Whoso seeketh pearls dives in the sea,
And lordship and favour winneth he.
And whoso seeketh the height without effort,
He wasteth life in search for the impossible.
A man who investigates his own nature, and carefully ponders the desires of his own heart, will
soon perceive that he is ceaselessly animated by a desire to obtain happiness for himself. The
thoughtless seek this happiness in the things of this transitory world, in the things of sense,
forgetting that no enjoyment which is merely physical and temporary, and which must have an end, can
ever satisfy the deathless spirit of man. It is narrated that in ancient days there reigned a King
whose wealth and pleasures seemed to be limitless. A certain poor man, seeing all this, envied the
King, and said, "O King, thy happiness is perfect even on earth." But the King, having
clad the poor man in royal robes and seated him at a royal banquet, caused him to look upwards. He
then saw that over his head hung a drawn sword, suspended by a single hair. Fear and dismay took
such possession of the guest that he could neither eat nor enjoy the luxury with which he was
surrounded. Thus it is with all of us. Over each human head hangs the sword of Azra'il, the Angel of
Death. How then can a man obtain true happiness here below, when at any time by God's command that
dread Angel may say to him, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee"?
Well has 'Ali ibn Abi Talib said:
Verily this world is transitoriness: in this world there is no permanence:
And verily this world is as a house which a spider hath spun.
O wise man, surely food will suffice thee therein,
And, by my life, soon everyone that is in it will1 die.
Again, since man is not one of the lower animals,
but possesses spirit and intellect, he can never obtain true happiness from the things of sense. Nor
could carnal delights and sensual pleasures, even were they eternal, satisfy these higher parts of
his nature. Even mere men who indulge in these things finally become satiated and disgusted with
them, though sometimes they are so enslaved to these pleasures and lusts that they cannot break
their chains. If these bonds and this slavery become intolerable after a few years in this life, how
impossible is it to believe that to all the ages of eternity man's immortal spirit would be rendered
happy by them in Paradise! The more men indulge their lower appetites on earth, the more degraded do
they become, and the further removed from God, whose pure Nature (ذات
) is All Holy, and who hates
all defilement and iniquity. When men abandon themselves to pleasure and sensuality, they finally
learn from experience that, instead of thus obtaining for their inner selves rest and happiness and
satisfying the longings of their hearts, they have increased their unrest and discontent and defiled
their spirits and consciences with stains which no repentance can efface, and that they have
tortured themselves with remorse, which gnaws unceasingly at their heartstrings and terrifies them
with the fearful prospect of the wrath of God. Well does Hafiz say:
What1 room for enjoyment have I, in the halting place of souls,
when every moment
The bell proclaims aloud, "Bind on the camel-saddles"?
The thought of God's righteous anger at sin drives men to despair, for they know that:
Everywhere2 shoulder to shoulder are requital and act.
Their own consciences testify against them and condemn them, even though Satan still tries to