Everything pertaining to this world is impermanent, constantly in a state of transition. Therefore, it is only natural that I am here addressing you today and elsewhere tomorrow. Don’t let this condition sadden you, for, in reality, transition is God’s mercy to man. Don’t wish even for good times to last forever, for you wouldn’t be able to bear permanence -you would just get fed up. Know that the discontinuation of any desirable state or condition is the catalyst for gaining an even deeper appreciation of what is good. Longing for the attainment of the spiritual realities of which you have caught a glimpse is the means to their attainment. Is there any morsel tastier than that upon which the fast is broken?
This is the reason that Allah Almighty created the world as it is. The signs of the heavens take their turns inspiring our souls. The rising sun brightens our day, but just when we would start to get fed up with it, lo and behold, it bows out and the soft light of the moon enchants us with its many forms: appearing first as a delicate crescent, then waxing gradually to its full and waning. If it never waned no one would be able to appreciate the awe inspiring immensity of the starlit heavens.
A Visit to God’s Holy House
The threadbare pilgrim may cross snowy mountain passes and sun-scorched deserts barefoot, or even on his hands and knees in order to reach Mecca. When he finally arrives he is struck dumb by the awesome majesty of the Holy Kaaba. Tears stream down his face as he clings to its door, pouring out his heart and soul to his Lord–and the Lord fulfills his heart’s innermost desire in accordance with the longing that drove him to suffer freezing wind and scorching sun. Longing brought him to the house of the Lord, but the pilgrim’s dedication to his Lord will not be served by his staying in Mecca on and on, but by returning to his country with the cherished memories of his pilgrimage inspiring his faith. Should he choose to remain in Mecca he runs the risks of gradually becoming callous and hardened to the sight of the Kaaba like the inhabitants, who never had a Mecca as their distant sought-after goal, who crossed no deserts to attain it, but who may, rather, cross through the holy Mosque as a shortcut to get from one part of the market to another, barely casting a glance at the magnificent Kaaba.
Once a disciple used to attend his Shaykh’s discourses only occasionally, although he lived in the vicinity of the Shaykh’s Dergah (Sufi School). The Shaykh asked him: “Why do you attend so infrequently?” The clever disciple answered: “Because I don’t like being asked to attend less frequently”.
The sun, the moon, the stars, the Holy Kaaba, the beauty of nature or architecture, or the face of a beloved person: all these sights may inspire us, may remind us of a great truth that is alive in our hearts, but of which we are yet heedless. But don’t become enamoured of the signs to such an extent that they become ends in themselves, and you cease to follow the directions they seek to impart to you. The object is not a heavenly body that will set, a symbol which may become commonplace nor a face that will age or turn away from you. When Abraham was yet a seeker of truth, at a stage of bewilderment on his road to truth, he became enamoured of the sun, moon and stars, but as each set he said: “My love is not for those that disappear”.
Love is eternal, and the transitory nature of all things pertaining to this world is a sign of truth, a sign that shows us by means of contrast. Real spiritual love, love of God and love of mankind for the sake of God is the only truth, the only thing in this world that is permanently and constantly sweet. Physical separation from someone you love, in accordance with the rule that pertains to the physical, may create a longing that will cause love to increase, may augment the bliss of reunion. But on the spiritual level that love is constant, is never interrupted by distance nor by time. Your beloved may be on the moon and you may be in bliss at the thought of reunion, but if love is unrequited, that is not sweet separation but a bitter pill. The extinction of love is pitch darkness. You may regard the sunset as beautiful, but how would you feel if it were setting forever?
Love is the water of life. God created Adam from clay and water. If it were not for water the clay would hold no shape. Divine Love is what binds our souls together. That is why people become so miserable when they feel unloved. It is a feeling that something essential is missing from one’s life, that life itself is incomplete, and in the face of this ache people set out in search of love with the desperation of a man dying of thirst.
Lesson in a Bumper Sticker
Yesterday, as we were driving back from Sheffield I noticed a bumper sticker that read: “God is Love”. That is a statement that accords with a common level of understanding; in reality such a description can never do justice to the Almighty; never can a single word or emotion, nor even all words and all emotions come close to describing His splendour, what to speak of “being” Him. However, the saying: “God is Love” can be called a common wisdom, as the intention is to accord the highest degree of veneration and devotion to love–that is correct–but to say it is God is, let us say, an oversimplification.
Love is an attribute of God Almighty which binds His servants to Him eternally. If God were to hate mankind it would be so easy for Him to bring about an abrupt and terrible end to our follies–but He loves us and therefore shows us so much tolerance.
If you are a parent, consider your love for your children. If your son grew up to be a criminal, would you not love him still? Would you not maintain that despite his bad actions he still had good in him, his essential character is known to you as good, not evil.
Noah’s Forty Clay Jugs
Everyone knows the story of Noah, peace be upon him. He is one of the five greatest prophets of God. He called on his people day and night for years, asking them to leave their evildoing, to repent and return to love of God and His worship and to abstain from wrong. His people rejected him repeatedly and scoffed at him. As much as he preached they rejected his teachings.
