DISCOURSES OF RUMI
The human quest consists in seeking a thing which one has not yet found; night and day a man is engaged in searching for that. But the quest where the thing has been found and the object attained, and yet there is one who is seeking for that thing -- that is a strange quest indeed, surpassing the human imagination, inconceivable to man. For man's quest is for something new which he has not yet found; this quest is for something one has found already and then one seeks. This is God's quest; for God most High is found all things, and all things are found in His omnipotent power. 'Be and it is -- the Finder, the Bountiful'; for God has found all things, and so He is the Finder. Yet for all that God most High is the Seeker: 'He is the Seeker, the Prevailer.' The meaning of the saying quoted above is therefore, 'O man, so long as you are engaged in the quest that is created in time, which is a human attribute, you remain far from the goal. When your quest passes away in God's quest and God's quest overrides your quest, then you become a seeker by virtue of God's quest.'
Someone said: We have no categorical proof as to who is a friend of God and has attained union with God. Neither words nor deeds nor miracles nor anything else furnishes such a proof. For words may have been learned by rote; as for deeds and miracles, the monks have these also. They are able to deduce a man's inmost thoughts, and display many wonders by means of magic. The interlocutor enumerated a number of examples.
The Master answered: Do you believe in anyone or not;
The man said: Yes, by Allah. I both believe and love.
The Master said: Is this belief of yours in that person founded upon a proof and token? Or did you simply shut your eyes and take up that person?
The man said: God forbid that my belief should be without proof and token?
The Master said: Why then do you say that there is no proof or token leading to belief? What you say is self-contradictory.
Someone said: Every saint and great mystic asserts, 'This nearness which I enjoy with God and this Divine favour which God vouchsafes to me is enjoyed by no one and is vouchsafed to no one else.'
The Master answered: Who made this statement? Was it a saint, or someone other than a saint? If it was a saint who stated this, inasmuch as he knows that every saint has this belief regarding himself, he cannot be the sole recipient of this Divine favour. If someone other than a saint made this statement, then in very truth he is the friend and elect of God; for God most High has concealed this secret from all the saints and has not hidden it from him.
That person propounded a parable. Once there was a king who had ten concubines. The concubines said, 'We wish to know which of us is dearest to the king.' The king declared, 'Tomorrow this ring shall be in the apartment of whomsoever I love best.' Next day the king commanded ten rings to be made identical with that ring, and gave one ring to each maiden.
The Master said: The question still stands. This is no answer, and it is irrelevant to the issue. This statement was made either by one of the ten maidens, or by someone apart from the ten maidens. If it was one of the ten maidens who made the statement, then since she knew that the ring was not hers exclusively and that each of the maidens had the like of it, it follows that she had no superiority over the rest and was not the most beloved. If however the statement was made by someone other than those ten maidens, then that person was the king's favourite and beloved concubine.
Someone said: The lover must be submissive and abject and longsuffering. And he enumerated the like qualities.
The Master said: In that case the lover must be like that, alike when the beloved wishes it or no. But if he is so without the desire of the beloved, then he is not truly a lover but is following his own desire. If he accords with the desire of the beloved, then when the beloved does not wish him to be submissive and abject, how should he be submissive and abject? Hence it is realised that the states affecting the lover are unknown, only how the beloved wishes him to be.
Jesus said, 'I wonder at a living creature, how it can eat a living creature.' The literalists say that man eats the flesh of animals, and both are animals. This is an error. Why? Because man it is true eats flesh; but that is not animal, it is inanimate, for when the animal was killed animality no longer remained in it. The true meaning of the saying is that the shaikh mysteriously devours the disciple. I wonder at a procedure so extraordinary!
Someone propounded the following question. Abraham, upon whom be peace, said to Nimrod, 'My God brings the dead to life and turns the living into the dead.' Nimrod said, 'I too, when I banish a man, as good as cause him to die, and when I appoint a man to a post it is as though I bring him to life.' Abraham abandoned the argument, being compelled to yield the point. He then embarked on another line of reasoning, saying, 'My God brings the sun up from the east and sends it down in the west. Do the opposite of that!' Is not this statement manifestly at variance with the other?
The Master answered: God forbid that Abraham should have been silenced by Nimrod's argument and left without any answer to it! The truth is that he used these words to represent another idea, namely that God most High brings the foetus out of the east of the womb and sends it down into the west of the tomb. Abraham's proof, peace be upon him, was thus presented with perfect consistency. God most High creates a man anew every moment, sending something perfectly fresh into his inner heart. The first is in no way like the second, neither is the second like the third. Only man is unconscious of himself and does not know himself.
Sultan Mahmud, God have mercy on him, was brought a sea-horse, a fine beast with a most lovely shape. Next festival day he rode out on that horse and all the people sat on the rooftops to see him and to enjoy that spectacle. One drunken fellow however remained seated in his apartment. By main force they carried him up to the roof, saying, 'You come too and look at the sea-horse!' He said, 'I am busy with my own affairs. I don't want and don't care to see it.' In short, he could not escape. As he sat there on the edge of the roof, extremely drunk, the Sultan passed by. When the drunken fellow saw the Sultan on the horse he cried out, 'What store do I set by this horse? Why, if this very moment some minstrel were to sing a song and that horse were mine, immediately I would give it to him.' Hearing this, the Sultan became extremely angry and commanded that he should be cast into prison. A week passed. Then this man sent a message to the Sultan, saying, 'After all, what sin did I commit and what is my crime? Let the King of the World command that his servant be informed.' The Sultan ordered him to be brought into his presence. He said, 'You insolent rogue, how did you come to utter those words? How dared you speak so?' The man answered, 'King of the World, it was not I who spoke those words. That moment a drunken mannikin was standing on the edge of the roof and spoke those words, and departed. This hour I am not that fellow; I am an intelligent and sensible man.' The Sultan was delighted by his words; he conferred on him a robe of honour and ordered his release from the prison.
