The Story of Hatam Taei and the Messenger Sent to Kill Him

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One of the kings of Yemen was renowned for his liberality, yet the name of Hatam Taei was never mentioned in his presence without his falling into a rage. “How long,” he would ask, “wilt thou speak of that vain man, who possesses neither a kingdom, nor power, nor wealth?” On one occasion he prepared a royal feast, which the people were invited to attend. Someone began to speak of Hatam, and another to praise him. Envious,the king dispatched a man to slay the Arabian chief, reflecting, “So long as HatamTaei lives, my name will never become famous.

The messenger departed, and traveled far seeking for Hatam Taei that he might kill him. As he went along the road a youth came out to meet him. He was handsome and wise, and showed friendliness toward the messenger, whom he took to his house to pass the night. Such liberality did he shower upon his guest that the heart of the evil-minded one was turned to goodness.

In the morning the generous youth kissed his hand and said, “Remain with me for a few days.” I am unable to stay here,” replied the messenger, “for urgent business is before me.” “If thou wilt entrust me with thy secret,” said the youth, “to aid the will I spare no effort.”

“O,generous man!” was the reply, “give ear to me, for I know that the generous are concealers of secrets. Perhaps in this country thou knowest Hatam Taei, who is of lofty mind and noble qualities. The king of Yemen desires his head, though Iknow not what enmity has arisen between them. Grateful shall I be if thou wilts direct me to where he is. This hope from thy kindness do I entertain, O friend!”

The youth laughed and said, “I am Hatam Taei, see here my head!Strike it from my body with thy sword. I would not that harm should be fall thee, or that thou shouldst fall in thy endeavor.”Throwing aside his sword, the man fell on the ground and kissed the dust of HatamTaei ‘s feet. “If I injured a hair on thy body,” he cried, “I should no longer be a man.” So saying, he clasped Hatam Taei to his breast and took his way back to Yemen.

“Come,” said the king as the man approached, “what news hast thou?” Why didst thou not tie his head to thy saddle-straps? Perhaps that famous one attacked thee and thou wert too weak to engage in combat.” The messenger kissed the ground and said, “O, wise and just king!I found HatamTaei, and saw him to be generous and full of wisdom,and in courage superior to myself. My back was bent by the burden of his favors; with the sword of kindness and bounty he killed me.”

When he had related all that he had seen of Hatam Taei ‘s generosity, the king uttered praises upon the family of the Arab chief and rewarded the messenger with gold.

Excerpt From: Bustan by by Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi r.a

Extra Note: HatamTaei was an Arabian chief who was renowned for his generosity. He was born in Yemen, in Arabia Felix, and lived some time before Hazrat Mohammed (p.b.u.h) in the sixth century. Many legends have been woven around his life and character.

Conference of the Birds : A Seekers Journey to God by Farid ‘ud-Din Attar

Written in the 12th Century, Farid ad-Din Attar’s Allah be pleased with him metaphorical tale of birds seeking a King (God) has inspired readers across time and around the world. In this edition, from R.P. Masani’s 1923 translation, noted Sufi scholar and spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey sets the scene. ” The allegorical framework has the stark, luminous simplicity of Islamic calligraphy. You may believe you are reading a witty, dazzling allegory. Very soon, however, if you reading with attention, you will realise you are being drawn into a vision of a mystical path of the greatest depth.”

Like the birds, we may anticipate our pilgrimage until we realise that we must relinquish our fears and hollow desires. One by one, the birds – and the different types of humans they represent – begin to make excuses. Conference of the Birds is not for the faint hearted. Yet, if we want to know God and our own true and best selves, reading and
re-reading these stories reveals the path.

Strive to discover the mystery before life is taken from you.
If while living you fail to find yourself, to know yourself,
how will you be able to understand
the secret of your existence when you die?

