STORY VII. The Three Travelers.
A Mosalman was traveling with two unbelievers, a Jew and a Christian. Like
wisdom linked with the flesh and the devil. God was "nigh unto His faithful
servant," 1 and when the first stage was completed He caused a
present of sweetmeats to be laid before the travelers. As the Jew and the
Christian had already eaten their evening meal when the sweetmeats arrived,
they proposed to lay them aside till the morrow; but the Mosalman, who was
keeping fast, and therefore could not eat before nightfall, proposed to eat
them that night. To this the other two refused to consent, alleging that the
Mosalman wanted to eat the whole of the sweetmeats himself. Then the Mosalman
proposed to divide them into three portions, so that each might eat his own
portion when he pleased; but this also was objected to by the others, who
quoted the proverb, "The divider is in hell" The Mosalman explained
to them that this proverb meant the man who divides his allegiance between God
and lust; but they still refused to give way, and the Mosalman therefore
submitted, and lay down to sleep in the endurance of the pangs of hunger. Next
morning, when they awoke, it was agreed between them that each should relate
his dreams, and that the sweetmeats should be awarded to him whose dream was
the best. The Jew said that he had dreamed that Moses had carried him to the
top of Mount Sinai, and shown him marvelous visions of the glory of heaven and
the angels. The Christian said he had dreamed that 'Isa had carried him up to
the fourth heaven and shown him all the glories of the heavens. Finally the
Mosalman said that the Prophet Muhammad had appeared to him in person, and
after commending him for his piety in saying his prayers and keeping fast so
strictly on the previous night, had commanded him to eat up those divinely
provided sweetmeats as a reward, and he had accordingly done so. The Jew and
the Christian were at first annoyed with him for thus stealing a march upon
them; but on his pointing out that he had no option but to obey the Prophet's
commands, they admitted that he had done right, and that his dream was the
best, as he had been awake, while they were asleep. The moral is, that the
divine treasure is revealed as an immediate intuition to those who seek it with
prayer and humble obedience, and not to those who seek to infer and deduce its
nature and quality from the lofty abstractions of philosophy.
Lofty philosophical speculation does not lead to the knowledge of God.
The Mosalman said, "O my friends,
My lord, the Prophet Muhammad, appeared to me
And said, 'The Jew has hurried to the top of Sinai,
And plays a game of love with God's interlocutor;
The Christian has been carried by 'Isa, Lord of bliss
Up to the summit of the fourth heaven
Thou who art left behind and hast endured anguish,
Arise quickly and eat the sweetmeats and confections!
Those two clever and learned men have ascended,
And read their titles of dignity and exaltation;
Those two exalted ones have found exalted science,
And rivaled the very angels in intellect;
O humble and simple and despised one,
Arise and eat of the banquet of the divine sweets!"
They said to him, "Then you have been gluttonous;
Well indeed! you have eaten all the sweets!"
He answered, "When my sovereign lord commanded me,
Who am I that I should abstain from obeying?
Would you, O Jew, resist the commands of Moses
If he bade you do something, either pleasant or not?
Would you, O Christian, rebel against 'Isa's commands,
Whether those commands were agreeable or the reverse?
How could I rebel against the 'Glory of the prophets'?
Nay, I ate the sweets, and am now happy."
They replied, "By Allah, you have seen a true vision;
Your vision is better than a hundred like ours.
Your dream was seen by you when awake, O happy one,
For it was seen to be real by your being awake."
Quit excessive speculation and inordinate science,
'Tis service of God and good conduct that gains its end.
'Tis for this that God created us,
"We created not mankind save to worship us" 2
What profit did his science bring to Samiri? 3
His science excluded him from God's portals.
Consider what Qarun gained by his alchemy;
He was swallowed up in the depths of the earth.
Abu-l Jahl, again, what gained he from his wit
Save to be hurled head-foremost into hell for infidelity?
Know real science is seeing the fire directly,
Not mere talk, inferring the fire from the smoke.
Your scientific proofs are more offensive to the wise
Than the urine and breath whence a physician infers.
If these be your only proofs, O son,
Smell foul breath and inspect urine like physicians.
Such proofs are as the staff of a blind man,
Which prove only the blindness of the holder.
All your outcry and pompous claims and bustle
Only say, "I cannot see, hold me excused!"
This is illustrated be an anecdote of a peasant who, hearing a proclamation
issued by the Prince of Tirmid, to the effect that a large reward would be
given to him who should take a message to Samarcaud in the space of four days,
hurried to Tirmid by relays of post-horses in the utmost haste, and threw the
whole city into alarm, as the people thought that his extreme haste and bustle
must portend the approach of an enemy or some other calamity. But when he was
admitted to the presence of the prince, all he had to say was, that he had
hurried to inform him that he could not go to Samarcand so quickly. The prince
was very angry with him for making all this disturbance about nothing, and
threatened to punish him.
The uses of chastisements.
He said, "Alms of mercy repel calamity, 4
Alms cure thy sickness, O son
'Tis not charitable to burn up the poor,
Or to put out the eyes of the meek."
The prince replied, "Kindness is good in its place,
Provided you do kindness in its proper place.
If at chess you put the king in the rook's place
That is wrong; and so if you put the knight in the king's,
The law prescribes both rewards and chastisements.
The king's place is the throne, the horse's the gate.
What is justice but putting each in his place?
What injustice but putting each in what is not his place?
Nothing is vain of all that God has created,
Whether vengeance or mercy, or plain dealing or snares.
Not one of all these is good absolutely,
Nor is any one of them absolutely bad.
Each is harmful or beneficial according to its place,
Wherefore knowledge of these points is proper and useful.
Ah! many are the chastisements sent to the poor
Which are more beneficial to him than bread and sweets;
Because sweets out of season excite biliousness,
While blows make him pure from impurity.
Strike the poor man timely blows,
Which may save him from being beheaded later."
The peasant, in reply, urged the prince not to be over hasty in punishing him,
but to take counsel with suitable advisers, as enjoined in various texts,
5 and in the Hadis prohibiting monkery, and warned him that if he
shunned the advice and society of his equals he would assuredly be led astray
by wretched companions. 6 In illustration of this a story is told of a
mouse who conceived a great affection for a frog living in a neighboring pond.
7 That he might be able to communicate with his friend at all times, he
fastened a string to the frog's leg, and the other end of it to his own. The
proverb says, "Occasional intermission of visits augments love,"
8 but ardent lovers desire to be in communication with the object of
their love without intermission. The frog was at first unwilling to enter into
such close relations with an animal of another species, but at last allowed
himself to be persuaded to do so, against his better judgment. Shortly
afterwards a raven swooped down on the mouse and carried him off, and the frog,
being fastened to the mouse, was dragged off and destroyed along with it. The
raven's friends said to him, "How is it you managed to catch an animal
that lives in the water?" and he replied, "Because it was so silly as
to consort with one of another species that lived on dry land."
Comparison of the body to the mouse, and the soul to the frog.
The two friends discussed the matter long,
And after discussion this plan was settled,
That they should fetch a long string,
By means of which to communicate with one another.
The mouse said, "One end must be tied to your leg,
And the other end to the leg of me, your double,
That by this contrivance we two may be united,
And be mingled together like soul and body."
Body is like a string tied to sod's foot,
That string drags soul down to earth.
The soul is the frog in the water of ecstatic bliss;
Escaping from the mouse of the body, it is in bliss.
The mouse of the body drags it back with that string;
Ah! what sorrow it tastes through being dragged back
If it were not dragged down by that insolent mouse,
The frog would remain at peace in its water.
On the last day, when you shall awake from sleep,
You will learn the rest of this from the Sun of truth!
In illustration of the thesis that the sense which perceives the unseen and
spiritual world is superior to the other senses, and is exempt from death and
decay, the poet tells an anecdote of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni and some robbers.
One night, when walking about the city alone, he fell in with a band of
robbers. He told them he was one of them, and proposed that each should tell
his own special talent. Accordingly one said he could hear what the dogs said
when they barked; another that his sight was so good that when he saw a man at
night he could recognize him without fail next day; another said his talent lay
in the strength of his arms, whereby he dug holes through the walls of houses
another said he could divine by his sense of smell where gold was hidden;
another said his wrist was so strong that he could throw a rope farther than
any one. At last it came to the turn of the king, and he told them that his
talent lay in his beard, for when he wagged it he could deliver criminals from
the executioner. The robbers then went to the king's palace, and, each of them
co-operating by the exercise of his peculiar talent, they broke into it, and
plundered a large sum of money. The king, after witnessing the burglary,
withdrew from them secretly, and, having summoned his Vazir, gave orders for
their apprehension. No sooner were the robbers brought before the king than the
one whose talent lay in recognizing by day those whom he had seen in the
darkness of night at once knew him, and said to the others, "This is the
man who said his talent lay in his beard!" Thus the only one whose talent
profited him at the time of need was he who could recognize by day what he had
previously seen by night; for he appealed to the king to exercise his talent of
deliverance, and the king listened to his entreaty, and delivered him from the
He whose eyes discern God in the world is safe from destruction.
He who, when he had once seen a person at night,
Recognized him without fail when he saw him by day,
Saw the king upon the throne, and straightway cried,
"This was he who accompanied us on our nightly walk;
This is he whose beard possessed such rare talent;
Our arrest is due to his sagacity."
He added, "'Yea, he was with you,'9 this great king;
He beheld our actions and heard our secrets.
My eyes guided me to recognize that king at night,
And dwelt lovingly on his face, like the moon at night.
Now, therefore, I will implore his grace for myself,
For he will never avert his face from him that knew him."
Know the eye of the ' Knower is a safeguard in both worlds,
For therein ye will find a very Bahram to aid you.
For this cause Muhammad was the intercessor for faults,
Because his eye 'did not wander' 10 from the King of kings.
In the night of this world, when the sun is hidden,
He beheld God, and placed his hopes on Him.
His eyes were anointed with the words, ' We opened thy heart,' 11
He beheld what Gabriel himself had not power to see." 12
The story of the frog is concluded by the lamentations of the frog over his
folly in consorting with an animal of a different genus to his own, on which
Reason warns him that homogeneity lies in spirit, not in outward form; and this
is illustrated by an anecdote of a man named 'Abdu'l Ghaus, who was the son of
a fairy mother, and consequently homogeneous with the fairies, though only an
ordinary man to outward appearance.