Whoever takes up connexion with us and becomes drunk with this wine, wherever he goes, with whomsoever he sits, with whatever people he converses, in reality he is sitting with us and mingling with this tribe. For the company of strangers is the mirror to the graciousness of the friend's company, and mingling with one who is not a congener stimulates love and commingling with the congener. 'Things are made clear by their opposites.'
Abu Bakr Siddiq, God be well pleased with him, gave the name of ummi to sugar, that is to say, congenital sweet. Now men prize other fruits above sugar, saying, 'We have tasted so much bitterness until we attained the rank of sweetness.' What do you know of the delight of sweetness, when you have not suffered the hardship of bitterness?
The Master was asked concerning the meaning of the following lines:
He explained: The world of enmity is narrow in relation to the world of friendship, for men flee away from the world of enmity in order to reach the world of friendship. The world of friendship too is narrow in relation to that world out of which friendship and enmity come into existence. Friendship and enmity, unbelief and faith -- these are all a cause of duality. For unbelief is denial, and the denier requires someone for him to deny; so too the confessor requires someone for him to confess. Hence, it is realised, concord and discord are a cause of duality; and that world transcends unbelief and faith, friendship and enmity. Since friendship is a cause of duality, and a world exists where there is no duality but only pure unity, when a man has reached that world he has come forth out of friendship and enmity. For there there is no room for two; so when he has arrived there, he has become separated from duality. Therefore that first world of duality, which is love and friendship, is degraded and inferior in relation to the world into which he has now transferred. Accordingly he does not want it, and is at enmity with it.
So, when Mansur's friendship with God reached its utmost goal, he became the enemy of himself and naughted himself. He said, 'I am God'; that is, 'I have passed away, God alone has remained.' This is extreme humility and the utmost limit of servanthood, for it means 'He only is.' Pretension and arrogance consists in your saying, 'Thou art God, and I am Thy servant.' For by saying this you have affirmed your own existence, and dualism ensues necessarily. If you say, 'He is God,' that too is duality; for until 'I' exists 'He' is impossible. Therefore it was God who said, 'I am God,' since other than He was not in existence and Mansur had passed away. Those words were God's words.
The world of phantasy is broader than the world of concepts and of sensibilia. For all concepts are born of phantasy. The world of phantasy likewise is narrow in relation to the world out of which phantasy comes into being. From the verbal standpoint this is the limit of understanding; but the actual reality cannot be made known by words and expressions.
Someone asked: Then what is the use of expressions and words?
The Master answered: The use of words is that they set you searching and excite you, not that the object of the quest should be attained through words. If that were the case, there would be no need for so much striving and self-naughting. Words are as when you see afar off something moving; you run in the wake of it in order to see it, it is not the case that you see it through its movement. Human speech too is inwardly the same; it excites you to seek the meaning, even though you do not see it in reality.
Someone was saying: I have studied so many sciences and mastered so many ideas, yet it is still not known to me what that essence in man it is that will remain forever, and I have not discovered it.
The Master answered: If that had been knowable by means of words only, you would not have needed to pass away from self and to suffer such pains. It is necessary to endure so much for yourself not to remain, so that you may know that thing which will remain.
A man said, 'I have heard that there is a Kaaba, but however far I look I do not see the Kaaba. Let me go up on the roof and look at the Kaaba.' When he goes up on the roof and stretches out his neck, still he does not see the Kaaba; so he denies that the Kaaba exists. Sight of the Kaaba is not attained merely by doing that, since it is impossible to see it from one's own abiding-place.
Similarly in the winter time you hunted for a fur jacket with all your soul; when summer is come, you fling away the fur jacket and your thoughts are averted from it. Seeking the fur jacket was in order to procure warmth, for you were in love with warmth. In the winter because of some impediment you did not find warmth and were in need of the medium of the fur jacket; but when the impediment no more remained you flung away the fur jacket.
When heaven is rent asunder, and When earth is shaken with a mighty shaking are a reference pointing to yourself. It means, you have experienced the pleasure of being gathered together; but a day is now coming when you will experience the pleasure of these parts being separated, when you will behold the expanse of the other world and find deliverance out of this present straitness. For instance, a man has been fettered with four nails. He thinks that he is quite comfortable in that situation, and has forgotten the pleasure of being free. When he escapes from the four nails, then he realises in what torment he was. In the same way children are swaddled and put to rest in a cradle; they feel perfectly at ease with their hands bound. But if a grown man were cribbed in a cradle, that would be a torment and a prison.
Some feel pleasure when roses have come into bloom and put forth their heads from the bud. Some feel pleasure when the particles of the rose are all scattered and rejoin their origin. So some men desire that friendship and passion and love and unbelief and faith may no more remain, so that they may rejoin their origin. For these things are all walls and a cause of narrowness and duality, whereas the other world is a cause of broadness and absolute unity.
These words are not so mighty and have no power. How should they be mighty? After all, they are merely words. On the contrary, in themselves they are a cause of weakness. Yet they influence to the truth and excite to the truth. Words are an intervening veil. How can two or three letters compounded together be a cause of life and excitement? For instance, a man comes to visit you; you receive him politely and bid him welcome. That makes him happy and is a cause of affection. Another man you receive with two or three words of abuse; those two or three words are a cause of anger and pain. Now what connexion can there be between the stringing together of two or three words and an augmentation of affection and satisfaction, or the provocation of anger and enmity? But God most High has appointed these secondary means and veils so that no man's gaze may fall upon His beauty and perfection. Weak veils are appropriate to weak eyes. So He makes the veils as conditions and means. Bread in reality is not the cause of life; but God most High has made it the cause of life and strength. After all, it is inanimate, in the sense that it has no human life; how can it be the cause of an augmentation of strength? If it had had any life at all, it would have kept itself alive.
