Masnavi 27

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY I. The Hindu Slave who loved his Master's Daughter.
A certain man had a Hindu slave, whom he had brought up along with his
children, one of whom was a daughter. When the time came for giving the girl in
marriage many suitors presented themselves, and offered large marriage portions
to gain her alliance. At last her father selected one who was by no means the
richest or noblest of the number, but pious and well-mannered. The women of the
family would have preferred one of the richer youths, but the father insisted
on having his own way, and the marriage was settled according to his wishes. As
soon as the Hindu slave heard of this he fell sick, and the mistress of the
family discovered that he was in love with her daughter, and aspired to the
honor of marrying her. She was much discomposed at this unfortunate accident,
and consulted her husband as to what was best to be done. He said, "Keep
the affair quiet, and I will cure the slave of his presumption, in such a way
that, according to the proverb, 'The Shaikh shall not be burnt, yet the meat
shall be well roasted.'" He directed his wife to flatter the slave with
the hope that his wish would be granted, and the girl given to him in marriage.
He then celebrated a mock marriage between the slave and the girl, but at night
substituted for the girl a boy dressed in female attire, with the result that
the bridegroom passed the night in quarrelling with his supposed bride. Next
morning he had an interview with the girl and her mother, and said he would
have no more to do with her, as, though her appearance was very seductive at a
distance, closer acquaintance with her had altogether destroyed the charm. Just
so the pleasures of the world seem sweet till they are tried, and then they are
found to be very bitter and repulsive. The Prophet has declared that
"Patience is the key of joy;" 1 in other words, that he who
controls and restrains himself from grasping at worldly pleasures will find
true happiness; but this precept makes no lasting impression on the bulk of
mankind. When bitter experience overtakes them, as the pain of burning afflicts
children, or moths sporting with fire, or the pain of amputation a thief, they
curse the delusive temptations which brought this pain upon them; but no sooner
is the pain abated than they run after the same pleasures as eagerly as ever.
This is divinely ordained, that "God may bring to naught the craft of the
infidels." 2 Their hearts have, as it were, been kindled on the
tinder-box of bitter experience, but God has put out the sparks of good
resolution, and caused them to forget their experience and vows of abstinence
according to the text, "Often as they kindle a beacon-fire for war doth
God quench it." 3 This is illustrated by an anecdote of a man who
heard a footstep in his house at night, and at once struck a light; but the
thief put it out without being observed, and the man remained under the
impression that it had gone out of itself. This leads the poet again to dwell
on his favorite theme of the sole agency of Allah.
Then, to supply the necessary corrective of this doctrine, another anecdote is
told concerning Mahmud and Ayaz. The courtiers grumbled because Ayaz received
the stipend of thirty courtiers, and Mahmud by a practical test convinced them
that the talents of Ayaz equalled those of thirty men. The courtiers replied
that this was due to God's grace, not to any merit on the part of Ayaz; and the
king confuted them by pointing out that man's responsibility and merit, or demerit,
for his actions are recognized in the Koran. Iblis was condemned for saying to
God, "Thou hast caused me to err," 4 and Adam was commended
or saying, "We have blackened ourselves." 5 And elsewhere it
is said, "Whosoever shall have wrought an atom's weight of good shall
behold it; and whoso shall have wrought an atom's weight of evil shall behold
it." 6