1213-1291 A.C.E. - Wrote in Persian
The Gulistan of Sa'di
Written 1258 A.C.E.
Translated by (Pending)
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
Whose 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
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
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
What danger is there to the wall of the faithful with thee for
What fear of the waves of the sea has he whose pilot is
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 pardoned him.
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
Above anything people have said or we have heard or
The assembly is finished and life has reached its
And we have, as at first, remained powerless in describing
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
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
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 his
Verily the world is happy through him; may his happiness endure
And may the Lord strengthen him and with the banners of
Thus the branch will flourish of which he is the
Because the beauty of the earth's plants depends on the virtue
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 practical
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
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
Atabek Abu Bekr Ben Sa'd Zanki.
The country of Pares dreads not the vicissitudes of
As long as one presides over it like thee, the shadow of
Today no one can point out on the surface of the
A place like the threshold of thy door, the asylum of
On thee is incumbent the protection of the distressed
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
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
Is better than a man who has no command over his
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 and
'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
It is the key to the treasure-door of a virtuous
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
When it is proper to speak and to talk when silence
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
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
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
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
Hopes are entertained that he will not be wearied
By these contents because a Pose-garden is not a place
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
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
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
He has found eternal happiness who lived a good
Because, after his end, good repute will keep his name
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
When every atom of our dust is dispersed.
The intention of this design was that it should
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
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 Gulistan of Sa'di
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
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 trouble."'
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
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
When the pure soul is about to depart,
What boots it if one dies on a throne or on the
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
Was so consumed by the soil that not a bone remains.
The glorious name of Nushirvan survives in good
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
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
'I am not he whose back thou wilt see on the day of
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
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 two
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
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
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
'He whose foundation is bad will not take instruction from the
To educate unworthy persons is like throwing nuts on a
'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
The spouse of Lot became a friend of wicked
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
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
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
O sage, who is nobody becomes not somebody by education.
The rain, in the beneficence of whose nature there is no
Will cause tulips to grow in a garden and weeds in bad
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
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 perpetual.'
I may so act as not to hurt the feelings of
But what can I do to an envious man dissatisfied with
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
Be kind because then a stranger will become thy
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 for
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
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 of it.
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
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 befallen
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
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
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
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
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
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
Whoever sows bad seed and expects good fruit
Has cudgelled his brains for nought and begotten vain
Extract the cotton from thy ears and administer justice to
And if thou failest to do so, there is a day of
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
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
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
Because I care neither for good nor for bad nor for
A naked dervish, who was sleeping outside in the cold, then
'O thou like whom in happiness there is no one in the
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
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
He will be excluded from the beneficence of the
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 his
The door ought not to be opened to applicants
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
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 such
The homa excels all other birds in nobility
Because it feeds on bones and injures no living
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
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
Many a man was at the point of death and no one wept for
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
'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
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
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
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
'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
Account him not a friend who knocks at the door of
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
'Be not apprehensive of tangled affairs and keep not a broken
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
Although bitter, nevertheless possesses a sweet
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
'Seest thou not in front of the possessor of
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
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
If the advice of people cannot penetrate into thy
Again, if thou canst not bear the pain of the
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
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 and
'Allow me who am the smallest slave
To sit in the line of slaves.'
He said: 'Allah, Allah, what need is there for such
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
'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
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
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
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,
Nushirvan has not died because he obtained a good
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 present magnitude.'
If the king eats one apple from the garden of a
His slaves will pull him up the tree from the roots.
For five eggs which the sultan allows to be taken by
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
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 various
Thou wilt not obtain the approbation of the
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
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
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
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
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
It is like thy own condition under the foot of an
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
What plea can the slave advance? The sentence is the
'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 said:
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
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
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
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
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
Sincere worshippers entertain the hope
That they will not be disappointed at the threshold of
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
'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
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
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
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
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 dervish
'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
Bitter and sweet, ugliness and beauty have passed
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
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 from blame.'
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
When a stranger brings before thee buttermilk
Two measures of it will be water and a spoonful sour
If thou hast heard heedless talk from thy slave, be not
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
As long as thou canst, scratch the interior of no
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
To leaven mortar of quicklime with the hand
Is better than to hold them on the breast before the
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
There is no occasion for our rejoicing at a foe's
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
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
'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
Thou wouldst say that, till the resurrection,
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
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
Injure not the name of those who have passed away
In order that thy own name may subsist.
The Gulistan of Sa'di
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Because the road on which thou travellest leads to
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 that
O thou who showest virtues on the palms of the
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
These are my open, and thou knowest not my hidden,
My person is, to the eyes of the world, of good
But my internal wickedness makes me droop my head with
The peacock is for his beauteous colours by the
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
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
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
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
'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
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
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 wilt
It is pleasant to sleep under an acacia on the desert
But alas! thou must bid farewell to life on the night of
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
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 in
Of what use is thy frock, rosary and patched
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
A bareheaded and barefooted pedestrian who had arrived from Kufah
with the Hejaz-caravan of pilgrims joined us, strutted about and
'I am neither riding a camel nor under a load like a
I am neither a lord of subjects nor the slave of a
Grief for the present, or distress for the past, does
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
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
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 to
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
'If the qazi were sitting with us, he would clap his
If the muhtasib were bibbing wine, he would excuse a
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
with his fiddle-bow.
His voice was more unpleasant than the wailing of one
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
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.
The fowls of the house, terrified by him, flew away
Whilst he distracted our senses and tore his throat.
I said: 'It will be proper to shorten the tongue of objection because
his talent has become evident to me.' He then asked me to explain the quality
of it in order to inform the company so that all might apologize for the
jokes they had cracked about me. I replied: 'Although my sheikh had often
told me to abandon musical entertainments and had given me abundant advice,
I did not mind it. This night my propitious horoscope and my august luck
have guided me to this place where I have, on hearing the performance of
this musician, repented and vowed never again to attend at singing and
A pleasant voice, from a sweet palate, mouth and
Whether employed in singing or not, enchants the
But the melodies of lovers of Isfahan or of the
From the windpipe of a bad singer are not nice.
