a community of lovers
In the moments before I first learned of the darkness unfolding in Paris on Friday, I was sitting in a circle of light.
Some fellow seekers and I were seated as we often are on Friday evening, pondering on the path of those yearning for closeness and presence with God.
On this particular occasion, we were discussing a passage of Islamic poet Rumi’s Masnavi called Veils of Light:
The Light of God has gradations,
seven hundred veils of light.
Behind each veil a certain class of saints
has its place of abode:
these veils of theirs ascend,
rank by rank, up to the finest leader.
Those in the lowest rank,
through the weakness of their eyes,
can’t endure the brighter light;
and those at the highest ranks
blink at the light
that is still more advanced.
The light that is the vibrant life of the highest rank
is heartache and tribulation to the one who squints;
but his squinting, little by little, subsides,
until he passes beyond the seven hundred veils,
and becomes the Ocean of Light.
[Mathnawi II: 821-826, The Rumi Daybook, tr, by Kabir & Camille Helminski]
Each rich line reminded me of what drew me to this path of Islam in the first place: a crystal clear moment of understanding in 2010 when I first encountered that Light. When the first veil was lifted, revealing a love that transformed how I would perceive everything from that moment.
We seekers will often squint, blocking the light from coming through, as we endure the trials and tribulations that life hands to all of us. But there it is, shining in once we gain the strength to open our eyes again.
This Light doesn’t blind us despite its brightness, it transforms our vision and allows us to see the next step on the path more clearly. This Light does not bring darkness. It brings mercy, compassion and justice.
This Light does not harm another soul, for harming one would be as damaging as harming all, as the Quran teaches. It forces us, rather, to look within and battle our own demon, the ego that prevents us from seeing the Light.
A wise, humble and loving Shaikh speaking on Islamic extremism to an audience gathered at a London church in September described political Islam as “collective egoism: nafs (ego) magnified on a social scale.”
It breeds a toxic pollution of egoism that masquerades as self-righteousness and leads to individuals wanting to change things through force, hate and judgement of others. The result is grim, despicable darkness, which is the opposite of Light.
Be not mistaken, then, that the true Path is the one that leads toward the Ocean of Light that Rumi wrote so elegantly about. It is the one that promotes love, tolerance and humanity. It is embodying the Divine Beauty in our actions, our words, our patience, our forgiveness and most importantly, our embrace of diversity and love of every one and every thing.
This is the challenge that God seeks for each one of us to pursue and take on.
Oh humankind, we have created you from a male and a female and made people and tribes so you may know each other. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct.”
[Quran 49, 13]
We must welcome and embrace this light and carry it with us. It is, in the end, the only way.
Light upon light. Noor ala Noor.
~ Daliah Merzaban
Read more beautiful reflections from Daliah on her blog: Dew Point