The parrot in the cage that has been sited in this story symbolizes the soul that is being held captive both by the body and by the ego. The parrots in India symbolize the friends of Allah who have abandoned this transient world and its pleasures and have been liberated from slavery to this material world.
The instruction offered by the parrots in India to the parrot in the cage should be understood as follows: “Die before death.” It is an order of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which should be pursued because true; abiding salvation is only possible this way. Rumi, quddisa sirruh, has made the following statement:
“Die so that you can wake up in the morning of truth!”
It is as if the parrot in India remarked to the parrot in the cage:
– Die! In other words, free yourself from attachment to your mundane desires before the moment of your physical death arrives. Know how to die through the application of your will, through the curbing of your desires. As a soul, strive for the life of the Real as you fly to new horizons.
Is not worldly life but a physical imprisonment for the one who remains unaware of his origin, unaware of his true nature and unaware of the treasure hidden within him? The real life begins only after the carnal desires of the body have been reined in and firmly brought under control. This implies nothing but the death of the ego and leads to the discovery of the true meaning of existence.
Therefore, Rumi states as follows:
The story of the parrot of life resembles the story of the merchant’s parrot.
O heedless one! Die just like this bird and be saved! If you act like a kernel of wheat, the birds will discover you and will eat you. If you become like a rose, children will pluck you like a beautiful blossom.
Cover up your wheat and hide yourself in remote places! Hide your rose so that you resemble inconsequential grass growing at the bottom of a wall.
That is, avoid fame and avoid showing off or proving yourself. Preserve your modesty and covet nothingness. This way you will be protected both from evil eyes and from intrusions on your freedom.
The one who displays his beauty at the marketplace invites trouble. This attitude draws the attention of evil eyes. Both friends and enemies will work for his destruction, though through different means. The former will employ excessive praise; the latter will endeavor through jealousy. The only way to overcome both of these dangers is through freedom from the chain of existence.
In order to be saved from the chains of this worldly life, one has to die, or look as if he is dead; that is, he should submit himself voluntarily to the will of Allah. Therefore, Junayd al-Baghdadi defined the Sufi path as follows: “Allah kills you within you and revives you within Himself. This is tasawwuf.
When the human servant is cleansed of his base worldliness and is absorbed in the divine light, his troubles are overcome but not vice versa. For instance, the flood that killed the enemies of Allah, befriended Musa-Aleyhisselâm– and Nuh –Aleyhisselâm-and similarly the fire designed to consume Ibrahim-Aleyhisselâm– instead became a rose garden for him. These incidents are not accidents but rather are Allah’s miracles and demonstrate the support and generosity of Allah to his pure hearted servants. This is but the beginning since these stories are rich with other lessons and wisdom too.
On the other hand, these stories demonstrate the possibility of divine support coming to those who are in need of it or who deserve it. What a servant of Allah must do is to purify his heart of his ego. This banishes the devil from his heart as it detaches his heart from anything other than Allah. With this, the believer can turn to Him and fill his heart with His remembrance.
Yet it should also be kept in mind that remembrance of Allah is not only through the repetition of His names, but also through true knowledge of Allah which makes His manifestations pervade one’s entire existence.
Continuous remembrance of Allah elevates one to such a degree that one realizes that the truth of remembrance is the sole true function of the heart and the sole purpose for which it was ultimately created. The heart becomes the mirror of remembrance of Allah.
The truth of remembrance is beyond letters, words, and sounds. This is because the essence or the core of the heart is divine. It is a spiritual entity that cannot be reduced to only material qualities. These two, the heart and the activity of remembrance, thus become abstracted from the material base, unite, and become one. At this point remembrance contains the heart like a cover and protects it from all else other than Allah. The heart thus attains to nothingness during the remembrance of Allah. Everything else disappears except Allah, the one who is remembered. This is the state of fana. It is a state where all that is transient is cleared away between Allah and the one remembering Him and the Eternal alone remains. It is the fulfillment of the heart and the union of the lover with the Beloved.
It is stated in the Qur’an that: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction”(Ra’d 13: 28). Another verse stresses the same point: “For, believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear his revelations rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord” (Anfal, 8: 2). The following verse illuminates the condition of the friends of Allah in the Hereafter: “Behold! Verily on the friends of Allah, there is no fear, nor shall they grieve” (Yunus 10: 62).