PROPHETIC MORALITY IN THE MATHNAWI

The Mathnawi: “I am in love with the One to Whom everything belongs; everything is His creation. My intellect and my life are given as a sacrifice to His beloved.” (v.3: 4136)

‘Ashq is the name given to the ultimate power and capability of love. Ultimate love is intended for Allah Almighty and it is only when one loves Him that they can reach perfection in ‘ashq. The way to achieve this is through transcending the phases of earthly love, known as figurative ‘ashq. The most abundant love in this aspect is the love of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh); he was a gift to the universe from the Creator of all things.

In the verses above Rûmî declares that by sacrificing his intellect and life to the Prophet – who was Habîbullah (beloved of Allah) – he has been able to reach mahabbatullah, the love of Allah. The Companions of the Prophet are the best examples of this. Their reply to the slightest wish of the Prophet was “May all my life and wealth be sacrificed for you; say what you desire, O, Messenger of Allah!”

The Mathnawi: “Each of you is a sheep; the Prophet is the shepherd. The people are like the flock and he is the overseer.

The shepherd is not afraid of the sheep in (his) contention (with them), but is their protector from heat and cold.

If he cries out in wrath against the flock, realize that this is because of the love he has for them all.”(v.3: 4146-4148)

Referring to human beings as a flock of sheep in the above verses is not meant to be degrading. It is to draw attention to our state, that is we either rule like a shepherd or being ruled like the sheep. Indeed in a hadîth, the Prophet says, “You are all shepherds and you are responsible from those who you shepherd.” (Bukhârî, Jumu‘a 11, Istikrâz 20; Muslim, ‘Imâra 20). This shows us that ever human being has the capacity to rule others; with this power comes a certain responsibility. Shepherds are often seen carrying a sick animal that has been left behind in order to reunite it with the flock. The most distinguished attributes of a shepherd are mercy, compassion, sincerity; one who directs others should always hold the people for whom they are responsible close to their heart.

The Mathnawi: “The Qur’ân is the explanation of the qualities of the Prophets. If you read and practice it, then consider yourself as having visited the Prophets and saints.

   If you do not abide by the rules and live according to the morals of the Qur’ân even though you have read it, what benefit will come to you of seeing the Prophets and the saints?

 As one reads the stories of the Prophets thoroughly, this bodily cage will become narrow for the bird of soul.” (v.1: 1516-1518)

The Qur’ân has been sent to people as a guidance (hidâya): it shows the way to reach happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. In order to achieve this, the Qur’ân guides us by touching upon different subjects in various styles and with different declarations. Among these subjects, the stories about the Prophets and their peoples hold a particularly important place. Those who read the Qur’ân gain a great deal of information about the blessings that were given to the Prophets and the pious whom Allah is pleased with, as well as about the destruction of the heathens and oppressors who rebel against the Almighty; with this knowledge they will be able to organize their lives as the people of steadfastness (istiqâmah).

In order to receive the utmost benefit from the stories of the Prophets mentioned in the Qur’ân, a person should also prepare their inner world. Indeed, Allah says in the Qur’ân that failure to contemplate the profound meanings of the verses is due to a seal on the hearts.

“Will they not, then, ponder over this Qur’ân? – or are there seals upon their hearts?”(Muhammad, 47: 24)

According to this verse, to understand, comprehend, feel and grasp the secrets of the Qur’ân one must have a sound heart, as the Qur’ân will open its secrets only to a sound heart. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was the greatest commentator of the Qur’ân so, in essence, all of his traditions (hadîth) are an explanation of it. After the Prophet, the greatest and the most accurate interpreters are those scholarly saints who practice what they know and who have a share in the spiritual life of the Prophet. On this subject Mawlânâ says:

“Those who understand the Qur’ân are those who practise it.”

A heart that is blackened with fleshly desire have nothing to take from the Qur’ân. Western orientalists who study Islam have outward knowledge, but because they do not live a spiritual life, the Qur’ân does not open its secrets to them and it does not show them guidance. Allah Almighty says:

“…for, though they may see every sign [of the truth], they do not believe in it, and though they may see the path of rectitude, they do not choose to follow it-whereas, if they see a path of error, they take it for their own: this, because they have given the lie to Our messages, and have remained heedless of them.” (A‘râf, 7: 146)

The purpose of reading the Qur’ân is to be adorned with its manners. When asked about the morals of the Prophet (pbuh) after he had passed away, his wife ‘‘isha (r.a.) said:

