Khalifah Haroon Rashid Rahmatullah alaihe had a son, about sixteen years of age, who used to associate frequently with the ascetics and spiritual leaders of those times. He would often go to the graveyard, sit by the graves and say, “There was a time when you inhabited this world and you were its masters. But the world did not protect you and you ended up in graves. Would that I knew what you are experiencing now! I wish I knew what you said in reply to the questions that were asked of you!” He used to recite this couplet very often:
“The funerals frighten me everyday, and wailings of the female mourners make me sad.”
One day, the young boy came to the court of his father, Haroon Rasheed, while he was sitting in company with viziers, lords and noblemen. The boy was dressed in simple clothes; with a turban on his head; when the courtiers saw him in this condition, they said, “The ways of this mad boy are a disgrace to the Amir-ul-Mo’mineen, in the sight of the kings; if he could admonish him, the boy might give up his foolish habits”. The Khalifah heard this and said to his son, “My dear son, you have disgraced me in the sight of the kings”. At this, the boy did not say a word (to his father), but called out to a bird sitting nearby, “O bird, I ask you, in the name of Him Who created you, to come and sit on my hand,” whereupon the bird flew across to him and perched on his hand. The boy then told it to fly away and it flew back to perch as before. After this, he said to his father, “My dear father, as a matter of fact, it is your attachment of the world that is a disgrace to me. I have made up my mind to part from you”. And, saying this, the boy went away, taking only the Qur’an with him. When he went to take leave from his mother, she gave him a precious ring (so that he might sell it and use the money in case of need). The boy then went to Basrah, to work among the labourers. He accepted employment only on Saturdays, using his day’s wages for seven days, spending a Danaq (One sixth Dirham) each day.
The remaining story has been related by Abu Aamir Basri Rahmatullah alaihe, who says. “Once a wall of my house collapsed and I needed a mason to rebuild it. Somebody told me that there was a young boy who did the work of a mason and I went looking for him. Outside the city, I saw a handsome young boy sitting on the ground and reciting the Holy Qur’an with a bag lying beside him. I asked him if he would like to work as a labourer and he said, ‘Certainly, we have been created to toil and labour. What work would you want me to do?’ I said that I needed a mason to do some construction. He said, ‘I shall take a Dirham and a Danaq as my wages for the day, and I shall have to stop work and go to the Masjid when it is time for Salaat; I shall resume work after Salaat.’ I agreed; he came with me and began to work on the wall. I came back in the evening and I was surprised to see that he had done as much work as ten masons. I gave him two Dirhams, but he refused to accept more than a Dirham and a ‘Danaq’ and was gone, taking just as much as had been agreed upon.
‘Next morning, I went out again, 1ooking for him, but I was told that he worked only on Saturdays and that nobody could find him on other days of the week. As I was greatly satisfied with his work, I decided to postpone the remaining construction till Saturday. When Saturday came round, I again went looking for him and found him in the same place, reciting from the Holy Qur’an as usual. When I greeted him, saying Assalaam-o-Alaikum’, he returned my greetings, saying, ‘Wa-‘Alaikum-as-Salaam’ and agreed to work on the wall. Wondering how he had done ten days’ work last Saturday, I watched him working, without being noticed by him. I saw, to my amazement, that, when he put mortar on the wall, the stones automatically joined together. I was sure that he was one the favourites of Allah, as such people are assisted by unseen help from Allah Ta’ala. In the evening, I wanted to give him three Dirhams but he took just a Dirham and a Danaq and went away, saying, I have no use for more than this amount’. I waited for him for another week and went out looking for him again next Saturday, but could not find him anywhere. On my enquiring from people, a man told me that he had been ill for three days and was lying in a deserted place; so I engaged a guide on payment to lead me to the place. We reached there to find him lying unconscious on the ground, his head pillowed on a piece of broken brick. I greeted him, but he did not respond and I said, ‘Assalaam-o-aIaikum’ a bit louder. This time he opened his eyes and recognized me. I laid his head in my lap, but he put it back on the piece of brick and recited a few couplets, two of which I still remember:
‘O my friend, do not be beguiled by the luxuries of the world, for, your life is passing away; the luxuries are short-lived. And when you carry a bier to the grave, remember, one day you, too, will be carried to the graveyard.’
