At the battle of Uhud `Alî the Prince, the impetuous Lion, received a grievous wound. The head of the arrow remained in his foot, and he knew that it was necessary to take it out, this being the only cure for him. As soon as the surgeon saw it, he said, "We must cut it open with a knife; to find the arrow-head, a key must be applied to the closed wound." But `Alî had no strength to bear the insertion
of the forceps; "Let it alone," said he, "till the time of prayer." So when he was engaged in prayer his surgeon gently took out the arrow-head from his limb, bringing it clear away while `Alî was unconscious of any suffering or pain.
O When `Alî ceased from prayer (he whom God called Friend), he said, "My pain is less,--how is that? And why is there all this blood where I have been praying?" Husain, the glory of the world, splendid above all the children of Mustafâ, answered him, "When thou enteredst into prayer, thou wentest up to God, and the surgeon took out the arrow-head before thou hadst finished thy prayer." Said the Lion, "By the most great Creator, I knew nothing of the pain of it."
O thou, who art welt known for thy prayers, who art commended before men for thy piety, pray in this wise and, discern the interpretation of the story; or else rise, and cease vainly to wag thy beard.
When thou enterest into prayer in sincerity, thou wilt come forth from prayer with all thy desire obtained; but if without sincerity thou offer a hundred salutations, thou art still a bungler, thy work a
failure. One salutation is the same as two hundred one prostration in sincerity is worth thy standing erect a hundred times, for the prayer that is mere matter of custom is dust that is scattered by the wind. The prayers that reach God's court are those that the soul prays; the mere mimic is ever a mendicant, praying unworthily, without intelligence, since he chooses the path of folly. For on this path prayer of the spirit is of more account than barren mimicry.
When thou callest on God, bring supplication meet for Him, that His good pleasure may receive thee. From time to time, divided from the real and bound up in the phenomenal, thou comest to pray the obligatory prayers; calling not on God, without self-abasement, without humility, thou carelessly performest a rak`ah or two. Thou deemest it prayer,--I marvel if thou art listened to at all! Thou comest before God in thy pride,--how shall God hear thee when thou callest? Let thy prayer be free from Self, and He will accept it as pure; if it be smirched with Self He will not receive it. The message that the tongue of anguish utters is an envoy from this world of men to Him; when it is thy helplessness that sends the messenger, thy cry is 'O Lord', and His is 'Here am I.'
As a proud lord marches to the arms of his servants and slaves so thou layest the load of obligation on Him;--"I am Thy friend," sayest thou, "honour be mine!" Thou deemest thyself a friend, not a slave; is this the manner of a man of wisdom? Better were it, O son, that thou offer not such service to Him; go, strive not with Him. Without right guidance man is less than a beast; whoso is without guidance labours in vain.
Have done with this service, thou fool! Never again call thyself a slave! If thou wert mighty in the world thou wouldst say what Pharaoh did, every word! who in his surpassing fatuity, and his supreme insolence and folly, averse from service and submission, drew aside the veil from before his deeds, saying, "I am greater than the kings, I am above the princes of the world." All have this insolence and pride; Pharaoh's words are instinct in everyone; but daring not through fear to utter their secret, they hide it away even from themselves.