An Overflow of Ecstasy

The following event appears in ‘Signs on the Horizons’ .

A few days later we were told that a very great saint was coming to visit. We gathered together in anticipation. The gentleman in the passageway arrived. His appearance was less than impressive. He had none of the romantic Arabian Nights mystique about him that some of the other Sufi saints we met possessed. He looked exactly like the shopkeeper that he was. The only thing I noticed that set him apart was that he seemed to be in a constant state of remembrance, repeating invocations and supplications (du’aa) under his breath from the moment he entered to the moment he left.

He sat before us, eyes lowered. He sat for what seemed like a long time, lips moving in silent supplication. The atmosphere became charged, transcendent. He exhaled the Name of God slowly. Then, without introduction, he began to speak.

His talk was aphoristic and seemingly random, almost like a stream of consciousness. He would say something, wait in silence and then he would say something else entirely unrelated. Yet, I noticed that each time he spoke his words seemed to have a profound impact on a single member of the audience. Whenever he said something someone would quietly exclaim, “Allah!” or “Masha’Allah!” (“So God wills”), as if he was speaking directly to that person, as if his words struck the heart. One by one, his speech hit each member of the audience. He was speaking heart to heart to heart. I can’t remember what he said that struck me personally but I remember his words hit me hard.

What I do remember vividly – and this memory will never leave me as long as I live – was the awesome transformation we witnessed. It was like watching an accident of nature; the eruption of a volcano, the formation of a tsunami, the approach of a cyclone.

Gradually, as he spoke of God, he began to tremble. His eyes filled with tears. He looked toward his listeners but he saw something else. His eyes widened. He began to weep uncontrollably. He began shaking. Overwhelmed, his deep sighs became intense heaving. He swayed in awe. He looked into the distance, crying out the name of God. The atmosphere brimmed with an overflow of ecstasy.

We watched in stunned silence as this unassuming, quiet shopkeeper, became a raging, crazed, drunken lover: Majnun crying out for Layla. He left the gathering in a state of utter devastation, sobbing, supplicating, calling out the Names of God, and leaning on one of our companions for support. He had swamped us with passion. He had shown us a glimpse of the overwhelming power of Divine Love.

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