Little by Little

By Jamal Rahman

“So I call to witness the rosy glow of sunset; the night and its progression; and the moon as it grows into fullness; surely you shall travel from stage to stage.” (Qur’an 16-19)

“A new moon teaches gradualness and deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly.”  (Rumi)

The major religions of the world teach us that a major task entrusted to us by Divinity on this mysterious journey of life is to evolve into the fullness of our being. To describe this life-long process, sages use different metaphors: we awaken or give birth to our true self; we mature or deepen into a more developed human being.

We are asked to do this work of transformation gradually. There is sacredness in the words “little by little,” and nature is our best teacher. Besides the examples given above in the Quranic verse, Rumi points out that gradually, an ordinary stone marbles into a ruby; little by little, an ordinary stick opens up into a bud.

Thus, as we work on ourselves continuously, we progress incrementally. In stages we become more complete beings. Amazingly, this “little by little” application leads to a quantum jump. We return to the gradual progression, and, again, there is a big jump! The problem, the wise explain, is that we human desire that big jump, but prefer to avoid the “little by little” unceasing work.

To illustrate this point, Sufis tell the story of the Mulla who was enamored of Indian classical music. He eagerly sought out a teacher to take private lessons.  “How much will it cost?” asked the Mulla.

“Three pieces of silver the first month and one piece of silver from the second month onwards, “replied the teacher.

“Excellent!” replied the Mulla, “Sign me up from the second month!”

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