Loqman, being asked from whom he had learnt civility, replied:
'From those who had no civility because what appeared to me unbecoming
in them I refrained from doing.'
Not a word is said even in sport
Without an intelligent man taking advice thereby.
But if a hundred chapters of wisdom are read to a
All strike his ear merely as sport.
It is related that a hermit consumed during one night ten mann
of food and perused the whole Quran till morning. A pious fellow who had
heard of this said: 'It would have been more excellent if he had eaten
half a loaf and slept till the morning.'
Keep thy interior empty of food
That thou mayest behold therein the light of marifet.
Thou art empty of wisdom for the reason
That thou art replete with food up to the nose.
A man had by his sins forfeited the divine favour but the lamp
of grace nevertheless so shone upon his path that it guided him into the
circle of religious men and, by the blessing of his association with dervishes,
as well as by the example of their righteousness, the depravities of his
character were transmuted into virtues and he refrained from lust and passion.
But the tongues of the malevolent were lengthened with reference to his
character, alleging that it was the same as it had ever been and that his
abstinence and piety were spurious.
By apology and penitence one may be saved from the wrath of
But cannot be saved from the tongues of men.
He could no longer bear the reviling tongues and complained to
the pir of the Tariqat. The sheikh wept and said: 'How wilt thou be able
to be sufficiently grateful for this divine favour that thou art better
than the people imagine?'
How long wilt thou say: 'The malevolent and
Are searching out the defects of my humble self.
Sometimes they arise to shed my blood.
Sometimes they sit down to curse me.'
To be good and to be in spoken of by the people
Is better than to be bad and considered good by
Look at me whom the good opinion of our contemporaries deems to
be perfect whereas I am imperfection itself.
If I were doing what I speak
I would be of good conduct and a devotee.
Verily I am veiled from the eyes of my neighbours
But Allah knows my secret and my overt concerns.
The door is locked to the access of people
That they may not spread out my faults.
What profiteth a closed door? The Omniscient
Knows what I conceal or reveal.
I complained to one of the sheikhs that a certain man had falsely
accused me of lasciviousness. He replied: 'Put him to shame by thy good
Be thou well behaved that a maligner
May not find occasion to speak of thy faults.
When the harp is in proper tune
How can the hand of the musician correct it?
One of the sheikhs of Syria, being asked on the true state of the
Sufis, replied: 'In former times they were a tribe in the world, apparently
distressed, but in reality contented whereas today they are people outwardly
satisfied but inwardly discontented.'
If my heart roams away from thee every hour,
Thou wilt find no tranquillity in solitude
But if thou possessest property, dignity, fields and
If thy heart be with God, thou wilt be a recluse.
I remember having once walked all night with a caravan and then
slept on the edge of the desert. A distracted man who had accompanied us
on that journey raised a shout, ran towards the desert and took not a moment's
rest. When it was daylight, I asked him what state of his that was. He
replied: 'I saw bulbuls commencing to lament on the trees, the partridges
on the mountains, the frogs in the water and the beasts in the desert so
I bethought myself that it would not be becoming for me to sleep in carelessness
while they all were praising God.'
Yesterday at dawn a bird lamented,
Depriving me of sense, patience, strength and consciousness.
One of my intimate friends who
Had perhaps heard my distressed voice
Said: 'I could not believe that thou
Wouldst be so dazed by a bird's cry.'
I replied: 'It is not becoming to humanity
That I should be silent when birds chant praises.'
It once happened that on a journey to the Hejaz a company of young
and pious men, whose sentiments harmonized with mine, were my fellow-travellers.
They occasionally sung and recited spiritual verses but we had with us
also an a'bid, who entertained a bad opinion of the behaviour of the dervishes
and was ignorant of their sufferings. When we reached the palm-grove of
the Beni Hallal, a black boy of the encampment, falling into a state of
excitement, broke out in a strain which brought down the birds from the
sky. I saw, however, the camel of the a'bid, which began to prance, throwing
him and running into the desert.
Knowest thou what that matutinal bulbul said to
What man art thou to be ignorant of love?
The Arabic verses threw a camel into ecstasy and
If thou hast no taste thou art an ill-natured brute.
When a camel's head is turned by the frenzy of
And a man does not feel it, he must be an ass.
When the winds blow over the plain
The branches of the ban-tree bend, not hard rocks.
Whatever thou beholdest chants his praises.
He knows this who has the true perception.
Not only the bulbul on the rosebush sings praises
But every bramble is a tongue, extolling him.
The life of a king was drawing to a close and he had no successor.
He ordered in his last testament that the next morning after his death
the first person entering the gate of the city be presented with the royal
crown and be entrusted with the government of the realm. It so happened
that the first person who entered was a mendicant who had all his life
subsisted on the morsels he collected and had sewn patch after patch upon
his clothes. The pillars of the state and grandees of the court executed
the injunction of the king and bestowed upon him the government and the
treasures; whereon the dervish reigned for a while until some amirs of
the monarchy withdrew their necks from his obedience and kings from every
side began to rise for hostilities and to prepare their armies for war.
At last his own troops and subjects also rebelled and deprived him of a
portion of his dominions. This event afflicted the mind of the dervish
until one of his old friends, who had been his companion when he was yet
himself a dervish, returned from a journey and, seeing him in such an exalted
position, said: 'Thanks be to God the most high and glorious that thy rose
has thus come forth from the thorn and thy thorn was extracted from thy
foot. Thy high luck has aided thee and prosperity with fortune has guided
thee till thou hast attained this position. Verily hardship is followed
A flower is sometimes blooming and sometimes
A tree is at times nude and at times clothed.
