O Thou of whose life seventy
years have passed, perhaps thou hast slept in negligence that
thy days have been thrown to the winds. Worldly aims hast thou
well pursued; no preparations hast thou made for the departure
to that world to come.
On the Judgment Day, when
the bazaar of Paradise will be arrayed, rank will be assigned
in accordance with one's deeds.
If thou shouldst take a
goodly stock of virtues, in proportion will be thy profit; if
thou be bankrupt, thou wilt be ashamed.
If fifty years of thy life
have passed, esteem as a precious boon the few that yet remain.
While still thou hast the
power of speech, close not thy lips like the dead from the praise
OLD AGE AND YOUTH
AN OLD MAN'S LAMENT
One night, in the season
of youth, several of us young men sat together; we sang like
bulbuls and raised a tumult in the street by our mirth.
An old man sat silent, apart;
like a filbert nut, his tongue was closed from speech. A youth
approached him and said, "O old man! Why sittest thou so
mournfully in this corner? Come raise thy head from the collar
of grief and join us in our festivity."
Thus did the old man reply,
"When the morning breeze blows over the rose garden, the
young trees proudly wave their branches. It becomes not me to
mingle in thy company, for the dawn of old age has spread over
my cheeks. Thy turn it is to sit at this table of youth; I have
washed my hands of youthful pleasures. Time has showered snow
upon my crow-like wings; like the bulbul, I could not sport in
the garden. Soon will the harvest of my life be reaped; for thee,
the new green leaves are bursting. The bloom has faded from my
garden; who makes a nosegay from withered flowers? I must weep,
like a child, in shame for my sins, but cannot emulate his pleasures.:
Well, has Luqman said, "It
is better not to live at all than to live many years in sinfulness."
Better, too, may it be to close the shop in the morning than
to sell the stock at a loss.
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
ADVICE AND WARNING
Today, O youth, take the
path of worship, for tomorrow comes old age. Leisure thou hast,
and strength - strike the ball when the field is wide.*35
I knew not the value of
life's day till now that I have lost it.
How can an old ass strive
beneath its burden? Go thy way, for thou ridest a swift-paced
A broken cup that is mended
- what will its value be? Now that in carelessness the cup of
life has fallen from thy hand, naught remains but to join the
Negligently hast thou let
the pure water go; how canst thou now perform thy ablutions,
except with sand?*36
SA'DI 'S REBUKE FROM A CAMEL-DRIVER
One night in the desert
of Faid*37 my feet became fettered with sleep. A camel-driver
awoke me, saying, "Arise, since thou heedest not the sound
of the bell, perhaps thou desirest to be left behind! I, like
thee, would sleep awhile, but the desert stretches ahead. How
wilt thou reach the journey's end if thou sleepest when the drum
of departure beats?"
Happy are they who have
prepared their baggage before the beat of the drum! The sleepers
by the wayside raise not their heads and the caravan has passed
out of sight.
He who was early awake surpassed
all on the road; what availeth it to awaken when the caravan
This is the time to sow
the seeds of the harvest thou wouldst reap.
Go not bankrupt to the Resurrection,
for it availeth not to sit in regret. By means of the stock that
thou hast, O son, profit can be acquired; what profit accrueth
to him who consumeth his stock himself?
Strive now, when the water
reacheth not beyond thy waist; delay not until the flood has
passed over thy head.
Heed the counsel of the
wise today, for tomorrow will Nakir*38 question thee with sternness.
Esteem as a privilege thy precious soul, for a cage without a
bird has no value. Waste not thy time in sorrow and regret, for
opportunity is precious and time is a sword.
STORY CONCERNING SORROW FOR
A certain man died and another
rent his clothes in grief. Hearing his cries, a sage exclaimed,
"If the dead man possessed the power he would tear his shroud
by reason of thy wailing and would say, "Do not torment
thyself on account of my affliction, since a day or two before
thee I made ready for the journey. Perhaps thou hast forgotten
thine own death, that my decease has made thee so distressed."
When he whose eyes are open
to the truth scatters flowers over the dead, his heart burns
not for the dead but for himself.
Why dost thou weep over
the death of a child? He came pure, and he departed pure.
Tie now the feet of the
bird of the soul; tarry not till it has borne the rope from thy
Long hast thou sat in the
place of another; soon will another sit in thy place.
Though thou be a hero or
a swordsman, thou will carry away nothing but the shroud.
If the wild ass break its
halter and wander into the desert its feet become ensnared in
the sand. Thou, too, hast strength till thy feet go into the
dust of the grave.
Since yesterday has gone
and tomorrow has not come, take account of this one moment that
In this garden of the world
there is not a cypress that has grown which the wind of death
has not uprooted.
VANITY OF WORLDLY DESIRES
STORY OF A PIOUS MAN AND
A GOLD BRICK
A gold brick fell into the
hands of a pious man and so turned his head that his enlightened
mind became gloomy. He passed the whole night in anxious thought,
reflecting, "This treasure will suffice me till the end
of my life; no longer shall I have to bend my back before any
one in begging. A house will I build, the foundation of which
shall be of marble; the rafters of the ceiling shall be of aloe-wood.
A special room will I have for my friends, and its door shall
lead into a garden house. Servants shall cook my food, and in
ease will I nourish my soul. This course woolen bed cloth has
killed me by its roughness; now will I go and spread a carpet"
His imaginings made him
crazy; the crab had pierced its claws into his brain. He forsook
his prayers and devotions, and neither ate nor slept.
