Moses heard a shepherd on the road, praying, “God, where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes and pick the lice off. I want to bring you milk to kiss your little hands and feet when it’s time for you to go to bed. I want to sweep your room and keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats are yours. All I can say, remembering you, is ayyyy and ahhhhhhhhh.”
Moses could stand it no longer: “Who are you talking to?“
The shepherd replied: “The one who made us, and made the earth and made the sky.”
“Don’t talk about shoes and socks with God! And what’s this with your little hands and feet? Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like you’re chatting with your aunts. Only something that grows needs milk. Only someone with feet needs shoes. Even if you meant God’s human representatives, as when God said, `I was sick, and you did not visit me,’ even then this tone would be foolish and irreverent. Body-and-birth language are right for us on this side of the river, but not for addressing the origin, not for Allah.”
The shepherd repented and tore his clothes and sighed and wandered out into the desert.
And then, suddenly, a revelation came to Moses. The Friend’s voice:
`You have separated me from one of my own. Did you come as a Prophet to unite, or to sever? I have given each being a separate and unique way of seeing and knowing that knowledge. What seems wrong to you is right for him. What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship, these mean nothing to me. I am apart from all that.
`Ways of worshiping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another. It’s all praise, and it’s all right.
`It’s not me that’s glorified in acts of worship. It’s the worshipers. I don’t hear the words they say. I look inside at the humility. That broken-open lowliness is the reality, not the language.
`I want burning, burning. Be friends with your burning.
`Moses, those who pay attention to ways of behaving and speaking are one sort. Lovers who burn are another. Don’t scold the Lover. The “wrong” way he talks is better than a hundred “right” ways of others. Inside the Kaaba it doesn’t matter which direction you point
your prayer rug.
`When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, “This is certainly not like we thought it was!”
It’s all praise and it’s all right
(trans. Coleman Barks)