O light of truth, Hisám-i-Dín , the bounteous,
No prince hath the world begot like unto Thee!+F1
Or is that a single arrow hath driven thee from the battle?+F3 Have they not told thee that faithfulness is a duty on those who follow the mystic way, that it is the true guide to His Holy Presence? "But as for those who say, `Our Lord is God,' and who go straight to Him, the angels shall descend to them...."+F4
Likewise He saith, "Go straight on then as thou hast been commanded."+F5 Wherefore, this course is incumbent on those who dwell in the presence of God.
O My eminent friend! Those who progress in mystic wayfaring are of four kinds. I shall describe them in brief, that the grades and qualities of each kind may become plain to thee.
THE FIRST VALLEY
If the travelers seek after the goal of the
Intended One (maqsúd ), this station appertaineth
to the self--but that self which is "The
Self of God standing within Him with laws."+F10
On this plane, the self is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned. Although at the beginning, this plane is the realm of conflict, yet it endeth in attainment to the throne of splendor. As they have said: "O Abraham of this day, O Friend Abraham of the Spirit! Kill these four birds of prey,"+F11 that after death the riddle of life may be unraveled.
This is the plane of the soul who is pleasing unto God. Refer to the verse:
One must, then, read the book of his own self, rather than some treatise on rhetoric. Wherefore He hath said, "Read thy Book: There needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day."+F14
The story is told of a mystic knower, who went on a journey with a learned grammarian as his companion. They came to the shore of the Sea of Grandeur. The knower straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood lost in his reasonings, which were as words that are written on water. The knower called out to him, "Why dost thou not follow?" The grammarian answered, "O Brother, I dare not advance. I must needs go back again." Then the knower cried, "Forget what thou didst read in the books of Síbávayh and Qawlavayh, of Ibn-i-Hajíb and Ibn-i-Málik,+F15 and cross the water."
THE SECOND VALLEY
If the wayfarer's goal be the dwelling of the
Praiseworthy One (Mahmúd),+F18 this is the
station of primal reason which is known as
the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar.+F19 Here
reason signifieth the divine, universal mind,
whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created
things--nor doth it refer to every feeble brain;
for it is as the wise Saná'í hath written:
"And thou mightest have seen the sun when it arose, pass on the right of their cave, and when it set, leave them on the left, while they were in its spacious chamber. This is one of the signs of God. Guided indeed is he whom God guideth; but for him whom He misleadeth, thou shalt by no means find a patron."
If a man could know what lieth hid in this one verse, it would suffice him. Wherefore, in praise of such as these, He hath said: "Men whom neither merchandise nor traffic beguile from the remembrance of God...."+F21
This station conferreth the true standard of knowledge, and freeth man from tests. In this realm, to search after knowledge is irrelevant, for He hath said concerning the guidance of travelers on this plane, "Fear God, and God will instruct thee."+F22 And again: "Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth."+F23
Wherefore, a man should make ready his heart that it be worthy of the descent of heavenly grace, and that the bounteous Cup-Bearer may give him to drink of the wine of bestowal from the merciful vessel. "For the like of this let the travailers travail!"+F24
And now do I say, "Verily we are from God, and to Him shall we return."+F25
THE THIRD VALLEY
If the loving seekers wish to live within the
precincts of the Attracting One (Majdhúb),+F26
no soul may dwell on this Kingly Throne save
the beauty of love. This realm is not to be
pictured in words.
On this plane, neither the reign of reason is sufficient nor the authority of self. Hence, one of the Prophets of God hath asked: "O my Lord, how shall we reach unto Thee?" And the answer came, "Leave thyself behind, and then approach Me."
These are a people who deem the lowest place to be one with the throne of glory, and to them beauty's bower differeth not from the field of a battle fought in the cause of the Beloved.
The denizens of this plane speak no words-- but they gallop their chargers. They see but the inner reality of the Beloved. To them all words of sense are meaningless, and senseless words are full of meaning. They cannot tell one limb from another, one part from another. To them the mirage is the real river; to them going away is returning. Wherefore hath it been said:
THE FOURTH VALLEY
If the mystic knowers be of those who have
reached to the beauty of the Beloved One
(Mahbúb), this station is the apex of consciousness
and the secret of divine guidance.