The Valley of the Quest

“When you enter the first valley, the Valley of the Quest, a hundred difficulties will assail you; you will undergo a hundred trials. There, the Parrot of heaven is no more than a fly. You will have to spend several years there, you will have to make great efforts, and to change your state. You will have to give up all that has seemed precious to you and regard as nothing all that you possess. When you are sure that you possess nothing, you still will have to detach yourself from all that exists. Your heart will then be saved from perdition and you will see the pure light of Divine Majesty and your real wishes will be multiplied to infinity. One who enters here will be filled with such longing that he will give himself up completely to the quest symbolized by this valley. He will ask of his cup-bearer a draught of wine, and he has drunk it nothing will matter except the pursuit of his true aim. Then he will no longer fear the dragons, the guardians of the door, which seek to devour him. When the door is opened and he enters, then dogma, belief and unbelief–all cease to exist.”

The Valley of Love

“The next valley is the Valley of Love. To enter it one must be a flaming fire–what shall I say? A man must himself be fire. The face of the lover must be enflamed, burning and impetuous as fire. True love knows no after-thoughts; with love, good and evil cease to exist.

“But as for you, the heedless and careless, this discourse will not touch you, your teeth will not even nibble at it. A loyal person stakes ready money, stakes his head even, to be united to his friend. Others content themselves with what they will do for you tomorrow. If he who sets out on this way will not engage himself wholly and completely he will never be free from the sadness and melancholy which weigh him down. Until the falcon reaches his aim he is agitated and distressed. If a fish is thrown onto the beach by the waves it struggles to get back into the water.
“In this valley, love is represented by fire, and reason by smoke. When love comes reason disappears. Reason cannot live with the folly of love; love gas nothing to do with human reason. If you possessed inner sight, the atoms of the visible world would be manifested to you. But if you look at things with the eye of ordinary reason you will never understand how necessary it is to love. Only a man who has been tested and is free can feel this. He who undertakes this journey should have a thousand hearts so that he can sacrifice one at every moment.”

The Valley of Understanding

“After the valley of which I have spoken, there comes another–the Valley Understanding, which has neither beginning nor end. No way is equal to this way, and the distance to be traveled to cross it is beyond reckoning.

“Understanding, for each traveler, is enduring; but knowledge is temporary. The soul, like the body, is in a state of progress or decline; and the Spiritual Way reveals itself only in the degree to which the traveler has overcome his faults and weaknesses, his sleep and his inertia, and each will approach nearer to his aim according to his effort. Even if a gnat were to fly with all its might could it equal the speed of the wind? There are different ways of crossing this Valley, and all birds do not fly alike. Understanding can be arrived at variously–some have found the Mihrab, others the idol. When the sun of understanding brightens this road each receives light according to his merit and he finds the degree assigned to him in the understanding of truth. When the mystery of the essence of beings reveals itself clearly to him the furnace of this world becomes a garden of flowers. He who is striving will be able to see the almond in its hard shell. He will no longer be pre-occupied with himself, but will look up at the face of his friend. In each atom he will see the whole; he will ponder over thousands of bright secrets.
“But, how many have lost their way in this search for one who has found the mysteries! It is necessary to have a deep and lasting wish to become as we ought to be in order to cross this difficult valley. Once you have tasted the secrets you will have a real wish to understand them. But, whatever you may attain, never forget the words of the Koran, “Is there anything more?”
“As for you who are asleep (and I cannot commend you for this), why not put on mourning? You, who have not seen the beauty of your friend, get up and search! How long will you stay as you are, like a donkey without a halter!”

The Valley of Independence and Detachment

“The there comes the valley where there is neither the desire to possess nor the wish to discover. In this state of the soul a cold wind blows, so violent that in a moment it devastates an immense space; the seven oceans are no more than a pool, the seven planets a mere sparkle, the seven heavens a corpse, the seven hells broken ice. Then, an astonishing thing, beyond reason! An ant has the strength of a hundred elephants, and a hundred caravans perish while a rook is filling his crop.

“In order that Adam might receive the celestial light, hosts of green-clad angels were consumed by sorrow. So that Noah might become a carpenter of God and build the ark, thousands of creatures perished in the waters. Myriads of gnats fell on the army of Abrahah so that that king would be overthrown. Thousands of the first-born died so that Moses might see God. Thousands of people took to the Christian girdles so that Christ could possess the secret of God. Thousands of hearts and souls were pillaged so that Muhammad might ascend for one night to heaven. In this Valley nothing old or new has value; you can act or not act. If you saw a whole world burning until hearts were only shish kabab, it would be only a dream compared to reality. If myriads of souls were to fall into this boundless ocean it would be as a drop of dew. If heaven and earth were to burst into minute particles it would be no more than a leaf falling from a tree; and if everything were to be annihilated, from the fish to the moon, would there be found in the depths of a pit the leg of a lame ant? If there remain no trace of either of men or jinn, the secret of a drop of water from which all has been formed is still to be pondered over.”

