Thursday, April 23, 2015

Saadi - To be called Human

Saadi in a Rose garden, from a Mughal manuscript of the Gulistan, ca. 1645.

An Arab king who was noto­ri­ous for his cru­elty came on a pil­grim­age to the cathe­dral mosque of Dam­as­cus, where he offered the fol­low­ing prayer, clearly seek­ing God’s assis­tance in a mat­ter of some urgency:
The darvish, poor, own­ing noth­ing, the man
whose money buys him any­thing he wants,
here, on this floor, enslaved, we are equals.
Nonethe­less, the man who has the most
comes before You bear­ing the greater need.”

When the king was done pray­ing, he noticed me immersed in my own prayers at the head of the prophet Yahia’s tomb. The monarch turned to me, “I know that God favors you darvishes because you are pas­sion­ate in your wor­ship and hon­est in the way you live your lives. I fear a pow­er­ful enemy, but if you add your prayers to mine, I am sure that God will pro­tect me for your sake.”
Have mercy on the weak among your own peo­ple,” I replied, “and no one will be able to defeat you.”
To break each of a poor man’s ten fin­gers
just because you have the strength offends God.
Show com­pas­sion to those who fall before you,
and oth­ers will extend their hands when you are down.

The man who plants bad seed hal­lu­ci­nates
if he expects sweet fruit at har­vest time.
Take the cot­ton from your ears! Give
your peo­ple jus­tice before jus­tice finds you.

All men and women are to each other
the limbs of a sin­gle body, each of us drawn
from life’s shim­mer­ing essence, God’s per­fect pearl;
and when this life we share wounds one of us,
all share the hurt as if it were our own.
You, who will not feel another’s pain,
you for­feit the right to be called human.

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