a Disclosure of Wisdom for our Time
Sultan Valad 1226-1312 ,
Son of Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Sultan Valad (1226-1312) was the son of Jalal ad-Din Rumi. Jalal ad-Din Rumi was born in Balkh in Khorasan in 1207. Rumi was himself the son of an eminent teacher, Baha-ud-Din Valad, who was also called “the Sultan of the scholars”. It is in his memory that his grandson, Sultan Valad, was also called Baha-ud-Din.
In 1219, Rumi’s father had to flee from Khorasan because of the Mongol invasion. The family ended up settling down in Anatolia, at Konya, capital of the Seljuk Empire. This is where Jalal ad-Din Rumi succeeded to his father as the head of a theology college. He taught there until his death in 1273.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi composed a considerable work, which includes the Mathnawi, the Diwan of Shams of Tabriz, Ruba’iyat, and Fihi-ma-fihi. Fihi-ma-fihi is a series of conversations of Rumi with his disciples and friends that was collected by Sultan Valad.
This book was originally called Maarif, which literally translates as Gnosis of better The Skill of Soul’s Rapture. It is a Persian prose work in a style approaching the spoken language and containing accounts of Sulṭān Walad’s thoughts and words. It is composed of lectures given to his students explaining and reflecting his father’s material. The tone and material is very much like his father’s material collected in Fihi-ma-fihi, but Maarif is less spontaneous, more elaborate, more explicit and less dense. Its form is less diversified as it includes only a few interlocutors, discussions and questions. It is obvious that, in Kitab al-Maarif, Sultan Valad reflected on his father’s teaching and expanded on what he thought to be especially important. It is also interesting to note that Maarif was also the title of the book by Sultan Valad’s grandfather – who was his namesake. This book was recently translated into English under the title The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthy Reflections of Bahauddin, the Father of Rumi by Coleman Barks and John Moyne.
Nobody was able to transmit the essence of Rumi’s teaching better than Sultan Valad. He was not only Rumi’s elder son; he was also his dearest confidant. From six years old he would attend Rumi’s meetings with disciples. When people desired a favor from Rumi, they would ask Sultan Valad to be their intercessor. In his various writings and lectures, Valad ciphered many of cryptic symbols of his father’s behavior, actions, hints and indications. He also explained many of his father’s mysteries. This was carried out throughout his life in the forms of prose, poetry and discourses for his disciples. Valad was also familiar with Shams Tabrizi (Rumi’s beloved mentor) and used to associate with him regularly.
It is said that one day Rumi was speaking to his visitors about Moses’ stick. According to the Koran, the stick swallowed up the creations of the Pharaoh’s magicians, while the length of the stick neither augmented nor decreased by a single atom. Rumi asked, “How could I explain this incomparable parable so people can understand it?” And, turning toward Sultan Valad, he asked him to comment on the verse. Sultan Valad bowed and said, “This parable is like a man who has an extremely big palace that is in complete darkness. Suddenly, someone brings a torch and its presence lights up the palace. The torch neither diminishes nor augments, but the darkness disappears.” Rumi congratulated him and said he was delighted with the answer.
Once Rumi told his son, “O Bahâ-ud-Dîn, my coming into this world happened to prepare yours; for all the words I say are discourses, but you, you are my action.”
The text of the original Maarif is taken from the Persian collection by Najib Mayel Heravi, who compared, collected, and compiled five different editions of the book. The version that we used is the smallest in size of the 5 editions, and has the most in common with all of the other versions. The French and Spanish translations have also been used in the preparation of the present edition. Every effort has been made to preserve, in its unattainable form, the teaching that it contains.
In Sufism, ma’rifa describes the mystical intuitive knowledge of spiritual truth, or better the skill of soul “rapture”achieved through ecstatic experiences, rather than revealed or rationally acquired.
A seeker of ma’rifa is called ‘arif’, the one who “knows”.
