By Sadia Dehlvi
May 23, 2013 -
When friends share tales of their sorrows and broken hearts, I try to offer some solace by telling them the value of sadness and how it often brings one closer to God. Sufis use the word huzn, sadness, to express the pain and suffering encountered on the journey towards our Creator.
Sadness arises from the perception of what it means to be human and increases in proportion to the degree of insight possessed by those with “God consciousness”. Sorrow is a dynamic that can turn hearts towards God. According to the Islamic tradition, afflictions and misfortunes help in cleansing the heart and washing away sins. Prophet Muhammad said: “The believing man or woman continues to have affliction in person, property and children, so that when they meet Allah they are free from sin.”
States of spiritual ecstasy are usually rooted in grief. Maulana Rumi wrote the Masnawi, 26,000 couplets in a state of utmost grief, after the death of Shams Tabrez, his spiritual mentor. God, by his own admission to Moses, revealed that He lives in the broken heart. The Torah (the books of Jewish scriptures) says that when God loves his servant, he fills his/her heart with the feeling of weeping. If he dislikes someone, their heart is filled with a desire for amusement and play.
During his life, people considered Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the 14th century Delhi mystic, the most fortunate of men. But he felt otherwise and said: “No one in the world is as sad and unhappy as me. Thousands of people come to me with their troubles, afflicting my heart and soul. Strange is the heart that sees sorrow and is not touched by it.”
On another occasion, Hazrat Nizamuddin remarked that when God would ask him what he had brought from the world for his Lord, the mystic did not mention his prayers, fasts or how he spread God’s message. Referring to his beloved disciple and Sufi poet, Hazrat Nizamuddin said: “I will present the sorrow in the heart of this Turk.”
The truly enlightened soul realises that both affliction and bounties come from God and a friendship with Him requires that you embrace both with gratitude and patience. Those afflicted with a severe calamity should take comfort from the fact that those with the strongest faith are given harder trials. When asked about who suffers the greatest afflictions, Muhammad said: “The Prophets, then those who come next to them, and then those who come next to them.” All the Prophets spent their lives facing constant trials and tribulations. Adam, Moses, David, Noah, Jesus, Abraham, Zachariah, Muhammad, all lived their lives enveloped in sorrow.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.