Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forty Rules of Love

Books are my first love in this world. I am a typical book-lover. Everything from the cover of a book, to its' picture on the cover, to the texture of the pages and the font of the writing is my sanctuary. It is another world in, that exists, mind you. And one that is all your own. It is so beautiful, so real, so alive. Even more than life outside the pages. The threads of emotion that intermingle to create characters that have feelings and thoughts, the unpredictability of life that is mirrored among pages with precise perspective of reality, the interconnection that you feel with the character is absolutely splendid.
      A story that speaks out to you, that grabs you and pulls you in and makes you FEEL in the same way that nothing else does is one of the best feelings in the world. And oh! What you get to learn! Every reader, every witness to a story that speaks, has a treasure of so much more knowledge than the others. Knowledge of love, of his companions, of himself...and sometimes, of God. This book that I read recently immersed me into its' language and beauty and message as soon as I started reading it.  It's called The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak. The story started of with a mystical vision that Shams of Tabriz has about himself, where he sees himself drowning in a well and hears somebody searching for him. It created a moment of curiosity and I naturally immediately wanted to continue reading on to find out what  happens and what the vision is about. This book is a story about Rumi and the Shams of Tabriz, and their friendship as they search for the love of God. Although, it left me with some uneasy feelings in the end, for instance, I could not figure out why Rumi, who is a messenger of love and a searcher of companionship, would be indifferent to the needs and the concerns of his family during his study of Islam or Sufism with Shams, overall this book provided me with a much needed change in perception, a breathe of fresh air, of comfort, of intellectual fascination and, mostly, of a path that may or may not illuminate the way that would bring me near to God. Here are some of my most favourite lines in the book:

"Rumi stood up for an inner-oriented jihad where the aim was to struggle against and ultimately prevail over one's ego, nafs. Not all people welcomed these ideas, however, just as not all people open their hearts to love."

"When one speaks ill of God, he speaks ill of himself."

"Doesn't God say, 'I am closer to you than your jugular vein'?"

"How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we."

"When you spoke the truth, they hated you. The more you talked about love, the more they hated you."

"The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing yourself will lead you to the knowledge of God."

"Because although it is a fact that He cannot be found by seeking, only those who seek can find Him."

"The Sharia is like a candle. It provides us with much valuable light. But let us not forget that a candle helps us to go from one place to another in the dark. If we forget where we are headed and instead concentrate on the candle, what good is it?"

"To each his own way and his own prayer. God does not take us at our word. He looks deep down in our hearts. It is not the ceremonies and rituals that make a difference, but whether our hearts are sufficiently pure or not."

"Some people make the mistake of confusing "submission" with "weakness", whereas it is anything but. Submission is a form of peaceful acceptance of the terms of the universe, including the things we are currently unable to change or comprehend."

"It is easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God's creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God."

"It's one of the forty rules: If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered with roses."

"When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is out hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearances."

"She had discovered that once she accepted that she didn't have to stress herself about things she had no control over, another self emerged from inside-one who was wiser, calmer, and far more sensible.'The fifth element', she muttered to herself several times during the day,'Just accept the void!'"

Here is something that goes very suitably with my last post: "The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new Self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain."

"...My God is a Magnificent God. A living God! Why would I want a dead God(Nauzubillah)? Alive He is. His name is al-Hayy-the Ever Living. Whiy would I wallow in endless fears and anxieties, always restricted by prohibitions and limitations? Infinitely compassionate He is. The name is al-Wadud. All-Praiseworthy He is. I praise Him with all my words and deeds, as naturally and effortlessly as I breathe. The name is Al-Hamid. How can I ever spread gossip and slander if I know deep down in my heart that God hears and sees it all? His name is al-Basir. Beautiful beyond all dreams and hopes. Al-Jamal, al-Kayyum, al-Rahman, al-Rahim. Through famine and flood, dry and thirst.. ..I will smash my nafs to smithereens until I am no more than a particle of nothingness, the wayfarer of pure emptiness, the dust of the dust in His great architecture. Gratefully, joyously, and relentlessly, I commend His Splendor and generosity. I thank Him for all the things He has both given and denied me, or only He knows what is best for me."

Here's one of my favourite passages from the book: Now, if everything goes well, I'll be back in four days. Can I hope so? Yes. Can I control it? No! All i can do is take my laptop with me, try to find a good internet connection, and hope that i will live another day. The rest is not in my hands. And this is what the Sufis call the fifth element-the void. The inexplicable and uncontrollable divine element that we as human beings cannot comprehend and yet should always be aware of. I don't believe in 'inaction' if by that you mean doing nothing at all and showing no deep interest in life. But I do believe in respecting the fifth element. I believe we each make a covenant with God. I know that I did. When I became a Sufi, I promised God to do my part to the best of my ability and leave the rest to Him and Him only. I accepted the fact that there are things beyond my limits. I can only see some parts, like floating fragments from a movie, but the bigger scheme is beyond my comprehension."

     So to not be chased by those who hold copyrights to this book, and to not ruin your experience of reading the book by writing out most of it here, I will not dwell on other beautiful lines that this book consists of. But trust me, I could go on and on... This book is filled with treasures of wisdom and beauty. Some of my most favourite gems of thought are contained therein. It is something like Eat, Pray and Love-a book that you could pick up anytime after reading it once to give yourself some more insight into the matters of life, love, and spirituality.

Happy reading!

"May love find you when you least expect it, where you least expect it."-Forty Rules of Love.