The Friends of Allah are the heirs of the Prophet (pbuh) who put their faith into practice with love. They are the fortunate ones who illuminated their hearts through the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh). For those who had no chance to meet the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, they can serve as guides.
The Friends of Allah do not truly pass away even when their bodies are buried, for the hearts of perfect Muslims do not perish in the grave. Instead, their spiritual services to humanity become eternal. Many Friends of Allah who continue their service in the other world still live among us and guide us through their books and charitable foundations. They will maintain this service of leading people to the right path even after we die.
The relevance of their guidance passes beyond time and space. Their wise writings are like letters sent to the future with no specific address. Those letters reach everywhere, and may be read centuries after they were written.
UNESCO dedicated 2007 as the Year of Hadrat Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, for that is when his 800th birthday fell in the common calendar. The Mathnawi of Hadrat Mawlana is today among the most popular books on human spirituality in North America. This means that a sincere letter of guidance written by a Friend of Allah centuries ago still finds its reflection throughout the world long after the author’s death. The work holds a mirror to the inner world of human beings, helping them know themselves better and assisting them in the solution of spiritual problems. It leads people who suffer from the materialistic mentality of this era toward spiritual tranquility.
Allah Almighty endowed the Friends of Allah with transformative capacities. They therefore act as torches of guidance, leading others with love and respect, teaching them to take Allah into their hearts.
Some Friends of Allah have been so awestruck by the grandeur of Allah that they could live only in seclusion, spending their transitory life in spiritual silence. Ibn `Abbas says of such persons, “There are certain servants of Allah who might speak with great eloquence, but their reverence toward Allah keeps them silent.”
Other Friends of Allah prefer to speak but little. They are instructed by Allah to guide the wise solely through the language of actions. The following couplet by Baha’uddin al-Naqshbandi, who was one of these, alludes to that state:
The universe is wheat and I am straw.
Everyone is perfect; I am imperfect.
The most distinguished works of Baha’uddin al-Naqshbandi were the people whom he trained in his circle of conversation. Such people learned to read the lines written in his heart and conveyed them onward to other hearts through other conversations. This spiritual transmission continues even today. The teaching strategy of Baha’uddin al-Naqshbandi ŞÏÓÓÑå was based on an instruction by Abu Bakr , from whom he benefited greatly: “Think twice about what you speak, when you speak, and to whom you speak.”
There are yet other Friends whom Allah Almighty allowed to become spiritual nightingales: they are always singing the hymns of divine love. And He made further Friends of Allah into sources whose acts and tongues are equally transmitters of wisdom.
Hadrat Mawlana in particular was given the mission of expressing divine realities in words as well as in acts. Through his words, his writings, and his actions of the heart, he has been able through the centuries to enlighten those who seek Allah and draw them closer to Him
Hadrat Mawlana was chosen as a locus of divine speech, and so has become the spokesman of the Friends of Allah. He was permitted to capture in words some of the knowledge, mystery and wisdom with which Allah Almighty had endowed him. Yet such permission is granted only up to a limit: one can express divine realities only to the extent allowed. Hadrat Mawlana may well have known far more than he wrote.
Hadrat Mawlana’s own source of knowledge was undoubtedly the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh). He declares this in a quatrain:
I am a slave of the Qur’an as long as I live.
I am the dust of the road where Muhammad walks.
If anyone conveys a message from me denying this path of mine,
I will be grieved, perhaps disgusted, by those lies.
Mawlana Jalaluddin here clearly introduces himself as the servant of the Qur’an and the dust of the glorious path of the Prophet (pbuh). Because of this, he is both a learned scholar, drawing inspiration and illumination from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and also a source of wisdom, interpreting divine mysteries and leading hearts toward Allah.
The Prophet (pbuh) related that Hadrat Luqman advised his son, “O my son! Keep company with learned people and stay close to them! Take heed of the words of the wise! Allah Almighty revives hearts with the glory of wisdom as He revives the soil with rain.” (al-Haythami, I, 125). Here are some reviving examples of Hadrat Mawlana’s wisdom.
Patience and endurance
It is said in the Qur’an:
The servants of the All-Compassionate are those who walk upon the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace.” (Furqan, 25/63).
Inspired by this verse, Hadrat Mawlana said:
“Keep quiet as a book in the company of a fool.”
“When crows scream, nightingales fall silent.”
“Know that good manners means patience with the misbehavior of the ill-mannered.”
It is a very important principle in this world of trial and suffering that bearing worldly pains makes the heart mature. A persevering character is an ideal of faith. Hadrat Mawlana said:
“My mind asked my heart, ‘What is religion?’ And my heart whispered in my mind’s ear, ‘Religion is nothing but good manners!’”
The great exemplar of good manners is the Prophet (pbuh). The Companions narrated that the Prophet’s sensibilities were more delicate than a virgin girl’s.
“The rose smells sweet putting up with the thorn, for the thorn is the friend of the rose.”
