The Lie in the Mirror

Look, O disciple, at the beauty in the mirror!

But do not be deceived by the lie in it,

For the beauty of youth will fade,

And the solid structure will collapse.

Rumi

This world is a realm of trials and passions. At first, we may note a pleasant, sweet smell. It strikes us as a source of ever-fresh joy and pleasure. Yet it is a trap for those who have not overcome their base desires. It is as a mirage in a desert that looks like sweet water, or as a candy apple is to children; the exterior is sweet and rich with beautiful, merry colors while the inside is sour and sore. It bewitches its lover and ultimately makes him or her miserable. Those who are deceived by its appearance will be at a loss in their life in the next world and the consequence will be a sense of remorse that will last for eternity.

A human being is a small model of a vastly larger universe. His delicate and simple existence is blessed by the honor of being the “vicegerent of Allah”. If a human being is nourished by moral and spiritual food, he will become the most honored creature in the universe. However, if he is enslaved by his base desires, he will become miserable and afflicted with an everlasting bankruptcy– the worst of its kind. Rumi, quddisa sirruh, elucidated this issue as follows: “The chief is the one who controls his desires; and the slave is the one who is enslaved by his desires.”

One cannot lead an honorable life without prior serious preparation and a conscious faith. Surely, we will watch on the screen of the Last Day, the sins we commited on earth while walking heedlessly around. For each of us, the future holds a night of death, the morning of which is the Day of Resurrection. As a learning device we can remember that what belongs to the body inevitably decays and that what we achieve in this world will be deposited in our account in the next world.

One cannot make the spiritual journey from the world of shadows to the world of eternal realities unless the mind, pressed by the two mysteries of birth and death, clearly realizes spiritually the meaning of this life and in accordance with this realization places the whole of life in order.

The time and place for performing good deeds that will reap profits in the next world is now. It is self evident that our limited time to the extent possible must be spent in performing beneficial acts. Time is like wet soap. It is difficult to keep in hand because it always escapes our grasp. Similarly, time is like a sword. One needs skill to effectively control it. Putting it to good use requires preference for the good while surrendering ourselves to what is highest. This is what every mind that has attained to Truth, yearns for and commands.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Those who postpone their rightful tasks will be destroyed.”

It is ironic that a human being, who has only come to this world as a visitor for a short period, deceives himself in it. Although he may observe funerals daily, he thinks that his meeting with death is always far in the future. In his confusion, he believes that he is the genuine owner of the trust that may be taken away from him at any moment by his Creator. A human being in reality, after being dressed with a body and sent to this world, is a traveler towards death. He is irrevocably on a march towards death although he never reminds himself of this inevitability. At the appointed moment his soul will be separated from his body. All of his acquaintances will wish him farewell at his grave, which will be his doorway to the Hereafter. Allah proclaims in the Qur’an: “He whom We bring unto old age, We reverse him in creation (making him go back to weakness after strength). Have they then no sense?” (Yasin, 68).

This verse offers profound advice for every human being. The most distinguishing attribute of this world is its disloyalty. It repossesses so quickly, whatever it has given. If you run after it, it will forever recede from your grasp. When you attempt to escape from the matters of this world, it will relentlessly pursue you and catch you. The character of its behavior is essentially disloyal, for it will quickly betray whoever has relied on it.

In contrast, for those who have overcome the obstacle of base desires, time is the most important of gifts that cannot bear comparison with any other divine gift. Allah begins the Surah al-‘Asr with an oath on time. Almost every thing is possible to purchase or replace. However, this is never true of time.

One state of affairs that people most resent is the waste of time. The one who knows the meaning of death will not be deceived by temporary pleasures; the one who understands the function of a hotel will not be deceived by any of the objects in it. For, all that is in the hotel belongs not to the guest but rather to the owner of the hotel. Even if all the pleasures of this world were to be given to one person alone and he was permitted to live for a thousand years, what would be its use as long as the end was death? Ultimately, won’t we eventually all reach our destinations underground in our graves?

