The First Gathering:
Praise be to God, maker of the world without a tool — every movement, every drop, every sound, every state. He is exalted above any possible or impossible description that can be made. He is the Sovereign whose judgment none can contradict. He makes His Divinity felt and clearly known . The insight of the intellect witnesses His uniqueness whenever its clarity and balance come together. His ability overcomes any other ability. His will determines every other will. He makes one person succeed in his seeking and puts his mind at ease, removing the veils of doubt from his inmost secret so that he witnesses His Majesty. And He defeats another person, bringing him to the sources of confusion and ignorance, wasting his time and nullifying his deeds, depriving him of His subtlety, generosity, and favor.
He sent forth Muhammad (peace be upon him) with unfurled banner and drawn sword to deliver people from the entanglements of destruction and confinement. He raised up the sun of his prophethood and He encircled him by a group of folk who are like full moons and He brought to his heart a book that heals hearts, shining like a light. “O people! There has come to you from your Sustainer guidance and healing to what is in the breasts.” 10-57
He sent him to people who were set upon falsehood, blind and unseeing, deaf and unhearing, dumb and unspeaking. Do they worship other than God, that which does not create anything but is created? Thus, the deniers were distressed by their denial of him, while the truthful ones were gladdened by their believing in him.
May God bless him and his family and companions, especially Abu Bakr, the truthful, conscious one, and Umar the discerning, unblemished one, and Uthman of the two lights, the pure one, and Ali, the contented faithful one.
O King and Sovereign! Extinguish the fire of our covetousness with the water of Your Mercy. Water the spirits of the longing ones with the drink of Your Unity. Illumine and light the inner recesses of our hearts with the lights of Your gnosis and the secrets of Your Unity. Honor and ennoble the snares of our hopes that we have planted in the desert of the vastness of Your Mercy with the birds of happiness and the prey of nobility. Hear with acceptance and tenderness the late night sighs of those who are burning on the path to You. Perfume with the scent of union the smoke of the hearts of the love-bereaved that rises every moment out of the burning of separation from that gathering place of the spirits. Give us always a share of “He bestows upon them their reward without measure” in our sayings and what is said to us and our questions and answers that beat the drums over the roof of the kingdom of love. Let our sayings free our states and let our states appear clearly from the windows of our sayings and protect us from the enmity of the two abodes. Keep away from us what the enemies wish for us, and make us better and more beautiful than what our loved ones wish for us and think of us. O You whose treasury of gentleness has no limit and whose broad, generous ocean has no shore!
We begin by recalling one of the narratives of the Chosen One (Mustafa), peace be upon him, that bearer of glad tidings and that warner who has no equal, master of the messengers, the lamp of the heavens and the earth. It is reported that he said,
“The worthlessness of my community comes with the corruption of my community, except for those who hold fast to my way (Sunnah) when my community is corrupted. The reward for such a one is that of a hundred thousand martyrs.”
So says the messenger of the two universes, the leader of humans and jinn, the elect of the elect of “By your life…” , the honored one of “If not for you…” , the eloquent one of, “I am the most eloquent of the Arabs and non-Arabs…” , the leader of “Adam and everyone after him are all under my banner on the Day of Resurrection, and this is no boastful pride for poverty is my pride!” meaning that there is no prophet after me whose community will supersede mine as mine has superseded the communities of Jesus and Moses. And there is no religion that will replace my religion as mine has done to the ones that preceded it. They asked him, “Messenger of God, how will your community become worthless?” and he replied, “When my community begins to be corrupt. This honor that it has attained, and this sparkling cloak from the heights of consciousness that it donned, “And the garment of consciousness that is goodness…” –once the smoke of disobedience rises then that heavenly garment and that Muhammadan honor are replaced and are polluted by that smoke and they become stagnant.” They said, “O Messenger of God, when it becomes polluted by smoke and stagnant it is worthless and the Buyer in “Verily, God has purchased from the faithful their selves…” does not buy and gives no value to the goods of their deeds that have become stagnant. Nor does he give recompense, “Surely He bestows upon them their reward…” so they become worthless and stagnant and they are humbled:
Your likeness in the abode of illusion
Is the likeness of the seller of ice in Nishapur.
In the heat of July he places before him the block of ice
But no buyer is there, and this man is a dervish.
The block of ice has melted in the heat, and the man
With pained heart and bitter regret
Laments with tears flowing from his eyes
Only a little remains, and no buyer is left
They said, “When the ice of this existence of ours stagnates and melts from the heat of the sun of disobedience what recourse is there for us, the merchants of ice, so that our goods will gain value again and the containers of our hopes can be filled up again?” And he answered, “Except for those who hold fast to my way (Sunnah) when my community is corrupted.”
