The Conversations (Maqalat)
of Shams of Tabriz
I begin in the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful, and I ask His help. This book was gathered from the words of the beloved Mevlana Shamsuddin Tabrizi, the Sultan of those who have attained. May God not deprive us of his abundant blessings.
The Truth is the Kadim, the Ancient One; He is the being who has no beginning. Where can the one who is “created afterwards” find the one who has no beginning? How can he understand Him? Where is the soul and the great God that has created everything?
It is that power that is within you, by means of which you move and attain liberation. It is the soul, but what is it when you have placed the soul underneath your arm?
What is it worth to bring cumins to Kirman? Who will it make happy? What will it cost? There is such a great palace there, one without prayers or wishes; He does not expect anything from anybody. But you bring prayers to Him, because that Court that is without any need likes your prayers and wishes; and you, due to those prayers, can escape these events and find safety. Something reaches you from the Kadim, the Eternal One. Well, it is love. The trap of love comes and embraces you. The subtle points of the Qur’an, “They love God, and God loves them” (Surah Maida; V:54) are indications of the effect of this love. Then you see the “One without a beginning” from “the One without a beginning”; and the subtlety of the ayat “He sees the eyes” (Surah Anam; VI:103) is also an indication of this.
This is the whole of the words that do not end and will not end until the Resurrection.
They say that I am a saint. I said, “O.K., let it be so, but what happiness does it bring to me?” If I were to be proud of it, it would be very ugly; but Mevlana, if one looks at the attributes defined by the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet, is a saint. And I am the saint of the saint, the friend of the friend; therefore I am less easily shaken, more firm.
If you prostrate youself a hundred times in front of a mirror, it never moves from its place. If any ugliness has appeared in the mirror, know that it is your own; do not despise the mirror. Hide the fault that you see on his face from him, because he is my friend. With the tongue of the heart, he says, “Surely, this is not possible.”
Now, O friend, you say, “Place the mirror into my hand so that I may look at it!” Yet I cannot find a pretext for this, nor can I deny your request; but I say in my own heart, “Let me find some pretext not to give you the mirror, because if I say that there is something wrong with your face, perhaps you will not accept it; and if you say that the mirror is defective, this will be worse for you.” Yet love does not allow me to find a pretext. Now I say, “Let me give you the mirror, but if you see some fault on its face, do not blame the mirror, but something reflected onto the mirror. Know that it is your own image; find the fault in yourself! At least don’t look into the mirror while you are near me. The only condition is that you do not find fault with the mirror. If you are unable to find the fault in yourself, at least find fault with me, as I am the owner of the mirror. Don’t say the mirror is defective.”
“I accept the condition. I promise, I cannot wait any longer!” And yet his heart does not accept it.
“O Master,” he said, “Again, let me find a pretext to avoid this situation.” The point about the mirror is a subtle one. The love between us did not allow this. “Now let us remember the condition once again,” he said, and he gave the following advice: “The condition and the agreement is this: Every time you see your fault, you shall put the mirror down, you shall not destroy its jewel-like essence. Even if its essence cannot be broken, you shall not do this.”
“God forbid,” he said, “I would never do such a thing. I would never even think of it.”
“Now let me have the mirror so that I can prove to you my good manners and earn your trust.”
“But if you break it, its essence is this much, and it cost this much.” And he brought witnesses and evidence for its cost.
But finally, after all these words, when he was given the mirror, he, himself, just ran away. The one who had offered the mirror was left speaking to himself, “If this mirror were so valuable, why did he leave it behind and run away? As soon as he had beheld his own face, and it was ugly, he wanted to throw it to the ground and break it. But he couldn’t do it. Because of that he said, “My lungs have filled with blood.” He recalled his agreement, the bill of sale, the witnesses, and the money he would have to pay for the crime of destroying the mirror. “I wish there had been no conditions, no witnesses, no financial penalties. Then I could make my heart happy and show him what needs to be done.” As he was saying all this, the mirror was rebuking him with the tongue of its own heart: You see? What did I tell you? And what are you doing to me? You love yourself and find fault with the mirror. Because the one who loves his or her own ego respects only the ego, while the one who loves the mirror, gives up both ego and mirror.
The mirror is the Truth, Itself. He thinks the mirror is someone other than himself. The mirror answers anyone who addresses It. Due to the inclination of the mirror, he also has an inclination toward the mirror. If he, on the other hand, had broken the mirror, he would have broken me too. Hasn’t it been said, “I am near to those whose hearts have been broken”? In short, it is impossible for the mirror to bow down and honor itself. It is like a touchstone or a balance; it always inclines toward the Truth.
If you try to tell it, “O Balance, this weight is not very much: You’re not sitting right, show it correctly!” It only shows the Truth. You can try for two hundred years to trick it, you can prostrate yourself in front of it two hundred times, and it would be futile.
