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NEWSPRESS: FOUR CURTAINS

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39:22 Is he whose breast God has expanded for the submission, so he is upon a light from his Lord? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of God.

Know that the Adamite’s heart has four curtains: The first curtain is the breast, the lodging place of the submission’s covenant, in accordance with His words, “Is he whose breast God has expanded for the submission?” The second curtain is the heart, which is the locus of the light of faith, in accordance with His words, “He wrote faith in their hearts” [58:22]. The third curtain is the mindful heart, the pavilion of contemplating the Real, in accordance with His words, “His mindful heart did not lie about what he saw” [53:11]. The fourth curtain is the smitten heart, the place of putting down the saddlebags of love, in accordance with His words, “He smote her heart with love” [12:30].

Each of these four curtains has a characteristic and the Real gazes upon each. When the Lord of the Worlds desires to pull one who has fled from Him with the lasso of gentleness into the road of His religion, He first gazes upon his breast, so that it may become pure of caprice and innovation and so that his feet may go straight on the avenue of the Sunnah. Then He turns His gaze to his heart so that it may become pure of this world’s defilements and of blameworthy character traits, such as self-admiration, envy, pride, eye-service, greed, enmity, and frivolity. Then he may go forth on the road of scrupulosity. Then He gazes on his mindful heart and keeps him back from attachments and created things. He opens the fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom in his heart. He bestows the light of guidance on his heart’s center point, as He said, “so he is upon a light from his Lord.” Then He gazes on his smitten heart—a gaze, and what a gaze! A gaze that embellishes the spirit, brings the tree of joy to fruit, and awakens the eye of revelry; a gaze that is a tree whose shadow is companionship with the Friend, a gaze that is a warmth over the recognizer’s heart. When this gaze reaches the smitten heart, it lifts it up from water and clay, and the lover steps into the street of annihilation. Three things cease to be in three things: Seeking ceases to be in the Found, recognition ceases to be in the Recognized, and friendship ceases to be in the Friend.

So he is upon a light from his Lord. Know that lights are of three sorts: of the tongue, of the heart, and of the body. The light of the tongue is tawḥīd and bearing witness, the light of the body is service and obedience, and the light of the heart is yearning and love. The light of the tongue conveys to the Garden, in accordance with His words, “God rewarded them for what they said with Gardens” [5:85]. The light of the body conveys to Firdaws, in accordance with His words, “Those who have faith and do wholesome deeds—the Gardens of Firdaws shall be theirs as hospitality” [18:107]. The light of the heart conveys to the encounter with the Friend, in accordance with His words, “Faces that day will be radiant, gazing upon their Lord’ [75:22-23]. When someone finds these three lights in this world, he will be given three robes of honor already in this world: The first dignity, so people will see splendor from him without fearing him; second sweetness, so they will seek him out without having any tie to him; third love, so they will love him without being his relative.

This dignity, sweetness, and love are because he has the light of proximity shining in his heart, and seeing the Friend is face-to-face with his heart’s eye. Know that hardness of heart rises up from much disobedience, much disobedience rises up from many appetites, and many appetites rise up because of the fullness of the stomach.

Dhu’l-Nūn Miṣrī said, “I never ate my fill without doing a disobedient act.”

Abū Sulaymān Dārānī said, “If anyone eats his fill, six bad traits will appear in him: First, the sweetness of worship will not come. Second, his memory in recalling wisdom will be bad. Third, he will be deprived of tenderness toward the creatures, for he will fancy that they are full like him. Fourth, appetites will force themselves upon him and increase. Fifth, obedience and worship of God will become heavy for him. Sixth, when the faithful are going to the mosque and the prayer niche, he will be looking for the privy.”

A report has come that Muḥammad said, “Bring your heart to life by eating little and make it pure by hunger so that it will become limpid and beautiful.”

Shiblī said, “I never sat down hungry without finding a new wisdom and heedfulness in my heart.”

The Prophet said, “The most excellent of you with God are those of you who go longest in hunger and reflection, and the most hated of you to God are those who eat, drink and sleep. You should eat and drink to the middle of your stomachs, for that is one part of prophethood.”

39:33 And he who brought truthfulness and he who assented to it, those are the Godwary.

Know that truthfulness [ṣidq] means truthfulness [rāstī]. There is truthfulness in four things: words, promises, resoluteness, and deeds. Truthfulness in words is what the Real says about Muṣṭafā: “And he who brought truthfulness.” Truthfulness in promises is what He says about Ishmael the prophet: “Surely he was truthful in the promise” [19:54]. Truthfulness in resoluteness is what He says about the Messenger’s companions: “Men truthful in the covenant they made with God” [33:23]. Truthfulness in deeds is what He says about the faithful: “It is they who have been truthful” [2:177]. When these traits are brought together in someone, he is called “sincerely truthful.” Abraham was in this station, for the Exalted Lord said concerning him, “Surely he was sincerely truthful, a prophet” [19:41].

Muṣṭafā was asked, “What is the perfection of the religion?”

He said, “Speaking with truth and acting with truthfulness.”

