Discourse 24

Discourse 24

People build these sacred monuments for a particular reason: either to display their generosity for the sake of fame, or to gain a reward in heaven. God should be the true object in honoring the saints, their tombs and graves. The saints do not need to be honored; they are an honor to themselves.

If a lamp desires to be placed up high, it wants this for the sake of others, not for its own sake. What does a lamp care whether it is high or low? It is still a lamp shedding light. But a lamp wants its light to reach others. The sun, if it were not in the height of the heavens would still be the same sun, only the world would fall into darkness. So the sun attains its height not for its own sake, but for the love of others. The saints, too, have gone beyond such things as above and below, and the worship of people.

Look at yourself when you are granted a fragment of ecstasy and a flash of grace from the other world. In that moment you see no above or below, mastership or discipleship, or even yourself, which is nearer to you than all else. These things do not enter your mind. So how can the saints, who are the windows and doorways for that light and inspiration, be concerned about above and below. Their heart is with God, and God is independent of below and above. This higher and lower belongs to us who have heads and feet.

Mohammed said, “Do not hold me above Jonah, son of Matthew, just because his ascension was in the belly of a whale while my ascension was in heaven upon the Throne.” He meant, “God is neither above nor below. His presence is the same, whether in heaven or in the belly of the whale.”

There are many who have aims of their own, while God has another goal. God desired the religion of Mohammed to be honored, to be spread abroad and to abide down through time. Consider how many volumes have been written about the Koran. Yet the aim of those writers was to display their own virtuosity.

Zamakhshari filled his Kashshaf with numerous details of grammar, lexicography and rhetoric to display his own learning – but it also fulfilled God’s purpose, namely the exaltation of the religion of Mohammed. So, all people do God’s work, whether they know it or not. A man and woman satisfy their lust with each other for the sake of their own enjoyment, but the result is the birth of a child. In the same way everyone works for his or her own pleasure and enjoyment, and this is the means of maintaining the order of the world. In reality they are serving God, although that is not their intent.

In the same way, people carve miniature mosques at great expense to beautify their doors and walls. Mecca is the true aim and object of honor, and its honoring is all the greater since that was not their true intention.

The greatness of the saints means nothing in this world. By Allah, yes, they have an elevation and greatness, but it is beyond space and time. Suppose, for instance, you placed a silver dirham on the roof, and a gold piece under it. Is not the gold still superior in all circumstances? Similarly, the chaff is above the sieve and the corn falls under it; but how can the chaff be “above” the corn? The superiority of the corn does not come from its position in this world, but from its place in that world of realities.