Literary Reading: The Vision That Transformed Nasir Khushraw

Nasir Khusraw lived a carefree life in his younger days without due regard to his religious obligations. But at the age of forty he had a vision that was to transform his life forever. The vision was as follows:

“One night I was approached in a dream by someone who chided me, ‘how long will you drink this brew that destroys human intellect? It is better to be sober.’

I responded, ‘The sages have failed to find a better elixir to drive away the sorrows of the world.’

He said, ‘Never has drunkenness brought peace of mind. Can one who leads people to stupor be called a sage? Seek that which increases intellect and wisdom.’

I asked, ‘Where can I find such a thing?’ and he replied, ‘Those who seek shall find.’ And then, pointing in the direction of the qibla, the person fell silent.”

Nasir rose abruptly, the vision still vivid in his mind. He lamented:

‘I have woken up from last night’s dream; but now I must awaken from a dream that has lasted forty years!’

He resolved to set aside his old habits, knowing that he would never attain true happiness until he did so. Resigning from government service, he set out on his famous journey in search of truth.

There is a long poem associated with his conversion, and in the poem he ponders over a verse in Sura Al Fath (The Victory):

“Indeed, those who pledge the allegiance to you (Muhammad), they swear it but to God himself. The hand of God is upon their hands. Then he who breaks the oath, breaks it against his own soul; but on those who fulfill what they have pledged to God, he will bestow a magnificent reward!”  (Sura 48, Ayat 10)

and questions:

“Why should later believers be deprived of this reward? What fault was it of theirs that they were not born in the time of the Prophet?”

According to Nasir Khushraw, God, in his justice, had not allowed that hand to disappear, nor that assembly to disperse and there must always be someone at whose hand the Bayat (oath of allegiance) to God could be pledged.

This person, he decided, was the Imam descended from the Prophet Muhammad, the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mustansir of Cairo, the sovereign of a mighty empire.

Khushraw attributed his spiritual transformation to the Imam, writing:

“When the light of the Imam of the time shone upon my soul
Even though I was dark as night, I became the glorious sun
The supreme name is the Imam of the time
By which I ascended, Venus-like, from the earth to heaven”

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