He replied: 'Brother, condole with me because there is no occasion
for congratulation. When thou sawest me last, I was distressed for bread
and now a world of distress has overwhelmed me.'
If I have no wealth I grieve.
If I have some the love of it captivates me.
There is no greater calamity than worldly goods.
Both their possession and their want are griefs.
If thou wishest for power, covet nothing
Except contentment which is sufficient happiness.
If a rich man pours gold into thy lap
Care not a moment for thanking him.
Because often I heard great men say
The patience of a dervish is better than the gift of a rich
A man had a friend, who held the office of devan to the padshah,
but whom he had not seen for a long time; and, a man having asked him for
the reason, he replied: 'I do not want to see him.' A dependent however
of the devan, who also happened to be present, queried: 'What fault has
he committed that thou art unwilling to meet him?' He replied: 'There is
no fault in the matter but a friend who is a devan may be seen when he
is removed from office.'
Whilst in greatness and in the turmoil of busines
They do not like to be troubled by neighbours
But when they are depressed and removed from office
They will lay open their heart's grief to friends.
Abu Harirah, may the approbation of Allah be upon him, was in the
habit of daily waiting upon the Mustafa, peace on him, who said: 'Abu Harira,
visit me on alternate days that our love may increase.' A man said to a
devotee: 'Beautiful as the sun is, I never heard that anybody took it for
a friend or fell in love with it', and he replied: 'This is because it
may be seen daily, except in winter when it is veiled and
There is no harm in visiting people
But not till they say: 'It is enough!'
If thou findest fault with thyself
Thou wilt not hear others reproaching thee.
A man, being tormented story by a contrary wind in his belly and
not having the power to retain it, unwittingly allowed it to escape. He
said: 'Friends, I had no option in what I did, the fault of it is not to
be ascribed to me and peace has resulted to my internal parts. Kindly excuse
The belly is a prison of wind, O wise man.
No sage retains wind in captivity.
If wind twists thy belly let it out
Because wind in the belly is a burden to the heart.
Having become tired of my friends in Damascus, I went into the
desert of Jerusalem and associated with animals till the time when I became
a prisoner of the Franks, who put me to work with infidels in digging the
earth of a moat in Tarapolis, when one of the chiefs of Aleppo, with whom
I had formerly been acquainted, recognized me and said: 'What state is
this?' I recited:
'I fled from men to mountain and desert
Wishing to attend upon no one but God.
Imagine what my state at present is
When I must be satisfied in a stable of wretches.
The feet in chains with friends
Is better than to be with strangers in a garden.'
He took pity on my state and ransomed me for ten dinars from the
captivity of the Franks, taking me to Aleppo where he had a daughter and
married me to her with a dowry of one hundred dinars. After some time had
elapsed, she turned out to be ill-humoured, quarrelsome, disobedient, abusive
in her tongue and embittering my life:
A bad wife in a good man's house
Is his hell in this world already.
Alas for a bad consort, alas!
Preserve us, O Lord from the punishment of fire.
Once she lengthened her tongue of reproach and said: 'Art thou
not the man whom my father purchased from the Franks for ten dinars?' I
replied: 'Yes, he bought me for ten dinars and sold me into thy hands for
one hundred dinars.'
I heard that a sheep had by a great man
Been rescued from the jaws and the power of a wolf.
In the evening he stroked her throat with a knife
Whereon the soul of the sheep complained thus:
Thou hast snatched me away from the claws of a wolf,
But at last I see thou art thyself a wolf.'
A padshah asked a hermit: 'How spendest thou thy precious time?'
He replied: 'I am all night engaged in prayer, during the morning in supplications
and the rest of the day in restricting my expenses.' Then the king ordered
a sufficient allowance to be allotted to him so as to relieve him of the
cares of his family.
O thou who art encumbered with a family,
Think no more of ever enjoying freedom.
Cares for children, raiment and food
Restrain thee from the heavenly kingdom.
Every day I renew my determination
To wait upon God until the night.
In the night, while tying the knot of prayer,
I think what my children will eat on the morrow.
A man, professing to be a hermit in the desert of Syria, attended
for years to his devotions and subsisted on the leaves of trees. A padshah,
who had gone in that direction by way of pilgrimage, approached him and
said: 'If thou thinkest proper, we shall prepare a place for thee in the
town where thou wilt enjoy leisure for thy devotions and others may profit
by thy spiritual advice as well as imitate thy good works.' The hermit
refused compliance but the pillars of the State were of opinion that, in
order to please the king, he ought to spend a few days in town to ascertain
the state of the place; so that if he feared that the purity of his precious
time might become turbid by association with strangers, he would still
have the option to refuse compliance. It is related that the hermit entered
the town where a private garden-house of the king, which was a heart-expanding
and soul refreshing locality, had been prepared to receive
Its red roses were like the cheeks of belles,
Its hyacinths like the ringlets of mistresses
Protected from the inclemency of mid-winter
Like sucklings who have not yet tasted the nurse's
And branches with pomegranates upon them:
Fire suspended from the green-trees.
The king immediately sent him a beautiful slave-girl:
After beholding this hermit-deceiving crescent-moon
Of the form of an angel and the beauty of a peacock,
After seeing her it would be impossible
To an anchorite's nature to remain patient.
After her he sent likewise a slave-boy of wonderful beauty and
People around him are dying with thirst
And he, who looks like a cupbearer, gives no drink.
The sight cannot be satisfied by seeing him
Like the dropsical man near the Euphrates.
The hermit began to eat delicious food, to wear nice clothes, to
enjoy fruit and perfumed confectionery as well as to contemplate the beauty
of the slave-boy and girl in conformity with the maxim of wise men, who
have said that the curls of belles are fetters to the feet of the intellect
and a snare to a sagacious bird.