The eternal life can only be attained at the cost of overcoming our base desires through liberating ourselves from being enslaved by false and transient pleasures while simultaneously following the orders of Allah.

A great Sufi once said that this world, for those gifted with intelligence, is an exhibition filled with lessons. However, for those destined to lack brightness of intellect it is a never-ending feast of pleasures. The life that is led for the purpose of satisfying base desires is a trap leading to one’s final destruction.

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Rumi, quddisa sirruh, explained with the examples below the nature of youth and the adventure behind it.

You, the one who admires the beauty of spring! Look also at the way it fades during the fall.

When you see the sunrise, bring to mind the sunset that is its death.

When you watch the full moon on a beautiful night, remember its weakness and shrinking towards the end of the month and its longing for the state of full moon.

The human being also passes through the same adventure. His perfection and beauty are also transient.

A beautiful child is the beloved of the people. After some time, as he ages, he becomes an old dotard who is miserable in the eyes of the people.

If you are attracted by the beautiful with silver skin, look at them after they get old. See how their bodies become like cotton fields.

O the one who admires the delicious food with honey and butter! Go to the toilet and see its end.

Ask, where is your beauty, the pleasing view and the nice smell?

The reply: The things you counted were rosebuds. And I was a trap. When you fell in the trap, the rosebuds faded, melted and became garbage.

Many hands that earn the admiration won by skilled artisans eventually are inflicted with shaking.

Likewise, recall how eyes as bright as glass with faces of marigolds eventually become blurred with tears flowing from them.

Similarly, on the appointed day, a soldier with the likes of a lion will fall to a weakling with the likes of a mouse.

Also, observe how even a skilled artist eventually becomes powerless and of no use.

In the same way, a lock of hair with the fragrance of musk that has the power to make people go crazy in their youth, becomes in due course ugly like the tail of a donkey.

Look at the initially beautiful state of all these things. Then, bring to mind how they inevitably fade and decay.

This world has already set up its trap for you by which it has deceived and destroyed many young souls.

Travel through all parts of the world and observe the initial and final states of all created things.

Whoever is saved from being enslaved by flesh and from being deceived by the shadows of existence grows close to Allah.

Look at the face attractive people with moon like faces who are proud of their beauty. But at the same time look at their end as well so that you do not become like Satan who has only a single eye.

Satan saw Adam’s earthliness, but he did not see his high qualities. He only saw the mud of this world. He was blind to his spirituality that belongs to the next world. What Satan failed to understand was that the human being is the representative of Allah (Khalifatullah).

O human being! From this world come two voices with conflicting messages that reach our ears. To which one of them will you lend your ear?

One of the voices reflects the consciousness of those close to Allah while the other voice reflects the thought of those who have been deceived by this world.

When you have accepted one these voices, you will not even hear the other.

This is because when we love something we become blind and deaf to its faults.

Look, O disciple, at the beauty in the mirror! But do not be deceived by the lie in it, for the beauty of youth will fade, and all solid structures will collapse.

Happy is the one who hears what the soldiers of Truth have previously borne testimony to.

The opposite voices Rumi has alluded to are attraction to and hatred of this world. When your ear is drawn to the voice of one of them, you become the opponent of the other. In a hadith it has been recorded that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “This life and the life to come are like a man’s two wives. To the extent you please one, you draw on yourself the anger of the other”.

In other words, if the call to this world becomes rooted in your heart, the voice of the Hereafter will not have an impact on it. Similarly, if the voice of the Hereafter becomes rooted in one’s heart, then the call to this world will be alien to him.

When a heart is stained by attraction to this world, it is a great challenge to clean it. Similar to the purification of metals with fire, such a heart needs to ignite in order to be cleansed of its bad manners. The place for this is Jahannam.

