Maulana Sheikh NazimThe Source of Wisdom is the Heart, not any Book

A wise man may utter words of wisdom, but once they are recorded they join the body of knowledge that is generally available to listeners and readers far and wide. Once words of wisdom have been transferred to the realm of knowledge through such mediums as books and tapes, they lose something essential. Of course one may derive so much benefit from them still, but they can't replace the draught of wisdom from the gushing source that source is the heart, and what comes from the heart of a wise man passes through his words directly into the heart of the seeker.

Where may one find wisdom? Not necessarily in the same place one would find a wealth of knowledge. A source of wisdom may be a Sheikh, a scholar or a professor, but may also be a plumber, a peasant or a totally illiterate person. Treasures are mostly sought in ruins not in modern skyscrapers; buried under layers of debris, not sitting in the open, lying on the counter. And when the searcher finds some broken pottery or bits and pieces of a treasure that serves to enlighten him as to the realities of what ho is excavating, he does not concern himself with the fact that these relics are not intact, for how could he expect to find that? And if you offer him brand new items from a supermarket that correspond in use to those ancient ones he found, he will not even consider your offer, and think you to be just joking, saying: "How do these two compare?"

Therefore, take wisdom wherever you may find it, and don't ask for titles or diplomas. Remember that your Lord may grant you wisdom through any means, so don't turn your nose up at anyone, but take a look at what he is offering, and if it be from ruins or in a ruinous state you must be ready to salvage it. Wisdom belongs to the realm of the heart: once it has been grasped it is never lost. One of our Grandsheikhs, Abu-Yazid al-Bistami, once addressed seekers of knowledge as follows: "Oh scholars, you are carrying your knowledge like a horse carries a load of books, you are loaded down and ever tiring, and you know that the Holy Prophet said, 'Forgetfulness is the destroyer of knowledge'. As a termite comes and devours a piece of wood, so does time and age consume all you know. As long as you are in the hands of your egos your memory will decline with age, but the heart of hearts, once it has been awakened, strengthens with age.

The heart is a source of wisdom that never dries up; but beware if you have not sought and received divine powers, for in the end your cup, which now runneth over will be as dry as a bone." My Grandsheikh, may Allah bless him, was over one-hundred years old but his memory was remarkable. This wakefulness of mind was a result only of his spiritual condition, otherwise it it would have been impossible.

As I meet more and more Westerners I find that they are very avid readers of books. I have never seen people who read so much! Centuries ago Muslims used to read, but now all that remains is that some people read the Holy Qur'an, but when that practice is lost they usually stop reading altogether. But in the West, your hobby is reading, and perhaps, if you are seeking wisdom through books, you have asked yourself: "Perhaps I have read one-thousand books, and I hope to read another thousand yet, but for what? To what end am I reading and reading and reading?" Then it may occur to you that you are seeking something else through your reading, something that reading draws you close to, but cannot get you to. And when, as a result of this soul-searching you begin to read from books of Sufi knowledge, of the Prophet, of Abu Bakr and Ali, of Rumi, of Attar, you only feel your longing more strongly and feel that you are even thirstier. Through all this reading you have tasted only a trickle, just enough to know how sweet a spring this is. By now you must realize that books are not the best vessels for wisdom of the heart, for the heart itself is the vessel, and the precious draught is passed from heart to heart.

Where may such heart-springs be found in a time that has turned verdant fields into desert wastes Wandering through huge desert wastes, how many of us may just happen to stumble upon an oasis? First you may stumble upon one-hundred mirages! But you must keep on, don't turn back saying, "I have found only illusions". No, no one said that you have embarked on an easy journey, so you must be perseverant. Because of the immense challenge involved in this quest for inner wisdom, for finding the bubbling spring in the desert wastes, so many people choose to totally ignore this most important facet of human life, and either devote fhemselves to the pursuits of worldly gain, or, if "religiously inclined", to the accumulation of religious knowledge.

Imam al-Ghazzali, a world-famous figure in the history of Islam, was simultaneously a great scholar and a sufi master. He wrote so many books that, to read all of them in a lifetime is challenge enough. It is said about his master work, "Ihya-Ulum-ud-Din", "The Revival of Religious Sciences", that if aIl other books written by Islamic scholars throughout history were lost, this book alone would be enough to preserve all the essential knowledge of the centuries of Islam, and enough to keep Islam strong and vital. As his heart was opened to Divine Wisdom, he was able to expand our understanding of The Holy Qur'an and the Prophetic Traditions through his writings. According to Imam al-Ghazzali, when a person dies, he is as a sleeper who has awakened. When he thus passes from the world of images to the world of reality, he faces immediately an evaluation of his time in this life. Even before he is buried in his grave the Lord will put forty questions to him. The first and most important of these questions is, "Oh My servant, during your life you were so careful to care for your appearance, to ornament yourself for the sake of your fellow creatures: wearing fine clothes, and arranging your hair. But did you bother to arrange your heart for your meeting with Me? You knew that I am not concerned with your physical beauty, the colour of your hair or skin, or whether you are short or tall. You knew that I wanted from you only to purify your heart and to come to My presence prepared, with your heart turned towards Me and not back to that place which you have left, and which you knew you must eventually leave?"

In the Holy Qur'an, Allah Almighty declares: "A man cannot have two hearts in the hollow of his breast", therefore, the goal of all sufi endeavour is to rid the heart of extraneous pre-occupations, and turn towards Allah fully. This is the purification of the heart, and when this is accomplished, the ' light of Allah's eternal beauty will shine on and from the mirror of your heart.

This is why, for those who have attained the inner reality to live up to such a practice, the meaning of fasting is not only what it implies for the normal believer, i.e. abstinence from food, drink, indulgence and anger for a certain period of time, but the total absorption in the Divine Presence. Therefore, whenever a worldly whim seems to invade the heart of such people they consider themselves ritually impure and immediately take a shower. That is the level of saints, it is a practice impossible to be undertaken by others- we would always be wet. Yes, the Lord is calling us saying: "Oh my servant, why are you trying to escape from Me? If I were to leave you for even one moment you would cease to exist."


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