The boy then said to me, ‘Abu Amir, when my soul departs, wash me and shroud me in the clothes that I am wearing now.’ I said, “Dear me, I see no harm in buying new cloth for your shroud”. He said, ‘The living are more in want of new clothes that the dead.’ (These, exactly, were the words spoken by Abu Bakr Radhiallaho anho when he was nigh unto death and willed that he should be shrouded in his old garments, when they asked his permission to buy new cloth for his shroud).
“The boy added, ‘The shroud (old or new) will quickly decay. What remains with a man after his death are his deeds. Give this turban of mine and the jug of water to the grave-digger and, when you have buried me, convey this copy of the Holy Qur’an and this ring to Khalifah Haroon Rashid and mind you, deliver it into his own hands and say, ‘These things were entrusted to me by a stranger boy who bade me convey them to you,’ with the words: ‘O Father, take heed, lest you die in heedlessness, beguiled by the world’. With these words on his lips the young boy gave up his soul. At that moment I came to know that he was a prince.
“After his death, I washed him, shrouded him and laid him in the grave, even as he had desired and I gave his turban and the jug to the grave-digger. After this, I undertook a journey to Baghdad in order to deliver the ring and the Holy Book to the Khalifah. Luckily for me, when I reached the Khalifah’s palace, his cavalcade was just coming out of the court. I stood on a raised platform and watched the pageant. There came out from the palace a troop of a thousand horsemen, followed by ten more troops, in each a thousand horse¬men. In the last troop rode the Amir-ul-Mo’mineen, himself, on seeing whom I called in a loud voice, ‘O, Amir-ul-Mo’mineen,, I beseech you, in the name of your kinship with Rasulullah Sallallaho alaihe wasallam, to stop awhile’ The Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen stopped and looked round, I went forward at once and handed over to him the two trusts of the deceased prince, saying, ‘These things were entrusted to me by a stranger boy who passed away, leaving a will that these should be delivered into your own hands. The Khalifah looked at the ring and the Holy Qur’an and hung his head in sorrow. I saw tears dripping from his eyes. The Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen, then, told his chamberlain to escort me to his palace and to present me to him when he came back from the promenade. I stayed with the chamberlain in the palace.
“When the Khalifah came back in the evening, he ordered the curtains of his palace to be drawn down and told the chamberlain to call me into his presence, even though, he said, ‘The man will just revive my sorrow’. The chamberlain came to me and said, ‘The Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen wants you, but mind you, he is grievously shocked. If you want to say something in ten words, try to put it in five.’ He then ushered me into the private room of the Khalifah, who was sitting there all by himself. The Khalifah told me to sit closer to him and when I had taken my seat, asked me, ‘Do you know that son of mine?’ I said Yes, and he asked me, ‘What did he do for a living?’ I said that he did the work of a mason. The Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen, said, ‘Did you also engage him to do the work of a mason?’ I said that I had done so. The Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen said, ‘Did it not occur to your mind that he had a kinship with Rasulullah’ (Haroon Rasher was a descendant of Abbas Radhiallaho anho, the uncle of Rasulullah Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). I said, ‘O Ameer-uI Mo’mineen! First of all, I beg forgiveness of Allah Ta’ala and then beg your pardon, but I did not know of it at that time. I only learnt about it after he had passed away.’ The Khalifah said, ‘Did you wash your body with your own hands?’ I said, ‘Yes’ and he said, ‘Let me touch your hand’. He then held my hand to his bosom, caressing his chest with it, and recited a few verses which meant:
O thou estranged from me, my heart melts away with grief over thee; my eyes shed tears of sorrow! O thou whose burial-place is far, too far, thy grief is closer to my heart. True, death disconcerts most excellent pleasures of the world. Ah, my estranged son was like a moon hanging above a silvery bough. The moon has set in the grave, the silvery bough gone to dust.
After this, Haroon Rashid decided to go to Basrah to visit the grave of his son. I, Abu Aamir also accompanied him. Standing by his son’s grave, Haroon Rasheed recited the following verses,
‘O voyager to the Unknown, never shalt thou come back home. Death snatched you away in the first bloom of youth. O coolness of my eyes, thou wert my solace, my heart’s peace, in long lonely hours of night and in brief moments of death, which thy father shall drink in old age. Indeed, each one must taste of Death, be he nomad or a town dweller. All praise be to Allah, the One, Who has no partners; for, these are the manifestations of His Divine Decree.
