YOU MAY HURT LAYLA!
Osman Nuri Topbas
There is no existence remaining in my body except you,
O my beloved!
I will therefore disappear in you,
The way vinegar disappears in a sea of honey.
Arising from grief borne of long separation from Layla, an illness suddenly arose in the body of Majnun. Thereupon the physician came to treat him and said to those in his attendance:
—There is no recourse but to bleed him.
Therefore, a skilled doctor was brought to treat him, bandaged his arm, and took out the lancet to perform the operation; but straightaway the passionate lover cried out:
—Take your fee and leave the bleeding! If I die, let my old body go to the grave!
Amazed, the doctor said:
—Why? Why are you afraid of this, when you have no fear of the lion in the jungle?
This is how Majnun responded:
“I do not fear the lancet. Everyone knows that my patience and perseverance exceed even that of a mountain formed of rock. I am a man who does not fear anything and who doesn’t even own a hayloft in this world. I am a vagabond and my body is not at ease without blows; I am a lover and wounds are as ointments to my love. That is why I do not hesitate to be injured. Nevertheless, my whole being is filled with Layla: the body of mine is as a shell filled with the qualities of that Pearl. I fear O doctor; if you draw blood from me you may suddenly inflict a wound with your lancet upon Layla. Indeed, the pure servants of Allah whose hearts are enlightened, know that there is no difference between Layla and me.”
If love had not been there, where would this world have come from? How would the bread let you eat it, absolve itself in your body, and become you? Know that because of love the bread gave itself to you and became you by disappearing in you.
Love grants life even to the inanimate bread; it adds the life of the transient beings to your life and makes you eternal.
Know how miserable the one is whose heart is void of divine love and compassion; perhaps he is below animals. Even the dog of the Seven Sleepers searched for the people of love; it found them and attained a spiritual joy; and eventually it gained Paradise by loosing itself in those special servants.
The great poet Yunus Emre, who desired to share the fortune of Majnun’s burning love, said:
I am the Majnun of Layla,
I am the crazy lover of Rahman (the Most Merciful Allah),
To see the face of Layla,
I would become a Majnun!
Fuzuli, another renowned Sufi poet, expressed his desire to reach even a higher level than the level of Majnun:
I have a potential for love exceeding that of Majnun,
I am the true lover; Majnun carries just the name.
Those who can see with the eye of the heart perceive all creatures as a manifestation of love. They observe that all creatures are the outcome of love. If there had not been eternal love, the universe would not have come to be. The Gnostics know that this world is an outcome of this eternal love and that is why it has been dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
In the special class of hadith known as al-Hadith al-Qudsi, we find the following: “I was a hidden treasure. I loved to be known. Thus, I created the universe so that I could be known.”
We understand from this statement that the entire universe including all of its creatures was brought into existence through divine love. Allah created all of them as an evidence of His art and power. Perceived in this way, a human being, who is a wonderful creation of Divinity, is a perfect manifestation of divine love.
The following verse of Yunus Emre conveys deep meanings:
For us, love is the leader and heart is the community,
The face of the Beloved is the Qiblah; the prayer is ceaseless.
This is because the bodies of the lovers of God are bursting with the love of God. For instance, the blood of Hallaj Mansur wrote ‘Allah, Allah’ on the ground when he was martyred. As in the case of Hallaj Mansur, Fuzuli too had reached the level of self-effacement (fana). This is clear from the way he chose to express himself below in the voice of Majnun:
You are the One who is manifest in me,
I no longer exist, what exists is you.
If I am I, then who are you, O Beloved?
If I am you, then who is my crying self?
Yunus Emre articulated this sophisticated puzzle as follows:
I am dressed up with bones and meat,
And appeared with the name Yunus!
Truly, the lovers of Allah know that there is no distance separating the true lovers from their Beloved. Mystically, the bodies of the lovers of God are but transient since their figurative existence disappears in the fire and burning of their hearts. The relationship between Prophet Yaqub alaihissalam and his son Yusuf alaihissalam serves as an example of this. The great Prophet Yaqub alaihissalam was inclined strongly towards Yusuf alaihissalam as he observed many of his own qualities in him. As a result of the love between them, they became so deeply bonded that when the shirt of Yusuf began its journey from Egypt, the Prophet Yaqub alaihissalam perceived its fragrance in the land of Canaan in Palestine. However, no one else had his awareness. They were suspicious of senility, since he was saying: “I am perceiving the fragrance of Yusuf”.
The shirt of Yusuf was a trust in the hands of his brother who was given the responsibility of taking it to his father. Although the shirt was in the hands of his brother, its value far exceeded what was fitting for him. This could be likened to a very special person being captured by a slave trader. Although the person has fallen into the hands of the trader, due to her value she far exceeds what is intended for his likes and instead must be put in the hands of one more in keeping with the rank of the captive.
