Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 5

They skulked in corners, shameful and afraid.
A close companion of the sheikh had stayed
In Mecca while the group had journeyed west –
A man of wisdom, fit for any test,
Who, seeing now the vacant oratory
Where once his friend had worshipped faithfully,
Asked after their lost sheikh. In tears then they
Described what had occurred along the way;
How he had bound his fortunes to her hair,
And blocked the path of faith with love’s despair;
How curls usurped belief and how his cloak
Had been consumed in passion’s blackening smoke;
How he’d become a swineherd, how the four
Acts contrary to all Islamic law
Had been performed by him, how this great sheikh
Lived like a pagan for his lover’s sake.
Amazement seized the friend – his face grew pale,
He wept and felt the heart within him fail.
“O criminals!” he cried. “O frailer than
Weak women in your faith – when does a man
Need faithful friends but in adversity?
You should be there, not prattling here to me.
Is this devoted love? Shame on you all,
Fair-weather friends who run when great men fall.
He put on Christian garments – so should you;
He took their faith – what else had you to do?
This was no friendship, to forsake your friend,
To promise your support and at the end
Abandon him – this was sheer treachery.
Friend follows friend to hell and blasphemy –
When sorrows come a man’s true friends are found;
In times of joy ten thousand gather round.
Our sheikh is savaged by some shark – you race
To separate yourselves from his disgrace.
Love’s built on readiness to share love’s shame;
Such self-regarding love usurps love’s name.”
“Repeatedly we told him all you say,”
They cried. “We were companions of the Way,
Sworn to a common happiness or grief;
We should exchange the honours of belief
For odium and scorn; we should accept
The Christian cult our sheikh could not reject.
But he insisted that we leave – our love
Seemed pointless then; he ordered us to move.
At his express command we journeyed here
To tell his story plainly, without fear.”

He answered them: “However hard the fight,
You should have fought for what was clearly right.
Truth struggled there with error; when you went
You only worsened his predicament.
You have abandoned him; how could you dare
To enter Mecca’s uncorrupted air?”
They heard his speech; not one would raise his head.
And then, “There is no point in shame,” he said.
“What’s done is done; we must act justly now,
Bury this sin, seek out the sheikh and bow
Before him once again.” They left their home
And made their way a second time to Rome;
They prayed a hundred thousand prayers – at times
With hope, at times disheartened by their crimes.
They neither ate nor slept but kept their gaze
Unswerving throughout forty nights and days.
Their wailing lamentations filled the sky,
Moving the green-robed angels ranked on high
To clothe themselves with black, and in the end
The leader of the group, the sheikh’s true friend,
His heart consumed by sympathetic grief
Let loose the well-aimed arrows of belief.
For forty nights he had prayed privately,
Rapt in devotion’s holy ecstasy –
At dawn there came a musk-diffusing breeze,
And in his heart he knew all mysteries.
He saw the Prophet, lovely as the moon,
Whose face, Truth’s shadow, was the sun at noon,
Whose hair in two black heavy braids was curled –
Each hair, a hundred times, outpriced the world.
As he approached with his unruffled pace,
A smile of haunting beauty lit his face.
The sheikh’s friend rose and said: “God’s Messenger,
Vouchsafe your help. Our sheikh has wandered far;
You are our Guide; guide him to Truth again.”
The Prophet answered: “I have loosed the chain
Which bound your sheikh – your prayer is answered, go.
Thick clouds of dust have been allowed to blow
Between his sight and Truth – those clouds have gone;
I did not leave him to endure alone.
I sprinkled on the fortunes of your sheikh
A cleansing dew for intercession’s sake –
The dust is laid; sin disappeared before
His new-made vow. A world of sin, be sure,
Shall with contrition’s spittle be made pure.
The sea of righteousness drowns in its waves
The sins of those sincere repentance saves.”

No comments: