The first person to dress the Kaaba of deeds in the cloak of self-purification was Muṣṭafā, who said, “Deeds are only through intentions.” Self-purification in deeds does the work of color in jewels. Just as a jewel without the cape of color is a worthless stone, so also deeds without self-purification are to knock oneself out without hitting the mark.
4:125 Who is more beautiful in religion than he who submits his face to God while he is a beautiful-doer and follows the creed of Abraham, an unswerving man? And God took Abraham as a bosom friend.
Maʿrūf Karkhī used to beat himself with a whip and say, “O soul! Purify thyself and be delivered!” It has been said that knowledge is the seed, deeds are planting, and self-purification is the water. The work is done by self-purification, salvation lies in self-purification, and endless felicity lies in self-purification, but self-purification itself is exalted and does not come down just anywhere, nor does it show its face to just anyone. The Exalted Lord said, “It is one of My secrets that I deposit in the hearts of those whom I love among My servants.”
There was a worshiper among the Children of Israel. He was told that in such-and-such a place there is a tree that people worship. For the sake of God and the zeal of the religion he became angry, left his place with a mattock over his shoulder, and went to dig up the tree by its roots. Iblis went into the road with the attributes of an old man. He asked him where he was going and he replied, “To that place to dig up the tree.”
Iblis said, “Go, busy yourself with your worship, for this will not be done by your hand.” Iblis struggled with him and fell, and the worshiper sat on his chest. Iblis said, “Let go of me and I will speak some beautiful words to you.” He let go of him, and Iblis said, “O worshiper, God has prophets. If this tree needs to be dug up, He will command a prophet to dig it up. He has not commanded you to do so.” The worshiper said, “No, because the tree must be dug up, and I will not turn back from this work until I finish that.”
Again they struggled together, and the worshiper was better, so Iblis fell down. Iblis said, “O chevalier, you are a poor man, and the people have to provide you with food. What would it matter if you stop this work, for it is not up to you and you have not been commanded to do it, and every day I will place two dinars under your pillow? That would be good for both you and the worshipers, for you can spend it on them.”
At these words of his, the worshiper paused. He said to himself, “Spending one dinar as alms and putting the other to use is better than pulling up this tree, for I have not been commanded to do so. I am no prophet that it should be mandatory for me.” Hence with these words, he went back. The next morning he saw two dinars under his pillow and the same on the second day. But on the third day, he saw nothing. He became angry, picked up his mattock, and went to dig up the tree. Iblis came into his road and said, “O man, give up this work, for it will never be done at your hand.” They struggled together, the worshiper fell, and he was helpless at the hands of Iblis. Iblis aimed to kill him. The worshiper, “Let me go and I will go back. But first, tell me why at first I came out better, and now you have come out better.”
Iblis replied, “Because at first you rose up for the sake of God and were angry because of God’s religion, so the Exalted Lord subjected me to you. When someone does something for God with self-purification, my hand will not reach him. This time you became angry for the sake of your own wanting and for the sake of this world. You became the follower of your caprice. Hence you could not defeat me and were subjugated by me.”
When Muṣṭafā was asked what self-purification is, he said, “It is that you say, ‘My Lord is God,’ then you go straight as you have been commanded.”
Who is more beautiful in religion than he who submits his face to God while he is a beautiful-doer? Wāsiṭī said, “The meaning of while he is a beautiful-doer is that he is doing the beautiful by submitting his face to God.” He is saying, “The pure road and beautiful religion belongs to him who turns his face toward the Real. He knows and recognizes as good this turning of the face to the Real and being a self-purifier, for not everyone reaches the threshold of the Sultan. It is he who recognizes the courtesy of the Presence.” Then He says, “and follows the creed of Abraham, an unswerving man.” This alludes to the state of Abraham, who turned his face to the Real and observed the courtesy of the Presence, not leaving any portion for himself. He tossed it all away—his soul, his wealth, and his child. He tossed away his own soul for the sake of the Real’s approval, he tossed away his child for the
sake of following His command, and he tossed away his wealth because of tenderness toward the people. Hence the Exalted Lord praised him and called him His bosom friend: “And God took Abraham as a bosom friend.”
It has been narrated that God revealed to him, “You are My bosom friend and I am your bosom friend, so be careful that I have not become aware in your secret core that you have become attached to other than Me, lest you cut off your bosom friendship from Me.” It has also been said that when the Exalted Lord wrote down bosom friendship for him, He gave out this call in the world: “And God took Abraham as a bosom friend.” The angels raised their voices and said, “O Lord, what did Abraham do that you have given him this honor and singled him out from all the world’s folk?”
The command came, “O Gabriel, open up your peacock-feathers and go from the top of the Lote-Tree to the summit of that mountain, and convey My name to his hearing.” He stood behind the mountain. The Bosom Friend had three hundred herds of sheep, and each herd had a dog with a gold collar around its neck. Gabriel shouted out, “O Holy One!” The Bosom Friend fainted from the pleasure of hearing that. When he came to, he said, “O speaker! Say that once more, and this herd of sheep with its dog and gold collar belongs to you.” Gabriel once more raised up his voice, “O Holy One!” The Bosom Friend was rolling in the dust like a half-slaughtered chicken. He was saying, “Say it again, and another herd belongs to you!”
He kept on asking him like this until he gave away the three hundred herds. Once he had given all, the knots became tighter, passion and destitution joined together. The Bosom Friend said, “O servant of God! Recite the name of the Friend one more time, and my spirit is yours!”
Gabriel became happy. He spread his peacock feathers and said, “If there is any shortcoming, it is in our eyes. You have a passion for perfection. He was right to take you as a bosom friend.”