Discourse 17

Discourse 17

The Amir of Rum said: “The unbelievers used to worship and bow down to idols. Now we are doing the selfsame thing. We go and bow down and wait upon the Mongols, and yet we consider ourselves Muslims. We have many other idols in our heart too, such as greed, passion, temper, envy, and we are obedient to all of them. So we act in the very same way as the unbelievers, both outwardly and inwardly, and we consider ourselves Muslims!”

Rumi answered: But here is something different; it enters your thoughts that this conduct is evil and utterly detestable. The eye of your heart has seen something incomparably greater that shows up this behavior as vile and hideous. Brackish water shows its brackishness to one who has tasted sweet water, and things are made clear by their opposites.

So God has implanted in Soul the light of faith to see these things as hideous. Confronted by beauty, this appears ugly. Yet others are not affected this way, they are perfectly happy in their existing state, saying, “This is absolutely fine.”

God will grant you your heart’s desire – where your ambition is, that will be yours. “The bird flies with its wings, the believers fly with their aspiration.”

There are three kinds of creatures. First there are angels, who are pure spiritual conscience. Worship, service and the remembrance of God are their nature and their food. They eat and live upon that essence. Like fish in the water, their mattress and pillow are the water. Angels are pure and free of lust, so what favor do they gain by not yielding to such desires? Since they are free of these things, they have no struggle against them. If they obey God’s will it is not counted as obedience, for this is their nature, and they cannot be otherwise.

Second are the beasts who are pure sensuality, having no spiritual conscience to restrain them. They too are under no burden of obligation.

Lastly, there remains the poor human being, who is a compound of spiritual conscience and sensuality. We are half angel, half beast. Half snake, half fish. The fish draws us toward water, the snake toward the earth. We are forever in battle. If our spiritual conscience overcomes our sensuality, we are higher than the angels. If our sensuality overcomes our spiritual conscience, we are lower than the beasts.

“The angel is saved through knowledge,

The animal – through ignorance.

Between the two struggle the people of this world.”

Now, some have followed their spiritual conscience so faithfully that they have become entirely angels and pure Light. They are the prophets and the saints. They are freed of fear and hope. In some, lust has overcome their spiritual conscience so entirely that they have taken on the status of animals. Some are still struggling. These last are the people who feel within themselves an agony and anguish, a sorrow and a longing. They are not satisfied with their lives. These are the believers. The saints are waiting to bring them to their own station, to make them like themselves, just as the satans, too, are waiting to draw them to the lowest of the low.

“When God’s help comes through victory,

And you see people

Submitting to His Will in throngs,

Then fill yourself with the presence of the Lord,

And seek His forgiveness;

For God turns to men and women again.”

Now, commentators offer an outward interpretation to the above Sura, from the Koran, as follows: Mohammed had the dream, “I will make all the world Muslims and bring them to the path of God.” When he saw his death approaching he cried, “Ah, didn’t I come into this life to call the people to God?” God answered, “Do not grieve. In that very hour when you pass away, provinces and cities which you would conquer by armies and by the sword I will convert to obedience and to the faith, every one of them without armies. The sign of this will come at the end when you are dying, you will see people entering in throngs and becoming Muslims. When this sign comes, know that the time for your departure has arrived. Then give praise, and seek forgiveness.”

However, there is an inward meaning to this Sura as well: People think they can drive away evil by great effort and striving. After struggling and exhausting all their powers and means, they fall into despair. Then God says to them: “You thought you could achieve this goal through your own power, action and work. This is the law I have laid down: Whatever you possess, spend it in Our name. Then Our grace will supervene.

“You must journey upon this infinite road with the feeble hands and feet that you possess. We know well that with feet so feeble you can never accomplish this journey. Indeed, in a hundred thousand years you will not be able to accomplish a single stage of this journey. But even as you collapse and fall, with no strength left to struggle farther, then Our loving breath will carry you on. Even a child, so long as it is a suckling, is carried in the arms, but when it is grown it is set free to walk. Now in this hour when your powers have left you, when your own means fail, behold Our graces, Our gifts and Our love. You will not witness even an atom of such blessings after a hundred thousand strivings.”

I do not love or bow down to the Amir on account of worldly considerations, for his rank, learning or achievements. Others love him for those reasons, not seeing the Amir’s face, but only his back. The Amir is like a mirror with precious pearls on its back, with gold inlaid. Those who love gold and pearls look at the back of the mirror, but those who love life always look upon the mirror, and love the mirror for itself. They do not grow weary of the fair beauty they see. But those with a hideous face full of blemishes see in the mirror only ugliness. They quickly turn the mirror and look for those precious stones. Yet what harm is done to the face of the mirror if its back is studded with a thousand kinds of engravings and precious stones?

“Things are made clear by their opposite.”

It is impossible to know anything without its opposite, yet God has no opposite. “I was a hidden treasure,” God says, “and I wanted to be known.” So It created this world of darkness for Its Light to become visible. So, too, It manifested the prophets and the saints, saying, “Go forth with My Attributes into My creation.” They are the theater for the Light of God, where friend may be disclosed from foe, and brother from stranger. The struggles of the saints reveals God’s opposite, even though It has none. Through persecution and opposition, the saints become known and admired.

“With their mouths, the unbelievers try to extinguish the Light of God.

But God will perfect His Light through their adversity.”

God chastises some people through wealth, gold and rulership, for Soul flees from such possessions. Shams saw a prince riding in Arabia, on his brow the illumination of the prophets and saints. Shams said, “Glory be to God who chastises His servants by means of affluence!”