Knowledge is Light (and hearts are candles)
I phoned my Grandma in South Africa yesterday for Mi'raj - kind of a family tradition, though I really should phone more often! The formidable old lady, now 81 and going strong, was my very first teacher of deen - may Allah reward her abundantly for teaching me 'alif, ba tha,' and, 'awwal kalima tayyab.'
She was - of course - deliriously excited to speak to me and, between informing (several times each) about the whereabouts and circumstances of our ever-widening family diaspora, she imparted some precious information.
Nothing that you or I would call spectacular - simple advice like, 'say bismillah before you do anything,' 'sleep and wake up with the shahada,' and so forth. Yet it had a profound effect on me - as much as the words of any shaykh.
Strange thing was, I repeated what she had said to my wife not a few hours later, and it fell flat. It just didn't have the same 'zing' to it when I retold it. And - being me - I gots me to thinking why... How many times have many of us experienced this? You can't tell it the way the shaykh/imam/teacher did? Your words don't have the same impact on others that their's did on you? You just had to be there?
The way of acquiring spiritual benefit from people is not through their words; but from their states. It is a two-fold process: our connection to them, and their connection to their Lord. The latter is a pathway for Divine wisdom; which is knowledge that melts hearts and enraptures souls, whose traces fundamentally affect behaviour. Their hearts are candles lit by the Divine out of His blessed providence.
The former requires that one's own heart be open to theirs. When Allah's rain is falling, we cannot benefit if the containers of our hearts are sealed shut. There are many people - if not most - to whom our hearts are closed, for we have no connection to them - connections such as love and respect. But those to whom they are open, will affect us with the simplest of their words - no, even their stillness and silence, their looks or gestures, their very presence or absence.
My heart is open to my beloved grandmother; and her's - after a lifetime of worship and unfailing service - is open to Allah's. She is not learned by the standards that most of us have. She does not quote hadith; she has forgotten most of her Quran; she was taught her fiqh 70 years ago. But she has a state with Allah, a secret so secret that perhaps even she does not know it. And she told me to say 'bismillah.'
Mi'raj Mubarak. May Allah bless you, and her, and forgive me, and her.