The counsel of the exalted teacher Fariduddin, may Allah be pleased with him, on how to reach to the spiritual world is remarkable in its beauty:

“After the Qur’an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) there is not any discourse that is more beautiful than the discourse of the friends of Allah. This is because their speech is a reflection of inner divine knowledge. It is not the words of a learned person; rather their speech is a gift from Allah. For this reason, they are called the heirs of the prophets. The hearts of those touched by their speech become full of divine inspiration. They are re-energized as they fill with light and spiritual secrets are revealed to them. In the process of this transformation they are protected from the whispers of Satan as they are freed from enslavement to mundane desires.

The saints reflect the qualities of the prophets; some of them reflect the qualities of Adam, some of them reflect the qualities of Ibrahim, some reflect the qualities of Musa or Isa while some reflect the qualities of Muhammad, (pbuh). Some of them are people of knowledge, some of them are people of love, some of them are people of social interaction while some of them are people immersed in reunion with Allah; some of them reflect no qualities, that is they are hidden in nothingness.”

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Aziz Mahmud Hudayi, who gave guidance to the sultans of this world while making them watch the other world in the mirror of their hearts, has described this world and the next one in the following poem:

Who expects loyalty from you,
Are you not the fake world?
Are you not the world
That took away Muhammad Mustafa?

Be gone, O disloyal one, be gone!
You are like an old, decrepit, abandoned woman.
Are you not the world
That has outlived countless people?

You attack the hearts of people,
You fill their eyes with soil.
Are you not the world
That smiles at the face of heedless ones?

Whether one is a sultan or a slave,
You send everyone away.
Are you not the world of devastation
In which no one can permanently reside?

You make some happy,
You make some cry,
But are you not the world
That eventually forces us to lose our innocence?

You are full of lies,
You are only what remains.
Are you not the world,
That things endlessly enter and exit?

In a similar manner, Yunus has said:

Show me a building,
Whose end is not devastation!
Show me a property you earned with great effort,
That will endure without being shattered!

Necip Fazil, may Allah be pleased with him, has expressed in the form of a beautiful poem that life’s real objective should be to prepare for the Hereafter:

The miserly banker! Find a different wallet for yourself,

And save the kind of currency that is accepted in the grave!

Why do people fail to learn the lesson that the freshness and dynamism of each transient being will be ground in the mill of time! See how vast of an illusion it is to live in this world without thinking about the life to come and in its stead only spending time preoccupied with transient toys and praises!

A heedless life consists of play during childhood, lustful ventures during youth, and heedless activities during the years of maturity and resentment for lost opportunities during old age. It is filled with vanity and many forms of resentment. Death is waiting in hiding. Yet the foolish one is struggling to escape its grasp as he is busy with his own pride and does not want to hear the voices of the troubled ones; his heart has no mercy and he never remembers Allah. The life of those who try to live a happy life in this world without remembering the Hereafter and who struggle to enjoy the momentary pleasures of this world until the last minute is a scene of tragic devastation.

People are usually enslaved by the lie in the mirror that is a master of guises and tricks. Filled with lies, is it not but an arena filled solely with disloyalty and deception?

Yunus Emre has impressively captured in his poetry the adventure of those people who have momentarily resided in this world and have since departed:

Those who resided in this fake world and left,
Never speak nor send news,
The ones on whose grave many kinds of plants grow,
Never speak nor send news.

A tree grows above the head of some,
Flowers fade above some,
The brave people, innocent and beautiful,
Never speak nor send news.

Their delicate bodies are covered by dust,
Their sweet tongues can no longer talk,
Do not forget to include them in your prayers,
They never speak nor send news.

Some are four years old while some are five,
Some have no crown on their heads,
Some are six, some are seven years old,
They never speak nor send news.

Some are merchants some are scholars,
It is difficult to swallow the drink of death,
Some have white beards, and some are very old,
They never speak nor send news.

Yunus says, perceive them as the work of destiny,
Their eyebrows and their eyelashes have decayed,
There are stones with inscriptions beside their heads,
They never speak nor send news.

O Lord! Save us from the fate of those who plummet into this world and destroy their lives in a mere cup of water haring forgotten the oceans of the divine. You are the most Merciful!

Amen!

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