Thou art wise, incline towards the essential truth, for that
remains, while the things that are external pass away.
He who has neither knowledge,
generosity, nor piety resembles a man in form alone.
He sleeps at peace beneath the ground who made tranquil the hearts
Give now of thy gold and
bounty, for eventually will it pass from thy grasp. Open the
door of thy treasure today, for tomorrow the key will not be
in thy hands.
If thou would not be distressed
on the Day of Judgment, forget not them that are distressed.
Drive not the poor man empty
from thy door, lest thou should wander before the doors of strangers.
He protects the needy who
fears that he himself may become needful of the help of others.
Art not thou, too, a supplicant?
BE grateful, and turn not away them that supplicate thee.
A STORY ILLUSTRATIVE OF DOING
TO THE EVIL
A woman said to her husband,
"Do not again buy bread from the baker in this street. Make
thy purchases in the market, for this man shows wheat and sells
barley, *12 and he has no customers but a swarm of flies."
"O, light of my life,"
the husband answered, "pay no heed to his trickery. In the
hope of our custom has he settled in this place, and not humane
would it be to deprive him of his profits."
Follow the path of the righteous,
and, if thou stand upon thy feet, stretch out thy hand to them
that are fallen.
A STORY CONCERNING FASTING
The wife of an officer of
a king said to her husband, "Arise, and go to the royal
palace, that they may give thee food, for thy children are in
"The kitchen is closed
today," he answered, "last night the Sultan resolved
to fast awhile."
In the despair of hunger,
the woman bowed her head and murmured, "What does the Sultan
seek from his fasting when his breaking the fast means a festival
of joy for our children?"
One who eats that good may
follow is better than a Mammon worshipper who continually fasts.
Proper it is to fast with him who feeds the needy in the morning.
A STORY ILLUSTRATIVE OF PRACTICAL
A certain man had generosity
without the means of displaying it; his pittance was unequal
to his benevolence. (May riches never fall to the mean, nor poverty
be the lot of the generous!). His charity exceeding the depth
of his pocket, therefore was he always short of money.
One day a poor man wrote
to him saying, "O, thou of happy nature! Assist me with
funds, since for some time have I languished in prison."
The generous man would have
willingly acceded to the request, but he possesses not so much
as the smallest piece of money. He sent someone to the creditors
of the prisoner with the message, "Free this man for a few
days, and I will be his security."
Then did he visit the prisoner
in his cell and say, "Arise, and fly with haste from the
When a sparrow sees open
the door of its cage, it tarries not a moment. Like the morning
breeze, the prisoner flew from the land. Thereupon, they seized
his benefactor, saying, "Produce either the man or the money."
Powerless to do either,
he went to prison, for a bird escaped is ne'er recaught. Long
there did he remain, invoking help from none, nor complaining,
though he slept not at nights through restlessness.
A pious man came to him
and said, "I did not think that thou were dishonest; why
are thou here imprisoned?"
"No villainy have I
committed," he replied. "I saw a helpless man in bounds
and his freedom only in my own confinement. I did not deem it
right that I should live in comfort while another was fettered
by the legs."
Eventually he died, leaving a good name behind.
Happy is he whose name dies
not! He who sleeps beneath the earth with a heart that lives
is better that he who lives with a soul that is dead, for the
former remains for ever.
THE STORY OF THE MAN AND A
In a desert, a man found
a dog that was dying from thirst. Using his hat as a bucket,
he fetched water from a well and gave it to the helpless animal.
The prophet of the time stated that G-d had forgiven the man
his sins because of his kindly act.
Reflect, if thou be a tyrant,
and make a profession of benevolence.
He who shows kindness to
a dog will not do less towards the good among his fellows.
Be generous to the extent
of thy power. If thou hast not dug a well in the desert, at least
place a lamp in a shrine.*13
Charity distributed from
an ox's skin that is filled with treasure counts for less than
a dinar given from the wages of toil.
Every man's burden is suited
to his strength - heavy to the ant is the foot of the locust.
Do good to others so that
on the morrow G-d may not deal harshly with thee.
Be lenient with thy slave,
for he may one day become a king, like a pawn that becomes a
A STORY APROPOS OF NEMESIS
A poor man complained of
his distressed condition to one who was rich as well as ill-dispositioned.
The latter refused to help him, and turned roughly upon him in
The beggar's heart bled
by reason of this violence, "Strange!" He reflected,
"that this rich man should be of such forbidding countenance!
Perhaps he fears not the bitterness of begging."
