Lovers have heartaches no cure can mend, neither sleeping, traveling, nor eating – only the sight of the beloved. “Meet the Friend and your sickness will end.” This is so true that even if a hypocrite sits in the company of believers, under their influence that hypocrite can become a believer in an instant. So God declares:
“When they meet those who believe,
They will say, ‘We believe.’”
How then, when a believer sits with a believer? Since such company has this effect on a hypocrite, consider what benefits it brings to the believer! Consider how wool, in the hands of a wise weaver becomes a beautiful carpet, and this earth, through association with creative builders becomes a fine palace! Since the society of intelligent people has such an effect on inanimate things, then imagine what effect the society of believers has on the believer!
Through association with beings of even limited intellect, inanimate things can take on great forms and beauty. These creations are all the shadow of partial intellects, and from these shadows you can understand the creators, themselves. So, then, deduce the Intellect and Being that casts the shadow of yonder heavens, the moon and sun, the seven layers of the earth, and all that lies between the earth and heaven. All these are the shadow of the Universal Intellect. The shadow of a limited being is proportionate to the shadow of its body. The shadow of the Universal Being, which is all of Creation, is proportionate to That.
The saints have seen other heavens besides these heavens. This world is unimpressive and lowly next to what they have been shown. The saints have set their foot upon those heavens and transcended them.
“Heavens there are in the province of the soul
That hold our worldly heaven in their control.”
Why is it so amazing that a certain person, out of all of humanity, should discover the particular quality necessary to set foot upon the head of the seventh heaven? Are we not all made of the same substance as the earth? Yet God implanted in us a quality that distinguishes us from the earth, putting us in control of that substance. We can control it however we choose – now lifting it up, now setting it down. Now we fashion it into a palace, now we make it a cup and goblet. Now we stretch it out, now we shorten it. Perhaps we were first made of this very earth and a part of it, but God has distinguished us by means of that faculty. In the same way, what is so hard to believe about the fact that out of the midst of us, who are all of the same race, God should distinguish a certain one, and that in relation to him we are like an inanimate thing, he controlling us, we being unaware of him, while he is aware of us?
When I say “unaware,” I do not mean utterly unaware. Rather, everyone who focuses their attention on one thing is unaware of something else. Even earth, inanimate as it is, is aware of what God has given it. For if it were unaware, how could it be receptive to water, and how could it nurse and nourish every seed? When people apply themselves earnestly and completely to a particular task, their concentration on that task leaves them unaware of anything else. But this inattention does not mean total inattention. For example, some people try to catch a cat, but it eludes them every time. Then one day that cat is so preoccupied with hunting a bird, that it does not see them approaching, and they catch it.
It is not necessary to become totally preoccupied with worldly affairs. We should take things easily, and not get caught up in bondage to them, lest in becoming disturbed we might distress something greater. The Treasure must not be disturbed, for if this world should worry, That Other will transform it, but if That Other is vexed (may we seek refuge with God!) then who will transform That?
If, for instance, you have many kinds of cloth, when you are absorbed, which of them will you clutch? Though they all may be indispensable, still it is certain that from your bundle you will choose something precious, something to be treasured, for with the value of one pearl and a single ruby you can produce a thousand ornaments.
From a certain tree, sweet fruit grows. Although that fruit is only one part, yet God has chosen and distinguished that part above the whole, for in it God deposited a sweetness that He did not deposit in the rest. By virtue of that flavor, that part became superior to the whole, and proved the pith and purpose of the tree. So God declares:
“Nay, but they wonder that a warner has come
to them from amongst themselves.”
A certain person said, “I have attained a state in which neither Mohammed nor the angel near the Throne is contained.” The Sheikh replied, “What is so amazing about having a state where Mohammed is not contained? Yet Mohammed does not have even one state in which a stinking creature like you is not contained!”
A certain jester wanted to restore the king to a better mood. Everyone had offered him a certain sum to accomplish this, for the king was deeply vexed. The king was walking angrily along the bank of a river. The jester walked on the other side, across from the king. But the king would not pay the slightest attention to the jester, he just kept staring into the water. The jester, becoming desperate, said, “O king, what do you see in the water?” The king replied, “I see the husband of an unfaithful wife.” The jester said, “Your slave is also not blind.”
So, you may have a time when Mohammed is not contained, but Mohammed does not have a state where such a stinking creature is not contained. After all, this spiritual state you have discovered is due to his blessing and influence. For, first, all gifts are showered on him, then they are distributed from him to others. Such is the rule. God said, “O Prophet, We have scattered all gifts upon thee.” Said Mohammed, “And upon God’s righteous servants!”
