From the Mirror of the Heart

Those who have pure hearts are freed from colors and smells.

They easily see a beauty in every breath.

They have left behind the decoration in the shell of knowledge.

Instead, they carry the flag of certainty of a witness.

Rumi

The Chinese said, “We are the better artists”; the Turks said, “The superiority in power and excellence belongs to us.”

“I will put you to the test in this matter,” said the Sultan, “and see which of you holds true in your claim.”

The Chinese and the Turks began to debate: the Turks retired from the debate.

(Then) the Chinese said, “Hand over to us a particular room, and (let there be) one for you (as well).”

There were two rooms with their doors facing each other: the Chinese took one, and the Turks took the other.

The Chinese requested that the Sultan give them a hundred colors: the Sultan opened his treasury so that they could receive that (which they sought).

Every morning, by (his) bounty, the colors were dispensed from the treasury to the Chinese.

The Turks said, “No tints and colors are proper for our work, (nothing is needed) except to remove the rust.”

They shut the door and went on burnishing: the room became clear and pure like the sky.

There is a way from many-coloredness to colorlessness: color is like the cloud, and colorlessness is as the moon.

Whatsoever light and splendor you see in the clouds, know that it comes from the stars, the sun and the moon.

When the Chinese had finished their work, they were beating their drums for joy. The Sultan entered and observed the pictures: that (sight), as he encountered it, was of such beauty that it almost caused him to lose his wits.

After that, he proceeded towards the Turks. They removed the intervening curtain.

The reflection of the (Chinese) pictures and works (of art) shone upon these walls that had been made pure (from stain).

All that he had seen in the Chinese room seemed more beautiful here: it was as if it was snatching his eyes from their sockets. The Turks, o father, are the Sufis: (They are) without (independent of) study and books and erudition,

However, they have burnished their breasts, (made them) pure from lust, hatred, conceit, arrogance, avarice, greed and all other sorts of worldly desires.

The purity of the mirror is beyond doubt the heart that is capable of receiving innumerable images.

Allah the Exalted had ordered Musa (a.s):

“O Musa! Put your hand in your bosom. Let it come out perfect and pure white.”

Musa  obeyed the order and his hand was seen as white as the “sun of the world” and radiating light. The reason for this is that Musa (a.s) held in his bosom the infinite formlessness of the Unseen and it was reflected in the mirror of his heart. When Musa uextended his hand into his bosom, by elevating it above all but the divine art, his hand became as a pure white light shining with a halo of divine light.

The grand infinite formlessness that was reflected in the heart of Musa (a.s) can’t fit into the empyrean, the sphere of the stars, nor the sphere of the earth resting on the Fish because these are but bounded countable entities that have countable limits. It is impossible for the unlimited to fit into the limited. That is why the unlimited essences and attributes may only be reflected in a heart that has been polished and freed from all kinds of worldly impurity. Know that the abode of the mirror of the heart carries the attribute of boundlessness just as the beauty of the divine mystery that may be reflected in it. The mirror of the heart filled with the manifestations of its Lord is a place where the infinite is reflected.

The reflection of every image shines unto everlasting from the heart alone, both with plurality and without,

Unto everlasting, every new image that falls on it (the heart) is appearing therein without any imperfection.

Those who have burnished (their hearts) have escaped from (mere) scent and colour: they behold Beauty at every moment without delay.

They have relinquished the form and husk of knowledge; they have raised the banner of the eye of certainty (ayne’l yakin).

***

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “After I pass away, I am concerned for my Ummah in relation to three things:

1. The deviations of being ensnared by desires and passions,

2. Being obediant to the lust of the stomach and to women,

3. And being in a state of heedlessness after having gained knowledge…”

Knowledge (ilm) relies on books, but wisdom or divine knowledge (‘irfan) is its internalization and perfection. For this reason, those who do not elevate their knowledge to ma’rifah (divine knowledge) face the dangers of superficiality and dryness. The universe when observed through the eye of the heart is full of subtle purposes and delicate wisdom, and this world, in all its states, is as a classroom for learning faith and it is filled with tests for achieving proficiency in this aim. Ultimately, only as we succeed in this aim and the eye of our heart opens can the latent goal of our creation be revealed to us in its full brilliance.

