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(Masnavi Book 2: 09) The Sufis who sold the traveller's donkey







How the Súfís sold the traveller's beast (to pay) for the (expenses of the) mystic dance.


A Súfí, after journeying, arrived at a monastery (for Súfís); he took his mount and led it to the stable.


515. With his own hand he gave it a little water and some fodder: (he was) not such a Súfí as the one we told of before.

He took precaution for it against neglect and craziness, (but) when the (Divine) destiny comes to pass, of what avail is precaution?

The Súfís were destitute and poor: poverty almost comprises an infidelity that brings (the soul) to perdition. O you rich man who art full fed, beware of laughing at the unrighteousness of the suffering poor.
On account of their destitution that Súfí flock, all of them, adopted (the expedient of) selling the ass,


520. Saying, “(In case) of necessity a carcase is lawful (food); (there is) many a vicious act that necessity made a virtuous one.”

They instantly sold the little ass; they fetched dainty viands and lit candles.

Jubilation arose in the monastery: (they cried), “To-night there are dainties and music and dancing and voracity.

How much (more) of this (carrying the) wallet and this beggary? How much (more) of this patience and of this three-day fasting?

We also are of (God's) creatures, we have soul. Good luck (is ours) to-night: we have the guest (to entertain).”

525. Thereby they were sowing the seed of falsehood, for they deemed soul that which is not soul.

And the traveller, too, was tired by the long journey and (gladly) saw that favour and fondness (with which they regarded him). The Súfís, one by one, caressed him: they were playing the game of (bestowing) pleasant attentions (on him).
When he saw their affection towards him, he said, “If I don't make merry to-night, when (shall I do so)?

They ate the viands and began the samá‘ (musical dance); the monastery was filled with smoke and dust up to the roof—


530. The smoke of the kitchen, the dust of (raised by) beating the feet (dancing), the tumult of soul (caused) by longing and ecstasy.

Now, waving their hands, they would beat (the ground with) their feet; now, in (religious) prostration, they would sweep the dais (with their foreheads).

(Only) after long (waiting) does the Súfí gain his desire (the satisfaction of his appetite) from Fortune: for that reason the Súfí is a great eater;

Except, to be sure, the Súfí who has eaten his fill of the Light of God: he is free from the shame of beggary;

(But) of these Súfís there are (only) a few among thousands; the rest are living in (under the protection of) his (the perfect
Súfí's spiritual) empire.


535. When the samá‘ had come (run its course) from beginning to end, the minstrel struck up a heavy (deep-sounding)
strain.
He commenced (to sing), “The ass is gone, and the ass is gone”; he made the whole (company) sharers in this enthusiasm. From this enthusiasm (they continued) beating their feet (dancing) till dawn, clapping their hands (and singing), “The ass is
gone, the ass is gone, O son!”
By way of imitation that Súfí began (to sing) in (tones of) impassioned feeling this same (phrase), “The ass is gone.” When the pleasure and excitement and music and dancing were over, day dawned and they all said, “Farewell!”


540. The monastery was deserted, and the Súfí remained (alone): that traveller set about shaking the dust from his baggage.

He brought out the baggage from his cell, in order that he might tie it on the ass, (for he was) desirous of (finding) people to travel with.

He was hurrying that he might overtake his fellow-travellers; he went into the stable but did not find the ass. He said, “The servant has taken it (the ass) to water, because it drank little water last night.”
The servant came, and the Súfí said to him, “Where is the ass?” “Look at your beard,” replied the servant, and a quarrel arose.


545. He (the Súfí) said, I have entrusted the ass to you, I have put you in charge of the ass. Discuss (the matter) with propriety, don't argue: deliver back to me what I delivered to you.
I demand from you what I gave to you: return that which I sent to you.

The Prophet said that whatever your hand has taken must in the end be restored (to its owner).

And if you, from insolence, are not content with this, look here, let us (go) to the house of the Cadi of (our) religion.”


550. The servant said, I was overpowered: the Súfís rushed (on me), and I was in fear for my life. Do you throw a liver with the parts next it amongst cats, and (then) seek the trace of it?
One cake of bread amongst a hundred hungry people, one wasted (starved) cat before a hundred dogs?”

I suppose,” said the Súfí, “that they took it (the ass) from you by violence, (and thereby) aimed at the life of wretched me; (And seeing this) you would not come and say to me, ‘They are taking away your ass, O poor man!’

555. So that I might buy back the ass from (the purchaser) whoever he is, or else they might divide my money (amongst themselves and return the ass to me).

There were a hundred ways of mending (the injury) when they (the Súfís) were present, (but) now each one is gone to a
(different) clime.

Whom should I seize? Whom should I take to the Cadi? It is from you in sooth that this judgement has come upon me. How wouldn't you come and say (to me), ‘O stranger, such a terrible outrage has occurred’?”
By God,” said he, I came several times to inform you of these doings,


560. (But) you were always saying, ‘The ass is gone, O son,’ with more gusto than all (the others) who said it.

(So) I was (always) going back, (thinking), ‘He himself is aware; he is satisfied with this (Divine) judgement: he is a man that knows (God)’.”

The Súfí said, “They all were saying (it) merrily, (so) I also took delight in saying it. Blind imitation of them has brought me to ruin: two hundred curses be on that imitation!
Especially (on) imitation of such good-for-nothing rascals— the wrath of Abraham be on them that sink!


565. The delight of that company (of Súfís) was casting a reflexion, and this heart of mine was becoming delighted by that reflexion.”

The reflexion (cast) from goodly friends is necessary until you become, without (the aid of any) reflexion, a drawer of water from the Sea.

Know that the reflexion first cast is (only) imitation, (but) when it has become successive (continually recurrent) it turns into
(direct) realisation (of the truth).

Until it has become realisation, do not part from the friends (by whom you are guided); do not break away from the shell: the rain-drop has not (yet) become a pearl.

If you wish eye and understanding and hearing to be pure, tear in pieces the curtains of selfish desire,


570. Because the Súfí's imitation, (which arose) from desire, debarred his understanding from the light and radiance.

Desire for the viands and desire for that delight (shown by the Súfís) and for the samá hindered his understanding from
(gaining) knowledge (of what had happened).

If desire were to arise in the mirror, that mirror would be like us in (respect of) hypocrisy.
If the balance had desire for riches, how would the balance give a true description of the case? Every prophet has said in sincerity to his people, “I ask not from you the wages for my message.


575. I am (only) a guide; God is your purchaser: God has appointed me to act as broker on both sides.

What are the wages for my work? The sight of the Friend (God), even though Abú Bakr give me forty thousand (dirhems). My wages are not his forty thousand (dirhems): how should glass beads be like the pearls of Aden?”
I will tell you a story: listen to it attentively, that you may know that selfish desire is a plug in the ear.

Whosoever has (such) desire becomes a stammerer (morally confused); with desire (present), how should the (spiritual) eye and the heart become bright?


580. The fancy of power and wealth before his eye is just as a hair in the eye,

Except, to be sure, (in the case of) the intoxicated (saint) who is filled with God: though you give (him) treasures (vast riches), he is free;

(For) when any one enjoys vision (of God), this world becomes carrion in his eyes.

But that Súfí was far removed from (spiritual) intoxication; consequently he was nightblind (purblind) in (his) greed.

The man dazed by greed may hear a hundred stories, (but) not a single point comes into the ear of greed.

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