The rich man ordered his
slave to drive the beggar away. As a result of his ingratitude
for the blessings that he enjoyed, Fortune forsook him, and he
lost all that he possessed. His slave passed into the hands of
a generous man of enlightened mind, who was as gladdened at the
sight of a beggar as the latter is at the sight of riches.*14
One night a beggar asked
alms of the latter, and he commanded his slave to give the man
to eat. When the slave involuntarily uttered a cry, and went
"Why these tears?"
His master asked.
"My heart is grieved
at the plight of this unfortunate old man," the slave replied.
"Once was he the owner of much wealth, and I his slave."
The master smiled and said,
"This is not cause for grief, O, son. Time, in its revolutions,
is not unjust. Was not that indigent man formerly a merchant
who carried his head high in the air through pride? I am he whom
that day he drove from his door. Fate has now put him in the
place that I then occupied. Heaven befriended me and washed the
dust of sorrow from my face. Though G-d, in His wisdom, closed
one door, another, in His mercy, did He open."
Many a needy one has become
filled, and many a Plutos has gone empty.
A STORY OF A FOOL AND A FOX
Someone saw a fox that was
bereft of the use of its legs. He was wondering how the animal
managed to live in this condition when a tiger drew near with
a jackal in its claws. The tiger ate the jackal, and the fox
finished the remains. The next day also did the Omnipotent Provider
send the fox its daily meal.
The eyes of the man were
thus opened to the light of true knowledge. "After this,"
he reflected, "I will sit in a corner like an ant, for the
elephant's portion is not gained by reason of its strength."
So did he sit in silence,
waiting for his daily food to come from the Invisible. No one
heeded him, and soon was he reduced to skin and bones. When,
at last, his senses had almost gone through weakness, a voice
came out from the wall of a mosque, saying:
"Go, O, false one!
Be the rending tiger and pose not as a paralytic fox. Exert thyself
like the tiger, so that something may remain from thy spoil.
Why, like the fox, appease thy hunger with leaving? Eat of the
fruits of thine own endeavors; strive like a man, and relieve
the wants of the needy."
Seize, O, youth, the hand
of the aged; fall not thyself, saying, "Hold my hand."
In the two words does he obtain reward who does good to the people
THE STORY OF A DEVOUT MISER
In the remote regions of
Turkey, there lived a good and pious man, whom I and some fellow-travellers
once visited. He received us cordially, and seated us with respect.
He had vineyards, and wheat-fields, slaves and gold, but was
miserly as a leafless tree. His feelings were warm, but his fireplace
was cold. He passed the night awake in prayer, and we in hunger.
In the morning he girt his loins and recommenced the same politeness
of the previous night.
One of our party was of
merry wit and temper. "Come, give us food in change for
a kiss," *15 he said, "for that is better to a hungry
man. In serving me, place not thy hand upon my shoe, but give
me bread and strike thy shoe upon my head."
Excellence is attained by
generosity, not by vigils in the night.
Idle words are a hollow
drum; invocations without merit are a weak support.
THE STORY OF HATIM TAI *16
Hatim Tai possessed a horse
who fleetness was as that of the morning breeze. Of this was
the Sultan of Turkey informed.
"Like Hatim Tai,"
he was told, "none is equal in generosity; like his horse,
nothing is equal in speed and gait. As a ship in the sea it traverses
the desert, while the eagle, exhausted, lags behind."
"From Hatim will I
request that horse, " the king replied. "If he be generous
and give it to me, then shall I know that his fame is true; if
not, that it is but the sound of a hollow drum."
So he dispatched a messenger
with ten followers to Hatim. They alighted at the house of the
Arab chief, who prepared a feast and killed a horse" in
On the following day, when
the messenger explained the object of his mission, Hatim became
as one mad with grief. "Why," he cried, "didst
thou not give me before thy message? That swift-paced horse did
I roast last night for thee to eat. No other means had I to entertain
thee; that horse alone stood by my tent, and I would not that
my guests should sleep fasting."
To the men he gave money
and splendid robes, and when the news of his generosity reached
to Turkey, the king showered a thousand praises upon his nature.
THE STORY OF HATIM AND THE
SENT TO KILL HIM
One of the kings of Yemen
was renowned for his liberality, yet the name of Hatim was never
mentioned in his presence without his falling into a rage. "How
long," he would ask, "wilt thou speak of that vain
man, who possesses neither a kingdom, nor power, nor wealth?"
On one occasion he prepared
a royal feast, which the people were invited to attend. Someone
began to speak of Hatim, and another to praise him. Envious,
the king dispatched a man to slay the Arabian chief, reflecting,
"So long as Hatim lives, my name will never become famous.
