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STORY X. The Man who was Tattooed.
It was the custom of the men of Qazwin to have various devices tattooed upon
their bodies. A certain coward went to the artist to have such a device
tattooed on his back, and desired that it might be the figure of a lion. But
when he felt the pricks of the needles he roared with pain, and said to the
artist, "What part of the lion are you now painting?" The artist
replied, "I am doing the tail." The patient cried, "Never mind
the tail; go on with another part." The artist accordingly began in
another part, but the patient again cried out and told him to try somewhere
else. Wherever the artist applied his needles, the patient raised similar
objections, till at last the artist dashed all his needles and pigments on the
ground, and refused to proceed any further.
The Prophet's counsels to 'Ali to follow the direction of the Pir or Spiritual
Guide, and to endure his chastisements patiently.
The Prophet said to 'Ali, "O 'Ali,
Thou art the Lion of God, a hero most valiant;
Yet confide not in thy lion-like valour,
But seek refuge under the palm-trees of the 'Truth.'
Whoso takes obedience as his exemplar
Shares its proximity to the ineffable Presence.
Do thou seek to draw near to Reason; let not thy heart
Rely, like others, on thy own virtue and piety.
Come under the shadow of the Man of Reason, 1
Thou canst not find it in the road of the traditionists.
That man enjoys close proximity to Allah;
Turn not away from obedience to him in any wise;
For he makes the thorn a bed of roses,
And gives sight to the eyes of the blind.
His shadow on earth is as that of Mount Qaf,
His spirit is as a Simurgh soaring on high.
He lends aid to the slaves of the friends of God,
And advances to high place them who seek him.
Were I to tell his praises till the last day,
My words would not be too many nor admit of curtailment,
He is the sun of the spirit, not that of the sky,
For from his light men and angels draw life.
That sun is hidden in the form of a man,
Understand me! Allah knows the truth.
O 'Ali, out of all forms of religious service
Choose thou the shadow of that dear friend of God!
Every man takes refuge in some form of service,
And chooses for himself some asylum;
Do thou seek refuge in the shadow of the wise man,
That thou mayest escape thy fierce secret foes.
Of all forms of service this is fittest for thee;
Thou shalt surpass all who were before thee.
Having chosen thy Director, be submissive to him,
Even as Moses submitted to the commands of Khizr; 2
Have patience with Khizr's actions, O sincere one!
Lest he say, 'There is a partition between us.'
Though he stave in thy boat, yet hold thy peace;
Though he slay a young man, heave not a sigh.
God declares his hand to be even as God's hand,
For He saith, ( The hand of God is over their hands.' 3
The hand of God impels him and gives him life;
Nay, not life only, but an eternal soul.
A friend is needed; travel not the road alone,
Take not thy own way through this desert!
Whoso travels this road alone
Only does so by aid of the might of holy men.
The hand of the Director is not weaker than theirs;
His hand is none other than the grasp of Allah!
If absent saints can confer such protection,
Doubtless present saints are more powerful than absent.
If such food be bestowed on the absent,
What dainties may not the guest who is present expect?
The courtier who attends in the presence of the king
Is served better than the stranger outside the gate.
The difference between them is beyond calculation;
One sees the light, the other on]y the veil.
Strive to obtain entrance within,
If thou wouldst not remain as a ring outside the door.
Having chosen thy Director, be not weak of heart,
Nor yet sluggish and lax as water and mud;
But if thou takest umbrage at every rub,
How wilt thou become a polished mirror?"