comes from the favor of G-d, not from the might of the powerful.
If the heavens bestow not
fortune, by no valor can it be obtained.
The ant suffers not by reason
of its weakness; the tiger eats not by virtue of its strength.
Since the hand reaches not
to the skies, accept as inevitable the fortune that it brings.
If thy life is destined
to be long, no snake or sword will harm thee; when the fated
day of death arrives, the antidote will kill thee no less than
THE STORY OF A SOLDIER OF ISFAHAN
In Isfahan I had a friend
who was warlike, spirited, and shrewd. His hands and dagger were
forever stained with blood. The hearts of his enemies were consumed
by fear of him; even the tigers stood in awe of him. In battle
he was like a sparrow among locusts; in combat, sparrows and
men were alike to him. Had he made an attack upon Feridun, he
would not have given the latter time to draw his sword. Neither
in bravery nor magnanimity had he an equal.
This warrior formed a liking
for my company, but as I was not destined to remain in Isfahan,
Fate transferred me from Iraq to Syria, in which holy land my
staying was agreeable. After some time the desire for my home
attracted me, so I returned to Iraq.
One night, the memory of
the sepoy passed through my mind; the salt of his friendship
opened the wounds of my gratitude, for I had eaten salt from
his hand. To meet him, I went to Isfahan and inquired as to where
I chanced upon him. He who
had been a youth had become old; his form, once erect as an arrow,
had become as a bow. Like a hoary mountain, his head was covered
with snowy hair. Time had conquered him and twisted the wrist
of his bravery. The pride of his strength had gone; the head
of weakness was upon his knees.
I exclaimed. "What has made thee decrepit like an old fox?"
RESIGNATION TO FATE
He laughed and said, "Since
the day of the battle of Tartary, I have expelled the thoughts
of fighting from my head. Then did I see the earth arrayed with
spears like a forest of reeds. I raised like smoke the dust of
conflict, but when Fortune does not favor, of what avail is fury?
I am one who, in combat, could take with a spear a ring from
the palm of the hand, but as my star did not befriend me, they
encircled me as with a ring. I seized the opportunity of flight,
for only a fool strives with Fate. How could my helmet and cuirass
aid me when my bright star favored me not? When the key of victory
is not in the hand, no one can break open the door of conquest
with his arms.
"The enemy were a pack
of leopards, and as strong as elephants. The heads of the heroes
were encased in iron, as were also the hoofs of the horses. We
urged on our Arab steeds like a cloud, and when the two armies
encountered each other, thou wouldst have said they had struck
down the sky to the earth. From the raining arrows, that descended
like hail, the storm of death arose in every corner. Not one
of our troops came out of the battle, but his cuirass was soaked
with blood. Not that our swords were blunt - it was the vengeance
of stars of ill fortune. Overpowered, we surrendered, like a
fish which, though protected by scales, is caught by the hook
in the bait. Since Fortune averted her face, useless was our
shield against the arrows of Fate."
THE STORY OF THE DOCTOR AND
One night a villager could
not sleep owing to a pain in his side. A doctor said, "This
pain is caused by his having eaten the leaves of the vine. I
shall be astonished if he lasts through the night, for the arrows
of a Tartar in his breast were better for him than the eating
of such indigestible food."
That night the doctor died.
Forty years have since passed and the villager yet lives.
THE STORY OF THE VILLAGER AND
The ass of a villager died,
so he set the head upon a vine in his garden in order that it
might ward off the Evil Eye.
A sage old man passed by
and laughingly remarked, "Dost think, O friend, this will
effect the purpose? In life, the ass could not protect itself
from blows; so, in weakness, did it die."
What knows the physician
of the condition of the sick, when, helpless, he himself will
die through illness?
PREDESTINATION OF FORTUNE
A STORY ILLUSTRATING LUCK
A poor man dropped a dinar
in the road. He searched much, but at last, despairing, abandoned
Someone came along and found
the coin by chance.
Good and ill fortunes are
predestined. Our daily portion depends not upon our strength
and efforts, for those who are strongest and strive the most
stand often in the direst need.
A STORY OF ONE WHO BLAMED
There was once a rich and
prosperous man named Bakhtyar. The wife of one of his neighbors,
who was in the other extreme of poverty, upbraided her husband
one night when he went to her empty-handed, saying, "No
one is so poor and unfortunate as thee. Take a lesson from thy
neighbors, who are well to-do. Why art thou not fortunate like
The man replied, "I
am incapable of aught; quarrel not with Fate. I have not been
endowed with the power to make myself a Bakhtyar."*25
THE STORY OF A DERVISH AND
A dervish remarked to his
wife, who was of ill-favored countenance, "Since Fate has
made thee ugly, do not encrust thy face with cosmetics."
Who can attain good fortune
by force! Who, with collyrium, can make the blind to see?
Not one among the philosophers
of Greece or Rome could produce honey from the thorn.
Wild beasts cannot become men; education is wasted upon them.
A mirror can be freed from stain, but it cannot be made from
Roses do not blossom on the branches of the willow; hot baths
never yet made an Ethiopian white.
Since one cannot escape the arrows of Fate, resignation is the
FATE BLINDS THE EYE
THE STORY OF A VULTURE AND
A vulture said to a kite,
"No one can see so far as I."
the kite, "but what canst thou see across the desert?"
Gazing down, the vulture
exclaimed, "Yonder do I see a grain or wheat."
Thereupon, they flew to
the ground. When the vulture settled upon the wheat he became
caught in a trap. He had not known that, through his eating the
grain, Fate would ensnare him by the neck.
Not every oyster contains
a pearl, not every archer hits the target.
"Of what use,"
the kite inquired, "was it to see the grain when thou couldst
not discern the trap of thine enemy?"
the captive vulture, "availeth not with Destiny."
When the decrees of past
eternity are brought to action, the keenest eyes are rendered
blind by Fate.
In the ocean, where no shoreline
appears, the swimmer strives in vain.
A STORY OF A CAMEL
A young camel said to its
mother, "After thou hast made a journey, rest awhile."
"If the bridle were
in my hands," was the reply, "no one would ever see
me in the string of camels with a load upon my back."
Fate is the helmsman of
the ship of life, no matter though the owner rend his clothes.
O, Sa'di! Look not for aid
from any man. G-d is the giver, and He alone. If thou worship
Him, the door of His mercy sufficeth thee if He drive thee away,
no one will ease thee. If He make thee to wear a crown, raise
thy head; if not, bow thy head in despair.
A DISCOURSE CONCERNING HYPOCRISY
Who knows that thou art
not pledged to G-d even though thou standest in prayer without
That prayer is the key to
hell which thou performest only before the eyes of men.
If the high-road of thy
life lead to aught but G-d, thy prayer mat will be thrown into
He whose heart is good and
makes no outward show of piety is better than one of outward
sanctity whose heart is false.
A night-prowling robber
is better than a sinner in the tunic of a saint.
Expect not wages from Omar,
O son, when thou workest in the house of Zaid.
If in private I am bad and
mean, of what avail is it to pose before the world with honor?
How much will the bag of hypocrisy weigh in the Scales of Justice?
The outside of the hypocrite's
coat is neater than the lining, for the one is seen and the other
Bakhtyar literally means fortunate the play on the word is, therefore,
26. "Darkness" and "light" are used metaphorically
in the sense of "falseness" and "truth."