The Forty Rules of Love: Quotes

Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

Between your fingers you hold a stone and throw it into flowing water. The effect might not be easy to see. There will be a small ripple where the stone breaks the surface and then a splash, muffled by the rush of the surrounding river. That’s all.

Throw a stone into a lake. The effect will be not only visible but also far more lasting. The stone will disrupt the still waters. A circle will form where the stone hit the water, and in a flash that circle will multiply into another, then another. Before long the ripples caused by one plop will expand until they can be felt everywhere along the mirrored surface of the water. Only when the circles reach the shore will they stop and die out.

If a stone hits a river, the river will treat it as yet another commotion in its already tumultuous course. Nothing unusual. Nothing unmanageable.

If a stone hits a lake, however, the lake will never be the same again.

For despite what some people say, love is not only a sweet feeling bound to come and quickly go away.

Because love is the very essence and purpose of life. It hits everybody, including those who shun love – even those who use the word “romantic” as a sign of disapproval.

Sufi mystics say the secret of the Qu’ran lies in the verse Al-Fatiha. And the secret of Al-Fatiha lies in “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim”. And the quintessence of Bismillah is the letter “be”, And there is a dot below that letter… The dot underneath the B embodies the entire universe…..

It was always like this. When you spoke the truth, they hated you. The more you talked about love, the more they hated you.

The path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your self will lead you to the knowledge of God.

No matter who we are or where we live, deep inside we all feel incomplete. It’s like we have lost something and need to get it back. Just what that something is, most of us never find out. And of those who do, even fewer manage to go out and look for it.

Choose Love, Love! Without the sweet life of Love, living is a burden.

Don’t judge the way other people connect to God. God does not take us at our word. He looks deep into our hearts. It is not the ceremonies or rituals that make a difference, but whether our heart are sufficiently pure or not.

You can study God  through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue, or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for Him: in the heart of a true lover.

Knowledge is like brackish water at the bottom of an old vase unless it flows somewhere.

Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.

At the end of the day, our fates are in the  hands of God, and only He can tell when or how we each will depart the world.

Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely.

Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.

Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience means? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn.  Impatience means to be so short-sighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

In the end we all belong to God, and to Him we shall return.

East, west, south or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.

Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.

The quest for Love changes us. There is no seeker among those who search for Love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for Love, you start to change within and without.

Whether we choose to travel as much as Marco Polo did or stay in the same spot from cradle to grave, life is a sequence of births and deaths. Moments are born and moments die. For new experiences to come to light, old ones need to wither away.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving towards perfection.  We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is a fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.

It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving, There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God.

Real filth is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure waters, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.

Do you think God is an angry, moody patriarch watching us from the skies above so that He can rain stones and frogs on our heads the moment we err?

Every man is an open book, each and every one of us a walking Qur’an. The quest for God is ingrained in the hearts of all, be it a prostitute or a saint. Love exists within each of us from the moment we are born and waits to be discovered from then on.

The whole universe is contained within a single human being – you. Ever thing that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in a varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary  force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and bright sides, you will arrive at a supreme from of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.

It was true what they say about ignorance. It was bliss.

If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.

The past is a whirlpool. If you let it dominate your present moment, it will suck you in. Time is just an illusion. What you need is to live this very moment. That is all that matters.

Fret not where the road will take you, Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.

We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two heart beats to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.

When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that makes the difference, not our outer appearances. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed and instead opens a third eye – the eye that sees the inner realm.

People who had not made their heart their primary guide to life, who could not open up to love and follow its path the way a sunflower follows the sun, were not really alive.

One shouldn’t be too rigid about anything because “to live meant to constantly shift colors”.

Love had nothing to do with “plans for tomorrow” or “memories of yesterday.” Love could only be here and now.