Those who fail in their divine aim and loose their decency in this world in the turbulence of its extravagance, in spite of the presence of divine guidance, are the real losers. They lose their divine inheritance, their inherent essential disposition, and are orphans of the true life and of happiness. They lose stature, become depressed, and finally find themselves consumed in the whirlpool of desires.

Allah the Most High announced the inescapability of the Hereafter in the following verses: “No!… They will know! Truly, they will know!” (Naba 4-5).

That Allah has sent prophets to teach humanity and to assist them through the example of their speech, knowledge, guidance, and morality is a manifestation of divine generosity and providence.

If a human being would sincerely pause and look around himself with a keen eye, he would immediately comprehend that his very existence is an ongoing confrontation with a visible and undeniably vast power. With his every breath under its hegemony, it would be absurd and useless to lead a life denying the Hereafter.

Anyone with reason who stops to contemplate the ultimate end of this life will clearly realize that it is essential in the nature of creation for us to limit our boundless desires and fleeting passions, while simultaneously re-directing our love towards the divine purpose hidden within our existence.

The expressions depicted in calligraphy that are posted on the walls of mosques and Sufi lodges (tekke) serve both as signals of truth and as warnings. Examples of these sayings are: “Show tolerance for the sake of Allah”, “This too shall pass”, “Be careful in your manners”, and finally “Nothing.” Each utterance ends with the statement “Ya Hu”, where “Ya Hu” means, “O Allah!” Their detailed meanings are discussed below.

***

The injunction, “Show tolerance for the sake of Allah,” means to not hurt any creature while at the same time aiming towards not being hurt by any creature. This is a natural consequence of purity of heart. A poet has aptly expressed this as follows:

This is the objective of humans and jinns in the garden of the world,

To neither hurt anyone, nor to be hurt by anyone.

From another perspective, it means, “Abandon the world of causality and be content with the pleasure of the divine will.”

Yet it must be remembered that the tolerance cited here is for those mistakes the Lord forgives. Beyond the bounds of these actions, sins and acts of corruption deliberately and openly committed in society cannot be tolerated! Mischievous behavior arises from a lack of appreciation of Allah’s gifts, which provokes the wrath of the Lord.

***

The expression, “This shall too pass,” articulates the following: “O human! The sorrows and joys that come to you are but guests. Do not think that they are permanent!” Do not be disturbed by life’s sorrows, because they will go. Do not be too happy with the joys of life, because they too will not last forever. That is, you are a guesthouse and your guests for but a few days are alternatively sorrows and joys.

The subjects of your guesthouse, that make you upset, do not belong only to you. They also belong to those who will follow you. They are like transferable property. Therefore, they are not worthy of the fixed attention that can lead to drowning yourself in a sea of sorrow.

Rumi, quddisa sirruh, said:

“O seeker of the Truth! Be happy if you have sorrows! They are the tricks of reunion that the Beloved has set for you since one remembers Allah and seeks refuge in Him when one is overcome by sorrow.”

“Sorrow is a treasure. Your illnesses and the other troubles you face are all treasures.”

“Likewise, sorrow is as a blessed wind that blows on the mirror of the heart to clear the dust from it; never compare it with harmful winds.”

“In this path of love, no one but grief remembers me, thousands of thanks to it.”

Another poet who has understood this secret strove to explain it in the couplet below. The poem expresses that everything that comes from the Beloved is a blessing; even sorrows exist for thousands of good reasons. They are prepared by the Beloved to distinguish between false lovers whose only capital is their pretension and talk, and real lovers who are lost in Him:

“The unkindness of the Beloved is but an expression of loyalty, not cruelty;

The one who blames his Beloved with unkindness is not a true lover!”

This is because the sorrows and pains common people perceive as punishment are in fact divine gifts in the eye of the lover of Allah. Sad hearts remember Allah more. They gain nourishment from the fountain of submission. And Allah blesses their hearts with lasting happiness by granting them exceptional gifts because of this spiritual dependence and intimacy.

Based on this essential truth, Rumi warns the seekers of wisdom as follows:

“O nightingale! How long will you continue to cry because it is winter? O nightingale! Is it appropriate to continuously cry out of abuse? If your heart is truly tied to your Beloved, open your eyes and be grateful; mention the loyalty. Speak of the rose, instead of the bush. Disregard the roots and the body of the rose, concentrate on its personality! Why are you so preoccupied with this temporary world? Is not your final destination the beyond of the beyond?”

