They asked one of the Shaikhs of Sham, or Syria, saying: “What is the condition of the Sufi sect?” He answered, “Formerly they were in this world a fraternity dispersed in the flesh, but united in the spirit; but now they are a body well clothed carnally, and ragged in divine mystery.” Whilst thy heart will be every moment wandering into a different place, in thy recluse state thou canst not see purity; but though thou possessest rank and wealth, lands and chattels, if thy heart be fixed on God, thou art a hermit.
On one occasion we had marched, I recollect, all the night along with the caravan, and halted towards morning on the skirts of the wilderness. One mystically distracted, who accompanied us on that journey, set up a loud lamentation at dawn, went a-wandering into the desert, and did not take a moment’s rest. Next day I said to him, “What condition was that?” He replied, “I remarked the nightingales that they had come to carol in the groves, the pheasants to prattle on the mountains, the frogs to croak in the pools, and the wild beasts to roar in the forests, and thought with myself, saying, It cannot be generous that all are awake in God’s praise and I am wrapt up in the sleep of forgetfulness!—Last night a bird was carolling towards the morning; it stole my patience and reason, my fortitude and understanding. My lamentation had perhaps reached the ear of one of my dearly-beloved friends. He said, ’I did not believe that the singing of a bird could so distract thee!’ I answered, This is not the duty of the human species, that the birds are singing God’s praise and that I am silent.”
Once, on a pilgrimage to Hijaz, I was the fellow-traveller of some piously-disposed young men, and on a footing of familiarity and intimacy with them. From time to time we were humming a tune and chanting a spiritual hymn, and an abid, who bore us company, kept disparaging the morals of the dervishes, and was callous to their sufferings, till we reached the palm plantation of the tribe of Hulal, when a boy of a tawny complexion issued from the Arab horde and sung such a plaintive melody as would arrest the bird in its flight through the air. I remarked the abid’s camel that it kicked up and pranced, and, throwing the abid, danced into the wilderness. I said: “O reverend Shaikh! that spiritual strain threw a brute into an ecstasy, and it is not in like manner working a change in you!—Knowest thou what that nightingale of the dawn whispered to me? What sort of man art thou, indeed, who art ignorant of love?—The camel is in an ecstasy of delight from the Arab’s song. If thou hast no taste to relish this, thou art a cross-grained brute.—Now that the camel is elated with rapture and delight, if a man is insensible to these he is an ass.—The zephyr, gliding through the verdure on the earth, shakes the twig of the ban-tree, but moves not the solid rock.—Whatever thou beholdest is loud in extolling him. That heart which has an ear is full of the divine mystery. It is not the nightingale that alone serenades his rose; for every thorn on the rose-bush is a tongue in his or God’s praise!”