RAWDA [The Pure Garden]

Rawda is the one single building that whispers to us the spirit, or essence, of being in this world. Our connection and spiritual involvement with this sacred building gives rise to such venerable sentiments that when we think of it or intend to utter a few words about it, we pay the utmost attention to not blundering, to not making the most trivial of errors; it is as if we are describing a monument of honor. Every soul who enters the luminous precincts of Rawda hears in the depths of their conscience the echoes of these lines by Nabi, and they are startled:

"Beware of losing your decency, for this is the place of God's beloved,
It is God's place of observation and the post of Mustafa."

Mecca has always, except for certain brief intervals, been the altar of humanity. What gives Mecca this characteristic is the Ka‘ba, and the Ka‘ba is the altar of altars. The pulpit of this magnificent altar is Rawda al-Tahirah (the Pure Garden), which is purer than the gardens of Paradise, and may peace be upon the owner of this pulpit.

Rawda, meaning garden, is a "garden of Paradise" that has always been enclosed with some kind of a wall because of the believers' attachment to sacred things and their ever-changing feelings, considerations, and imaginings related to art or its being a sanctuary and a place of circumambulation for the holy ones.

This blessed place has been subject to repeated changes of form out of reverence and artistic considerations, and its external ornaments have often been modified, but its spirit and meaning, which are related to the realm of hearts, have not and cannot be touched.

Rawda has many gates, as many as the broken hearts that turn to the soul of its owner, like the multiplicity of doorways that open from his soul to humanity. The most renowned of these gates is the "Bab al-Salam" (Gate of Peace), referred to by Nabi: "The crescent in the heavens is the split-open chest of the Gate of Peace." Those who enter through this gate feel as if they will soon meet the Master of Hearts. And they find themselves swaying in a variety of breezes.

With the dignity, solemnity, and poise of being in the presence of the Prophet, God-loving believers perform prayers, utter supplications, and call blessings upon him, and are filled with love and ardor as if walking along a radiant corridor. Among the rows of such believers, a vigilant man moves forward toward the Encounter with the feeling that he will meet unprecedented surprises at each step. Then, the Encounter... Having reached there, honorable souls commemorate only him, moaning, and finding consolation only in his dream and vision, their eyes closed to anything else. And if they are prepared beforehand, and if they come with a depth of awareness and infinity in their hearts, having laid their heads on that threshold in their dreams, then it is impossible to describe such a scene; words are insufficient—only able to assert their impotence.

Upon approaching the front of the sacred Tomb, the curtain that hangs in the direction of the qibla, that which resembles a face smiling sorrowfully, one finds hundreds of loving souls throbbing with the excitement of hope and aspiration. This utterly green and magical climate of light gives everybody, according to their merits, the feeling of being in front of a gate to another realm. Thus, upon the Encounter, every loving soul overflows with enthusiasm and excitement as if they will soon meet the Beloved; completely novel lyrics of love and ardor can be heard from their conscience. And, soon, the sounds, words and images of that golden climate will engulf them completely with a multitude of associations, taking them to a mystical zone that transcends time. In this zone, everybody perceives the present simultaneously with the past, as well as understanding the luminous era of the Beloved, hearing the most intimate whispers from His company and thus becoming exhilarated.

Facing Rawda, life is always lived as in a fancy or a dream. Unless completely estranged from it, no soul desires to leave this charming realm; it is as if they have been captivated in a sea of enrapturing love. Here, reason is petrified, and souls come under the influence of sentiment; hearts are overcome with a desire for a heavenly reunion. Here, intimate daydreams blossom inside a person like flowers; they seem to give a taste of the delights of the gardens of Paradise and the joys and peace of those who live in Paradise. This place is like an extension of this world into the realm beyond the heavens; that which has been designed and established by the hand of Divine Power since before eternity in order to penetrate the daydreams of tender souls. It ignites sentiments, desires, and love; it composes and sings their songs. In this place, those who are capable of releasing themselves into the vibrant and auspicious climate of believing contemplation indulge in endless daydreams; within the lives they lead they sense the existence of another "self," which forms the real identity of humankind. This is mostly hidden from us, as from a seeker of a secret, or a mystery. Everybody feels as if the finely embroidered curtain of the visible world has been pierced to reveal the essence of humanity as well as the truth of everything, thus making everybody heavenly, making them conform to the harmony of this other world, and giving them the delights of Paradise.

We always feel as if we are in a zone of worship in the Ka‘ba, and one of love and yearning in Rawda; we respond to these feelings in the former by trying to comprehend the mystery of worship and in the latter by embracing it with candor and fidelity. While we fail to distinguish fully the essence of the things we feel here, we are aware of a realm that is more moving than those things that affect us the most, which is more exhilarating than those things that thrill us the most. It is a dream that captivates us, and we feel the magic of a unique harmony and a peculiar poetry with indescribable sensations.

Here, life is led in the ebb and flow of love and ardor with the elation of the "wedding night," a time for union. Each scream or each moan sends shudders to hearts like the creaking of a door leading to the beloved. Souls long for "reunion"; the face of the lover appears briefly, then disappears, in the dreams of those who wait deferentially before His door, waiting for admission with eyes closed. Yet there is always longing and always hope with continuous tenderness.

Here the walls, the columns, and the domes, which seem to have been forged with passion, and even the upholstery, the rugs, everything in short, seems to live within the deepest of beauties, resembling delicate flowers of blue, green, yellow, of all colors.

The Tomb and the Green Dome, which we may always liken to an honorable soul, become so unfathomable when juxtaposed with the profundity of the feelings and thoughts of the lovers that one confuses this place with a fragment of Paradise.

I have seen a number of auspicious places with their spiritual atmospheres and heavenly joys before now, and I have witnessed many holy places. Among them, the village of the Prophet (peace be upon Him, and may the impressions of this village live in our hearts for ever) is the one which is engraved on my soul. My soul has always embraced that place with a yearning and longing for home, saying "O most eminent place, even a handful of your soil is more valuable to me than the rest of the world."

These are the feelings in my unripened soul. We should listen to those great souls who soar on the wings of divine knowledge and overflow with love, and learn from their feelings. Considering my awkwardness and incompetence, my words in this respect are only for the purpose of arousing the sentiments of people with public spirit. If I am successful in just this respect, I would consider it only a means to win his favor on me, and appealing to him, I would plead, "O God's Messenger, take me into your company too!"

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