Unable to rest tranquil
in one place, he wandered to a plain, with his head confused
with the charms of his vain fancies. An old man was kneading
mud upon a grave for the purpose of making bricks. Absorbed in
thought for awhile, the old man said:
"O foolish soul! Hearken
to my counsel. Why hast thou attached thy mind to that gold brick
when one day they will make bricks from thy dust? The mouth of
a covetous man is too widely open that it can be closed again
by one morsel. Take, O base man, thy hand from off that brick,
for the river of thy avarice cannot be damned up with a brick.
So negligent hast thou been
in the thought of gain and riches that the stock of thy life
has become trodden underfoot. The dust of lust has blinded the
eyes of thy reason - the simoom of desire has burned the harvest
of thy life."
Wipe the antimony of neglect
from off thine eyes, for tomorrow wilt thou be reduced to antimony
under the dust.
Thy life is a bird, and
its name is Breath. When the bird has flown from its cage it
cometh not back to captivity.
Be watchful for the world
lasts but a moment, and a moment spent with wisdom is better
than an age with folly.
Why fix we thus our minds
upon this caravanserai? Our friends have departed and we are
on the road. After us, the same flowers will bloom in the garden,
together will friends still sit.
When thou comest to Shiraz,*39
dost thou not cleanse thyself from the dust of the road?
Soon, O thou polluted with
the dust of sin, wilt thou journey to a strange city. Weep, and
wash with thy tears thy impurities away.
MORAL FROM AN INCIDENT IN SA'DI
I remember that, in the
time of my childhood, my father (may G-d's mercy be upon him
every moment!), brought me a gold ring. Soon after, a hawker
took the ring from my hand in exchange for a date fruit.
When a child knows not the
value of a ring he will part with it for a sweetmeat. Thou, too,
didsts not recognize value of life, but indulged thyself in vain
On the Day of Judgment,
when the good will attain to the highest dignity and mount from
the bottom-most depths of the earth to the Pleiades, thy head
will hang forward in shame, for thy deeds will gather around
O brother! Be ashamed of
the works of the evil, for ashamed wilt thou be at the Resurrection
in the presence on the good.
THE STORY OF A MAN WHO REARED
Someone reared a wolf cub,
which, when grown in strength, tore its master to pieces. When
the man was on the point of death a sage passed by and said,
"Didst thou not know that thou wouldst suffer injury from
an enemy thus carefully reared?"
How can we raise our heads
from shame when we ate at peace with Satan and at war with G-d?
Thy friend regards thee
not when thou turnest thy face towards the enemy.
He who lives in the house
of an enemy deems right estrangement from a friend.
ALLIANCE WITH THE EVIL
THE STORY OF A CHEAT
Someone robbed the people
of their money by cheating, and whenever he had accomplished
one of his nefarious acts he cursed the Evil One, who said:
"Never have I seen
such a fool! Thou hast intrigued with me secretly; why, therefore,
dost thou raise the sword of enmity against me?"
Alas! That the angels should
record against thee iniquities committed by the order of the
Go forward when thou seest
that the door of peace is open, for suddenly the door of repentance
will be closed.
March not under a load of
sin, O son, for a porter becomes exhausted on the journey.
The Prophet is the Mediator
of him who follows the highway of his laws.
A RECOLLECTION OF CHILDHOOD
In the time of my childhood
I went out with my father during the Eid Festival, and in the
tumult of the mob got lost. I cried in fear, when my father suddenly
pulled my ear, and said, "Several times did I tell thee
not to take thy hand from the skirt of my robe."
A child knows not how to
go alone; it is difficult to travel on any road unseen.
Thou, poor man, art as a
child in thine endeavor; go, hold the skirt of the virtuous.
Sit not with the base, but fasten thy hand to the saddle straps
of the pious.
Go, like Sa'di, glean the
corn of wisdom so that thou mayest store a harvest of divine
A STORY OF ONE WHO BURNED
In the month of July, a
certain man stored his grain and set his mind at ease concerning
it. One night, he became intoxicated and lighted a fire, which
destroyed his harvest.
The next day he sat down
to glean the ears of corn, but not a single grain remained in
his possession. Seeing him thus afflicted, someone remarked,
"If thou didst not wish for this misfortune, thou shouldst
not in folly have burned thy harvest."
Thou, whose years have been
wasted in iniquity, art he who burns the harvest of his life.
Do no so, O my life! Sow
the seeds of religion and justice, and throw not to the winds
the harvest of a good name.
Knock at the door of forgiveness
before thy punishment arrives, for lamentation beneath the lash
is of no avail.
A DISCOURSE ON REPENTANCE
He who supplicates the Deity
by night will not be shamed on the Day of Judgment.
If thou art wise, pray for
forgiveness in the night for the sins that thou hast committed
in the day.
What is thy fear if thou
hast made thy peace with G-d? He closes not the door of forgiveness
upon them that supplicate Him.
If thou art a servant of
G-d, raise thy hands in prayer and if thou be ashamed, weep in
No one has stood upon His
threshold whose sins the tears of repentance have not washed
I.e. Engage in good works while you still have time.
36. Mohammed commanded that sand should be used for ablution
before prayer when water was unobtainable, as is more often than
not the case in the desert.
37. Name of a village on the road to Mecca.
38. The angel who examines the dead in their graves.
39. I.e. your native land.