The Amir said: “Night and day my heart and Soul are intent upon serving God, but because of my responsibilities with Mongol affairs I have no time for such service.”
Rumi answered: Those works too are work done for God, since they are the means of providing peace and security for your country. You sacrifice yourself, your possessions, your time, so the hearts of a few will be lifted to peacefully obeying God’s will. So this too is a good work. God has inclined you towards such good work, and your great love for what you do is proof of God’s blessing. However, if your love of work were to weaken, this would be a sign of grace denied, for God leads only those who are worthy into those right attitudes that will earn spiritual rewards.
Take the case of a hot bath. Its heat comes from the fuel that is burned, such as dry hay, firewood, dung and the like. In the same way, God uses what to outward appearance looks evil and nasty, yet in reality is the means to cleanliness and purity. Like the bath, the man or woman fired by the efforts of work becomes purified and a benefit to all people.
(At this point some friends arrived. Rumi excused himself and said:) If I do not attend to you, and do not welcome you or ask after you, this is really a mark of respect. Respect is what is appropriate for the occasion. When someone is at prayer, they should not stop to greet their father and brother. Disregard of friends while being engaged in prayer is the highest regard, and the greatest courtesy, since that person does not break away from absorption with God on account of dear ones. This saves those loved ones from being subject to Divine reproach. Therefore, true respect is not a social pleasantry, but is concern for the spiritual honor of others.
Someone asked: “Is there any way nearer to God than prayer?”
Rumi answered: Yes, but it is also prayer. It is prayer without the outward form. This outer form of prayer is the body of prayer, since it has a beginning and ending. Everything that has a beginning and ending is a body. All words and sounds have a beginning and an end, and therefore are form and body. But the inner soul of prayer is unconditioned and infinite, and has neither beginning nor end.
Now, Mohammed, who invented the Muslim prayer, said, “I have a time with God not contained by any prophet, nor limited by any angel next to God.” Hence we realize that the soul of prayer is not the outer form alone. Rather it is a complete absorption, a state without room for these outward forms. Gabriel himself, who is pure reality, cannot be found therein.
It is related that one day friends found my father in a state of complete absorption. The hour of prayer arrived, and these friends called out to my father, “It is time for prayer.” My father did not heed their words, so they arose and occupied themselves with the prayer. However, two friends stayed with my father and did not stand up to pray.
Now, one of those who were praying was named Khvajagi. It was shown to him clearly, in his inward heart, that all those who were at prayer were standing behind the Prophet with their backs turned to Mecca, while the two who were with my father were facing Mecca. Since my father had passed away from any sense of personal identity, his self no longer remaining, having been consumed in the Light of God, he had become the Light of God.
Whoever turns their back on the Light of God, and faces the wall of their prayer-niche, has surely turned their back on Mecca. For God’s light is the soul of the Mecca-ward direction.
Mohammed once rebuked a friend, saying, “I called you. Why didn’t you come?” The friend replied, “I was occupied with prayer.” The Prophet said, “Well, wasn’t I calling you for God?” The friend answered, “I am helpless.”
It is good to feel helpless every moment, seeing yourself helpless in success, just as in failure. For above your capacity there is a greater Capacity, and your will is subject to that greater Will in every case. You are not divided into two halves, now capable, now helpless. You are always helpless, only sometimes remembering, sometimes forgetting. When you remember, then the heart of that moment becomes visible, and the way opens up before you. Indeed, what is our condition, seeing that lions, tigers and crocodiles are all helpless and tremble before God? Even the heavens and earth are helpless and subject to His decree.
God is a mighty emperor. Its Light is not like the light of the moon or sun where some form abides in its place. When God’s Light shines forth unveiled, neither heaven nor earth remain. Neither sun nor moon. Nothing remains but that great Reality.
A certain king said to a dervish, “In the moment when you find revelation and propinquity in the Court of God, remember me.” The dervish replied, “When I come into that Presence, and the Light of that Sun shines upon me, I will no more remember myself. How then can I remember you?”
Even still, make a request of such a dervish, who is utterly absorbed, and even without them mentioning you or your needs in God’s presence still the request is fulfilled.
There was once a king who had a favorite and highly confidential servant. Whenever that servant set out for the royal palace, people who had a request to make presented him with their histories and their letters, begging him to submit them to the king. He would place the documents in his wallet. On coming into the king’s presence, he could not endure the splendor of the king’s beauty, and would fall down dumfounded. The king would then, in a loving manner, put his hand into his wallet, saying, “What does this servant of mine have here, who is utterly absorbed in my beauty?”
In this way he found the letters and would endorse the petitions of every man and woman, and then return the documents into the wallet. So he would attend to the needs of every one of them, without that servant ever submitting them, so that not a single one was rejected. On the contrary, their demands were granted many times over, and they attained far more than they had asked for. But in the case of other servants who retained consciousness, and were able to present and indicate to the king the histories of the people in need – out of a hundred requests and a hundred needs, only one might be fulfilled.