In the prayer Khatum, we say the phrase, “Give us Thy great goodness.” Have we ever considered why we have been given these words to say? It cannot be because we think that God needs reminding. A divinity that must have the cosmic memory jogged by a to-do list (“replenish goodness for faithful believer so-and-so”) is a rather mediocre vision, scarcely even worthy of our prayers. The words, of course, are meant for us, as is the whole prayer.
And how do we think the sought-for goodness will appear? In this very materialistic age, some people look for paradise on earth, and claim to measure a person’s spirituality by their material wealth. After all, if we are really ‘beloved ones of God,’ surely the Divine Presence will answer all our wishes–no? If He really loves you, why won’t He give you a new car? But this applies reasoning to God the Father that no sensible human parent would follow; children constantly wish for things and experiences that would not benefit them, so why should the wishes of the adult, always a child before the Divine no matter how mature, be any more reliable? And besides, from the Sufi point of view, material comforts make it very easy to fall back into sleep, and presumably we are on the path because we want to wake up to something beyond the transient and disappointing realm of the physical.
Perhaps others take the phrase to mean, ‘make me good.’ Certainly, that is something to aspire to, but the problem is, we can never really be aware of our own goodness; the one who feels that they have become good will probably be looked on by others as not so good, if not obnoxious. This is the same paradox we face when we wonder about our spiritual progress. We can never know how far we may have travelled in the journey, because so long as there is an ‘I’ to ask the question, that very same ‘I’ obscures the answer.
A more useful way to take the phrase might be to say to oneself, “Our merciful and compassionate Creator must be constantly pouring goodness on us. His generosity is without limit. If I am unaware of it, maybe I need to change my way of looking.” Hazrat Inayat Khan recalled seeing boys who lived by sifting the dust around the workshops of jewellers, seeking any little particle of gold that might have fallen there. We could take that as a good example, and sift through every experience, every encounter with every person, no matter how uninspiring they may seem at first glance, looking for some gleam of gold. And if someone objects, and says, ‘Find gold in that person?! I don’t like that person, I don’t want to give them the benefit,’ they should think again. What we see is what we are; the cold will perceive coldness, while the loving will find love. Therefore, if we can find gold in the dust of another, we have ourselves become richer.