The universe is adorned with thousands of unspoken lessons. Here, the rose becomes the king of flowers because it shows patience toward the thorn. Happiness comes after putting up with sufferings. The door of joy opens only after we bear the failure of our earthly desires and the difficult trials of life.
Their difficult trials, misfortunes, and desperation can cause some servants to turn to their Lord, for they pray, “O my Lord, help me!” Other servants, wealthy and fortunate, may go astray and not remember their Lord at all. The egos of people who never taste despair may turn into rampaging horses beyond all human control.
The spiritual maturity of human beings grows out of the barriers we surpass. Worldly troubles and sufferings are the most important means of making spiritual progress. Allah Almighty made His messengers subject to the greatest of sufferings. Thus, all humans are subject to trial to see how conscious they are of the blessings of Allah. Allah Almighty examines all His servants in this world and will call us to account in the Hereafter.
Hadrat Mawlana advised seekers of spiritual happiness to understand the balance of life.
“Do not sell mirrors in the market of the blind, nor sing songs in the market of the deaf.”
The distinctive character of a developed Muslim is foresight and discernment. Such persons can easily grasp the mood of those with whom they converse, and then speak accordingly. Hadrat Ali says in this regard, “Speak to people according to their perceptions.” (al-Bukhari, al-`Ilm, 49). This means that you should speak to people in a way that suits their understanding, not your understanding. The following principle from Rumi is very helpful for grasping the level of the perception:
“One can discern a man’s moral level from his manner of laughing, and his intellect from what he laughs at.”
Seeking means come close to Allah
It is said in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones.(Tawbah, 9/119).
O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that you may be successful.(Ma’idah, 5/35).
With the message of the Qur’an Imprinted on his heart, Mawlana Jalaluddin said::
“One is judged according to what one searches for.”
“Looking for something where it does not exist is the same as not looking for it at all.”
“Do not move before your guide moves. One who moves without a head is bound to be a tail.”
“It is better to be a slave to a Friend of Allah than to be a crown on the head of king.”
Sulaiman the Magnificent, the great sultan of the Ottomans, was once welcomed by applause on the way back home from a battle that ended in victory. The Sultan was afraid of his own pride, and therefore he recited the following couplet on the necessity of training one’s ego:
Being sultan of the world is nothing but stupid struggle.
Serving a friend of Allah is a greater glory!
Hadrat Mawlana says:
“The fabric of wisdom that the soul has lost may be found in the hands of the people of heart.”
“If you unite with a man of heart, you will become a pearl even if you are as hard as stone.”
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“One who wants to reach Allah must unite with the circle of the Friends of Allah. If you disconnect from them you are bound to perish.”
“Make friends with the Friends of Allah, so that the members of their caravan may multiply. The stronger the caravan, the less the risk of highwaymen.”
It is narrated that the word insân, which means “human being” in Arabic, derives from the word uns, which means “intimacy.” This shows that the human being has a native inclination to associate and make friends. One should therefore follow the divine commandment and use this human attribute to associate with the upright and the faithful believers. For every human being is under fire from the Devil and the lower self. Imam Shafi`i puts it succinctly: “If you are not occupied with what is right, you will be occupied with what is wrong.”
So in order to protect oneself as an honored servant of Allah, a sincere Muslim should keep company with other committed Muslims from whom he or she can spiritually benefit. Every human being needs a spiritual guide. It is because of this need that Allah Almighty made the very first human a prophet.
Sa`di al-Shirazi makes a point about the effect of our companions on our condition. He said, “The dog of the Seven Sleepers attained great honor, gaining mention in history and in the Qur’an, for it kept company with the righteous. The wives of Prophets Noah and Lut, on the other hand, were ranked among blasphemers, for they kept company with the faithless.” As this story makes clear, keeping company with ignorant and blasphemous people draws one come closer to their way of life and thought. Mental connection leads to spiritual connection, and the wrong spiritual connection can lead to spiritual corruption.
Purification of the self
It is said in the Qur’an:
He indeed shall be successful who purifies himself, and magnifies the name of his Lord and prays. (A`la, 87/14-15).
By the self and Him who balanced it, then inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it: he will indeed succeed who purifies it, and he will indeed fail who corrupts it. (Shams, 91/7-10).
Inspired with the wisdom of these verses, Hadrat Mawlana said:
“O traveler on the spiritual path! If you wish to know the reality, neither Moses nor Pharaoh died. Today they live within you; they are hidden in your existence. They do their fighting within you! So you had better look for those two, who are at enmity with one another, within you.”
“The human being is like a forest. Just as a forest accommodates thousands of pigs, wolves, and other animals with good and bad natures, so within us live both virtues and vices.”
“Do not seek to feed your body overmuch, for it will perish one day. It is better to nurture your soul, for that is what will reach the heavens and honor.”
“Nourish your soul with mature thinking and discernment that will give it strength for its journey.”
“When you get rid of your lower self, when you fully commit yourself to Allah, you will travel safely in the sea of divine mysteries.”
