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A short anecdote which is very relevant to the times we are currently living in. We have so many remarkable individuals in our ummah who not only possess an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom, but also exemplify the sunnah of the Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam in their teachings and demeanor. However, we constantly find ourselves questioning them, and fail to grasp and learn the wisdom which they are actually teaching us, despite being in their company for years or even decades!
The Stone and The Tree
There was once a dervish in Abadan, whose cell was always surrounded by disciples, people who had come from far and near to hear his wisdom and try to achieve knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. Sometimes he spoke to them, sometimes he did not. Sometimes he read from books, and sometimes he made them perform various tasks.
The disciples tried for decades to understand the purport of his words, to fathom the depth of his signs and symbols, and in every way possible to get closer to his wisdom. Those who understood what he taught were the ones who did not spend time trying to puzzle out things. They cultivated patience and attention, and refrained from looking for verbal associations from books and from what others had told them.
The majority, however, as is the way of the world, were sometimes elated, sometimes sad, and always covetous, even if it was only for wisdom and their well-being. They had all kinds of explanations for this way of thinking except the real ones.
At long last, after many years had passed, one of these disciples plucked up enough courage to approach the master directly and said: ‘There are a number of us, o wise one, who have been trying to follow the path of knowledge for most of our lives. Now, as some are old and others are getting older, we feel that we have to open our hearts to you, saying that we need a further indication of how we should proceed’.
The dervish gave a long sigh and answered: ‘Come with me to the seashore and I’ll show you something which tells you everything, if you can only hear it’.
At the pebble-strewn beach, the dervish took a stone from the water and asked a disciple: ‘How long has this stone been here?’
The man said: ‘It is worn smooth, so it must have been rolled back and forth, under the surf, for perhaps several thousand years’.
‘Now’, said the dervish: ‘Take this wet stone and crack it open, then tell me what you find’. They smashed the stone and saw that it was rough from the inside.
‘You observe’, said the dervish, ‘that although submerged in the sea for accounted ages, the innermost part of this stone is as dry as if it had never been near water. You people are like the stone. Surrounded by wisdom, you do not allow it to penetrate. Unlike the stone, there is a talisman, which will let the transforming quality suffuse you, to your innermost being. That quality is patience, forbearance and openness, things which you call three qualities, but which are in reality only one’.
Next the dervish took his followers onto a hill overlooking the sea, where in spite of the aridity of the place, a magnificent tree grew.
‘This tree’, he said, ‘can live and grow tall and fruitful where nothing else can. This is possible to it only because it has made worthy efforts, signaled by the inner quality of the seed which gave it birth, to penetrate deep into the earth to find water.