The Gulistan of Sa'di
In the Name of Allah the Merciful the Clement
Laudation to the God of majesty and glory! Obedience to him is a
cause of approach and gratitude in increase of benefits. Every inhalation
of the breath prolongs life and every expiration of it gladdens our
nature; wherefore every breath confers two benefits and for every
benefit gratitude is due.
hose hand and tongue is capable
To fulfil the obligations of thanks to him?
Words of the most high: Be thankful, O family of David, and but few
of my servants are thankful.
It is best to a worshipper for his transgressions
To offer apologies at the throne of God,
Although what is worthy of his dignity
No one is able to accomplish.
The showers of his boundless mercy have penetrated to every spot,
and the banquet of his unstinted liberality is spread out everywhere.
He tears not the veil of reputation of his worshippers even for grievous
sins, and does not withhold their daily allowance of bread for great
O bountiful One, who from thy invisible treasury
Suppliest the Guebre and the Christian with food,
How could'st thou disappoint thy friends,
Whilst having regard for thy enemies?
He told the chamberlain of the morning breeze to spread out the emerald
carpet and, having commanded the nurse of vernal clouds to cherish
the daughters of plants in the cradle of the earth, the trees donned
the new year's robe and clothed their breast with the garment of green
foliage, whilst their offspring, the branches, adorned their heads
with blossoms at the approach of the season of the roses. Also the
juice of the cane became delicious honey by his power, and the date
a lofty tree by his care.
Cloud and wind, moon and sun move in the sky
That thou mayest gain bread, and not eat it unconcerned.
For thee all are revolving and obedient.
It is against the requirements of justice if thou obeyest not.
There is a tradition of the prince of created beings, the paragon
of existing things, the mercy to the inhabitants of the world, the
purest of mankind and the completion of the revolving ages, Muhammad
the elect, upon whom be blessing and peace:
Intercessor, obeyed, prophet, gracious,
Bountiful, majestic, affable, marked with the seal of God.
What danger is there to the wall of the faithful with thee for a
What fear of the waves of the sea has he whose pilot is Noah?
He attained exaltation by his perfection.
He disspelled darkness by his beauty.
Beauteous are all his qualities,
Benediction be on him and on his family.
The tradition is that whenever a sinful and distressed worshipper
stretches forth the hand of repentance with hopes of acceptance to
the court of heaven, God the most high does not notice him, whereon
he continues to implore mercy with supplications and tears and God
the most holy says: O my angels, verily I am ashamed of my servant
and he has no other lord besides myself. Accordingly I have fully
See the generosity and kindness of God.
The servant has committed sin and he is ashamed.
Those who attend permanently at the temple of his glory confess the
imperfection of their worship and say: We have not worshipped thee
according to the requirements of thy worship; and those who describe
the splendour of his beauty are rapt in amazement saying: We have
not known thee as thou oughtest to be known.
If someone asks me for his description,
What shall I despairing say of One who has no form?
The lovers have been slain by the beloved.
No voice can come from the slain.
One of the devout who had deeply plunged his head into the cowl of
meditation and had been immersed in the ocean of visions, was asked,
when he had come out of that state, by one of his companions who had
desired to cheer him up: 'What beautiful gift hast thou brought us
from the garden in which thou hast been?' He replied: 'I intended
to fill the skirts of my robe with roses, when I reached the rose-tree,
as presents for my friends but the perfume of the flowers intoxicated
me so much that I let, go the hold of my skirts.'
O bird of the morning, learn love from the moth
Because it burnt, lost its life, and found no voice.
These pretenders are ignorantly in search of Him,
Because he who obtained knowledge has not returned.
O thou who art above all imaginations, conjectures, opinions and
Above anything people have said or we have heard or read,
The assembly is finished and life has reached its term
And we have, as at first, remained powerless in describing thee.
Panegyric of the Padshah of Islam
may Allah perpetuate his reign
The good reputation of Sa'di which is current among the people, the
renown of his eloquence which has spread on the surface of the earth,
the products of his friendly pen which are consumed like sugar, and
the scraps of his literary compositions which are hawked about like
bills of exchange, cannot be ascribed to his virtue and perfection,
but the lord of the world, the axis of the revolving circle of time,
the vice-gerent of Solomon, protector of the followers of the religion,
His Majesty the Shahanshah Atabek Aa'zm Muzaffaruddin Abu Bekr Ben
Sa'd Ben Zanki-The shadow of Allah on earth! O Lord, be pleased with
him and with his kingdom-has looked upon Sa'di with a favourable eye,
has praised him greatly, and has shown him sincere affection so that
all men, gentle and simple, love him because the people follow the
religion of their king.
Because thou lookest upon my humble person,
My merits are more celebrated than those of the sun.
Although this slave may possess all faults,
Every fault pleasing the Sultan becomes a virtue.
A sweet-smelling piece of clay, one day in the bath,
Came from the hand of a beloved one to my hand.
I asked: 'Art thou musk or ambergris?
Because thy delicious odour intoxicates me.'
It replied: 'I was a despicable lump of day;
But for a while in the society of a rose.
The perfection of my companion took effect on me
And, if not, I am the same earth which I am.'
O Allah, favour the Musalmans with the prolongation of his life, and
with an augmentation of his reward for his good qualities and deeds;
exalt the dignities of his friends and governors; annihilate those
who are inimical to him and wish him ill; for the sake of what is
recorded in the verses of the Quran. O Allah, give security protect
Verily the world is happy through him; may his happiness endure for
And may the Lord strengthen him and with the banners of victory.
Thus the branch will flourish of which he is the root
Because the beauty of the earth's plants depends on the virtue of
May God, whose name be exalted and hallowed, keep in security and
peace the pure country of Shiraz until the time of the resurrection,
under the authority of righteous governors and by the exertions of
Knowest thou not why I in foreign countries
Roamed about for a long time?
I went away from the distress of the Turks because I saw
The world entangled like the hair of negroes;
They were all human beings, but
Like wolves sharp-clawed, for shedding blood.
When I returned I saw the country at rest,
The tigers having abandoned the nature of tigers.
Within a man of good disposition like an angel,
Without an army like bellicose lions.
Thus it happened that first I beheld
The world full of confusion, anxiety and distress;
Then it became as it is in the days of the just Sultan
Atabek Abu Bekr Ben Sa'd Zanki.
The country of Pares dreads not the vicissitudes of time,
As long as one presides over it like thee, the shadow of God.
Today no one can point out on the surface of the earth,
A place like the threshold of thy door, the asylum of comfort.
On thee is incumbent the protection of the distressed and
Upon us and reward on God the creator of the world,
As long as the world and wind endure.
The Cause for Composing the Gulistan
I was one night meditating on the time which had elapsed, repenting
of the life I had squandered and perforating the stony mansion of
my heart with adamantine tears. 1 I uttered the following verses in
conformity with the state of mind:
Every moment a breath of life is spent,
If I consider, not much of it remains.
O thou, whose fifty years have elapsed in sleep,
Wilt thou perhaps overtake them in these five days?
Shame on him who has gone and done no work.
The drum of departure was beaten but he has not made his load.
Sweet sleep on the morning of departure
Retains the pedestrian from the road.
Whoever had come had built a new edifice.
He departed and left the place to another
And that other one concocted the same futile schemes
And this edifice was not completed by anyone.
Cherish not an inconstant friend.
Such a traitor is not fit for amity.
As all the good and bad must surely die,
He is happy who carries off the ball of virtue.
Send provision for thy journey to thy tomb.
Nobody will bring it after thee; send it before.
Life is snow, the sun is melting hot.
Little remains, but the gentleman is slothful still.
O thou who hast gone empty handed to the bazar,
I fear thou wilt not bring a towel filled.
Who eats the corn he has sown while it is yet green,
Must at harvest time glean the ears of it.
Listen with all thy heart to the advice of Sa'di.
Such is the way; be a man and travel on.
The capital of man's life is his abdomen.
If it be gradually emptied there is no fear
But if it be so closed as not to open
The heart may well despair of life;
And if it be open so that it cannot be closed,
Go and wash thy hands of this world's life.
Four contending rebellious dispositions
Harmonize but five days with each other.
If one of these four becomes prevalent,
Sweet life must abandon the body
Wherefore an intelligent and perfect man
Sets not his heart upon this world's life.
After maturely considering these sentiments, I thought proper to sit
down in the mansion of retirement to fold up the skirts of association,
to wash my tablets of heedless sayings and no more to indulge in senseless
To sit in a corner, like one with a cut tongue, deaf and dumb,
Is better than a man who has no command over his tongue.
I continued in this resolution till a friend, who had been my companion
in the camel-litter of misery and my comrade in the closet of affection,
entered at the door, according to his old custom with playful gladness,
and spread out the surface of desire; but I would give him no reply
nor lift up my head from the knees of worship. He looked at me aggrieved
'Now, while thou hast the power of utterance,
Speak, O brother, with grace and kindness
Because tomorrow, when the messenger of death arrives,
Thou wilt of necessity restrain thy tongue.'
One of my connections informed him how matters stood and told him
that I had firmly determined and was intent upon spending the rest
of my life in continual devotion and silence, advising him at the
same time, in case he should be able, to follow my example and to
keep me company. He replied: 'I swear by the great dignity of Allah
and by our old friendship that I shall not draw breath, nor budge
one step, unless he converses with me as formerly, and in his usual
way; because it is foolish to insult friends and easy to expiate an
oath. It is against propriety, and contrary to the opinions of wise
men that the Zulfiqar of A'li should remain in the scabbard and the
tongue of Sa'di in his palate.'
O intelligent man what is the tongue in the mouth?
It is the key to the treasure-door of a virtuous man.
When the door is closed how can one know
Whether he is a seller of jewels or a hawker?
Although intelligent men consider silence civil,
It is better for thee to speak at the proper time.
Two things betoken levity of intellect: to remain mute
When it is proper to speak and to talk when silence is
In short, I had not the firmness to restrain my tongue from speaking
to him, and did not consider it polite to turn away my face from his
conversation, he being a congenial friend and sincerely affectionate.
When thou fightest with anyone, consider
Whether thou wilt have to flee from him or he from thee.
I was under the necessity of speaking and then went out by way of
diversion in the vernal season, when the traces of severe cold had
disappeared and the time of the dominion of roses had arrived:
Green garments were upon the trees
Like holiday robes on contented persons.
On the first of the month Ardibihesht Jellali
The bulbuls were singing on the pulpits of branches.