In one of the earliest accounts of the Maqamat-l arba’in (“forty stations”) in Sufism, sufi master Abu Said ibn Abi’l-Khayr ma’rifa lists as the 25th station: “By all creatures of the two worlds, and through all people, they see Allah, and there is no accusation of their perception. ”
Marifat is one of the ‘four doors’ of Sufism:
Sharia: legal path.
Tariqa: methodical-esoteric path.
Ma’rifa: soul rapture, mystical knowledge, consciousness.
Haqiqa: mystical truth / truth.
A metaphor for explaining the meaning of ma’rifa is to collect the pearl. Shari’a is the boat; tariqa is represented by the rowing of the pearlman; haqiqa is the pearl; and ma’rifa is the ability to see the difference between real and false pearls.
- Introduction of Sultan Valad
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
All the Prophets and Saints are known and distinguished by virtue of the miracles and prodigies that they perform. The Sages and the Seekers of Truth say that God has bestowed a specific grace upon each one of them. What He has granted to one, He has not granted to another. He has given to each a different dominion, a separate world. My grandfather used to say that each Prophet was capable of performing any miracle, and that they possessed all powers. But God conceded to each one an Attribute according to the needs of the moment to satisfy a specific need or desire. For instance, a sage may know medicine, astronomy and other sciences: but when he treats a patient, we cannot affirm that he only knows the art of medicine. According to the circumstances he will show one aspect of his knowledge that he has mastered. Or, if a person who is concurrently an expert goldsmith, cobbler and tailor is sewing garments, we cannot say that he only knows that specific craft. Or still, if a river powers a water-mill, a sensible person would not say that it is the only function of the river; it is capable of many other things such as washing clothes, refreshing, turning gardens green again, and contributing to the growth of plants and flowers. But in that specific instance, it is necessary to move the wheel of the mill; and in a garden or field it could be seen to provide other services.
Therefore, each Prophet is capable of accomplishing any miracle, but he performs miracles and prodigies according to the needs of his people.
The prophets are manifestations and instruments of God. They are extinguished and annihilated in Him. Through them God shows everything. Therefore, how is it possible to assert that God is not capable of doing everything? God is the active principle; the Prophets are like a pen in the hand of the writer. Each mark that the pen draws is, in fact, written by the writer. They are like the bow and the arrow. It is not the bow that shoots the arrow, but the archer. That is why God, the Most High, has said: “When you slew, it was not you who slew, but God.”
God is literally saying: “Mohammad, that arrow that you shot, it is Us who shot it not you. Everything you do is by the commandment and mandate of God. What then is your role? Since it is Us who Act and everything is done through Our Desire and Will, he who fights and struggles against you, fights and struggles against Us; he who follows you and acts upon your commands and manifests friendship and love for you, has done those things toward Us.”
Someone said, “The most important is action; words are not important.” I said, “I too would like to find someone who knows what action is and can see, so that I can show him action.” Now, you like words. One can converse with you since you are not a man of action. How could you comprehend what action is? As action you only understand prayers, fasting, reading spiritual texts, pilgrimage, alms, meditation, and devotion. But all these are not action. These are the means to reach true Action. It is possible that when you perform these activities they exert some influence over you and transform you in relation to what you were before. For example, prayer allows one to distance oneself from sin and error. Action, on the other hand, purifies your faults. When you are in a state of impurity you have not accomplished the prayer.
So all these different forms and modes do not constitute Action. Action is the transmutation of the heart, passing from one state to another. Like the seminal liquid and the embryo passing from one state to another in the mother’s womb; first a clot of blood, then a fetus, then the face of a man who is endowed with life, enters the world and grows up. This transformation and growth is action and ascension.
The meaning of Miraj (Mohammad’s journey to heaven) is the same as we have just mentioned. The seeker passes from one internal state to another. The second state is higher than the first; the third is higher than the second, ad infinitum.
