STORY IV. Another Tyrannical Jewish King.
A certain Jewish king, the same who is referred to in the Sura "Signs of
the Zodiac," I made up his mind to utterly exterminate the Christian
faith, and with that view he set up a huge idol, and issued commands that all
who refused to worship it should be cast into the fire. Thereupon his officers
seized a Christian woman with her babe, and as she refused to worship it, they
cast the babe into the fire. But the babe cried out to its mother, "Be not
afraid, the fire has no power to burn me; it is as cool as water!" Hearing
this, the rest of the Christians leapt into the fire, and found that it did not
burn them. The king reproached the fire for failing to do its office, but the
fire replied that it was God's servant, and that its consuming properties were
not to be used for evil purposes. It then blazed up and consumed the king, and
all his Jews with him.
Second causes only operate in subordination to,
and form the impulsion of, the First Cause.
Air, earth, water, and fire are God's servants.
To us they seem lifeless, but to God living.
In God's presence fire ever waits to do its service,
Like a submissive lover with no will of its own.
When you strike steel on flint fire leaps forth;
But 'tis by God's command it thus steps forth.
Strike not together the flint and steel of wrong,
For the pair will generate more, like man and woman.
The flint and steel are themselves causes, yet
Look higher for the First Cause, O righteous man!
For that Cause precedes this second cause.
How can a cause exist of itself without precedent cause?
That Cause makes this cause operative,
And again helpless and inoperative.
That Cause, which is a guiding light to the prophets,
That, I say, is higher than these second causes.
Men's minds recognize these second causes,
But only prophets perceive the action of the First Cause.
Praise compared to vapour drawn upwards,
and then descending in rain.
Though water be enclosed in a reservoir,
Yet air will absorb it, for 'tis its supporter;
It sets it free and bears it to its source,
Little by little, so that you see not the process.
In like manner this breath of ours by degrees
Steals away our souls from the prison-house of earth.
" The good word riseth up to Him," 2
Rising from us whither He knoweth.
Our breathings are lifted up in fear of God,
Offerings from us to the throne of Eternity.
Then come down to us rewards for our praises,
The double thereof, yea, mercies from the King of Glory.
Therefore are we constrained to utter these praises
That slaves may attain the height of God's gifts.
And so this rising and descent go on evermore,
And cease not forever and aye.
To speak in plain Persian, this attraction
Comes from the same quarter whence comes this sweet savour. 3