O creature of G-d, wast created of the dust; therefore, be humble
as the dust. Be not covetous, nor oppressive, nor headstrong.
Thou art from the dust; be not like fire. When the terrible fire
raised his head in pride, the dust prostrated itself in humility.
And since the fire was arrogant
and the dust was meek, from the former were the demons formed,
and from the latter mankind.
THE STORY OF A RAINDROP
A raindrop fell from a spring
cloud, and, seeing the wide expanse of the sea, was shamed. "Where
the sea is," it reflected, "where am I? Compared with
that, forsooth, I am extinct."
While thus regarding itself
with an eye of contempt, an oyster took it to its bosom, and
Fate so shaped its course that eventually the raindrop became
a famous royal pearl.
It was exalted, for it was
humble. Knocking at the door of extinction, it became existent.
HUMILITY THE PATH TO GREATNESS
A STORY ILLUSTRATIVE OF PIOUS
THEMSELVES WITH CONTEMPT
A sagacious youth of noble
family landed at a seaport of Turkey, and, as he displayed piety
add wisdom, his baggage was deposited in a mosque.
One day the priest said
to him, "Sweep away the dust and rubbish from the mosque."
Immediately, the young man
went away and no one saw him there again. Thus, did the elder
and his followers suppose he did not care to serve.
The next day, a servant
of the mosque met him on the road and said, "Thou didst
act wrongly in thy perverse judgment. Knowest thou not, O conceited
youth, that men are dignified by service?"
Sorrowfully, the youth began
to weep. "O soul-cherishing and heart-illuminating friend!"
He answered, "I saw no dirt or rubbish in that holy place
but mine own corrupt self. Therefore, I retraced my steps, for
a mosque is better cleansed from such."
Humility is the only ritual
for a devotee. If thou desire greatness, be humble; no other
ladder is there by which to climb.
A STORY OF SULTAN BAYAZID BASTAMI
When Bayazid was coming
from his bath one morning during the Eid festival, someone unwittingly
emptied a tray of ashes from a window upon his head. With his
face and turban al bespattered, he rubbed his hands in gratitude
and said, "I am in truth worthy of the fires of hell. Why
should I be angered by a few ashes?"
The great do not regard
themselves; look not for the godliness in a self-conceited man.
Eminence does not consist in outward show and vaunting words,
nor dignity in hauteur and pretension.
On the Day of Judgment thou
wilt see in Paradise him who sought truth and rejected vain pretension.
He who is headstrong and
obdurate falleth headlong; if thou desire greatness, abandon
THE LAUDABLE CHARACTER
DISCOURSE ON CONCEIT
Expect not he who is possessed
of worldly vanities to follow the path of religion, nor look
for godliness in him who wallows in conceit.
If thou desire dignity,
do not, like the mean, regard the fellows with contemptuous eyes.
Seek no position more honorable
than that of being known to the world as a man of laudable character.
Thou deemest him not great
who, being of equal rank, is haughty towards thee; when thou
makest a similar display before others, dost thou not appear
before them as the arrogant appear before thee?
If thou are eminent, laugh
not, if thou art wise, at them that are lowly. Many have fallen
from high whose places have been taken by the fallen.
Though thou be free from
defect, revile not me who am full of blemishes.
One holds the chain of the
Ka'ba temple in his hands; another lies drunken in the tavern.
If G-d calls the latter, who can drive him away. If He expel
the former, who can bring him back? The one cannot implore the
divine help be reason of his good deeds, nor is the door of repentance
closed upon the other.
THE STORY OF THE DERVISH AND
THE PROUD GHAZI
A poorly clad doctor of
law and divinity sat one day in the front row of seats in a Ghazi's
court. The Ghazi gave him a sharp look, whereupon the usher took
the man by the arm and said, "Get up; dost thou not know
that the best place is not for such as thee? Either take a lower
seat, or remain standing, or leave the court altogether. Be not
so bold as to occupy the seat of the great. If thou are humble,
pose not as a lion. Not every one is worthy of the chief seat;
honor is proportionate to rank, and rank to merit."
He who sits with honor in
a place lower than that of which he is worthy falls not with
ignominy from eminence.
Fuming with anger, the doctor
moved to a lower seat. Two advocates in the court then entered
into a spirited discussion, and flew at each other with their
tongues like fighting-cocks with beak and claw. They were involved
in a complicated knot that neither could unravel. From the last
row of seats the tattered doctor roared out with the voice of
a lion in the forest:
"It is not the veins
of the neck that should stand out in argument," he said,
"but the proofs, which should be full of meaning. I, too,
have the faculty of argument."