Anyone who, in the bazaar of this world – because “This world is the field which is reaped in the other world” – remains two days in the same state suffers a loss. Day by day, second by second, it is necessary to rise and advance. This is the reality of action. Who perceives such action? With the exception of God, no one knows it or can see it. “My saints are under my dome; except I, no one knows them.”
In a word, knowledge is closer to real action than personal effort and corporal practices such as prayer, fasting, and the rest. Since it is possible for knowledge to be separated from action and be rendered useless, it is even more possible that personal effort and corporal practices, since they are further away from real action, are rendered even more useless. Hypocrites perform external practices such as prayer and fasting, but cannot traverse the path of faith and declare the existence of God. If they possessed the knowledge and ability they would not be miscreants. Therefore, everything that was said and indicated concerning the different modes and ways, gestures and devotions that are practiced and recognized are the means of real action, but not action itself.
Iblis (The primary name of Satan in Islam) performed practices of devotion in heaven for thousands of years. If his external practices had been real, he would have behaved differently when God ordered him to prostrate himself before Adam.
Jesus did not perform external acts, but practiced true action in such a way that he was able to evolve from a state of spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. What Jesus declared in the cradle( “Truly I am the servant of God; He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet.” (Sura 19, verse 30, Mohammad achieved it when he was forty years old
Thus, the reality of action resides in your transformation and progress at each instant. When the philosopher’s stone grazes copper, it is the transmutation of copper into gold that constitutes real action. A piece of copper may be hammered, boiled or extended, but it will still remain copper. Those who are not capable of recognizing gold and perceive the external form of practices say, “If gold exists in the world, it is that which has been hammered and has become wide and long.” But he who knows gold examines the metal with the touchstone and will not buy it, even for half a cent, if it is not pure gold.
I, who am God, do not look at your faces, or your behavior or your words, but I set my eyes upon your hearts in order to know the degree of love you have for me.
For a wise man, one indication is sufficient. Or put in other words, “if there is someone home, only one word will suffice.”
- Friends of God
The Friends of God are the Attributes of God and His chosen ones (These Attributes are such things as All-Seeing, All-Hearing, All-Powerful. All together there are 99 of them, commonly referred to as the 99 Names of God) ; not God himself, but they are the Secrets of God. Knowledge and awareness of God is easier than the knowledge of his Secrets. Likewise, if you wish to know someone, you get acquainted and spend some time with him. This desire to know him can be accomplished with little effort. But if you desire to gain the inner secrets of his heart, greater efforts would be needed. We may conclude that it is easier to learn appearances than to obtain inner secrets.
If someone wishes to visit a Master and be received by him, after a few attempts and with some effort, he may succeed. But if he wishes to have access to the knowledge of the Master, then he must dedicate many years and much effort to gain a piece of this treasure.
In a city, there are one hundred thousand God-believing people. All of them crave that God grant them their desires. They consider God to be the Unique, the Almighty, the Generous, the Teacher, the Guide, He who forgives and He who punishes. They submit to Him with sincere heart and soul and worship Him. In general, they are like this: some are strong in action, some are weak; some have little knowledge of God and some have much. But among these hundred thousand people, only a small community incline toward a true Saint. Among that small community, only one or two truly know that Saint.
After this discussion, it is clear that worship and knowledge of God is common. In general, everyone, without exception, can follow the Path of Knowledge. Even the heedless worship God.
Impiety and faith, both travel His Way saying, “He is Unique, the One without associates.”
Men worship God in various forms, practices and languages. But worship is not exclusive to man. Even the heavens, the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth, minerals, mountains, stones, dust, air and fire – everything worships and praises Him in a language that you do not know or understand.
