This is an admonishment to the sincerely truthful and the lovers: “The seven heavens, the seven earths, and everything within them all belong to Me. I did not create them that you should turn your face toward them and attach your heart to them, remaining with them and being held back from Me. Rather, I created them to show them to you and to adorn them for your soul. Then, when you put aside everything and bring your face to Me, I will bring all of them into your service and put them all in your hands.” This meaning is in the report, “O this world! Serve those who serve Me, and trouble those who serve you!”
The story of Sahl Tustarī is well known. The caliph of the day offered great wealth to him, but he did not accept anything. Someone asked him why he had not accepted. Sahl called upon God to lift the veil from the eyes of the questioner, who then looked and saw a world full of gems and pearls. Sahl said, “O chevalier! I have no need for the wealth of the caliph. The whole world is at my command. The storehouses of the earth have been offered to me, but I do not want them.”
4:136 O you who have faith! Have faith in God and His Messenger.
Faith is of two sorts, one based on proof, the other on face-to-face vision. Faith by proof is the road of inference, and faith by face-to-face vision is finding the day of union. Faith by proof is to employ the evidence of intellects, and faith by vision is to reach the degrees of arrival. In terms of allusion, He is saying: “O you have acquired faith by proof, strive to acquire faith by face-to-face vision!”
What is faith by face-to-face vision? Gazing with the eye of response on the Responder, gazing with the eye of solitariness on the Solitary, gazing with the eye of presence on the Present, being near to God’s nearness by being far from self, being present with His generosity by being absent from self. He—majestic is His majesty!—is not far from the strivers nor absent from the desirers. He says, “We are nearer to him than the jugular vein” [50:16].
Think! “O Lord! You are found by the souls of the chevaliers, You are present to the hearts of the rememberers. They give marks of You up close, but You are far beyond that. They fancy You from afar, but You are closer than the spirit.” It is also said that the meaning of the verse is this: O you who have faith by asserting, have faith by realizing! You have accepted the Shariah, now accept the Haqiqah.
What is the Shariah? What is the Haqiqah? The Shariah is a lamp, the Haqiqah a burn. The Shariah is a bond, the Haqiqah advice. The Shariah is needed the Haqiqah joy. The Shariah is the outer pillar, the Haqiqah the inner pillar. The Shariah is not having evil, the Haqiqah is not having a self. The Shariah is service based on conditions, the Haqiqah exile based on witnessing. The Shariah is by intermediaries, the Haqiqah by unveiling. The folk of the Shariah keep obedience and leave aside disobedience, the folk of the Haqiqah flee from themselves and take joy in oneness. The folk of the Shariah hope for everlastingness and subsistent bliss, the folk of the Haqiqah boldly busy themselves with the Cupbearer. The Haqiqah begins when He appears. The longing that overcomes you makes the wide world too narrow for you and makes the inside of your shirt a prison. It strikes fire in your spirit and throws thirst into your heart. You see the burning, but not the Burner. You see the tumult, but not Him who stirs it up. There is no one to assist you, no one with whom to speak, no sympathizer with whom you can sit for a while.
In the end, the chevalier lets out a sigh in his longing and bewilderment: “O God, my tree has been burnt by thirst. How long will it take before You look after it? O Generous One! I am weeping over You! It is not beneath You to answer. Pour water once on my field! O God, if I am not worthy for what I desire, how can I love with a heart plucked of its feathers? If the hand of my need will not reach the branch of hope, how can I get on my feet? If You do not give me access to Yourself, how can I flee to You? O Generous One, give me access, so that I may weep at Your threshold and rejoice in hope mixed with fear. Receive me, O Gentle One, so that I may turn myself over to You. Gaze at me once so that I may throw the two worlds into the ocean.”
The Majestic Lord caresses the traveler with the attribute of generosity: “Fear not! Not every bite is poisoned. When a mother bites her child, she does so because of love.”
If you see gentleness and generosity reaching a servant, it is because he has preserved the outward of the Shariah and has wanted to show reverence to it in spirit and heart. Inevitably, he has reached the repose of whispered prayers and the gentle favors of union’s gifts. In contrast, if you see harshness and severity, it is because he has looked with denial on the sanctuary of the Shariah and has put to work the religion’s prohibited things in following the commanding soul. Yes, that is the way it is: When someone holds back from the outward of the Shariah, the beauty of the Haqiqah veils its face from him. If someone disdains commands and prohibitions, what wonder if faith and recognition take their bags away from his heart?