This is the center of the mystery: "He doth
what He willeth, ordaineth what He pleaseth."+F34
Were all the denizens of earth and heaven to unravel this shining allusion, this darksome riddle, until the Day when the Trumpet soundeth, yet would they fail to comprehend even a letter thereof, for this is the station of God's immutable decree, His foreordained mystery. Hence, when searchers inquired of this, He made reply, "This is a bottomless sea which none shall ever fathom."+F35 And they asked again, and He answered, "It is the blackest of nights through which none can find his way."
Whoso knoweth this secret will assuredly hide it, and were he to reveal but its faintest trace they would nail him to the cross. Yet, by the Living God, were there any true seeker, I would divulge it to him; for they have said: "Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear."
Verily, the wayfarer who journeyeth unto God, unto the Crimson Pillar in the snow-white path, will never reach unto his heavenly goal unless he abandoneth all that men possess: "And if he feareth not God, God will make him to fear all things; whereas all things fear him who feareth God."+F36
Methinks at this moment, I catch the fragrance of His garment+F39 blowing from the Egypt of Bahá;+F40 verily He seemeth near at hand, though men may think Him far away.+F41 My soul doth smell the perfume shed by the Beloved One; My sense is filled with the fragrance of My dear Companion.
The exalted dwellers in this mansion do wield divine authority in the court of rapture, with utter gladness, and they do bear a kingly sceptre. On the high seats of justice, they issue their commands, and they send down gifts according to each man's deserving. Those who drink of this cup abide in the high bowers of splendor above the Throne of the Ancient of Days, and they sit in the Empyrean of Might within the Lofty Pavilion: "Naught shall they know of sun or piercing cold."+F43
Herein the high heavens are in no conflict with the lowly earth, nor do they seek to excel it, for this is the land of mercy, not the realm of distinction. Albeit at every moment these souls appear in a new office, yet their condition is ever the same. Wherefore of this realm it is written, "No work withholdeth Him from another."+F44 And of another state it is said: "Every day doth some new work employ Him."+F45 This is the food whose savor changeth not, whose color altereth not. If thou eatest thereof, thou shalt verily chant this verse: "I turn my face to Him Who hath created the Heavens and the earth ... I am not one of those who add gods to God."+F46 "And thus did we show Abraham the Kingdom of the Heavens and of the Earth, that He might be established in knowledge."+F47 Wherefore, put thy hand into thy bosom, then stretch it forth with power, and behold, thou shalt find it a light unto all the world."+F48
How crystal this cool water that the Cup-Bearer bringeth! How bright this pure wine in the hands of the Beloved! How delicate this draught from the Heavenly Cup! May it do them good, whoso drink thereof, and taste of its sweetness and attain to its knowledge.
Astonishment here is highly prized, and utter poverty essential. Wherefore hath it been said, "Poverty is My pride."+F51 And again: "God hath a people beneath the dome of glory, whom He hideth in the clothing of radiant poverty."+F52 These are they who see with His eyes, hear with His ears, as it is written in the well-known tradition.
Concerning this realm, there is many a tradition and many a verse, of broad or special relevancy, but two of these will suffice to serve as a light for men of mind and heart.
The first is His statement: "O My Servant! Obey Me and I shall make thee like unto Myself. I say `Be,' and it is, and thou shalt say `Be,' and it shall be."
And the second: "O Son of Adam! Seek fellowship with none until thou hast found Me, and whenever thou shalt long for Me, thou shalt find Me close to thee."
Whatever high proofs and wondrous allusions are recounted herein, concern but a single Letter, a single Point. "Such hath been the way of God ... and no change canst thou find in the way of God."+F53
I began this epistle some time ago, in thy remembrance, and since thy letter had not reached me then, I began with some words of reproach. Now, thy new missive hath dispelled that feeling and causeth Me to write thee. To speak of My love for thine Eminence is needless. "God is a sufficient witness!"+F54 For his Eminence Shaykh Muhammad--May God the Exalted bless him!--I shall confine Myself to the two following verses which I request be delivered to him:
What I had written ere this hath been eaten by the flies, so sweet was the ink. As Sa'di saith: "I shall forbear from writing any longer, for my sweet words have drawn the flies about me."
And now the hand can write no more, and pleadeth that this is enough. Wherefore do I say, "Far be the glory of thy Lord, the Lord of all greatness, from what they affirm of Him."+F58