In thy service I lost my heart and religion with all my
I am indeed the sagacious bird and thou the snare.
In short, the happiness of his former time of contentedness had
come to an end, as the saying is:
Any faqih, pir and murid
Or pure minded orator,
Descending into the base world,
Sticks in the honey like a fly.
Once the king desired to visit him but saw the hermit changed from
his former state, as he had become red, white and corpulent. When the king
entered, he beheld him reclining on a couch of gold brocade whilst the
boy and the fairy stood near his head with a fan of peacocks' feathers.
He expressed pleasure to behold the hermit in so comfortable a position,
conversed with him on many topics and said at the conclusion of the visit:
'I am afraid of these two classes of men in the world: scholars and hermits.'
The vezier, who was a philosopher and experienced in the affairs of the
world, being present, said: 'O king, the conditions of friendship require
thee to do good to both classes. Bestow gold upon scholars that they may
read more but give nothing to hermits that they may remain
A hermit requires neither dirhems nor dinars.
If lie takes any, find another hermit.
Who has a good behaviour and a secret with God
Is an anchorite without the waqfbread or begged
With a handsome figure and heart-ravishing ear-tip
A girl is a belle without turquoise-ring or pendants.
A dervish of good behaviour and of happy disposition
Requires not the bread of the rebat nor the begged
A lady endowed with a beauteous form and chaste
Requires no paint, adornment or turquoise-ring.
When I have and covet more
It will not be proper to call me an anchorite.
In conformity with the above sentiments an affair of importance
emerged to a padshah, who thereon vowed that, if it terminated according
to his wishes, he would present devotees with a certain sum of money. His
wish having been fulfilled, it became necessary to keep his promise. Accordingly
he gave a purse of dirhems to one of his confidential servants to distribute
it among recluses. It is related that the slave was intelligent and shrewd.
He walked about all day and returning at nightfall, kissed the dirhems
and deposited them before the king with the remark that he had not found
any devotees. The king rejoined: 'What nonsense is this? As far as I know
there are four hundred devotees in this town. He said: 'Lord of the world,
who is a devotee does not accept money and who accepts it is not a devotee.'
The king smiled and said to his courtiers: 'Despite of my wishing to do
good to this class of worshippers of God, this rogue bears them emnity
and thwarts my wish but truth is on his side.'
If a devotee has taken dirhems and dinars
Find another who is more a devotee than he.
One of the ulemma of solid learning, having been asked for his
opinion about waqfbread, answered: 'If it be accepted to insure tranquillity
of mind from cares for food and to obtain leisure for devotion, it is lawful
but if it be taken for maintenance it is forbidden.'
Bread is taken for the corner of devotion
By pious men and not the corner of devotion for
A dervish arrived in a place, the owner of which was of a noble
disposition, and had surrounded himself with a company of distinguished
and eloquent men, each of whom uttered something elegant or jocular, according
to the fashion of wits. The dervish who had travelled through the desert
and was fatigued had eaten nothing. One of the company asked him by way
of encouragement likewise to say something. The dervish replied: 'I do
not possess distinction and eloquence like you and have read nothing so
you must be satisfied with one distich of mine.' The company having agreed
with pleasure he recited:
'I am hungry and opposite to a table of food
Like a bachelor at the door of a bath of females.'
The company, having thus been apprised of his famished condition,
produced a table with bread but as he began to eat greedily the host said:
'Friend, at any rate stop a while till my servants roast some minced meat';
whereon the dervish lifted his head and recited:
'Do not order pounded meat for my table.
To a pounded man simple bread is pounded meat.'
A murid said to his pir: 'What am I to do? I am troubled by the
people, many of whom pay me visits. By their coming and going they encroach
upon my precious time.' He replied: 'Lend something to every one of them
who is poor and ask something from every one who is rich and they will
come round thee no more.'
If a mendicant were the leader of the army of
The infidels would for fear of his importunity run as far as
The son of a faqih said to his father: 'These heart-ravishing words
of moralists make no impression upon me because I do not see that their
actions are in conformity with their speeches.'
They teach people to abandon the world
But themselves accumulate silver and corn.
A scholar who only preaches and nothing more
Will not impress anyone when he speaks.
He is a scholar who commits no evil,
Not he who speaks to men but acts not himself.
Will you enjoin virtue to mankind and forget your own
A scholar who follows his lusts and panders to his
Is himself lost although he may show the way.
The father replied: 'My son, it is not proper merely on account
of this vain fancy to turn away the face from the instruction of advisers,
to travel on the road of vanity, to accuse the ullemma of aberration, and
whilst searching for an immaculate scholar, to remain excluded from the
benefits of knowledge, like a blind man who one night fell into the mud
and shouted: "O Musalmans, hold a lamp on my path." Whereon a courtesan
who heard him asked: "As thou canst not see the lamp, what wilt thou see
with the lamp?" In the same way the preaching assembly is like the shop
of a dealer in linen because if thou bringest no money thou canst obtain
no wares and if thou bringest no inclination to the assembly thou wilt
not get any felicity.'
He said: 'Listen with thy soul's ear to a scholar
Although his actions may not be like his doctrines.'
In vain does the gainsayer ask:
'How can a sleeper awaken a sleeper?
A man must receive into his ears
The advice although it be written on a wall.'
A pious man came to the door of a college from a
He broke the covenant of the company of those of the
I asked him what the difference between a scholar and a
He replied: 'The former saves his blanket from the
Whilst the latter strives to save the drowning man.'
A man was sleeping dead-drunk on the highway and the bridle of
spontaneity had slipped from his hands. A hermit passed near him and considered
the disgraceful condition he was in. The youth raised his head and recited:
When they passed near something contemptible, they passed it kindly. When
thou beholdest a sinner be concealing and meek.