"Speak on," they
THE ESSENTIALS OF WORTH
With the quill of eloquence
that he possessed, the doctor engraved his words upon the minds
of his listeners like inscriptions on a signet -ring; and, drawing
his pen through the letters of pretension, he invoked applause
from every corner. So hard did he drive the steed of speech that
the Ghazi lagged behind like an ass in the mire. Removing his
cloak and turban, the latter sent them to the doctor as a token
of his respect.
"Alas!" he said,
"I did not discern thy merit, nor welcome thee on thy arrival.
I regret to see thee in the condition with such a stock of knowledge."
The usher then approached
the stranger courteously in order that he might place the Ghazi's
turban upon his head. But the doctor repelled him with his hands
and tongue, saying:
"Place not upon my
head the fetters of pride, for tomorrow this fifty-yarded turban
would turn my head from those in jaded garb. Those who called
me 'lord' and 'chief' would then appear insignificant in mine
eyes. Is pure water different whether it be contained in a goblet
of gold or an earthen ewer? A man's head requires brain and intellect,
not an imposing turban like thine. A big head does not make one
worthy; it is like the gourd, void of kernel. Be not proud because
of thy turban and beard, for the one is cotton and the other
grass. One should aim at the degree of eminence that is comfortable
with one's merit. With all this intellect, I will not call thee
man, though a hundred slaves walk behind thee. How well spoke
the shell when a greedy fool picked it out of the mire: 'None
will buy me for the smallest price; be not so insane as to wrap
me up in silk.' A man is not better than his fellows by reason
of his wealth, for an ass, though covered with a satin cloth,
is still an ass."
In this way the clever doctor
washed the rancor from his heart with the water of words. Thus
do those who are aggrieved speak harshly. Be not idle when thine
enemy has fallen. Dash out his brains when thou art able, for
delay will efface the grudge from thy mind.
So overcome was the Ghazi
by his vehemence that he exclaimed, "Verily, this day is
a hard one." He bit his fingers in amazement, and his eyes
stared at the doctor like the two stars near the pole of the
lesser bear. As for the latter, he went abruptly out and was
never seen there again. They in the court clamored to know whence
such an impertinent fellow had come. An official went in search
of him, and ran in all directions, asking whether a man of that
description had been seen. Someone said, "We know no one
in this city so eloquent as Sa'di."
A hundred thousand praises
to him who said so; see how sweetly he uttered the bitter truth!
SA'DI 'S ELOQUENCE
THE STORY OF THE HONEY SELLER
A man of smiling countenance
sold honey, captivating the hearts of all by his pleasant manner.
His customers were as numerous as flies around the sugar cane
- if he had sold poison people would have bought it for honey.
A forbidding looking man
regarded him with envy, being jealous of the way his business
prospered. One day he paraded the town with a tray of honey on
his head and a scowl on his face. He wandered about crying his
wares, but no one evinced a desire to buy. At nightfall, having
earned no money, he went and sat dejectedly in a corner, with
a face as bitter as that of a dinner fearful of retribution.
The wife of one of his neighbors jokingly remarked, "Honey
is bitter to on of sour temper."
It is wrong to eat bread
at the table of one whose face is as wrinkled with frowns as
the cloth on which it is served.
O, sir! Add not to thine
own burdens, for an evil temper brings disaster in its train.
If thou hast not a sweet
tongue like Sa'di, thou hast neither gold nor silver.
A STORY ILLUSTRATING THE FORBEARANCE
OF GOOD MEN
I have heard that a debased
drunkard caught a pious man by the collar. The latter received
his blows in silence, and in forbearance lifted not his head.
A passerby remarked, "Art
thou not a man? It is a pity to be patient with this ignorant
The pious man replied, "Speak
not thus to me. A foolish drunkard collars one by the neck in
the thought that he is fighting with a lion; there is not fear
that a learned man will contend with an inebriated fool."
The virtuous follow this
rule in life - when they suffer oppression they display kindness.
PATIENCE UNDER OPPRESSION
A STORY ILLUSTRATING THE
NOBLE-MINDEDNESS OF MEN
A dog bit the leg of a hermit
with such violence that venom dropped from its teeth, and the
poor man could not sleep all night through pain.
His little daughter chided
him, saying, "Hast thou not teeth as well?"
The unfortunate parent wept
and then smilingly replied, "Dear child! Although I was
stronger than the dog, I restrained my anger. Should I receive
a sword-blow on the head, I could not apply my teeth to the legs
of a dog."
One can revenge oneself
upon the mean, but a man cannot act like a dog.