The Master was asked concerning the meaning of the following lines:
He said: You too consider this idea. 'That very thought' is a reference to that peculiar thought' which I have expressed by means of that word in an extended sense. In reality however that is not 'thought' at all, and if it is, it does not belong to the kind of thought which men understand by the term. By using the word 'thought' my intention was this idea or essential element. If anyone desires to interpret this 'idea' in a more humdrum way so that the common people may understand, let him say 'Man is a speaking animal.'
Speech is thought, whether concealed or expressed. The rest is animal. So it is perfectly correct to say that man consists of thought, and the rest is 'bones and nerves.' Speech may be compared with the sun. All men derive warmth and life from the sun, and the sun is always there, existing and present. All men are always warm through the sun; yet that sun is invisible, and they do not know that they derive life and warmth from it. However, when that thought is spoken through the medium of a word or an expression, be it of thanks or complaint, be it good or evil, then the sun becomes visible; just as the celestial sun which is always shining, but its rays are invisible until they shine upon a wall. Even so the rays of the sun of speech do not appear save through the medium of letters and sounds. Though it is always in being -- for the sun is subtle, and He is the All-subtle -- some element of grossness is required, through the medium of which it may become visible and apparent.
A certain man said that God had no meaning for him; the word left him bewildered and frozen. When they said, 'God did this, and God commanded this and forbade that,' he became warm and saw. So although God's subtlety existed and shone on that man, he did not see; until they explained it to him through the medium of command and prohibition, creation and omnipotent power, he was unable to see.
Some people there are who on account of infirmity cannot take honey; yet through the medium of some food, such as rice dressed with turmeric and halwa and the like, they are able to eat it, until their recovery reaches the point where they can eat honey without any medium.
So we realise that speech is a subtle sun shining continually and without ceasing; but you require some gross medium in order to see and enjoy the rays of that sun. When things reach the point where you are able to see those rays and that subtlety without the gross medium and you have grown accustomed to it, then you become bold in your inspection of it and wax strong. In the depths of that sea of subtlety you see marvellous colours and marvellous spectacles. Yet what is so marvellous in that? For that speech is always within you, whether you actually speak or no, even though at the moment no speech is even in your thoughts.
We say that speech is always in being, just as the philosophers have said that 'Man is a speaking animal.' This animality is always in you so long as you are living. Hence it follows necessarily that speech too is always with you. Thus, chewing is a means of manifesting animality and not a condition, and so speaking and chattering is a means of 'speech' but not a condition.
Man has three spiritual states. In the first he pays no heed to God at all, but worships and pays service to everything, woman and man, wealth and children, stones and clods; God he does not worship. When he acquires a little knowledge and awareness, then he serves nothing but God. Again, when he progresses farther in this state he becomes silent; he does not say, 'I do not serve God,' neither does he say, 'I serve God,' for he has transcended these two degrees. No sound from these people issues into the world.
'Your God is neither present nor absent, for He is the Creator of both' -- that is, of presence and absence. Hence He is other than both of these. For if He were present, it must be that absence does not exist. But absence exists, and He is not present, for 'in presence absence exists.' Therefore He is not qualified by either presence or absence; otherwise it would necessarily follow that opposite proceeds out of opposite. For in the state of absence it would follow that He created presence, and presence is the opposite of absence; and similarly with regard to absence. So it is not right to say that opposite proceeds out of opposite, or that God should create the like of Himself; for He says, 'No like has He.' For if it were possible for the like to create the like, then it would necessarily follow that there was a giving of precedence without any to be preferred, and it would likewise follow that a thing could create itself; and both of these propositions are untenable.
When you have reached this point, halt and apply yourself no more. Here reason has no further control. Once it reaches the margin of the sea it halts, notwithstanding that even to halt no more remains in its power.
All words, all sciences, all skills, all professions derive their flavour and relish from this speech. If that were not so, no flavour would remain in any employment or profession. The end of what is in the chapter is unknown, and knowing is not a condition. This is illustrated by the man who sought in marriage a wealthy woman possessing flocks of sheep and horses and other things. This man looks after the sheep and horses and waters the orchards. Though he is occupied with those services, the flavour of those tasks derives from the existence of the woman; for if the woman were to disappear, those tasks would lose their flavour and become cold and appear lifeless. Even so all professions and sciences in the world and so forth derive life and pleasure and warmth from the ray of the gnostic's 'relish'; but for his 'relish' in those things, all tasks would be utterly without relish and enjoyment.
The Master said: When I first began to compose poetry it was a great urge that compelled me to compose. At that time the urge had much effect; now the urge has grown weaker and is declining, but still it has its effect. Such is the way of God most High. He fosters things in the time of their rising, and great effects and much wisdom are produced therefrom; in the state of declining his fostering still has its force. The Lord of the East and the West means, 'He fosters the urges both rising and declining.'
The Mu'tazilites hold that a man creates his own acts, and that every act that issues from him is of his own creation. That cannot be so. For each act that issues from man does so either through the medium of the instrument he possesses -- such as reason, spirit, faculty and body -- or without any medium. He cannot be the creator of acts performed through the medium of these things, for he is not capable of assembling them; therefore he is not the creator of acts performed through the medium of such an instrument, since the instrument is not subject to his control. It is also impossible that he should create an act without such an instrument, for it is out of the question that any act should come from him without such an instrument.