***

The saying “Adab Ya Hu!” means, “Behave well for the pleasure of Allah!” and calls a person to follow the rules of spiritual etiquette in his behavior.

Spiritual etiquette is the zenith of morality. It is one of the goals of tasawwuf. The first etiquette to learn is towards Allah. It pertains to transforming an immature person into a perfect human being, by teaching him how to behave well towards his Creator. The second rule of etiquette is in relation to the Prophet Muhammad r. Allah calls the believers to behave well particularly towards his Messenger in the Surah Hujurat and in other surahs.

The principles of spiritual etiquette, as one’s understanding of it grows towards perfection, expand to embrace our behavior towards teachers, parents, and other believers until they have widened to the point of enveloping all creatures.

Sufyan Thawri said: “Good etiquette extinguishes Allah’s anger.”

Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and with his father, said: “The first principle of etiquette is to follow the orders of Allah and to stay away from what he has prohibited in both difficult and comfortable times.”

It is also said that “There are three qualities which if cultivated will protect one from being deprived of divine blessing:

1. To have good etiquette;

2. To be with the ones who have good etiquette;

3. To not hurt others.”

A poet has illustrated good etiquette as follows:

“Etiquette is a crown from the light of Allah,

Put on this crown, and you will be protected from all troubles!”

Yunus Emre expressed this truth in a couplet:

“I sought for knowledge amongst the people of good hearts, and came to know that,

On the condition of the presence of etiquette, the etiquette, all occupations are acceptable.”

Based on this sophisticated principle, some of the friends of Allah have defined tasawwuf as ‘etiquette alone’.

Khatam al-Asamm has used the following instructive example:

He was talking to a woman. She was physically weak, looked miserable and seemed destined to an ill fate. While she was trying to explain her problem in a highly nervous manner, an ugly sound came from her. She was so embarrassed that it was as if she was a melting candle about to extinguish. Suddenly, there was a deafening silence. The Sheikh turned to the woman, looked at her, and said in a serene way:

– I have a hearing problem; I cannot hear well what you say. Please speak loudly. Shout! I am deaf.

With her shame veiled, the woman found her composure restored. This incident, the likes of which has not been seen elsewhere, led those who knew him to give him the nickname ‘asamm’, which means ‘deaf’. This is an example of advanced Islamic etiquette and spiritual kindness. After this incident, the great scholar Khatam continued to behave as if he was deaf so that the woman would not discover the reality of what had happened and yet again feel ashamed. He went on this way until the woman died. When she died, Khatam told the people around him:

– Now my ears hear well. You can speak in a normal voice.

The examples of refined etiquette are countless in the lives of the friends of Allah. Through the course of their lives, they have embodied the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For instance, Ibn Ata said concerning obedience to the rules of etiquette:

“Whoever adopts the etiquette of the people of pure heart, his carpet is the carpet of blessings. Whoever adopts the etiquette of the friends of Allah, his carpet is a carpet reflecting the spiritual states of friendship with Allah. Whoever adopts the etiquette of the prophets, his carpet is the carpet of intimacy with Allah. And, whoever is barren of good etiquette, he is deprived of all good things.”

The great master Rumi said:

“Whoever has not a share of etiquette, he is not a human being. This is because the difference between a human and an animal is in etiquette. Open your eyes and read the Qur’an, the Book of Allah, more carefully. You will realize that its verses are all about good etiquette.”

***

The word “nothing” indicates freedom from the ego. This is because the first step in realizing a share of the divine secrets begins with rising above egotistical behavior and animal desires. Therefore, a preliminary point in the process of spiritual growth is when one attains to the degree of being “nothing.”

One of the purposes of tasawwuf is to prepare a disciple for witnessing his ‘nothingness’ before the glory, kingdom and omnipotence of the divine. Allah occasionally reminds his servants of this truth through various trials. For instance, he left one of his great prophets, Sulaiman u dead on his throne for a period of time in order to remind him of his powerlessness.

Allah speaks to humans in the following verses:

“I created you when you were nothing…” (Maryam, 9).

