(continued from the previous issue)
I am The Troubled Watermill; My water flows, roaring and rumbling
Thus has Allah commanded; For I’ve troubles, I groan
Halfway through the poem, the watermill has finished his answer to Yunus’ question. Even though he has explained the source of his troubles, he continues with a declaration of the present, instead of a recounting of the past: he is The Troubled Watermill, and his water flows, roaring and rumbling.
The line My water flows, roaring and rumbling contains layers upon layers. Firstly, it expresses the exhaustion and flabbergasted state of the watermill: all he does is move water from one place to another. He has just recounted his past order and beauty as a tree, and now he points to the present in wonder. How has life turned into such monotone, repetitive, nonsensical actions? Day in, day out, the watermill takes water from the stream below, and it deposits it above. Without any end in sight, It continues to lift the water from the river and bequeath it above. Again and again, every minute he repeats his job, for hundreds of years.
And yet, just as the watermill is unwearied in his recitation of poetry, resolute against his separation, he must be unwearied in the minute day-to-day he finds himself in. The watermill has, by resigning himself and saying Thus has Allah commanded, reached one of the highest ranks one can. Reliance and resignation upon the Divine Command, to recognize the circumstances we are in and their absolute tedium and low nature, whilst simultaneously understanding that Allah is absolutely Wise and Knowledgeable in all he does — that is the full realization of “You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help” (1:5).
As for the second layer of meaning, the water that flows from the watermill can be seen as the tears it sheds. For the true ‘Ashiq, the fire of love does not stop at his tongue. Every limb, every cell and atom cry out and groan of his trouble. The eyes, being one of the most crucial parts of the body, display this by becoming unending springs of water. There are countless narrations of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, shedding tears, be it during worship or outside of it. The eyes are the windows through which the soul sees the world, and the tears are the overflowing love that the vessel of the soul can not contain. The soul in love is like a flooded house, to such a degree that when you open the windows, everything inside rushes out.
What I rendered into the English as roaring and rumbling is probably one of the hardest sections to translate. The original Turkish uses the phrase yalap yalap, which can refer to the roaring and splashing sound made as water falls. In this sense, it intensifies the crying of the watermill. Not only is he shedding tears, but those tears are so heavy that they splash and rumble as they hit the ground, showing the extent to which the watermill is in love.
However, there is also an alternate reading, perhaps more metaphorical. Yalap yalap can also refer to the glistening of a surface as light bounces off it. In this sense, the tears flowing from the watermill become a great and shining source of effusary light. Whoever looks at them would see their beautiful shimmer and sparkle.
This touches on another aspect of the lover of the Divine: Beauty. When the ‘Ashiq is fully realized, he takes on the Beauty of the Divine, and whoever looks at him can not see anything but the reflections and gleams of light as it bounces upon his mirror.
This beauty is not one that you can measure. It is not found in the ratios of symmetry and geometry, but rather one that comes from the world of the unseen, witnessed by the heart. The most perfect example of how this may be is Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them. Even though the former was given half of all beauty, and women cut their fingers without realizing upon seeing him, the Prophet was in fact even more beautiful, his soul shining with the reflections of Divine Beauty to an even greater degree, such that ‘Aisha (ra) proclaimed: “Had those women seen the Prophet, they would have cut their hearts instead” [Shamail Al-Muhammadiyya].
Keeping in mind this connotation of yalap yalap, if the flowing water is instead taken to refer to the particular acts of monotony and effort that the watermill undertakes, then this line becomes even more meaningful. Instead of only referring to the sparkling beauty of the tears, instead it refers to the beauty that radiates from every single act the lover carries out.
Certainly, whatever is touched by the beautiful is also beautiful. Whatever is associated with beauty also takes upon it beauty. Just as Majnun kissed the walls and stones that witnessed Layla’s beauty, the most pure lovers and worshippers of Allah scatter beauty wherever they go, in whatever they do, and however they do it.
I am but a mountain’s tree; Neither am I bitter, nor sweet
I am but a pleader to the Lord; For I’ve troubles, I groan
These next lines are a most concise explanation of the greatest ranks that the ‘Ashiq can reach. Among the wondrous different experiences that the lover is beholden to, one that is particularly sought after is Fana’. This state is marked by the annihilation of whatever is from the lover in the beloved. The literature and discussions around Fana’ is vast and we can not hope to deal with it to such an extent.
However, what Yunus says here is, in my view, sufficient enough to grasp the basics of Fana’, which in many ways is the highest aspiration of the lover: to be united with his source. The first thought that underpins Fana’ has actually been conveyed throughout the whole poem. It is the trouble of the Watermill, his separation from the mountain.
The second step onto reaching Fana’ is in the extension of this realization to its fullest degree. The ‘Ashiq that has fully been enveloped and filled with love holds nothing inside his soul except his trouble. He only sees, feels and thinks of how he is separated from the mountain, and that he is from it. The true lover removes from himself everything except being a lover, and his love removes from him everything except the desire of unity. The watermill, at this stage, affirms nothing of himself except that he is a mountain’s tree.
The next phase of consideration is one that flows naturally from the last. If the lover only sees, thinks, feels, and senses the beloved, then what is left over of the lover? When every one of our senses is blinded by the light shining on it from the beloved, then one can sense nothing but the beloved. Furthermore, one can make no affirmation of any sensation or experience except of the beloved.
