Do not be deceived,
O human being, by the pride and fun of this world!
Do not be afraid,
even if your body is cut to pieces in a dream,
for this world is but a dream!
There is nothing more effective than love and hatred in elevating or debasing human life. Loving what deserves to be loved and hating what deserves to be hated elevates life, while the antithesis is degrading to the extreme.
Pharaoh was surprised and shocked by Musa’s effort (a.s) to spread faith in the oneness of Allah. For this reason he appealed to his magicians for help and had them channel their forces against him. At the beginning of this struggle the magicians kindly asked:
– O Musa, are you going to throw first, or should we?
Musa (a.s) said to them:
– “Throw what you want to throw!” (‘Araf 115-116).
The magicians threw some strings and sticks on the ground in front of Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. They began to move like snakes. Following this, Musa (a.s) similarly threw his staff on the ground at the order of Allah. The staff became a great serpent that swallowed the instruments they had used in making magic. The magicians immediately recognized that what Musa (a.s) had performed could not possibly have been magic, but instead was a divine miracle; for had it been but magic, the sticks and strings would not have disappeared after their magic was undone. Yet in this instance, they totally disappeared. The magicians who witnessed this divine miracle then professed:
– “We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Musa and Harun” (‘A’raf 121).
At their declaration of faith, the Pharaoh became furious and pronounced:
– “Ye believe in Him before I give you leave! Lo! This is a plot that ye have spun in the city that ye may drive its inhabitants hence. But ye shall come to know. Surely I shall have your hands and feet cut off on alternate sides. Then I shall crucify everyone of you.”
The magicians, who had already spiritually risen beyond such mundane matters, replied to the Pharaoh:
– “Lo! We are about to return to our Lord! Thou takest vengeance on us only for as much as we believed in the tokens of our Lord when they came unto us. Our Lord! Vouchsafe unto us steadfastness and make us die as men who have surrendered (unto Thee)” (‘A’raf 126).
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, poetically renders the words of the magicians as follows:
The magicians said, “The punishment inflicted by Pharaoh is of no harm to us for the grace of Allah prevails over the violence of (all) others.
If you should (come to) know our secret, O misleader, (you would see that) you are delivering us from pain, O man, whose heart is blind.
Hark, come and from this quarter behold this organ peeling ‘oh, would that my people knew!’
Allah’s bounty has bestowed upon us a pharaohship, (but) not a perishable one like your pharaohship and kingdom.
Lift up your head and behold the living and the majestic kingdom, O you who has been deluded by Egypt and the river Nile.
If you will take leave of this filthy tattered cloak you will be drawn from the (bodily) Nile to the Nile of the spirit.
Hark, O pharaoh, hold your hand from (renounce) Egypt: There are a hundred Egypts within the Egypt of the spirit.
You say to the vulgar, ‘I am a Lord,’ being unaware of the essential natures of both these names.
It is in thanks for our deliverance from this perishable abode that we are (now) admonishing you on this gallows.
The gallows on which we are killed is the Buraq on which we ride (to Heaven); the abode possessed by you is but a product of delusion and heedlessness.
Rumi analyzes the inner spiritual dimension of this dialogue between Pharaoh and the magicians who had borne witness to the Truth as follows:
Is it not (the fact) that the accursed Pharaoh threatened (the magicians with) punishment on the earth,
Saying, “I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, then I will hang you up: I will not hold you exempt (from punishment)”?
He thought that they were (still) in the same state of imagination, terror, distraction, and doubt,
Thus, that they would be trembling and terrified before the vain imaginings and threats of the carnal soul.
He did not know that they had been delivered and seated at the window of the light of the heart,
(And that) they had recognized (the difference of) their (bodily) shadows from their (real) selves, and were vivaciously alive, alert, happy, and exalted.
That means they understood that the human body is but a shadow; they sacrificed this shadow and reached to the state of fanafillah. Rumi continues:
O human being! This world is made of but sleep and dream. Do not be deceived by the false glory and fun in it! Do not be afraid even if in your dream your hand is cut off or your body is chopped to pieces. The Prophet said of this world, which is seemingly substantial in appearance, that “this world is the sleeper’s dream.”
