Am hurriedly and a bit belatedly slaving away on a paper so I mustn’t tarry in the Blogosphere long, but I figured I’d share a quote that just touched me (and caused me to creepily giggle in the middle of a crowded cafe).
From the exquisite collection of letters by the famed Chisti Sufi Sheikh Nizam ad-Din Awliya, Fawa`id al-Fuad ("Morals of the Heart"), as beautifully translated and helpfully annotated by Bruce Lawrence:
In this vein the master told a story about `Ali Khokhri. "`Ali Khokhri lived in Multan. He never trusted someone unless that person had experienced love or pain. Even if an individual was pious and devout, he would say: ‘So-and-so is nothing. He doesn’t have any tears (ishk)!" The correct word would never come on his tongue. He would invariably say ishk (tear) instead of `ishq (love)." With respect to this word, the master recalled the statement of Yahya Ma`az Razi–may God be merciful to him. "He used to say: ‘One particle of love is better than the obedience of all humankind and also the entire angelic host!’" The master also recalled that Shaykh al-Islam Farid ad-din–may God sanctify his lofty secret–many times would say to whose who came to visit him: ‘May Almighty God give you pain!’ People would be surprised. ‘What sort of supplication is this?’ they would ask themselves. Now it is evident," concluded the master, "what he meant by that supplication [for unless you experience the pain of separation from god, you cannot experience an intense love for Him."
(Fascicle IV, Assembly 14, pg. 133)
I just love the image of a saint warmly wishing people pain, and the ensuing puzzlement.
Of course, most of us (myself included) live in abject terror of pain, yet some great souls can, like the persecuted Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) or the early Christian martyrs see a higher, ennobling purpose in it.
Hopeless class warrior that I am, I’m sorely tempted to make some contemporary analogies, but I’d best get back to work.
May we all learn to appreciate pain!
Am also reading Sharafuddin Maneri’s Maktubat-i Sadi ("The Hundred Letters") (trans. Fr Paul Jackson), which is comparably inspiring reading. In fact, I like the Makhdum al-Mulk’s collection of letters even more than Fawa`id al-Fuad, which says a lot.
The only problem is that that they’re both so beautifully written, profound and long that it’s really difficult to get through them quickly to write a paper. I keep finding myself lingering and re-reading things as the clock ticks pitilessly away.
Like Nizam ad-Din, this also contains a wealthy of unexpectedly vivid aphorisms that have made me inexplicably guffaw in public. (For example, here’s a great quip concerning, if memory serves, the challenge of taming one’s ego: "Few can catch a wild ass, but none ever will if they do not try.")
Oh, I have no idea what a "fascicle" is, either. Sounds like something an ice cream truck sells.