A perfect example to better elucidate this is of Majnun and all that he went through in the search for Layla. He was ridiculed by his people, yet felt no chagrin; walked day and night through the desert, yet felt no discomfort; lived in the forest, naked and without food or drink, yet felt not a sliver of cold, illness, hunger or thirst.
There was nothing in the existence of Majnun except the existence of Layla. As a fully enraptured lover, he had no identity except in being a lover. This state is what the watermill expresses as he declares: Neither am I bitter, or sweet.
At last, what we end up at is the annihilation of the lover within the beloved. Everything that the ‘Ashiq is or was, remembered or imagined, saw or heard, is annihilated and lost. He becomes the most perfect example of “Every being on earth is bound to perish, and only your Lord Himself, full of Majesty and Honor, will remain” (55:25-26). The bitterness and sweetness both are replaced by the beloved, and the lover has found what he lost so long ago: unity with his origin.
However, the station of Fana’ is not the end of the story of love. There exists another step, much harder to reach and unfathomably harder to maintain than that of annihilation. It is called Baqa, or subsistence, within the beloved. After the height of rapture that the lover experiences in annihilation, those who are truly spiritually mature descend back onto the earth from the heavens, and once more take their place within it.
As opposed to the state of separation (Farq) that existed before annihilation, when in the state of Baqa, the lover experiences his beloved through all that separates them. He sees with his eyes, and yet still witnesses his Lord; he listens to the voices of creation, yet still hears the Speech of Allah. In the beginning, the lover groaned of his troubles, constantly in pain over his separation from the beloved. Then, in experiencing annihilation, his troubles as well as his own self disappeared, in ecstatic joy and delight of being unified with the beloved.
The final and most lofty station is the one in which the lover combines both his separation and union. He knows of his separation and is forever troubled by it, all whilst experiencing his Lord at every moment and being delighted by their union. This is why the watermill affirms that he is a pleader to the Lord, even after admitting to his non-existence in the previous phrase.
When the lessons that the Troubled Watermill has been imparting on Yunus are taken into consideration, Baqa is quite evidently shown to be the most perfect rank that the lover can achieve. The servant can not truly fulfill his duty to Allah without first being separate from him. The lover fully annihilated can not willingly moan and sing poetry of his troubles or act as the Lord’s vicegerent. This is this state that the Prophet and his companions walked the earth with, never once faltering in acknowledging all of Allah’s signs, and simultaneously witnessing Him in everything.
Yunus, whoever comes here will find no joy; Will not reach his desire
Nobody stays in this Transient; For I’ve troubles, I groan
Over the course of the watermill’s answer to Yunus’ inquiry, one thing has become evident. The answer of the watermill, in the form of this poem, is much more elaborate than needed. In fact, much more than giving a simple answer, the watermill has taught Yunus about the origin of creation and the tale of love; about the troubles of separation and the states of annihilation. The listeners to the watermill, Yunus and us, have been given an essential lesson on the tenets of Tasawwuf and ‘Ishq. Much like Mawlana Rumi does in the masnavi, the tale was a front for the guidance to higher truths.
Finally, the watermill decides that it has said enough, and refers to us directly, imparting his most valuable piece of advice, learnt from centuries of troubled moaning: whoever comes here will find no joy; Will not reach his desire.
Whatever we achieve in life, wherever we go or attempt to achieve, it is, at the end of the day, left meaningless. This world that we have found ourselves in was never meant to fit us, or quench our thirst. Our Lord has fashioned us for much more lofty spaces. Why do we strive to own this perishing world when even its Creator does not even see it worth as much as a mosquito wing [Sunan ibn Majah]?
Whatever we own perishes, whoever we cling to dies, and whatever satisfaction we reach disappears. Thus the watermill warns us, having lived for so long and seen so much, that we will find no joy if we search for it here. This is expressed concisely and accurately in the Masnavi with:
‘How can my mind stay calm this lonely night
When I can’t find here my beloved’s light?’
Not only is seeking joy in this world the height of absurdity, any of our desires from creation is also destined to disappoint us as well. The truest desire of all creatures is their Lord, affirmed on the day of their creation, and confirmed by Him in “but the true believers love Allah even more” (2:165). Mawlana Rumi once again effectively conveys the wonders of leaving aside all false desires and only loving Him:
Through love the earthly form soars heavenward,
The mountain dances nimbly like a bird:
Love made Mount Sinai drunken visibly,
So Moses fell and swooned immediately!
The watermill that Yunus meets is troubled because his true desire is his Lord and he exists upon this finite world. Yet paradoxically, it is also very clear that he relishes his troubles, composing poetry of his groans and singing it delightfully. How horrible would it be, had all we could look for is this decrypt universe, instead of the Owner of Majesty and Honor.
The opening chapter and most sublime summary of the Qur’an, after teaching of the Source of Mercy in “the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful” (1:3), immediately moves on to teaching of the eternal abode: ”Master of the Day of Judgment'' (1:4). The servant who fully realizes the weight of the transiency of this universe, will then directly seek the eternal. Just like Adam, we were all created for paradise, and so we must seek its eternity instead of the obliteration of this world.
And so the Troubled Watermill ends his advice, and lesson, with Nobody stays in this Transient. Content that he has imparted enough onto Yunus, he turns back to face his Creator and once more starts groaning.
May Allah enable us to be as troubled in love for Him as the watermill. May He grant us experience and unity of Him just as he did upon the Pride of Creation, on whom be countless blessings, as well as on his family and companions.