I spoke in the cathedral mosque of Damascus a few words by way of a sermon but to a congregation whose hearts were withered and dead, not having travelled from the road of the world of form, the physical, to the world of meaning, the moral world. I perceived that my words took no effect and that burning fire does not kindle moist wood. I was sorry for instructing brutes and holding forth a mirror in a locality of blind people. I had, however, opened the door of meaning and was giving a long explanation of the verse We are nearer unto Him than the jugular vein till I said:
‘The Friend is nearer to me than my self,
But it is more strange that I am far from him.
What am I to do? To whom can it be said that he
Is in my arms, but I am exiled from him.’
I had intoxicated myself with the wine of these sentiments, holding the remnant of the cup of the sermon in my hand when a traveller happened to pass near the edge of the assembly, and the last turn of the circulating cup made such an impression upon him that he shouted and the others joined him who began to roar, whilst the raw portion of the congregation became turbulent. Whereon I said: ‘Praise be to Allah! Those who are far away but intelligent are in the presence of Allah, and those who are near but blind are distant.’
When the hearer understands not the meaning of words
Do not look for the effect of the orator’s force
But raise an extensive field of desire
That the eloquent man may strike the ball of effect.