Hence we realise absolutely that the creator of man's acts is not man but God. Every act that proceeds out of a man, whether it be good or evil, he performs intentionally and with a purpose, but the wisdom of that deed is not limited to the extent that he conceives. The extent of the meaning and wisdom and advantage which appeared to him in that deed -- the advantage of that is limited to the extent that that action comes into being from him. Only God however knows the total advantage of that deed, what fruits he will discover therefrom. For instance, you pray with the intention that you shall be rewarded in the next world and acquire a good name and safety in the present world. But the advantage derived from that prayer will not be limited to that; it will confer a hundred thousand advantages which do not pass into your understanding. Those advantages are known only to God, who moves a man to perform such an act.
Man is like a bow in the hand of the grip of God's omnipotence. God most High employs him upon various tasks, and the agent in reality is God, not the bow. The bow is the instrument and the medium, but it is unaware and unconscious of God, that the world's order may be maintained. Mighty indeed is the bow that is aware in whose hand it is! What am I to say of a world whose maintenance and columns rest on heedlessness? Do you not see that when a man is awakened, he becomes indifferent to the world also and grows cold; he also melts and perishes. From his very childhood, when he first began to wax and grow, man has done so out of negligence; else he would never have grown up and become a man. Since therefore his growing into manhood has been accomplished through negligence, God most High imposes upon him willy-nilly many pains and labours that He may wash those acts of negligence away from him and make him clean. Only then is he able to become acquainted with the other world.
The human being is like a dunghill, a heap of manure. But if this manure-heap is precious, it is because in it is the seal-ring of the King. The human being is like a sack of corn. The King cries out, 'Where are you carrying that corn? For my cup is in it.' Man is heedless of the cup, being absorbed in the corn. If he were aware of the cup, how would he pay attention to the corn? Now every thought which draws you towards the supernal world, making you cold and indifferent to this lower world, is a reflection of the ray of that cup flashing out. So man comes to yearn for the other world. When contrariwise he yearns after this lower world, that is a sign that that cup has become hidden in the veil.
Someone said: Qadi 'Izz al-Din sends his greetings, and always speaks of you in the most approving terms.
The Master said:
If any man speaks well of another, that good appraisal reverts again to himself, and in reality it is himself that he is praising and applauding. It is like a man who sows round his garden flowers and aromatic herbs; whenever he looks out, he sees flowers and aromatic herbs and is always in Paradise, inasmuch as he has formed the habit of speaking well of other men. Whenever a man has engaged himself in speaking well of another, that person becomes his friend; when he remembers him, he brings to mind a friend; and bringing to mind a friend is like flowers and a flower-garden, it is refreshment and repose. But when a man speaks ill of another, that person becomes hateful in his eyes; whenever he remembers him and his image comes before him, it is as though a snake or a scorpion, a thorn or a thistle has appeared in his sight.
Now since you are able night and day to see flowers and a flower-garden and the meadows of Iram, why do you go about amidst thorns and snakes? Love every man, so that you may always dwell amongst flowers and a flower-garden. When you are a foe of every man, the image of your foes appears before you and it is as if day and night you are going about amidst thorns and snakes. It is for this reason that the saints love all men and think well of all men. They do that not for another but solely for themselves, lest haply a hateful or loathsome image should appear before them. Since in this world one cannot escape mentioning men and encountering their image, the saints strove their utmost that everything in their mind and memory should be amiable and desirable, so that the unpleasantness of a hateful image should not confound their way.
So it is that whatsoever you do unto other men, whenever you make mention of them whether for good or ill, all that reverts to yourself. It is of this that God most High declares:
Someone proposed the following question. God most High declares:
The angels said:
Now Adam had not as yet come into the world. How then did the angels judge beforehand that man would do corruption and shed blood?
The Master answered: There are two ways of explaining this matter, one traditional and the other rational. The traditional version is that the angels had read on the Preserved Tablet that a people would come forth whose description would be such, and so they made that statement. The rational version is that the angels deduced by reasoning that that people would come forth from the earth; they would necessarily be animals, and such conduct certainly comes from animals. Though this essential element would be in them, namely that they would be speaking, yet inasmuch as animality would also be in them, inescapably they would be ungodly and shed blood, these being the prerequisites of being human.
Other people offer still another explanation. They say that the angels are pure reason and goodness unalloyed, and have no choice in any matter. Just as when you do something in a dream you have no choice in the matter, so that of course you cannot be criticised, whether you utter unbelief in your sleep or declare God is One, or if you then commit adultery, the angels are in a like case in the waking state. Men are the reverse of that; they have freewill and are lustful and passionate and desire all things for themselves, being ready to shed blood to secure everything for themselves. That is the attribute of animals. So the state of those others, being angels, is the opposite of the state of men.
It is therefore perfectly feasible to report of them that they spoke in this fashion, even though in their case there was neither speech nor tongue. This is the suppositional situation, that if those two mutually opposite states were to be endowed with words and gave an account of themselves, this is how it would be. Similarly the poet will say, 'The pool said, I am full.' Pools of course do not really speak; the meaning is, that if the pool had had a tongue, in such a situation that is what it would have said.
Every angel has within him a tablet, and from that tablet, according to the degree of his own powers, he reads aforetime all that is to happen in the world and everything that is going to transpire. When the time comes that what he has read and got to know actually comes into being, then his belief in God most High becomes all the stronger and his love and mystic intoxication increase. He marvels at God's majesty and clairvoyance. That increase of love and faith, that wordless and unexpressed wonder, is the angel's proclamation of God's praise.
Thus, a builder informs his apprentice, 'In this house which they are making so much wood will go, so many bricks, so many stones, so much straw.' When the house is completed and exactly that amount of materials has been used, neither less nor more, the faith of the apprentice increases. The angels too are in a like case.
