Whether you prefer to crawl, sprint, swim, or walk from one place to another, you can enjoy closeup views of Earth’s inexhaustible supply of things to notice. You might see a vein of pink limestone on the wall of a canyon, a ladybug eating an aphid on the stem of a rose, a clamshell poking out of the sand. All you have to do is look.
– Space Chronicles, Neil degrasse Tyson
All you have to do is feel.
A hundred thousand years ago and a hundred thousand years later, the human race has, and will struggle with the same fear – the fear of vulnerability, the fear of losing, the fear of betrayal. Hand in hand with that fear, they will protect those close to their heart with a protectiveness that hurts. Like holding a child’s hand while crossing the road, but holding it too tightly.
As flawed humans, as flawed mortals, we are scared of the concept of vulnerability. Because it reminds us of the fact that what we like – what gives us that feeling of security, of being loved, of being…accepted – can be lost. And we don’t want to let go of that, do we? So we build these huge walls around us, these majestic structures that are meant to keep our egos and self-esteem safer, our hearts unscathed. And these majestic walls do more than that; have you seen a convict’s hands roped together by metal handcuffs? That’s what these walls do. They chain our hearts from feeling the greatness of love, gentleness, kindness, empathy, and sacrifice. These walls do not let the child within us laugh with glee at the flying balloon. They do not let us love one another, and in doing that, they do not let us love God. Tell me, how many times have you lost hope? How many times have you kept yourself from expecting something grand from life? How many times have you calculated the pros and cons of doing a deed of kindness for a fellow earthling? How many times? There. That’s the number of times – multiplied by infinity – when you did not love yourself, when you did not love God.
But know this, let your heart know this: pain, heartbreak – especially in the way of God – is utterly gorgeous. It’s raw beauty! Like after hours of labour, the baby takes its first breath in our world with a shriek that the mother remembers till her last breath.
You know what happens. You feel this huge, gaping hole in your heart, and it feels like your gushing tears won’t stop. Your throat hurts with the effort of holding back those tears, and your eyes are tired. You want to close them for a long, long time. You hide under the blankets, hoping you’d disappear, hoping that those voices, those ugly voices would stop. But this too, shall pass, my dear. And it is this pain that will bring you closer to He Who Created you. Because Who else will you turn to? Another human? Another mortal? A mortal as flawed, as helpless as you? Someone you depended on to take care of your heart? That was your mistake. You’re lucky, He loves you so much, that He wants to give you THE best. And He wants YOU. What a grand, grand honour! This pain that you think is breaking you – this pain because you are trying to not cheat on your Lord and to do what He wishes you to do because that really is your armour – is worth it then, isn’t it? Isn’t it? This pain will make you turn to Him and Him alone and then, finally, slowly, the chaos will end. Peace will descend within you, around you. But peace will descend. That is not my promise, that is HIS promise.
Everything is a manifestation of this Greater Force that has the remote control of our lives – running into an old friend in a park, the funny video you come across when you are in a bad mood, the apple pie that you ate today, you not getting that nondescript little vial of ‘Heart Note’ a lifetime ago, me writing this and you reading this. It’s always a lesson, always a win-win. If not this, then what? Then something even better, because my knowledge is limited, my intellect is incomplete, my wisdom is questionable, my judgement is flawed, but not His; not of the mystery that is God, not of the One who created us so we could discover His beauty and then fall hopelessly in Love with Him.
Someone (may you stay blessed and in peace, always) once told me – and that won me, the beauty and the innocence and spirituality of those words – that “Sufism is being bros with God”. It’s really that, isn’t it? Being best friends with your Creator, sharing your joys and sorrows with Him, turning to Him when in need, making His people smile and helping ease their distress and never hurting them because after all, when you love someone, that’s what you do – you take care of everyone who is theirs – and discovering His world, and contemplating over the mysteries of the Universe, and wondering how many galaxies are yet to be named, and how many biological discoveries are yet to be made, and how many Renaissance men and women are yet to be born, and believing in “Recite in the name of your Lord who created – Created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous – Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not.” (Surah Al – Alaq, The Clot)
Why do certain things happen? Why do hurricanes come and go, taking away the memories that were desires? Because they were meant to end our era of blindfolded trust and adjust our lenses so that we can see the real beauty – the rose that seems so beautiful to the world will prick my fingers if I try to hold it and keep it with me, but the water lily will float gracefully in my pond, peacefully.
How often do the tangible invisible chains of class and responsibility suffocate you, you who are reading this at this very moment? How often do you feel like a stranger amongst the crowd of people you love? How often does the crippling loneliness overwhelm you? How often do you wish to let go of everything and do nothing but lose yourself in the oceans of ilm and tasawaff and dreams yet to be dreams? How often? Very often. Frequently. Because you are indeed, a traveller in this world. Because this world really is just a resting place for the Curious Souls seeking knowledge – seeking Him – seeking the secret to immortality, without ever realising that this immortality will come after the end of our journey in this world. That is why, O’ mortal, you feel lost in your own body. And that is tremendously good because it means you really are His beloved and your real home is There.
This present cacophony that you hear, maybe you hear it, but you can’t seem to discern the notes behind it. Maybe this is the way out? Maybe you are not paying attention to your rubatosis – the awareness of your heartbeat – the way you are meant to.
The way out is right in front of you. It’s very practical, mind you. And hidden beneath that practicality, is a spirituality waiting only for you.
Once in your lifetime, you will meet this one person who will teach you everything that you need to know about life. And you will then know the meaning of life. And then, when you have trustingly let down those majestic structures that we earlier spoke of, you will discover – neigh – you will see how those who resent loneliness, will gift you the same. You will know then how easy it is to leave your mark everywhere – in the folded pages of your favourite book, in the words of your favourite poetry, even in a stranger’s kindness – and you will also know that unknown to thyself, you may have done the same. What then, what now, you will ask yourself.
That’s it, nothing, except that you try to pass the test.
Because “Kis qadr purkayf hai Teri mohabbat , Yaa Rabb!
(Your love is so delightful, My Lord!)
Naa bewafai ka khadsha, naa judai ka khof!
(There is no danger of unfaithfulness, nor any fear of separation.)”
And that, dear reader, is why Sufism.