The following night, when I went to bed after observing my daily devotional practices, I dreamt that I saw a domed building bathed in Noor, above which there hung a cloud of Noor. Out of this cloud of Noor came the voice of the deceased boy, talking to me, ‘Abu Aamir, May Allah grant you the best reward (for washing and shrouding me and for acting upon my will)!’ I asked him, ‘My dear friend, how are you faring in the next world?’ He said, ‘I have been admitted to the presence of my Lord, Who is the Most Bounteous One and Who is well pleased with me. He has granted me such Bounties as eyes have never seen, ears have never heard of and minds have never thought of.’ (The reference is to a Hadith Qudsi which narrates as follows: Rasulullah reports Allah Ta’ala as saying “I have prepared for my righteous servants, things that no eye has seen, nor any ear heard of; nor entered in the mind of man”.
Abdullah bin Mas’ood Radhiallaho anho narrates; ‘It occurs in the Torah that Allah Ta’ala has prepared for those who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord (observe Tahajjud Salat) such bounties as no eye has seen, nor any ear heard, nor occurring in the mind of any man, nor does any angel (however near to Allah) know of them, nor are they known to any Nabi or Rasul. Allah Ta’ala says, in the Holy Qur’an:
No soul knoweth what is kept hidden for them of joy (mosty pleasing to their eyes). (Sajdah: 17)
The boy then said to me (in the dream), ‘Allah Ta’ala has promised me, swearing by His Glory, that He would grant such honours and bounties to all those who come out of the world like me, without being tainted by it!’
The author of ‘Raudh’ says that this story has also come down to him through another chain of narration. This version adds: Someone asked Haroon Rashid about this boy and he said, “This son was born before my ascension to the Caliphate and was brought up very well and was taught good manners. He had learnt the Holy Qur’an and other related branches of religious knowledge, but when I rose to be a Khalifah, he forsake me and went away. My worldly magnificence did not bring him any comfort in life, for he did not like to benefit from it in any way. When he was going away, I asked his mother to give him the ring, the pearl set in which was very precious, but he did not make use of it and sent it back before his death. The boy had been very obedient to his mother.” (Raudh)
– Also found in Fadail e Sadaqat (by Shaykhul Hadeeth Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya Khaldlawi)
chance is our inability to see the pattern in something
Have you ever had that moment of Truth? The moment when you really looked into the mirror and saw yourself for what you really are? Have you then found out that there was a Will bigger than yours, more virtuous, more permanent and intrinsically purer than yours? Have you ever wondered why you allowed your ego to betray you to think yourself to be so great that you couldn’t look at what is really Great? Have you not then seen that there was a gift bigger than any gift you could want, awaiting you? Have you not then been disgusted by what you wanted, thinking about what lay waiting for you?
Had you looked into the mirror at such a moment, carefully, you would have seen your image disappearing, you would see yourself for what you really are.
Its not loneliness you see, its being with yourself. Its not about forgetting everything else around you, its about giving yourself a little more thought. For some, life is about trying to figure out what life is about, the joy of which is not the, perhaps inexistent, answer, but the journey itself.
Have you ever had a revisit of a very old but unique feeling, just the pure feeling. Sometimes even associated with something very simple, like a childhood fairy tale book. I remember this very unique feeling, this feeling of innocent fascination mixed with subtle dreamily vague recollection of blurry images or scenes maybe, this thick book of fairy tales and its old cover and stories from within it and mother, who probably read some of these stories to me. There is a television in a shelf stand. and underneath the television the shelf opens, and in it is the fairy tale book, and the room is dim… How young was I?
How we say things that we regret, how we do things that we come to regret, instead of cherishing those little moments of mysterious pleasure, simple yet profound in their own little ways.
In one way life is about appreciating the little gifts it brings us.
