Be Wide as the Air To Learn a Secret

al-Azhar Mosque

Spiritual Sunday – Eid Mubarak

Today is the last day of Ramadan, a time of joyous feasting after a month-long fast. Rumi’s “Bismallah,” which means “In the Name of God,” was written for the occasion.

The poem begins with images of walking heavily on the earth, weighed down with grudges and resentment. It is as though we’re “thick mud,” Rumi says. Ramadan is an opportunity to let go of the heaviness of grudges. “With such attachments,” the poet asks, “do you expect to arrive anywhere?”

To capture the lightness that is available to us, Rumi becomes expansive. “Be wide as the air to learn a secret,” he writes, and then, “Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.” From their example he concludes, “No longer will I try to assign partners for God.” In other words, I will not judge who God loves and who God doesn’t.” Fervent believers, abandoning modesty, are all too ready to engage in such assigning.

From the expanses of interstellar space, Rumi moves to the ocean. “Give up to grace,” he writes, assuring us that the ocean, like God, “takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.”

As it is when we hold on to grudges, we are heavy when we think we’ve got everything under control. “You need more help than you know,” Rumi informs us and then, in an image I don’t entirely understand, “You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.” It this like not realizing that we have God’s net should we fall?

In any event, we should give our lives up to God as a sacrifice. When we do so, we discover our true name.


By Rumi

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.

You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name God,
As the priest does with knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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