Whoever is perplexed in these matters
Let him wrap up his head from his headaches.
“My way (Sunnah) is such that whenever those who love me follow the way of error and step onto the ground of disobedience that is filled with thorns, they feel the traces of the thorns’ pricks. And it is so with obstinate persistence as well. They do not continue in the land of thorns for obstinacy is an ill-omen.”
We have opened the gates of the rose garden for your sake
Until when will you enter the land of thorns, bare-footed one?
Whoever is excessive in argument and obstinacy
Is ground up by the mill of the seven constellations.
So when they feel the pain of the thorns they realize they have taken a wrongful road. They look ahead and behind and they see the signs of the path. It is because I have raised up on this desolate, unmarked road signs and directions, and in this vast desert I have planted posts and stone markers so that the travelers will find these signs and not get lost in this desert. Thus they search the path for the traces of my feet, which is called the Sunnah . Just as hunters search for the footprints of prey in the snow, they also search in the snow of misguidance and illusion for the footprints of my guidance, of my end and my beginning. So they walk in the traces of my footprints and depart from the land of thorns of disobedience, and when they do they alight upon the rose gardens of acceptance. They join the lovers and martyrs who are the companions of eternal friendship and the kings of the realm of everlastingness. They become their equals and attendant companions. “These are with the ones whom God has blessed among the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and righteous.” (4:69). And what station is this? Nay, they exceed the exalted martyrs, “The reward for such a one is that of a hundred thousand martyrs.”
“O Messenger of Allah! Why are they favored over them when they both have their deeds? Is not the scale of justice established? And what scale it is! It is the scale of, “And truly there is for every person only what he has strived for.” (53:39). The scale of, “Your reward is only as much as your effort and toil.” The scale of, “As for the one whose scales are weighty” (101:6)
You who have a little bit of intelligence reward the workers in accordance with their work. You say, “This one worked ten days, and that one five days, and this one only one day,” then you give each one of them their compensation in accordance with their effort and you make no mistake in this. Now, the Knower of “I know that which you do not”( 2:30), the expert of “Even the weight of an atom on earth or in the heavens is not concealed from your Sustainer,” (10:61) He is the divine Knower who knows when a black ant falls upon a black stone in the middle of a dark night, then gets up and goes on its way. This absolute Seer, exalted and holy, who sees this ant, this divine Knower is the One who knows the extent of the effort and striving of His servants. He knows the number of the tears of the disobedient ones who are filled with sighs and regret. He knows the number of drops of blood from the livers of the Gnostics in the highest of stations. He knows the number of breaths of the glorifiers in the middle of the night. He knows the number of footsteps of the seekers of the kingdom of striving, the ones who dance day and night in the highest station, in front of the gathering of, “A seat of truthfulness” (54-55).
We travelers who travel in the night of seclusion
Look with disdain upon the throne of Khusraw.
They move with their spirit love-bereaved and attached by their love, they are neither mounted nor on foot. Is it possible that this divine Knower did not fathom and record the number of perfectly formed spiritual jewels of these servants in the scroll of His ancient knowledge, one by one, atom by atom, hair by hair when He says, “And We record what they bring forth and their traces” (36:12)? When He is the one who counted and recorded the footsteps of the first and last, and their breaths and regrets, this Just Deity, whose arrow of justice strikes the target splitting the hair in two halves, how is it befitting the justice of this Just One, and the equity of this Equitable One, to give this worker a hundred thousand and then give that worker who did the same work only one? O Messenger of God, O solver of the problems of the people of heaven and earth, O “Mercy to the worlds” (21:107). Favor us with solving our problem, for you are the only one who can solve the problem of the people of heaven and earth today!
If there were signs for the man of truth in this world,
If there were for every divine symbol an interpreter in thoughts,
If there were a way for the bird of the desert to that world,
If there were in the feathers and wings of every bird a problem evident to the eye,
It is not permitted for just any person to enter the marketplace of love,
Otherwise there would be under every rock thousands of caravans!
The Messenger of God, peace upon him, that interpreter in the ancient presence, that one who is the most eloquent of Arabs and non-Arabs, that essential element of knowledge and generosity, that king without drums and flags, the master of beings and sultan of existence answered:
“O truthful beloveds, O congenial companions, know that if the torrent returns with power from the mountain, gushing like a lover towards the ocean and unites with the ocean by means of many hands and feet, because the waters are hands and feet for one another and vessels for one another, so with their supportive strength they cross mountain, dune, and river to reach the ocean which is their origin. Every drop cries out, “Return to your Sustainer” (89:28). So what is a marvelous wonder, what is difficult and strange, is that a single drop remains in the middle of the mountains, or in the mouth of a cave, or an unsafe desert, longing for the ocean which is the essential element of that drop. That single drop that has no hands or feet remains alone without foot or shoe, without hand or glove, yet by the action of longing for the ocean it rolls at once without the aid of torrent or companion and traverses the desert on the foot of longing and rushes toward the ocean upon the vessel of spiritual taste ( dhawq ) !