(cont’d from Pessimism)
there is the need for pessimism. for if there is no pessimism, there is no virtue in optimism, just as there is no reckoning of sweetness if there is no understanding of bitterness. if there is pessimism there is the battle to cross the frontiers of pessimism to enter into the realm of optimism. if there was one that came and kept coming throughout the continuity of time, saying what is it all about, then there would have been no motivation to move on forward…
it is indeed the lack of his coming that fuels the expedition from pessimism to optimism, for if he was ever present, then those states would have lost their relevence. so would have many other human emotions and feelings…
for those that harshness is a sad reality, pessimism is the worst enemy, and optimism is the only friend.
but there lies nothing new in these sayings, save another remembrance, another realization…
…strangely enough, in this repitition is his presence, in this remembrance is his proclamation of what it is all about…
He’s tired of walking the circle. Sounds and colours that he tries so hard to distort into fragments of incoherent pitches and hues. His mind is in schism – should he be afraid of the wholeness of those that best remain fragmented and obscured? Or should he refuse to be afraid and concieve of them as a whole?
“Ignorance is like a two faced coin,” he said to himself once. But he can’t decide which side to look upon, for he had already taken a peek.
He walks around the circle coming back to the same unwanted spots over and over again; sometimes tired of anticipating the desired spots and passing them by. And he wishes hard to stumble upon the next circle, and for that one revolution, where all the shapes are new and all the colours and sounds are new. But the closest thing he can do to get to the other circles is to wish. So he wishes, sometimes as hard as he can, until it comes.
He wondered once, about how the best thing and the worst thing about going to another circle was the fact that you could never tell when it would happen, or what you could do to make it happen, or whether it would happen at all.
He mostly walked, sometimes tired and wishing, but mostly he walked.
Threw it behind as he walked on, slowly blending into the darkness of the alley. He looked back once, despite the warnings: “those that look back can’t leave it behind”…
He couldn’t leave it. He got consumed as well. At times when he wonders why he looked back, he comes very close to believing in a destiny…
He looked up and asked. “It doesn’t end does it?”
The voice says, “It wasn’t meant to be made any easier than before was it?”
“He was looking for something.” they said, “Couldn’t find what he was looking for. You could never find what he was looking for, for what he was looking for couldn’t be looked upon.”
And he was lost to those voices again, wandering around, blindfolded, bouncing from one wall to the other, looking for space; and when the ground below gave in and the walls expanded endlessly, he tried grabbing desperately on to something that could be grabbed. And at those points maybe he felt how irrelevant it was to want or find. When existence escapes you by, do you wonder why you didn’t want to exist?…
… he often wonders how nothing would make sense without existence, yet we are tired of making sense, some of us that try to, nevertheless… we wonder what is the point of these actions and mechanisms… why does one have to suffer (or not suffer, for that matter)… How luxurious non-existence seems when we are faced with the unanswerable “why”
Everything made sense to him when he walked halfway out of the dark alley. Maybe not sense, but a feeling of pleasure. And when they asked him what pleasure was, he vaguely remembered saying, “All those things that make you want to exist.”
He forgot that feeling.
Once in a while he still gets close to throwing it behind and fade out of the dark alley. But till now, he had always looked back. He has also felt hatred towards those that want to exist. And that made him hate himself, for he never wanted to wish ill. “But this is how it is in the alley. You go around in circles,” they say “and you want to cease to exist…”
They don’t know why.
Some say … “its because the alley robs you of some act that belongs to the other side of the darkness… something, failing to grasp which, he looks back every time…”
Here’s a link to Nab’s own take of the question adressed in the last writing. (The question was originally asked to me by Nab):
A close friend of mine all of a sudden came up with, what I considered to be, quite a thoughtful question, which likewise triggered a decent amount of refelction in my mind. He asked, “If you are looking for an answer, you go to someone who is higher in knowledge than you, right? But what if there is noone higher in knowledge than you? Who do you go for help or advice?”
Intensely provoked by the philosophical nature of his question, and various other little thoughts thats started to set forth small sparks in my mind, I answered, probably quite inadequately, “You go to yourself, you go through yourself, but before anything else, never stop searching.”
Later on I discussed this idea and certain other ideas with another friend that very night, And as a result, I found some food for thought, that I am anxious to preserve, so that I could look upon it from a different perspective at a later, perhapes more mature point in my life.
The initial question or questions before I adress the reasoning behind my answer is, how, or at what point of endeavour does a person become convinced that there is nobody else more knowledgable than him/her on a particular issue? Or more generally how does a person evaluate the knowledge of someone else or oneself, and in relation to what?
