“It was winter. What is winter, she used to ask, and what could one say about it. It is sheer negation, a moving away from the sources of warmth.
North East India. The middle of the thirteenth century. A period of widespread upheaval and powerful manifestations. A century of the rise of Ghengiz Khan and the Mongol Hordes, and also a time shared by such great mystics as Francis of Assisi and ‘Attar of Nishapur, Ibn ‘Arabi and Mere Angelique, Rumi and Dogen.
A small town on the Gangetic plain. A mother and a child in a room without wood, without coal, without any means, without proper clothes, without adequate blankets for the cold season.
It was winter. There was poverty.
What is winter, she used to ask, and what could one say about it. It is a returning to one’s own self, to another fire and warmth, a compelling invitation to rethink our humanity.
Mother and child. There was an air of gratitude about them, between them.
She did not look at winter. She looked at one of the faces of God. The child looked at the face of his mother.
It was winter. It was also a Word from Him, she used to say to herself, and her face used to glow as if she were facing the sun on a warm summer day.
There was poverty. She was one of those few who knew that particularly in poverty God’s providence was beyond measure.
Nizamuddin Auliya was one of the well-known Sufi masters of India. He passed away in 1325. A contemporary of Dante, Amir Khusru, Eckhart, Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, Muso Kokushi and Haji Bekuash. Nizamuddin’s shrine is in Delhi, and has been a source of inspiration, over all these centuries, both for the seekers and the pilgrims.
When Nizamuddin was asked how and when it was that he first experienced the spark of divine love within himself, he said: First the spark of trust lights the lamp of joy, and then we discover that we are in the mansion of His Love. Then he recalled his childhood: It was a long time ago. My father passed away when I was a small child. My mother had no means of her own. Sometimes we used to get up in the mornings during winter to discover that there was nothing in the house, not even a piece of wood or coal to boil water. It was on one of those mornings that my mother used to come up to me while I was still all huddled up in some sort of blanket with lots of patches and holes, and say to me: “Wake up!” Then, after a pause, I used to hear, amidst all that poverty when we had nothing in our house, not even a loaf of bread, my mother saying to me:
“Baba Nizamuddin! Wake up! We are guests on this day in the House of God!”. And she used to glow with joy, and her hands were warm while she lifted me and held me in her arms. It was my mother who initiated me upon the path of trust and joy, who liberated me once for all from the slavery to the seasons and the conditions of this world.”