Discourse 49

A certain person was leading the prayers, and he chanted:
The Bedouins are more stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy.
By chance a Bedouin chieftain was present. He gave the chanter a good box on the ears.
In the second genuflection he chanted: Some of the Bedouins believe in God and the Last Day.
The Bedouin exclaimed, ‘Ha, that slap has taught you better manners!’

Every moment we receive a slap from the unseen world. Whatever we propose to do, we are kept away from it by a slap and we take another course. As the saying goes, ‘We have no power of our own, it is all a swallowing up and vomiting’. It is also said, ‘It is easier to cut the joints than to cut a connexion.’ The meaning of ‘swallowing’ is descending into this lower world and becoming one of its people; the meaning of ‘vomiting’ is dropping out of the heart. For instance, a man east some food and it turns sour in his stomach, and he vomits it. If that food had turned sour and he not vomited it, it would have become a part of the man.

Even so a disciple courts and dances service so as to find a place in the heart of the shaikh. Anything issuing from the disciple (God be our refuge!) which displeases the shaikh and is cast forth out of his heart is like the food which the man eats and then vomits. Just as that food would have become the shaikh, and because of his displeasing conduct he cast him out of his heart.

Thy love made proclamation to the world
And every heart into confusion hurled,

Then burnt all up and into ashes turned
And to the indifferent wind those ashes spurned.

In that wind of indifference the atoms of the ashes of those hearts are dancing and making lament. If they are not so, then who ever conveyed these tiding and who is it that ever moment anew brings these tidings? And if the hearts do not perceive their very life to consist in that burning up and spurning to the wind, how is it that they are so eager to be burned? As for those hearts which have been burned up in the fire of worldly lusts and become ashes, do your hear any sound or see any lustre of them?

Right well I know – and no wont of mine
Is hyperbole-
That he who is my soul’s sustenance
Will come to see me.
If I run after him, hard’s the quest
My love to attain;
But let me sit quiet, and he will come
Without my pain

‘Right well I know the rule of God’s providing man’s daily bread. It is no rule of mine to run about hither and thither to no purpose and so exert myself needlessly. Truly, when I renounce all thought of silver and food and raiment and the fire of lust, my daily portion will come to me. But when I run after those daily portions, the quest of them pains and wearies me and distresses me; if I sit in my own place with patience, that will come to me without paint and distress. For that daily portion is also seeking after me and drawing me; when it cannot draw me it comes to me, just as when I cannot draw it I got after it.’

The upshot of these words is this; occupy yourself with the affairs of the world to come, that the world itself may run after you. The meaning of ‘sitting’ in this context is sitting in application to the affairs of the world to come. If a man runs, when he runs for the sake of the world to come he is truly seated; if he is seated, if he is seated for the sake of the present world he is running. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, ‘Whosoever makes all his cares a single care, God will suffice him as to all his others cares.’ If a man is beset by ten cares, let him choose the care for the world to come and God most High will put right for him those other nine cares without any effort on his part.

The prophets cares nothing for fame and daily bread. Their only care was to seek God’s approval; and they attained both daily bread and bread. Whosoever seeks God’s good pleasure, such men in this world and the next will be with the prophets and be their bedfellows.

They are with those whom God has blessed,
prophets, just men, martyrs, the righteous.

What place indeed in there for this, seeing that they are sitting with God Himself? ‘I sit with him who remembers Me.’ Did God not sit with him, the yearning for God would never enter his heart. The scent of the rose never exists without the rose; the scent of musk never exists without the musk.

There is no end to these words; if there were an end to them, yet they would not be as other words.

The night has departed; yet, my friend,
Our story’s not yet at an end.

The night and darkness of this world passes away, and the light of these words every moment becomes clearer. Even so the night of the life of the prophets departed, peace be upon them, yet the light of their discourse departed not and came not to an end, nor ever will.

People said about Majnún, ‘If he loves Lailá, what is so strange in that, seeing that they were children together and went to the same school?’ Majnún said, ‘These men are fools, What pretty women is not desirable?’ Is there any man whose heart is not stirred by a lovely woman? Women are the same. It is love by which a man’s heart is bed and finds savior; just as the sight of mother and father and brothers, the pleasure of children, the pleasure of lust – all kinds of delight are rooted in love. Majnún was an example of all lovers, just as in grammar Zaid and ‘Amr are quoted.

Feast on sweetmeats or on roast,
Drink the wine that you love most:
What’s that savour on your lips?
Water that a dreamer sips!

When tomorrow you arise
And great thirst upon you lies,
Little use will be that deep
Draught you’ve taken whilst asleep.

‘This world is as the dream of a sleeper.’ This world and its delights is as thought a man has eaten a thing whilst asleep. So for him to desire worldly needs is as if he desired something whilst sleeping and was given it; in the end, when he is awake, he will not be profited by what he ate whilst asleep. So he will have asked for something whilst asleep, and have been given it. ‘The present is proportionate to the request.’

Notes: The unseen world intervenes at every moment of our lives to keep us from disaster. The mystic should surrender himself in confidence to God’s care and attend only to those things which appertain to eternal life.

‘Some of the Bedouins believe’: Koran IX 100

‘Thy love mad proclamation’: not traced.

‘Right well I know’: Arabic verses by the Umayyad poet ‘Urwa ibn Adhína, see Abu ‘I-Faraj, al-Aghani XXI, p. 107

‘Whosoever makes all his cares’: a favourite Tradition with the Sufis.

‘The are with those whom God; Koran IV 71

‘I sit with him who remembers Me’: see al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ II, p. 141

‘The night’s departed’: part of a quatrain ascribed to Rumi, Ruba’iyat, p. 170