Upon the roses pearls of dew had fallen,
Resembling perspiration on an angry sweetheart's cheek.
I happened to spend the night in a garden with one of my friends and
we found it to be a pleasant cheerful place with heart-ravishing entangled
trees; its ground seemed to be paved with small glass beads whilst,
from its vines, bunches like the Pleiads were suspended.
A garden the water of whose river was limpid
A grove the melody of whose birds was harmonious.
The former full of bright-coloured tulips,
The latter full of fruits of various kinds;
The wind had in the shade of its trees
Spread out a bed of all kinds of flowers.
The next morning when the intention of returning had prevailed over
the opinion of tarrying, I saw that my friend had in his skirt collected
roses, sweet basil, hyacinths and fragrant herbs with the determination
to carry them to town; whereon I said: 'Thou knowest that the roses
of the garden are perishable and the season passes away', and philosophers
have said: 'Whatever is not of long duration is not to be cherished.'
He asked: 'Then what is to be done?' I replied: 'I may compose for
the amusement of those who look and for the instruction of those who
are present a book of a Rose Garden, a Gulistan, whose leaves cannot
be touched by the tyranny of autumnal blasts and the delight of whose
spring the vicissitudes of time will be unable to change into the
inconstancy of autumn.
Of what use will be a dish of roses to thee?
Take a leaf from my rose-garden.
A flower endures but five or six days
But this rose-garden is always delightful.
After I had uttered these words he threw away the flowers from his
skirts, and attached himself to mine, saying: 'When a generous fellow
makes a promise he keeps it.'
On the same day I happened to write two chapters, namely on polite
society and the rules of conversation, in a style acceptable to orators
and instructive to letter-writers. In short, some roses of the garden
still remained when the book of the Rose-garden was finished but it
will in reality be completed only after approbation in the court of
the Shah, who is the refuge of the world, the shadow of God, the ray
of his grace, the treasury of the age, the asylum of the Faith, strengthened
by heaven, aided against enemies, the arm of the victorious government,
the lamp of the resplendent religion, the beauty of mankind, the boast
of Islam, Sa'd son of Atabek the great, the majestic Shahanshah, owner
of the necks of nations, lord of the kings of Arabia and Persia, the
sultan of the land and the sea, the heir of the kingdom of Solomon,
Muzaffaruddin Ibu Bekr, son of Sa'd Zanki, may Allah the most high
perpetuate the prosperity of them both and direct their inclinations
to every good thing.
Perused with a kind glance,
Adorned with approbation by the sovereign,
It will be a Chinese picture-gallery or design of the Arzank,
Hopes are entertained that he will not be wearied
By these contents because a Pose-garden is not a place of
The more so as its august preface is dedicated
To Sa'd Abu Bekr Sa'd the son of Zanki.
Record of the Great Amir Fakhruddin Ben Abu Bekr, Son of Abu
Again, the bride of imagination can for want of beauty not lift up
her head nor raise her eyes from the feet of bashfulness to appear
in the assembly of persons endowed with pulchritude, unless adorned
with the ornaments of approbation from the great Amir, who is learned,
just, aided by heaven, victorious, supporter of the throne of the
Sultanate and councillor in deliberations of the realm, refuge of
the poor, asylum of strangers, patron of learned men, lover of the
pious, glory of the dynasty of Pares, right hand of the kingdom, chief
of the nobles, boast of the monarchy and of the religion, succour
of Islam and of the Musalmans, buttress of kings and sultans, Abu
Bekr, son of Abu Nassar, may Allah prolong his life, augment his dignity,
enlighten his breast and increase his reward twofold, because he enjoys
the praise of all great men and is the embodiment of every laudable
Whoever reposes in the shadow of his favour,
His sin is transmuted to obedience and his foe into a friend.
Every attendant and follower has an appointed duty and if, in the
performance thereof, he gives way to remissness and indolence, he
is certainly called to account and becomes subject to reproaches,
except the tribe of dervishes, from whom thanks are due for the benefits
they receive from great men as well as praises and prayers, all of
which duties are more suitably performed in their absence than in
their presence, because in the latter they look like ostentation and
in the former they are free from ceremony.
The back of the bent sky became flat with joy,
When dame nature brought forth a child like thee.
It is an instance of wisdom if the Creator
Causes a servant to make the general welfare his special duty.
He has found eternal happiness who lived a good life,
Because, after his end, good repute will keep his name alive.
No matter whether virtuous men praise you or not
A lovely maid stands in no need of a tire woman.
Excuse for Remissness in Service and Cause for Preferring
My negligence and backwardness in diligent attendance at the royal
court resemble the case of Barzachumihr, whose merits the sages of
India were discussing but could at last not reproach him with anything
except slowness of speech because he delayed long and his hearers
were obliged to wait till he delivered himself of what he had to say.
When Barzachumihr heard of this he said: 'It is better for me to consider
what to speak than to repent of what I have spoken.'
A trained orator, old, aged,
First meditates and then speaks.
Do not speak without consideration.
Speak well and if slow what matters it?
Deliberate and then begin to talk.
Say thyself enough before others say enough.
By speech a man is better than a brute
But a beast is better unless thou speakest properly.
How then could I venture to appear in the sight of the grandees of
my lord, may his victory be glorious, who are an assembly of pious
men and the centre of profound scholars? If I were to be led in the
ardour of conversation to speak petulantly, I could produce only a
trifling stock-in-trade in the noble presence but glass beads are
not worth a barleycorn in the bazar of jewellers, a lamp does not
shine in the presence of the sun, and a minaret looks low at the foot
of Mount Alvend.
Who lifts up his neck with pretentions,
Foes hasten to him from every side.
Sa'di has fallen to be a hermit.
No one came to attack a fallen man.
First deliberation, then speech;
The foundation was laid first, then the wall.
I know bouquet-binding but not in the garden. I sell a sweetheart
but not in Canaan. Loqman the philosopher, being asked from whom he
had learnt wisdom, replied: 'From the blind, who do not take a step
before trying the place.' First move about, then stir out.
Try thy virility first, then marry.
Though a cock may be brave in war
He strikes his claws in vain on a brazen falcon.
A cat is a lion in catching mice
But a mouse in combat with a tiger.
But, trusting in the liberal sentiments of the great, who shut their
eyes to the faults of their inferiors and abstain from divulging the
crimes of humble men, we have in this book recorded, by way of abridgment,
some rare events, stories, poetry and accounts about ancient kings,
spending a portion of our precious life in the task. This was the
reason for composing the book Gulistan; and help is from Allah.
This well-arranged composition will remain for years,
When every atom of our dust is dispersed.
The intention of this design was that it should survive
Because I perceive no stability in my existence,
Unless one day a pious man compassionately
Utters a prayer for the works of dervishes.
The author, having deliberated upon the arrangement of the book, and
the adornment of the chapters, deemed it suitable to curtail the diction
of this beautiful garden and luxuriant grove and to make it resemble
paradise, which also has eight entrances. The abridgment was made
to avoid tediousness.
I The Manners of Kings
II On the Morals of Dervishes
III On the Excellence of Content
IV On the Advantages of Silence
V On Love and Youth
VI On Weakness and Old Age
VII On the Effects of Education
VIII On Rules for Conduct in Life
At a period when our time was pleasant
The Hejret was six hundred and fifty-six.
Our intention was advice and we gave it.
We recommended thee to God and departed.
The Manners of Kings
I heard a padshah giving orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless fellow
began to insult the king on that occasion of despair, with the tongue
he had, and to use foul expressions according to the saying:
Who washes his hands of life
Says whatever he has in his heart.
When a man is in despair his tongue becomes long and he is like a
vanquished cat assailing a dog.
In time of need, when flight is no more possible,
The hand grasps the point of the sharp sword.
When the king asked what he was saying, a good-natured vezier replied:
'My lord, he says: Those who bridle their anger and forgive men; for
Allah loveth the beneficent.'
The king, moved with pity, forbore taking his life but another vezier,
the antagonist of the former, said: 'Men of our rank ought to speak
nothing but the truth in the presence of padshahs. This fellow has
insulted the king and spoken unbecomingly.' The king, being displeased
with these words, said: 'That lie was more acceptable to me than this
truth thou hast uttered because the former proceeded from a conciliatory
disposition and the latter from malignity; and wise men have said:
"A falsehood resulting in conciliation is better than a truth producing
He whom the shah follows in what he says,
It is a pity if he speaks anything but what is good.
The following inscription was upon the portico of the hall of Feridun:
O brother, the world remains with no one.
Bind the heart to the Creator, it is enough.
Rely not upon possessions and this world
Because it has cherished many like thee and slain them.
When the pure soul is about to depart,
What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the ground?
One of the kings of Khorasan had a vision in a dream of Sultan Mahmud,
one hundred years after his death. His whole person appeared to have
been dissolved and turned to dust, except his eyes, which were revolving
in their orbits and looking about. All the sages were unable to give
an interpretation, except a dervish who made his salutation and said:
'He is still looking amazed how his kingdom belongs to others.'
Many famous men have been buried under ground
Of whose existence on earth not a trace has remained
And that old corpse which had been surrendered to the earth
Was so consumed by the soil that not a bone remains.
The glorious name of Nushirvan survives in good repute
Although much time elapsed since he passed away.
Do good, O man, and consider life as a good fortune,
The more so, as when a shout is raised, a man exists no more.
I have heard that a royal prince of short stature and mean presence,
whose brothers were tall and good-looking, once saw his father glancing
on him with aversion and contempt but he had the shrewdness and penetration
to guess the meaning and said: 'O father, a puny intelligent fellow
is better than a tall ignorant man, neither is everything bigger in
stature higher in price. A sheep is nice to eat and an elephant is
The smallest mountain on earth is Jur; nevertheless
It is great with Allah in dignity and station.
Hast thou not heard that a lean scholar
One day said to a fat fool:
'Although an Arab horse may be weak
It is thus more worth than a stable full of asses.'
The father laughed at this sally, the pillars of the state approved
of it, but the brothers felt much aggrieved.
While a man says not a word
His fault and virtue are concealed.
Think not that every desert is empty.
Possibly it may contain a sleeping tiger.
I heard that on the said occasion the king was menaced by a powerful
enemy and that when the two armies were about to encounter each other,
the first who entered the battlefield was the little fellow who said:
'I am not he whose back thou wilt see on the day of battle
But he whom thou shalt behold in dust and blood.
