STORY IX. The Darvesh who Broke his Vow.
There was once a Darvesh who took up his abode in the mountains, in order to
enjoy perfect solitude. In that place were many fruit-trees, and the Darvesh
made a vow that he would never pluck any of the fruit, but eat only what was
shaken down by the wind. For a long time he kept his vow; but a time came when
there was no wind, and consequently no fruit was shaken down. The Darvesh was
true to his vow for five days, but ho could then endure the pangs of hunger no
longer, and he stretched out his hand and plucked some of the fruit from the
branches. The reason of this lapse on his part was that he had omitted to say
"If God will" when making his vow; and as nothing can be accomplished
without God's aid, ho could not possibly keep his vow. Shortly afterwards the
chief of the police visited the mountains in pursuit of a band of robbers, and
arrested the Darvesh along with them, and cut off his hand. When he discovered
his mistake he apologized very earnestly; but the Darvesh reassured him, saying
that men were not to blame, as God had evidently designed to punish him for
breaking his vow 'by depriving him of the hand which had sinned in plucking the
All things dependent upon the will of God.
Therefore hath God commanded, "Make an exception,
Couple the words 'If God will' with your vows. 2
Because the governance of actions is in my hands,
The wills of all are subject to my will.
Every moment I impart a fresh bias to the heart,
Every instant I set a fresh mark on the heart;
Each day I am engaged in a fresh work, 3
There is naught that swerves from my purpose."
There is a tradition, "The heart is like a feather
In the desert, which is borne captive by the winds; 4
The wind drives it everywhere at random,
Now to right and now to left in opposite directions."
According to another tradition, know the heart is like
To water in a kettle boiling on the fire.
So every moment a fresh purpose occurs to the heart,
Not proceeding from itself, but from its situation.
Why, then, are you confident about the heart's purposes?
Why make you vows only to be covered with shame?
All these changes proceed from the effect of God's will;
Although you see the pit, you cannot avoid it.
The strange thing is, not that winged fowl
Fall into the deadly snare without seeing it,
But that they see the snare and the limed twig,
And yet fall into it, whether they will or no;
Their eyes and ears are open and the snare is in front,
Yet they fly into the snare with their own wings!
Comparison of the divine decrees to something
that is hidden, yet whose effects are seen.
Behold that king's son clad in rags,
With bare head and fallen into distress;
Consumed by lusts and riotous living,
Having sold all his clothes and substance;
Having lost house and home, utterly disgraced,
Fulfilling the desire of his enemies by his disgrace.
If he sees a pious man he cries, "O sir,
Aid me, for the love of God;
For I have fallen into this dire disgrace;
I have squandered goods and gold and wealth.
Aid me so that perchance I may escape hence,
And extricate myself from this deep slough."
He repeats this prayer to high and low,
" Release me, release me, release me!"
His eyes and ears are open, and he is free from bonds,
No jailer watches him, no chain binds him;
What, then, is the bond from which he asks release?
What is the prison from which ho seeks an exit?
'Tis the bond of God's purpose and hidden decrees;
Ah! none but the pure in sight can see that bond;
Though not visible, that bond exists in concealment;
'Tis more stringent than prison or chains of iron,
For the mason can pull down prison walls,
And blacksmiths can break asunder iron chains;
But, strange to say, this ponderous hidden bond,
Blacksmiths are impotent to break this asunder!
Ahmad alone could see that bond on Omm Jahil's back, 5
And the rope of palm fiber bound upon her neck;
Yea, he saw wood on the back of the wife of Bu Lahab,
And she, the bearer of the firewood, said it was heavy.
No eye but his saw that rope and that firewood,
For to him things unseen were visible.
The others explained it, saying
That Ahmad was beside himself, and they in their senses.
Nevertheless from the weight of the load her back bent,
And she complained of its weight before him,
Saying, "Aid me to escape from this load,
And to shake off this grievous burden."
He who sees clearly these indications,
Does he not know also the doomed from the elect?
Yea, he knows them, yet conceals it by command of God,
Since God permits him not to reveal it.