Story of an ass belonging to a seller of firewood, which saw some well-fed Arab horses in the royal stable and wished for the same fortune. (This story is intended) to convey the lesson that one ought not to wish for anything but (God's) forgiveness and favour; for though you are in a hundred kinds of pain, they all become sweet (to you) when you feel the delight of being forgiven; and for the rest, every fortune that
you wish for before you have experienced it is accompanied by a pain which you do not perceive (at the moment); as (for example) in every trap the bait is visible while the snare is concealed. You (who) have been caught in this one trap are (still) wishing (and saying to yourself), “Would that I had gone after those (other) baits!” You fancy that those baits are without a trap.
There was a water-carrier who owned an ass that had been bent double like a
hoop by affliction. Its back was galled by the heavy load in a hundred places: it was passionately desiring the day of its death.
What of barley? It never got its fill (even) of dry straw: at its heels a (cruel) blow and an iron goad.
The Master of the (royal) stable saw it and took pity—for the man was acquainted with the owner of the ass—
2365. So he saluted him and asked him what had happened, saying, “What is the cause of this ass being bent double like a dál?”
He replied, “On account of my poverty and destitution this dumb animal is not getting even straw.” “Hand him over to me,” said the other, “for a few days, that in the King's stable he may grow strong.” He handed the ass over to him, and that merciful man tethered him in the Sultan's stable.
The ass saw on every side (of him) Arab horses, well-fed and fat and handsome and glossy;
2370. (He saw the ground) swept (clean) under their feet and sprinkled with water; the straw coming at the (proper) time, and the barley at the hour (when it was expected).
He saw the horses curry-combed and rubbed down. (Then) he lifted up his muzzle, crying, “O glorious
Am not I your creature? I grant that I am an ass, (but) wherefore am I wretched, with sores on my back, and lean?
At night, because of the pain in my back and the (pangs of) hunger in my belly, I am always wishing to die. These horses are so happy and prosperous: why am I singled out for torment and tribulation?”
2375. Suddenly came the rumour of war: it was the time for the Arab horses to be saddled and brought into action.
They were wounded with arrows by the foe: the barbs entered them on every side.
(When) those Arab horses returned from the campaign, they all fell down and lay on their backs in the
Their legs were tightly bandaged with (strips of) canvas: the farriers were standing in file, Piercing their bodies with the scalpel in order to extract the barbs from their wounds.
2380. The ass saw (all) that, and was saying, “O God, I am satisfied with poverty and health.
I have no taste for that (plentiful) food and those hideous wounds.” Every one who desires (spiritual) health
abandons the world.
How the fox disapproved of the saying of the ass, “I am satisfied with my lot.”
The fox said, “It is an (indispensable) obligation to seek lawful provision in obedience (to the Divine command).
(This) is the world of means: nothing is obtained without a means: therefore it is important (necessary) to seek (provision).
‘And seek ye of the bounty of God’ is (a Divine) command, lest they (men) should seize (the property of others) by violence, like the leopard.
2385. The Prophet has said, ‘The door is shut against (the arrival of) provision, O youth; and on the door there are locks.’
Our movement (exertion) and our going to and fro (in search) and our acquisition is a key to that lock and barrier.
Without the key there is no way to open the door: bread without endeavour is not (according to) God's law.”
How the ass answered the fox.
He (the ass) replied, “That is (the result) of weak faith; else He who gave (us) life (also) gives (us) bread. Whoever seeks (spiritual) sovereignty and victory, a mouthful of bread will not fail (him), O son.
2390. All wild animals, both the herbivorous and the predatory, are devourers of the (Divine) provision: they neither go in quest of work (to get a livelihood) nor do they support (the burden of) providing (for themselves).
The Provider gives their daily bread to all: He lays before each one the portion allotted to him.
The (Divine) provision comes to every one who seeks (to show) patience: the trouble of making efforts arises from your want of patience.”
How the fox answered the ass.
The fox replied, “Such trust in God is exceptional: few are proficient in (the practice of) trust in God.
It is (a mark of) ignorance to concern one's self with the exceptional: how is the King's highway (available)
for every one?
2395. Since the Prophet has said that contentment is a treasure, how should the hidden treasure be gained by every one?
Recognise your (proper) limit and do not fly aloft, lest you fall into the abyss of woe and bane.”
How the ass answered the fox.
He (the ass) replied, “Know that you are speaking (just) the reverse (of the truth), (for) woe and bane come to the soul from cupidity.
No one was (ever) deprived of (spiritual) life by contentment; no one was (ever) made a (spiritual) king by covetousness.
(The daily) bread is not withheld (even) from pigs and dogs: this rain and (these) clouds are not earned by
2400. Just as you are pitiably enamoured of the daily bread, so the daily bread is enamoured of its consumer.