Who himself fights, stakes his own life
In battle but he who flees, the blood of his army.'
After uttering these words he rushed among the troops of the enemy,
slew several warriors and, returning to his father, made humble obeisance
'O thou, to whom my person appeared contemptible,
Didst not believe in the impetuosity of my valour.
A horse with slender girth is of use
On the day of battle, not a fattened ox.'
It is related that the troops of the enemy were numerous, and that
the king's, being few, were about to flee, but that the puny youth
raised a shout, saying: 'O men, take care not to put on the garments
of women.' These words augmented the rage of the troopers so that
they made a unanimous attack and I heard that they gained the victory
on the said occasion. The king kissed the head and eyes of his son,
took him in his arms and daily augmented his affection till he appointed
him to succeed him on the throne. His brothers became envious and
placed poison in his food but were perceived by his sister from her
apartment, whereon she closed the window violently and the youth,
shrewdly guessing the significance of the act, restrained his hands
from touching the food, and said: 'It is impossible that men of honour
should die, and those who possess none should take their place.'
No one goes under the shadow of an owl
Even if the homa should disappear from the world.
This state of affairs having been brought to the notice of the father,
he severely reproved the brothers and assigned to each of them a different,
but pleasant, district as a place of exile till the confusion was
quelled and the quarrel appeased; and it has been said that ten dervishes
may sleep under the same blanket but that one country cannot hold
When a pious man eats half a loaf of bread
He bestows the other half upon dervishes.
If a padshah were to conquer the seven climates
He would still in the same way covet another.
A band of Arab brigands having taken up their position on the top
of a mountain and closed the passage of caravans, the inhabitants
of the country were distressed by their stratagems and the troops
of the sultan foiled because the robbers, having obtained an inaccessible
spot on the summit of the mountain, thus had a refuge which they made
their habitation. The chiefs of that region held a consultation about
getting rid of the calamity because it would be impossible to offer
resistance to the robbers if they were allowed to remain.
A tree which has just taken root
May be moved from the place by the strength of a man
But, if thou leavest it thus for a long time,
Thou canst not uproot it with a windlass.
The source of a fountain may be stopped with a bodkin
But, when it is full, it cannot be crossed on an elephant.
The conclusion was arrived at to send one man as a spy and to wait
for the opportunity till the brigands departed to attack some people
and leave the place empty. Then several experienced men, who had fought
in battles, were despatched to keep themselves in ambush in a hollow
of the mountain. In the evening the brigands returned from their excursion
with their booty, divested themselves of their arms, put away their
plunder and the first enemy who attacked them was sleep, till about
a watch of the night had elapsed:
The disk of the sun went into darkness.
Jonah went into the mouth of the fish.
The warriors leapt forth from the ambush, tied the hands of every
one of the robbers to his shoulders and brought them in the morning
to the court of the king, who ordered all of them to be slain. There
happened to be a youth among them, the fruit of whose vigour was just
ripening and the verdure on the rose-garden of whose cheek had begun
to sprout. One of the veziers, having kissed the foot of the king's
throne and placed the face of intercession upon the ground, said:
'This boy has not yet eaten any fruit from the garden of life and
has not yet enjoyed the pleasures of youth. I hope your majesty will
generously and kindly confer an obligation upon your slave by sparing
his life.' The king, being displeased with this request, answered:
'He whose foundation is bad will not take instruction from the good,
To educate unworthy persons is like throwing nuts on a cupola.
'It is preferable to extirpate the race and offspring of these people
and better to dig up their roots and foundations, because it is not
the part of wise men to extinguish fire and to leave burning coals
or to kill a viper and leave its young ones.
If a cloud should rain the water of life
Never sip it from the branch of a willow-tree.
Associate not with a base fellow
Because thou canst not eat sugar from a mat-reed.'
The vezier heard these sentiments, approved of them nolens volens,
praised the opinion of the king and said: 'What my lord has uttered
is the very truth itself because if the boy had been brought up in
the company of those wicked men, he would have become one of themselves.
But your slave hopes that he will, in the society of pious men, profit
by education and will acquire the disposition of wise persons. Being
yet a child the rebellious and perverse temper of that band has not
yet taken hold of his nature and there is a tradition of the prophet
that every infant is born with an inclination for Islam but his parents
make him a Jew, a Christian or a Majusi.'
The spouse of Lot became a friend of wicked persons.
His race of prophets became extinct.
The dog of the companions of the cave for some days
Associated with good people and became a man.
When the vezier had said these words and some of the king's courtiers
had added their intercession to his, the king no longer desired to
shed the blood of the youth and said: 'I grant the request although
I disapprove-of it.'
Knowest thou not what Zal said to the hero Rastam:
'An enemy cannot be held despicable or helpless.
I have seen many a water from a paltry spring
Becoming great and carrying off a camel with its load.'
In short, the vezier brought up the boy delicately, with every comfort,
and kept masters to educate him, till they had taught him to address
persons in elegant language as well as to reply and he had acquired
every accomplishment. One day the vezier hinted at his talents in
the presence of the king, asserting that the instructions of wise
men had taken effect upon the boy and had expelled his previous ignorance
from his nature. The king smiled at these words and said:
'At last a wolf's whelp will be a wolf
Although he may grow up with a man.'
After two years had elapsed a band of robbers in the locality joined
him, tied the knot of friendship and, when the opportunity presented
itself, he killed the vezier with his son, took away untold wealth
and succeeded to the position of his own father in the robber-cave
where he established himself. The king, informed of the event, took
the finger of amazement between his teeth and said:
'How can a man fabricate a good sword of bad iron?
O sage, who is nobody becomes not somebody by education.
The rain, in the beneficence of whose nature there is no flaw,
Will cause tulips to grow in a garden and weeds in bad soil.
Saline earth will not produce hyacinths.
Throw not away thy seeds or work thereon.
To do good to wicked persons is like Doing evil to good men.'
I saw at the palace-gate of Oglimish the son of a military officer
who was endued with marvellous intellect, sagacity, perception and
shrewdness; also the signs of future greatness manifested themselves
on his forehead whilst yet a small boy.
From his head intelligence caused
The star of greatness to shine.
In short, he pleased the sultan because he had a beautiful countenance
and a perfect understanding; and philosophers have said: 'Power consists
in accomplishments, not in wealth and greatness in intellect, not
in years.' His companions, being envious, made an attempt upon his
life and desired to kill him but their endeavours remained fruitless.
What can a foe do when the friend is kind?
The king asked: 'What is the cause of their enmity to thee?' He replied:
'Under the shadow of the monarchy of my lord I have satisfied my contemporaries
except the envious, who will not be contented but by the decline of
my prosperity, and may the monarchy and good fortune of my lord be
I may so act as not to hurt the feelings of anyone
But what can I do to an envious man dissatisfied with himself?
Die, O envious man, for this is a malady,
Deliverance from which can be obtained only by death.
Unfortunate men sometimes ardently desire
The decline of prosperous men in wealth and dignity.
If in daytime, bat-eyed persons do not see
Is it the fault of the fountain of light, the sun?
Thou justly wishest that a thousand such eyes
Should be blind rather than the sun dark.
It is narrated that one of the kings of Persia had stretched forth
his tyrannical hand to the possessions of his subjects and had begun
to oppress them so violently that in consequence of his fraudulent
extortions they dispersed in the world and chose exile on account
of the affliction entailed by his violence. When the population had
diminished, the prosperity of the country suffered, the treasury remained
empty and on every side enemies committed violence.
Who desires succour in the day of calamity,
Say to him: 'Be generous in times of prosperity.'
The slave with a ring in his ear, if not cherished will depart.
Be kind because then a stranger will become thy slave.
One day the Shahnamah was read in his assembly, the subject being
the ruin of the dominion of Zohak and the reign of Feridun. The vezier
asked the king how it came to pass that Feridun, who possessed neither
treasure nor land nor a retinue, established himself upon the throne.
He replied: 'As thou hast heard, the population enthusiastically gathered
around him and supported him so that he attained royalty.' The vezier
said: 'As the gathering around of the population is the cause of royalty,
then why dispersest thou the population? Perhaps thou hast no desire
It is best to cherish the army as thy life
Because a sultan reigns by means of his troops.
The king asked: 'What is the reason for the gathering around of the
troops and the population?' He replied: 'A padshah must practise justice
that they may gather around him and clemency that they may dwell in
safety under the shadow of his government; but thou possessest neither
of these qualities.'
A tyrannic man cannot be a sultan
As a wolf cannot be a shepherd.
A padshah who establishes oppression
Destroys the basis of the wall of his own reign.
The king, displeased with the advice of his censorious vezier, sent
him to prison. Shortly afterwards the sons of the king's uncle rose
in rebellion, desirous of recovering the kingdom of their father.
The population, which had been reduced to the last extremity by the
king's oppression and scattered, now assembled around them and supported
them, till he lost control of the government and they took possession
A padshah who allows his subjects to be oppressed
Will in his day of calamity become a violent foe.
Be at peace with subjects and sit safe from attacks of foes
Because his subjects are the army of a just shahanshah.
A padshah was in the same boat with a Persian slave who had never
before been at sea and experienced the inconvenience of a vessel.
He began to cry and to tremble to such a degree that he could not
be pacified by kindness, so that at last the king became displeased
as the matter could not be remedied. In that boat there happened to
be a philosopher, who said: 'With thy permission I shall quiet him.'
The padshah replied: 'It will be a great favour.' The philosopher
ordered the slave to be thrown into the water so that he swallowed
some of it, whereon be was caught and pulled by his hair to the boat,
to the stern of which he clung with both his hands. Then he sat down
in a corner and became quiet. This appeared strange to the king who
knew not what wisdom there was in the proceeding and asked for it.
The philosopher replied: 'Before he had tasted the calamity of being
drowned, he knew not the safety of the boat; thus also a man does
not appreciate the value of immunity from a misfortune until it has
O thou full man, barley-bread pleases thee not.
She is my sweetheart who appears ugly to thee.
To the huris of paradise purgatory seems hell.
Ask the denizens of hell. To them purgatory is paradise.
There is a difference between him whose friend is in his arms
And him whose eyes of expectation are upon the door.
Hormuzd, being asked what fault the veziers of his father had committed
that he imprisoned them, replied: 'I discovered no fault. I saw that
boundless awe of me had taken root in their hearts but that they had
no full confidence in my promises, wherefore I apprehended that they,
fearing calamities would befall them, might attempt my life and I
acted according to the maxim of sages who have said:
'Dread him who dreads thee, O sage,
Although thou couldst cope with a hundred like him.
