A short commentary on a line from Hafiz Shirazi.
If on the beloved’s doorstep you should press down your forehead,
To the highest heaven as exalted praise reach the words you said.
Hafiz Shirazi (trans – Zahuri) (W-C 224)
In the ritual prayers of Islam there is a point at which one prostrates with
one’s forehead on the prayer carpet. The words prescribed to recite in this
posture refer to God as the Highest. In this is a spiritual message for the
seeker of the mystic verities irrespective of their religious background. To
seek the heights of mysticism, to have one’s voice heard in the highest
realms – first learn to be the lowest of the low. The religious person may not
look further than doing as commanded in the ritual prayer and in that is
surely no harm and much good. For the curious seeker of spiritual
development however there is surely more that can be gained from this. For
to be one whose soul ascends to the heights one must be in heart, mind
and body the lowest of the low. The great throne of God is surrounded by
angels whose very raison d’être is to praise God. To ascend the steps
towards that throne one must have the utmost humility of soul possible or
one will be led to the conclusion the praise refers to oneself rather than to
God. The holy Qur'an says "All praise belongs to God": think over the
implication of that deeply.
The prayer of daily life – for it is a prayer if we approach it rightly – should
therefore be one in which humility is paramount. Not of course the display
of humility but the inner conviction should be inculcated that says –
everyone is better than me. This inner conviction of course is far from the
attitude of that machiavellian schemer Uriah Heep, Charles Dicken’s
famous character, who went round constantly declaring himself to be “
‘ever so ‘umble”.
This approach to daily life is a prayer that reaches up to what the Sufis call
the Holy Fold. They are a circle of spiritual beings from who flow many
blessings to those in this life who have found sincere humility. Every truly
humble act, done not for the benefit of praise by others, receives from this
circle of illuminated souls great and purifying blessings - even small acts of
humility bring a flow of good thoughts to the mind from this source.
So in life seek metaphorically, or perhaps one should say inwardly, to have
one's head pressed on the floor. The submission of the heart however is
not an easy thing – for there is something in man that wants to be
independent; that wants to make its own decisions and guide its own life.
The popular American song says “I did it my way.”
One can make one’s body press the physical forehead to the floor but to
gain this posture in the heart is not so easy. If one is sitting on the floor the
distance for the head to reach the floor is less than a metre but for this
distance to be travelled by the heart may be a journey of many years of
diligent humbling of the self.
Some people by means of kow-towing, hand kissing and many physical
acts of abasement hope to make them self humble, but from these acts
their hearts stand aloof. The aspiration to ascend to the higher realms of
mysticism, of closeness to God, should be subjugated to the desire for
utmost sincerity in inner humility. The language of humility is not even to say
– “I did my best” but to own to not having done as much as one could. “I did
it my way” is the language of the devil when asked by God why he did not
prostrate to our father Adam’s soul. “I was wrong” is the language of Adam
and the language of Prophet Jonah in the belly of the whale.
Nor should one be confused by the apparent ‘arrogance’ of some great
souls who having reached the higher realm speak with the authority they are
given. This is a higher form of humility – their humility has reached such a
point that they no longer regard themselves at all, but speak only as they are
commanded. This is the language of Prophet Moses speaking to Pharaoh.
Humility is not the only virtue one needs to inculcate in oneself in the course
of daily life but it is one of the four root virtues. The others being Purity,
Generosity, and Justice.
If this virtue is integrated sufficiently in the heart and mind of the seeker they
can be said to be making some progress in the way of purifying their lower