Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
An ideal is something to hope for and hold on to, and in the absence of an ideal hope has nothing to look forward to. It is the lack of idealism which accounts for the present degeneration of humanity in spite of all the progress it has made in other directions. There are many kinds of ideals: principles, virtues, objects of devotion; but the greatest and highest of all ideals is the God-ideal. And when this God-ideal upon which all other ideals are based is lost, then the very notion of ideal is ignored. Man needs many things in life, but his greatest need is an ideal.
God is the ideal that raises mankind to the utmost reach of perfection. As man considers and judges his dealings with man in his conscience, so the real worshipper of God considers his dealings with God. If he has helped anybody, if he has been kind to anybody, if he has made sacrifices for anybody, he does not look for appreciation or return for his doing so to the people to whom he has done good; for he considers that he has done it for God, and therefore, his account is with God, not with those with whom he has dealt. He does not care even if instead of praising they blame him; for in any case he has done it for God, who is the best judge and the knower of all things.
There is no ideal that can raise the moral standard higher than the God-ideal, although love is the root of all and God is the fruit of this. Love’s expansion and love’s culmination and love’s progress all depend upon the God-ideal. How much a man fears his friend, his neighbor, when he does something that might offend him whom he loves, whom he respects; and yet how narrow is his goodness when it is only for one person or for certain people! Imagine if he had the same consideration for God, then he would be considerate everywhere and in dealing with all people; as in a verse of a Sufi which says, ’Everywhere I go I find Thy sacred dwelling-place; and whichever side I look I see Thy beautiful face, my Beloved.’