[Behind the Veil]

“We said: The man had the desire to see you. He kept saying, ‘I wish I could have seen the Master.’

The Master said: He does not see the Master at this moment in truth because the desire which filled him, namely that he might see the Master, was a veil over the Master. So he does not see the Master at this moment without a veil. So it is with all desires and affections, all loves and fondnesses which people have for every variety of thing—father, mother, heaven, earth, gardens, palaces, branches of knowledge, acts, things to eat and drink. The man of God realises that all these desires are the desire for God, and all those things are veils. When men pass out of this world and behold that King without these veils, then they will realise that all those were veils and coverings, their quest being in reality that One Thing. All difficulties will then be resolved, and they will hear in their hearts the answer to all questions and all problems, and every thing will be seen face to face.

It is not God’s way to answer every difficulty singly, but by one answer all questions will be made known all at once and the total difficulty will be resolved. In the same way in winter every man puts on warm clothes and a leather jacket and creeps for shelter from the cold into an oven, into a warm hollow. So too all plants, trees, shrubs and the like, bitten by the venomous cold remain without leaves and fruit, and store and hide their goods and chattels inwardly so that the malice of the cold may not reach them. When spring in a single epiphany answers their requests, all their various problems, whether they be living, springing or lying fallow, will be resolved, and those secondary causes will disappear. All will put forth their heads, and realise what was the cause of that misery.

God has created these veils for a good purpose. For if God’s beauty would display itself without a veil, we would not have the power to endure and would not enjoy it. Through the intermediary of these veils we derive succour and benefit.

You see yonder sun, how in its light we walk and see and distinguish from bad and are warmed. The trees and orchards become fruitful, and in the heat of it their fruits, unripe and sour and bitter, become mature and sweet. Through its influence mines of gold and silver, rubies and cornelians are made manifest. If yonder sun, which through intermediaries bestows so many benefits, were to come nearer it would bestow no benefit whatsoever; on the contrary, the whole world and every creature would be burned up and destroyed.

When God most High makes revelation through a veil to the mountain, it too becomes fully arrayed in trees and flowers and verdure. When however He makes revelation without a veil, He overthrows the mountain and breaks it into atoms.

And when his Lord revealed Him to the mountain He made it crumble into dust.

Someone interposed the question: Well, is there not the same sun too in the winter?

The Master answered: Our purpose here was to draw a comparison. There is neither ‘camel’ nor ‘lamb’. Likeness is one thing, comparison is another. Although our reason cannot comprehend that thing however it may exert itself, yet how shall the reason abandon the effort? If the reason gave up the struggle, it would no more be the reason. Reason is that thing which perpetually, night and day, is restless and in commotion, thinking and struggling and striving to comprehend, even though He is uncomprehended and incomprehensible.

Reason is like a moth, and the Beloved is like a candle. Whensoever the moth dashes itself against the candle, it is consumed and destroyed. But the moth is so by nature, that however much it may be hurt by that consuming and agony it cannot do without the candle. If there were any animal like the moth that could not do without the light of the candle and dashed itself against that light, it would itself be a moth; whilst if the moth dashed itself against the light of the candle and the moth were not consumed, that indeed would not be a candle.

Therefore the man who can do without God and makes no effort is no man at all; whilst if he were able to comprehend God, that indeed would not be God. Therefore the true man is he who is never free from striving, who revolves restlessly and ceaselessly about the light of the Majesty of God. And God is He who consumes man and makes him naught, being comprehended of no reason.”

Source: Discourses of Rumi, translated by A.J. Arberry, pp. 46-8; Title quote by Jalaluddin Rumi

Advertisements

[“Valor is the conquest of one’s self.”]

“We must suppose that those who secretly wrestle with us abide in another great world which, in its nature, is akin to the natural powers of our soul. For the three princes of evil, in their fight with spiritual strugglers, attack the three powers of our soul, and if a man has failed in something or does not strive at something, they overcome him in this very thing. Thus, the dragon—the prince of the abyss—rises in arms against those who keep attention on their heart, as one whose ‘strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly’ (Job xl. 16). He sends the lust-loving giant of forgetfulness against them with his clouds of fiery arrows, stirs up lust in them like some turbulent sea, makes it foam and burn in them and causes their confusion by flooding them with torrents of insatiable passions. The prince of this world, who is charge of warfare against the excitable part, attacks those who follow the path of active virtue. Using the giant of laziness, he encompasses them with all kinds of witchery of the passions and wrestles with those who always put up a courageous resistance. Thus he either vanquishes or is himself vanquished and so he gains them either crowns or shame before the faces of the angels. The prince of high places attacks those who exercise themselves in mental contemplation, by offering them fantasies; for, in company with the spiritual wickedness in high places, his task is to affect the thinking and rise on high, darkens and frightens it, introducing into it vague fantastic images of spirits and their metamorphoses and producing phantoms of lightning and thunder, tempests and earthquakes. Thus each of the three princes, impinging upon the corresponding powers of the soul, wages war against it, conducting his attacks against the particular part allotted to him.”

St. Gregory of Sinai

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians VI. 11, 12)

“The dragon is thy sensual soul: how is it dead? It is (only) frozen by grief and lack of means.

If it obtain the means of Pharaoh, by whose command the water of the river would flow,

Then it will begin to act like Pharaoh and will waylay a hundred (such as) Moses and Aaron.

That dragon, under stress of poverty, is a little worm, (but) a gnat is made a falcon by power and riches.

Keep the dragon in the snow of separation; beware, do not carry it into the sun of ‘Iraq.

So long as that dragon of thine remains frozen, (well and good); thou art a mouthful for it, when it gains release.

Mortify it and become safe from (spiritual) death; have no mercy; it is not one of them that deserves favours;

For (when) the heat of the sun of lust strikes upon it, that vile bat of thine flaps its wings.

Lead it manfully to the spiritual warfare and battle: God will reward thee with access (to Him)…

Dost thou hope, without using violence, to keep it bound in quiet and faithfulness?

How should this wish be fulfilled for any worthless one? It needs a Moses to kill the dragon.”

Rumi

Source: Whitall N. Perry, The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World’s Wisdoms, pp. 397, 400

[How to Read Mevlana]

Rumi’s poetry is widely considered one of the great masterpieces of Islamic literatures, and Rumi is now the best-selling poet in America. This talk will serve as a deep introduction to Rumi’s masterpiece, by taking the audience inside the main teachings and structure of the Masnavi. No background or language is necessary.

Dr. Omid Safi is a leading public Muslim intellectual in America. He is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam and the current Chair for the Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion, the largest international organization devoted to the academic study of religion.

Omid is an award-winning teacher and speaker, and was nominated six times at Colgate University for the “Professor of the Year” award, and before that twice at Duke University for the Distinguished Lecturer award. At the University of North Carolina, he received the award for mentoring minority students in 2009, and the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

He is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2003). His work Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, was published by UNC Press in 2006. His Voices of Islam: Voices of Change, was published by Praeger in 2006. His last book was published by HarperCollins, titled Memories of Muhammad, and deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has a forthcoming volume from Princeton University Press on the famed mystic Rumi. The Carnegie Foundation recognized Omid as a leading Scholar of Islam in 2007-2008 for studying contemporary Islamic debates in Iran. That topic will be the topic of his next book from Harvard University Press. His volume on American Islam is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.