Truthfulness in words is that the servant in whispered prayer with the Real seeks truthfulness from himself. If his face is turned toward this world in the state when he says, “Surely I have turned my face toward Him Who originated the heavens and the earth” [6:79], then that is a lie. When he says, “Thee alone we worship” [1:5], if he is in bondage to this world and to appetite, then he has spoken a lie, for a man is the servant of that to which he is in bondage. This is why Muṣṭafā said, “Miserable is the servant of dirhams, miserable the servant of dinars!” He called him the servant of gold and silver because he is in bondage to gold and silver. The servant must be free of this world and appetites as well as himself if servanthood to the Real is to be set right for him.

Abū Yazīd Basṭāmī said, “The Real made me stand before Him in one thousand standing places. In each standing place, He offered me the empire. I said, ‘I do not desire it.’ “He said to me in the last standing place, ‘O Abū Yazīd, what do you desire?’  “I said, ‘I desire not to desire.’ “He said, ‘You are My servant in truth.’” Abū Yazīd is saying, “The Real made me advance in the World of Realities by way of inspiration and kept me in one thousand standing places. In each of the standing places, He offered me the empire of the two worlds. By the divine success-giving, I saw that I was free of bondage to all of that. I said, ‘I want nothing of these treasuries and these pearls of the Unseen that You have poured out before me.’ Then, in the last standing place, He said, ‘So what do you want?’ I said, ‘I want not to want. Who am I that I should have a want? Who am I that I should have an I?’

As for truthfulness in loyalty to resoluteness, it is that a man be solid in the religion, have jealousy for the command, and be straight in the present moment. Thus the Companions of the Messenger were loyal to their resoluteness, and in fighting the enemy they made their bodies the path and sacrificed their lives. Then the Exalted Lord praised them in that loyalty to resoluteness and that realization of the covenant: “Men truthful in the covenant they made with God” [33:23].

There was also the hypocrite who made a covenant with God and had resoluteness in his heart—“If He gives me possessions, I will spend them freely and I will make them into a mount on the road of Godwariness”—but then he broke his resoluteness and was not loyal to the covenant. The Exalted Lord said about him, “And among them is he who made a covenant with God: ‘If He gives us of His bounty, we will surely give charity and we will surely be among the wholesome’” [9:75]. The passage continues to where He says, “for having failed God in what they promised Him and for having lied” [9:77]. He called him a speaker of lies and named him a liar because of his failure in the promise and his breaking the covenant that had gone before. As for the truthfulness of the truthful in traveling the road of the religion and in their deeds, it is that they seek from themselves the reality of each one of the stations of the religion—like repentance, patience, renunciation, fear, hope, and so on. They are not satisfied with the outward aspects and beginnings. Do you not see what the Exalted Lord says in describing the faithful? “The faithful are only those who have faith in God and His Messenger, then do not doubt, and who struggle in the path of God with their property and themselves; it is they who are the truthful” [49:15].

In another place, He says, “Piety is not that you turn your faces.” Then, at the end of the verse, He says “It is they who have been truthful” [2:177]. If the stipulations of faith had not been brought together in them, He would not have called them truthful. For example, when someone fears something, the mark of his truthfulness is that his body trembles, his face is yellow, and he is held back from food and drink. Thus a minor slip happened to David the prophet. For forty days he put his head on the ground in the manner of prostrators. He wept to the point that plants grew up in the earth from his tears. A call came, “O David, why are you weeping? If you are hungry, let Me give you food. If you are thirsty, let Me give you water.” David was so burnt that when he moaned in his weeping, wood caught fire from his breath. He said, “Lord God, have mercy on my weeping and engrave my sin on the palm of my hand so that I will never forget.” The Lord of the Worlds recognized his truthfulness in his practice and accepted his repentance and answered his prayer.

It has also come in the reports about David that when he wanted to mourn because of his sin, first he did not eat anything for seven days, nor did he go around women, and then he went out into the desert. He said to Solomon that he should announce in the gathering of the Children of Israel that anyone who wanted to hear the mourning of David should be present. Many people gathered, as well as the birds of the air and the beasts of the desert. David began by glorifying and lauding God. Then he continued by describing paradise and hell, and finally, he mourned for his own sin. He spoke about fear such that many people gave up their spirits from listening to that. Finally, Solomon stood up next to him and said, “O father, enough, for a great multitude have perished.” It is said that on one day forty thousand were present, and of those thirty thousand perished. This is the mark of truthfulness in the varieties of practice.

ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusayn was seen, having finished with purity, standing at the door of the mosque, his face yellow and his body trembling. He was asked about his state. He said, “Do you not know before whom I am going and in whose presence I will be standing?”

Dāwūd Ṭāʾī was the scholar of the time, the unique one of the era in jurisprudence. In the station of truthfulness he was such that on the night when he left the world, a call came from the middle of heaven: “O folk of the earth! Surely Dāwūd Ṭāʾī has stepped forth to his Lord, and He approves of him.”

Abū Bakr ʿAyyāsh recounts, “I went to Dāwūd’s chamber and saw him sitting and weeping with a piece of dry bread in his hand. I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘I desire to eat this, but I do not know if it is permitted or forbidden.’”

In truth, when someone recognizes the exaltedness of the religion, the caprice of mortal nature will never reap its fruit from him. If one of the sincerely truthful were to show his head from beneath the cloak of his attributes and look down on us, he would see nothing but the worthlessness of our description.

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