Tuesday, August 02, 2005

time and money

My hard friend, you ask me for my heart and my gold.

The truth is, I have neither one to give.

Gold? What gold does a poor man have?

Since when does a lover have a heart left to give?

#1087: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search words: deliver, paper, meet, power, blank, fury

Today I'll be delivering papers to and meeting a person of power. The papers are mainly blank, containing no information, and I was furious at the waste and the cost to the environment. When Rumi draws a blank with the search words I've tried, I fall back on friend, a word he very commonly uses. And so I've fallen on this "hard friend" here.

This verse makes me wonder about Rumi's lifestyle. Was he really a poor man? Did he have no surplus of monetary wealth to distribute? I have no knowledge of his situation in this regard. Certainly, if a member of a community is earning less than the average for that community, then that person should not feel any need to distribute to the poor. It's quite possible that Rumi was in that position. In practice, the almost-poor are often more ready to assist the poor than are the wealthy who can afford to feel more distant from the latter.

The Koran repeatedly urges Muslims to pay the poor-due, so this "hard friend" would readily be Allah and the demand of Islam to commit or submit to it with all one's heart and mind.

Qur'an (Pickthall)

2:43 Establish worship, pay the poor-due, and bow your heads with those who bow (in worship).

9:18 He only shall tend Allah's sanctuaries who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due and feareth none save Allah. For such (only) is it possible that they can be of the rightly guided.

Successful indeed are the believers
Who are humble in their prayers,
And who shun vain conversation,
And who are payers of the poor-due;
And who guard their modesty -
Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy,
But whoso craveth beyond that, such are transgressors -
And who are shepherds of their pledge and their covenant,
And who pay heed to their prayers.
These are the heirs
Who will inherit paradise. There they will abide.

I love it in the Koran how Mo(hammad) introduces ad hoc exception clauses here and there. In this case, a man need not guard his modesty from his wives or concubines. No mention of any exceptions for women, of course. Why can't a woman keep male slaves for her own pleasure if such is deemed blameless for a man? Ah, such double standards!

The feel of this verse today is defensive as if Rumi is answering critics who allege that he is not loyal to Islam. The feel of my own journey today is not dissimilar. I have been accused (tacitly but quite clearly) of a disloyalty and hopefully my papers will show otherwise. The blank pages will reveal blank treason. Where my heart truly lies (what I really have time for) is no one else's business. From Rumi, I am learning how to keep it that way and to keep my head screwed on at the same time.


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