Turn not thy face from a sinner, O anchorite.
Look upon him with benignity.
If I am ignoble in my actions
Pass me by like a noble fellow.
A company of vagabonds met a dervish, spoke insulting words to
him, struck him and otherwise molested him; whereon he complained to his
superior and explained the case. The pir replied: 'My son, the patched
frock of dervishes is the garment of resignation and who, wearing it, cannot
bear injuries is a pretender not entitled to the frock.'
A large river will not become turbid from stones.
The Arif who feels aggrieved is shallow water yet.
If he injures thee, bear it
Because pardon will purify thee from sin.
O brother, as the end is dust, be dust before thou
turned into dust.
Listen to this story how in Baghdad
A flag and a curtain fell into dispute.
Travel stained, dusty and fatigued, the flag
Said to the curtain by way of reproach:
'I and thou, we are both fellow servants,
Slaves of the sultan's palace.
Not a moment had I rest from service
In season and out of season I travelled about.
Thou hast suffered neither toil nor siege,
Not from the desert, wind, nor dust and dirt.
My step in the march is more advancing.
Then why is thy honour exceeding mine?
Thou art upon moon-faced servants
Or jessamine scented slave girls.
I have fallen into prentice hands.
I travel with foot in fetters and head fluttering.'
The curtain said: 'My head is on the threshold
Not like thine in the heavens.
Who carelessly lifts up his neck
Throws himself upon his neck.'
A pious man saw an acrobat in great dudgeon, full of wrath and
foaming at the mouth. He asked: 'What is the matter with this fellow?'
A bystander said: 'Someone has insulted him.' He remarked: 'This base wretch
is able to lift a thousand mann of stones and has not the power to bear
Abandon thy claim to strength and manliness.
Thou art weak-minded and base, whether thou be a man or
If thou art able, make a sweet mouth.
It is not manliness to strike the fist on a mouth.
Although able to tear up an elephant's front
He is not a man who possessed no humanity.
A man's nature is of earth.
If he is not humble he is not a man.
I asked a good man concerning the qualities of the brethren of
purity. He replied: 'The least of them is that they prefer to please their
friends rather than themselves; and philosophers have said that a brother
who is fettered by affairs relating to himself is neither a brother nor
If thy fellow traveller hastens, he is not thy
Tie not thy heart to one whose heart is not tied to
When a kinsman possesses no virtue and piety
Then severing connection is better than love of
I remember that an opponent objected to the last two lines, saying:
'God the most high and glorious has in his noble book prohibited the severing
of connection with relatives and has commanded us to love them. What thou
hast alleged is contrary to it.' I replied: 'Thou art mistaken because
according to the Quran, Allah the most high has said: If they both father
and mother, strive to induce thee to associate with me that concerning
which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not.
A thousand kinsmen who are strangers to God
Are the sacrifice for one stranger who knows him.
A kind old man in Baghdad
Gave his daughter to a cobbler.
The cruel little man so bit her
That blood flowed from the daughter's lips.
Next morning the father saw her thus
And going to the bridegroom asked him:
'O mean wretch, what teeth are these?
Chewest thou thus her lips? They are not leather.
I do not say these words in jest,
Leave joking off and enjoy her seriously.
If ill humour becomes fixed in a nature
It will not leave it till the time of death.'
A faqih had a very ugly daughter and when she attained puberty
no one was inclined to marry her in spite of her dowry and
Bad is the brocade and damask cloth
Which is upon an ugly bride.
At last it became necessary to marry her to a blind man and it
is related that on the said occasion a physician arrived from Serandip
who was able to restore sight to the blind. The faqih, being asked why
he had not put his son-in-law under treatment, replied: 'I fear that if
he is able to see he will divorce my daughter.'
It is better if the husband of an ugly woman is
A padshah was casting a glanced of contempt upon a company of dervishes
and one of them, understanding by his sagacity the meaning of it, said:
'O king, in this world we are inferior to thee in dignity but more happy
in life. In death we are equal and in the resurrection superior to
Though the master of a country may have enjoyment
And the dervish may be in need of bread
In that hour when both of them will die
They will take from the world not more than a shroud.
When thou takest thy departure from the realm
It will be better to be a mendicant than a padshah.
Externally the dervish shows a patched robe and a shaved head but
in reality his heart is living and his lust dead.
He does not sit at the door of pretence away from
To fight against them if they oppose him
Because when a millstone rolls from a mountain
He is not an A'rif who gets out of the way of the
The way of dervishes is praying, gratitude, service, obedience,
almsgiving, contentment, professing the unity of God, trust, submission
and patience. Whoever possesses these qualities is really a dervish, although
he may wear an elegant robe, whereas a prattler who neglects his orisons,
is luxurious, sensual, turns day into night in the bondage of lust, and
night into day in the sleep of carelessness, eats whatever he gets, and
speaks whatever comes upon his tongue, is a profligate, although he may
wear the habit of a dervish.
O thou whose interior is denuded of piety
But wearest outwardly the garb of hypocrisy
Do not display a curtain of seven colours.
Thou hast reed mats inside thy house.
I saw bouquets of fresh roses
Tied upon a cupola of grass.
I asked: 'What is despicable grass
To sit also in the line of the roses?'
The grass wept and said: 'Hush!
Companionship does not obliterate nobility.
Although I have no beauty, colour and perfume,
Am I not after all the grass of his garden?
I am the slave of a bountiful lord,
Cherished from old by his liberality.
Whether I possess virtue or not
I hope for grace from the Lord
Although I possess no property
No capital to offer as obedience.
He knows the remedy for the slave
To whom no support remains.
It is customary that the owner gives a writ
Of emancipation to an old slave.
O God, who hast adorned the universe,
Be bountiful to thy old slave.'
Sa'di, take the road to the Ka'bah of submission.
