Many of us may have heard of the legendary and timeless love story of Qays and Layla, popularly known as Majnun Layla. It is reported to have been composed by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi as well as Amir Khusrow later on, and many others who have interpreted and been inspired by it in different cultures. The love that Qays has for Layla is such that it surpasses the boundaries of mortal love, and he becomes known by the people as Majnun – meaning the mad or possessed.
Here is one of the anecdotes which involves Majnun and the Praying Man that I came across many years ago and which I have presented in my own words.
Majnun was once wandering completely lost and intoxicated in his love for his beloved Layla, when he unknowingly crossed the path of a man who was performing his daily prayers to his Lord.
Majnun passed through like a man possessed, crying out the name of his darling,
‘Oh Layla, Oh Layla, Oh Layla’.
The praying man suddenly became overwhelmed with fury. He stood up and violently grabbed Manjun by his shoulders.
‘How dare you cross the path of a praying man?
Are you a madman?
Can you not see with your eyes that I am praying to my Lord?’
Majnun stood there perplexed and slowly coming to his senses, he muttered,
‘When I think of my beloved Layla, I am in a state of intoxication.
I cannot think of anyone else.
I cannot see anyone else.
In fact the whole world turns to dust around me.
But explain to me oh praying man, how were you able to see me cross your path?
Surely you too must have been lost and intoxicated in your prayers towards your beloved, The Most Beloved of all creation?’
The man’s eyes welled up with tears and he realised that all he had performing were empty ritualistic prostrations and calling them his prayers. He was ashamed that his mind had been so easily distracted by Majnun, when it should have been immersed fully in his love for the Glory of his Lord.
Just like any great mystical fable, this story serves as a reminder for the need for a greater, more spiritual and transcendental love over shallow rituals and practices.
However, the praying man’s hasty actions also serve as an example of the dogmatic and judgemental behaviour that we have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to.
Is it not a tragedy, that just like the Praying Man, we so often feel the need to impose our ideas, our versions and interpretations of truths upon others whom we subconsciously consider to be inferior in some way?
In this misguided goal that diverts our attention towards the lives of others and away from ourselves, we end up becoming detached from the search for our own truths and greater purpose, losing sight of our own individual journeys that had lay ahead.
Surely I should aspire to be like Majnun.
So intoxicated, so lost, and so possessed, in the search for my own loves and my own truths that distractions around me simply turn to dust.