2:273 [It is] for the poor, who are constrained in the path of God and are not able to travel in the earth. The ignorant man counts them as rich because of their self-restraint. Thou shalt recognize them by their mark—they do not ask of the people imploringly. And whatever good you expend, surely God knows it.
This is a description of the state of the poor among the Companions and a clarification of their conduct. Until the day of resurrection, this is the balm of the hearts of the burnt and broken. Their first attribute is that they are constrained in the path of God, that is, they have halted at God’s decree. They have constrained their souls to obey Him, their hearts to recognize Him, their spirits to love Him, and their secret cores to see Him.23 They have settled down in God’s decree and approved of it, they have welcomed His command, they have kept their souls in obedience, they have occupied their hearts with recognition, their spirits have come to be at ease in love, and their secret cores have remained in anticipation of vision, for the Exalted Lord says about them, “They are unable to travel in the earth.” They are so busy with the Real that they attend neither to the creatures nor to themselves. They take no steps in seeking daily provision, nor do they put their hearts into acquisition and trade. This is exactly what He says: “whom neither trade nor buying diverts from the remembrance of God” [24:37]. They are chevaliers whose watchword is God’s remembrance and whose blanket is God’s love. They have repose and settledness at the threshold of serving Him and their aspiration is free of others. They are the beauty of paradise and the adornment of the abode of settledness [40:39]—a few of the Emigrants and a few of the Helpers.
The ignorant man counts them as rich because of their self-restraint. You would say that they are without need and you would number them as wealthy, for, despite the defectiveness of their state and the constraint of poverty, they never ask, whether from creatures or from the Real. Not asking from creatures is precisely trust, and trust is the level of their abode. Not asking from the Real is the reality of approval, and the field of approval is their way station. This was exactly the state of Abraham, to whom it was said that he should ask from the Real. He said, “His knowledge of my state is enough asking for me.”
ʿAbdallāh Mubārak was seen weeping. They asked, “What happened to this great man of the religion?”
He said, “Today I asked forgiveness from God. Then I thought, ‘What is this meddling of mine?!’ He is the Lord and I am the servant. He will do whatever He wants with the servant and will give him what he needs. He is not asleep that He should be awakened, nor is He heedless of the work that He should be alerted.”
Junayd said, “Once it passed my lips, ‘O God, give me drink!’ I heard a call, ‘Are you intruding between Me and yourself, O Junayd?’” This is the attribute of a group who have reached the world of realization, tasted a drink from the cup of union, and been delivered from occupation with creatures and self. As for him who does not have this state and has not reached this station, his road is to hold up his hands in supplication and ask the Real to deliver him. Asking is permitted for him, and in his case supplication is the same as worship.
Thou shalt recognize them by their mark. Not every eye will see them and not every head will recognize them. Only those will see and recognize them who have the eyesight of prophethood and the insight of the Haqiqah. The eyesight of prophethood is from the light of unity, and the insight of the Haqiqah is from the lightning of the beginningless.
Murtaʿish said, “Their mark is their jealousy for their poverty and their clinging to their distress and brokenness.” In reality, it is they who have recognized the pearl of poverty, come to know its secret, and take it up with spirit and heart. They would not sell one iota of it for this world and the afterworld.
The master Abū ʿAlī saw a poor man carrying a shirt on his shoulders made of bits and pieces of cloth stuck together. By way of pleasantry, he said, “O dervish, how much did you pay for that?” The poor man said, “I bought it for the whole world. They’re asking for one of its threads in exchange for the bliss of the afterworld, but I won’t give it.”
Yes, the brightness of the pearl of poverty can only be seen with the light of prophethood and the brightness of friendship. Muṣṭafā saw the beauty of poverty with the light of prophethood and recognized its secret. He chose poverty over this world and the afterworld. He said about this world, “My Lord offered to fill the valley of Mecca with gold for me. I said, ‘No, Lord, rather let me be satiated one day and hungry the next.’” He detached his heart from the bliss of the afterworld and did not assign his eyes to that. Then the Exalted Lord praised him for that and said, “The eyesight did not swerve, nor did it trespass” [53:17].
If the only eminence of poverty were that Muṣṭafā was commanded to be the companion of the poor when it was said to him, “And let not thine eyes turn away from them” [18:28], that itself would be complete. Here something is prepared that is called “the secret of secrets,” and only the minds of the sincerely truthful have access to it. The reality of this secret becomes known from this report: “When someone has in his heart to sit with God, he should sit with the folk of Sufism.”
Shaykh al-Islām Anṣārī said, “In everyone something is apparent. In the knower, religion is apparent. In the realizer, the Patron’s light is apparent. In the lover, the annihilation of the realm of being is apparent. In the Sufi what is apparent is apparent—its mark cannot be given with the tongue.”
And whatever good you expend, surely God knows it. Here He speaks like this, and at the end of the previous verse, He says, “And whatever good you expend shall be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged” [2:272]. The lords of the realities see a beautiful subtlety separating the two verses.
They say that when a servant spends in the road of God, there are two reasons for his expenditure. One is that he has in view his own goal and strives to gain reward for himself, fearing hell and hoping for paradise. His expenditure and his reward are what God says: “And whatever good you expend shall be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” The other reason for expenditure is that he has in view the poor person, seeking his ease and striving for his sake, so he does not see his own share in that. This is the state of the recognizer, who has removed the intrusion of his own reward from the expenditure. In the same way, the Exalted Lord does not raise the issue of reward, but He honors him with this tremendous caress: “And whatever good you expend, surely God knows it: I who am God know what must be given to this servant and what must be done for him.” To this is the allusion in His words, “I have prepared for My wholesome servants what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what has never passed into the heart of any mortal.”