STORY I. The Lover and his Mistress.
THE fourth book begins with an address to Husamu-'d-Din, and this is followed
by the story of the lover and his mistress, already commenced in the third
book. A certain lover had been separated from his mistress for the space of
seven years, during which he never relaxed his efforts to find her. At last his
constancy and perseverance were rewarded, in accordance with the promises
"The seeker shall find," and "Whoso shall have wrought an atom's
weight of good shall behold it." 1 One night, as he was wandering
through the city, he was pursued by the patrol, and, in order to escape them,
took refuge in a garden, where he found his long-sought mistress. This
occasioned him to reflect how often men "hate the things that are good for
them," 2 and led him to bless the rough patrol who had procured
him the bliss of meeting with his mistress.
Apropos of this, an anecdote is told of a preacher who was in the habit of
blessing robbers and oppressors, because their evil example had turned him to
righteousness. The moment the lover found himself alone with his mistress, he
attempted to embrace her, but his mistress repulsed him, saying, that though no
men 'were present, yet the wind was blowing and that showed that God, the mover
of the wind, was also present. The lover replied, "It may be I am lacking
in good manners, but I am not lacking in constancy and fidelity towards
you." His mistress replied, "One must judge of the hidden by the
manifest; I see for myself that your outward behavior is bad, and thence I
cannot but infer that your boast of hidden virtues is not warranted by actual
facts. You are ashamed to misconduct yourself in the sight of men, but have no
scruple to do so in the presence of the All-seeing God, and hence I doubt the
existence of the virtuous sentiments which you claim to possess, but which can
only be known to yourself." To illustrate this, she told the story of a
Sufi and his faithless wife. This wife was one day entertaining a paramour,
when she was surprised by the sudden return of her husband. On the spur of the
moment she threw a woman's dress over her paramour and presented him to her
husband as a rich lady who had come to propose a marriage between her son and
the Sufi's daughter, saying she did not care for wealth, but only regarded
modesty and rectitude of conduct. To this the Sufi replied, that as from her
coming unattended it was plain that the lady had not the wealth she pretended
to have, it was more than probable that her pretensions to extraordinary
modesty and humility were also fictitious. The lover then proceeded to excuse
himself by the plea that he had wished to test his mistress, and ascertain for
himself whether she was a modest woman or not. He said he of course knew
beforehand that she would prove to be a modest woman, but still he wished to
have ocular demonstration of the fact. His mistress reproved him for trying to
deceive her with false pretences, assuring him that, after he had been detected
in a fault, his only proper course was to confess it, as Adam had done.
Moreover, she added that an attempt to put her to the test would have been an
extremely unworthy proceeding, only to be paralleled by Abu Jahl's attempt to
prove the truth of the Prophet's claims by calling on him to perform a miracle.
The soul of good in things evil. Evil only relative.
The lover invoked blessings on that rough patrol,
Because their harshness had wrought bliss for him.
They were poison to most men, but sweets to him,
Because those harsh ones had united him with his love.
In the world there is nothing absolutely bad;
Know, moreover, evil is only relative.
In the world there is neither poison nor antidote,
Which is not a foot to one and a fetter to another;
To one the power of moving, to another a clog;
To one a poison, to another an antidote.
Serpents' poison is life to serpents,
In relation to mankind it is death.
To the creatures of the sea the sea is a garden,
To the creatures of the land it is fatal.
In the same way, O man, reckon up with intelligence
The relations of these things in endless variety.
In relation to this man Zaid is as Satan,
In relation to another he is as a Sultan.
The latter calls Zaid a sincere Mussulman,
The former calls him a Gueber deserving to be killed.
Zaid, one and the same person, is life to the one,
And to the other an annoyance and a pest.
If you desire that God may be pleasing to you,
Then look at Him with the eyes of them that love Him.
Look not at that Beauty with your own eyes,
Look at that Object of desire with His votaries' eyes;
Shut your own eyes from beholding that sweet Object,
And borrow from His admirers their eyes;
Nay, borrow from Him both eyes and sight,
And with those eyes of His look upon His face,
In order that you may not be disappointed with the sight.
God says, "Whoso is God's, God also is his."
God says, "I am his eye, his hand, his heart," 3
That his good fortune may emerge from adversity.
Whatsoever is hateful to you, if it should lead you
To your beloved, at once becomes agreeable to you.
Why God is named "Hearing," "Seeing" and
God calls himself "Seeing," to the end that
His eye may every moment scare you from sinning.
God calls himself "Hearing," to the end that
You may close your lips against foul discourse.
God calls himself "Knowing," to the end that
You may be afraid to plot evil.
These names are not mere accidental names of God,
As a negro may be called Kafu'r (white);
They are names derived from God's essential attributes,
Not mere vain titles of the First Cause.
For if so, they would be only empty pleasantries,
Like calling the deaf a hearer and the blind a seer,
Or a name like "impudent" for a modest man,
Or "beautiful" for an ugly negro,
Or such a title as "Haji" for a new-born boy,
Or that of "Ghazi" applied to a noble idler.
If such titles as these are used in praising persons
Who do not possess the qualities implied, 'tis wrong;
'Twould be jesting or mockery or madness.
"God is exalted above" what is said by evil men. 4
I knew you before I met you face to face;
That you had a fair face but an evil heart;
Yea, I knew you before I saw you,
That you were rooted in iniquity through guile.
When my eye is red owing to inflammation,
I know 'tis so from the pain, though I see it not.
You regarded me as a lamb without a shepherd;
You fancied that I had no guardian.
Lovers have suffered chastisement for this cause,
That they have cast ill-timed looks at fair ones.
They have supposed the fawn to have no shepherd,
They have supposed the captive to be going a begging;
Till in the twinkling of an eye an arrow pierces them,
Saying, "I am her guardian; look not at her rashly!"
What! am I less than a lamb or a fallow deer,
That I should have none to shepherd me?
Nay, I have a Guardian worthy of dominion,
Who knows every wind that blows upon me.
He is aware whether that wind is chill or mild,
He is not ignorant nor absent, O mean one.
The carnal soul is made by God blind and deaf;
I saw with the heart's eye your blindness afar off.
For this cause I never inquired about you for eight years
Because I saw you filled with ignorance and duplicity.
Why indeed should I inquire about one in the furnace,
Who is bowed down with reproach, like yourself?
Comparison of the world to a bath stove,
and of piety to the hot bath.
The lust of the world is like a bath stove,
Whereby the bath of piety is heated;
But the lot of the pious is purity from the stove's filth,
Because they dwell in the bath and in cleanliness.
The rich are as those that carry dung
To heat the furnace of the bath withal.
God has instilled into them cupidity,
That the bath may be warmed and pleasant.
Quit this stove and push on into the bath;
Know quitting the stove to be the bath itself.
Whoso is in the stove-room is as a servant
To him who is temperate and prudent.
Your lust is as fire in the world,
With a hundred greedy mouths wide open.
In the judgment of reason this gold is foul dung,
Although, like dung, it serves to kindle the fire.
Whoso was born in the stove-room and never saw purity,
The smell of sweet musk is disagreeable to him.
In illustration of this, a story follows of a tanner who was accustomed to bad
smells in the course of his trade, and who was half killed by the smell of musk
in the bazaar of the perfumers, but was cured by the accustomed smell of dung.