If every Ramadan one fasts in the name of God and every Eid one sacrifices a sheep or a goat as an atonement for his sins, if all his life one strives to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and five times a day kneels on a prayer rug but at the same time has no room for love in his heart, what is the use of all this trouble? Faith is only a word if there is no love at its center, so flaccid and lifeless, vague and hollow – not anything you could truly feel.

Do you think God resides in Mecca or Medina? Or in some local mosque somewhere? How can they imagine that God could be confined to limited space when He openly says, Neither My heaven nor My earth embraces Me, but the heart of My believing servant does embrace Me.

Pity the fool who thinks the boundaries of his mortal mind are the boundaries of God the Almighty. Pity the ignorant who assume they can negotiate and settle debts with God. Do such people think God is a grocer who attempts to weigh our virtues and our wrongdoings on two separate scales? Is He a clerk meticulously writing down our sins in His accounting book so as to make us pay Him back someday? Is this their notion of Oneness?

Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

Is there a worse hell than the torment a man suffers when he knows deep down in his conscience that he has done something wrong, awfully wrong? Ask that man. He will tell you what hell is. Is there a better paradise than the bliss that descends upon a man at those rare moments in life when the bolts of the universe fly open and he feels in possession of all the secrets of eternity and fully united with God? Ask that man. He will tell you what heaven is.

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi or Zen. Not any religion or cultural system. I am not of the East, nor of the West… My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.       – Rumi

Brother, stand the pain. Escape the poison

Of your impulses. The sky will bow to your beauty

If you do…. That way a thorn expands to a rose.

A particular glows with the universal.                   – Rumi

Bountiful is your life, full and complete. Or so you think, until someone comes along and makes you realise what you have been missing all this time.  Like a mirror that reflects what is absent rather than present, he shows you the void in your soul – the void you have resisted seeing. That person can be a lover, a friend, or a spiritual master. Sometimes it can be a child to look after. What matters is to find the soul that will complete yours.

Love cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.

Love cannot be explained, yet it explains all.

The Qur’an is like a shy bride. She’ll open her veil only if sees that the onlooker is soft and compassionate at heart.

The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.

This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes  your voice. Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy.

The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.

The present moment is all there is and all that there ever will be. When you grasp this truth, you’ll have nothing to fear anymore.

Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to leave everything to fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance.

Your destiny is the level where you will play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.

Don’t need to hunt for love outside ourselves. All we need to do is to eliminate the barriers inside that keep us away from love.

Hell is inside us, and so is heaven. The Qur’an says human beings are the most dignified. We are higher than the highest, but also lower than the lowest. If we could grasp the full meaning of this, we would stop looking for Sheitan outside and instead focus on ourselves. What we need is sincere self-examination. Not being on the watch for the faults of others.

The light of sun isn’t overshadowed by the blindness of the eye of the denier, the one who refuses to see.

While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone will watch the same dance, but each will see it differently. So why worry? Some will like it, some won’t.

Everything in this universe moves with a rhythm – the pumping of the heart, the flaps of a bird’s wings, the wind on a stormy night, a blacksmith working iron, or the sounds an unborn baby is surrounded with inside the womb …. Everything partakes, passionately and spontaneously, in one magnificent melody.

Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.

Where there is love, there is bound to be heartache.

Life is about perfection. Every incident that happens, no matter how colossal or small, and every hardship that we endure is an aspect of a divine plan that works to that end. Struggle is intrinsic to being human. That is why it says in the Qur’an , Certainly we will show Our ways to those who struggle on Our way. There is no such thing as coincidence in God’s scheme.

This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. Fear not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does beautifully.

God is a meticulous clockmaker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and time to die.

It is never too late to ask yourself, ’Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.

Every winner is inclined to think he will be triumphant forever. Every loser tends to fear that he is going to be beaten forever. But both are wrong for the same reason: Everything changes except the face of God. Yesterday’s victor becomes today’s losers.

While the parts change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes.

A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. . . Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what is it, pure and simple.

“Love is the water of life.  And a lover is a soul of fire!

The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

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