“Every blessing that reaches you is from Allah. Then, when harm reaches you, you pray to Allah alone.” (Nahl, 53).

‘Nothingness’ pertains to contemplating the meaning of these verses. Otherwise, one will be unable to protect oneself from heedlessly claiming to be a god as has been witnessed in the course of the lives of the Pharaohs and the Nimrods.

The great Sufi, Bayazid Bastami, quddisa sirruh, illustrated the state of ‘nothingness’ in the following prayer:

“O my Lord! Put aside my self between us so that my self gets lost in you and I become nothing! This is because, if I am with you, I am with all. Yet if I am wayward and lost in all, I cannot be with you. This would be the greatest shame for me to commit in witnessing your path.”

The great master Muhammad Uftada began training Aziz Mahmud, who had taken his hand in initiation, by assigning him the duties of cleaning toilettes and selling liver in the market of Bursa. These duties were intended to immerse him in the feeling of ‘nothingness’ since he had been occupied with the highly respected post of being a judge. Eventually Aziz Mahmud reached to such a high level of perfection that he was able to give advice to the Ottoman sultans. For this reason, his master gave him the nickname “Hudayi” (i.e. holy man).

Abdulqadir al-Gilani, who is one of the great friends of Allah, went into seclusion in the ruins of Baghdad with the purpose of attaining to ‘nothingness’.

The Sultan of the friends of Allah, Shah Naqshiband, quddisa sirruh, in the course of his search for ‘nothingness’, served sick animals for seven years. He served sick humans another seven years. Following this, he spent another seven years cleaning the streets.

This great friend of Allah, Shah Naqshiband has recounted his spiritual states and his struggle for the purification of his soul under his master Amir Kulal as follows:

“In the early days of my search, I met the great master Amir Qulal who was one of the friends of Allah. At that time, my ecstasy was high. He told me:

– Try to repair hearts. Serve the weak! Protect the poor and the broken-hearted people. They are people with no income from other people. Yet, they live in perfect tranquility, humility, and selflessness. Go and find them.

I followed the order of this great master. I had worked in the path he described for a long time.

Subsequently, this friend of Allah ordered me to serve animals by curing their diseases. He ordered me to bandage their wounds and clean them, without assistance and with sincerity.

I completed this service as well. I followed to the letter all his instructions. At that time, my ego entered such a state that if I came across a dog, I would stop and let it pass first. I would never take a step before it. This state continued unabated for seven years.

Then he requested that I serve his dogs with loyalty and with respect without asking for help from anyone else. He said:

– You will reach a great happiness while serving one of these dogs.

I received this command as a great gift. I did not spare any effort. I understood the meaning of his remark and waited for the good tiding. One day, I went to serve one of the dogs. I felt something in my soul. I stood before the dog; I could not help but cry. This dog gazed into me. It was as if it was Kitmir of the Seven Sleepers.

While I was crying, it lied on the ground on its back and raised its legs towards the sky. Then it began crying and making sad voices. I also opened my hands with humility and said: “Amen!” It became quiet and returned to an upright position.

It was one of those days. I left home and went elsewhere. I came across a chameleon on my way whose color was changing according to the color of the light of the sun. It was in a spiritual ecstasy. A great state of ecstasy came upon me as well and I said to myself:

– Let me ask for the intercession of this animal on the Day of Judgment. This blessed animal must be at the level of intercession for others.

I stood before it with perfect etiquette and respect. I raised my hands. Then this blessed animal entered spiritual states that it was drawn into. Later, it lied on its back and turned its face to the sky. While it was in this position, I said: Amen!

Then, my master asked me to clean the streets of things that disturbed walkers. I ran after this task for seven years to the extent that my clothing was always dirty with dust from the stones and dust of the streets that I had to clean.

In sum, I did exactly whatever this great master, Amir Qulal, told me to do with full sincerity and loyalty. My soul became full of spiritual pleasures and great changes occurred in my spiritual states.[1]

Another example is Imam Ghazali who chose to live in a state of ‘nothingness’ for some time in order to grow closer to the Lord, although in his studies he had already attained to the zenith of religious sciences.

After bestowing triumph in the battle of Badr to Prophet Muhammad r and the companions, Allah reminded them of their ‘nothingness’ in the following verse:

“On that day, you did not kill them, but Allah killed them. (O my Messenger!) When you threw, you did not throw but Allah threw.” (Anfal, 17).