“No mirror has ever turned into iron again. No bread has ever turned into wheat again. No grape juice has ever turned into grapes again. No ripe fruit has ever become unripe again. So become mature, and prevent yourself from ever being immature again!”
“Set fire to your lower self, dark as night, if you want to shine like the day.”
Allah Almighty endowed us with life for one time only. We will not be given it again. We should, therefore, use this chance carefully to come close to Allah by reaching spiritual maturity. It is only people who develop mature personalities who do not lose much in this life. Those who yield to raw ego are bound to lose much both in this world and in the hereafter. A self which is not restrained through spiritual training and purification is like a wild horse. A wild horse leads its rider over cliffs and, therefore, to extinction, instead of taking him to his destination. Yet if a horse is trained well, it will carry its rider to her destination no matter how dangerous the journey.
Ambition, cancer of the heart
Allah Almighty states in the holy Qur’an:
…And (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement on the day when it shall be heated in the fire of Hell, then their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded with it. This is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded. (Tawbah, 9/34-35).
Inspired by this verse, Hadrat Mawlana said:
“No matter how rich you are, you cannot eat more than your stomach can hold. Even if you dip your water-pot into the sea, it will carry no more water than it can hold.”
“There are so many fishes which, because of ambition, swallow the bait, though the sea could safely feed them.”
“What is this world about? This world is about being ignorant of Allah!”
“This world, a testing ground, is like a magnet for selfish desires: it attracts them as amber attracts straw. Only the substantial wheat, the wise believer whose inner world contains spiritual secrets and wisdom, can escape the attraction of this magnet.”
“The trap of raw egos is worldly gain. It tricks and allures, and the inner eyes of some people go blind out of desire for it. They drink bitter and salty water out of wet clay. Since they never taste spiritual happiness, they regard what they taste of the worldly life as happiness.”
“Greed and ambition for the pleasures of this world lead us to obtain what we do not deserve.”
Worldly ambition is the prime drive leading to great ignorance. Ambition makes the heart go blind. Such a heart ceases to draw a line between right and wrong, legitimate and illegitimate. Hadrat Mawlana says of heart-blindness, “Even a dog will not eat a bone before sniffing it.” So whoever is heart-blind due to ambition for worldly attractions has less wisdom than a dog. Worldly ambition brings spiritual disaster!
Our master, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), warned of ambition as a human failing. He said, “The son of Adam may have two valleys full of gold: he will still want a third valley. The son of Adam will be satisfied with nothing but the soil of the grave.” (Bukhari, al-Riqaq, 10; Muslim, al-Zakat, 116).
Even if those afflicted with ambition attained all the wealth on earth, they would still wish to get more from the Moon or Mars. Today, the ambition and spiritual rottenness of the followers of materialism seems endless. Such is the sad condition of our world..
Abu Dharr, a Companion of the Prophet, eloquently expressed how the faithful should view property. He said, “There are three shareholders in any worldly possession. The first is its owner, which is you. The second is fate. Fate does not consult you about whether your possession will bring you good or evil, disaster or death. The third shareholder in any possession is its heir, who wants you to die. Your heir will take your property when you die, but it is you who will be held accountable for it. If you can, try not to be weakest of the three (by giving charity before death). Allah Almighty says, “You cannot reach perfection in spending for the sake of Allah unless you give of what you love.” My most valuable possession my camel; therefore I am giving it as a charity. I am sending it in advance so that it will welcome me in the Hereafter.” (Abu Nu`aym, al-Hilyah, I, 163).
Worldly possessions are only entrusted to us by Allah. We do not know when what He has deposited will be withdrawn. We may lose our possessions at any time. Life is open to surprises, and we cannot tell what fate will bring. The most inescapable surprise, death, is undoubtedly on the agenda of fate. We may be ready for it always by managing the trusts we administer in the most useful of ways.
Charity, the healer of hearts and the joy of both worlds
It is said in the Qur’an:
And spend out of what We have given you before death comes to any of you, so that he should say: My Lord! why did You not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been among the doers of good deeds?(Munafiqun, 63/10).
Inspired by this verse, Hadrat Mawlana said:
“Unfortunate souls are like dwellers in a house full of smoke. Give ear to their cries and respond by opening a window for ventilation. That will refine your soul!”
“What have you got? What have you treasured up? What kind of pearl did you draw from the bottom of the sea? All this will be clear on the day of your death.”
“Visiting friends without a present is like going to the mill without wheat.”
“One should pay back what one owes before death takes it by force.”
The following couplet by Necip Fazil puts this point eloquently:
O stingy jeweler, get another purse!
Save up a currency valid in the grave…
Wise advice is fundamental to the revival of hearts. Those who appreciate the treasures of wisdom become wise themselves. Those who follow wisdom rightly will surely perfect faith.
May our Lord give us the opportunity to live in an atmosphere of wisdom and to perceive the mysteries of reality. May He help us to comprehend the meaning of the Qur’an, of the universe, and of being human.