The messenger departed,
and traveled far seeking for Hatim that he might kill him. As
he went along the road a youth came out to meet him. He was handsome
and wise, and showed friendliness toward the messenger, whom
he took to his house to pass the night. Such liberality did he
shower upon his guest that the heart of the evil-minded one was
turned to goodness.
In the morning the generous
youth kissed his hand and said, "Remain with me for a few
I am unable to tarry here,"
replied the messenger, "for urgent business is before me."
"If thou wilt entrust
me with thy secret," said the youth, "to aid the will
I spare no effort."
"O, generous man!"
was the reply, "give ear to me, for I know that the generous
are concealers of secrets. Perhaps in this country thou knowest
Hatim, who is of lofty mind and noble qualities. The king of
Yemen desires his head, though I know not what enmity has arisen
between them. Grateful shall I be if thou wilts direct me to
where he is. This hope from thy kindness do I entertain, O friend!"
The youth laughed and said,
"I am Hatim, see here my head! Strike it from my body with
thy sword. I would not that harm should befall thee, or that
thou shouldst fall in thy endeavor."
Throwing aside his sword,
the man fell on the ground and kissed the dust of Hatim's feet.
"If I injured a hair on thy body," he cried, "I
should no longer be a man." So saying, he clasped Hatim
to his breast and took his way back to Yemen.
"Come," said the
king as the man approached, "what news hast thou?"
Why didst thou not tie his head to thy saddle-straps? Perhaps
that famous one attacked thee and thou wert too weak to engage
The messenger kissed the
ground and said, "O, wise and just king! I found Hatim,
and saw him to be generous and full of wisdom, and in courage
superior to myself. My back was bent by the burden of his favors;
with the sword of kindness and bounty he killed me."
When he had related all
that he had seen of Hatim's generosity, the king uttered praises
upon the family of the Arab chief and rewarded the messenger
A STORY ILLUSTRATIVE OF MISDIRECTED
A certain man, in the ceiling
of whose house some bees had built their hives, asked his wife
for a butcher's knife so that he might destroy them. "Do
not do so," the woman said, "for when the poor creatures
will be greatly distressed when turned out of their homes."
Accordingly, the foolish
man left the bees in peace.
One day the woman was stung
by one of the insects and stood wailing on the doorstep. Hearing
her cries the husband left his shop and hurried towards the house.
Angered, he said, "O, wife! Show not such a bitter face
to the world; remember thou didst say to me, 'Kill not the poor
How can one do good to the
evil? Forbearance with the wicked but increases their iniquity.
What is a dog that a dish
of viands should be set before him? Command that they should
give him bones. A kicking animal is best well burdened.
If the night watchman display
humanity, no one sleeps at night for fear of thieves.
In the battlefield, the
spear shaft is worth more than a hundred thousand sugarcanes.
When thou rearest a cat,
she destroys thy pigeons when thou makest fat a wolf, he rends
one who is dear to thee.
Raise not a building that
has not a strong foundation; if thou dost, beware.
A DISCOURSE CONCERNING KINDNESS
Protect him whose father
is dead; remove the dust from his raiment, and injure him not.
Thou knowest not how hard is his condition; no foliage is there
on a rootless tree. Give not a kiss to a child of thin own in
the sight of a helpless orphan. If the latter weep, who will
assuage his grief? If he be angered, who will bear his burden?
See that he weeps not, for the throne of G-d trembles at the
orphan's lament. With pity, wipe the tears from his eyes and
the dust from his face. If the protecting shadow of his father's
care be gone, cherish him beneath the shadow of thy care.
Upon my head was a kingly
crown when it reposed upon the bosom of my father. Then, if a
fly settled upon my body, many were distressed on my behalf.
Now, should I be taken in captivity, not one among my friends
would come to aid me. Well, do I know the orphan's sorrow, for
my father departed in my childhood.
i.e., Show one thing and sells another of inferior quantity.
The expression is commonly used to denote a hypocrite.
13. To do either is considered an act of virtue among Islamics.
14. By reason of the opportunity it presented to bestow his charity.
15. It is impossible to convey the beauty of this line in English.
The Persian words here used to express "food" and "kiss"
are written alike, except for one diacritical mark, and the word
"change" literally means "making an error in writing
and changing the diacritical points."
16. Hatim Tai was an Arabian chief who was renowned for his generosity.
He was born in Yemen, in Arabia Felix, and lived some time before
Mohammed in the sixth century. Many legends have been woven around
his life and character.
17. Horse flesh was formerly eaten in parts of the East.