To be raazi

In Arabic there is a word which means: accepting, contented, pleased with, satisfied, acquiescent, agreeable. In mystical texts it is found in connection with a believer’s status toward the will of God, as in “raazi be-qazaa baashi” (“be thou content with the Will of God”), or “raazi be-rizaaye-khodaa” (“being content with whatever pleases God”).

Becoming raazi, however, is a profound journey. It involves not only the mind – to perceive the will of God – but the heart, in accepting and being pleased by it. It is the difference between knowing that “God works in mysterious ways”, and being comfortable with the strangest and most mundane of those mysteries.

For example, God knows that our future can take innumerable paths, and He is always affecting our circumstances to lead us down the best path. I know that some don’t believe in such an “interactive God”, but I think the efficacy of prayer implies a divine responsiveness to our present condition. At any rate, who knows what each of our possible futures might hold? In one, I get home after a long drive; in another, I might experience a fatal accident and the end of my life and chances. The difference between the two might be only a few seconds – mere moments!

And so, not wishing that my life end today, God slows me down by those couple seconds I need to survive. The form of the slowing uses whatever is at hand: possibly a car to cut me off, causing me to brake suddenly. If one is “far from the mystery”, the event seems like an aggravating, momentary thwart to my plans; yet maybe that car just came between my future life and impending death. You never see the car you didn’t hit you. So I wonder if that car cutting me off is not “the hand of God”, holding me back for a few seconds in order to craft for me a better future – using the least amount of interference possible.

Becoming raazi seems to mark a dividing line between knowledge and understanding, between ilm (knowledge in the head) andirfaan (knowledge in the heart). A classic example of this distinction is found in the Qur’an, in a story where Moses meets the deathless prophet, Khidr. I’ll retell that story here in my own words, based on what appears after verse 65 of chapter 18:

One day Moses and one of His servants were walking between the “two seas”, when they came upon one of the servants whom God had endowed with knowledge (whom commentators believe was Khidr).

Moses asked Khidr if He could join him in his travels, because he hoped to learn something of the higher truths God had taught him. To this Khidr replied, “You will not be able to hold patience with me, for how can you be patient with something when your understanding is incomplete?”

Moses replied that He would be very patient with Khidr, and would not disobey him in anything. So Khidr allowed Him to follow him, but asked that He say nothing about whatever He might see – unless Khidr himself should start the discussion.

They went along together until at one point they were in a boat, and Khidr suddenly opened a hole in the bottom of the boat to sink it. Moses exclaimed that he was trying to drown them, and how very strange that was! But Khidr only said, “Didn’t I say that you wouldn’t have patience with me?”

Moses regretted this outburst, and asked Khidr to forgive him for forgetting his vow. So they continued, until they met a young man, whom Khidr instantly slew. Moses shouted, “How could you slay an innocent who has done nothing? What an evil thing you’ve done!”

Again Khidr replied, “Didn’t I say you wouldn’t be able to have patience with me?”

Moses again regretted his criticism, and said, “If I say another word, remove me from your company, for you would be fully justified in doing so.”

Then they continued on, until they came to a town whose inhabitants refused either food or hospitality. But when they found a wall on the point of falling down, Khidr set to work and repaired the wall. Moses said, “Surely you could ask for recompense after all that work!”

But Khidr only said, "This is the parting between you and me; though first I will tell you the meaning of those things which tested your patience.

"As for the boat, it belonged to certain men in dire want, who used it to ply the water. I rendered it unserviceable for a time, because there was a certain king after them who seized on every boat by force.

"As for the youth, his parents were people of Faith, and we feared he would grieve them by his future rebellion and ingratitude, so we desired the Lord to give them another son who would be pure of conduct.

"As for the wall, it belonged to two orphans in the town. There was a buried treasure beneath it to which they were entitled. Since their father had been a righteous man, the Lord desired they should attain full maturity and recover their treasure – which would not have happened had the treasure been found too soon.

“This is the meaning of those things about which you could not be patient.”

Sufi writers have referred to this story as an illustration of the difference between two kinds of men who devote themselves to God: those who are conversant with the Law and obey, like Moses; and those who see beyond the Law and rejoice at the wisdom of God’s ways. Moses was inclined to judge the actions of Khidr by His own standards – according to the word of the Law – while Khidr acted out the greater plan of God (which sometimes contravenes the lesser).

I don’t think the purpose of the story is to say that mystic understanding confers an authority to act like Khidr, which some have believed, but that if we were to meet with Khidr along our Path, perhaps we might appreciate him as a servant of the better good, rather than judge him harshly.

What form does our Khidr take? Perhaps he is that car which just cut me off on the road – seemingly acting one way, but to another purpose.

If we meet our Khidr – in the shape of our enemies, disappointments, and apparent cruelties of God – should we react as Moses had done? Would we be able to keep patience with his company? To be raazi means that we could, that we have gone from ilm toirfan, and that our reactions are no longer governed by the limitations of mortal vision. As Bahá’u’lláh wrote of a lover who had been ruthlessly chased by a watchman (his Khidr) into the court of his long-lost beloved:

Now if the lover could have looked ahead, he would have blessed the watchman at the start, and prayed on his behalf, and he would have seen that tyranny as justice; but since the end was veiled to him, he moaned and made his plaint in the beginning. Yet those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, because they see the end in the beginning, see peace in war and friendliness in anger.