بخش 68

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بخش 68

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Husam the Student

KONYA, FEBRUARY 1246

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we were all sitting on the floor in the classroom when the door opened and in walked Shams of Tabriz. Everyone was stunned. Having heard so many bad and bizarre things about him, mostly from our teacher, I, too, couldn’t help but cringe upon seeing him in our classroom in the flesh. He, however, seemed relaxed and friendly. After greeting us all, he said he had come to have a word with Sheikh Yassin.

“Our teacher doesn’t like to have strangers in the classroom. Perhaps you should talk to him some other time,” I said, hoping to avoid a nasty encounter.

“Thanks for your concern, young man, but sometimes nasty encounters are not only inevitable, they are necessary,” Shams answered, as if he had read my thoughts. “Don’t you worry, though. It won’t take too long.” Irshad, sitting next to me, muttered between clenched teeth, “Look at his nerve! He is the devil incarnate.”

I nodded, though I wasn’t sure Shams looked like the devil to me. Set against him as I was, I couldn’t help liking his forthrightness and audacity.

A few minutes later, Sheikh Yassin entered through the door, his brow furrowed in contemplation. He had taken no more than a few steps inside when he stopped and blinked distractedly in the direction of the uninvited visitor.

“What is this man doing here? Why did you let him in?”

My friends and I exchanged shocked glances and frightened whispers, but before anyone could muster the courage to say anything, Shams blurted out that he had been in the neighborhood and had decided to visit the one person in Konya who hated him most!

I heard several students cough tautly and saw Irshad draw in a sharp breath. The tension between the two men was so thick that the air in the classroom could be cut with a knife.

“I don’t know what you are doing here, but I have better things to do than talk to you,” Sheikh Yassin reprimanded. “Now, why don’t you take your leave, so that we can get on with our studies?” “You say you won’t talk to me, but you have been talking about me,” Shams remarked. “You have constantly spoken ill of me and Rumi, and of all the mystics along the Sufi path.”

Sheikh Yassin sniffed through his big, bony nose and narrowed his mouth to a pout, as if he had something sour on his tongue. “As I said, I have nothing to talk with you about. I already know what I need to know. I have my opinions.” Shams now turned to us with a swift, sardonic glance. “A man with many opinions but no questions! There’s something so wrong with that.”

“Really?” Sheikh Yassin looked amused and animated. “Then why don’t we ask the students which of the two they’d rather be: the wise man who knows the answers or the perplexed man who has nothing but questions?” All of my friends sided with Sheikh Yassin, but I sensed that many did so less out of sincere agreement than to get favors from the teacher. I chose to remain silent.

“One who thinks he has all the answers is the most ignorant,” Shams said with a dismissive shrug, and turned to our teacher. “But since you are so good with answers, may I ask you a question?” That was when I started to worry about where this conversation was heading. But there was nothing I could do to prevent the escalating tension.

“Since you claim I am the devil’s servant, could you kindly tell us what exactly your notion of Sheitan is?” asked Shams.

“Certainly,” Sheikh Yassin said, never missing an opportunity to preach. “Our religion, which is the last and the best of Abrahamic religions, tells us it was Sheitan who caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from heaven. As the children of fallen parents, we all need to be alert, because Sheitan comes in many forms. Sometimes he comes in the form of a gambler who invites us to gamble, sometimes a beautiful young woman who tries to seduce us.… Sheitan can come in the least expected forms, like that of a wandering dervish.” As if expecting this remark, Shams smiled knowingly. “I see what you mean. It must be a huge relief, and an easy way out, to think the devil is always outside of us.”

“What do you mean?” Sheikh Yassin asked.

“Well, if Sheitan is as wicked and indomitable as you are saying he is, then we human beings have no reason to blame ourselves for our wrongdoings. Whatever good happens we’ll attribute to God, and all the bad things in life we’ll simply attribute to Sheitan. In either case we’ll be exempt from all criticism and self-examination. How easy that is!” Still talking, Shams started to pace the room, his voice rising with each word. “But let’s for one moment imagine there is no Sheitan. No demons waiting to burn us in scorching cauldrons. All these bloodcurdling images were designed to show us something, but then they became clichés and lost their original message.” “And what might that message be?” Sheikh Yassin asked wearily, crossing his arms on his chest.

“Ah, so you do have questions after all,” Shams said. “The message is that the torment a person can inflict upon himself is endless. Hell is inside us, and so is heaven. The Qur’an says human beings are the most dignified. We are higher than the highest, but also lower than the lowest. If we could grasp the full meaning of this, we would stop looking for Sheitan outside and instead focus on ourselves. What we need is sincere self-examination. Not being on the watch for the faults of others.” “You go and examine yourself, and inshallah someday you will redeem yourself,” Sheikh Yassin answered, “but a proper scholar has to keep an eye on his community.”

“Then allow me to tell you a story,” Shams said, with such graciousness that we couldn’t be sure whether he was sincere or mocking.

And here is what he told us:

Four merchants were praying in a mosque when they saw the muezzin enter. The first merchant stopped his prayer and asked, “Muezzin! Has the prayer been called? Or do we still have time?”

The second merchant stopped praying and turned to his friend. “Hey, you spoke while you were praying. Your prayer is now void. You need to start anew!”

Upon hearing this, the third merchant interjected, “Why do you blame him, you idiot? You should have minded your own prayer. Now yours is void, too.”

The fourth merchant broke into a smile and said loudly, “Look at them! All three have messed up. Thank God I’m not one of the misguided.”

