بخش 07

کتاب: ملت عشق / فصل 7

بخش 07

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
  • سطح سخت

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Shams

AN INN OUTSIDE SAMARKAND, MARCH 1242

Burdened with loneliness, all fast asleep in separate dreams, were more than a dozen weary travelers upstairs at the inn. I stepped over bare feet and hands to reach my empty bedroll that reeked of sweat and mold. I lay there in the dark, mulling over the day’s events and reflecting on any divine signs I might have witnessed but, in my haste or ignorance, failed to appreciate.

Since I was a boy, I had received visions and heard voices. I always talked to God, and He always responded. Some days I ascended all the way up to the seventh sky as light as a whisper. Then I descended into the deepest pits of the earth, suffused with the smells of soil, hidden away like a rock buried under mighty oaks and sweet chestnuts. Every so often I lost my appetite for food and went without eating for days on end. None of these things scared me, though in time I had learned not to mention them to others. Human beings tended to disparage what they couldn’t comprehend. I had learned that firsthand.

The first person to misjudge my visions was my father. I must have been ten years old when I started seeing my guardian angel on a daily basis and was naïve enough to think that everyone else did as well. One day, while my father was teaching me how to build a cedar chest so that I could become a carpenter like him, I told him about my guardian angel.

“You have a wild imagination, son,” my father said dryly. “And you better keep it to yourself. We don’t want to upset the villagers again.”

A few days before, the neighbors had complained about me to my parents, accusing me of acting strange and scaring their kids.

“I don’t understand your ways, my son. Why can’t you accept that you are no more remarkable than your parents?” my father asked. “Every child takes after his father and mother. So have you.”

That was when I realized that although I loved my parents and craved their love, they were strangers to me.

“Father, I am from a different egg than your other children. Think of me as a duckling raised by hens. I am not a domestic bird destined to spend his life in a chicken coop. The water that scares you rejuvenates me. For unlike you I can swim, and swim I shall. The ocean is my homeland. If you are with me, come to the ocean. If not, stop interfering with me and go back to the chicken coop.” My father’s eyes grew large, then small and distant. “If this is the way you talk to your father now,” he said gravely, “I wonder how you will address your enemies when you grow up.”

Much to the chagrin of my parents, the visions did not disappear as I got older. If anything, they became more intense and gripping. I knew I made my parents nervous, and I felt guilty for upsetting them so, but the truth is, I didn’t know how to end the visions, and even if I had, I don’t think I would have. Before long I left my house for good. Since then Tabriz has become a smooth, sweet word, so fine and delicate that it melts on my tongue. Three scents accompany my memories of this place: cut wood, poppy-seed bread, and the soft, crisp smell of snow.

I have been a wandering dervish ever since, not sleeping in the same place more than once, not eating out of the same bowl twice in a row, every day seeing different faces around me. When hungry, I earn a few coins by interpreting dreams. In this state I roam east and west, searching for God high and low. I hunt everywhere for a life worth living and a knowledge worth knowing. Having roots nowhere, I have everywhere to go.

During my travels I have taken all sorts of roads, from popular trade routes to forgotten tracks where you wouldn’t run into a soul for days on end. From the coasts of the Black Sea to the cities of Persia, from the vast steppes of Central Asia to the sand dunes of Arabia, I have passed through thick forests, flat grasslands, and deserts; sojourned at caravansaries and hostels; consulted with the learned men in age-old libraries; listened to tutors teaching little children in maktabs; discussed tafsir and logic with students in madrassas; visited temples, monasteries, and shrines; meditated with hermits in their caves; performed zikr with dervishes; fasted with sages and dined with heretics; danced with shamans under the full moon; come to know people of all faiths, ages, and professions; and witnessed misfortunes and miracles alike.

I have seen poverty-stricken villages, fields blackened by fire, and plundered towns where the rivers ran red and there were no men left alive above the age of ten. I have seen the worst and the best in humanity. Nothing surprises me anymore.

As I went through all these experiences, I began to compile a list that wasn’t written down in any book, only inscribed in my soul. This personal list I called The Basic Principles of the Itinerant Mystics of Islam. To me these were as universal, dependable, and invariable as the laws of nature. Together they constituted The Forty Rules of the Religion of Love, which could be attained through love and love only. And one of those rules said, The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

It had taken me years to finish working on these rules. All forty of them. And now that I was done, I knew I was nearing the final stage of my time in this world. Lately I had been having many visions in this direction. It wasn’t death that worried me, for I didn’t see it as an end, but dying without leaving a legacy behind. There were many words piled up inside my chest, stories waiting to be told. I wanted to hand all this knowledge to one other person, neither a master nor a disciple. I sought an equal—a companion.

“God,” I whispered into the dark, damp room, “all my life I traveled the world and followed Thy path. I saw every person as an open book, a walking Qur’an. I stayed away from the ivory towers of scholars, preferring to spend time with outcasts, expatriates, and exiles. Now I am bursting. Help me to hand Thy wisdom to the right person. Then Thou can do with me as Thou wish.” Before my eyes the room was showered with a light so bright that the faces of the travelers in their beds turned lurid blue. The air inside smelled fresh and alive, as if all the windows had been pushed open and a gusty wind brought in the scent of lilies and jasmine from faraway gardens.

“Go to Baghdad,” fluted my guardian angel in a singsong voice.

“What is awaiting me in Baghdad?” I asked.

“You prayed for a companion, and a companion you will be given. In Baghdad you will find the master who will point you in the right direction.”

Tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes. Now I knew that the man in my vision was no other than my spiritual companion. Sooner or later we were destined to meet. And when we did, I would learn why his kind hazel eyes were eternally sad and how I came to be murdered on an early-spring night.

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