Shaykh Abdul Ghani an-Nabulsi was a famous scholar and ‘man of Allah’ who lived in Damascus. The masjid where he used to teach and in which he is buried (Jami’a Nabulsi) is just a few blocks from my home; his grandson, carrying on the noble family tradition from his father, from his father, is the resident scholar and imam there now.
One of my teachers mentioned this story about Sh. Abdul Ghani:
Whenever he used to feel constraint in his heart and narrowness in his chest, which happens when one’s eman needs to be renewed and increased, Sh. Abdul Ghani would go and visit the hospitals of Damascus. He would, in seeing the ill and weak, become more conscious of the blessings Allah had bestowed upon him; and he would also pray for those in need.
One day when he was about to enter a hospital specialized for those with leprosy, he saw a man being kicked out from it onto the street: he was a leper, his body broken and decaying, and about to die. The hospital attendants could do no more for him. Seeing this man in such a pitiful state moved Sh. Abdul Ghani’s heart, and he raised his hands to pray for him, when he heard him say: “Ya Abdul Ghani! Do not stand between me and my Lord.”
In astonishment, Sh. Abdul Ghani asked, “How is it that you know my name?”
The man said, “The ones who know Allah know the ones who know Allah.”
The shaykh asked, “If you are of the ones who know Allah, then why don’t you ask Him to heal you?”
He said, “I see others with perfect bodies, but with hearts that are damaged, broken, and disfigured. And yet Allah has blessed me with a sound, healthy, whole heart. So I am content with Him; and can ask for no more.”
A beggar.“A penny for Allah, a penny for Allah? Doesn’t anyone have a penny they can give me for Allah’s sake?”
“May Allah bless you! May Allah grant you a long life! Give some food to those in need! Don’t you have something to give?”
“A small sadaqah is big in Allah’s sight… A small sadaqah…? Can’t you give me a small sadaqah, may Allah reward you?”
“Is there anyone who can give something to this beggar? A whole heart? Is there anyone giving away a pure, whole heart?”
For a whole heart, I would give the life of this world: every moment of monotone emotion felt, every numb pleasure that kills my soul, every restless feeling that eats away inside.
For a whole heart, I would give away all my broken dreams, gathering each piece from it’s scattered place, blown in every direction by the winds of confusion and desire.
For a whole heart, I would give all of my bitter tears, shed from mistaken hurts and affected wrongs, or complexities that I myself constructed.
For a whole heart, I would give my own tongue that speaks ill instead of truth.
I would give my very eyes, that see the night sky in all it’s splendor, and that still choose slumber over vigil.
I would give my soul, troubled and heavy, always foolishly choosing darkness over Light.
But who would accept this currency or this exchange?
I’m just a poor beggar, with nothing to give. Instead, I depend on the compassion of the Owner to fulfill my needs, and be generous with me, though I have nothing to give Him in return; my worthless possessions clutched tight.
(as br. haroon sellars used to say)
–the poor and in need of Allah.