THE STORY OF A KIND MASTER
An eminent man, famous for
his many virtues, possessed a slave of evil disposition, who
in ugliness of feature surpassed every one in the city. He closely
attended his master at meal times, but he would not have given
a drop of water to a dying man. Neither reproof nor the rod influenced
him; the house was in a constant state of disorder through him.
Sometimes, in his bad temper, would he litter the paths with
thorns and rubbish; at other times, throw the chickens down the
well. His unhappy temperament was written on his face, and never
did he perform a task successfully.
Someone asked his master,
"What is there that thou likest in this slave - his agreeable
manners, or his skill, or beauty? Surely, it is not worth while
to keep such an unruly knave and burden thyself with such an
affliction. I will procure for thee a slave of handsome appearance
and good character. Take this one to the slave-market and sell
him. If a piece is offered for him, do not refuse it, for he
would be dear at that."
The good-natured man smiled
and said, "O, friend! Although the character of my slave
is certainly bad, my character is improved by him, for when I
have learned to tolerate his manner I shall be able to put up
with anything at the hands of others. It was not humane to sell
him and thus make known his faults. And it is better to endure
his affliction myself than to pass him on to others."
Accept for thyself what
thou wouldst accept for others. If distressed thyself, involve
not thy fellows.
Forbearance is at first
like poison, but when ingrained in the nature it becomes like
GOOD THAT COMES FROM EVIL
THE STORY OF MARUF KARKHI *22
THE SICK TRAVELER
No one follows the path
of Maruf Karkhi who does not first banish the idea of fame from
A traveler once came to
Maruf's house at the point of death -
his life was joined to his body by a single hair. He passed the
night in wailing and lamentation, sleeping not himself nor permitting
any one else to sleep by reason of his groans. His mind was distressed
and his temper was vile; though he died not himself, he killed
many by his fretting. Such was his restlessness that every one
flew from him. Maruf Karkhi alone remained. He, like a brave
man, girt his loins and sat up many nights in attendance at the
sick man's bedside. But one night Maruf was attacked by sleep
- how long can a sleepless man keep up?
When the invalid saw him
asleep he began to rave, "Cursed be thy abominable race."
He cried, "What knows this glutton, intoxicated with sleep,
of the helpless man who has not closed his eyes?"
Maruf took no notice of
these words, but one of the women of the harem, overhearing them,
remarked, "Didst thou not hear what that wailing beggar
said? Turn him out, and tell him to take his abuse with him and
die elsewhere. Kindness and compassion have their occasions,
but to do good to the evil is evil; only a fool plants trees
in barren soil. A grateful dog is better than an ungrateful man."
Maruf laughed, "Dear
woman," he replied, "Be not offended at his ungracious
words. If he raves at me through sickness, I am not angered.
When thou art strong and well thyself, bear gratefully the burdens
of the weak. If thou cherish the tree of kindness, thou wilt
assuredly eat of the fruits of a good name."
They attain to dignity who
rid themselves of arrogance.
He who worships grandeur
is the slave of pride; he knows not that greatness consists in
THE STORY ILLUSTRATING THE
OF THE IGNOBLE
An impudent fellow begged
of a pious man, but the latter had no money in his house. Otherwise,
would he have showered gold upon him like dust. The infamous
rascal, therefore, went out and began to abuse him in the street.
The eye of the fault-finder
sees no merits. What regard has he who has acted dishonorably
for the honor of another?
Being informed of his words,
the pious man smiled and said, "It is well; this man has
enumerated only a few of my bad qualities - only one out of a
hundred that are known to me. The evil that he has supposed in
me I know for certain that I possess. Only one year has he been
acquainted with me; how can he know the faults of seventy years?
None but the Omniscient knows my faults better than myself. Never
have I known one who has attributed to me so few defects. If
he bear witness against me in the Day of Judgment, I shall have
no fear. If he who thinks ill of me seek to reveal my faults,
tell him to come and take the record from me."
Be humble when the veil
is torn from off thy character. If a pitcher were made of the
dust of men, calumnious would shatter it with stones.
THE STORY OF ONE WHO HAD A
A certain man knew something
of astronomy and his head, in consequence, was filled with pride.
Journeying far, he visited Kushyar, *23 their sage, who turned
his eyes from him and would teach him nothing. When the disappointed
traveler was on the point of leaving, Kushyar addressed him with
"Thou imaginest that
thou art full of knowledge. How can a vessel that is full receive
of more? Rid thyself of thy pretensions, so that thou mayest
be filled. Being full of vanity, thou goest empty."
A STORY ILLUSTRATING THE HUMILITY
OF THE PIOUS
Someone heard the barking
of a dog in the ruined hut of a pious man. Reflecting upon the
strangeness of the fact, he went and searched, but found no traces
of a dog. In truth, the devotee alone was in the house.
