Lord! With your mercy, protect me from the magic and base desires of this mundane world.”
Osman Nuri Topbas from the book of “Tears of the Heart”