However he was patient and continued to preach to them. They never let up in their mockery of him. So it continued for years and years, and Noah was persistent and patient. He did not tire of calling his people to truth and goodness, and they in turn did not tire of scoffing at him. This continued for decades, a century, two centuries, and Noah was patient and persistent. Three centuries, four, five…
After nine centuries of non-stop preaching accompanied by endless mockery and rejection, Noah reached his limit. Finally he asked God to punish his people and to send a flood upon them and not leave a single one of them alive. As he was a prophet of God, God was obliged to answer his prayer. We know what came to pass.
Once some time after having been saved from the flood, the Lord addressed Noah saying, “O my servant, I am asking you to go and with your utmost care make for Me forty clay jugs.” As he was an obedient servant and a great prophet, Noah immediately went about complying with this order. He gathered the finest clay he could find and spent days and nights laboring with love to create 40 beautiful clay jugs.
After so much effort, the Lord then addressed Noah again saying: “O my servant, now that you have made these forty jugs, go outside and take each one and throw it down upon the rocks.” Noah, an obedient servant, had no choice but to obey. He took the jugs which he had spent so much effort in making, and one-by-one smashed them against the rocks.
Then the Lord addressed Noah, saying: “Oh Noah, you made forty clay jugs, and it was odious to you to break them. Do you think that it was a pleasure for Me to kill all of My servants, even though they were unbelievers?” Then Noah began to cry and wail. So proverbial was his wailing that “Nuh” came to mean “wail” in Arabic.
Moses and Korah
Do you know the story of Moses and Korah? Among the Chilof Israel at the time of the exodus from Egypt Korah was the richest man. Korah carried a large part of that wealth into the Sinai with him, and with that wealth a great deal of influence over the Children of Israel. Unfortunately for Korah he used his influence to stir up rebellion and discontent with the leadership of Moses. In order to discredit Moses once and for all Korah bribed a dishonourable woman to claim that Moses had committed adultery with her and that the child in her womb was his. As he was of course innocent, Moses was livid with rage, as he could only deny the accusation but could do nothing to prove it false. How could he lead the Children of Israel when they would hold doubts in their hearts regarding his morals and veracity?
So Moses turned to his Lord, saying: “Oh my Lord, vindicate me!” The Lord replied: “I have granted you the power to command the Earth. You may use it to vindicate yourself and prove your innocence to the Children of Israel”. Then Moses announced to all the people: “All who are with me come to my side and those who adhere to Korah stay by his side”. Then Moses said: “Oh Earth, catch him and swallow him up!” Responding to this command the Earth caught Korah, laying firm hold of his feet and ankles. Korah cried: “Oh my dear cousin Moses, for the sake of our kinship please forgive me!” But Moses was very angry and determined to punish Korah for all of his crimes: “Oh Earth, swallow him!”
Then the Earth grabbed a little more of his legs, and he again cried out to Moses for forgiveness–and so it went on, a full seventy times: Korah asking for pardon and Moses refusing and demanding retribution. Finally the earth had completely swallowed Korah. Then the Lord addressed Moses: “Korah begged you for forgiveness seventy times, but you had no mercy for him in your heart. I swear by My Might and Glory, had he even once addressed himself to Me, saying: ‘Oh my Lord, I repent, please forgive me’, I would have rescued him. You had no mercy for him because you didn’t create him. I am the Creator and I have boundless mercy for My repentant servants”.
The Lord created us and loves us; that is why everyone loves love. No one complains of love or wants it to be taken from him, but all want to be loved more. Where are you seeking love? Are you taking pure water from the gushing source, or muddy, slimy water from the ditch? You love people, but they will die. Perhaps your love will be unrequited, or because of a small error or indiscretion on your part that person’s heart will harden to you and love will be no more. You say that you love him or her, but do you love him or her unconditionally? Is your love permanent-love for the real immaculate divine essence living in that person, or temporary, as a result of some desirable attributes: beauty, youth, wealth, station or wit? When that beautiful, young, wealthy, clever, amiable socialite becomes an ugly, old, penniless, senile, grumpy outcast will you still love her? Is your love of the spirit or of the world?
Oh people, seek real love, a love that cannot go astray. That love is the love of God and the love of his creatures for the sake of his love for them. That love emanation may bind all receptive hearts. There is a common saying: “The friend of a friend is a friend”, so love people if you love God, for you must know that He loves them. It is not always easy to love people, even good people, so what about the Korahs of this world?
Love pertaining to the ego is not love, as all the ego knows is to love itself, and what is commonly called love is but a mutual understanding to support each other’s egoism. Don’t trust your ego, nor anyone else’s, for the ego is disloyal by nature. When the spirit gains ascendancy the ego may be harnessed and put to good use, as the Holy Prophet said: “Your ego is your mount”, but left to its whims it will take you many miles from your path in search of herbage.
This discourse is an Ocean, its summary is: what is of the world beware of, and pay attention to the dose. When crossing that ocean embark on a sturdy ship with well maintained lifeboats and life-preservers, and if you swim in it keep your head above water!