Seest thou not when the cat becomes desperate
How he plucks out with his claws the eyes of a tiger?
The viper stings the shepherd's foot
Because it fears he will strike his head with a stone.'
An Arab king was sick in his state of decrepitude so that all hopes
of life were cut off. A trooper entered the gate with the good news
that a certain fort had been conquered by the good luck of the king,
that the enemies had been captured and that the whole population of
the district had been reduced to obedience. The king heaved a deep
sigh and replied: 'This message is not for me but for my enemies,
namely the heirs of the kingdom.'
I spent my precious life in hopes, alas!
That every desire of my heart will be fulfilled.
My wishes were realized, but to what profit? Since
There is no hope that my past life will return.
The hand of fate has struck the drum of departure.
O my two eyes, bid farewell to the head.
O palm, forearm, and arm of my hand,
All take leave from each other.
Death, the foe of my desires, has fallen on me
For the last time, O friends. Pass near me.
My life has elapsed in ignorance.
I have done nothing, be on your guard.
I was constantly engaged in prayer, at the head of the prophet Yahia's
tomb in the cathedral mosque of Damascus, when one of the Arab kings,
notorious for his injustice, happened to arrive on a pilgrimage to
it, who offered his supplications and asked for compliance with his
The dervish and the plutocrat are slaves on the floor of this
And those who are the wealthiest are the most needy.
Then he said to me: 'Dervishes being zealous and veracious in their
dealings, unite thy mind to mine, for I am apprehensive of a powerful
enemy.' I replied: 'Have mercy upon thy feeble subjects that thou
mayest not be injured by a strong foe.'
With a powerful arm and the strength of the wrist
To break the five fingers of a poor man is sin.
Let him be afraid who spares not the fallen
Because if he falls no one will take hold of his hand.
Whoever sows bad seed and expects good fruit
Has cudgelled his brains for nought and begotten vain imaginations.
Extract the cotton from thy ears and administer justice to thy
And if thou failest to do so, there is a day of retribution.
The sons of Adam are limbs of each other
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a man.
A dervish, whose prayers met with answers, made his appearance, and
Hejaj Yusuf, calling him, said: 'Utter a good prayer for me', whereon
the dervish exclaimed: 'O God, take his life.' He replied: 'For God's
sake, what prayer is this?' The dervish rejoined: 'It is a good prayer
for thee and for all Musalmans.'
O tyrant, who oppressest thy subjects,
How long wilt thou persevere in this?
Of what use is authority to thee?
To die is better for thee than to oppress men.
An unjust king asked a devotee what kind of worship is best? He replied:
'For thee the best is to sleep one half of the day so as not to injure
the people for a while.'
I saw a tyrant sleeping half the day.
I said: 'This confusion, if sleep removes it, so much the better;
But he whose sleep is better than his wakefulness
Is better dead than leading such a bad life.'
I heard a king, who had changed might into day by pleasures, saying
in his drunkenness:
'We have in the world no moment more delightful than this,
Because I care neither for good nor for bad nor for anyone.'
A naked dervish, who was sleeping outside in the cold, then said:
'O thou like whom in happiness there is no one in the world,
I take it if thou carest not, we also do not care.'
The king, being pleased with these words of unconcern, held out a
bag of a thousand dinars from the window and said: 'Dervish, spread
out thy skirt.' He replied: 'Whence can I, who have no robe, bring
a skirt?' The padshah took pity on his helpless condition, added a
robe to his gift and sent it out to him but the dervish squandered
the money in a short time and returned.
Property cannot abide in the hands of the free,
Neither patience in the heart of a lover nor water in a sieve.
The case of the dervish having been brought to the notice of the king
when he was not in good humour, he became angry and turned his face
away. Therefore it has been said that intelligent and experienced
men ought to be on their guard against the violence and despotism
of kings because their thoughts are generally occupied with important
affairs of state so that they cannot bear to be importuned by the
crowd of vulgar persons.
He will be excluded from the beneficence of the padshah
Who cannot watch for the proper opportunity.
Before thou seest the occasion for speaking at hand
Destroy not thy power by heedless talk.
The king said: 'Drive away this impudent and prodigal mendicant who
has in so short a time thrown away so much money. He does not know
that the Beit-ulmal is intended to offer a morsel to the needy and
not to feed the brothers of devils.'
The fool who burns by day a camphor-light
Will soon not have an oil-lamp for the night.
One of councillor-veziers said: 'My lord, it would seem proper to
grant to such persons a sufficient allowance to be drawn from time
to time so that they may not squander it. But anger and repulsion,
as manifested by thee, are unworthy of a generous disposition as also
to encourage a man by kindness and then again to distress him by disappointing
The door ought not to be opened to applicants so
That, when it is ajar, it may not be shut again.
Nobody sees the thirsty pilgrims to Hejaz
Crowding at the bank of briny water.
Wherever a sweet spring happens to be
Men, birds and insects flock around it.
One of the ancient kings neglected the government of his realm and
kept the army in distress. Accordingly the whole of it ran away when
a powerful enemy appeared.
If he refrains from giving treasure to the troops
They refrain from putting their hands to the sword.
What bravery will they display in battle array
When their hands are empty and affairs deplorable?
I was on terms of friendship with one of those who had acted treacherously
and reproached him, telling him that it was base, ungrateful, despicable
and undutiful to abandon an old master when his affairs have changed
a little and to disregard the obligations incurred for benefits received
during many years. He replied: 'If I inform thee, perhaps thou wilt
excuse me for my horse had no barley and my saddle-cloth was pawned.
A sultan who grudges money to his troops, they cannot bravely risk
their lives for him.'
Give gold to the soldier that he may serve thee.
If thou witholdest gold, he will serve elsewhere.
When a warrior is full, he will be brave infight but if his belly
be empty, he will be brave in flight.
A vezier, who had been removed from his post, entered the circle of
dervishes and the blessing of their society took such effect upon
him that he became contented in his mind. When the king was again
favourably disposed towards him and ordered him to resume his office,
he refused and said: 'Retirement is better than occupation.'
Those who have sat down in the corner of safety
Have bound the teeth of dogs and tongues of men.
They tore the paper up and broke the pen
And are saved from the hands and tongues of slanderers.
The king said: 'Verily we stand in need of a man of sufficient intelligence
who is able to carry on the administration of the government.' He
replied: 'It is a sign of sufficient intelligence not to engage in
The homa excels all other birds in nobility
Because it feeds on bones and injures no living thing.
A donkey, having been asked for what salary he had elected to attend
upon the lion, replied: 'That I may consume the remnants of his prey
and live in safety from my enemies by taking refuge under his bravery.'
Being again asked that, as he had entered into the shadow of the lion's
protection and gratefully acknowledged his beneficence, why he had
not joined the circle of intimacy so as to be accounted one of his
favourite servants, he replied: 'I am in the same way also not safe
of his bravery.'
Should a Guebre kindle fire a hundred years
If he falls one moment into it he will be burnt.
It may happen that a companion of his majesty the sultan receives
gold and it is possible that he loses his head. Philosophers have
said that it is necessary to be on guard of the fickle temper of padshahs
because sometimes they are displeased with politeness and at others
they bestow robes of honour for rudeness. It is also said that much
jocularity is an accomplishment in courtiers but a fault in sages.
Abide thou by thy dignity and gravity.
Leave sport and jocularity to courtiers.
One of my friends complained of the unpropitious times, telling me
that he had a slender income, a large family, without strength to
bear the load of poverty and had often entertained the idea to emigrate
to another country so that no matter how he made a living no one might
become aware of his good or ill luck.
Many a man slept hungry and no one knew who he was.
Many a man was at the point of death and no one wept for him.
He was also apprehensive of the malevolence of enemies who would laugh
behind his back and would attribute the struggle he underwent for
the benefit of his family to his want of manly independence and that
they will say:
'Behold that dishonourable fellow who will never
See the face of prosperity,
Will choose bodily comfort for himself,
Abandoning his wife and children to misery.'
He also told me that as I knew he possessed some knowledge of arithmetic,
I might, through my influence, get him appointed to a post which would
become the means of putting his mind at ease and place him under obligations
to me, which he could not requite by gratitude during the rest of
his life. I replied: 'Dear friend! Employment by a padshah consists
of two parts, namely, the hope for bread and the danger of life, but
it is against the opinion of intelligent men to incur this danger
for that hope.'
No one comes to the house of a dervish
To levy a tax on land and garden.
Either consent to bear thy anxiety or grief
Or carry thy beloved children to the crows.
He replied: 'Thou hast not uttered these words in conformity with
my case nor answered my question. Hast thou not heard the saying?
"Whoever commits treachery let his hand tremble at the account."'
Straightness is the means of acceptance with God.
I saw no one lost on the straight road.
Sages have said: 'Four persons are for life in dread of four persons:
a robber of the sultan, a thief of the watchman, an adulterer of an
informer, and a harlot of the muhtasib. But what has he to fear whose
account of the conscience is clear?'
Be not extravagant when in office, if thou desirest
On thy removal to see thy foes embarrassed for imputations against
Be thou pure, O brother, and in fear of no one.
Washermen beat only impure garments against stones.
I said: 'The story of that fox resembles thy case, who was by some
persons seen fleeing with much trouble and asked for the cause of
his fear replied: 'I have heard that camels are being forced into
the service.' They said: 'O fool, what connection hast thou with a
camel and what resemblance does the latter bear to thee?' The fox
rejoined: 'Hush. If the envious malevolently say that I am a camel
and I am caught, who will care to release me or investigate my case?
Till the antidote is brought from Eraq the snake-bitten person dies.'
Thou art a very excellent and honest man but enemies sit in ambush
and competitors in every corner. If they describe thy character in
a contrary manner, thou wouldst be called upon to give explanations
to the padshah and incur reproof. Who would on that occasion venture
to say anything? Accordingly I am of opinion that thou shouldst retire
to the domain of contentment and abandon aspirations to dominion.
Wise men have said:
'In the sea there are countless gains,
But if thou desirest safety, it will be on the shore.'
My friend, having heard these words, became angry, made a wry face
and began to reproach me, saying: 'What sufficiency of wisdom and
maturity of intellect is this? The saying of philosophers has come
true, that friends are useful in prison because at table all enemies
appear as friends.'