O you helpless drop! The dust is your adversary, the wind is your adversary, and the sunlight is your adversary. Your goal, which is the ocean, is so far away! O drop without hand or foot in the midst of these enemies, how will you go to the ocean?
The drop says, “In my spirit, even though I am just a weak drop, I feel a longing from the effect of the boundless care of the ocean, “And the human carried it, he was oppressive and ignorant” (33:72). In this desert where the torrents tremble in fear of disability which was warned of in His saying, “We offered the trust to the heavens and earth and the mountains but they refused to carry it and were awed by it” (33:72) — from the awe of the danger of a treacherous, wearying desert the heavens shook and feared, and the mountains cried out saying, ‘O our Sustainer we cannot carry this trust. The earth said, ‘I am dust for these travelers but I have no capacity for this. But the spirit of man, who is a drop, tightened its resolve with the belt of servant-hood and said:
Give me a heart, then look at my valor
Give me your fox, then look at my lion-hood!
For I am weak and thin and helpless, but when the traces of the caring of “We have honored the children of Adam” (17:70) reached the ears of my spirit, I was no longer weak, nor thin, nor helpless; no, I am the dispenser of the world!
When I fill my quiver with your arrows,
I grasp the waist of Mount Qaf and drag it.
So long as I look at my own self and my own power I am weak and disabled, I am even weaker than all the weak put together, more helpless than all the helpless put together. But when my vision is transformed so I no longer look at my own self but look at Your caring and gentleness where, “On that day faces are radiant, looking upon their Sustainer” (75:22-23). How can I be weak? How can I be helpless? Why would I not be the dispenser? Why would I be just any man? Why would I not be that man?
When His countenance appeared like the moon, who am I, who am I?
For in that moment I become, and I am without essence
If you see in me any origin, know that origin is He
So go, and if you find a shadow, know that shadow is I
When He speaks to me, He is like Joseph at the moment of “No”
And when I speak with Him, I am like Moses at the moment of “You will not”
The words are apparent and hidden and what makes this even more beloved
Is that He speaks to me and then I become like words.
We return to the meaning of the Hadith of Mustafa, to the verification and clarification and the secret and heart of its spirit. It is water and pasture for one who has understanding and spirit. There needs be understanding to grasp the heart of meaning. There needs be spirit to enjoy spirit. So my dear spirit, you who seek me, whenever you delve into seeking and leave the first skin, the bride of meaning comes out from the first skin and if you leave the second skin she will come out of the second skin saying to you:
If you become alone, I make the heart alone with you
I keep it away from love of the world and the desires of people.
But when you wrap yourself once more with the influence of desire and lust, she is also wrapped up with the veil. You say, “O bride of meaning, O besought of the world, O image of the unseen, you who are perfected without blemish, O manifestation of beauty, why did you cover yourself with the veil once more?” She will answer, “Because you covered yourself with the veil of desire and lust.”
The Beloved appeared disturbed so do not ask!
And His abandonment appeared filled with fire so do not ask!
He said, “Don’t burn up so I will not be disturbed.” I said, “Don’t be disturbed.”
And from this single word of mine He appeared pleased, so do not ask!
One day Solomon, peace be upon him, was seated upon the couch of “We made the wind subservient to him” (38:36) the birds had spread their wings to form a dome above him covering him from the heat of the sun. The couch was in flight and so was the dome, “Its coming takes a month and its going a month” (34:12). Then, momentarily, an inappropriate thought regarding thankfulness for this blessing passed through Solomon’s mind, and immediately his crown tilted over his head. Whenever he straightened it, it would tilt once more. He said, “Crown, stay straight upon my head!” So the crown replied, “Ah, Solomon you stay straight yourself!” Immediately Solomon fell to his knees saying, “O our Sustainer we have wronged” (7:23) and immediately the crown straightened over his head. In this trial Solomon was tilting the crown and the crown was straightening itself up.
My dear, your crown is your taste of spiritual experience, your ecstasy, and your burning. If your taste is lost, you become wilted and cold. Your crown will be tilted.
The taste that comes from people spawns the ecstasy of the body
But the taste that comes from Truth gives birth to the heart and spirit, O Spirit!
O Solomon of the time! You who command the kings of intellect and spirit and before whose throne pass the devils of egos and satanic impulses —
Around your cheek lined up the army of devils and jinn
The dominion of Solomon is yours, don’t lose the ring!
