786 The Zahuri Web Site - Sufi Stories
1. The Profession of Faith
The Shahadah (Kalima) is the Muslim profession of faith:
la ilaha illa-Llah, Muhammedar - rasulu - Llah.
This can be divided into three parts, the first part - la ilaha is known as the negative part
denying idolatry. The second part - illa - Llah is known as the positive affirmation of the
unity of God. The third part confirms belief in the prophethood of Muhammed (peace be upon him).
The first two parts recited together are often used in Sufi 'Zhikrs' and the repeated recitation
of these is said to bring much benefit*. There is much discussion as to how the first two
parts of should be translated into English. The most conventional translation is that it should
be written in English as - 'There is no god, but God'. However in discussion one day on this
topic with Zahurmian I asked him whether he thought this was better or whether it should be
spelt with a capital G both times the word God is used - i.e. There is no God, but God. He
expressed his own view quite clearly that the latter was preferable. He did not expand
further on this, but on reflection I found that his view and mine coincided entirely. Some
people will find this difficult to understand or accept - but I believe it repays reflection.
*In his book The Meditations of Khawaja Muin Uddin Hasan Chishti Zahurmian
quotes that great saint as saying:
"The people recite 'There is no god but God and Muhammed is the messenger of God', but
they don't know what is meant by existence and non-existence, who is denied and Who is
affirmed. This article of faith implies that, except Allah the One and the Supreme, there is
none existing and that the holy Prophet Muhammed is the manifestation of Allah."
NB. in the above I have not been able to insert diacritical marks - in other respects I have used the tranliteration from The
Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam.
2. Good and Bad
People wonder how is it that an Merciful and All-powerful God allows the existence of
evil in his creation. Today I was reading al-Ghazzali who gives a wonderful account to
help the rational mind to come to terms with this*.
Whilst thinking over what he says this idea came to my mind concerning good and evil..
A carpenter who is building something may require for that work a tough and strong piece of
wood to act as a firm support, he may select that piece of wood with great care looking for
just this particular quality of hardness and strength. When he begins to work on the wood it
is necessary to make joints and to shape the wood according to the requirements of the task.
Now the hardness of the wood becomes a difficulty to him. It requires much labour and the
very quality he required and sought with so much care and effort becomes his enemy. The
very quality of hardness which is good for his task becomes as it were the evil quality of the
wood as far as his chisel and his saw and, temporarily, he himself are concerned.
Were the saw and chisel able to talk and think might they not complain and wonder why the
carpenter permitted such an evil thing as the hardness of the wood? Indeed at the same time
would the wood not feel justified in grieving at the apparent cruelty of the saw and the chisel
and the carpenter.
No comparison does justice to Him. O God, keep fresh in our remembrance Your great
Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri. Southampton, November 10th 2001
* See Al-Ghazzali The Ninety nine Beautiful Names of God. (trans. by Burrel and Daher published by Islamic Text Society 1992.
3. The Story of the Missing Washing
The wife of a poor man who wasted his life in drunkenness shouted at him one day - 'Go you
lazy, witless clod who is capable of no useful work and is only a burden on me, O lazy ass -
go and collect for me the basket of my washing!' He went tamely - for when a man has no
work and wins no bread he becomes the slave of his wife - from the pangs of guilt at his
failure to do his duty to her.
He went, but on the way he met some companions who were busy getting drunk - he joined
them as was his wont and his custom. Many hours later he returned sans sobriety, sans legs
that would walk in a straight line, sans thought, sans memory - and sans washing basket. His
wife detected his state at once - how could she not?
Do not judge the wife too harshly in this - the anger of the wife arose from and was the
outward face of the man's conscience. Neither judge the husband too harshly for the anger of
the wife in its way drove the man into the cul-de-sac of witless behaviour. It is the nature of
husband and wife to be in opposition - for the husband seeks the spirituality (or femininity)
natural to the wife, and the wife seeks the materiality inherent in the nature of the husband.
Materiality and spirituality are always at war - but the resolution of this conflict is profit all
Following a volley of abuse that would have curled the ears of an ass and left a garage
mechanic or trooper feeling inadequate, she came to the point. 'And where is my washing'
she cried?' He protested, 'But my dear and beloved wife, I did not see any washing - I am
sure it is not there - I think you brought the washing basket in yourself'. She denied this but
by now he had fully convinced himself that the washing had been brought in and was
somewhere in the house. He searched high and low. The wife could not persuade him and he
would not believe her. Despite her careful rehearsal of events he felt that the washing must
have been brought back. Eventually, near to despair, she said - 'if you refuse to believe me I
know of only one thing that will convince you. Let the washing speak for itself.'
She accompanied him to the place where the basket of washing had been - and lo there it
still was. In a voice a hundred times more persuasive than her prolonged invective the
washing 'spoke' with complete authority -'Lo, here am I'. The drunken fantasy of the man was
blown to shreds in a moment.
But the barbs of his wife were less than the self recrimination of the man. 'What a witless
clod I really am ' he thought, 'had I but quietly gone myself to seek the washing I would have
discovered my mistake, put it right and avoided all this. Now there will be no no meal and
no bed to share in the night'.
Consider the moral of this story. A person spends their life busy in daily affairs, avoiding
major crimes and acts of an indecent sort for fear of the law and the opinion of the
neighbours. In reality they are drunk with wine of worldliness - which is to say forgetfulness
of God. The daily business of life presses in ever upon them. One thing rapidly followed by
another. If asked that person is sure to say - 'I am a good person - I have done nothing
wrong'. If the person reads a text pointing out the sinful state of man - they will say 'how true'
but in their heart they will think - 'but this does not really apply to me'. No amount of
persuasion will make them think differently. The thousand ill thoughts about this person or
that, the thousand of petty jealousies and envy, the myriad small acts of greed,
vindictiveness, meanness, spite, laziness, anger, hatred and so on remain hidden from their
view - until death brings these small acts to their attention and then, like the basket of
washing in the story, the acts, thoughts, and feelings say 'Lo, here am I'.
Take this as a commentary on the verse in the Holy Book which says: 'even their very limbs
will bear witness against them of what they did.'
From this take the lesson recited by God's holy Prophet; 'die before you die'. One of the
meanings of this is to examine in minute detail our actions, and thoughts, and words, or
feelings - before our physical death brings us to it. To act on this recognition so as to
transform the situation then becomes the inevitable conclusion of the sensible person. Then,
unlike the husband in the tale, bitter recriminations turn to sweet talk of love, and a hungry
cold night to a generous repast.
JMZ Southampton (January 6th 2004)
Sufi Stories 3