Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A White Bird

'Abdu'l-Karim was a very interesting person.

He lived in Persia in the middle of the 19th century, and was passionate about his study of religion. He knew that if he wanted to know more about God and His Messengers, he would need to study for years and years. And so he did.

At this point I could talk about the great teachers he studied under, or the places he traveled in his search for more knowledge, but really, I can't. He didn't. Well, he did, but not quite as we would imagine.

He read a lot, and talked with many people about his passion, usually late into the night, but he only studied formally for a couple of years.

At the end of those few years, his teachers proclaimed him a mujtahid, a teacher of the Qur'an. As you can imagine, this was very sudden, for it normally took a lot longer than that to receive such an acclamation.

His family was thrilled, and wanted to celebrate this great achievement, but he asked them to wait, for he did not feel ready. He knew the wisdom that the mujtahids were expected to have, and he did not feel worthy. He knew that they were to have great insights into the wonders of the Book of God, and he did not feel that he had anything like that. He knew, deep in his heart, that he was not yet ready to receive such a title.

And so he did what he knew anyone should do when facing such questions like that in their heart: he prayed. He prayed for many hours, long into the night, and during that time he was given a vision. He saw a great man speaking to a large throng of people, giving them all wise counsel. When he turned to this man and began to walk towards him, he awoke.

Upon enquiry the next day, he learned that the man in his vision was Siyyid Kazim, in Karbila.

From there, as you can guess, he sought him out and became one of Siyyid Kazim's students. He studied with him in Karbila for some time, learned of the imminent appearance of the Promised One, and then returned to his home in Persia.

It was during this time, while he was back home, praying every night for guidance, that he received a second vision.

He saw a bird, pure as the snow, flying above his head. This bird landed on a tree near him and, in a beautiful, gentle voice, asked, "Are you seeking the Manifestation, O 'Abdu'l-Karim? Lo, the year sixty."

This vision thrilled him, and filled him with great joy, for the year sixty was only a few years away.

Over the following months, this vision continually filled his mind, and thrilled his heart.

Finally, a few years later, in the year 1260, he heard of the message of the Bab and hastened to Shiraz to meet Him. When the Bab saw him, He said, "Are you seeking the Manifestation, O 'Abdu'l-Karim?" And the voice, just in case there was any doubt, was that same sweet voice of the bird.

* * * * *

I love this story, not only for its simple fulfillment of promise, but for the humility of its main character.

'Abdu'l-Karim was, by any reckoning, a prodigy. He could easily have been full of himself, haughty with his own learning, proud of his accomplishments. He would, no doubt, have gathered a large following for himself, and become quite famous in his time.

But he was too honest for that.

He knew that he had not yet risen to his own standard of worth. He was aware of how little he knew, in comparison to what he felt he should know. He knew that the praise of his contemporaries was worth nothing if he did not feel worthy of that praise. More importantly, he knew that this praise should never sway his own opinion of himself.

This is such an important lesson for all of us.

When we are told to "know thyself", it is a very important statement to follow. We not only need to know ourselves, but we need to be honest with that knowledge, too. 'Abdu'l-Karim knew of his passion for religion, but was aware enough to know that he had not yet fulfilled his own personal expectations.

As we embark on our own quest for truth, there are those around us who may praise us for our wisdom or understanding, but only we will know how far we actually have to go.

And if we follow 'Abdu'l-Karim's example, and not allow the opinion of others to sway us, we may, just like him, discover treasures far greater than we ever imagined.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post.

    Really enjoyed reading it and it held my attention all the way through! Keep it up.

    Read my Latest Post