STORY VIII. The Man who received a Pension from the Prefect of Tabriz.
These reflections on the nothingness of outward form compared to spirit lead
the poet to the corollary that often men whose outward forms are buried in the
grave are greater benefactors to the poor and helpless than men still living in
the body. This is illustrated by the story of the man who was maintained by the
Prefect of Tabriz. This man incurred heavy debts on the credit of his pension,
even as the Imam Ja'far Sadiq was able to capture a strong fort single-handed
through the power of God assisting him. When the creditors became pressing the
man journeyed to Tabriz to seek further aid; but on arriving there he found the
Prefect was dead. On learning this he was much cast down, but eventually
recognized that he had erred in looking to a creature instead of his Creator
for aid, according to the text, "The infidels equalize others with their
Lord." 1 This obliquity of spiritual sight, causing him to see a
mere human benefactor, where the real benefactor was God alone, is illustrated
by anecdotes of a man buying bread at Kashan, of Sultan Khwarazm Shah deluded
into disliking a fine horse by the interested advice of his Vazir, and of
Joseph, who when imprisoned by Pharaoh was induced to trust for deliverance to
the intercession of the chief butler rather than to God alone, for which cause
"he remained several years in prison." 2 A charitable person
of Tabriz endeavoured to raise funds for the poor man, and appealed to the
citizens to aid him, but only succeeded in collecting a very small sum. He then
visited the Prefect's tomb, and implored assistance from him; and the same
night the Prefect appeared to him in a dream, and gave him directions where to
find a great treasure, and directed him to make over this treasure to the poor
man. Thus the dead Prefect proved a more liberal benefactor than the citizens
of Tabriz who were still living.
The poor man's regrets for having placed his trust in man and not in God.
When he recovered himself he said, "O God,
I have sinned in looking for aid to a creature!
Although the Prefect showed great liberality,
It was in no wise equal to Thy bounty.
He gave me a cap, but Thou my head full of sense;
He gave me a garment, but Thou my tall form.
He gave me gold, but Thou my hand which counts it;
He gave me a horse, but Thou my reason to guide it;
He gave me a lamp, but Thou my lucid eyes;
He gave me sweetmeats, but Thou my appetite for them;
He gave me a pension, but Thou my life and being;
His gift was gold, but Thine true blessings;
He gave me a house, but Thou heaven and earth;
In Thy house he and a hundred like him are nourished.
The gold was of Thy providing, he did not create it;
The bread of Thy providing, and furnished to him by Thee.
Thou also didst give him his liberality,
For thereby Thou didst augment his happiness.
I made him my Qibla, and directed my prayers to him;
I turned away my eyes from Thee, the Qibla-maker!
Where was he when the Supreme Dispenser of faith
Sowed reason in the water and clay of man,
And drew forth from Not-being this heavenly dome,
And spread out the carpet of the earth?
Of the stars He made torches to illumine the sky,
And of the four elements locks with keys (of reason).
Ah! many are the buildings visible and invisible
Which God has made between heaven's dome and earth.
Man is the astrolabe of those exalted attributes,
The attribute of man is to manifest God's signs.
Whatever is seen in man is the reflection of God,
Even as the reflection of the moon in water."
Say not two, know not two, call not on two!
Know the slave is obliterated in his lord!
So the lord is obliterated in God that created him
Yea, lost and dead and buried in his Creator!
When you regard this lord as separate from God,
You annihilate at once text and paraphrase.
With eyes and heart look beyond mere water and clay,
God alone is the Qibla; regard not two Qiblas!
If you regard two you lose the benefit of both;
A spark falls on the tinder and the tinder vanishes!
Joseph kept in prison a long time for having placed his hopes of release in man
and not in God.
In like manner Joseph, in the prison,
With humble and earnest supplications
Begged aid, saying, "When you are released,
And are occupied with your ministrations to the king,
Remember me, and entreat the king
To release rue too from this prison."
How can one prisoner fettered in the snare
Procure release for a fellow prisoner?
The people of the world are all prisoners,
Awaiting death on the stake of annihilation;
Except one or two rare exceptions,
Whose bodies are in prison but their souls in heaven.
Afterwards, because Joseph had looked to man for aid,
He remained in prison for many years.
The Devil caused the man to forget Joseph,
And blotted Joseph's words from his remembrance;
And on account of this fault of that holy man
God left him in the prison for many years.