The way of words is a journey from the written to the read, from the spoken to the heard. As travelers 3: writer, word, and reader (or speaker, word, and listener), we venture, en rapport, from heart to words to heart.
The wonder of this adventure is that something subtle emerges: message. So we meet and we depart, taking with us the subtle souvenir of our exchange of hearts, a message.
These days, during this age of information, the intellect is covering up the heart. –Shaikh Husain
Like the word “meet,” from the Old English mētan: “to come upon, fall in with, find, find out,” when we read or hear words, we meet, or fall in with, their message. To fall in with somebody or a group means that we join them, we begin associating ourselves with them, as we would a companion. So when we listen to someone, when we read the words written by someone, we begin associating, at some level, with their message. I must be careful who I meet by the way of words because, indeed, to fall in with someone is to acquire a part of them. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the musk-seller and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the musk-seller, either he will grant you some musk or you will buy some. If not, at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.”
Who we hang around with by way of words is very much like having a companion. I have experienced being immersed in reading something which I continued to ponder silently hours after leaving it, sometimes days, even. I have had interactions, too, when, even after the other person was long gone, what was left after our meeting, our exchange of words, was still there, an impression stored and referred back to, time after time. So the issue of choosing what I spend time reading, listening to, is not unlike choosing the right companion and equally as vital to protecting my heart. There are words of wisdom that uplift us. There are foolish musings that drag us down.
Words have a lasting influence on us.
Shaikh Husain has often said that one way to recognize truth, sincerity and goodness in words is by their light (or lack thereof). When there is light within written words, there is a message of light from those words transmitted to the heart.
The effect words have may be extremely powerful, transforming even, as there is great light radiating from certain writings. From the Holy Qur’an, understandably, the most noble and brilliant light shines. The potential effect upon the heart from such Divine Words as those contained in the Creator’s message to humanity is unimaginable, just as the Source of that message is also unimaginable.
Even the tiniest flash might just “catch” and ignite the unimaginable.
There are authentic writings about the Prophet s.a.w. and his life in ahadith (recorded reports of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) teachings, sayings, state and behavior), which carry their unique light that emanates from the page to the heart. There are the writings of honorable saints, great warriors of Truth who have experienced Reality and commune with the Divine. The light from their words reaches hearts like the beaming ray of a lighthouse beacon that cuts through fog reaches sailors, guiding them to calmer waters or warning them of danger. When light radiates from words, the heart can receive that light.
On the contrary, there are writings – many writings – that lack or have no light. Dark writings emit darkness that has settled and ingrained itself; encrusted the heart. When I read or listen to these types of words, it stirs and scrapes at the bottom of who I am, agitating the lowly places of negativity and doubt, bad character and sometimes even hopelessness and despair. Indeed. Dark words have their effect on the heart, too. Sayyidina Ali (k.a.w.) said:
“Mix with noble people: you will become one of them. Stay away from evil people so that you protect yourself from their evils.”
The way of words is an influential journey. What I gain from my adventure, who I meet, what I “find” is up to me. The opportunity is mine: whether a message be of light or of darkness, there will be an effect on my heart. I must be careful about who I fall in with, who I listen to, who I read…
…and I ask Allah for the wisdom to seek guidance from one who can see the subtle more clearly, when I’m not certain.
Then I know, even though the effect may seem minute at first, that light is like a spark. Even the tiniest flash might just “catch” and ignite the unimaginable.
Who have you met by the way of words lately?