October 11, 2023

This term, along with its derivatives – free, liberal, liberated, libertinage – holds importance on various levels: social, economic, political, and more. It becomes a weapon of defense and attack used by young adolescents against their parents, by the media against authorities, by authorities against others, and so on. Without a precise and accurate connotation or interpretation, it can be used incorrectly and indiscriminately. The question that arises is: is a human being truly free?
One of the most striking and profound stories regarding the interpretation of this term and its ultimate meaning involves a Sufi master and his future disciple. One day in Baghdad, Iraq, a man knocked on the door of a house, and a concubine answered. He asked her for a drink, and she brought him a glass of water. Satisfied, he asked her about her status, and she told him she was the concubine of her master, who lived in luxury. He then asked her whether her master was a slave or free. She replied that he was free, of course. The man went on his way. Upon returning inside, her master asked her who had knocked on the door, and she recounted the entire conversation. As the phrase “slave or free” resonated in his ears, he rushed after his future master. This question he had posed to his concubine carried intense spiritual weight that struck his heart, for it came from a spiritual teacher close to God. The wealthy man living in his luxury came to realize deeply that he was a slave to his own worldly desires and passions and that he was not truly free.
A more delicate story reveals, down to the finest detail, the attachment we all have to even the simplest objects, to the extent that they can divert us from the spiritual connection that binds us to God and liberates us from the trappings of this world. A sage who lived atop a mountain in Iraq had only a tent, a staff, and a vessel for ablutions. One day, one of his young disciples, suffering from poverty, came to him and asked for permission to go to Baghdad to engage in trade and escape his hardship. The old sage asked him to visit the great spiritual master Moulay Abdelkader Jilani and request his prayers. Upon arriving in Baghdad, the young disciple discovered that the grandmaster lived in a large and beautiful residence. He requested an audience to convey his master’s wish, and it was granted, with the condition that he stay as a guest inside the residence for three days. He was fed, housed, and treated with respect. On the fourth day, he met Master Moulay Abdelkader and was invited to share his meals. He asked him to extend his stay for three more days during which they would share meals, and at the end of his stay, he would listen to his request. On the first day, after the meal, the master removed his elaborate robe and gave it to the young man, telling him to sell it to help with his trade. The young man went to the market and sold the robe, which attracted attention. The buyer, impressed by the beauty of the robe, ran to the master to give it to him as a gift. The next day, the young man, upon meeting the master, was surprised to see the same robe being worn by him, and he thought that maybe the master had another one. After the meal, the master again removed the robe and offered it to him. The adventure repeated itself once more. On the third day, during the meal, he saw the master with the same robe and received it as a gift again. On the fourth and final day, the young man, still puzzled by this recurring event, listened as the master said, “We have given up all love and interest in this world, but it is at our feet and comes to us without us asking for it.” The young man told the master the sage’s request, to pray for him. The master raised his hands and said, “May God remove worldly interest from the heart of the wise man.” The young man, astonished by this prayer, remained in a state of bewilderment. The master then said, “How many times did you sell my robe, and for what price?” The young man replied, “Three times, and for a much higher price than the money I have in my possession.” The master added, “This robe is like this world; we get rid of it, and it comes back to us.” Once his commercial stay in Baghdad was over, the young man returned to the sage to convey the mysterious message of Master Moulay Abdelkader Jilani. The satisfied sage said, “Amen.” The young man asked for an explanation, and the sage affirmed that when he prayed, he was always preoccupied and afraid that someone would steal his staff or his vessel, thus disturbing his spiritual peace and interfering with his divine communication due to a simple fact.
The number of veils and their natures are well-known to several Sufi educators, including Ibn Arabi, who describes them in his book “Kitab al Hojob,” literally the “Book of Veils.” Real freedom exists only temporarily because, in freeing ourselves and detaching from one attachment, we become attached to another, even if we love it. This resembles the behavior of a child with toys; each new toy creates an attachment over time, but it ends with the arrival of another. This process changes over time, but the principle remains the same: attaching to other elements like money or power, only to detach from them willingly or forcibly. Only attachment to God endures and is eternal. The Sufi master-educator has the power to direct an individual’s heart toward God and perfect their soul. Sufi masters have delicate, subtle, and extraordinary educational methods to communicate their knowledge and messages. In the case of Moulay Abdelkader Jilani, he enriched the young man while instilling in him the wisdom not to become attached to money and the worldly life. At the same time, he removed the old sage from the illusion that he was pious, humble, and had no interest in the material world. In the other case, a simple question was enough to awaken the consciousness of an individual who had sunk into the luxury and extravagance of this world. Sufi masters do not use authoritarian or demagogic communication methods to guide an individual but rely on their kindness and spiritual radiance.

About the author 


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}