Salaam and Greetings of Peace:
It is related in Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rafai as-Shadhuli’s eloquent book, Music of the Soul, that at the time he was a disciple of Sidi ‘Abd ar-Rahman, may God be well pleased with them both, there was a troublesome old man in Damascus who everyday would throw stones at the zawiyya, the Sufi lodge. Each time the incident of stone throwing happened, his guide would say, “Send him mercy. If he wants food, give him food. If he wants clothes, give him clothes. If he wants money, give him money. Give him what he wants.”
When he, according to the advice of his guide, provided for the old man, he would gather his sons and would throw more stones at the zawiyya.
He asked himself, “What is the wisdom in this?” Then he would again go to this old man and gave him some food and some money and some clothes from his guide, but at the same time he felt something very strong about this person. His guide said to him, “There are many messages when this old man throws stones at the zawiyya.”
Then one day the old man became sick and the eminent guide sent his disciple to him. When he arrived at his house, the old man woke up and asked, “Who is there?” He mentioned his name and the old man began to weep and he started to say Astaghfirullah! (seeking forgiveness from Allah). And after some days, he came to live in the zawiyya. And he became a holy student under the guide.
When Sidi as-Shadhuli later wrote down this story, this man was already one hundred and five years old. Later when he met him in Amman, Jordan, the old man said, “Sidi, excuse me for throwing stones at the zawiyya. But if I had not hit the zawiyya, I would not have reached God. How could I have known the guide and the Way, if I had not thrown stones?” The guide saw the wisdom of his actions and knew that this old man was one of his students.
This story has a picture illustrating it. The picture is of the date tree. “Be like this tree,” advises Sidi. “When any person throws something to hit the date tree, it gives him back sweets. This is the right way.”
“If anyone makes something bad for you, or speaks in an unkind way, understand Who speaks and Who hits. Be sweet and give to everyone who wants sweets, because after the fire is the garden and after the darkness is light. It is necessary to see within everything, to see where it is coming from and to return it to God. Be polite! Everything is the Face of God.”
– Edited from a longer post on Sadiq’s Mystic Saint blog. (Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifai as-Shadhuli is now the Head of the Higher Sufi Council in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He is also a teacher at the Holy mosques at al-Aqsa in Jerusalem).