O man of God, follow the way of God.
Unlucky is he who turns his head
Away from this door for he will find no other door.
A sage having been asked whether liberality or bravery is better
replied: 'He who possesses liberality needs no bravery.'
It is written on the tomb of Behram Gur:
'A liberal hand is better than a strong arm.'
Hatim Tai has passed away but for ever
His high name will remain celebrated for beneficence.
Set aside the zekat from thy property because the exuberant
When pruned by the vintner will yield more grapes.
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On the Excellence of Contentment
A Maghrabi supplicant said in Aleppo in the row of linen-drapers:
'Lords of wealth, if you were just and we contented, the trade of begging
would vanish from the world.'
O contentment, make me rich
For besides thee no other wealth exists.
Loqman selected the corner of patience.
Who has no patience has no wisdom.
Two sons of amirs were in Egypt, the one acquiring science, the
other accumulating wealth, till the former became the ullemma of the period
and the other the prince of Egypt; whereon the rich man looked with contempt
upon the faqih and said: 'I have reached the sultanate whilst thou hast
remained in poverty as before.' He replied: 'O brother, I am bound to be
grateful to the most high Creator for having obtained the inheritance of
prophets whilst thou hast attained the inheritance of Pharaoh and of Haman,
namely the kingdom of Egypt.'
I am that ant which is trodden under foot
Not that wasp, the pain of whose sting causes lament.
How shall I give due thanks for the blessing
That I do not possess the strength of injuring mankind?
I heard that a dervish, burning in the fire of poverty and sewing
patch upon patch, said to comfort his mind:
'We are contented with dry bread and a patched
For it is easier to bear the load of one's own trouble
than that of thanks to others.'
Someone said to him: 'Why sittest thou? A certain man in this town
possesses a benevolent nature, is liberal to all, has girded his loins
to serve the pious and is ready to comfort every heart. If he becomes aware
of thy case, he will consider it an obligation to comfort the mind of a
worthy person.' He replied: 'Hush! It is better to die of inanition than
to plead for one's necessities before any man.'
It is better to patch clothes and sit in the corner of
Than to write petitions for robes to gentlemen.
Verily it is equal to the punishment of hell
To go to paradise as a flunkey to one's neighbour.
One of the kings of Persia had sent an able physician to wait upon
the Mustafa, the benediction of Allah and peace be on him; and he remained
for some years in the Arab country without anyone coming to him to make
a trial of his ability or desiring to be treated by him. He went to the
Prophet, salutation to him, and complained that although he had been sent
to treat the companions, none of them had up to this time taken notice
of him or required the services incumbent upon him. The Apostle, salutation
to him, replied: 'It is a law with these people not to eat until appetite
overpowers them and when some of it yet remains they withdraw their hands
from food.' The doctor said: 'This is the cause of health', and kissing
the earth of service departed.
The sage begins to speak
Or points his fingers to the dish
When silence would be dangerous
Or abstinance would bring on death.
No doubt his wisdom is in speaking
And his eating bears the fruit of health.
A man often made vows of repentance but broke them again till one
of the sheikhs said to him: 'I think thou art in the habit of eating a
great deal and that thy power of restraining appetite is more slender than
a hair, whilst an appetite such as thou nourishest would rupture a chain
and a day may come when it will tear thee up.'
A man brought up a wolf's whelp.
When it was brought up it tore him up.
It is narrated in the life of Ardeshir Babekan that he asked an
Arab physician how much food he must consume daily. He replied: 'The weight
of one hundred dirhems will be enough.' The king queried: 'What strength
will this quantity give me?' He replied: 'This quantity will carry thee,
and whatever is more than that, thou wilt be the carrier of
Eating is for living and praying.
Thou thinkest living is for eating.
Two Khorasani dervishes travelled together. One of them, being
weak, broke his fast every second night whilst the other who was strong
consumed every day three meals. It happened that they were captured at
the gate of a town on suspicion of being spies; whereon each of them was
confined in a closet and the aperture of it walled up with mud bricks.
After two weeks it became known that they were guiltless. Accordingly the
doors were opened and the strong man was found to be dead whilst the weak
fellow had remained alive. The people were astonished but a sage averred
that the contrary would have been astonishing because one of them having
been voracious possessed no strength to suffer hunger and perished whilst
the other who was abstemious merely persevered in his habit and remained
When eating little has become the nature of a
He takes it easy when a calamity befalls him
But when the body becomes strong in affluence
He will die when a hardship overtakes him.
One of the philosophers forbade his son to eat much because repletion
keeps people ailing. The boy replied: 'O father, it is hunger that kills.
Hast thou not heard of the maxim of the ingenious that it is better to
die satiated than to bear hunger?' He rejoined: 'Be moderate. Eat and drink
but not to excess.'
Eat not so much that it comes up to thy mouth
Nor so little that from weakness thy soul comes
Although maintenance of life depends upon food
Victuals bring on disease when eaten to excess.
If thou eatest rose-confectionery without appetite it injures
But eating dry bread after a long fast is like rose-preserve.
A sick man having been asked what his heart desired replied: 'That
it may not desire anything.'
When the bowels are full and the belly pains
There is no use in all other things being right.
A grain dealer to whom Sufis were owing some money asked them for
it every day in the town of Waset and used harsh language towards them.
The companions had become weary of his reproaches but had no other remedy
than to bear them; and one of them who was a pious man remarked: 'It is
more easy to pacify a hungry stomach with promises of food than a grain
dealer with promises of money.'
It is preferable to be without the bounty of a
Than to bear the insults of the gate-keepers.
It is better to die wishing for meat
Than to endure the expostulations of butchers.
A brave warrior who had received a dreadful wound in the Tatar
war was informed that a certain merchant possessed a medicine which he
would probably not refuse to give if asked for; but it is related that
the said merchant was also well known for his avarice.