Not wishing his curiosity
to be revealed, the man was departing, when the owner of the
house cried out, "Come in, why standest thou upon the door?
Knowest thou not, O friend, that it was I who barked? When I
discerned that humility was acceptable to G-d, I banished pride
and vanity from my heart, and clamored with barks at the door
of G-d, for I saw none more lowly than a dog?"
If thou desire to attain
to dignity, let humility be thy path.
Behold, when the dew lies
low upon the earth, the sun doth raise it to the skies.
SOFT SPEECH QUENCHES WRATH
A STORY ILLUSTRATING THE VALUE
OF SOFT WORDS
The slave of a king escaped,
and though a search was made, was not discovered. Later, when
the fugitive returned, the king in anger, ordered that he should
be put to death.
When the executioner brought
out his scimitar, like the tongue of a thirsty man, the despondent
slave cried out:
"O, G-d!" I forgive
the king the shedding of my blood, for I have ever enjoyed his
bounty and shared in his prosperity. Let him not suffer for this
deed n the Day of Judgment, to the delight of his enemies."
When the king heard these
words his anger was appeased, and he appointed the slave to be
an officer of the standard.
The moral of this story
is that soft speech acts like water on the fires of wrath. Do
not the soldiers on the battlefield wear armor consisting of
a hundred folds of silk?
O friend! Be humble when
thou dealest with a fierce foe, for gentleness will blunt the
A STORY ILLUSTRATING THE WISDOM
OF FEIGNING DEAFNESS
Many writers affirm the
falsity of the idea that Hatim was deaf.
One morning this attention
was attracted by the buzzing of a fly, which had become ensnared
in a spider's web. "O thou," he observed, "Who
art fettered by thine own avarice, be patient. Wherever there
be a tempting bait, huntsmen and snare are close at hand."
One of his disciples remarked,
"Strange it is that thou couldst hear the buzzing of a fly
that hardly reached our ears. No longer can they call thee deaf."
The Sheik replied, "Deafness
is better than the hearing of idle words. Those that sit with
me in private are prone to conceal my faults and parade my virtues;
thus, do they make me vain. I feign deafness that I may be spared
their flattery. When my assumed affliction has become known to
them they will speak freely of that which is good and bad in
me; then, being grieved at the recital of my faults, I shall
abstain from evil."
Go, not down a well by a
rope of praise. Be deaf, like Hatim, and listen to the words
of them that slander thee.
NO MALICE IN A LOVING HEART
A STORY ILLUSTRATING FORBEARANCE
FOR THE SAKE OF FRIENDS
A certain man, whose heart
was as pure as Sa'di's, fell in love. Although taunted by his
enemies in consequence, he showed no anger.
Someone asked him, "Hast
thou no sense of shame? Art thou not sensible to these indignities?
It is abject to expose oneself to ridicule, and weak to endure
patiently the scoffs of enemies. To overlook the errors of the
ignorant is wrong, lest it be said that thou hast neither strength
How elegantly did the distracted
lover make reply! His words are worthy to be writ in letters
"Alone is my heart
there dwelleth affection for my loved, thus, it contains no room
A STORY OF LUQMAN,*24 THE SAGE
I have heard that Luqman
was of dark complexion and careless of his appearance. Someone
mistook him for a slave, and employed him in digging trenches
at Baghdad. Thus, he continued for a year, no one suspecting
who he was. When the truth was known the master was afraid, and
fell at Luqman's feet, offering excuses.
The sage smiled and said,
"Of what use are these apologies? For a year my heart has
bled through thine oppression. How can I forget that in one hour?
But I forgive thee, good man, for thy gain has caused to me no
loss. Thou hast built thy house; my wisdom and knowledge have
increased. I, too, possess a slave, and frequently set him to
arduous labor. Nevermore, when I remember the hardships of my
toil, will I afflict him."
He who has not suffered
at the hands of the strong grieves not at the frailties of the
If thou be sorrowed by those
above thee, be not harsh with thine inferiors.
Bayazid Bastami was a celebrated saint of Bustan, in Persia.
He died in
22. Abdul Mahfuz, surnamed Maruf, was a celebrated saint of Kareh,
a village in Baghdad. He was the son of a ifre-worshipper, and
was born A.D. 813 during the reign of Caliph Mamnun, a son of
the celebrated Harun-ar-Rashid.
23. Abu-al Hasan Kushyar was a celebrated astronomer and the
tutor of Avicenna.
24. Luqman was a famous Greek philosopher, and is supposed by
some to have been the author of Aesop's Fables.