The Almighty Allah preserved oneness exclusively for Himself and created everything else in pairs. This aspect of creation, which only recently has been discovered by modern science, was revealed to us in many verses of the Qur’an fourteen centuries ago. Our world, which is furnished in an excellent aesthetic sense, even more beautifully than a wedding room, follows a special and amazing law of marriage to which everything is subjected including atoms, biological cells, plants, animals, humans, and even the electrons and neutrons inside an atom.
In the Surah Yasin, it is said:
“Glory be to Him who created all the pairs, of that which the earth grows, and of themselves, and of that which they know not!” (Yasin, 36)
However, the law of marriage found its highest expression in the lives of humans.
Allah the Most High explains that in the institution of marriage there are many latent lessons to learn:
“And of His signs is this: He created for you help mates from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo! herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect.” (Rum, 21)
The union of two strangers in marriage in accordance with the divine plan, as well as being in accordance with the growth of love and compassion between them, is a manifestation of divine power, which deserves serious contemplation. In the entirety of creation, the attraction of animate and inanimate creatures towards each other is a kind of manifestation of unity. In other words, unity is an outcome of attraction and affinity. There exists in the nature of the world an inclination to return to unity.
Creation reaches its zenith in human beings. The fire of love is proportionate to the perfection of its object. Couples gain a taste for divine mercy on the physical and spiritual levels. This puts them on a journey towards Allah through the means of divine attraction and love. In this way, the wisdom behind creation prevails on their minds completely.
Layla came to Majnun after many years. Majnun did not show interest in her. Layla said:
—Are not you the one who lived in the desert for me?
—The Layla, who is but a shadow, has melted and has been cleared away.
Layla, who was the sole object of Majnun’s life, served as but a window to never-ending divine love. As Majnun came to himself in the world of divine love, the secret of which he had been searching for, Layla’s role was ultimately fulfilled.
In the stories of the Mathnawi of Rumi, Layla is a symbol of the love that turns to divine love and unifies the lover with Allah.
In other words, Layla is the horizon of divine love that opens hearts to the vastness of selflessness and effaces the physical will.
From this perspective, the adventure of love that begins with Layla reaches its fruition in the Mawla, Allah.
In the final analysis, Layla is an ordinary human being. She has made her lover into a legend such that even his original name, which was Qays, has been changed to Majnun, which means crazy.
But what happens to the lover if the beloved is not Layla but the one who was referred to Allah as my ‘beloved.’ (i.e. the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam)?
Let us explain this issue more clearly with a few examples. The first one is from the life of Rumi:
Ghurju Khatun was a female disciple of Rumi. Her husband was a general. One day, he was assigned to work in Kayseri, a city in Anatolia. Ghurju Khatun wanted to carry a picture of her master, Rumi, with her as they prepared to leave Konya. She asked the famous painter and decorator of the Saljuqi palace to secretly make a picture of Rumi and bring it to her. The painter went to Rumi and asked for his permission. Rumi smiled at the painter and gave him permission:
—Do as you have been requested, the way you like.
The painter began drawing. Yet as he completed the painting, he realized that the person in front of him, turned into another form that bore no resemblance to his painting. So he drew him again and again. This continued twenty times. In the end, the painter realized his powerlessness and gave up. He kissed the hands of Rumi. His art was lost in his drawing. (5)
This event caused an awakening in the painter, throwing him into deep thought, amazement, fear, and awe. The following words came forth from the tongue of this astonished painter:
—In this religion, if a saint engenders this, what would its Prophet be like?
Imam Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, lived in the ecstasy of union with Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. He did not mount an animal in the city of Madina. He did not use the toilet. He always spoke with a low voice while in the mosque of Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. When the Caliph of the time spoke loudly in the Mosque of the Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, he reminded him
—O Caliph! Keep your voice low in this place. This warning came from Allah to a group of people more virtuous than you.
Then he read the following verse from the Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! Lift not up your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor shout when speaking to him as ye shout at one another, lest your works be rendered vain while ye perceive not” (Hujurat, 2).
Likewise, Imam Malik forgave the governor of Madina who had mistreated him by saying: “On the Day of Judgment, I would feel ashamed to be at court with a grandson of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.”
The great teacher As‘ad Arbili articulated his love for Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, in a beautiful manner too:
It is impossible to wash the corpse of the martyr of love with all this fire;
The body is fire; the shroud is fire; even the sweet water is fire!
The Azari poet, Fuzuli, explained love as follows in his famous “Ode of Water”:
Do not shed tears, O my eye, onto the flames of my heart,
For, water cannot extinguish such a glowing fire.
Ottoman Sultan Ahmad Khan I aimed to gain spiritual blessing by making a small model of the Prophet’s sandal and putting it on his turban. He wrote:
I wish I could always carry on my head as a crown,
The pure foot of the king of the Prophets.
