Rumi said: Night and day you are at war, attempting to reform the character of the opposite sex, to cleanse their impurity and to correct their faults. It is better to cleanse yourself through them than trying to cleanse them through yourself. Reform yourself by means of them. Go to them and accept whatever they may say, even if from your viewpoint their words sound absurd or unfair.
It was on account of this truth that Mohammed said, “There is no monkhood in Islam.” The way of monks is solitude, dwelling in mountains, men not living with women, and giving up the world. God showed the Prophet a straight and hidden way. What is that way? Marriage, so that we can endure the trials of living with the opposite sex, to listen to their demands, for them to ride roughshod over us, and so in this way to refine our own character.
By enduring and putting up with the tyranny of your spouse it is as though you rub off your own impurity on them. Your character becomes good through forbearance; their character becomes bad through domineering and aggression. Once you have realized this, make yourself clean. Know that they are like a garment; in them you can cleanse your own impurities and become clean yourself.
Rid yourself of pride, envy and jealousy, until you experience pleasure in struggling and enduring. Through their demands discover spiritual joy. After that, you will endure such struggles, and you will not run from oppression, since you will see the advantages they bring to you.
It is related that Mohammed returned with his Companions from a raid, one night. He told them to beat the drum saying, “Tonight we will sleep at the gate of the city, and enter tomorrow.” They asked, “Messenger of God, why don’t we return to our homes immediately?” He said, “You might see your wives in bed with strange men. You would be hurt, and a commotion would arise.” One of the Companions did not hear; he entered and found his wife with a stranger.
The way of the Prophet is this: It is necessary to endure pain to help rid ourselves of selfishness, jealousy and pride. To experience the pain of our spouses’ extravagant desires, the pain of unfair burdens, and a hundred thousand other pains beyond all bounds, so the spiritual path can become clear. The way of Jesus was wrestling with solitude and not gratifying lust. The way of Mohammed is to endure the oppression and agonies inflicted by men and women upon each other. If you cannot go by the Mohammedan way, at least go by the way of Jesus, so you will not remain completely outside the spiritual path.
If you have the serenity to endure a hundred buffets, seeing the fruits and harvest that come through them, or believing in your hidden heart, “Though in this hour I see no harvest of these sufferings, in the end I will reach the treasures,” you will reach the treasuries, yes, and more than you ever desired and hoped.
If these words have no effect upon you now, after a while when you become maturer they will leave a great impression. This is the difference between talking with your spouse and a friend. When you speak to your mate, they remain the same and will not change their ways due to anything you say. You words have no affect on them, indeed they become more determined.
For instance, take a loaf of bread, put it under your arm, and deny it to others, saying, “I will not give this to anyone. Give it? Why, I won’t even show it.” Even if that loaf had been cast away and the dogs would not eat it because bread is so plentiful and cheap – yet the moment you begin to refuse it, everybody is after it and sets their hearts on it, pleading and protesting, “We want to see that bread which you refuse and keep hidden.” Especially if you keep it hidden for a year, insisting emphatically that you will neither give it away nor show it, their eagerness for the loaf passes all bounds, since, “People are passionate for whatever they are denied.”
The more you tell your spouse, “Keep yourself hidden,” the greater their itch to flirt and show themselves. And through their being hidden, the opposite sex becomes more eager for them. So there you sit in the middle, augmenting eagerness on both sides, and you think of yourself as a reformer! Why, that is the very essence of corruption. If they have in them the natural quality not to do evil, whether you prevent them or not, they will proceed according to their good temperament and pure constitution. So rest assured, and don’t worry. If they are the opposite, they will still go their own way; trying to stop them in reality does nothing but increase their eagerness.
Someone said: “We heard some men saying, ‘We saw Shams-i-Tabriz, we really saw him.’”
Rumi said: Fools, where did they see him? Would you listen to someone who cannot see a camel on the roof of their own house, if they come along and say, “I found a needle in the field and threaded it.” That is a fine story, like the person who said, “Two things make me laugh – a black person painting their nails black, and a blind person putting their head out of the window.” They are exactly like that. Blind inwardly, they put their heads out of the window of the physical body. What can they see? What does their approval or disapproval amount to?
First it is necessary to acquire inner sight. Then one can see. But even with sight, how can one see what is hidden? In this world there are saints who have achieved union, and other saints beyond those, called the Veiled Ones of God. The former saints are ever pleading humbly, “Oh Lord God, show us one of Thy Veiled Ones.” Now as for those tavern-haunting braggarts, of course they cannot reach or see what their own boasting hides. How can one see the Veiled Ones of God, or know them without their will?
It is not an easy matter. Even the spiritual angels, who are not tempted by either wealth nor rank, who have no veil to separate them, whose food is the pure Light and Beauty of God, whose eyes – keen and farsighted – see only pure Love, these spiritual angels swing between favor and disfavor toward the people of this world. This is so that, during our moments of disgrace we might tremble and ask, “What have I become? What do I know?” And if some light should shine upon us and we should be graced by a certain joy, we might give thanks a thousandfold to God, saying, “How am I worthy of this?”
Submitting yourself in this way, you can experience great joy even from a word or a glimpse of Shams. For the sail on the ship of our being is our ideal. When there is a sail, the wind can carry us to mighty places. When there is no sail, all words are merely wind.
The lover-beloved relationship is very pleasant; everything between the two is sheer informality. All formalities are for the sake of others. I would give a great exposition of these words, but the hour is late, and one must labor very hard and dig out rivers to reach the pool of the heart. In this matter proofs cannot work. Here one must be a seeker of love, not an observer.
It might seem that I exaggerate the relationship of the lover, but this is not true. In fact, I see that disciples should give up their own purpose for the sake of their master’s form.
Thou whose form is fairer far
Than a thousand purposes are.
Every disciple who comes to the master must first abandon his or her own purpose, being in need of the master.
Baha al-Din asked the question: “Surely they shouldn’t abandon their own purpose for the sake of the master’s form, but for the sake of the master’s purpose?”
Rumi answered: That isn’t possible. If this were so, then both would be masters. Now you must struggle to find the inward light, to escape and be secure from this fire of confusions. When you acquire such an inward light, all the desires of this world such as rank, honor, and title pass across your inward heart like a lightning-flash. With worldlings, the rewards of the unseen world such as the presence of God and yearning for the world of the saints’ shine upon their hearts for a moment and then pass like a lightning-flash. Therefore it is rank, honor and title they really seek. However, the people of God become wholly God’s, their faces are turned to God. They are preoccupied with and absorbed in God. Worldly passions, like the lust of an impotent man, show briefly but do not take root and quickly pass away.