Husam al-Din Arzanjani, before entering the service and society of dervishes, was a great debater. Wherever he went, he engaged vigorously in argument and controversy. He used to debate well and spoke excellently, but once he took up the company of dervishes his heart turned completely against debate.
“Whoever desires to sit next to God, let them sit with lovers of God.” These intellectual sciences are a game and a waste of life, compared to the spiritual experiences of the dervishes.
This way of desirelessness is the way to attain your desires. Whatever you have longed for will come to you on this path, whether the shattering of armies, victory over your enemy, capturing kingdoms, bringing people to obedience, excelling your contemporaries, or elegance of speech. When you have chosen the way of poverty, these things come to you. No one has ever traveled this road and had cause to complain, contrary to other ways where only one out of a hundred thousand reach their goal, and even they do not always find happiness and peace. For every desire has many branching paths to reach that goal. It is long and arduous, full of pitfalls and obstacles, and in the end it is possible those twisting paths will fall short of your desire.
However, once you enter the world of poverty and practice it, God bestows on you kingdoms and worlds you never imagined, and you feel quite ashamed of what you longed for at first. “Ah!” you cry. “With such reality in existence, how could I have sought after such foolishness?” But God says, “If only you had risen above such desires, becoming detached from them and seeing them for what they were, all would have been well. Yet now, when they enter your thoughts and you avoid them for My sake, My grace is infinite, so of course I make them attainable to you.”
So it happened with Mohammed. Before he attained his goal and became famous, he listened to the elegant speech and eloquence of the Arabs, and he wished that he too could speak so well. Yet, once the invisible worlds were revealed to him, and he became drunk with God, his heart turned completely against that desire and longing. God declared, “I have given you the elegance and eloquence that you sought.” The Prophet answered, “Lord, of what use are they to me? I am indifferent to them and have no desire for them.” God replied, “Do not worry. Your original desire shall come to pass, and yet your indifference will remain, so that desire cannot harm you.” God bestowed on him such speech that the entire world, from his time until today, has composed and still composes volumes expounding it, and yet people fall short of comprehending all that it contains. God also declared, “Your Companions, out of weakness and fear for their lives, whisper your name only in secret. But I will publish your greatness abroad so that men and women will shout it aloud in sweet intonations five times daily on the high minarets in all regions of the world. Your name will be famous in the east and the west.”
It is the same with anyone who gambles their life upon this way, to them all objectives whether religious or mundane become attainable. None have ever had cause to complain.
The words of the Saints are the true coin; the words of others are but imitation. Imitation is a branch of the true coin. Imitation is like a wooden carving in the shape of a foot, that wooden foot was filched from a real foot and shaped to its measure. If no foot existed, how could there be a copy? Therefore some speech is true coin, and some imitation. They resemble each other. Only discrimination can recognize the difference. This critical perception is real faith.
Do you not see how Moses threw down his rod and it became a serpent, and the staffs and ropes of the magicians also became serpents, but Pharaoh who lacked insight saw no difference between them, while Moses who possessed discernment could see truth from sorcery? Through discrimination Moses became a believer. So we realize that faith is discrimination.
The root of our judgement is Divine revelation. But after mingling with the thoughts, senses and desires of mortal creatures, that original grace has vanished. How does our judgement resemble the delicacy of revelation now?
This is like the water that flows in Turut towards the city. There, at its fountainhead, see how pure and fine it is! But once it enters the city, and passes through the gardens, quarters and houses of the inhabitants, so many people wash their hands, faces, feet and others parts in it, and their clothes and carpets, and the urine of all the people and the dung of horses and mules is poured into it. Look at this water when it passes out the other side of the city! It is still the same water, able to turn dust into clay, quench the thirsty, make the field green, yet discrimination can see the water is polluted and has lost its original clarity.
Water that never grows stale – that is what we need. Water that can cleanse the impurities of the world, and yet they leave no trace in it. It retains its limpid and clear state, and is never tainted. This is the Water of Truth.
So, faith is discrimination, distinguishing truth from falsehood and the true coin from the fake. These words are valuable to everyone possessing that critical perception, but are wasted on those who cannot see the difference. If these words fall into the hands of those who cannot discern, it is like giving precious pearls to children who do not know their value. Later, if you offer them apples they will gladly trade them for pearls, since they know no better.
Abu Yazid, when a child, was taken by his father to school to learn jurisprudence. When he was brought before the schoolmaster he asked, “Is this the jurisprudence of God?” They said, “This is the jurisprudence of Abu Hanifa.” He said, “I want the jurisprudence of God.” When he was brought before the grammar teacher, he asked, “Is this the grammar of God?” The teacher said, “This is the grammar of Sibawaihi.” Abu Yazid said, “I do not want it.” He spoke this way wherever his father took him. His father could do nothing with him, and finally let him be. Later he came to Baghdad upon his quest, and as soon as he saw Junaid he shouted, “This is the jurisprudence of God!”
How could it be that a lamb would not recognize its own mother on whose milk it has been suckled? So, forget the form.
There was a certain Sheikh who kept his disciples standing with their hands folded in service. They asked him, “Sheikh, why do you not let this class sit down? This is not the practice of dervishes, this is the custom of princes and kings.” He replied, “No. Be silent. You must respect this way to gain full benefit. Though respect lies within the heart, yet ‘the outer is the frontispiece of the inner.’”
From the frontispiece of a book, people know what it contains. From outward respect, bowing the head and standing, can be seen what respect they have inwardly, and their respect for God.