If instead of bread he had the sun in his table-cloth
No one could see daylight till the day of resurrection.
The warrior replied: 'If I ask for the medicine he will either
give it or refuse it and if he gives it maybe it will profit me, and maybe
not. At any rate the inconvenience of asking it from him is a lethal
Whatever thou obtainest by entreaties from base
Will profit thy body but injure thy soul.
And philosophers have said: 'If for instance the water of life
were to be exchanged for a good reputation, no wise man would purchase
it because it is preferable to die with honour than to live in
To eat coloquinth from the hand of a sweet-tempered
Is better than confectionery from the hand of an
One of the ullemma had many eaters to provide for and only a slender
income. This fact he communicated to a great man of whose character he
entertained a very favourable opinion but his expectations were disappointed
because the man made a wry face and averred that according to his opinion
applications from respectable persons for aid are unbecoming.
With a face made sad by misfortune, to a dear
Do not go because thou wilt embitter his life also.
For the needful for which thou appliest, go with a fresh
The man of joyful countenance will not be unsuccessful in
It is related that the great man augmented his stipend a little
but considerably diminished his familiarity towards him and when he perceived
after some days that it was not as usual, he recited:
'Evil is the food which the time of degradation
The kettle is indeed placed but the dignity is lowered.'
He increased my bread but diminished my honour.
Poverty is better than the degradation of asking.
A dervish wanted something and a man told him that a certain individual
possessed untold wealth who, if he were made aware of his want, would not
consider it proper to fail in supplying it forthwith. The dervish answering
that he had no acquaintance with him, the man proposed to show him the
house and when the dervish entered he caught sight of a person with hanging
lips and sitting morosely. He returned immediately and being asked what
he had done replied: 'I excused him from making me a present when I saw
Carry not thy necessity to a sour-faced fellow
Because his ill-humour will crush thy hopes.
If thou confidest thy heart's grief, tell it to
Whose face will comfort thee like ready cash.
A year of dearth set in at Alexandria so that even a dervish lost
the reins of patience from his hands, the pearls of heaven were withheld
from the earth and the lamentations of mankind ascended to the
There was no wild beast, fowl, fish or ant
Whose wailings prompted by distress had not reached the
For a wonder the heart-smoke of the people did not
To form clouds and the torrents of their tears rain.
In such a year there was an hermaphrodite. I owe it to my friends
not to describe him because it would be an abandonment of good manners,
especially in the presence of great men. On the other hand, it would likewise
be improper and in the way of negligence not to mention anything about
him because certain people would impute it to the ignorance of the narrator.
Accordingly I shall briefly describe him in the following two distichs
because a little indicates much and a handful is a sample of a donkey
If a Tatar slays that hermaphrodite
The Tatar must not be slain in return.
How long will he be like the bridge of Baghdad
With water flowing beneath and men on the back?
Such a man, a portion of whose eulogy thou hast now heard, possessed
in that year boundless wealth, bestowed silver and gold upon the needy
and laid out tables for travellers. A company of dervishes who were by
the presence of distress on the point of starvation were inclined to accept
of his hospitality and consulted me on the subject but I struck my head
back from assenting and replied:
A lion does not eat the half of which a dog
Although he may die of hunger in his lair.
Though getting rich in wealth and property like
A worthless man is to be considered of no account.
Hatim Tai, having been asked whether he had seen in the world anyone
of more exalted sentiments than himself, replied: 'Yes, one day I slaughtered
forty camels to entertain Arab amirs. I had occasion to go out on some
business into a corner of the desert, where I noticed a gatherer of briars,
who had accumulated a hillock of thistles, and I asked him why he had not
become a guest of Hatim since many people had come round to his banquet
but he replied:
"Who eats bread by the work of his own hand
Will not bear to be obliged to Hatim Tai."
Then I saw that his sentiments were more exalted than
Moses, to whom be salutation, beheld a dervish who had on account
of his nudity concealed himself in the sand exclaiming: 'O Moses, utter
a supplication to God the most high to give me an allowance because I am,
on account of my distress, on the point of starvation.' Moses accordingly
prayed and departed but returning a few days afterwards he saw that the
dervish was a prisoner and surrounded by a crowd of people. On asking for
the reason he was informed that the dervish had drunk wine, quarrelled,
slain a man and was to be executed in retaliation.
If the humble cat possessed wings
He would rob the world of every sparrow-egg.
It may happen that when a weak man obtains power
He arises and twists the hands of the weak.
And if Allah were to bestow abundance upon his servants, they would
certainly rebel upon earth.
What has made thee wade into danger, O fool,
Till thou hast perished. Would that the ant had not been able
When a base fellow obtains dignity, silver and
His head necessarily demands to be knocked.
Was not after all this maxim uttered by a sage?
'That ant is the best which possesses no wings.'
The heavenly father has plenty of honey but the son
a hot disease.
He who does not make thee rich
Knows better what is good for thee than thyself.
I noticed an Arab of the desert sitting in a company jewellers
at Bosrah and narrating stories to them. He said: 'I had once lost my road
in the desert and consumed all my provisions. I considered that I must
perish when I suddenly caught sight of a bag full of pearls and I shall
never forget the joy and ecstasy I felt on thinking they might be parched
grain nor the bitterness and despair when I discovered them to be
In a dry desert and among moving sand
It is the same to a thirsty man whether he has pearls or shells
When a man has no provisions and his strength is
It matters not whether his girdle is adorned with pearls
An Arab suffering in the desert from extreme thirst
'Would that before my death
I could one day enjoy my wish
That a river's waves might strike my knee
And I might fill my water-bag.'