Account him not a friend who knocks at the door of prosperity,
Boasts of amity and calls himself thy adopted brother.
I consider him a friend who takes a friend's hand
When he is in a distressed state and in poverty.
Seeing that he had thus changed and ascribed my advice to an interested
motive, I paid a visit to the President of the State Council and,
trusting in my old acquaintance with him, explained the case of my
friend whom he then appointed to a small post. In a short time my
friend's affable behaviour and good management elicited approbation
so that he was promoted to a higher office. In this manner the star
of his good luck ascended till he reached the zenith of his aspirations,
became a courtier of his majesty the sultan, generally esteemed and
trusted. I was delighted with his safe position and said:
'Be not apprehensive of tangled affairs and keep not a broken heart
Because the spring of life is in darkness.'
Do not grieve, O brother in misery,
Because the Ill-merciful has hidden favours.
Sit not morose on account of the turns of time; for patience,
Although bitter, nevertheless possesses a sweet fruit.
At that time I happened to go with a company of friends on a journey
to Mekkah and on my return he met me at a distance of two stages.
I perceived his outward appearance to be distressed, his costume being
that of dervishes. I asked: 'What is the matter?' He replied: 'As
thou hast predicted, some persons envied me and brought against me
an accusation of treason. The king ordered no inquiry on its truthfulness
and my old well-wishers with my kind friends who failed to speak the
word of truth forgot our old intimacy.
'Seest thou not in front of the possessor of dignity
They place the hands on their heads, praising him;
But, if fortune's turn causes his fall,
All desire to Place their foot on his head.
'In short, I was till this week undergoing various persecutions, when
the news of the pilgrims' approach from Mekkah arrived, whereon I
was released from my heavy bonds and my hereditary property confiscated.'
I replied: 'Thou hast not paid attention to my remarks when I said
that the service of padshahs is like a sea voyage, profitable and
dangerous, so that thou wilt either gain a treasure or perish in the
The khajah either takes gold with both hands to the shore
Or the waves throw him one day dead upon the shore.
Not thinking it suitable to scratch the wound of the dervish more
than I had already done and so sprinkle salt thereon, I contented
myself with reciting the following two distichs:
Knewest thou not that thou wilt see thy feet in bonds
If the advice of people cannot penetrate into thy ear?
Again, if thou canst not bear the pain of the sting
Put not thy finger into the hole of a scorpion.
Several men were in my company whose external appearance displayed
the adornment of piety. A great man who had conceived a very good
opinion of these persons had assigned them a fixed allowance but,
after one of them had done something unbecoming the profession of
dervishes, his opinion changed and they fell into disgrace. I desired
in some way to save the allowance of my friends and intended to wait
upon the great man but the doorkeeper would not allow me to enter
and was rude. I pardoned him, because it has been said:
The door of an amir, vezier or sultan
Is not to be approached without an introduction.
When a dog or a doorkeeper sees a stranger
The former takes hold of his skirt, the latter of his collar.
When those who could at any time approach the presence of the said
great man became aware of my case, they took me in with compliments
and desired to assign me a high seat but I humbly took a lower one
'Allow me who am the smallest slave
To sit in the line of slaves.'
He said: 'Allah, Allah, what need is there for such words?'
If thou sittest on my head and eyes
I shall be polite, for thou art polite.
In short, I took a seat and we conversed on a variety of topics till
the affair of the error of my companions turned up and I said:
'What crime has my lord seen, who was bountiful,
To make the slave despicable in his sight?
To God that magnanimity and bounty is surrendered
Which beholds the crime but nevertheless bestows the bread.'
The governor, being pleased with these words, ordered the support
of my friends to be attended to as before and the arrears to be made
good. I expressed my gratitude, kissed the ground of obedience, apologized
for my boldness, and said:
'Since the Ka'bah has become the Qiblah of wants from distant lands
The people go to visit it from many farsangs.
Thou must suffer the importunity of such as we are
Because no one throws stones on a tree without fruit.'
A royal prince, having inherited abundant treasures from his father,
opened the hand of liberality and satisfied his impulse of generosity
by lavishing without stint benefits upon the army and the population.
A tray of lignum aloes will emit no odour.
Place it on fire, it will smell like ambergris.
If thou wishest to be accounted great, be liberal
Because grain will not grow unless it be sown.
One of his courtiers began heedlessly to admonish him, saying: 'Former
kings have by their exertions accumulated this wealth and deposited
it for a useful purpose. Cease this movement because calamities may
arise in front and enemies in the rear. It is not meet for thee to
be helpless at a time of necessity.'
If thou distributest a treasure to the multitude
Each householder will receive a grain of rice.
Why takest thou not from each a barley-corn of silver
That thou mayest accumulate every day a treasure?
The royal prince turned away his face at these words and said: 'God
the most high has made me the possessor of this country, to enjoy
and to bestow, not to guard and to retain.'
Qarun, who possessed forty treasure houses, perished.
Nushirvan has not died because he obtained a good reputation.
It is related that, whilst some game was being roasted for Nushirvan
the just during a hunting party, no salt could be found. Accordingly
a boy was sent to an adjoining village to bring some. Nushirvan said:
'Pay for the salt lest it should become a custom and the village be
ruined.' Having been asked what harm could arise from such a trifling
demand, Nushirvan replied: 'The foundation of oppression was small
in the world but whoever came augmented it so that it reached its
If the king eats one apple from the garden of a subject
His slaves will pull him up the tree from the roots.
For five eggs which the sultan allows to be taken by force
The people belonging to his army will put a thousand
fowls on the spit.
A tyrant does not remain in the world
But the curse on him abides for ever.
I heard that an oppressor ruined the habitations of the subjects to
fill the treasury of the sultan, unmindful of the maxim of philosophers,
who have said: 'Who offends God the most high to gain the heart of
a created being, God will use that very being to bring on his destruction
in the world.'
Fire burning with wild rue will not
Cause a smoke like that of afflicted hearts.
The prince of all animals is the lion and the meanest of beasts the
ass. Nevertheless sages agree that an ass who carries loads is better
than a lion who destroys men.
The poor donkey though void of discernment
Is nevertheless esteemed when he carries a burden.
Oxen and asses who carry loads
Are superior to men oppressing mankind.
When the king had obtained information of some of the oppressor's
misdeeds and bad conduct, he had him put on the rack and slain by
Thou wilt not obtain the approbation of the sultan
Unless thou seekest the goodwill of his subjects.
If thou desirest God to condone thy transgressions,
Do good to the people whom God has created.
One of the oppressed who passed near him said:
'Not everyone who possesses strength of arm and office
In the sultanate may with impunity plunder the people.
A hard bone may be made to pass down the throat
But it will tear the belly when it sticks in the navel.'
It is narrated that an oppressor of the people, a soldier, hit the
head of a pious man with a stone and that the dervish, having no means
of taking vengeance, preserved the stone till the time arrived when
the king became angry with that soldier, and imprisoned him in a well.
Then the dervish made his appearance and dropped the stone upon his
head. He asked: 'Who art thou, and why hast thou hit my head with
this stone?' The man replied: 'I am the same person whom thou hast
struck on the head with this stone on such and such a day.' The soldier
continued: 'Where hast thou been all this time?' The dervish replied:
'I was afraid of thy dignity but now when I beheld thee in the well
I made use of the opportunity.'
When thou seest an unworthy man in good luck
Intelligent men have chosen submission.
If thou hast not a tearing sharp nail
It will be better not to contend with the wicked.
Who grasps with his fist one who has an arm of steel
Injures only his own powerless wrist.
Wait till inconstant fortune ties his hand.
Then, to please thy friends, pick out his brains.
A king was subject to a terrible disease, the mention of which is
not sanctioned by custom. The tribe of Yunani physicians agreed that
this pain cannot be allayed except by means of the bile of a person
endued with certain qualities. Orders having been issued to search
for an individual of this kind, the son of a landholder was discovered
to possess the qualities mentioned by the doctors. The king summoned
the father and mother of the boy whose consent he obtained by giving
them immense wealth. The qazi issued a judicial decree that it is
permissible to shed the blood of one subject for the safety of the
king and the executioner was ready to slay the boy who then looked
heavenwards and smiled. The king asked: 'What occasion for laughter
is there in such a position?' The youth replied: 'A son looks to the
affection of his father and mother to bring his case before the qazi
and to ask justice from the padshah. In the present instance, however,
the father and mother have for the trash of this world surrendered
my blood, the qazi has issued a decree to kill me, the sultan thinks
he will recover his health only through my destruction and I see no
other refuge besides God the most high.'
To whom shall I complain against thy hand
If I am to seek justice also from thy hand?
The sultan became troubled at these words, tears rushed to his eyes
and he said: 'It is better for me to perish than to shed innocent
blood.' He kissed the head and eyes of the youth, presented him with
boundless wealth and it is said that the king also recovered his health
during that week.
I also remember the distich recited
By the elephant-driver on the bank of the Nile:
'If thou knewest the state of the ant under thy foot
It is like thy own condition under the foot of an elephant.'
One of the servants of Umrulais had fled but some men, having been
sent in pursuit, brought him back. The vezier who bore a grudge towards
him desired him to be killed that the other servants may not imitate
his example. He placed his head on the ground before Umrulais and
'Whatever befalls my head is lawful with thy approbation.
What plea can the slave advance? The sentence is the master's.'
'But, having been nourished by the bounty of this dynasty, I am loth
that on the day of resurrection thou shouldst be punished for having
shed my blood; but, if thou desirest to kill me, do so according to
the provisions of the law.' He asked: 'How am I to interpret it?'
The slave continued: 'Allow me to kill the vezier and then take my
life in retaliation so that I may be killed justly.' The king smiled
and asked the vezier what he thought of the matter. He replied: 'My
lord, give freedom to this bastard as an oblation to the tomb of thy
father for fear he would bring trouble on me likewise. It is my fault
for not having taken account of the maxim of philosophers who have
When thou fightest with a thrower of clods
Thou ignorantly breakest thy own head.
When thou shootest an arrow at the face of a foe
Be on thy guard for thou art sitting as a target for him.'
King Zuzan had a khajah of noble sentiments and of good aspect who
served his companions when they were present and spoke well of them
when they were absent. He happened to do something whereby he incurred
the displeasure of the king who inflicted a fine on him and also otherwise
punished him. The officials of the king, mindful of the benefits they
had formerly received from him and being by them pledged to gratitude,
treated him kindly whilst in their custody and allowed no one to insult
If thou desirest peace from the foe, whenever he
Finds fault behind thy back praise him to his face.