The way to God is exceedingly fearful and blocked deep by snow. Mohammed risked his life, driving his horse through and opening up the road. Whoever goes on this road, does so by his guidance and guarding. He discovered the road in the first place, and set up waymarks everywhere, posting signs that say, “Do not go in this direction, and do not go that way. If you go that way you will perish, even as the people of ‘Ad and Thamud, but if you go in this direction you will be saved, like the believers. All of the Koran expounds this, for “therein are clear signs” – in other words, upon this road We have given waymarks. If anyone tries to destroy any of these signs, everyone will attack them, saying, “Why do you destroy the road for us? Why do you work toward our destruction? Are you a highway robber?”
Know that Mohammed is the guide. God says, “Until you first come to Mohammed you cannot reach Us.” This is like when you decide to go somewhere; thought leads the way, saying, “Go to this place, it is in your best interests.” After that your eyes act as a guide, and then your limbs begin to move, all in that order. But the limbs have no knowledge of eyes, nor the eyes of thought.
Though some people are forgetful, other people do not forget them. But if you work hard in pursuit of this world, you forget your real concern. You must seek God’s approval, not the approval of society. Approval, love and affection are only on loan in us, being placed there by God. If God so wishes, there is no comfort or joy even with all the means of ease, bread and luxury provided – everything becomes pain and affliction.
All of these secondary conditions are like a pen in the hand of God’s omnipotence. God is the mover and writer. Until He decides, the pen does not move. Your eye is fixed on the pen, and you say, “There must be a hand to this pen.” You see the pen, but you do not see the hand. But seeing the pen, you remember the hand. There are those, however, who always see the hand. They say, “There must also be a pen in this hand.” But seeing the beauty of the hand, they do not care about the pen. They simply say, “Such a hand cannot be without a pen.”
While you are so delighted with beholding the pen that you forget the hand, they are so delighted with the hand, how could they care for the pen? While you find so much pleasure in barley bread that you never try wheat bread, they have wheat bread, so how could they care about barley bread? If He has given you such joy upon earth that you have no desire for heaven – the true place of joy – and since earth derives its life from heaven, then likewise, why should the inhabitants of heaven remember earth?
Therefore, do not think that happiness and pleasure come from secondary causes, for those realities are merely on loan. It is He who brings pain or gain, for all pain and profit come from Him. Why do you cling so tightly to secondary causes?
“The best words are those that are few and telling.” The best words convey a lesson without going on and on. Though in the Koran the Sura, “Say, He is One,” is short, still it is superior to the Sura of “The Cow”, which is much longer, because of the message it contains. Noah preached for a thousand years and four people rallied around him. We all know how long Mohammed preached, yet the people of so many climes believe in him, and so many saints and “pegs” appeared because of him. A lot or a little is no way to judge. The true object is the lesson received.
With some, a few words may convey the lesson better than many. In the same way, if the fire of a stove is too fierce you cannot even approach it, so how can you gain any benefit from it? But there are a thousand advantages with a feeble lamp. Hence, it is the benefit gained that is the true objective. With some people it is best not to hear any words at all – it is enough for them to see. That is what profits them most, and if they hear any words it actually harms them.
A certain Sheikh from India came to visit a great saint. When he reached Tabriz and came to the door of the saint’s cell, he heard a voice from within saying, “Return home! For you have attained your need in coming to this door. To see the saint would harm you.”
A few words that convey a lesson are like a lit lamp that kisses an unlit lamp and then departs. That was enough for him, he had attained his purpose. After all, the prophet is not that visible form, that form is only the steed of the prophet. The prophet is that Divine love and affection that is immortal.
Someone asked: “Then why don’t they only praise God upon the minaret? Why do they also mention Mohammed?”
Rumi answered: Well, praising Mohammed is praising God. It is like saying, “Long live the king, and long live that friend who led me to the king, and told me of the king’s good name and attributes!” Praising that friend is praising the king.
The Prophet said, “Give me something. I am in need. Either give me your cloak, your wealth, or your clothes.” Now, what would he do with your cloak or wealth? He wants to lighten your garment, so that the warmth of the sun can reach you.
“And lend to God a good loan.”
He does not want wealth and cloak alone. After all, He has given you many things besides wealth: knowledge, thought, wisdom and vision. He means, “Expend on Me a moment’s thought, care and consideration, since this wealth you gain comes through these gifts I have given.” God asks for alms from bird and snake alike. If you can go before the sun naked, all the better, for that Sun does not burn black, it turns you white. Or at least lighten your clothes to feel the joy of that Sun. You have become accustomed to bitterness. At least for a while try sweetness too!