The emperor of the world in his time, Yavuz Sultan Selim Khan, believed that the value of a friend of Allah, who could lead one to Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, was above all else and expressed this feeling in a couplet:
Becoming the king of this world is but a useless struggle,
Being the slave of a saint is superior to all else.
This is an expression of the importance of spiritually growing closer to Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, and to his lovers.
Likewise, Rumi said, “Love moves the muddy waters to clarity. True love gives life to dead hearts; it even makes the Sultans slaves.”
Sayyid Ahmad Yasawi, who dug a grave for himself when he reached the age of sixty-three and began living in it, said: “Beyond this age, it would not be appropriate for me to reside above the ground.” Since the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, had passed away at the age of sixty-three, the hero of love, who was completely united with his beloved, chose to leave this world at the same age by continuing to pass his life in a grave. Because of his legendary love for Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, the land Ahmad Yasawi lived in is called Blessed Turkistan.
In a similar manner, when Uways al-Qarani learned that one of the teeth of the Prophet sallahu alaihi wa sallam, had been broken in the battle of Uhud, all his teeth felt alien to him. As he did not know which one had been broken, he took out all of them in order to maintain his unity with the beloved.
The husband, father and brother of a woman from a tribe called the Sons of Dinar became martyrs in the battle of Uhud. When she was informed that all three had died, she requested:
—Take me to the Prophet Muhammad. I want to see him.
When they showed her the Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, she felt contentment and said:
—O Messenger of Allah! As long as you are alive, all other afflictions are nothing for me.
When Hansa Khatun, who came to Islam after a difficult life, was told that each of her four sons had been killed and had become martyrs in the battle of Qadisiye, she expressed her reaction in the following words:
—Let my four sons be sacrificed for the victory of Islam.
She thanked Allah for the honor of being the mother of four martyrs.
Similarly, Bezm-i Alem Sultan wrote:
Muhammad originated from love (muhabbah),
What would emerge from love without Muhammad?
It is through love for Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, that our souls are nourished.
When my late teacher, Yaman Dede, used to teach the Mathnawi in class, his eyes shed tears that became as a pool of pearls. He expressed his feelings at those moments as follows:
My interior became full of blood, O Messenger of Allah, out of love for you;
O the Messenger of Allah, how have I endured this separation?
The separation cries; the reunion cries in the absence of your contentment;
With your beauty, comfort me, O Messenger of Allah, for I am burned.
When he read this poem, his face radiated as a full moon on a dark night.
Throughout the course of history, prophets and saints have served as torches of guidance in the perfection of our spiritual lives. This service has, in function always carried the stream of faith to its zenith. Individuals may reach to this perfection through spiritual fellowship and identification with the friends of Allah, and may ultimately grow to receive a diploma written by the pen of eternity.
Through constructing a life based on mirroring the life and actions of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, one is able to establish a fellowship with the Messenger of Allah. This is done in practice through following in detail the life and example of a friend of Allah who thus functions as a bridge to the inner world leading one to the abode of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. The student of this path unites with each of his mentors and receives a share from their hearts and inner worlds.
Abu Bakr was a person who rose to an exalted state of unity with the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. For this reason, he was blessed with knowledge concerning the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam more than anyone else. He lived in this fire of love with a burnt fragrance emanating from his breast. Imam Bukhari explained: “Abu Bakr as-Siddiq complained that the Messenger of Allah remained before his eyes on the spiritual level even when he was in the bathroom. In other words, the great believer Abu Bakr explained to the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam that even at those moments when he was cleaning himself, he maintained a spiritual state of unity with him.”
What Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, said on his death bed is consistent with these accounts. The following hadith explains beautifully the mutual flow of love between their two hearts.
—Let all the doors be closed. Only Abu Bakr’s will remain open.
One day Khaja Ubaidullah Ahrar suddenly felt cold. He began shaking. They lit a fire to warm him up. At that moment, one of his disciples, who had accidentally fallen in a ditch of cold water shortly before his arrival, entered the room shaking from the cold. They took him aside, dried his clothes and warmed him up. When the disciple felt warm, Ubaidullah Ahrar no longer felt cold.
Bayazid-i Bastami became so sensitive and refined through divine love that he loved all creatures for the sake of the Creator and sympathized with their sorrows in a way that always made him gloomy.
One day, some people had beaten a donkey in front of him until it was bleeding. At that moment, he began to bleed from his calves.
When a nightingale chants, you do not stop to discern voices coming from the mountain before you. The greater our love, the closer we are brought to its object.
They told the Caliph Ali that someone loved him very much. In response, the great Caliph said:
—Yes, he loves me as much as I love him.