To ensure that not everyone will pray to God or return to Him, all created beings are the screens and courtiers of God. The exquisite delicacies, silk garments, beautiful women, and other riches of this world prevent the elect from serving and seeing God. These things are like highwaymen to the seekers and those who are on the path – until by means of lamentation, prayers and remembrance – some of them escape from the brigands, and successfully bring the loads and garments of the seeker to acceptance and submission to God. But it is God who guards the Saints of God, and makes it impossible for everyone to find or recognize them, because it has been said that “my Saints are under my dome; Except I, no one knows them.” That is, my Saints and my friends are concealed under the dome of My Jealousy, in order that no one, other than I, can see them or know them. As in this world, when the great kings sit on the throne of justice, receiving both noblemen and commoners in their courts; hearing each desire and granting requests according to rank. Still, these people never see the sons and daughters of the king. And the man who asks to become the confidant and companion of the king risks his head – unless the king, by his own volition and knowing the loyalty and faith of the person, makes him his confidant.
Ungodly obstacles or brigand-like demons and devils can be chased away by means of recitation and remembrance. But with which recitation or which remembrance could we chase God away? Therefore it is obvious that finding Friends of God and knowing them is much harder than knowing God. Whoever knows a Friend of God knows God, but the reverse is not true. Knowledge of God does not necessarily lead to knowledge of the Friends of God, since there are many people who recognize and submit to God but cannot know and understand the Truth. Even when they see a Friend of God, they make enemies of him and reject him.
Some sages, like Junaid(Junaid of Bagdad -d. 9107) and Shibli (Junaid’s disciple -d. 945), rejected Mansur el-Hallaj because of his seemingly blasphemous outcry “I am the Truth” – and decided to spill his blood . They unanimously released an edict allowing the hanging of this unique and precious man. After his body was taken down from the gallows, it was burnt and his ashes dispersed on the river so that no trace of him would remain in this world. It is told that, regardless of what was tried, the ashes would arrange themselves on the surface of the river to form the words “I am the Truth”. They were all filled with rue after witnessing this wonder.
Likewise for Moses, who was one of the Prophets and Messengers of God. Despite his knowledge and greatness, Moses sought to know Khidr (a mysterious character in the Islamic tradition who was the guide of Moses, and often called ”The Green One” Also thought to be the Prophet Elijah) and implored God to be able to meet him. After many prayers and lamentations, his supplication was granted. God said, “Start a journey and seek Our pure servant so that you may find him.” He found Khidr at the seashore. His eyes and his heart were enlightened by this encounter, and he achieved many goals from this single meeting. For, “God, the Most High, has servants. When they gaze upon the other servants, they cover them with the mantle of prosperity.” One glance of Khidr invested Moses with such robes of honor and so much blessing that, “the eye has not seen, the ear has not heard, and nothing has passed through the heart.” (Hadith of the Prophet).
Desire for the friendship and company of Khidr sprung in Moses, without ever seeing him or experiencing his presence:
You have not been visible to us, So we are in this state.
Woe to us, if You became visible.
Khidr said, “O Moses, be satisfied with everything you have seen in us and leave, for sharing the road with us is dangerous. It would be better that you did not take the risk, because there are many dangers.” But Moses complained with sincerity and love. After they were together for some time on their route, they found a ship on the seashore. The ship had no equal in its beauty and craftsmanship. However, Khidr made a hole in it so that it became unusable. Moses said, “What you have done is not right, since it is contrary to wisdom and to the law. If the touchstone of justice was applied, this act would not be found of good value, and on the scale of fairness and the law it would reveal itself as wrongful.”
Khidr answered, “Did I not warn you that you should not disagree with me?”
Moses apologized, “I have forgotten our pact. It is my first fault, but forgiveness is better.” And he wept much until Khidr forgave him.
After some time had passed, they arrived on an island. Among the children of that island there was a beautiful, graceful and sweet child. Khidr gently took the child’s hand and walked away with him. Moses was puzzled and followed Khidr and the child. When they arrived at a solitary place and out of the sight of people, Khidr put the child under his foot and slit his throat. Moses protested vehemently and cried out, “Where is the fairness in ending the life of a pure and innocent child?”
Khidr answered, “Did I not tell you to turn away and not come with me because you would not have endurance to witness or understand my actions?”