Someone asked the Master: The Prophet Muhammad, with all his majesty -- so that God said, 'But for thee I would not have created the heavens' -- yet said, 'Would that the Lord of Muhammad had not created Muhammad.' How can this be?
The Master answered: The statement will become clear through a comparison. Let me propound to you a comparison for this, so that you may realise the meaning. In a certain village a man fell in love with a certain woman. The two dwelt close together and lived happily and pleasurably one with the other, so that they grew fat and thrived on one another. They lived by each other, just as a fish keeps alive in water. Some years they were together. Then suddenly God most High made them wealthy, bestowing on them many sheep and oxen and horses, wealth and gold and servants and slaves. Because of their extreme magnificence and prosperity they set out for the city. Each purchased a great royal palace and there took up residence with horse and retinue, she in one part of the city and he in another. When things had reached this pitch they were no longer able to enjoy each other's company as before; their hearts smouldered away within them and they uttered secret lamentations, being unable to speak. The consuming fire in them became so violent that they entirely perished in the flames of separation. The conflagration of their grief finally passed all bounds. Then their lamentation was heard by God. Their horses and sheep began to vanish; little by little they were restored to their former situation. So after a long while they were reunited in that village of old and resumed full enjoyment of their life together. Then they recalled the bitterness of their separation; and the cry went up, 'Would that the Lord of Muhammad had not created Muhammad.' So long as Muhammad's soul was dwelling apart in the world of holiness in union with God most High, it grew and thrived, plunging about in that sea of compassion like a fish. Though in this earthly world he was endowed with the rank of prophet and guide to men, greatness and majesty and fame and a large following, yet on returning to that former joyous life he says, 'Would that I had never been a prophet and never come into the world, which in comparison with that absolute union is all burden and torment and suffering.'
All these sciences and exertions and acts of devotion, in comparison with the merit and majesty of the Creator, are as though a man bowed to you, performed a service, and departed. If you were to set the whole earth upon your heart in serving God, it would amount to the same as bowing your head once to the ground. For God's merit and graciousness preceded your existence and your service. Whence did He bring you forth and give you existence and make you capable of service and worship, that you should boast of serving Him? These services and sciences are just as if you had made little shapes of wood and leather, then come and offer them up to God, saying, 'I like these little shapes. I made them; but it is Your business to give them life. If you give them life, You will have made my works to live; and if You give them not -- the command is Yours entirely.'
Abraham said, 'God is He who gives life, and makes to die.' Nimrod said, 'I give life and make to die.' When God most High gave him the kingship he deemed himself also omnipotent, not attributing the merit to God. He said, 'I too make alive and cause to die, and my desire out of this kingdom is knowledge.' When God most High bestows upon man knowledge and sagacity and shrewdness, he attributes all actions to himself, saying, 'I myself by means of this deed and this action give life to all actions and attain ecstatic joy.' Abraham said, 'No, it is He who gives life and makes to die.'
Someone said to our great Master: Abraham said to Nimrod, 'My God is He who brings up the sun out of the east and sends it down into the west. God brings the sun from the east. If you make claim to Godhead, do the reverse.' It follows necessarily from this that Nimrod compelled Abraham to abandon the point; for he abandoned his first argument and left Nimrod's rejoinder unanswered, embarking upon another proof.
The Master answered: Others have talked nonsense over this, and now you are also talking nonsense. This is one and the same argument presented in two forms. You are mistaken, and so are they. There are many meanings underlying this statement. One meaning is this, that God most High shaped you out of the concealment of non-entity in your mother's womb. Your 'east' was your mother's womb; from there you rose, and went down into the 'west' of the tomb. This is precisely the first statement, only expressed in another way: He gives life, and makes to die. 'Now, if you are able, bring forth from the west of the tomb and convey back to the east of the womb.' That is one meaning; another is the following. Inasmuch as through obedience and strenuous effort and noble actions the gnostic attains illumination and spiritual intoxication, refreshment and ease, and in the state of abandoning such obedience and effort that happiness goes down like the sinking sun, these two states of obedience and abandoning obedience have been for him his 'east' and 'west.' 'So if you are able, by bringing to life in this state of apparent setting, which is ungodliness and corruption and disobedience, now in this state of setting make manifest that illumination and ease which rose up out of obedience.'
That is not the business of the servant, and the servant will never be able to do it. That is God's business; for if He wishes He causes the sun to rise from the west, and if He wishes from the east; for
The unbeliever and the believer both proclaim the praises of God. For God most High has stated that every man who goes on the right road and practises righteousness, following the sacred law and the way of the prophets and the saints, shall be vouchsafed such happiness and illumination and life. If he does the reverse, he will be vouchsafed such darkness and fear, such pits and sufferings. Since both believer and unbeliever practise accordingly, and that which God most High has promised comes to pass precisely, neither more nor less, it follows then that both proclaim the praises of God, the one with one tongue and the other with another. How great is the difference between the one praiser and the other praiser!
For instance: a thief has committed a theft, and is hung on the gallows. He too is a preacher to the Muslims, saying, 'Whosoever commits a theft, such is what becomes of him.' Upon another man the king has bestowed a robe of honour on account of his righteousness and trustworthiness: he likewise is a preacher to the Muslims. But the thief preaches with that tongue, and the trusty servant with this tongue. Yet do you consider the difference between those two preachers!
The Master said: You are happy in mind. How is that? Because the mind is a precious thing; it is like a snare that must be properly set to catch the prey. If your mind is unhappy, the snare is torn and useless.
It therefore behoves one not to go to excess in one's love or enmity towards another, since by both of these the snare becomes torn. One must be moderate. Now this love which must not be excessive -- I mean by that love for other than God. As for what appertains to the Creator, God most High, excess there is inconceivable: the greater the love, the better. Because when love directed towards other than God is excessive -- and all men are subject to the wheel of heaven, and heaven is a circling wheel, and men's circumstances also revolve like a wheel -- when love for a certain person is excessive, one always desires that good fortune may attend him. But that is impossible, and so the mind becomes disturbed. Similarly when enmity is excessive one always desires that that person may be unlucky and unfortunate; but since the wheel of heaven is ever turning and his circumstances too are revolving, so that now he is lucky now unlucky, it is likewise impossible that he should always be unlucky; and so the mind becomes disturbed. But love for the Creator is latent in all the world and in all men, be they Magians, Jews or Christians, indeed in all things that have being. How indeed should any man not love Him who gave him being? Love is latent in every man, but impediments veil that love; when those impediments are removed that love becomes manifest.
Why indeed should I speak only of things that have being? Not-being too is in commotion, expectant that He will give them being. Non-entities are just like four persons ranged before a king. Each one desires and expects that the king will confer on him a special rank, and each one feels shy of the other because his expectation is contrary to the other. So the non-entities, being ranged in expectation of being brought into being by God -- 'Make me to be!' -- and desiring of the Creator each to be the first to be brought into being, therefore feel shy of one another. If the non-entities are in such a case, how should the things which have being be?
This is not remarkable; what is remarkable is that 'there is not no-thing that does not proclaim His praise.'
This house was built out of forgetfulness. All bodies and all the world are maintained in being by forgetfulness. This full-grown body too has grown out of forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is unbelief; and faith cannot exist without the existence of unbelief, for faith is the forsaking of unbelief. Therefore there must be an unbelief which can be forsaken. Therefore both of these are one and the same thing, since this does not exist without that and that does not exist without this. They are indivisible; and their Creator is one, for if their Creator had not been one they would have been divisible. Each creator would have created a separate thing, so that they would have been divisible. So since the Creator is One, He is alone and has no partner.
They said: Saiyid Burhan al-Din discourses very well, but he quotes Sana'i frequently in his discourse.
The Master answered: What they say is quite true: the sun is excellent, but it gives light. Is that a fault? Introducing Sana'i's words casts light on that discourse. The sun casts light on things, and in the light of the sun it is possible to see. The purpose of the light of the sun is to show things up. After all, this sun in heaven shows things which are of no use. That is the real sun, which shows things up that are of use. The sun in heaven is derivative and metaphorical; that sun is the true sun. Do you also, according to the degree of your partial intellects, yearn after this sun and seek the light of knowledge, that you may behold something other than sensibilia, and that your knowledge may ever increase. Be expectant of understanding and comprehending something from every teacher and every friend.
So we realise that there is another sun, apart from the sun of physical form, through which realities and inner truths are revealed. This partial knowledge to which you fly and in which you feel pleasure is a branch of that great knowledge, and a ray of it. This ray is calling you unto that great knowledge and original sun.
You draw that knowledge towards yourself. It says, 'I cannot be contained here, and you are tardy in arriving there. It is impossible for me to be contained here, and it is difficult for you to come there.' To bring about the impossible is impossible; but to bring about the difficult is not impossible. So, though it is difficult, strive to attain the great knowledge; and do not expect that it will be contained here, for that is impossible. Even so the wealthy ones out of their love for the wealth of God collect penny by penny, grain by grain, so that they may attain the attribute of wealth from the ray of wealth. The ray of wealth says, 'I am calling to you out of that great wealth. Why are you drawing me here? For I cannot be contained here. Do you come unto this great wealth.'
In short, the root of the matter is the end: may the end be praiseworthy! What is the praiseworthy end? That the tree whose roots are fixed firm in that spiritual garden, and whose branches and boughs and fruits have become suspended in another place, and its fruits have scattered -- that in the end those fruits should be carried back into that garden, for there its roots are. If the contrary should be the case, though that tree in outward form proclaim God's praises and cry Him alleluia, inasmuch as its roots are in this world, all its fruits are carried back into this world. If however both are in that garden, that is Light upon Light.
Akmal al-Din said: I love our Master and am desirous to see him. Even the world to come is blotted out of my mind. I find comfort in the image of the Master without these ideas and propositions; I take repose in his beauty, and pleasure accrues to me from his very mien, or from the mental picture of him.
The Master answered: Though the world to come, and God, do not enter your thoughts, yet all is implicit and remembered in love. A beautiful dancing-girl was once playing the castanets in the presence of the Caliph. The Caliph said, 'Your art is in your hands.' She replied, 'No, in my feet, Caliph of God's Messenger!' 'Excellence is in my hands because excellence of foot is implicit in it.' Though the disciple does not remember the world to come in every detail, yet his delight in seeing the shaikh and his fear of being separated from him comprehend all those details, and the whole of them are implicit in that. Similarly with a man who cherishes and loves a child or a brother, though the thoughts of sonship and brotherhood, the hope of fidelity, compassion and fondness and his love for himself, the issue of the affair, and all the other benefits which kinsmen hope for from kinsmen -- though these thoughts do not enter his mind, yet all these details are implicit in that degree of encounter and contemplation. In the same way, air is implicit in wood even though the wood be in earth or in water; were there not air in the wood, fire would never have any effect on it.
For air is the fuel of fire and the life of fire. Do you not see how a breath of air puts life into a fire? Though the wood may be in water or earth, yet air is latent in it. If air were not latent in it, it would never come to the surface of the water. So again with the words you speak: though many things are the prerequisites of these words, such as intelligence and brain, lips and mouth, throat and tongue and all the parts of the body which are the controllers of the body, as well as the elements and temperaments, the spheres, and the hundred thousand secondary causes on which the world depends, and so on until you come to the world of attributes, and then essence -- though all these realities are not expressed in words and are not disclosed, yet the whole of them are implicit in the words as I have already mentioned.
