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To Forgive And Forget And To Be Immune To Vainglory

Once the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, was sitting with his companions, when, sighting from afar a man approaching, he said: “Oh my companions, if you want to behold one of the inhabitants of Paradise, look at that man who is now approaching”. The man presently arrived and took his place among the congregation. The next day, and yet the next day after that, the Prophet delivered his companions the good tidings of that man’s eternal felicity (without saying anything, however, to the man himself).

So often I have heard people lay claim to possessing pure hearts. Especially people who reject religion and mystical practices out of hand love to make such claims. We don’t lay any such claims, but we believe that our Way is the way of purification, and that our efforts should set us in the right direction. Anyone who thinks of himself as a pure-hearted person should pay heed to this account and reexamine his claim in light of it.

This account has reached our time through Abdullah, the son of Umar, the second Khalipha of Islam. When Abdullah heard the Prophet laud that person three times he decided to follow him to his house and seek both his blessings and knowledge of exactly what means had led to his attaining such a high station of perfection in this life.

When Abdullah arrived at the man’s home he knocked on his door and was welcomed in. The man asked him: “May I inquire as to the purpose of your visit?” Then Ibn Umar related to the man what the Holy Prophet had said about him each of the three preceding days. The man said: “I know”. Abdullah Ibn Umar continued: “Oh my brother, I would also like to be one of those fortunate people to have secured a place in paradise while still living in this world. What exactly have you done to attain such distinction in the Divine Presence? What kind of ascetic austerities have you undergone? What kinds of superrogatory acts of devotion have you performed?”

“Oh Abdullah, I don’t worship more than you or anyone else does. My being given those good tidings is not a result either of my austerity or my devotions. There are, however, three attributes that I have cultivated and which I prize very much, as one would cherish rare pearls in his possession. First of all, every night as I lay in bed before sleeping I say to my Lord: “Oh my Lord, if any of Your servants has harmed me today, either with his hand or with his tongue, I have forgiven him with complete forgiveness, and will never raise a complaint against him to anyone nor to You, neither now nor on the Day of Judgement. You are my witness that I have forgiven them all: now and forever, here and hereafter.”

I must ask all people who claim to be pure of heart: Can you forgive in such a manner? Or do you run to court over sixpence, reciprocate for a single word of abuse with a shower? When slapped do you turn the other cheek, or answer it with ten blows? Do you hold grudges over a long period of time? If you react in this manner to provocation you must know that you are cultivating filth and disease, not purity. Don’t hold grudges, for their fruit is hatred and enmity. Where then is your purity?

Then Abdullah Ibn Umar said: “Hmmm… that is a very difficult attribute to emulate. Tell me the second attribute-that, perhaps, may be easier to aspire to”. The man said: “Look, if I were given the whole world and its treasures, and if the people were to make obeisance to me, saying. ‘We are making you our king and putting a huge royal treasury at your disposal. Please take your place now on the Imperial throne and order us to do what you like, your wish is our command’, I would not be happy or gratified at all. And what is the sign that I really feel this way? That is the third attribute, and it confirms the second, is proof that I care nothing for wealth and power. For, if those same people were to come the next day, abuse me and kick me off the throne, saying, ‘Go away! We don’t accept such a foolish king who is not even happy at being crowned king nor pleased at having sovereignty over the whole world bestowed upon him, nor with vast wealth and treasures’, I would not be sorry in the least, but greatly relieved”.

Are such attributes so easy to attain that everyone should go around claiming to have purity of heart? If someone were to give us an ordinary house -forget about palaces -we would be happy, and certainly if they came the next day and claimed it back we would be sorry. So what about having the whole world at our command? Such renunciation is a sign that the topmost point of fait has been reached. Allah has said, “The material world is of less value to Me than the wing of a mosquito”. That man had attained certainty of this, had taken this wisdom to heart and stopped coveting this world. The true believer will say: “Oh my Lord, as much as the material world is worth in Your sight, so let it be in mine”.