I return once more to the word of our Prophet, peace be upon him, when he told his companions to throw dust in the faces of those who praised people in their presence. I was in Turkey, taking tea with our Muslim neighbours, when conversation turned to my conversion. People always assume that I converted because of my wife, but she was putting them straight, explaining that it all came to pass before we ever set eyes on one another. And suddenly all that hideous praise. It is humiliating, for I am the worst amongst them. They put you up on a pedestal which you do not deserve, oblivious to the pain within: that to be good is such a struggle, such a battle. They talk of you as a pious saint, when in truth you are a wretched sinner.
But worst is all that follows. Those words are so true: ‘You have destroyed the man’s back.’ There seems to be some strange metaphysical link between the act of praising and the well-being of the recipient. Thrown down on my face, all that follows the laudation is absolute proof that their kind words were unwarranted. And yes, my back is now killing me too. It causes a horrible sickness, both physical and spiritual. How many good men and women before us have been destroyed by the excessive admiration of their companions?