There are times that we sometimes miss the point by adhering to formalities or being stuck in a rut. A story by Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is a good example.
One day, Moses heard the prayer of a shepherd. “God, where are you?ㅡSo I can become your servant, and mend your sandals and comb your hair. (So) I can wash your robe, kill your lice, (and) bring you a cup of milk. (So) I can kiss your small head, massage your small foot.” Moses could not listen to his prayer any more. How dare he say such gibberish to God? Moses raged. He thought the shepherd was blasphemous and stopped his prayer. He gave the shepherd a good scolding by telling him to stop being ignorant and start using elegant words. Feeling heartbroken, the shepherd tore his robe, made a deep sigh and ran into a desert.
Moses was confident that he did the right thing. But God reprimanded him. “Did I make you my prophet to bring humanity to me or to drive it away?” The God scolded him for insulting the worshipper who was praying fervently. There is no good or bad in the way one worships. There is no rank in worshipping. What sounds like blasphemy can sometimes be the most sincere prayer.
Repentant and humbled, Moses found the shepherd in the desert and apologized to him. Moses told him to make a prayer as he wishes. But the shepherd had already realized it. The simplicity he showed and his fervent heart for God were actually the essence of prayers. Moses forgot about it and hurt the shepherd’s feelings.
This poet by Rumi gives us a lesson that we should always be faithful to the basics and the essence. It is an allegory that shows a sincere heart and a burning thirst is the key rather than fancy rituals or words. This story, of course, does not only apply to religions.