“The One” is one of the pure attributes of this God of Power and Greatness, one of His happy names. Who are you and what is your word? These are the words of Truth, spoken from wisdom. In other words, these point toward the great ones. Yes, it also exists, but which one is yours? I speak from my state. I am never interested in these. If you also have something to tell, tell it to me. If a subtle flow begins in you, share it with us! As Mevlâna has said, “One has to seal these words with the Qur’an or the traditions (hadith) so that their meaning might be explained and they will be in line with the true aim.”
Don’t be hurt if I speak straightforwardly with my friends. I gave my word not to be hypocritical. Because you couldn’t wait for the word I wanted to say, it was lost. No other words come to mind. If you have something to say, wait until I have finished speaking. These dervish conversations are subtle. If something is lost now, the words that will come will be different.
In the people of God, these manifestations and visions are more common during the Sema, when they have passed beyond their usual universe of existence. Sema carries them out of other universes to the Truth. It is true that there is a kind of Sema that is forbidden; but it is blasphemy to say that the Sema performed by God’s people is a sin. That hand which moves without the Divine exuberance will burn in hell for sure, and the hands that rise in Sema will reach paradise — for sure. And there is a Sema that is permissible but not obligatory. This is the Sema of those Sufis and ascetics who live in a state of fasting. It brings tears and softness of heart to them. There is no doubt that they will also enter Paradise. And another Semais religiously a must. This is the Sema of the attained ones who have reached the holy state of mind. And another is a duty applicable to all, as the daily prayers and the fast of Ramadan. Just as food and water are necessary in the time of hunger and thirst, this Sema is necessary for the spiritually mature, because it increases their joy of life. If one of the mature ones begins to whirl in the East, another one starts moving in the West. They are aware of each other’s state.
The first effect on someone who finds his way to our gatherings is that he will chill; he’ll lose interest in the conversations of others. He may not only become cool to their conversations; he cannot even join them. Some of our friends find their joy in cannabis. This is the fantasy of the devil. Here, there is not place for the fantasy of the angels. How much less is there a place for the fantasies of the devil! We don’t even accept the illusions of the angels, so what can the illusions of the devil be? Why don’t our friends take pleasure in that clean and infinite universe of ours? This universe embraces them and makes them drunk without ever making them aware of it. Everyone is in unanimous agreement that this universe is not a forbidden substance. Whereas wine is forbidden.
All the prophets have recognized each other. Jesus says: “O people of Nazareth, you don’t know Moses well; come and be with me so that you will know Moses.” His Divine Grace Muhammad (may God’s peace be upon him) used to say: “O Christians and Jews, you don’t know Moses and Jesus very well. Come and be with me so that you can know them better.” The prophets are always those who accept and confirm each other. And their words are always words that explain and complete each other.
After this the friends said: “O Messenger of God, since very prophet acknowledged the one who came before him, who is going to confirm you, since you are the last of the prophets?”
He answered: “The one who knows his own soul, undoubtedly knows God as well.” Therefore, the one who knows my self, knows my Lord as well. In this regard, the best person is the one who is furthest from his own desire. No matter how refined and mature his ideas are, he is further away if he has not left his own desires.
The mind constricts; love unbinds.
The mind says, “Don’t let go or overflow.”
Love says, “Be free without formality.”
Sema is permitted for the pure servants of God, because their hearts are clean. They love for the sake of God, and their anger is for God; their hearts are strong. If my swearing and shouting ever reaches the ears of a hundred year old unbeliever, he turns into a believer. If they lightly touch the ears of an unbelievers, he turns into a saint and enters paradise.
In my dream I had told you, when my chest and his joint together, this becomes his rank. He had seen lots of dreams before this one, too. In the end he leaves as one in submission (muslim) and freedom. If Muhammad had not prayed for his community, if he had not begged, “O Great God, show my people the right way. Guide them out of ignorance,” how would that Abu Jahl have heaved a sheep’s stomach on the Prophet without his hands shriveling or swelling. In the end, that Prophet was a single horseman on their path. One needs to note that a single misbehavior toward him and immediately trouble catches up with him. He is the kind of person before whom human beings and angels put their ladders down in admiration of his qualities and words. Acrobats who astonish people with their rope skills are amazed at the length and strength of his rope, and by the fearlessness and heroism of his feats. Hearts leap at the sight of his miracles. And those who see him riding and cropping a black lion as if it were a lazy donkey can never forget him.
The shaikh said, “The Caliph has forbidden the Sema.” This prohibition turned into a knot within a certain dervish. He fell ill and they took him to a specialist. He examined his pulse and looked for the cause of illness. It was like nothing he had ever learned about. He couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but the dervish died. Afterwards, the doctor performed an autopsy and found the knot within his chest. It had become a carnelian. The doctor kept this gem until a time when he needed some extra cash. The gem passed from hand to hand until it reached the caliph, who had the gem set into a ring. One day, that same caliph was attending a Sema, watching from above, when he discovered that his clothes were covered with blood. He examined himself but could find no wound anywhere. He felt for his ring and the stone was gone. Later they traced that gem back to its original owner and the doctor told them the whole story mentioned above.
If you see some blood here and there,
know it has fallen from my eye.