Moses came back to his senses and said, “I committed a fault; forgetfulness overcame me.”
Khidr said, “You are so impertinent! Each time you question my acts, then you say that you have made a mistake, and that forgetfulness has overcome you.”
Moses said, “For Love of God, forgive me once again, for it is customary to forgive three times. If I argue again, do not accept my excuses.”
If a fault again you see in me, Do not aid in my adversity.
Khidr excused Moses a second time under the condition that, if he should commit a third fault, they would part regardless of any pretext or excuse. They traveled together for some time. By chance it happened that they did not find any food for several days and were close to dying of starvation. In this state of deprivation, they came upon a vast island where they saw a large city and a large crowd of people. They noticed a wall on the verge of collapse due to a hole in it. Khidr repaired and rebuilt the wall.
When Moses saw what had happened, he was sure that finally, after so much misery and hunger, food, gifts and money would soon come to them in great quantities. But Khidr took Moses by the hand and walked away. Moses lost his patience and cried out, “O, Khidr! We are hunger-stricken. You raised a wall that nobody could repair, and the owner of this house is extremely rich. At least you could have asked for a wage which would have allowed us to eat for a few days. Even if you had renounced everything you could have asked for a piece of bread so that we could eat. Your action is contrary to law and justice and none could agree with it.”
Khidr said, “O Moses! You have committed three faults. However, I will explain to you the three cases that provoked your protests so you may know that these actions were worthy of approval rather than condemnation. Otherwise, I would not have done them.”
“The reason I made a hole in the ship, even though it belonged to poor and decent people, was that I saw with my inner eye that tyrants had the intention of taking the ship and using it to attack good men. Therefore, I destroyed the ship and rendered it unusable.”
“The reason for the murder of the child was that in later life, the boy, who was ill natured, would have behaved in such a way that his parents would have failed in the way of God. I wanted his parents to be able to attain the perfect end and not go astray because of their son. It is like a gardener who prunes the diseased branches so that the other branches may acquire strength.”
“I restored and straightened the wall that was ruined to the point of collapse. The wall belonged to rich orphans. I did not ask for money or recompense because their father was a Servant of God.” The commentators of this story note that in the seventh generation of those orphans there was a righteous man. Others assert that there was a good man in the seventieth generation. Thus, a man like Khidr – to whom belongs not only the treasure of the other World, but who is himself a source of generosity – acts to benefit the ancestor of the seventh or the seventieth generation. Out of respect for the descendants, he performed an extraordinary service that no one else could have done. Although he himself was in great need and difficulty, he did not accept any compensation.
Khidr explained the essence of the wisdom of these three secrets to Moses – and they parted.
A descendant of Ali (Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) fell drunk in the bazaar in the city of Tabriz. His head, face and beard were soiled with vomit and dust. A devout dervish, who saw him in this state, insulted him and spat on him. That same night, the Prophet appeared to the dervish in a dream, “You allege to be at my service, following and submitting to my tradition, hoping to be among those who will enter paradise. But when you saw me covered with vomit in the middle of the bazaar, why did you not wash my filth and lay me down as expected from the servants who attend their master? Not only did you not serve me, but your heart allowed you to spit upon me.”
At this moment, the dervish said to himself, “When did I do these things to the Prophet?” The Prophet immediately answered, “Do you not know that our children are our most precious possessions? If it was not so, how could they inherit the possessions of their father?” The dervish awoke with a start and set out to search for the man. He brought him to his home and gave him his house and half of his possessions. While he lived, he remained at his service and attended him with great respect.
In emphasis of the preceding, it is told that one sufi said to another, “Each day, God the Most High, manifests Himself to me seventy times.” The other answered him, “If you feel so much bravery, go and see Bayazid.” After some time passed, the sufi said again, “I see God seventy times a day.” And the other repeated, “If you have so much bravery, go and see Bayazid.”
