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The fruit is the reality, the blossom its form—
blossoms are the good news, fruit is the joy that comes.
When the blossom falls, you can see the fruit—
when the one diminishes, the other increases.
How should bread give strength until it is broken?
How should uncrushed grapes yield wine?
Unless the sweet cherry is crushed,
how will it become the medicine?
[Mathnawi I: 2930-2933, The Rumi Daybook, tr. by Kabir & Camille Helminski]
We are pleased to share a reflection by Siema Taj following a visit to a Mevlevi kitchen in Turkey. The kitchen is an important spiritual training ground in the Mevlevi tradition.
When we were taken to the Maidaan to help Aicha with the preparation of the meal, I was all geared up to roll up my sleeves and work fast and hard at chopping, stirring, brushing, mopping etc. When given the job of washing vegetables, the direction Aicha gave us for this took me completely by surprise. We were told to take our time, see each and every vegetable as a reflection of the whole, and as an opportunity to remember Allah through his creation.
I was reminded of verses in the Quran urging us to look at all the signs around us and how I would immediately imagine the ‘big impact stuff’ like trees, rivers, sky, birds – but here we were washing salad leaves and baby chillies and it was an opportunity to do the same.
Everything is a sign, I have to learn to take the time, and I pray for the knowledge required, to see it wherever I am – on the tube, a windowless office… The opportunity to do this was the gift that Aicha gave us and at first it took some concentration and we worked in silence. Gradually I found myself in awe of Allah as I admired these vegetables. I was reminded of the lines in Surah Yasin “…they have a sign in the lifeless earth…so that they may eat of the fruit from it, though it was not their hands that made it. Will they not then give thanks?” (v33-35)
But for the mercy and blessings that Allah has shown us (and the vegetables?), these vegetables would not be in front of us. They were all shapes and sizes and there was no such thing as an imperfection in anyone of these beautiful creations. If anything, the scars that some had borne whilst making their way through the earth reminded me of the difficulties we are given and that we all face from time to time in order to help us. They too are a gift and although I do not always see it, everything is exactly as it should be and each moment is perfect.
I began to thank Allah for each and every vegetable and each one was precious. So much so, that I couldn’t find it in myself to discard the leaves attached to the vegetables until Aicha asked us to! I found myself handling each one with more and more care and respect. I thanked Allah for each one and I found myself feeling a tenderness towards the vegetables similar to that melting love you feel towards children. It was a heightened emotion that may sound silly now, I don’t believe I would have allowed myself, or been given the chance to feel this way in any other circumstance. Frankly, I would never have thought to take the time to wash vegetables in this way.
I was reminded of the tenderness and love I felt and still feel from my mother who passed from this life in Oct 2001 and I was remembering her. It made me think of Allah’s tenderness and love for each one of Her/His creatures and the hadith “God’s kindness towards His creatures is more than a mother’s towards her babe”. I think for me, and for others too, our trip to Turkey forced me to open up to emotions that I have tried to avoid. Perhaps ultimately this is what I needed to do to understand Allah’s love for each and every one of us, and my love for each and everyone of us, on a deeper level – one that had been inaccessible to me until I had washed those perfect beautiful vegetables that each contained the universe.
~ Siema Taj
Originally published on The Threshold Society