Generosity

Hatim at-Tayy was known for his extreme largesse, which was so great that whenever a man of his circle found himself in dire straits, he would refer to Hatim at-Tayy as the proverbial solver of all problems. Once a man who lived rather at a great distance of Hatim’s dwelling place was sorely pressed from want of funds. For days he fretted and worried about this, while his situation steadily worsened, until one day his wife said to him: ‘Whatever we try to do to pull ourselves out of this trouble, it just gets worse. How long is this to go on? Why don’t you go now and speak to Hatim at-Tayy and ask him to help you for once?’…

Song of the Dervish

Have you ever heard a dervish sing? If not, use your imagination. Open your window and what do you hear? Imagine that you are hearing approaching footsteps, while someone is singing. It has to be a dervish, because his song is telling a Sufi tale, complaining of love’s separation. Do you like to listen to a song of a dervish in real life? Why don’t you visit the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi? It is the habit to go to the nearby shrine of his closest disciple first, i.e. Hazrat Amir Khusro. Music was prayer for Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, while Hazrat Amir Khusro created qawwali, devotional music, for his master. His poetry resounds in the songs of the…

My visit to mysterious tribes

In a book of the founder of the Theosophical movement, Madame Blavadski called ‘Mysterious Tribes’ (in fact it is a book in German) I read about two curious tribes the Kurumbula’s and the Toda’s. They live, according to the book, in the Nilgiri’s in the South of India. The region is taboo for visitors. Of course, when the British still ruled India, an adventurous Englishman did not care about the taboo and even was all too eager to organise an expedition to this area. The people who carried his luggage became very afraid when they came near this forbidden region. It was said that you had to pay with your life when you entered it. There were tales of gods…

The branch and the tree

Caliph Harun ar-Rashid held a vast festival in Baghdad where thousands of beautiful objects, from artefacts to jewelry to precious stones, were on display. The royal invitation was such that anyone could take anything they wished. So people took what they desired, whatever attracted their mind and eyes and heart. The caliph had a slave-girl in his harem. She did not pick up anything. She remained quiet. Harun ar-Rashid turned to her and asked: “Why don’t you also pick up something?” The slave-girl said, “Is it true that, whatever one touches in this bazaar of beautiful things, one owns it for life and that thing owns the owner?” The caliph said, “That is so.” Then the slave-girl placed her hand…

Chishti stages of love – Part 3

Love (‘eshq) has five phases: 1. The first phase is fuqdaan-e-qalb (the losing of one’s heart). It is a well-known saying in the Arab language: He who has not lost his heart is not a lover. A poet expresses this idea in his own words: Ze delam neshaan che khaahi ke ze del khabr nadaaram To begu ke del che baashad man azu asar nadaaram Why do you make a search for my heart for I am myself unaware thereof? Tell me yourself: What is a heart? I do not find any sign thereof. The reason for this is that whosoever has a heart heeds its presence alone and is oblivious of love: Ke goft man khabri daaram az haqiqat-e…

20 Poems of Hazrat Baba Farid

I’ve acquired “The Couplets of Baba Farid” as translated by Maqbool Elahi when I was in Lahore. The original Punjabi text is also contained in this book. These poems are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs. 1 On the day the body was married to the soul, All the destined breaths were written in a scroll. At the approach of the last breath, The so much heard of angel, brought their counth to death. 2 Rattling bones, this angel takes life away. Tell yourself, while breathing: ‘Destiny holds the sway’. 3 Life is wife and death her husband. Husband takes his wife away. After ‘yes’ to his proposal, How can she hold back the…

The Magic Jar

It is said that once upon a time a woodseller went to a forest from the city in order to search for fire wood. By chance that day four fairies were resting in he forest. They had placed before them a magic jar. When they needed anything such as silver, gold, meats and all kinds of food and drinks, they dipped their hands into the jar and pulled it out. They were enjoying themselves when suddenly the woodseller walked by them. They invited him to join them. The woodseller spent several days with them forgetting all about his wife and children. A few days later he came to himself and said to them: “I am a woodseller. Unless I take…

The bloodletter’s emulation of the merchant

It is said that in one of the distant cities of Khwarazm there was a merchant of much wealth and property whose name was ‘Abd al-Malik. He was always trying to find ways to make more money, so he frequented the gatherings of the learned men as well as those of the poor. One day he thought: “I have been engaged in many kinds of business in different parts of the world, but now I am going to follow the Qur’anic precept”: HE WHO DOES A GOOD DEED SHALL BE REWARDED TENFOLD. Having decided upon this, he proceeded to carry out his decision. Whatever wealth he possessed he distributed for charity. Whatever riches he had he gave as alms to…

The Rivers of Paradise

Aziz an-Nasafi in his “Unveiling of the Realities” gives this beautiful explanation in regard to the rivers of paradise and the water/milk/honey/wine mentioned: Know that water causes life and its benefit is common for everything in all times, and the reality of these rivers of water in heaven is that they are the waters of life for all the people of heaven who enjoy all of them. The cause which nurtures children is milk which is more particular than water, since the benefit of milk is common for all but only at a certain time. The reality of these rivers of milk in heaven is that they are the rivers of common sense which is the basis and exoteric aspect…

The Cobbler Who Became an Astrologer

There was in the city of Isfahan a poor cobbler called Ahmed, who was possesses of a singularly greedy and envious wife. Every day the woman went to the public baths, the Hammam, and each time saw someone there of whom she became jealous. One day she espied a lady dressed in a magnificent robe, jewels on every finger, pearls in her ears, and attended by many persons. Asking whom this might be, she was told, “The wife of the king’s astrologer”. “Of course, that is what my wretched Ahmed must become, an astrologer,” thought the cobbler’s wife, and rushed home as fast as her feet would carry her. The cobbler, seeing her face asked: “What in the world is…