The great poet Yunus Emre has beautifully articulated his refuge in Allah:
For the ones with spiritual knowledge,
This world is a dream and figment of the imagination.
The one who sacrifices himself for Your sake
Transcends dream and imagination!
We have witnessed in this story how the modicum of kindness and respect shown by the magicians to Musa (a.s) bestowed upon them the gift of faith and they subsequently abandoned mundane pleasures, which they perceived to be merely a dream, for the ceaseless life of eternal happiness. The life of the Pharaoh, on the other hand, continued to unfold and ultimately took the shape, after having been drawn into the whirlpools of the Red Sea, of a journey into Hellfire. The fame he left behind became nothing more than an epitome of oppression.
Rumi said, “The intelligent cry first but they eventually smile. The unintelligent, however, laugh first but eventually they cry and hit their heads with stones. One should struggle to foresee the end of a matter at the outset, so that you won’t later come to resent the outcome.”
The foundation of mundane life, therefore, consists of figures of imagination, of feelings and of thoughts that lead to action. Human beings by nature are intrinsically subject to swings between love and hatred. However, the prophets and the saints are the suns who set life in its true orbit. They bring life to the dead hearts of humanity as springs impart life to the soil. They turn hearts to Allah after filling them with divine knowledge. In the radiance of their breath, humankind is thus oriented to the purpose for which it was ordained and thereby finds ultimate contentment.
In pre-eternity, this world of diversity and plurality came into existence out of love. Among all created forms, human beings and the jinns have been fashioned in such a way that their passion for love can only be satisfied through the love of Allah. Human beings are actually in a state of exile, in relation to the realms they have come from. Their pain and their distress can only be cured by a deep and abiding love for Allah.
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, said: “The prophets and their heirs, that is those beings who have attained to states of perfection, are suns veiled by the mask of humanity. One should seek refuge in them so as to be saved from bondage to the flesh and from bondage to the fleeting objects of this world.
A Sufi disciple came to Bayazid Bestami and asked for his advice:
– Recommend to me an act that will bring me closer to the Lord!
Bayazid, advised him as follows:
– Love the friends of Allah! And try to gain their love, for Allah’s glance falls on their hearts every day three hundred and sixty times! This way He will see you in their hearts.
Sulaiman (a.s) sent a letter to the Queen of Saba requesting her to accept the true faith. When she read the letter, she, who was an idol worshipper, said:
– Gentlemen, honorable guests! A valuable letter has reached me. It is from Sulaiman. It begins with the name of Allah who is the Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful.
She showed respect to the letter of Sulaiman. Some scholars have said that since she showed respect to Sulaiman’s letter, she was blessed by the true faith.
Similarly, one day on his way home while he was wandering around in a drunken state, Bishr-i Khafi saw a piece of paper on the ground with the Kelime-i Tawhid written on it. Regardless of his state, his heart was unable to tolerate these holy words remaining in that position. He lifted the piece of paper up with great respect, cleaned it and put pleasing perfumes on it. He then hung it in the best place in his home. For this reason, Allah ultimately granted him spiritual guidance and he attained to the rank of sainthood.
Likewise, there was a companion with the name Hakim ibn Hizam. He was a relative of Khadija, the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) and was renowned for his mercy and generosity. Before the rise of Islam, he used to buy the daughters of those families who wanted to bury them alive and graciously assumed the responsibility of watching over them. Hakim ibn Hizam asked the Prophet (pbuh) about these good deeds which he had done prior to his declaration of faith in Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) replied:
– These good deeds are but the reasons that brought you the honor of being blessed with Islam.
It should never be forgotten that the secrets of our existence reside solely in spiritually pure hearts. The prosperity of the Ottoman Empire for six hundred years, which in duration is beyond comparison with any other state in history, was in fact due to their emphasis on spirituality. According to a well-known tradition, Osman Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman State, spent a night standing awake in his room, in a house where he had been invited to stay as a guest, because there was a copy of the Holy Qur’an in it. Likewise, Yavuz Sultan Selim Khan brought the Sacred Trusts from the Hijaz to Istanbul with the greatest respect possible. He assigned forty reciters, who knew the entire Qur’an by heart, to continuously recite the Qur’an day and night in the room where the Sacred Trusts were preserved. This custom continued for ages and demonstrates to us one of the fundamental reasons why the Ottoman State survived for such a long period of time.
The Almighty Allah has always bestowed prosperity upon those who have demonstrated respect for Him, for His messengers and for His friends, and has always showered them with divine mercy. For instance, He did not punish the polytheists of Mecca while the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was living there. The following verse from the Qur’an states this fact:
“Allah will not punish them while you reside among them” (Anfal, 33)
However, when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) migrated to Medina, the Meccan populace suffered from famine. They became so weak that they could not even raise their heads to behold the sky. It was as though they had become blind and perceived the sky as a white cloud. Since they were unable to find any solution for the famine, they travelled to Medina and asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)for help.
These events, which carry an intrinsic warning, serve as a means of guidance for those who have the ability to perceive; but for those who do not have this potential, they may function to increase their misery in both this world and the world to come. The following narrative carries a significant lesson for us:
Jabala, who was the governor of the Ghassanis in Syria, came to Medina and accepted Islam during the time of Caliph Umar. He wanted to perform pilgrimage and for this purpose dressed in the special ceremonial cloth called “ihram”. During the circumambulation (tawaf) of the Ka’aba a bedouin stepped on his silk ihram. Jabala became so angry that he slapped him on his face. The bedouin thereupon approached Caliph Umar and complained about this treatment. Umar said to Jabala:
– Either you will pay enough compensation to the bedouin to secure his happiness or he will slap your face sufficiently to gain his due.
– I am a governor; he is a simple bedouin.
Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
– There is no such thing in Islam. In the eye of divine justice you are equal.
Then Jabala said:
– Let me think about this predicament tonight.
Because of his pride, Jabala could not reconcile himself with the act of paying money to the bedouin for the purpose of making him content and thereby enticing him to withdraw his case against him. Rather, he fled from Medina in the night with his people. He sought refuge in Byzantium and abandoned his newly won Islamic faith. After a period of time, he died. His pride had caused him to stray from the enlightened path of Islam. He had been deceived by his base desires and thus deservedly earned punishment in the Hellfire.
Another example, bestowing a similar moral lesson, may be found in the following story:
The King of Iran (Kisra) tore up the letter sent to him by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and uttered words of insult on it. As a consequence, Allah would later shatter his kingdom to pieces. The devastation brought down on his empire has been recorded in the pages of history for those seeking such a teaching.
Rumi has addressed the following lines to those who have been deprived of the teachings of the prophets and scholars and thus have not received their due share of knowledge concerning divine secrets:
You plan to put a faded and decayed heart on the table used for the washing of corpses and you intend to proceed with it to the presence of your Lord.
Allah may say to you: “You impudent and insolent individual! How can you come before me with a dead heart; is this a graveyard?
Go back and bring me a heart alive with divine secrets and imbued with the beauty of the spiritual worlds.”
For the purpose of further illuminating this point, Yunus Emre has written:
I did not come to this world for a fight,
My sole task is love.
The house of the Beloved is the hearts,
I came to repair hearts.
Rumi, quddisa sirruh, has repeatedly explained that the purification of the soul is essential for the cultivation of such a refined heart. The following verses are but one example:
If a baby bird, whose wings have yet to fully develop, flies, it is destined to fall and become food for a wild cat. Yet, when its wings are allowed to mature, it flies high into the sky without difficulty.
In another poem, he explains that material height is a matter of measure and cannot be compared with spiritual maturity:
The sky is high in form. Yet, spiritual height and genuine loftiness belong to pure hearts.
Apparent height belongs to bodies. Yet, bodies are as names before the reality of what they spiritually point towards.
O Lord, do not allow our hearts to be distracted from the light of the Qur’an, from the love of Your beloved Prophet Muhammad, or from the love of Your friends…
Osman Nuri Topbas from the book of “Tears of the Heart”