A vicious fellow's mouth must utter words.
If thou desirest not bitter words, sweeten his mouth.
He was absolved of some accusations brought by the king against him
but retained in prison for some. Another king in those regions secretly
dispatched a message to him, to the purport that the sovereigns of
that country, not knowing his excellent qualities, had dishonoured
him, but that if his precious mind (may Allah prosper the end of his
affairs) were to look in this direction, the utmost efforts would
be made to please him, because the nobles of this realm would consider
it an honour to see him and are waiting for a reply to this letter.
The khajah, who had received this information, being apprehensive
of danger, forthwith wrote a brief and suitable answer on the back
of the sheet of paper and sent it back. One, however, of the king's
courtiers, who noticed what had taken place, reported to him that
the imprisoned khajah was in correspondence with the princes of the
adjacent country. The king became angry and desired this affair to
be investigated. The courier was overtaken and deprived of the letter,
the contents of which were found on perusal to be as follows: 'The
good opinion of high personages is more than their servant's merit
deserves, who is unable to comply with the honour of reception which
they have offered him, because having been nourished by the bounty
of this dynasty, he cannot become unthankful towards his benefactor
in consequence of a slight change of sentiments of the latter, since
it is said:
He who bestows every moment favours upon thee
Is to be pardoned by thee if once in his life he injures thee.'
The king approved of his gratitude, bestowed upon him a robe of honour,
gave him presents and asked his pardon, saying: 'I committed a mistake.'
He replied: 'My lord, it was the decree of God the most high that
a misfortune should befall this servant but it was best that it should
come from thy hands which had formerly bestowed favours upon him and
placed him under obligations.'
If people injure thee grieve not
Because neither rest nor grief come from the people.
Be aware that the contrasts of friend and foe are from God
Because the hearts of both are in his keeping.
Although the arrow is shot from the bow
Wise men look at the archer.
One of the Arab kings ordered his officials to double the allowance
of a certain attendant because he was always at the palace expecting
orders while the other servants were engaged in amusements and sports,
neglecting their duties. A pious man who heard this remarked that
high degrees at the court of heaven are similarly bestowed upon servants:
If a man comes two mornings to serve the shah
He will on the third certainly look benevolently on him.
Sincere worshippers entertain the hope
That they will not be disappointed at the threshold of God.
Superiority consists in attending to commands.
The neglect of commands leads to exclusion.
Who possesses the criterion of righteousness
Places the head upon the threshold.
It is narrated that a tyrant who purchased wood from dervishes forcibly
gave it away to rich -people gratuitously. A pious man passing near
'Thou art a snake, stingest whom thou beholdest,
Or an owl; wherever thou sittest thou destroyest.
Although thy oppression may pass among us
It cannot pass with the Lord who knows all secrets.
Oppress not the denizens of the earth
That their supplications may not pass to heaven.'
The tyrant, being displeased with these words, got angry and took
no notice of him until one night, when fire from the kitchen fell
into the store of his wood and burnt all he possessed-transferring
him from his soft bed to a hot mound of ashes-the same pious man happened
again to pass and to hear him saying to his friends: 'I do not know
whence this fire has fallen into my house.' replied: 'From the smoke
of the hearts of dervishes.'
Beware of the smoke of internal wounds
Because at last an internal wound will break out.
Forbear to uproot one heart as long as thou canst
Because one sigh may uproot a world.
Upon the diadem of Kaikhosru the following piece was inscribed:
For how many years and long lives
Will the people walk over my head on the ground?
As from hand to hand the kingdom came to us
So it will also go to other hands.
A man had attained great excellence in the art of wrestling, who knew
three hundred and sixty exquisite tricks and daily exhibited something
new. He had a particular affection for the beauty of one of his pupils
whom he taught three hundred and fifty-nine tricks, refraining to
impart to him only one. At last the youth had attained such power
and skill that no one was able to contend with him and he went so
far as to say to the sultan: 'I allow superiority to my teacher on
account of his age and from gratitude for his instruction but my strength
is not less than his and my skill equal.' The king, who was not pleased
with this want of good manners, ordered them to wrestle with each
other and a spacious locality having been fixed upon, the pillars
of state and courtiers of his majesty made their appearance. The youth
made an onslaught like a mad elephant with an impulse which might
have uprooted a mountain of brass from its place but the master, who
knew that he was in strength superior to himself, attacked him with
the rare trick he had reserved to himself and which the youth was
unable to elude; whereon the master, lifting him up with his hands
from the ground, raised him above his head and then threw him down.
Shouts were raised by the spectators and the king ordered a robe of
honour with other presents to be given to the teacher but reproached
and blamed the youth for having attempted to cope with his instructor
and succumbed. He replied: 'My lord, he has not vanquished me by his
strength but there was a slender part in the art of wrestling which
he had withheld from me and had today thereby got the upper hand of
me.' The master said: 'I had reserved it for such an occasion because
wise men have said: "Do not give so much strength to thy friend that,
if he becomes thy foe, he may injure thee." Hast thou not heard what
the man said who suffered molestation from one whom he had educated?
Either fidelity itself does not exist in this world
Or nobody practices it in our time.
No one had learnt archery from me
Without at last making a target of me.'
A solitary dervish was sitting in a corner of the desert when a padshah
happened to pass by but, ease having made him independent, he took
no notice. The sultan, in conformity with his royal dignity, became
angry and said: 'This tribe of rag-wearers resembles beasts.' The
vezier said: 'The padshah of the surface of the earth has passed near
thee. Why hast thou not paid homage and shown good manners?' He replied:
'Tell the king to look for homage from a man who expects benefits
from him and also that kings exist for protecting subjects and subjects
not for obeying kings.'
The padshah is the guardian of the dervish
Although wealth is in the glory of his reign.
The sheep is not for the shepherd
But the shepherd for the service of it.
Today thou beholdest one man prosperous
And another whose heart is wounded by struggling.
Wait a few days till the earth consumes
The brain in the head of the visionary.
Distinction between king and slave has ceased
When the decree of fate overtakes them.
If a man were to open the tombs of the dead
He would not distinguish a rich from a poor man.
The king, who was pleased with the sentiments of the dervish, asked
him to make a request but he answered that the only one he had to
make was to be left alone. The king then asked for advice and the
'Understand now while wealth is in thy hand
That fortune and kingdom will leave thy hand.'
A vezier paid a visit to Zulnun Misri and asked for his favour, saying:
'I am day and night engaged in the service of the sultan and hoping
to be rewarded but nevertheless dread to be punished by him.' Zulnun
wept and said: 'Had I feared God, the great and glorious, as thou
fearest the sultan, I would be one of the number of the righteous.'
If there were no hope of rest and trouble
The foot of the dervish would be upon the sphere
And if the vezier feared God
Like the king he would be king.
A padshah having issued orders to kill an innocent man, the latter
said: 'O king, seek not thine own injury on account of the anger thou
bearest towards me.' He asked: 'How?' The man replied: 'This punishment
will abide with me one moment but the sin of it for ever with thee.'
The period of life has passed away like the desert wind.
Bitter and sweet, ugliness and beauty have passed away.
The tyrant fanded he had done injury to us.
It remained on his neck and passed away from us.
This admonition having taken effect, the king spared his blood.
The veziers of Nushirvan happened to discuss an important affair of
state, each giving his opinion according to his knowledge. The king
likewise gave his opinion and Barzachumihr concurred with it. Afterwards
the veziers secretly asked him: 'What superiority hast thou discovered
in the opinion of the king above so many other reflections of wise
men?' The philosopher replied: 'Since the termination of the affair
is unknown and it depends upon the will of God whether the opinion
of the others will turn out right or wrong, it was better to agree
with the opinion of the king so that, if it should turn out to have
been wrong, we may, on account of having followed it, remain free
To proffer an opinion contrary to the king's
Means to wash the hands in one's own blood.
Should he in plain day say it is night,
It is meet to shout: 'Lo, the moon and the pleiads!'
An impostor arranged his hair in a peculiar fashion, pretended to
be a descendant of A'li and entered the town with a caravan from the
Hejaz, saying that he had just arrived from a pilgrimage. He also
presented an elegy to the king, alleging that he had himself composed
it. One of the king's courtiers, who had that year returned from a
journey, said: 'I have seen him at Bosrah on the Azhah festival, then
how can he be a Haji?' Another said: 'His father was a Christian at
Melitah. How can he be a descendant of A'li? And his poetry has been
found in the Divan of Anvari.' The king ordered him to be beaten and
expelled the country for his great mendacity. The man said: 'O lord
of the surface of the earth, I shall say something more and, if it
is not true, I shall deserve any punishment which thou mayest decree.'
He asked: 'What is it?'
When a stranger brings before thee buttermilk
Two measures of it will be water and a spoonful sour milk.
If thou hast heard heedless talk from thy slave, be not offended.
A man who has seen the world utters much falsehood.
The king laughed, told him that all his life he had not uttered more
true words than these and ordered the present which the fellow hoped
for to be got ready.
One of the veziers of a king treated his subordinates with kindness
and sought the goodwill of his colleagues. Once he happened to be
called to account by the king for something he had done whereon his
colleagues endeavoured to effect his liberation. Those who guarded
him treated him leniently and the great men expatiated upon his good
character to the padshah till he renounced all further inquiry. A
pious man who took cognizance of this affair said:
'In order to gain the hearts of friends
Sell even the garden of thy father.
In order to boil the pot of well-wishers
Burn even all the furniture of the house.
Do good even to a malevolent fellow.
Tie up the mouth of the dog with a sop.'
One of the sons of Harun-ur-Rashid went to his father and angrily
informed him that the son of an official had used insulting expressions
towards him whereon Harun asked his courtiers what requital he deserved.
One of them proposed capital punishment, another the amputation of
the tongue whilst a third recommended fine and imprisonment. Then
Harun said: 'Oh my son, it would be generous to pardon him but, if
thou art unable to do so, use likewise insulting expressions concerning
his mother; not however to such a degree as to exceed the bounds of
vengeance because in that case the wrong will be on thy side.'
He is not reputed a man by the wise
Who contends with a furious elephant
But he is a man in reality
Who when angry speaks not idle words.
An ill-humoured fellow insulted a man
Who patiently bore it saying: 'O hopeful youth,
I am worse than thou speakest of me
For I am more conscious of my faults than thou.'
