"If you are a true Lover of God," said Hasan, "you must be strong when the Beloved afflicts you."
"Say it better!" said Rabia.
"You must be thankful when the Beloved afflicts you."
"Say it even better!"
"You must rejoice when the Beloved afflicts you."
"No!" said Rabia. "Love goes beyond even that: you must not even feel the pain of the affliction as you contemplate the Beloved. Remember the ladies of Egypt who felt no pain when they cut themselves with knives as they contemplated Joseph's beauty. How much more true then must this be as we contemplate God!"
Inspired by: Sufi Women by Javad Nurbakshsh
Notes: This story is on p. 44 of the book. You can find out more about Rabia of Basra and about Hasan of Basra at Wikipedia. In the original anecdote, Rabia is carrying on a discussion with Hasan of Basra, Malik Dinar, and Shaqiq of Balkh, but I changed it to just be with Hasan. The legend of Joseph and the ladies with their knives belongs to the cycle of stories about Joseph and Zuleikha: when Zulkeikha invited her friends to dine with her, they were so taken with Joseph's beauty that they cut themselves with their knives but did not realize it. You can read more about the Joseph and Zuleikha tradition at Wikipedia.