The power one has is according to the divine plan as borne out in ones destiny. For this reason, it is said: “No one has control and power except the Glorious Allah”, “La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah al-aliyy al-Azim”.

This is because everything in existence has come to life only because of the generosity and blessing of Allah. So too, all the possessions of creatures have also come from their Creator. The divine universal will controls all events and all creatures. Even the origin of the will of creatures belongs to the Creator. Since human beings were sent to this world, they have been given a limited will and have been equipped with an understanding and ability to do both good and evil. The power to control this limited will has also been bestowed on them by their Creator.

Rumi has said:

“What is this claim about the superiority of one of us over the others? In the final analysis, are we not all at the gate of the same palace? Does not Allah say: “O people! You are all poor; I am the only One who is rich!”

Yunus Emre explained in an excellent manner the roots of this same truth:

Knowledge is in knowing what knowledge is,

Knowledge is in knowing the self,

If you do not know yourself,

What is the purpose of studying?

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

 “If you grow to show respect to Allah the way He deserves to be respected, you will come to know things through true knowledge; if you truly know Allah, mountains will move with your prayers.”

Imam Ghazali, who represented the pinnacle of religious sciences in his time, narrated his own experience as follows:

“I was preoccupied with the religious and rational sciences. I had many students. I contemplated my condition. I saw that I was surrounded by many problems. I examined my intention in pursuing knowledge and realized that my intention was not pure, but mixed with desire for social status and fame. I came to conclude with certainty that I was about to be destroyed on a spiritual level. I was at the edge of an abyss. I said to myself:

– Act swiftly because not much time remains before your death. The knowledge you have accumulated is false unless it is put into practice. If you do not put an end to your unnecessary ties and clear your path of obstacles, how is your end going to be?

My spiritual state changed. I entered a state of astonishment, full of sorrow and I cried for six months in the valley of astonishment between this world and the next. My heart felt grief. I realized my weakness. I witnessed the total collapse of my will. I sought refuge in Allah and prayed to Him passionately as a person suffering from an illness with no cure. Eventually, Allah accepted my prayers and woke my heart as is mentioned in the following verse from the Qur’an:

“He is the one who accepts the prayer of the one who is in difficulty and lifts his problem…” (Naml, 62).

All desires in my heart for status and wealth were lifted. I turned my face away from them.

I kept myself busy with the remembrance of Allah, seclusion, loneliness, struggle against the ego, abstention, purifying the soul and perfecting my morality. I came to know with absolute certainty that those who reach to union with Allah by following the right path are the great Sufis. The best morality and conduct belongs to them. They took their internal and external characteristics from the light of the Prophet (pbuh). There is no light above the light of Prophethood.”[2]

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Whosoever expands his knowledge without a parallel increase in his piety will only have grown in his separation from Allah.”

For this reason, Rumi states that the good words of the people without action are like borrowed good clothes.

***

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

– When light enters a heart, it expands.

They asked:

– What is the sign of this?

He answered:

– Abandoning the momentary world; longing for the eternal world of the Hereafter; getting ready for death before it arrives.

The companion Zayd ibn Haritha has said: “When I abandoned the mundane desires of the world, my days became thirsty and my nights became sleepless. I came to feel as if I was witnessing the Throne of my Lord. As if I was witnessing the people of Paradise, who joyfully visit each other, and the people of Hellfire, who hate each other.”

***

A number of important contemplative points from Imam Ghazali follow:

“Spending the gifts of Allah for a cause He likes is equal to thanking Him, while spending that which Allah gives you in a cause He dislikes is tantamount to disgracefulness.”

“The real difficulties are with the sins and the disbelief. The other problems are not so substantial. They carry blessings in them which you may not recognize.”

“When you want to say something, pause and think. If you are going to be held accountable by Allah if you do not say it, then say it; otherwise, keep silent.”

“The intelligent person should say to his ego:

– My only capital is my life. The breath that leaves the body never returns back to it. The number of breaths is limited and continually decreasing. Therefore, can there be a bigger loss than not following the right path?”

“Protect your organs from unlawful acts (haram) as if you will die tomorrow.”

