Sufi Tales

Do you know who the Sufis are? Their religion was born out of Islam and other influences. They arose in the lands which are now called Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. And there were Sufis in India. Sufism is called a mystical religion because Sufis often seek silence and solitude, and meditate. They search for truths which are unseen and difficult to discover by ordinary means. One of their ideas of God is, the Light which illuminates the Heart. Today we shall catch the flavor of their thought through several stories.

The first is by one of the most famous: Shams-e Tabrizi

I have been a misfit since childhood. I knew that no one understood me, not even my father. He once said, “You are not a madman, fit to be put in a madhouse, nor are you monk to be put in a monastery. I just don’t know what you are!”
I replied: “You know, father, I can tell you what it is like. Once a duck egg was put under a hen to be hatched. When the egg hatched, the duckling walked along with the mother hen until they came to a pond. The duckling took a nice dip in the water. But the hen stayed on the bank and clucked. Now, my dear father, after having tried the sea I find it my home. If you choose to stay on the shore, is it my fault? I am not to be blamed.”
There are some who are born to go a very different way.

The Goldsmith and an Old Man

There was an old man who went to a goldsmith and said, “May I use your scales to weigh my own gold?” Goldsmiths keep very sensitive scales.
The goldsmith replied: “Sorry, sir, I don’t have a sieve.”
“Don’t make fun of me, ” said the man: “I asked for your scales, not a sieve.”
“I don’t have a broom either,” the goldsmith said.
“Come on,” said the man impatiently, “Don’t play deaf.”
“I am not playing deaf, my good man, and I heard everything you said.”
Then the goldsmith explained: “Your hands are shaking with old age and your gold is in tiny bits and pieces. When you start weighing, you’ll scatter them on the floor. Then you’ll ask for a broom to pick them up. And then, to separate the gold from the dust and dirt, you’ll ask for a sieve.”

(How would you describe the wisdom of this goldsmith?)

The Tiger and the Fox

A fox who lived in the deep forest of long ago had lost its front legs. No one knew how: perhaps escaping from a trap. A man who lived on the edge of the forest , seeing the fox from time to time, wondered how in the world it managed to get its food. One day when the fox was not far from him he had to hide himself quickly because a tiger was approaching. The tiger had fresh game in its claws. Lying down on the ground, it ate its fill, leaving the rest for the fox.
Again the next day the great Provider of this world sent provisions to the fox by this same tiger. The man began to think: “If this fox is taken care of in this mysterious way, its food sent by some unseen Higher Power, why don’t I just rest in a corner and have my daily meal provided for me?”
Because he had a lot of faith, he let the days pass, waiting for food. Nothing happened. He just went on losing weight and strength until he was nearly a skeleton. Close to losing consciousness, he heard a Voice which said: “O you, who have mistaken the way, see now the Truth! You should have followed the example of that tiger instead of imitating the disabled fox.”

(And Rumi said, “You have feet; why pretend that you are lame?”)

Do you have any idea which poet people are reading the most these days? Let me tell you. His name is Jallal-ud-Din Rumi, and believe it or not, he came from that part of the east which is now called Afghanistan. Rumi’s family moved to what is now Turkey, and there he composed several thousand excellent poems in Persian.
Here is a translation of one of them:

God made the fake look like the real [this world] and he hid the Real [Himself] as if it did not exist. He covered the sea, showing the foam. He hid the wind from our sight but made the dust visible!
This world is an old magician who sells you the moonlight, calling it “silk.”
When you come to your true Self you see that there are no silk clothes, but instead you have spent your money and your purse is empty! In this great market of magic [the world] always look beneath the surface: buy nothing but Truth.

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S’adi of Shiraz

S’adi was another Mideastern poet. This, not a poem, is his memory from childhood.
I remember that in the days of my childhood I was a religious boy, earnest in my prayers and devotions. One night I was keeping vigil (staying awake) with my father, the Holy Book on my lap. The people around us in the meeting house were sound asleep, and I said to my father, “None of these sleepers is raising his head to say his prayers or to hear the word of God. You would think that they were all dead.”
Father replied: “My beloved son, it would be better that you too were asleep rather than slandering people behind their backs.”
Here are three of his little stories:

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For God’s Sake

A muezzin is one who is appointed to recite the Kor’an in public. Naturally someone with a melodious voice is usually chosen for the job. One day a muezzin with a perfectly horrible voice was doing the reciting. A righteous man passing that way asked him, “What is your salary?”
“Nothing,” said the reciter.
“Why then do you take all this trouble?”
“No trouble,” he replied, “I do it for God’s sake.”
“Then for God’s sake, don’t do it!”

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Take My Hand

One day Mullah Nasreddin (a famous Muslim religious leader) saw a crowd gathered around a pond. A Muslim priest with a huge turban on his head had fallen into the water and was calling for help. Evidently he could not swim.
People were leaning over toward him and saying, “Give me your hand, Revered Sir! Give me your hand.” But the priest didn’t pay any attention to them and went on splashing about in his struggle with the water, and calling for help. Finally Nasreddin stepped forward
“Let me handle this,” he said. He stretched out his hand toward the priest and shouted at him: “Here! Take my hand!” The priest grabbed the Mullah’s hand and was hoisted out of the pond. People were very surprised and asked the Mullah how he had managed to get the priest’s cooperation.
“It is very simple,” he replied. “I know that this miser wouldn’t give anything to anyone. So instead of saying ‘Give me your hand,’ I said ‘Take my hand,’ and sure enough he did it.”

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The Hungry Sermon

A Fool, penniless, with no money to buy even his next meal, became a preacher. One day he climbed up to the pulpit and asked the congregation if they had any questions to ask, on religious matters.
“Where is Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) at present?” someone asked [This was long after Mohammed had died.]
The fool now regretted that he had invited questions, but he had to give an answer, so he made a “stab in the dark”: “In Heaven,” he said.
“Which level?” the questioner wanted to know.
“The fifth,” the preacher said without hesitating.
“How can he obtain food for eating, in that unearthly place?”
The Fool couldn’t take it any more. “I have been in your town for over a month and you never wanted to know whether I had food to eat or how I got it. And now you are worrying about the Prophet’s dinner in Heaven! You people should be ashamed of your uncaring and heathen ways!”

Teachings of the Sufis, by Farzan

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