The Valley of Unity

“You will next have to cross the Valley of unity. In this valley everything is broken in pieces and then unified. All who raise their heads here raise them from the same collar. Although you seem to see many beings, in reality there is only one–all make one which is complete in its unity. Again, that which you see as a unity is not different from that which appears in numbers. And as the Being of whom I speak is beyond unity and numbering, cease to think of eternity as before and after, and since these two eternities have vanished, cease to speak of them. When all that is visible is reduced to nothing, what is there left to contemplate?”

The Valley of Astonishment and Bewilderment

“After the Valley of Unity comes the Valley of Astonishment and Bewilderment, where one is a prey to sadness and dejection. There sighs are like swords, and each breath a bitter sight; there, is sorrow and lamentation, and a burning eagerness. It is at once day and night. There, is fire, yet a man is depressed and despondent. How, in his bewilderment, shall he continue his way? But he who has achieved unity forgets all and forgets himself. If he is asked: “Are you, or are you not? Have you or have you not the feeling of existence? Are you in the middle or on the border? Are you mortal or immortal?” he will reply with certainty: “I know nothing, I understand nothing, I am unaware of myself. I am in love, but with whom I do not know. My heart is at the same time both full and empty of love.”

The Valley of Deprivation and Death

“Last of all comes the Valley of Deprivation and Death, which is almost impossible to describe. The essence of the Valley is forgetfulness, dumbness and distraction; the thousand shadows which surround you disappear in a single ray of the celestial sun. When the ocean of immensity begins to heave, the pattern on its surface loses its form; and this pattern is no other than the world present and the world to come. Whoever declares that he does not exist acquires great merit. The drop that becomes part of this great ocean abides there for ever and in peace. In this calm sea, a man, at first, experiences only humiliation and overthrow; but when he emerges from this state he will understand it as creation, and many secrets will be revealed to him.

“Many beings have missed taking the first step and so have not been able to take the second–they can only be compared to minerals. When aloe wood and thorns are reduced to ashes they both look alike–but their quality is different. An impure object dropped into rose-water remains impure because of its innate qualities; but a pure object dropped into the ocean will lose its specific existence and will participate in the ocean and in its movement. In ceasing to exist separately it retains its beauty. It exists and non-exists. How can this be? The mind cannot conceive it.”

~ Manteq al-Tayr (Conference of the Birds) Translated by C. S. Nott

The Gulistan (“The Rose Garden”) Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi r.a

Two sons of Amirs were in Egypt, the one acquiring science, the other accumulating wealth, till the former became the Ulema of the period and the other the prince of Egypt; whereon the rich man looked with contempt upon the Faqih (religious scholar) and said: ‘I have reached the sultanate whilst thou hast remained in poverty as before.’ He replied: ‘O brother, I am bound to be grateful to the most high Creator for having obtained the inheritance of prophets whilst thou hast attained the inheritance of Pharaoh and of Haman, namely the kingdom of Egypt.’

I am that ant which is trodden under foot
Not that wasp, the pain of whose sting causes lament.
How shall I give due thanks for the blessing
That I do not possess the strength of injuring mankind?

~~

Two Khorasani dervishes traveled together. One of them, being weak, broke his fast every second night whilst the other who was strong consumed every day three meals. It happened that they were captured at the gate of a town on suspicion of being spies; whereon each of them was confined in a closet and the aperture of it walled up with mud bricks. After two weeks it became known that they were guiltless. Accordingly the doors were opened and the strong man was found to be dead whilst the weak fellow had remained alive. The people were astonished but a sage averred that the contrary would have been astonishing because one of them having been voracious possessed no strength to suffer hunger and perished whilst the other who was abstemious merely persevered in his habit and remained safe.

When eating little has become the nature of a man
He takes it easy when a calamity befalls him
But when the body becomes strong in affluence
He will die when a hardship overtakes him.

