Chilah is inevitable in the pursuit of sublime aims and for the realization of good results. The traveller on the road of truth purifies himself of sins through suffering and by such refinement arrives at his very self. It is impossible to speak of perfection or spiritual wholeness where chilah has not been experienced.
Chilah is suffering with which the man of truth becomes entangled at every turn. By means of it, long ways no longer seem monotonous, life becomes illumined, and the man feels pleasure in that awareness. Life without chilah is wearying and dreary, and poor travellers on such ways are unfortunate and tired of living.
The spirit reaches perfection through suffering. The heart flourishes through it. Spirits who have not undergone hardship are coarse, and hearts not ripened by chilah are lacking in colour and vigour.
Suffering enhances the value of labour. Gains without suffering are, like possessions got by inheritance, obtained without labour and spent without grief. Only such things as are earned with great suffering are worthy that souls be sacrificed to preserve them.
If a nation or civilization has been founded through the guidance of great men who have suffered and endured, it will be healthy and stable. If, on the contrary, it has come into existence and flourished by people who never shed tears, never felt pains, never groaned, it will be unfortunate and liable to disintegration. Human beings have attained self-realization and self-consciousness at times in the compassionate, life-sustaining arms of men who have suffered, and at times under the tyranny of oppressive despots. But they have only experienced true felicity under the guidance of great men who have suffered and lived good lives.
The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, the man of suffering, conveyed his message throughout the region of the world now called the Middle East, and risked his life when Nimrod threw him into the fiery furnace. The Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, travelled between Egypt and Sinai many times to revive a community that had become spiritually degenerate. The Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, preached his message not caring for the dangers surrounding him, and raised a community sunk in worldliness to spiritual realization, as if saying: Even if you go so far as to stab me with a dagger, my friend, I shall never forsake you. Finally, the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad, upon him be peace and God's blessings, lived the whole of his life seeking the happiness of others, and through great suffering overcame innumerable calamities.
The fact is that those who have followed the men of great stature, who have experienced sufferings, have never been deceived or disappointed.
Those sincere guides, pure in essence, with illumined hearts, and of awe-inspiring nobility, endured many hardships. We have a great need and yearning for such guides in these days when our horizons are darkened and we have been submerged under a thousand difficulties.
Every golden age has come about because men suffered and endured for it, only to be damaged and destroyed at the hands of inexperienced persons who had suffered nothing at all. These careless, callow men completely neglected their inner worlds because of their subjection to their own carnal desires, and they are bound for the pits of Hell.
It was such careless, inexperienced souls who drowned in blood the period after the Time of Happiness, the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and God's blessings. In subsequent periods too, gangs of the same kind plotted great conspiracies. They never suffered hunger or thirst, nor were exiled from their homes or homelands, nor exposed to hardship for any length of time. It is vain to expect any sacrifices from such souls who, never knowing distress, have spent their lives in material luxury and comfort. Sacrifice begins with resisting the low desires of the carnal self, and gains perfection through forgetting one's own happiness for the sake of the community.
O you, my carnal self, who know no suffering and have no liking for perseverance! O you, my carnal self, who are addicted to ease and comfort, who would like to consume here in this world the bounties and pleasures belonging to the next! O you, my carnal self, who deem no one but yourself the perfect man, whilst being wholly ignorant of the way to perfection! O you, my carnal self, who bring disgrace on yourself with the selfish thought – 'What does it matter if there are clouds over the hill, so long as we have sunshine here?' I do not know whether I shall be able to convince you, my carnal self, of how uplifting suffering is, and how deadly a poison the fondness for comfort. Jan 1982, Vol 3, Issue 36