The Student writes to the Shaykh
My Dearest Shaykh,
I write to you in earnest for your sincere advice. My heart is rent asunder. Not with the remembrance of the Allah, nor His beloved, that which is less than that, but something my heart desired more than anything in this world. There was a time when I knew my desire, but I dared not approach it out of fear and shyness. For many years after what I desired had left me, I regretted never approaching it in the proper manner. So that I may have taken the blessing of Allah and given thanks to Him for gracing me with a mercy which could not be counted.
Then after some years, it returned. I began to pray in earnest, that perhaps if in His Infinite Wisdom He may decree it to me, then I would be His humble and obedient slave, and give thanks to Him for the rest of my life. But out of fear of Him, I added to my prayers, that if He wished not to bestow it to me, then to give it to someone better. My Shaykh, Allah has granted the latter half of my prayer, and He has broken my heart.
Though my ruh is now free from anything but Him again, I still yearn, my nafs will not let go. My heart feels weak, and the tears run without cessation. It is as though an oft-repeated dream were coming true, one feels ecstasy when their fantasies become reality. But as I reached out to take hold, I woke up. And the dream was gone. I am still in this freshly-woken state. I still yearn to go back to sleep and return to the dream. I have realised that Allah decreed this for me as a test, but I find it hard to bear the results.
I write to you, perhaps your words will bring relief to me yet again.
The Shaykh writes back the student
May the Peace, Blessings and Mercy of Allah be upon you.
Know, that you should rejoice in your tribulation. Not in the way one rejoices with worldly affairs. Rejoicing in the world is displayed with smiles and laughter in the outward, the rejoicing of the spirit is a display of tears and overwhelment. The one who is put through tribulations is truly free of the world. Would a prisoner who was freed not bellow his liberty?
You say your heart is rent asunder? That it is broken? That which is soft does not break, it may become bent and moulded, but it never breaks. The remembrance of Allah is never sincere in hard hearts, that is why sometimes, He decides to break them. A wise man once said the heart is like gold, how can you know if it is pure if you do not place it in the fire? Do the tears now run when you hear His Book? Before you may have recited His words a hundred times over and never felt a thing. Now you recite an oft-repeated verse, and the heart and eyes cannot bear their beauty. It is like you have spent a lifetime in darkness and have now finally seen light. It is because your heart has been finally softened and reduced to a state in which it may properly appreciate its Lord. A king will never his grace his presence to a servant who thinks highly of himself.
You say Allah has granted your latter prayer? How many can say half their prayers have been answered? Know, that the greatest of believers are the ones who are faced with the greatest trials. Look at the life of the Habib (SAWS). Know, that a wound leaves a scar for a reason. A warrior’s scars seek to remind him of the days on the battlefield. In times of self-delusion, he looks to his scars and remembers when he was so close to death, and then as if all of a sudden, he is shook awake, he begins to appreciate the simple life he has been given again, and that his Lord saved him from the sword so that he may continue to be of service to Him. Thus it is like the scars of the heart. At times of sin we may remember when our heart was humbled and we turned back to our Lord, our sights full of tears when we felt like nothing. But the scars of the heart are not like the scars of the body. They are not so apparent as to be seen by one’s wandering gaze. One must always remember his heart’s scars so that they may hurry to admonish and rebuke him in times of abasement.
Though you may now feel like the world is on your shoulders, you will look back in time and see the beauty in what you have faced, and come to the realisation that there was only good in what He decreed for you. It is how Mawlana explains it, an ant on a magnificent rug only sees the bumpy threads he has to tread across, he does not see the beauty of the design and creation on which he is traversing. But the carpet maker looks from above and sees the intricacy of the design and he becomes well satisfied, the ant cannot fathom the carpet maker’s mind.
Be steadfast and remember Him often. Even the deepest wound heals with time…