Distinguish between peace and war, for it is not goodness
For the glass blower’s shop to be the place for the launderer.
In the shop of your existence so long as the glass of your obedience, longing, and taste exists with the launderer of your desires and lust you are at a loss. Every ten days the glass blower makes glasses of obedience, then the launderer strikes the floor with his stick and the shop shakes and the glasses break one another, “That your deeds are nullified without you knowing it” (49:2)
And so it is, O Solomon of your time! When you do not see the crown of taste and the light of sincerity over your spirit you find yourself cold, depressed, and imprisoned by corrupt imaginings. You cry out, “O taste where are you? O longing under what veil are you hidden?” But no matter how you strive to recover this lost taste it will not come back, and whenever you straighten the crown of sincerity upon your head, its tilt increases and so it calls out to you, “Straighten yourself out so I will become straight!” for “God does not change the blessings upon a people until they change what is in themselves” (8:53). So says the Majestic Maker, the Tireless Giver, the Absolute Ancient One, the Absolute Bestower, manifest is His Glory, “I who am Allah, Bestower and Bestowed, Creator of both when I grant a blessing to My servants I do not change it until they change their behavior and way of life.”
And so we come to the completion of this first Hadith, for this discourse of ours has no end to it, “Say, if the ocean were ink for my Sustainer’s words, the ocean would be depleted before my Sustainer’s words would be depleted, even if we brought the like of it for ink.” 18-109. And for the intelligent one a sign is sufficient. He says, “Except for those who hold fast to my way (Sunnah) when my community is corrupted.” Meaning that the spiritual, pure drop filled with longing kept far from the ocean of spirits, veiled in the world of water and mud from the longing of spirit and heart, rolls over dry land like a fish while the other drops do not cooperate with it, “Islam began as something strange and will return as something strange.” Some of the drops clung on to the dust, other drops clung on to the leaves, other drops were stopped in place by the whispering of their own darkness and headed toward the roots to nourish and water the trees. Every spiritual drop became occupied with something, one occupied with sewing, another with embroidering, another with love of appearance, another with listening to cymbals, another with smell and color, they all forgot their ocean.
And now the real work that is embodied in these torrents — made up of hundreds of thousands of drops coming together, paving a way and going forth, each one pulling the other forward as is indicated in His saying, “And the foremost, the foremost” (56:10) — is undertaken by this solitary drop. Separated from its companions, it traverses the same open road and the same vast desert alone without companion, without helper, without protector, trusting in the Tremendous Sustainer!
The deserts and valleys that were crossed by these torrents made up of thousands of drops, it traversed them alone:
One is as a thousand when undertaking a matter.
They are few when counted, many when with resolve.
And so it is! Because this one drop did the work of a hundred thousand drops validating His words, peace upon him, for it is not just a drop; no, it is a torrent in the form of a drop! As He said, “Verily Abraham is a nation” (16:120) Abraham was a thousand, no a hundred thousand, no he was a fathomless number!
The ship of existence of the Gnostic is a wonder
And the falling of the man of insight in the well is a wonder still.
That a ship is upon the ocean is no wonder
But for a thousand oceans to be in a ship is wonder indeed!
Whenever a Joseph-like breeze appears
Every blind one sees
O pearl! Why did you separate from the ocean?
Would anyone separate from the likes of this ocean?
The fish that was thrown from the ocean onto dry land
Keeps on crawling to return quickly to the ocean
If anyone asks: why has the pearl become disturbed and love-bereaved
From love of the ocean?
I answer him: It’s from longing for the ocean
The drop does not rest and is afflicted by confusion
And I also answer him: Before the sun
The dust mote becomes perplexed and hides from sight.
My dear one! That spiritual drop that becomes secure in separation from the ocean and does not remember the ocean is attached some time to a leaf, and some time to the dust. Perhaps it transgresses the bounds of Adab so its feet are tethered by a gold, silver, or jeweled chain and it falls in love with this chain. Since it loves silver and gold it does not see this chain as a tether so do not advise it! For its chain makes it hard for advice to reach it.
Possessions and wealth and silk at this stage
Are tethers and chains for that spirit that wants to quickly travel
The spirit saw the chain of gold and was struck by illusion
And so it remained in the darkness of the well deprived of the valley
Its form is paradise but its meaning and truth is hell
It is a poison filled snake but has the form of a beauty with rosy cheeks
So beware you incomplete ones from that beauty!
Its companionship turns into hell.
The love of that color, scent and talk usurped the drop’s capacity for realization and understanding so that not even as much as a head of a pin of advice can get through to it! No, it even considers the advisor an enemy because the dark one is always an enemy to the mirror, while the advisors and admonishers are themselves mirrors or are people of mirrors.