In other words, this condition of spiritual unity may be compared to the fluid levels in two separate but conjoined sections of a compound container. The flow of fluid between the compartments is a product of a bond of spiritual love (i.e rabita).
This spiritual bond in tasawuf is borne of practicing spiritual love in a formally fresh and living way. This love may be appropriately directed towards Allah, His Messenger and His spiritually righteous slaves. Imam Ghazali has exemplified this bond through the recitation of the “Tahiyyat” in the five daily prayers. After elucidating the importance of tranquility of heart during our five daily prayers, he says: “During the first and last time one sits down, while saying ‘O the Prophet! May peace be upon you! (As-salam alayka ayyuha an- Nabiy!)’, one should imagine the Prophet between the eyes of his heart”.
The prayer “Tahiyyat” is a magnificent expression of love. A believer who is performing salat may spiritually reap great rewards from this prayer. The first sentence in this prayer states the following:
“Glory be to Allah along with prayers and praises.” This is how the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, expressed his salutation to Allah on the night of his Ascension to the heavens (i.e. the Miraj). They are the words Allah revealed to his heart after commanding him to: “Speak with Me, O My Messenger!”
The second sentence is as follows:
“O Prophet! May the peace, the mercy and the blessing of Allah be upon you!”
This statement is a gift of enormous spiritual magnitude and is a special blessing from the Creator to his Messenger.
The third sentence states the following:
“Peace be upon us and upon all the righteous.”
This is how the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam responded to the greeting his Lord had extended to him. Here we see, as evidence of his great compassion and mercy, how the Messenger has magnanimously mentioned in his prayer all the righteous believers in his community.
The archangel Jibril who witnessed this dialogue between Allah and His Messenger on the night of the Ascension offered testimony by saying:
“I bear witness that there is no god but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.”
Archangel Jibril’s additional act of bearing witness underscores the importance of this testimony of faith in the unity of Allah and also confirms the necessity of including in the formal greeting for the Prophet the blessing ‘sallallahu alaihi wa sallam’.
Briefly put, a prayer that includes words articulated by Allah, Prophet Muhammad ‘sallallahu alaihi wa sallam’ and archangel Jibril is a blessing of vast proportion and nothing less than a divine gift for the community of Muhammad. When pronouncing this prayer we receive benefit from it to the degree of our spiritual perfection. Whenever uttering it the servant should refrain from heedlessness and consciously pronounce it as if in the presence of the Creator. In doing so, he will be spiritually striving to perform his prayer fully in accordance with the hadith: “The salat (i.e. the five daily prayers) is the Ascension of the believer to the presence of Allah.”
It should be noted that to maintain our awareness that we are in the presence of Allah from the beginning of the salat to the end is a great achievement difficult even for the great saints. Nevertheless, we need to bear in mind that the greater our awareness and concentration of our heart during the salat, the greater the possibility that the prayer will be accepted by Allah and the reward for it will be proportionally increased. Consequently, those who perform the salat should strive to maintain their concentration and awareness. Otherwise, the warning from Allah is terrifying: “Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayer” (Ma‘un, 4-5).
The true salat is the one performed with concentration of heart. The verse below states this fact: “Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers” (Muminun 1-2). This state of concentration and awareness embraces all aspects of a believer’s life. For this reason, Rumi interpreted the mystic meaning of the verse, “They are constant at their prayer” (Maarij, 23), as follows: “It means that the state of the heart after the salat should be the same as it is during the salat.”
Attaining to this level is possible only through a sincere and deep connection between one’s heart and the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. This bond (i.e. rabita) as it expands, opens into spiritual unity with him. A person is on the path of unity with the Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, to the extent that he feels continually in his presence and purifies his heart of mundane affairs. This is the path to spiritual integrity,
strength, and maturity.
None of the companions could know his significance completely. No one could fully encompass the scope of his creation. Even archangel Jibril said at the Sidra al-Muntaha (i.e. the last border) during his Ascension:
—You continue. I may not go beyond this border.
Each Companion experienced the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam to the extent of his or her spiritual evolution. Each of their vantage points was a function of their level of understanding.
Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: “The face of the Prophet shined and radiated so much light that it was brighter than a full moon. With the help of his light, I used to put a thread in the eye of a needle.”
Rumi said: “The two worlds have been created for one heart (i.e. the heart of the Prophet). ‘If you (O Muhammad!) had not existed, if you (O Muhammad!) had not existed, I would not have created the universe!’ is the expression (i.e. Hadith Qudsi) you should contemplate about.”
O Lord! Have us join in the ranks of your true lovers whose hearts are full of divine wisdom and bring us together with your loyal slaves in both worlds.
Translated by: Sencer Ecer & Abdullah Penman
We would also like especially to give our thanks to Osman Nuri Topbas Efendi for giving his permission for us to share his work and wisdom with our viewers at Semazen.net.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.