“Stay awake! If you say, “I will repent later and do good deeds,” think that death may come even earlier. You may regret your choice in the end. If you believe that repentance is easier tomorrow than today, you are wrong.”

“If one’s work in this world prevents him from working for the next world, he is in deep trouble. His will be a life of misery. He is as someone who accepts a clay pot in exchange for a golden goblet.”

***

Imam Ghazali explains in the following passage the spiritual impossibility of adequately overseeing our ‘self’ by oneself alone:

“The words khalq (creation) and khulq (morality) are derived from the same root. One is about the external world and the other is about the internal world.

Khalq is the form that can be known by the senses.

Khulq is hidden and cannot be known by looking at our external existence. The real identity of a person rests in his character, way of life, and his nature. Regardless of how much one hides himself in outer appearances, one day his inner identity will be disclosed.”

As we need a mirror to see our outer appearance, so too we need a mirror for our heart: the help of a friend of Allah who will diagnose and cure our inner world, our character, and our inclinations.

If one wishes to know whether he is someone loved by Allah or not, he should closely evaluate his inner world: to the extent, he feels Allah in his heart and witnesses his power and kingdom with amazement he is close to Him.

For this reason, one should always be concerned with purifying his soul so that the manifestations of divine light, which will destroy the passions and the desires, can appear in the heart.

The Almighty Creator has said, “Truly, the one who purifies his soul succeeds” (Shams, 9).

Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also said: “The believer is a mirror of the believer.” According to this hadith, the perfect humans serve as clear mirrors, with no stain on them, for our souls. In other words, seekers may observe the reality of their condition and their essence in the face of these individuals. This is not a material observation. The mirror of the heart goes well beyond the material dimension. In it one may explore the mysteries of the hidden inner worlds. This mirror is not a mirror of the outer world but rather a mirror of the inner world and there are no forms there save the reflections of Allah’s lights. Therefore, those who spiritually seek out and reap rewards from this mirror carry a different kind of beauty and joy in their hearts. They grow to sacrifice themselves. They wish farewell to their ego and consequently reach to the blessing of Allah aiming to become completely absorbed in Him. For this reason, it is necessary to be under the guidance of a perfect master and to internalize his morality. Yunus Emre has said:

“Shariah (religious law) and tariqah (mysticism) are paths for sincere seekers,

Yet the Truth and divine knowledge are beyond them.”

One can only reach to the secret mentioned in this couplet by Yunus Emre under the guidance of a perfect master.

***

The great master Rumi, quddisa sirruh, saw too that it was necessary to be under the guidance of a friend of Allah (wali), who is an heir of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in order to overcome the obstacle of the ego and to attain to divine knowledge and to complete immersion in Truth. He has illustrated this in an example:

“How can a knife shape and sculpt its handle without the aid of another knife? Show your wounds to a true surgeon of the heart. You cannot cure them alone.

Consult a medical doctor concerning your physical health and mundane feelings and thoughts, but consult a perfect guide about the health of your soul and those feelings that may elevate you to eternity.”

“Put two of your fingers over your eyes. Will you be able to see anything of this world? If you do not, it does not mean that this world does not exist. Not to see is a shame belonging to the two fingers of your ego.

First, remove your fingers from your eyes. Then you will be able to see what you wish. A human is as an eye. The rest is courage. What is called an eye is what sees the Beloved.”

Prior to reading, the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) straighten yourself. If a beautiful fragrance does not come to you in a rose garden, do not blame the garden, but blame your heart and your nose.

“Only those who have burned their egos and their mundane desires and have thus sacrificed themselves before the Qur’an can understand the meaning of the Qur’an.”

***

Rumi explained that the secret of reaching to the level of “self-effacement” (fana) is in complete submission:

“The water of the sea carries a dead body, which has completely submited to it, on its shoulders. How can a living person who harbors even the slightest hesitation be saved from the hands of the sea? If you purify yourself of egotistical desires by following the spiritual injunction to “die before death,” the sea of secrets will carry you on its shoulders.”

The objective of a human being while in this world should be to know his Creator and to worship Him. The secret of attaining to the depth of these things begins through experiencing even a fleeting fragrance of the garden of divine knowledge.

In order to progress to pure worship, one has to stay away from the temporary attractions and the passions of this world. For instance, such a warning drove Ibrahim Adham to enter the path of piety.