I was sitting in a vessel with a company of great men when a boat
which contained two brothers happened to sink near us. One of the
great men promised a hundred dinars to a sailor if he could save them
both. Whilst however the sailor was pulling out one, the other perished.
I said: 'He had no longer to live and therefore delay took place in
rescuing him.' The sailor smiled and replied: 'What thou hast said
is certain. Moreover, I preferred to save this one because, when I
once-happened to lag behind in the desert, he seated me on his camel,
whereas I had received a whipping by the hands of the other. When
I was a boy I recited: He, who doth right, doth it to his own soul
and he, who doth evil, doth it against the same.'
As long as thou canst, scratch the interior of no one
Because there are thorns on this road.
Be helpful in the affairs of a dervish
Because thou also hast affairs.
There were two brothers: one of them in the service of the sultan
and the other gaining his livelihood by the effort of his arm. The
wealthy man once asked his destitute brother why he did not serve
the sultan in order to be delivered from the hardship of labouring.
He replied: 'Why labourest thou not to be delivered from the baseness
of service because philosophers have said that it is better to eat
barley bread and to sit than to gird oneself with a golden belt and
to stand in service?'
To leaven mortar of quicklime with the hand
Is better than to hold them on the breast before the amir.
My precious life was spent in considering
What I am to eat in summer and wear in winter.
O ignoble belly, be satisfied with one bread
Rather than to bend the back in service.
Someone had brought information to Nushirvan the just that an enemy
of his had been removed from this world by God the most high. He asked:
'Hast thou heard anything about his intending to spare me?'
There is no occasion for our rejoicing at a foe's death
Because our own life will also not last for ever.
A company of philosophers were discussing a subject in the palace
of Kesra and Barzachumihr, having remained silent, they asked him
why he took no share in the debate. He replied: 'Veziers are like
physicians and the latter give medicine to the sick only but, as I
perceive that your opinions are in conformity with propriety, I have
nothing to say about them.'
When an affair succeeds without my idle talk
It is not meet for me to speak thereon.
But if I see a blind man near a well
It is a crime for me to remain silent.
Harun-ur-Rashid said when the country of Egypt was surrendered to
him: 'In contrast to the rebel who had in his arrogance of being sovereign
of Egypt pretended to be God, I shall bestow this country upon the
meanest of my slaves.' He had a stupid negro, Khosaib by name, whom
he made governor of Egypt but his intellect and discrimination were
so limited that when the tribe of Egyptian agriculturists complained
and stated that they had sown cotton along the banks of the Nile and
that an untimely rain had destroyed it he replied: 'You ought to have
sown wool.' A pious man heard this, and said:
'If livelihood were increased by knowledge
None would be more needy than the ignorant.
Nevertheless the ignorant receive a livelihood
At which the learned stand aghast.
The luck of wealth consists not in skill
But only in the aid of heaven.
It happens in the world that many
Silly men are honoured and sages despised.
If an alchemist has died in grief and misery,
A fool discovered a treasure amidst ruins.'
A Chinese slave-girl having been brought to a king, he desired to
have connection with her whilst in a state of intoxication but, as
she repelled him, he became angry and presented her to one of his
negro-slaves whose upper lip was higher than his nostrils whilst the
lower one hung down to his neck. His stature was such that the demon
Sakhrah would have been put to flight and a fountain of pitch emitted
stench from his armpits.
Thou wouldst say that, till the resurrection, ugliness
Is his stamp as that of Joseph was beauty.
His person was of so wretched an aspect
That his ugliness surpassed all description
And from his armpits we take refuge with Allah,
They were like a corpse in the month of Merdad.
At that time the desire of the negro was libidinous, his lust overcame
him, his love leapt up and he took off the seal of her virginity.
In the morning the king sought the girl but could not find her and,
having obtained information of what had taken place, he became angry,
ordered the negro and the girl to be firmly tied together by their
hands and feet and to be thrown from the lofty building into a ditch.
One of the veziers, placing the face of intercession upon the ground,
pleaded that there was no guilt in the negro since all the servants
of his majesty usually receive presents and benefits as he had received
the girl. The king rejoined: 'What would it have mattered if he had
for one night delayed his enjoyment?' He said: 'My lord, hast thou
not heard that it was said:
When a man with a burning thirst reaches a limpid spring,
Think not that he will care for a mad elephant.
When a hungry infidel is in an empty house at table
Reason will not believe that he cares for the Ramazan.'
The king, being pleased with this sally, exclaimed: 'I make thee a
present of the negro. What am I to do with the girl?' He replied:
'Give the girl to the negro because that half is also due to a dog
of which he has consumed the other half.'
The thirsty heart does not wish for limpid water
Half of which was consumed by a fetid mouth.
How can the king's hand again touch
An orange after it has fallen into dung?
Iskandur Rumi, having been asked how he had conquered the east and
the west, considering that the treasures, territories, reigns and
armies of former kings exceeded his own and they had not gained such
a victory, replied: 'Whatever country I conquered by the aid of God
the most high, I abstained from distressing its population and spoke
nothing but good of the king.'
The intelligent will not call him great
Who speaks ill of the great.
All this is nothing as it passes away:
Throne and luck, command and prohibition, taking and giving.
Injure not the name of those who have passed away
In order that thy own name may subsist.
The Morals of Dervishes
One of the great devotees having been asked about his opinion concerning
a hermit whom others had censured in their conversation, he replied:
'I do not see any external blemishes on him and do not know of internal
Whomsoever thou seest in a religious habit
Consider him to be a religious and good man
And, if thou knowest not his internal condition,
What business has the muhtasib inside the house?
I saw a dervish who placed his head upon the threshold of the Ka'bah,
groaned, and said: 'O forgiving, 0 merciful one, thou knowest what
an unrighteous, ignorant man can offer to thee.'
I have craved pardon for the deficiency of my service
Because I can implore no reward for my obedience.
Sinners repent of their transgressions.
Arifs ask forgiveness for their imperfect worship.
Devotees desire a reward for their obedience and merchants the price
of their wares but I, who am a worshipper, have brought hope and not
obedience. I have come to beg and not to trade. Deal with me as thou
Whether thou killest me or forgivest my crime,
my face and head are on thy threshold.
A slave has nothing to command; whatever thou commandest I obey.
I saw a mendicant at the door of the Ka'bah
Who said this and wept abundantly:
'I ask not for the acceptance of my service
But for drawing the pen of pardon over my sins.'
I saw A'bd-u-Qader Gaillani in the sanctuary of the Ka'bah with his
face on the pebbles and saying: 'O lord, pardon my sins and, if I
deserve punishment, cause me to arise blind on the day of resurrection
that I may not be ashamed in the sight of the righteous.'
With my face on the earth of helplessness
I say Every morning as soon as I become conscious:
O thou whom I shall never forget
Wilt thou at all remember thy slave?
A thief paid a visit to the house of a pious man but, although he
sought a great deal, found nothing and was much grieved. The pious
man, who knew this, threw the blanket upon which he had been sleeping
into the way of the thief that he might not go away disappointed.
I heard that men of the way of God
Have not distressed the hearts of enemies.
How canst thou attain that dignity
Who quarrelest and wagest war against friends?
The friendship of pure men, whether in thy presence or absence, is
not such as Will find fault behind thy back and is ready to die for
thee before thy face.
In thy presence gentle like a lamb,
In thy absence like a man-devouring wolf.
Who brings the faults of another to thee and enumerates them
Will undoubtedly carry thy faults to others.
Several travellers were on a journey together and equally sharing
each other's troubles and comforts. I desired to accompany them but
they would not agree. Then I said: 'It is foreign to the manners of
great men to turn away the face from the company of the poor and so
deprive themselves of the advantage they might derive therefrom because
I for one consider myself sufficiently strong and energetic to be
of service to men and not an encumbrance. Although I am not riding
on a beast, I shall aid you in carrying blankets.' One of them said:
'Do not be grieved at the words thou hast heard because some days
ago a thief in the guise of a dervish arrived and joined our company.'
How can people know who is in the dress?
The writer is aware what the book contains.
As the state of dervishes is safe, they entertained no suspicion about
him and received him as a friend.
The outward state of Arifs is the patched dress.
It suffices as a display to the face of the people.
Strive by thy acts to be good and wear anything thou listest.
Place a crown on thy head and a flag on thy back.
The abandoning of the world, of lust, and of desire
Is sanctity, not the abandonment of the robe only.
It is necessary to show manhood in the fight.
Of what profit are weapons of war to an hermaphrodite?
We travelled one day till the night set in during which we slept near
a fort and the graceless thief, taking up the water-pot of a companion,
pretending to go for an ablution, departed for plunder.
A pretended saint who wears the dervish garb
Has made of the Ka'bah's robes the covering of an ass.
After disappearing from the sight of the dervishes, he went to a tower
from which he stole a casket and, when the day dawned, the dark-hearted
wretch had already progressed a considerable distance. In the morning
the guiltless sleeping companions were all taken to the fort and thrown
into prison. From that date we renounced companionship and took the
road of solitude, according to the maxim: Safety is in solitude.
When one of a tribe has done a foolish thing
No honour is left either to the low or the high.
Seest thou not how one ox of the pasturage
Defiles all oxen of the village?
I replied: 'Thanks be to the God of majesty and glory, I have not
been excluded from the advantages enjoyed by dervishes, although I
have separated myself from their society. I have profited by what
thou hast narrated to me and this admonition will be of use through
life to persons like me.'
For one rude fellow in the assembly
The heart of intelligent men is much grieved.
If a tank be filled with rose-water
A dog falling into it pollutes the whole.
A hermit, being the guest of a padshah, ate less than he wished when
sitting at dinner and when he rose for prayers he prolonged them more
than was his wont in order to enhance the opinion entertained by the
padshah of his piety.
O Arab of the desert, I fear thou wilt not reach the Ka'bah
Because the road on which thou travellest leads to Turkestan.
When he returned to his own house, he desired the table to be laid
out for eating. He had an intelligent son who said: 'Father, hast
thou not eaten anything at the repast of the sultan?' He replied:
'I have not eaten anything to serve a purpose.' The boy said: 'Then
likewise say thy prayers again as thou hast not done anything to serve
O thou who showest virtues on the palms of the hand
But concealest thy errors under the armpit
What wilt thou purchase, O vain-glorious fool,
On the day of distress with counterfeit silver?
