knows not G-d nor performs His worship who is not contented with
Contentment maketh a man
rich - tell this to the avaricious.
O irresolute one! Be tranquil,
for grass grows not upon revolving stones.
Pamper not thy body if thou
be a man of sense, for in so doing dost thou seek thine own destruction.
The wise acquire virtue,
and they that pamper their bodies are devoid of merit.
Eating and sleeping is the
creed of animals; to adopt it is the manner of fools.
Happy is that fortunate
who, in meditation, prepares for the last journey by means of
the knowledge of G-d.
To him who knows not the
darkness from the light, the face of a demon is as that of a
How can the falcon fly to
the sky when the stone of avarice is tied to its wing?
If thou pay less attention
to thy food than to worship thou mayest become an angel. First,
cultivate the qualities of a man, then reflect upon the character
Eat in proportion to thy
hunger; how can he give praises whom scarce can breathe by reason
of his gluttony?
He whose stomach is full
is void of wisdom. The prey is entrapped in the snare because
of its greed.
THE SNARES OF AVARICE
THE STORY OF THE KING KHWARAZM
A covetous man paid an early
morning visit to the king of Khwarazm, and twice prostrated himself
to the ground before him.
"Tell me, O father,"
his son inquired, "didst thou not say that Mecca was thy
place of worship? Why didst thou today repeat thy prayers before
Contentment exalteth the
head; that which is full of avarice comes no higher than the
He who has wrapped up the
volume of his avarice needs not to write to anyone, "I am
thy slave and servant."
By begging wilt thou be
driven from every assembly; drive it from thyself, so that no
one may drive thee away.
CONCERNING THE EVIL OF OVER-EATING
Some said to a pious man
who was stricken with fever, "Ask for some conserve of roses
from such a one."
"O, friend!" He
replied, "It were better to die in bitterness than to endure
the affliction of his sour face."
A wise man does not eat
conserve of roses from the hand of one whose face has been soured
Pursue not that which thy
heart desires, for the pampering of the body destroys the fires
The gluttonous man bears
the weight of his corpulence; if he obtains not food, he bears
the weight of grief. It is better that the stomach should be
empty than the mind.
THE END OF GLUTTONY
A STORY OF A GLUTTON
In company with some religious
mendicants I entered a date-grove in Basra. One of the party
was a glutton. He, having girt his loins, climbed up a tree,
and falling headlong, died.
The headsman of the village
asked, "Who killed this man?"
"Go softly, friend,"
I answered, "he fell from a branch - 'twas the weight of
A STORY OF A RECLUSE
The Amir of Tartary presented
a silken robe to an elderly recluse, who, putting it on, kissed
the hand of the messenger, and said, "A thousand praises
to the king! Excellent is this splendid robe, but I prefer my
own patched habit."
If thou hast relinquished
the world, sleep upon the bare ground - kiss it not before any
one for the sake of a costly carpet.
A STORY ILLUMINATING THE
To a poor man who had naught
to eat but bread and onions, a foolish man remarked, "Go,
wretched man, and bring some cooked meat from the public feast.
Ask boldly and be not afraid of anyone, for he who is modest
must go without his share."
Acting on this advice, the
beggar put on his cloak and started off. The servants of the
feast tore off his clothes and broke his arm.
Weeping, he cried, "O,
my soul! What remedy is there for one's own actions? One seized
by avarice becomes the seeker of his own misfortunes. After this,
the bread and onions are good enough for me."
A barley loaf procured by
the exertions of one's own arm is better than a loaf of flour
from the table of the liberal."
THE STORY OF AN AMBITIOUS
A cat who lived in the house
of an old woman of humble circumstances wandered to the palace
of a noble, whose slaves repulsed the animal with arrows.
Bleeding from many wounds,
the cat ran off in terror, thus reflecting, "Since I have
escaped from the hands of those slaves, the mice in the ruined
hut of the old woman are good enough for me."
Honey is not worth the price
of a sting; better it is to be content with the syrup of dates
than expose oneself to that.
G-d is not pleased with
him who is not contented with his lot.
CONTENTEDNESS WITH ONE'S LOT
THE STORY OF A SHORT-SIGHTED
MAN AND HIS
A certain child having cut
its teeth, the father bent his head in anxious thought and said,
"How can I obtain the bread and food of which the child
will now have need?"
"Be not alarmed,"
his wife replied, "for until our child shall die, He who
gaveth him teeth will send him bread. A rich man provides for
his slave; why should not He who created the slave do likewise?
Thou has not the trust in G-d that the purchased slave reposes
in his master."
I have heard that in olden
times stones became silver in the hands of saints. Think not
that this is contrary to reason - when thou hast become contented,
silver and stones will be as one to thee.
Say to the devotee who worships
kings that a king is poorer than a dervish.
A dinar satisfies a beggar;
Feridun was but half content with the whole of the kingdom of
A beggar free from care
is better off than a troubled king.
The villager and his wife
sleep more happily than the king ever did in his palace.
Though one be a king and
the other a cotton-carder, when they sleep in death the night
of both becomes day.
When thou seest a rich man
filled with pride, go and give thanks, O thou who art poor, that
thou, praise be to G-d! hast not the power to inflict injury
A STORY OF A HOLY MAN WHO
A holy man built a house
as high as is own stature. Someone said to him, "I know
thee able to erect a better house than this."
"Enough," he cried,
"what need have I of a lofty roof? This that I have built
is high enough for a dwelling which I must leave at death."
Set not thy house in the
path of a flood,*28 O slave, for never will it be perfected.
SAFETY IN RETIREMENT
STORY OF A SHEIKH WHO BECAME
A certain king died, and,
having no heir, bequeathed the throne to a vulnerable sheikh.
When the recluse heard the roar the drums of empire, he desired
no longer the corner of seclusion. He leads the army to left
and right, and became so strong and valiant that he filled the
hearts of the brave with fear.
After he had slain a number
of his enemies some others combined together against him and
reduced him to such straits in his fortified town that he sent
a message to a pious man, saying, "Aid me with thy prayers,
for the sword and arrow do not avail."
The devotee laughed and
said, "Why did he not content himself with half a loaf and
his vigils? Did not the wealth-worshipping Korach*29 know that
the treasure of safety lies in the corner of retirement?"
DISCOURSE CONCERNING RICHES
The generous man may attain
to perfection although he possesses not gold.
Dost think that if a mean
man became a Korach his sordid nature would be changed?
If he who trades in liberality
obtains not bread, his nature remains yet rich.
Generosity is the soil,
and riches the seed that is sown; give, that the root may not
be destitute of a branch.
Exert not thyself in the
amassing of wealth, for evil is the smell of stagnant water;
strive rather, to be generous, for running water becomes a flood.
The miser who falls from
position and wealth, but seldom stands a second time upon his
If thou be a precious jewel,*30
grieve not, for Time will not pass thee by; it is the brickbat
by the wayside that goes unheeded. Shavings of gold that fall
from the scissors are searched for with a candle.
Khawarazm is situated to the east of the Caspian Sea, near the
mouth of the Oxus.
28. I.e. in this transient and fleeting world.
29. Korach, the cousin of Moses and the proverbial miser of the
30. I.e. if you possess merit.