In the middle of the night, Ibrahim Adham was sleeping on his throne. Suddenly, he heard a noise coming from the roof. The Sultan woke-up as the noise grew louder. He stood and shouted:

– Who is there? What are you doing on the roof at this time of night?

A voice came:

– We are searching for our lost camel!

Ibrahim Adham shouted with anger:

– You idiots! How can you search for a camel on the roof?

This time the answer was highly significant and carried guidance in it:

– O Ibrahim Adham! You know that it is impossible to search for a camel on the roof, but do you know that it is equally impossible to search for Allah while sitting on a throne with silk clothes and a crown, and with a whip in your hand?

This incident caused the tides of Ibrahim Adham’s soul to swing more frequently. It left him in an indecisive and astonished state. Yet, the Sultan could not abandon his former life entirely.

However, a second warning came to him during a hunting party that made him a genuine seeker in the path of Truth. The incident unfolded as follows:

Ibrahim Adham was running after a gazelle. He ran so far afield that he found himself completely separated from his soldiers. Nevertheless, he was so determined to hunt the gazelle that he did not give up and instead continued to follow it. When he cornered it, this beautiful and fragile animal spoke to him in a spiritual tongue:

– O Ibrahim! You have not been created for this! Did Allah create you from nothingness so that you could hunt me? Even if you hunt me, what are you going to gain? What are you going to gain other than ending a life?

When Ibrahim heard these words, he felt as if a fire had been dropped into his heart. He could not but fall from his horse. He began running towards the desert. After some time, he looked around and could not see anyone except a shepherd. He went to him and said to him:

– Please, take all this jewelry, my royal clothes, my weapons, and my horse from me and give me the simple wool coat you are wearing. And, do not mention this to anyone.

While the shepherd was staring in astonishment, Ibrahim Adham disappeared to remove his attire and to change his clothes. The shepherd said to himself, “Our Sultan must have lost his mind.” Yet, in truth Ibrahim Adham was not insane. To the contrary, he had just recollected his mind. He went to hunt gazelle, but in reality, Allah had hunted him as a gazelle.

***

May Allah help all of us incorporate in our lives the advice of Rumi; taking lessons from the examples he has used as we work towards internalizing the condition of his heart. Amen!

Rumi, the great friend of Allah, has also said, “The people of divine knowledge are like guides; they help the ones who enter the path. Yet, those who have not entered the path do not appreciate the value of a guide, nor are they able to benefit from one.

Likewise, a doctor heals diseases. The ill people who voice their sufferings with their cries appreciate him. Yet, how can a dead person understand the value of a doctor?

This lifetime is passing while we spend our time thinking about hopes we have that are attached to future days as we occupy ourselves in the short term with worldly struggles, fights and trials.

Recollect your mind and realize that your life consists only of the day you are living. Reflect on what kind of whims will occupy you today.

This short but valuable life is quickly ending while you are busy filling your wallet with money and your stomach with food.

Death is taking us one moment after another away from this world. Do our minds apprehend the momentousness of this scary condition?

Death is standing on our path while we are busy being gentlemen wandering aimlessly around.

Death is so close to us. It is even closer than we can comprehend! Yet, I do not understand the mind of the heedless one.”

***

In the verses below, Sheikh Ghalib illustrates that human beings are manifestations of divine names. Each is a small universe and simultaneously the essence of it. Moreover, humans have the ability to clean the mirror of their heart that attracts the secrets of this universe like a magnet.

Look at yourself with joy for you are the essence of the universe,

You are the Adam, the pupil of the eye of the universe!

In spite of being the essence of the universe, if a human being follows his desires he can fall to the lowest of the low levels. Rumi explains this as follows:

“O nightingale of the garden of the heart! If you act like an owl, you would commit a great mistake. O rose in the rose garden. If you act like a bush, you would harm yourself immensely.”

O Lord! Grant us light in our eyes and hearts so that we can witness sparks of truth in the mirror of the heart and thus grow to be one of those honored with witnessing your beauty in the Hereafter.

Amen!

[1].      al-Hadiqatu’l-Wardiyya, p. 545-547.

[2].      Ghazali, al-Munqid min al-Dalal.

Osman Nuri Topbas from the book of  “Tears of the Heart”