His manners were the Qur’ân” (Muslim, Musâfirîn 139; Nasâ‘î, Qiyâmu’l layl, 2)

The Qur’ân comprises rules and regulations that have been sent to bring a morality to mankind that is higher than that of the angels. In the aforementioned verses, Rumi conveys the message that reading the Qur’ân and understanding it will enable a person to adorn himself with the morals of the beloved Prophet. The Prophet has presented this as Divine morality and he ordered his Ummah to be assume the character traits of the Lord Almighty. (Munâwî, al-Ta‘ârif, p. 564)

The story of Ibn ‘Abbâs (r.a) is a good example of Qur’ânic morality. Once, a man said some unpleasant things to Ibn ‘Abbâs (r.a), but the latter merely remained quiet. The man was astounded and asked Ibn ‘Abbâs why he did not retaliate. To this, Ibn ‘Abbâs responded:

There are three traits I assume which stop me from retaliating against you: firstly, when I read a verse from the book of Allah, I wish for every man to know what I have been graced to read; secondly, I become very happy when I hear that a Muslim judge has served justice, though I have no familial ties with that judge; thirdly, I become very happy when rain falls on land owned by Muslims though I have no animals grazing on that particular land nor own any land there myself.”[1](Haythamî, Majmû al-Zawâ’id, v. 9, pg. 284)

The Mathnawi: “There are melodies within Prophets which revive; these melodies bestow a priceless life on those who are in search of the Truth.”(v.1: 1919)

A life can only be meaningful and valuable through accurate ideas and behavior. This means reaching to the truth and the good. The most exceptional and unique guides in doing this are the Prophets, because Allah Almighty made all of them, especially the Prophet Muhammad, the best model of humanity . The above verse from Mawlânâ also emphasizes this truth.

The impact of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) character on people and his being a role model to all humanity has never ceased to embrace all humanity since his blessed mission. Even those who did not believe in him had to admit the high morals and excellence of the Prophet, while those who loved him sang of their fondness and affection for him. The Companions revealed their submission and devotion by such things as, “I willingly sacrifice all my possessions, my life and loved ones for you.” The caravans of affection, which will continue until the Day of Judgment, flow with his love. The universe has been enlightened by his radiance, which is brighter than the sun. The graceful joy of belief is only possible through him. Mortals have not been able to describe him adequately because, with his impeccable morality and existence, he is the unique gem of this universe. Poets and literary figures have not been able to cease praising him. Here are some of those pearls, verses of beautiful poems that have been sung about him.

The following are from Yaman Dede, a poet who lived in recent times; he was a Christian who chose to become a Muslim after discovering the truth brought by Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

I would not feel despair if I were without water in the heat of the desert.

I have volcanoes in my heart that oceans cannot quench.

If it were to rain flames and I touched them, I would not feel it.

Give me some solace with your beauty, I am ablaze O, Rasûlallâh!

What prosperity to close my eyes with your love and to die!

Is it not possible to give my last breath in your circle?

As my eyes fade, it would be easy to die with you, alas!

Give me some solace with your beauty, I am ablaze O. Rasûlallâh!

Muhammad Es‘ad Erbili, who was one of the important sufis of recent history, states his compassion for the Prophet (pbuh) in the following beautiful words:

O, the beloved! From the appearance of your beauty through manifestations,

The spring is ablaze, the rose is ablaze, the hyacinth is ablaze, the earth and     the thorn are ablaze.

What sets the blaze is the light (nûr) of your blessed visage.

(This is why) the soul is ablaze, the heart is ablaze and these two eyes, that are weeping with your affection, are ablaze.

Is it possible to cause the martyr of love take ablution with this many flames?

The body is ablaze, the shroud is ablaze, even the sweet water for washing the  martyr is ablaze

It is as if every thing of beauty has caught a reflection of the Prophet’s own beauty. This garden of creation has never seen a rose like his face. Fuzûlî describes this truth in his famous “Water Eulogy”:

O, Eye! Do not spill your tears onto my heart, which is on fire (with the love of the Messenger of Allah)! Because it is no solace to pour water onto fires that burn with the heat of love. (This fire of love cannot be put out. The drop of water that falls into a burning fire will only increase its flames).

The gardener should not trouble himself to water this rose garden.

Indeed, even if he waters a thousand rose gardens, (O, Messenger of Allah) no rose like your visage will ever open there…

Again Fuzûlî restrains this magnificent yearning to a couplet:

I bleed from my eyes against your visage, which is like a rose.

