Tell Me Where the Light Has Gone?

Submitted by Professor Nazeer Ahmed

Mevlana Rumi (d 1273 CE) was one of the greatest poets to grace this planet. People in the East as well as the West consider him to be a spiritual master and a consummate exponent of the deepest longings of the human soul. He wrote in Farsi but his works have been translated into many languages the world over. Allama Iqbal (d 1938 CE) considered him to be his teacher. The Mevlevi Sufi Order, named after Rumi, has millions of followers in Europe and America. The whirling dervishes of Turkey preserve his legacy in their rapturous whirls, symbolizing the movement of the universe around a single spiritual Qutub (pole).

Even great men and women have their teachers. As the Qur’an teaches us, “For every knower, there is one who knows more”.  Rumi had a teacher. His name was Shaykh Senai. One evening,  Shaykh Senai was walking back home from the mosque after maghrib prayers. Darkness was fast approaching. The alleys of the town were narrow and sinewy as they used to be before the advent of the automobile.

As he walked, Shaykh Senai  saw a little girl walk towards him with a candle in her hand to help her see in the approaching darkness. The great Shaykh was fascinated by the light. “Where does the light come from?” he pondered. Not satisfied with the hundreds of answers that flashed through his inquisitive mind, he approached the child, bent down and asked her in a gentle voice, “Please tell me where this light came from?”



The child looked up at the Shaykh. Her sharp, penetrating eyes saw a great man of wisdom looking benevolently at her. His shiny white beard glistened in the light from the flickering candle. His furrowed face radiated the wisdom of the ages.  The little girl paused for a moment, blew the candle out with a single breath and asked the Shaykh:

“Please tell me where the light has gone and I will tell you where it came from?”

Who was the teacher here and who was the pupil?

Great men and women of learning do not shy away from learning from anyone, be it a child or an adult, a man or a woman. Such is the humility of true scholars. They know how little they know and their hearts are always open to the light from the heavens.  The music of the stars is their symphony, the movement of ants their guide, the flight of birds is their fancy and the play of children is their teacher. They see and listen and learn, and through them they witness the Signs of heavenly Light that flickers out there reflecting the Light that is within each of us.