~~

Moses, to whom be salutation, beheld a dervish who had on account of his nudity concealed himself in the sand exclaiming: ‘O Moses, utter a supplication to God the most high to give me an allowance because I am, on account of my distress, on the point of starvation.’ Moses accordingly prayed and departed but returning a few days afterwards he saw that the dervish was a prisoner and surrounded by a crowd of people. On asking for the reason he was informed that the dervish had drunk wine, quarreled, slain a man and was to be executed in retaliation.

If the humble cat possessed wings
He would rob the world of every sparrow-egg.
It may happen that when a weak man obtains power
He arises and twists the hands of the weak.
And if Allah were to bestow abundance upon his servants, they would certainly
rebel upon earth.

What has made thee wade into danger, O fool,
Till thou hast perished. Would that the ant had not been able to fly!

When a base fellow obtains dignity, silver and gold,
His head necessarily demands to be knocked.

Was not after all this maxim uttered by a sage?
‘That ant is the best which possesses no wings.’
The heavenly father has plenty of honey but the son has a hot disease.

He who does not make thee rich
Knows better what is good for thee than thyself.

Book excerpts from chapter three, the number of the stories as follows 2,7,16

The Gulistan (Persian: گلستان‎ Golestȃn “The Rose Garden”) Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi r.a (1258) Translated by Sir Edwin Arnold (1899)

Love’s Creativity

Love cannot be defined, though its traces can be described. On this point Ibn Arabi the theoretician and Rumi the poet agree completely:

Love has no definition through which its essence can be known. Rather, it is given descriptive and verbal definitions, nothing more. Those who define love have not known it, those who have not tasted it by drinking it down have not known it, and those who say that they have been quenched by it have not known it, for love is drinking without quenching.

Someone asked, “What is loverhood?”
I replied, “Don’t ask me about these meanings –
“When you become like me, you’ll know;
When it calls you, you’ll tell its tale.”

~

What is it to be a lover? To have perfect thirst.
So let me explain the water of life.

On the divine level, love can be called the motive force for God’s creative activity. In one of his many commentaries on the Hadith of the Hidden Treasure, Ibn Arabi tells us that the kind of knowledge that God loved to achieve through creation was a knowledge that had its origin in time, since He already knew Himself and all things in eternity. Ibn Arabi makes this remark while drawing a parallel between sexual union for the purpose of having children and God’s love to be known for the purpose of creating the universe.

When the marriage union occurs because of the love for reproduction
and procreation, it joins the divine love when there was no cosmos. He “loved to be known.” So, because of this love, He turned His desire toward the things while they were in the state of nonexistence. They were standing in the station of the root because of the preparedness of their own possibility. He said to them, Be!, so they came to be, that He might be known by every sort of knowledge. This was temporal knowledge. As yet it had no object, because the one who knows by it was not yet qualified by existence. His love sought the perfection of knowledge and the perfection of existence.

In another passage, Ibn Arabi explains the meaning of God’s love to be known while commenting on the Koranic verse, “And He is with you wherever you are” (57:4). God’s love for human beings means that He never lets them out of His sight. God’s love for His servants is not qualified by origin or end, for it does not accept qualities that are temporal or accidental . . . Hence the relation of God’s love to them is the same as the fact that He is with them wherever they are [57:4] . . . Just as He is with them in the state of their existence, so also He is with them in the state of their nonexistence, for they are the objects of His knowledge. He witnesses them and loves them never-ending . . . He has always loved His creatures, just as He has always known them . . . His existence has no first point, so His love for His servants has no first point.

In one of his prose works, Rumi explains the significance of the Hidden Treasure by referring to the two categories of God’s attributes – mercy and wrath, or gentleness and severity. God created the world to make all his attributes manifest, and this demands infinite diversity:

God says, “I was a hidden treasure, so I loved to be known.” In other words, “I created the whole cosmos, and the goal in all of it was to make Myself manifest, sometimes through gentleness and sometimes through severity.” God is not the sort of king for whom a single herald would be sufficient. Were all the atoms of the universe His heralds, they would fall short and be incapable of making Him known.

Rumi frequently points to love as God’s motive for creation by commenting on a divine saying addressed to Muhammad: “But for you, I would not have created the heavenly spheres.” The Prophet is the fullness of realized love, through whom and for whom the universe was created.