O, Beloved, this is the season of roses, will it not obscure the flowing water?

The Mathnawi:If one person had known what the Prophet knew, they would neither find tenacity for supplication and pleading nor any strength for fasting and prayers.” (v. 2: 1913)

There are three categories of reality, or haqîqa, which were bestowed upon the Prophet. Those that are in the first category are kept as an eternal secret between Allah Almighty and the Prophet. The Noble Messenger did not reveal even the smallest portion of these to anyone. When explaining this he said:

I swear by Allah that if you knew what I knew you would weep much and laugh little, you would find no comfort in your wives and you would pour forth onto roads and deserts crying (and calling) to Allah (for him to lift the calamities off you)” (Ibn Mâjah, Zuhd, 19)

The haqîqa in this category can only be comprehended with the light of Prophethood (nûr al-nubuwwa). No one but the Messenger himself has this ability, so this knowledge is an eternal mystery. This matter is from among knowledge which has been left undisclosed.

The second category which was made known to the Prophet was transferred only to a limited number of people who had an exceptional understanding and perception. This knowledge was not meant for the general public. We know that the Prophet spoke to Abû Bakr and ‘Alî about some of this. We also know that he entrusted some secrets to Abû Hurayra (r.a) and Hudhayfa al-Yamân (r.a). The secrets disclosed in this category constitute the foundations of tasavvuf, that is God-given knowledge of spiritual life. For this reason, Sufi orders ultimately trace themselves back to Abû Bakr or ‘Alî. Knowledge in this category is reserved for the spiritual elite (khawâs). This knowledge has been passed down from heart to heart and will continue to be until the Day of Judgment. The information from this category which has found itself in some books is merely the outer peel of the fruit. The essence is not, in fact, “uttered” but is only a “state”; it is not words but nature.

The third category of information given to the Prophet by Allah Almighty is for the masses. These are the canonical laws. The addressees of this information are human beings; the Prophet has not been sent to a particular people or period, but rather he has been appointed as the Messenger for all of humanity. For this reason, from the time he was given his mission until the Day of Judgment, all of humanity is known as the “Community(Ummah)of Muhammad”. This group is divided into two: those who accept the honoured invitation (da‘wa) are called Ummat al-ijâba (those who respond) and those who reject it are called Ummat al-ghayr al-ijâba (those who do not respond) or Ummat al-da‘wa(those who should be invited). The invitation is for all of humanity.

Rûmî explains these facts in the above verses and goes on to elucidate that being aware of the information in the first category is beyond the strength and capability of humanity.

The Mathnawi: “The Prophet said: O, my companions! O, my Ummah! Upon you, I am more compassionate and merciful than a father.”

The Prophet’s love for his Ummah is of course much stronger and greater when compared to a father’s affection for his children. The biographies (sîra) of the Prophet are full of historical manifestations of this. There are thousands of examples that could be mentioned. He did not eat or drink whilst his Ummah remained hungry. He even tied a stone to his stomach to suppress his hunger. If he heard a child crying while in congregational prayer, he would cut the prayer short and read from the shorter chapters of the Qur’ân. He led his Ummah at the most difficult of times. He defended his position when the army was defeated at ‘Uhud and Hunayn left exposed to the enemy lines. During some campaigns he stayed behind and helped the army to gather the troops. His devotion to his Ummah is explained as follows in the Qur’ân:

“Indeed, there has come unto you [O mankind] an Apostle from among yourselves: it heavily weighs upon him [the thought] that you might suffer [in the life to come]; full of concern for you [is he, and] full of compassion and mercy towards the believers.” (Tawba, 9: 128)

In this verse, Allah Almighty extols the Prophet (pbuh) with the titles Ra’ûf and Rahîm, attributes that belong to Allah.

With his actions, words and morality the Prophet (pbuh) was a guide and a mercy who embraced all of humanity. On the way of guidance, the greatest difficulties and tribulations rested on his shoulders. He accomplished his divine duty flawlessly. He possessed such a state of patience and ardor that sometimes he received Divine instruction not to exhaust himself.

This lofty virtue shown by the Prophet (pbuh) for the salvation of humanity is stated in the following verse:

“Wouldst thou, perhaps, torment thyself to death [with grief] because they [who live around thee] refuse to believe [in it]?” (Shu‘arâ, 26: 3)

[1].    Ibn ‘Abbâs (t) implies by this that it is impossible to retaliate against his instigator since this would mean harming a fellow brother-in-faith, an act which his heart simply will not permit (translator).