Since this affair lasted for a long time, the sufi at last decided to visit Bayazid, who was living in a forest. Bayazid intuitively knew that the dervish was coming to visit him, and came out of the forest to meet him, and next to the forest their meeting took place. At the moment the dervish perceived Bayazid and saw his blessed face, he could not bear it; at once, he gave up his soul and left this world.
Let us consider the profound meaning of the forest. The forest represents the interior of Bayazid, and the trees in the forest are the thoughts, knowledge and spiritual rank that he held in his heart. When the Sufi arrived at the place of Bayazid, how could he have entered the forest and then walked back out? Bayazid had to come out of the forest so the Sufi could see him.
Likewise, when an intelligent man speaks to a child, he must come out from the “forest” of his own intelligence and knowledge, and speak to the child accordingly. In this way the child may understand. “Speak to people according to the degree of their understanding.”( Hadith of the Prophet)
The sufi perceived God according to his own capacity. But when the Light and Splendor of God shone upon him through the dimension of Bayazid, he could not bear it and was annihilated.
Gabriel received the Light of Divine Radiance and obtained his sustenance from it. He was, like a fish, eternally immersed in the ocean of Divine Union. When he escorted Mohammad toward God during the Mi’raj, he went together with him as high as his own rank would allow. When they arrived at this superior place, he stopped and remained immobile. The Prophet said, “Come, why do you remain there?” Gabriel answered, “I cannot go further for I am not permitted. If I advance a single step more I will be burnt.”
The Prophet continued alone and contemplated Divine Beauty with the inner eye.
Anyone who sees God, from an ant to Solomon, sees Him according to his own capacity. All things are nurtured by God, and all life and existence derive from the Manifestations of God. But where are the manifestations of Solomon or the ant?
A master has ten slaves. One of the slaves is five years old, another is ten, another is thirty, another is fifty, and yet another is sixty years old. All of them are at the service of the master and show him submission. However, the service of some is superior to the service of others. The master talks to each of them, but in accordance with their capacity he maintains a different relationship with each of them. If he would behave in the same way with the youngest as with the oldest, the youngest could not endure it.
The garment is tailored to fit the man.
Equally, God manifests himself to the believers and the Saints in accordance with their spiritual rank. The Light of God descends upon them in a manner that they are able to endure. When a man wants to unite with fire, he heats up water in a bath. He unites himself with the fire through the intermediary of the water. If he were to walk directly into the fire, he would be burned. However, the Perfect Man finds himself in the fire like a fish in the water. The other seekers and believers lack the necessary strength to benefit from the fire without the intermediary.
What we are saying here is that it is easier to recognize and know the Friends of God than to know God without their intermediation. It does not mean that the Friends of God are different from God; such an allegation would be erroneous. But you cannot see God with the same power as that with which the Friend of God contemplates Him. Therefore, go and seek the Friend of God, so that through his intermediary, you may see what he sees – and God knows best.
Who better than Sultan Valad could explain to us the teachings of his father? Rumi’s eldest son was his intimate friend and confidant. For seventy years, says Aflaki, he illuminated the words of his father and master, miraculous, eloquent, in deciphering the mysteries and interpretation. The Master awakens the sleepy soul of the student and allows him to climb the ascending steps to Paradise. He describes us the Skills of Soul Rapture. Mawlana Rumi himself says: “I have studied a lot of science and have worked hard to offer rare and valuable things to researchers and scientists who come to me, it is God the Supreme who has decided so”. He said also to his son: “O Bahâ-ud-Din, my coming into this world has come to prepare yours, for all the words that I say are speeches, but you, you are my action.” It is a message for all times, a revelation of wisdom for our time.
The court of Kyumars, first mythical king of Iran, reigning on an Edenic land in an eternal spring.
Illustration of the Book of Ferdowsi Kings. Shâhnâmeh of Shah Tahmasp (Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp: A Book of Illustrated Kings of the 16th Century), Tabriz, c. 1537