Love makes the ocean boil like a pot,
love grinds mountains down to sand.
Love splits the heaven in a hundred pieces,
love shakes the earth with a mighty shaking.
Pure love was paired with Muhammad –
because of love God said to him, “But for you.”
Since he alone was the goal of love,
he was singled out from all the prophets.
“If not for pure love,
why would I give existence to the spheres?
“I raised the celestial wheel on high
so that you might understand love’s elevation.

~ Sufism: A Beginner’s Guide – William C. Chittick

 

The Sharīʿa & Ṭarīqa

In his preface to the fifth book of the Mathnawī Rūmī summarizes
the relationship between the exoteric law (the Sharīʿa), the spiritual
wayfaring which the Sufis undergo (the Ṭarīqa), and the Truth which
is Sufism’s goal (the Ḥaqīqa). He says that the Mathnawī is:

 
. . . setting forth that the Religious Law is like a candle showing the
way. Unless you gain possession of the candle, there is no wayfaring
[i.e., unless you follow the Sharīʿa, you cannot enter the Ṭarīqa]; and
when you have come on to the way, your wayfaring is the Path; and
when you have reached the journey’s end, that is the Truth. Hence
it has been said, “If the truths (realities) were manifest, the religious
laws would be naught.” As (for example), when copper becomes
gold or was gold originally, it does not need the alchemy which is
the Law, nor need it rub itself upon the philosopher’s stone, which
(operation) is the Path; (for), as has been said, it is unseemly to
demand a guide after arrival at the goal, and blameworthy to discard
the guide before arrival at the goal. In short, the Law is like learning
the theory of alchemy from a teacher or book, and the Path is (like)
making use of chemicals and rubbing the copper upon the philosopher’s
stone, and the Truth is (like) the transmutation of the copper
into gold. Those who know alchemy rejoice in their knowledge of
it, saying, “We know the theory of this (science)”; and those who
practice it rejoice in their practice of it, saying, “We perform such
works”; and those who have experienced the reality rejoice in the
reality, saying, “We have become gold and are delivered from the
theory and practice of alchemy: we are God’s freedmen”. . . .21
The law is [theoretical22] knowledge, the Path action, the Truth
attainment unto God.

Foot Notes:
21 On the spiritual significance of alchemy see Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science
of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (London, 1967).
22 It should be remembered that the original meaning of the Greek word
theôria is “viewing” or “contemplation”; doctrine is therefore “a view of the
mountain to be climbed.”

The Initiatic Chain (Silsila)

“Whoever has no master (shaykh) has Satan as his master” say the
Sufis, thereby dooming to failure those who dare undertake by their
own means the travel to God. The conditions surrounding the selection
and the reciprocal acceptance of a master and his disciple—the
latter committing himself to his master “like the cadaver in the hands
of the washer-of-the-dead”—and the brotherly and caring feelings
expected to reign between the members of the Sufi orders have been
amply described in the handbooks of Sufism. It will suffice here to
mention the fact that all relevant practices of the Sufis tend to perpetuate
the initiatic pact which was sealed at Hudaybiya when, on their
way back from the “lesser holy war” against the Meccan unbelievers,
Muhammad’s (s.a.w.s) closest Companions took a solemn oath with him to
wage a “greater holy war” against their own inner enemies. Since that
momentous event, a continuous chain of masters and disciples has
carried to the core of the Islamic Community, in all regions and at all
times, the esoteric teachings contained in the Quranic Revelation and
the influence of blessedness (baraka) inherited from Muhammad (s.a.w.s)

~Jean-Louis Michon – October 2005, Ramadan 1426
Sufism: Love & Wisdom – Edited by Jean-Louis Michon & Roger Gaetani

Robert Frager, Heart, Self & Soul

We have all had the experience of failing time after time in changing old habits. Then suddenly these old habits lose their hold on us. What was so attractive suddenly becomes unattractive. This is a sign that God has accepted our repentance. At this point, my sheikh used to say that we are no longer responsible for those old sins. We have truly changed and we are now someone who is not even tempted to commit them.

Robert Frager, Heart, Self & Soul, The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony  p. 71