I remember, being in my childhood pious, rising in the night, addicted
to devotion and abstinence. One night I was sitting with my father,
remaining awake and holding the beloved Quran in my lap, whilst the
people around us were asleep. I said: 'Not one of these persons lifts
up his head or makes a genuflection. They are as fast asleep as if
they were dead.' He replied: 'Darling of thy father, would that thou
wert also asleep rather than disparaging people.'
The pretender sees no one but himself
Because he has the veil of conceit in front.
If he were endowed with a God-discerning eye
He would see that no one is weaker than himself.
A great man was praised in an assembly and, his good qualities being
extolled, he raised his head and said: 'I am such as I know myself
O thou who reckonest my virtues, refrainest from giving me pain,
These are my open, and thou knowest not my hidden, qualities.
My person is, to the eyes of the world, of good aspect
But my internal wickedness makes me droop my head with shame.
The peacock is for his beauteous colours by the people
Praised whilst he is ashamed of his ugly feet.
One of the devotees of Mount Lebanon, whose piety was famed in the
Arab country and his miracles well known, entered the cathedral mosque
of Damascus and was performing his purificatory ablution on the edge
of a tank when his feet slipped and he fell into the reservoir but
saved himself with great trouble. After the congregation had finished
their prayers, one of his companions said: 'I have a difficulty.'
He asked: 'What is it?' He continued: 'I remember that the sheikh
walked on the surface of the African sea without his feet getting
wetted and today he nearly perished in this paltry water which is
not deeper than a man's stature. What reason is there in this?' The
sheikh drooped his head into the bosom of meditation and said after
a long pause: 'Hast thou not heard that the prince of the world, Muhammad
the chosen, upon whom be the benediction of Allah and peace, has said:
I have time with Allah during which no cherubim nor inspired prophet
is equal to me?' But he did not say that such was always the case.
The time alluded to was when Gabriel or Michael inspired him whilst
on other occasions he was satisfied with the society of Hafsah and
Zainab. The visions of the righteous one are between brilliancy and
Thou showest thy countenance and then hidest it
Enhancing thy value and augmenting our desire.
I behold whom I love without an intervention.
Then a trance befalls me; I lose the road;
It kindles fire, then quenches it with a sprinkling shower.
Wherefore thou seest me burning and drowning.
One asked the man who had lost his son:
'O noble and intelligent old man!
As thou hast smelt the odour of his garment from Egypt
Why hast thou not seen him in the well of Canaan?'
'My state is that of leaping lightning.
One moment it appears and at another vanishes.
I am sometimes sitting in high heaven.
Sometimes I cannot see the back of my foot.
Were a dervish always to remain in that state
He would not care for the two worlds.'
I spoke in the cathedral mosque of Damascus a few words by way of
a sermon but to a congregation whose hearts were withered and dead,
not having travelled from the road of the world of form, the physical,
to the world of meaning, the moral world. I perceived that my words
took no effect and that burning fire does not kindle moist wood. I
was sorry for instructing brutes and holding forth a mirror in a locality
of blind people. I had, however, opened the door of meaning and was
giving a long explanation of the verse We are nearer unto Him than
the jugular vein till I said:
'The Friend is nearer to me than my self,
But it is more strange that I am far from him.
What am I to do? To whom can it be said that he
Is in my arms, but I am exiled from him.'
I had intoxicated myself with the wine of these sentiments, holding
the remnant of the cup of the sermon in my hand when a traveller happened
to pass near the edge of the assembly, and the last turn of the circulating
cup made such an impression upon him that he shouted and the others
joined him who began to roar, whilst the raw portion of the congregation
became turbulent. Whereon I said: 'Praise be to Allah! Those who are
far away but intelligent are in the presence of Allah, and those who
are near but blind are distant.'
When the hearer understands not the meaning of words
Do not look for the effect of the orator's force
But raise an extensive field of desire
That the eloquent man may strike the ball of effect.
One night I had in the desert of Mekkah become so weak from want of
sleep that I was unable to walk and, laying myself down, told the
camel driver to let me alone.
How far can the foot of a wretched pedestrian go
When a dromedary gets distressed by its load?
Whilst the body of a fat man becomes lean
A weak man will be dead of exhaustion.
He replied: 'O brother, the sanctuary is in front of us and brigands
in the rear. If thou goest thou wilt prosper. If thou sleepest thou
It is pleasant to sleep under an acacia on the desert road
But alas! thou must bid farewell to life on the night of departure.
I saw a holy man on the seashore who had been wounded by a tiger.
No medicine could relieve his pain; he suffered much but he nevertheless
constantly thanked God the most high, saying: 'Praise be to Allah
that I have fallen into a calamity and not into sin.'
If that beloved Friend decrees me to be slain
I shall not say that moment that I grieve for life
Or say: What fault has thy slave committed?
My grief will be for having offended thee.
A dervish who had fallen into want stole a blanket from the house
of a friend. The judge ordered his hand to be amputated but the owner
of the blanket interceded, saying that he had condoned the fault.
The judge rejoined: 'Thy intercession cannot persuade me to neglect
the provision of the law.' The man continued: 'Thou hast spoken the
truth but amputation is not applicable to a person who steals some
property dedicated to pious uses. More over a beggar possesses nothing
and whatever belongs to a dervish is dedicated to the use of the needy.'
Thereon the judge released the culprit, saying: 'The world must indeed
have become too narrow for thee that thou hast committed no theft
except from the house of such a friend.' He replied: 'Hast thou not
heard the saying: Sweep out the house of friends and do not knock
at the door of foes.'
If thou sinkest in a calamity be not helpless.
Strip thy foes of their skins and thy friends of their fur-coats.
A padshah, meeting a holy man, asked him whether he did not sometimes
remember him for the purpose of getting presents. He replied: 'Yes,
I do, whenever I forget God.'
Whom He drives from his door, runs everywhere.
Whom He calls, runs to no one's door.
A pious man saw in a dream a padshah in paradise and a devotee in
hell whereon he asked for the reason of the former's exaltation and
the latter's degradation, saying that he had imagined the contrary
ought to be the case. He received the following answer: 'The padshah
had, for the love he bore to dervishes, been rewarded with paradise
and the devotee had, for associating with padshahs, been punished
Of what use is thy frock, rosary and patched dress?
Keep thyself free from despicable practices.
Then thou wilt have no need of a cap of leaves.
Have the qualities of a dervish and wear a Tatar cap.
A bareheaded and barefooted pedestrian who had arrived from Kufah
with the Hejaz-caravan of pilgrims joined us, strutted about and recited:
'I am neither riding a camel nor under a load like a camel.
I am neither a lord of subjects nor the slave of a potentate.
Grief for the present, or distress for the past, does not
I draw my breath in comfort and thus spend my life.'
A camel-rider shouted to him: 'O dervish, where art thou going? Return,
for thou wilt expire from hardships.' He paid no attention but entered
the desert and marched. When we reached the station at the palm-grove
of Mahmud, the rich man was on the point of death and the dervish,
approaching his pillow, said: 'We have not expired from hardship but
thou hast died on a dromedary.'
A man wept all night near the head of a patient.
When the day dawned he died and the patient revived.
Many a fleet charger had fallen dead
While a lame ass reached the station alive.
Often healthy persons were in the soil
Buried and the wounded did not die.
A hermit, having been invited by a padshah, concluded that if he were
to take some medicine to make himself weak he might perhaps enhance
the opinion of the padshah regarding his merits. But it is related
that the medicine was lethal so that when he partook of it he died.
Who appeared to thee all marrow like a pistachio
Was but skin upon skin like an onion.
Devotees with their face towards the world
Say their prayers with their back to the Qiblah.
When a worshipper calls upon his God,
He must know no one besides God.
A caravan having been plundered in the Yunan country and deprived
of boundless wealth, the merchants wept and lamented, beseeching God
and the prophet to intercede for them with the robbers, but ineffectually.
When a dark-minded robber is victorious
What cares he for the weeping of the caravan?
Loqman the philosopher being among the people of the caravan, one
of them asked him to speak a few words of wisdom and advice to the
robbers so that they might perhaps return some of the property they
had plundered because the loss of so much wealth would be lamentable.
Loqman replied: 'It would be lamentable to utter one word of wisdom
The rust which has eaten into iron
Cannot be removed by polishing.
Of what use is preaching to a black heart?
An iron nail cannot be driven into a rock.
Help the distressed in the day of prosperity
Because comforting the poor averts evil from thyself.
When a mendicant implores thee for a thing,
Give it or else an oppressor may take it by force.
Despite the abundant admonitions of the most illustrious Sheikh Abulfaraj
Ben Juzi to shun musical entertainments and to prefer solitude and
retirement, the budding of my youth overcame me, my sensual desires
were excited so that, unable to resist them, I walked some steps contrary
to the opinion of my tutor, enjoying myself in musical amusements
and convivial meetings. When the advice of my sheikh occurred to my
mind, I said:
'If the qazi were sitting with us, he would clap his hands.
If the muhtasib were bibbing wine, he would excuse a drunkard.'
Thus I lived till I paid one night a visit to an assembly of people
in which I saw a musician.
Thou wouldst have said he is tearing up the vital artery
with his fiddle-bow.
His voice was more unpleasant than the wailing of one who
lost his father.
The audience now stopped their ears with their fingers, and now put
them on their lips to silence him. We became ecstatic by the sounds
of pleasing songs but thou art such a singer that when thou art silent
we are pleased.
No one feels pleased by thy performance
Except at the time of departure when thou pleasest.
When that harper began to sing
I said to the host: 'For God's sake
Put mercury in my ear that I may not hear
Or open the door that I may go away.'
In short, I tried to please my friends and succeeded after a considerable
struggle in spending the whole night there.
The muezzin shouted the call to prayers out of time,
Not knowing how much of the night had elapsed.
Ask the length of the night from my eyelids
For sleep did not enter my eyes one moment.
In the morning I took my turban from my head, with one dinar from
my belt by way of gratification, and placed them before the musician
whom I embraced and thanked. My friends who saw that my appreciation
of his merits was unusual attributed it to the levity of my intellect
and laughed secretly. One of them, however, lengthened out his tongue
of objection and began to reproach me, saying that I had committed
an act repugnant to intelligent men by bestowing a portion of my professional
dress upon a musician who had all his life not a dirhem laid upon
the palm of his hand nor filings of silver or of gold placed on his
A musician! Far be he from this happy abode.
No one ever saw him twice in the same place.
As soon as the shout rose from his mouth
The hair on the bodies of the people stood on end.