Sheikh Ibrahim is a noble dervish. When we see him, we are reminded of our beloved friends. Our Master Shams used to refer to him as “our Sheikh Ibrahim,” showing his affection.
Divine favor is one thing, but personal effort is another. The prophets did not attain prophethood through personal effort – they gained that fortune through Divine grace. Yet God still required the prophets to live a life of personal effort and virtue. This was for the sake of the common people, so they could put reliance on the prophets and their words. The gaze of ordinary people cannot penetrate into the inward heart – they see only the outward show. Yet, following those externals, through the Divine blessings bestowed on those forms, people find the way to the internal.
After all, even Pharaoh made personal efforts of charity and noble acts, but since God’s favor was not present, his generosity and beneficence remained hidden. Like a military commander who is in charge of a fortress, even when he is kind and generous to the people, if his plan is to throw off allegiance to the king and become a rebel, his kindnesses lose all their worth and luster.
Nevertheless, we should not entirely deny God’s favor to Pharaoh. God’s grace might have been secret, causing Pharaoh to be rejected for a good purpose. For a king is both vengeful and gracious. He bestows both robes of honor and prison terms. The Sufis do not deny God’s favor to Pharaoh completely. The literalists, however, consider Pharaoh wholly rejected, and this is fine for the proper maintenance of the external teaching.
When a king puts a man on the gallows, he hangs him up high in the presence of the assembled people. He could also suspend him indoors, hidden from everyone, by a low nail, but it is necessary for the people to see and take warning. The execution of the king’s decrees, and the carrying out of his orders should be visible. But not every gallows consists of wood. High rank and worldly fortune are also a gallows, and a very high one. When God desires to chastise someone, He grants them high rank in the world and a great kingdom, like Pharaoh, Nimrod and the rest. All those eminent positions are like the gallows from which God hangs people for others to gaze upon and understand.
For God declares, “I was a hidden treasure, and I desired to be known.” This is to say, “I created all the world to manifest My Reality, now through graciousness, now through severity.” God is not the kind of king for whom one voice is sufficient. If every atom in the world became God’s herald, they would still be unable to properly proclaim His Truth.
Therefore, day and night people are forever revealing God, but while some understand this, others are unaware. In either case, the manifestation of God’s will is certain. For example, a prince orders a man to be beaten, and the man screams and shouts with pain. Still, everyone sees that both beater and beaten are revealing the prince’s authority.
Whoever acknowledges God is revealing God continually, and whoever denies God is also revealing God. For how can anything be demonstrated without its opposites? Besides, it would be wholly without pleasure and enjoyment. Thus, someone who loves controversy proposes a motion at a meeting, but if there is no reaction or argument, what can he say in return, and what joy is there in that? For a proclamation is only meaningful in the face of its own negation. In the same way, this world is a declaration of God. Without a proposer and an opposer this declaration would seem pale and lifeless.
“The believers are like a single soul.”
Dervishes are joined as if by a single body. If one member feels pain, all the others are distressed. An eye gives up its seeing, the ear its hearing, the tongue its speech – all meet in that one body. True friendship is to sacrifice oneself for one’s friend. To plunge into danger for our friend’s sake. For all are headed towards one and the same goal. All are drowned in one and the same sea. This is the effect of faith, and submission to God. What is the load they carry with their bodies compared to that load they carry with their souls?
Once the believer surrenders to God, why should they give a thought to distress and danger, to hands and feet? If their journey is to God, what use do they have for limbs? God gave you hands and feet to travel in this world, but when travelling to that One who makes hands and feet, what does it matter if you trip and stumble, or like Pharaoh’s sorcerers go crawling on your belly? What cause for grief is that?
Poison is good to sup
When the fair one fills the cup.
Bitter words are sweet to hear
When the speaker is most dear.
Full of pleasure is my love
With that salty wit I know of.
Very pleasing is its smart
Rubbed into my wounded heart.
And God knows best.