As the marriage expert amongst my friends, I often get roped into solving their relationship crises. On one occasion a close friend was really close to (finally) tying the knot but it would seem destiny has other plans and he and his fiancée agreed, agreeably, to part ways.
We met up for a coffee and I recounted to him a story of a monk whose teacher instructed him to build a castle from the pebbles scattered around a mountain. The student set about his task, every day diligently working away on his castle, perfecting it’s every aspect. After several years, he was done and the local towns folk hailed him as a hero, marvelling at him and his work. He went back to his teacher and proudly declared his castle was complete.
“Now,” his teacher instructed after a cursory glance at the monument, “Take it all down. Return every stone back to where it came from.” The student was shocked. All his hard work and effort – for nothing? He reluctantly obliged and began taking down his grand creation. As he took each pebble away, he felt part of himself disappear along with his castle. Soon the towns folk forgot about the building and the student who built it. It then dawned on him that the castle was a projection of his own self; his vanities beautified and presented for all to see. Every pebble taken down was one more chipped away from his ego.
“As he took each pebble away, he felt part of himself disappear along with his castle.”
Only after he lost everything, after expecting everything, did he understand what it meant to be free of his lower self. His ego, vanities and arrogance all levelled through the Master’s firm but nurturing teaching.
I can’t help but see the analogy when I think of the loss we experience after investing ourselves into a relationship. Pain is inevitable after seeing something you diligently build crumble into the ground that it emerged from; but suffering can always be transcended. It’s always darkest before dawn and the light of the heavens is promised to those who endure patiently. We’re taught as Muslims to ‘tie our camel and put our trust in God’ – in the end the outcome of our efforts are not in our hands but always in the Hand of our Subtle and Sublime Creator.
With this realisation comes a liberation – that everything is from God and everything will return into His essence. There’s always a Higher Wisdom although most of us are fated to only catch the odd glimpse of it.
“It’s always darkest before dawn and the light of the heavens is promised to those who endure patiently.”
In any case, he tied his camel, as did she, and put their trust in Allah and in His infinite wisdom He set that camel free as a bird! As tough as it is, we can only seek to be liberated from our lower selves as we find the courage to be grateful, even in the face of loss.
Allah does not burden us with more than we can handle, sometimes we learn lessons in difficult times that we could never learn in times of happiness and bliss. Be patient. Trust Allah. Disappointment is rooted in the hope we have in creation, contentment is rooted in our hope in the Creator.