After telling this story, Shams stood facing the classroom and asked, “So what do you think? Which of the merchants’ prayers, in your opinion, were invalid?”

There was a brief stirring in the classroom as we discussed the answer among ourselves. Finally someone at the back said, “The second, the third, and the fourth merchants’ prayers were void. But the first merchant is innocent, because all he wanted was to consult the muezzin.” “Yes, but he shouldn’t have abandoned his prayer like that,” Irshad interposed. “It is obvious that all the merchants were wrong, except the fourth one, who was just talking to himself.” I averted my gaze, disagreeing with both answers but determined to keep my mouth shut. I had a feeling my views might not be welcome.

But no sooner had this thought crossed my mind than Shams of Tabriz pointed at me and asked, “And you over there! What do you think?”

I swallowed hard before I could find my voice. “If these merchants made a mistake, it is not because they spoke during prayer,” I said, “but because instead of minding their own business and connecting with God, they were more interested in what was going on around them. However, if we pass judgment on them, I am afraid we’ll be making the same crucial mistake.” “So what is your answer?” Sheikh Yassin asked, suddenly interested in the conversation.

“My answer is, all four merchants have erred for a similar reason, and yet none of them can be said to be in the wrong, because at the end of the day, it is not up to us to judge them.”

Shams of Tabriz took a step toward me and looked at me with such affection and kindness that I felt like a little boy savoring the unconditional love of a parent. He asked my name, and when I told him, he remarked, “Your friend Husam here has a Sufi heart.” I blushed up to my ears when I heard this. There was no doubt I would be scolded by Sheikh Yassin after the class and mocked and ridiculed by my friends. But all my worries quickly evaporated. I sat straight and smiled at Shams. He gave me a wink in return and, still smiling, continued to explain.

“The Sufi says, ‘I should mind my inner encounter with God rather than judging other people.’ An orthodox scholar, however, is always on the lookout for the mistakes of others. But don’t forget, students, most of the time he who complains about others is himself at fault.” “Stop confusing the minds of my students!” Sheikh Yassin broke in. “As scholars we cannot afford to be disinterested in what others are doing. People ask us many questions and expect to be answered duly, so that they can live their religion fully and properly. They ask us if their ablutions need to be redone should their noses bleed or if it is okay to fast while traveling and so on. The Shafi, Hanefi, Hanbali, and Maliki teachings differ from one another when it comes to these matters. Each school of law has its own set of meticulous answers that must be studied and learned.” “That’s good, but don’t get so attached to nominal distinctions.” Shams sighed. “The logos of God is complete. Don’t reach for details at the expense of the whole.”

“Details?” Sheikh Yassin echoed incredulously. “Believers take rules seriously. And we scholars guide them in their endeavor.”

“Keep guiding—that is, as long as you don’t forget that your guidance is limited and there is no word above the word of God,” Shams said, and then he added, “But try not to preach to those who have attained enlightenment. They derive a different pleasure in the verses of the Qur’an and so do not require the guidance of a sheikh.” Upon hearing this, Sheikh Yassin got so furious that his withered cheeks flushed waves of crimson and his Adam’s apple jutted out sharply. “There is nothing temporary in the guidance we provide,” he said. “The sharia constitutes the rules and regulations that every Muslim should consult from cradle to grave.” “The sharia is only a boat that sails in the ocean of Truth. The true seeker of God will sooner or later abandon the vessel and plunge into the sea.”

“So that sharks might eat him up,” Sheikh Yassin retorted, chuckling. “That’s what happens to the one who refuses to be guided.”

A few students joined in the chuckle, but the rest of us sat quietly, feeling increasingly uncomfortable. The class was coming to an end, and I couldn’t see how this conversation could conclude on a positive note.

Shams of Tabriz must have felt the same gloom, for he looked pensive now, almost forlorn. He closed his eyes as if suddenly tired of so much talk, a move so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.

“In all my travels, I have come to know many sheikhs,” Shams said. “While some were sincere men, others were condescending, and they didn’t know anything about Islam. I wouldn’t trade the dust off of the old shoes of a real lover of God for the heads of today’s sheikhs. Even shadow players who display images behind curtains are better than they are, because at least they admit that what they provide is mere illusion.” “That’s enough! I think we’ve heard enough of your forked tongue,” Sheikh Yassin announced. “Now, get out of my classroom!”

“Don’t worry, I was about to leave,” Shams said roguishly, and then he turned toward us. “What you witnessed here today is an old debate that extends back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him,” he remarked. “But the debate is not only germane to the history of Islam. It is present in the heart of every Abrahamic religion. This is the conflict between the scholar and the mystic, between the mind and the heart. You take your pick!” Shams paused briefly to let us feel the full impact of his words. I felt his stare fall upon me, and it was almost like sharing a secret—entrance into an untold, unwritten brotherhood.

Then he added, “In the end, neither your teacher nor I can know more than God allows us to know. We all play our parts. Only one thing matters, though. That the light of the sun isn’t overshadowed by the blindness of the eye of the denier, the one who refuses to see.” With that, Shams of Tabriz placed his right hand on his heart and bade farewell to us all, including Sheikh Yassin, who stood aside, grim and unresponsive. The dervish walked out and shut the door behind him, leaving us swathed in a silence so profound that we could not talk or fidget for a long while.

It was Irshad who pulled me out of my trance. I noticed he was staring at me with something akin to disapproval. Only then did I realize that my right hand was resting on my heart in salute to a Truth that it had recognized.

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