Every day five or six times something undesired and painful happens to a man without his free will. Certainly these things do not proceed from him, but from other than he. He is under the control of that other, and that other watches over him. For many an evil act gives him pain, if there is no opportune watcher watching over him when the act operates. Nevertheless despite these unwanted contingencies, his nature does not acknowledge and is not secure in the thought that 'I am under the control of somebody.'
'God created Adam in His own image.' In your attribute divinity, which is the opposite of servanthood, is deposited on loan. So often man is beaten about the head, yet he does not let go that borrowed obstinacy. He forgets these unwanted contingencies, but it profits him nothing. Until the time when that borrowed element becomes his very own, he will not escape from slapping.
A certain gnostic once said: I went into the bath-stove that my heart might be dilated, for it had been the place of retreat of certain of the saints. I saw that the master of the stove had an apprentice who was working with girded loins. The master was telling him, 'Do this and do that.' The apprentice was labouring briskly, and the stove gave off a fine heat on account of the nimbleness with which he obeyed his orders.
'Fine,' said the master. 'Be nimble like this. If you are always energetic and mind your manners, I will give you my own position and appoint you in my own place.'
I was overcome with laughter, and my knot was resolved, for I saw that the bosses of this world all behave like this with their apprentices.
Someone said: That astronomer says, 'You claim that there is something without, apart from the heavens and the terrestrial ball which I see. In my view, apart from that nothing exists. If it exists, then show me where it is!'
The Master answered: That demand is invalid from the very start. For you say, 'Show me where it is'; and that Thing has no place. Come then, tell me, whence and where is your objection? It is not in the tongue, it is not in the mouth, it is not in the breast. Search through all of these; divide them piece by piece, atom by atom, and see that you will not find this objection and thought in all of these. So we realise that your thought has no place. Since you have failed to discover the place of your own thought, how will you discover the place of the Creator of thought?
So many thousands of thoughts and moods come over you without your having any hand in them, for they are completely outside your power and control. If you only knew whence these thoughts arise, you would be able to augment them. All these things have a passage over you, and you are wholly unaware whence they come and whither they are going and what they will do. Since you are incapable of penetrating your own moods, how do you expect to penetrate your Creator?
The whoreson says, 'That is not in heaven.' You cur, how do you know That is not? Yes, you have measured heaven span by span; you have gone about all of it, and you pronounce that That is not in it. Why, you do not know the whore you have in your own home; how then should you know heaven? Oh yes, you have heard of heaven, and the names of the stars and the spheres. You say that is something. If you really penetrated the depths of heaven or mounted a single span towards heaven, you would never utter such nonsense.
What do I mean when I say that God is not over heaven? My intention is not, that He is not over heaven; my meaning is, that heaven comprehends Him not, whilst He comprehends heaven. He has an ineffable link with heaven, even as He has established an ineffable link with you. All things are in the hand of His omnipotence and are His theatre and under His control. Hence He is not without heaven and the universe, neither is He wholly in them. That is to say, these comprehend Him not, and He comprehends all.
Someone said: Before earth and heaven and the Throne existed, pray where was He? We said: This question is invalid from the start. For God is He who has no place. You ask, 'Where was He before all this?' Why, all your things are without place. Have you discovered the place of these things which are in you, that you are searching for His place? Since your moods and thoughts have no place, how should a place for Him be conceivable? After all, surely the Creator of thought is subtler than thought. For instance, the builder who has constructed a house is subtler than this house, for that builder, a man, is able to make and plan a hundred such buildings other than this, each different from the other. Therefore he is subtler and more majestic than any fabric; but that subtlety cannot be seen save through the medium of a house, some work entering the sensible world, that that subtlety of his may display beauty.
This breath of yours is visible in winter, but in summer it is invisible. That does not mean that in summer the breath is cut off and there is no breath; but summer is subtle, and the breath is subtle and does not appear, contrary to the winter. In like manner all your attributes and essential elements are subtle and cannot be seen save through the medium of some act. For instance, your clemency exists, but it cannot be seen; only when you forgive an offender, then your clemency becomes visible. Similarly your vengefulness cannot be seen; only when you take vengeance upon a criminal and beat him, then your vengefulness is seen; and so on ad infinitum.
God most High by reason of His extreme subtlety cannot be seen. He created heaven and earth, so that His omnipotence and His handiwork might be seen. Therefore He declares:
My words are not in my control, and therefore I am pained: because I desire to counsel my friends, and the words do not come as I would have them come, therefore I am pained. But inasmuch as my words are higher than I and I am subject to them, I am happy; for the words which God speaks bring to life wherever they reach, and make a mighty impression.
The arrow which leaps from the bow of God, no shield or breastplate can repel it. Therefore I am happy.
If all knowledge were within a man, and ignorance were wholly absent, that man would be consumed and cease to be. So ignorance is desirable, inasmuch as by that means he continues to exist; and knowledge also is desirable, in that it is a means to the spiritual knowledge of God. So each is an ally of the other, and both at the same time are opposites. Though night is the opposite of day, yet it is the ally of day and both do the same work. If night lasted forever, no work would ever be produced and result; while if day lasted forever, eye and head and brain would remain dazzled and would go mad and cease to function. Therefore men rest and sleep in the night, and all the implements -- brain, thought, hand and foot, hearing and sight -- all gather strength; and by day they expend those powers.
