Perfunctory discharge of duty towards God calls for introspection.
The saint of Delhi, Hazrath Nizamuddin Auliya would often remark with a deep sigh: “That washerman’s son is more fortunate than me. Alas! I couldn’t reach even up to his level”.
Once, his followers asked, “Huzoor! We have been hearing this from you. Who’s this washerman’s son? How does he matter?”
Hazrath began to reel out the story: “A washerman would receive a bundle of clothes from the palace every weekend. He and his wife would wash them, press them neatly and deliver them at the palace gate, to be taken to the royal household”.
The couple had a son. As he grew up, he began to join his parents in their daily washing chores at the river bank. The clothes that were received from the palace contained a few garments belonging to the princess. Attractive and pricey as they were, the young man would think of the princess who wore them. He would separate them from the lot, take them into his custody, lavish all his attention on them, and press and fold them carefully to be carried to the palace. Gradually he fell in love with the princess even without having a sight of her. This continued for a long time. Given that he occupied the lower rung of the social ladder, there was not even a remote chance for an encounter with his love.
But the washer couple began to feel that something was the matter. Having seen their son’s obsession with the princess’ garments, they could feel that things may go out of hand if he continued unrestrained. They whispered into each others’ ears: “If anything untoward happens, the heads of the entire family will be on the chopping block!”
The couple began to take the princess’ garments in their custody and asked their son to stay away from them.
The young man was crestfallen at the turn of the events. The slender link with his beloved had been ruptured by the brutal hands of the parents. He fell sick. His condition grew serious, and soon he died in utter despondency.
It did not take much time for the princess to notice a change in her clothes. Her garments were no longer being washed with the attention that they received earlier. They were folded shoddily. The refined touch was missing. She called for the couple and inquired as to what had gone wrong with them. Initially hesitant, they reeled out the entire saga even while craving for royal pardon.
The story came as a bolt from the blue for the princess. Stunned, she ordered for a floral wreath and headed for the cemetery. Standing silent at the grave of the young man, she offered the wreath with tearful eyes. Historians record that it became a routine for the princess to place a floral wreath at the youth’s grave on his death anniversary year after year.
Having recounted the sad saga, Hazrath Nizamuddin said: “How sad that my love for God is bereft of that intensity of spirit! The youth had never seen the princess but serviced her garments with such intense care! How perfunctorily I dispose of my prayers to my invisible God!”
Hazrath Nizamuddin was all praise for the youth, who, he said was accepted by Allah. “But one does not know if our namaz and prayers would be accepted by Him, given the listlessness that characterizes our discharging of that duty”, he wondered.
(Author: Safdar Mahmood, translated from Urdu by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj)