بخش 35

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بخش 35

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PART THREE

Wind

THE THINGS THAT SHIFT, EVOLVE, AND CHALLENGE

The Zealot

KONYA, OCTOBER 19, 1244

Below my open window, dogs were barking and growling. I propped myself up in bed, suspecting they must have noticed a robber trying to break in to a house, or some dirty drunk passing by. Decent people cannot sleep in peace anymore. There is debauchery and lechery everywhere. It wasn’t always like this. This town was a safer place until a few years ago. Moral corruption is no different from a ghastly disease that comes without warning and spreads fast, infecting the rich and the poor, the old and the young alike. Such is the state of our town today. If it weren’t for my position at the madrassa, I would hardly leave my house.

Thank God there are people who put the interests of the community before their own and work day and night to enforce order. People like my young nephew, Baybars. My wife and I are proud of him. It is comforting to know that at this late hour, when villains, criminals, and drunks go on a rampage, Baybars and his fellow security guards patrol the town to protect us.

Upon my brother’s early death, I became the primary guardian for Baybars. Young, adamant, he started working as a security guard six months ago. Gossipmongers claimed that it was thanks to my position as a madrassa teacher that he was able to get the job. Nonsense! Baybars is strong and brave enough to qualify for the job. He would also have made an excellent soldier. He wanted to go to Jerusalem to fight against the Crusaders, but my wife and I thought it was time for him to settle down and start a family.

“We need you here, son,” I said. “There is so much to fight against here, too.”

Indeed there was. Just this morning I told my wife we were living in difficult times. It is no coincidence that every day we hear of a new tragedy. If the Mongols have been this victorious, if the Christians could succeed in furthering their cause, if town after town, village after village is sacked by the enemies of Islam, it is because of the people who are Muslims in name only. When people lose hold of the rope of God, they are bound to go astray. The Mongols were sent as a punishment for our sins. If not the Mongols, it would have been an earthquake, a famine, or a flood. How many more calamities do we have to experience for the sinners in this town to get the message and repent their ways? Next I fear stones will rain down from above. One day soon we might all be wiped out, walking in the footsteps of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And these Sufis, they are such a bad influence. How dare they call themselves Muslims when they say things no Muslim should even think of? It boils my blood to hear them utter the name of the Prophet, peace be upon him, to promote their silly views. They claim that following a war campaign, the Prophet Muhammad had announced that his people were henceforth abandoning the small jihad for the greater jihad—the struggle against one’s own ego. Sufis argue that ever since then the ego is the only adversary a Muslim should be warring against. Sounds nice, but how is that going to help to fight the enemies of Islam? I wonder.

The Sufis go as far as claiming that the sharia is merely a stage on the way. What stage, I say, what are they speaking of? As if that weren’t alarming enough, they argue that an enlightened person cannot be bound by the rules of early stages. And since they like to think of themselves as having already reached a supreme level, they use this as a poor excuse to disregard the rules of the sharia. Drinking, dancing, music, poetry, and painting seem more vital to them than religious duties. They keep preaching that since there is no hierarchy in Islam, everyone is entitled to his own personal quest for God. It all sounds inoffensive and harmless, but after one wades through the boring verbosity, one discovers that there is a sinister side to their message: that there is no need to pay attention to religious authorities!

As far as the Sufis are concerned, the holy Qur’an is replete with obscure symbols and layered allusions, each of which ought to be interpreted in a mystic way. So they examine how every word vibrates to a number, study the hidden meaning of numbers, and look out for veiled references in the text, doing everything in their power to avoid reading God’s message, plain and clear.

Some Sufis even say that human beings are the Speaking Qur’an. If this isn’t sheer blasphemy, I don’t know what is. Then there are the wandering dervishes, another troubled category of misfits. Qalandaris, Haydaris, Camiis—they’re known under all sorts of names. I’d say they are the worst. What good could come out of a man who cannot settle down? If a man has no sense of belonging, he can drift in every direction, like a dry leaf in the wind. The perfect victim for Sheitan.

Philosophers are no better than the Sufis. They ruminate and ruminate as if their limited minds could grasp the incomprehensibility of the universe! There is a story that is indicative of the conspiracy between the philosophers and the Sufis.

A philosopher met a dervish one day, and they instantly hit it off. The two talked for days on end, completing each other’s sentences.

Finally, when they parted company, the philosopher reported of the conversation, “All that I know, he sees.”

Next the Sufi gave his account: “All that I see, he knows.”

So the Sufi thinks he sees, and the philosopher thinks he knows. In my opinion they see nothing and know nothing. Don’t they realize that as simple, limited, and ultimately mortal human beings, we are not expected to know more than we should? The most a human being is capable of attaining is a mere smattering of information about the Almighty. That’s all. Our task is not to interpret God’s teachings but to obey them.

When Baybars comes home, we will talk about these matters. It has become a habit, our small ritual. Every night after his shift, he eats the soup and flatbread that my wife serves him, and we engage in conversation about the state of things. It pleases me to see what a good appetite he has. He needs to be strong. A young, principled guy like him has much work to do in this ungodly town.

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