So all things, though appearing opposite in relation to their opposites, in relation to the wise man are all performing the same work and are not opposed. Show me the evil thing in this world wherein no good is contained and the good thing wherein no evil is contained! For instance, a man was intent on murder, then busied himself with fornication, so that he shed no blood. Inasmuch as it is fornication, it is evil; but inasmuch as it prevented murder, it is good. So evil and good are one and indivisible. That is the substance of our quarrel with the Magians. They say there are two Gods, one the creator of good and one the creator of evil. Now show me good without evil, that I may acknowledge that there is a God of evil and a God of good! This is impossible, for good does not exist apart from evil. Since good and evil are not two and there is no separation between them, therefore it is impossible that there should be two creators. Do we not confute you? By all means, be sure that it is so.
We have spoken few words, because the thought may occur to you that perhaps it is as the Magians say. Granted that you are not sure that it is as I have said, yet how can you be sure that it is not so? Wretched infidel, God declares:
'Has not the thought also occurred to you that those threats which We have made may also come true, and that punishment will be visited upon the unbelievers in such wise as you have never imagined? Why then did you not take precautions and seek after Us?'
'Abu Bakr was not deemed your superior on account of much praying and fasting and almsgiving, but on account of something that was fixed in his heart.' The Prophet says that Abu Bakr's superiority over others was not by reason of much praying and much fasting, but because God's special favour was with him, namely the love of God. On the resurrection day when men's prayers are brought, they will be put in the balance, and likewise their fastings and almsgivings; but when love is brought, it will not be contained in the balance. So the root of the matter is love
When therefore you perceive love to be in you, augment it that it may become greater. When you perceive the principal sum to be in you, namely the quest of God, increase it by ever questing, for 'In movement is blessing'; if you do not increase it, your principal will go away from you. You are not less than the earth. Men change the earth by movement: and by turning it with the hoe, and it yields crops; when they abandon it, it becomes hard. So when you perceive the quest to be in you, be always coming and going, and do not say, 'What use is there in this going?' Keep going, and the use will appear of itself. The use of a man going to the shop is simply to present his requirements. God most High bestows provisions; but if a man sits at home, pretending to be self-sufficient, then the provisions do not arrive.
Consider the little child who cries, and his mother gives him milk. If he were to think, 'What use is there in my crying, and what is the cause of her giving milk?' he would get no milk. So we see that the crying is the reason why he gets the milk. After all, if anyone is absorbed in asking, 'What use is there in this bowing and prostrating? Why should I do it?' -- when you do obeisance before a prince or a chieftain, bowing and kneeling, why, the prince has compassion on you and gives you a sop. What makes compassion in the prince is not the prince's skin and flesh. After death that skin and flesh are still there, as also when the prince is asleep and insensible, but then this obeisance before him goes to waste. So we realise that the compassion which is in the prince is not something that can be perceived and seen. So if it is feasible for us to do obeisance to something which we cannot see which is contained in skin and flesh, surely it is feasible also in the case of That which is without skin and flesh. If that thing which is contained in skin and flesh were not invisible, Abu Jahl and Muhammad would have been one and the same, and so there would have been no difference between them. The ear to outward appearance is just the same whether it is deaf or hearing, there is no difference; the one and the other are the same material shape; but that in which hearing is contained is invisible and cannot be seen.
So the root of the matter is that Divine grace. You, being a prince, have two slaves. One has performed many services and made many journeys on your behalf; the other is idle in your service. Yet we see that your love for the idle one is greater than for the active one; though you do not let the active one go unrewarded, yet such is the case. It is impossible to determine in the matter of God's grace. This right eye and this left eye are both one and the same from the external viewpoint; why, what service has the right eye performed which the left eye has not performed? And the right hand -- what work has it done that the left hand has not done, and so with the right foot? Yet the Divine favour has fallen on the right eye. So too Friday has been preferred over the rest of the days. 'God has certain portions to bestow other than those inscribed for a man on the Tablet, so let him seek for them on Friday.' Now what service has this Friday performed which the other days have not performed? Yet God bestowed His grace and special mark of honour upon Friday.
If a blind man should say, 'I was created blind like this, it is not my fault,' it will do him no good to say 'I am blind' and 'It is not my fault.' That will not relieve him of his suffering. Those infidels who are fixed in unbelief -- after all, they suffer because of their unbelief. Yet when we look at the matter again, that suffering too is itself a Divine grace. When the unbeliever is left at ease he forgets the Creator; so God reminds him by means of suffering. Therefore Hell is a place of worship, and is the mosque of the infidels, for there the unbeliever remembers God; just as in prison and suffering and toothache -- when the pain comes, it tears away the veil of forgetfulness. The sufferer acknowledges God and makes lamentation, saying, 'O Lord, O Compassionate One, a God!' He is healed; then the veils of forgetfulness descend again and he says, 'Where is God? I cannot find him. I cannot see Him. What should I look for?'
How is it that when you were suffering you saw and found, and now you do not see? Since therefore you see when you suffer, suffering is made to prevail over you to the end that you may recollect God. The inmate of Hell was forgetful of God in the time of his ease and did not remember God; in Hell he recollects God night and day. God created the world, heaven and earth, moon and sun and stars, good and evil, that they might remember Him and serve Him and proclaim His praise. Inasmuch as the unbelievers in the time of their ease do not do this, and since their purpose in being created was to recollect God, therefore they go to Hell in order that they may remember Him. Believers however have no need to suffer; in their time of ease they are not unmindful of that suffering and see that suffering constantly present. In the same way once an intelligent child has had its feet put in the stocks that is enough, he never forgets the stocks. The stupid child however forgets, and must therefore be put in the stocks every moment. So too the clever horse, once it has felt the spur, does not require the spur again; he carries the rider for many leagues and does not forget the sting of the spur. The stupid horse however requires the spur every moment; he is not fit to carry a man, so they load him with dung.