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NEWSPRESS: POVERTY’S HOUSE OF SORROWS

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9:60 The freewill offerings are for the poor, and the indigent…. and the son of the road…

O you whose heart has never for one day walked in poverty and who, in your whole life, have never for one hour sat like Jacob in poverty’s house of sorrows! O you who have never for one day placed your own attributes with the description of poverty in the mangonel of struggle and never for an instant sacrificed your spirit in the cave of exile and the state of indigence by following the beloved Prophet and the sincerely truthful Abū Bakr. You suppose that without tasting the drink of poverty and wearing the clothes of discipline today you will dwell tomorrow in the domiciles of the High Chambers with the poor among the Companions and the men of the road of poverty. Your supposition is erroneous and your self-governance wrong. They were a thousand times more passionate about that poverty of theirs than you are about being a chief.

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf was one of the paragons among the Companions, but the beauty of poverty had hidden its face from him. One day he came into the presence of Muṣṭafā, and Saʿd ibn Muʿādh, a poor Companion, was present. Words came forth from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān that made the poor man sad, and he became ill. Then ʿAbd al-Raḥmān made one-half of his wealth a sacrifice for the suffering of his heart, but he would not accept. God’s Messenger said, “O Saʿd, why will you not accept?” He said, “O Messenger of God! The pearl of poverty is too exalted to be sold even for the whole of this world.”

For a hundred years the sun must rise in the east and set in the west before the beginningless decree gives a recognizer the eyes to see the beauty of poverty and recognize the exaltedness of poverty. He must have a pain that makes him familiar with seeking. But this seeking is not like the seeking of other things. This pain is not like other pains, which arise from the vapor of forbidden morsels and appear at the top of the stomach. The pain of the religion and the vision of this seeking arise from the level of the liver of the free man, and the exaltedness of the poverty in the hearts of seekers appears in the measure of their pain. The more a heart is full of pain and burnt, the more the exaltedness of poverty remains with it.

Muṣṭafā was offered this world, but he was not pleased with it. He said, “What do I have to do with this world?” He was offered the afterworld, but he did not look at it. About him, it was said, “The eyesight did not swerve, nor did it trespass” [53:17]. The poor were placed before his eyes and heart, and he wanted to turn away from them and not look. The Exalted Lord did not let that pass. He commanded him to gaze upon them: “And let not thine eyes turn away from them [18:28]: O Master, do not lift your eyes away from them and always honor gazing upon them. O Master, I who am the Lord gaze upon their hearts. Look at those at whom I am constantly looking!”

It has been said that poverty has three levels: first need, second poverty, and third indigence. The possessor of need turns his head to this world so that it may block his poverty. The possessor of poverty does not give his heart to this world but inclines to the afterworld and is at ease with the bliss of paradise. The possessor of indigence wants only the Patron. He does not want joy or blessing, rather the mystery of the Patron of Blessings.

Muṣṭafā wanted indigence. He said, “O God, let me live in indigence, let me die in indigence, and muster me among the indigent!” But he sought refuge from poverty: “I seek refuge in Thee from poverty.” This means that the possessor of poverty still has something left of his own shares, so he will be veiled from his Lord by what is left.

There are three stations. First, lightning shines from the heaven of poverty to make you aware, then a breeze blows forth from the air of indigence to make you familiar, then a door of recognition opens to make you a friend and dresses you in a robe of honor to make you bold. “O God, You mixed the fire of finding with the light of recognition. You stirred up the breeze of proximity from the garden of the union. You poured down the rain of solitariness on the dust of mortal nature. You burned water and clay with the fire of friendship. Thus You taught the recognizer’s eyes how to see You.”

Then, at the end of the verse, He finishes mentioning the owners of portions with “the son of the road.” In the tongue of the ulama, the son of the road is he who seeks separation from his homeland and passes his days in the abasement of exile and the suffering of travel. In the tasting of the chevaliers, it is he who cuts himself off from the habits and familiar things of his own caprice and detaches his heart totally from self, links, and all creatures. Like an exile, he takes up a corner with a heart full of pain and a spirit full of remorse. To the tune of longing and bewilderment he keeps on murmuring, “O God, everyone’s an exile in body, but I’m an exile in heart and spirit. Everyone’s an exile while traveling, but I’m an exile at home. Every illness is healed by a physician, but I have been made ill by the physician. Everyone has a portion from the apportioning, but I have no portion. Everyone who’s lost his heart has a friend and sympathizer, but I have no friends and am an exile.”

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