Monday, 14 June 2010

A Sufi's Wish

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In the year 1215 CE, Shaykh Farid ad-Din ‘Ahthtar (q.s.), a Sufi master, wrote a story about his beloved teacher, Shaykh ‘Umar Khayyam (q.s.), a poet, a mathematician, and an astronomer, who made tents for his livelihood.  The story goes as follows.

“I went to visit my teacher, ‘Umar Khayyam, in the city of Nishapur.  It was a mild, windy spring day when I entered the city.  The bazaar hummed like a beehive with merchants, and customers who were hurriedly coming and going.  There were all kinds of merchants: goldsmiths, pot makers, tailors, butchers, and others.

Suddenly, the melodic sound of minarets calling worshipers to pray vibrated in the bazaar.  All I could hear were the words, ‘God is great, God is great.’  Then instantly, everything stopped.  Silence fell on the bazaar and hung in the air.  Everyone left for the mosque, and I followed them.  In line after line, the worshipers stood in prayer.  Being tired from my long journey, I rested in the yard under a willow tree.  When the noon prayer ended, slowly, the vibrating sound of the pot makers and others pulsated again.  I had been searching for my Master’s shop, and being distressed over not finding it, I stopped the mosque preacher to ask for directions.

He stared at me in bewilderment and said, ‘I have never seen him praying in the mosque.  The heretic tent-maker is at the far end of the bazaar.’

By late afternoon, I found my beloved teacher sitting on a stool, making a tent.  His long white hair hung around his face, touching his snow-white beard.  I bent to kiss his hand; he pulled me towards him and kissed my forehead.  We drank tea in the yard under a blooming cherry tree.  He was serene and calm.  He opened his book of verses and read a poem to me: -

‘Ah Love!  Could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire?
Would not shatter it a bit and remolded
Nearest to the Heart’s Desire!’

When he was finished reading the poem, I looked at his face.  It vibrated with a Divine, Bottomless joy.  The sunset was coming quickly, the earth was wash with a glow, and then a shaft of light was piercing through the trees; an, a moment later, a sudden shadow covered the garden.  He was drowned in the sublime beauty of the sunset.  He looked at the high wall at the end of the garden, where the top of the wall was covered with sunlight, and the rest was covered by a dark shadow.  Then his gaze became fixed on the ground, which was covered with white petals, as he repeated the last verse: ‘Would not shatter it a bit and remolded nearest to the Heart’s Desire!’

‘What is your heart’s desire?’ I asked.

‘I wish upon my death, that when the north wind blows in the spring, it covers my tomb with white petals,’ said my master.

Years later, I returned to visit him.  He was dead; I went into the graveyard to pay my respects.  I could not find his grave.  I saw a preacher by the mosque.  I asked him where I could find his grave.

‘The heretic tent-maker could not be buried among the believers.’

He directed me toward the outskirts of town.  By late afternoon, I arrived at the edge of town.  It was springtime.  Row after row of cherry trees with their white flowers danced in the north wind, scattering their petals in the air.  When I found his tomb, it was covered with a blanket of white petals.  I picked up a stone, knocked on his grave, and wept for my beloved master.”


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