Let us assume that there exists a hypothetical method by which the evaluation of someone else’s knowledge, in relation to one’s own is possible. How would the nature of such endeavour be? At first there must be an input stage, where all the relevant characteristics required for evaluation are gathered. Then comes the evaluation process, where the characteristics are judged against some criterion (which here would probably be, or be related to, the knowledge of the person performing the evaluation). But to conclude that there exists no person who is more knowledgable than oneself, one has to evaluate every living person, and possibly the accounts of every dead ones if they exist. But this process is not only tiresome but in its ultimate form it is quite impossible. This is becase it would take the evaluator, a huge amount of time to go through every possible person, and by the time he/she has gone through a considerable amount of people, more people will be born and grow and there will be more people to evaluate. So it seems that this proposed process of evaluation can only be approximated (and even that, not so closely). Besides this temporal barrier there are various other factors including communication (e.g. language), and geographical isolation that limits a person from evaluating every possible person.
It seems that one can’t really tell whether the world has run out of people who are more knowledgable than oneself. And before one could actually stop looking for a superior one, ones lifetime expires. Hence, ideally, can one ever reach the level where one could ask this question that started off this discussion?
I guess in my obsession with describing the mechanism of this search, I have ecaped the bigger question of, whether an evaluation of knowledge is, at all possible. If, by the word “knowledge” we just mean awareness of information then I guess, a simple search and compare method is adequate: One finds a person, learns what this person knows about the issue that is in question, and compare ones own knowledge with it and comes up with a simple a conclusion of the form: this person knows more than me or this person knows less than me. But when we are looking for answers that beg for reasoning (rather than the data), really, is there any proximate answer? Isn’t every different answer an answer? What will one accept over what? Or would one accept any answer at all. In the case that one isn’t happy with the other people’s answers one just has to look within oneself, one just has to appeal to ones own creativity. But needless to say, ones own reasoning is related to how many such answers one comes across. I will come back to the idea of creativity, but let me beacon attention at another idea related to this discussion.
When do we ask questions to begin with? Is it when dont we understand something? When don’t we understand something? Is it when we see a pattern? Or when we dont see a pattern? And having seen a pattern, do we ask questions to find the reason behind that pattern?
Well maybe its a pattern that we try to see in things. Maybe the answers we seek involve recongnizing some sort of a pattern that we can assign to an observed phenomenon. And maybe the pattern allows us to code the information about the phenomenon into our brain. Then these patterns are not really ultimate answers. They are just aids to what we call understanding. Maybe the act of understanding is not such an ultimate act anyway, and maybe there is no such thing as finding THE answer. Hence comes creativity. The more creative a person is the more successful then he/she is in finding an answer. The ultimate source of a new answer then is the self. At any rate the pattern then has all to do with ones mind, whether someone else understands your reasoning is probably dependent on how successful you were to make that person identify with the pattern that you have seen. And another aspect of this pattern is that, if this pattern is not ultimate, and if it is relative to the human mind (or even a few or one individual’s mind) only, then can we even approach a level where we can try to understand ultimate causes of phenomenon. But wait; phenomenon that we percieve* are dependant upon the means which we have available to percieve them: our brain and our sensory apparatus. So it seems more than probable to me that an ultimate understanding of anything around us is close to impossible. However what is interesting to me is that, despite our limitations, we can think about the realm of ultimate, we can think in terms of the realm of ultimate.
We as living beings, have one unique limitation (perhapes among other things), and that limitation is perception itself. Since we percieve, we are subject to limitation. The act of perception would not lead us to ultimate answers, for I would argue that perception itself is relative to its machinery. Food for more thought: Maybe there is some act bigger than perception that can render an ultimate or close to ultimate asnwer. Maybe the act of existence is a closer aid to render an ultimate answer. But then again the consciousness of existence can be argued to be a perception, in which case existence itself is not an ultimate state or truth.
If one day someone came and said “this is all there ever was, this is how it is and this is all there would be, therefore this is what you ought to be, this is how you ought to live and die and re-live…” and then came back and said the same, over and over again, and showed what it was all about over and over again, then, maybe there wouldn’t be the need of the title of this post…
(to be continued…)