I came across these two Names when I found myself pulling out my hair in frustration, desperately trying to understand the Mathnawi and other spiritual books, including my trepidatious relationship with the Quran. It has taken me a long time to see – to really know something – is a gift from the Divine. Sometimes you can read a thing a dozen times, and still, it remains a stranger. Sometimes I find myself locked in a repetitive cycle of mistakes, and I am unable to understand why.
As-Sami, the All-Hearing, al-Basir, the All-Seeing…
When I begin to read or listen I invoke these Names. They appear like a gentle presence on my heart. Over the years as-Sami and al-Basir have started to feel like two friends that sit with me as I desperately pull the invisible string of knowing. In this beautiful book, The 99 Names of God, these two Names have an image of an owl. Owls also remind me of libraries. I am grateful for the imagery, as it allows me to come to a place of greater presence; perhaps sitting in a grand library with two large owls helping me to understand by the grace of God. There are times, like a river tracking its way down a cliff, my heart leaps and all makes sense, but there are times that nothing quite works, but these two Owls, as-Sami and al-Basir, give me patience (Ya Sabur). I am able to trust that I will understand soon enough, and perhaps not, and that’s OK too. A poem inspired by as-Sami and al-Basir:
So many words,
neatly placed on a horizontal line.
Orderly spaces with gracious gaps
–dashes and .dots and ,curls with movement.
Hmm… so many words though,
but meaning she wonders,
runs racing through the Divine.
Catch me, find me, look for me….
‘Ya Sami, Ya Basir’ she cries.
Densely populated, these cities tower over her.
Foreboding places, with a dangerous climb –
– stumbling over paragraphs she’s bullied into a rhyme!
In her letting go she finds her breath.
– the treasure won’t be sought,
but left kindly with Ya Sabur underneath her pillow.
And what he said…dear Mevlana Rumi:
Though you read a hundred
volumes without a pause,
you won’t remember a single
point without the Divine decree;
but if you serve God and read not
a single book,
you’ll learn rare sciences within your own heart.
(Mathnawi: V1, 1931-1932)
~ Uzma Taj