In the same manner another traveller lost himself in an extensive
region having neither any strength nor food left but he possessed some
money and roamed about and the road leading him nowhere he perished from
exhaustion. Some people afterwards discovered his corpse with the money
in front of it and the following written on the ground:
If possessed of all the Ja'feri gold,
It will avail nothing to a hungry man.
To a poor man burnt in the desert
Boiled turnips are more valuable than pure silver.
I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of
the turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable
to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with
a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks to the bounty
of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited:
'A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated
Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the
And to him who has no means nor power
A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.'
A king with some of his courtiers had during a hunting party and
in the winter season strayed far from inhabited places but when the night
set in he perceived the house of a dehqan and said: 'We shall spend the
night there to avoid the injury of the cold.' One of the veziers, however,
objected alleging that it was unworthy of the high dignity of a padshah
to take refuge in the house of a dehqan and that it would be best to pitch
tents and to light fires on the spot. The dehqan who had become aware of
what was taking place prepared some food he had ready in his house, offered
it, kissed the ground of service and said: 'The high dignity of the sultan
would not have been so much lowered, but the courtiers did not wish the
dignity of the dehqan to become high.' The king who was pleased with these
words moved for the night into the man's house and bestowed a dress of
honour upon him the next morning. When he accompanied the king a few paces
at the departure he was heard to say:
'Nothing was lost of the sultan's power and
By accepting the hospitality of a dehqan,
But the corner of the dehqan's cap reached the sun
When a sultan such as thou overshadowed his head.'
It is related that a sultan thus addressed a miserly beggar who
had accumulated great riches: 'It is evident that thou possessest boundless
wealth and we have an affair on hand in which thou canst aid us by way
of a loan. When the finances of the country are in a flourishing condition
it will be repaid.' The miser replied: 'It is not befitting the power and
dignity of a padshah to soil the hands of his noble aspirations with the
property of an individual like myself who has collected it grain by grain.'
The king replied: 'It does not matter because the money will be spent upon
infidels: The wicked women should be joined to the wicked
If the water of a Christian's well is impure
What matters it if thou washest a dead Jew therein?
They said: 'The lime-mortar is not clean.'
We replied: 'We shall plug therewith the privy holes."
I heard that he refused to comply with the behest of the king,
began to argue and to look insolently; whereon the king ordered the sum
in question to be released from his grasp by force and with a
If an affair cannot be accomplished with gentleness
He forsooth turns his head to impudence.
Who has no regard for himself
It is proper that no one should pay him any.
I met a trader who possessed one hundred and fifty camel loads
of merchandise with forty slaves and servants. One evening in the oasis
of Kish he took me into his apartment and taking all night no rest kept
up an incoherent gabble, saying: 'I have such and such a warehouse in Turkestan,
such and such goods in Hindostan; this is the title-deed of such and such
an estate and in this affair such and such a man is security.' He said:
'I intend to go to Alexandria because it has a good climate', and correcting
himself continued: 'No, because the African sea is boisterous. O Sa'di,
I have one journey more to undertake and after performing it I shall during
the rest of my life sit in a corner and enjoy contentment.' I asked: 'What
journey is that?' He replied: 'I shall carry Persian brimstone to China
because I heard that it fetched a high price. I shall also carry Chinese
porcelain to Rum and Rumi brocade to India and Indian steel to Aleppo,
convey glass-ware of Aleppo to Yemen, striped cloth of Yemen to Pares.
After that I shall abandon trading and shall sit down in a shop.' He had
talked so much of this nonsenses that no more strength remained in him
so he said: 'O Sa'di, do thou also tell me something of what thou hast
seen and heard.' I recited:
'Thou mayest have heard that in the plain of
Once a leader fell down from his beast of burden,
Saying: "The narrow eye of a wealthy man
Will be filled either by content or by the earth
of the tomb."'
I heard about a wealthy man who was as well known for his avarice
as Hatim Tai for his liberality. Outwardly he displayed the appearance
of wealth but inwardly his sordid nature was so dominant that he would
not for his life give a morsel of bread to anyone or bestow a scrap upon
the kitten of Abu Harirah or throw a bone to the dog of the companions
of the cave. In short, no one had seen the door of his house open or his
The dervish got nothing of his food except the
The fowl picked up the crumbs after his bread-dinner.
I heard that he was sailing in the Mediterranean with the pride
of Pharaoh in his head-according to the words of the most high, Until drowning
overtook him-when all of a sudden a contrary wind befell the ship, as it
What can thy heart do to thy distressed nature for the wind
It is not at all times suitable for a ship.
He uplifted the hands of supplication and began to lament in vain
but Allah the most high has commanded: When they sail in a ship they call
upon Allah, sincerely exhibiting unto him their religion.
Of what use is the hand of supplication to a needy
Which is uplifted to God in the time of prayer but in the
in the time of bounty?
Bestow comfort with gold and with silver
And thereby also profit thyself.
As this house of thine will remain,
Build it with a silver and a gold brick.
It is narrated that he had poor relations in Egypt who became rich
by the remainder of his wealth, tearing up their old cloths and cutting
new ones of silk and of Damiari. During the same week I also beheld one
of them riding a fleet horse with a fairy-faced slave boy at his heels.
'Wah! If the dead man were to return
Among his kinsfolk and connections
The refunding of the inheritance would be more painful
To the heirs than the death of their relative.'
On account of the acquaintance which had formerly subsisted between
us, I pulled his sleeve, and said:
'Eat thou, O virtuous and good man,
What that mean fellow gathered and did not eat.'
A weak fisherman caught a strong fish in his net and not being
able to retain it the fish overcame him and pulled the net from his
A boy went to bring water from the torrent.
The torrent came and took the boy away.
The net brought every time a fish.
This time the fish went and carried off the net.
The other fishermen were sorry and blamed him for not being able
to retain such a fish which had fallen into his net. He replied: 'O brothers,
what can be done? My day was not lucky but the fish had yet one remaining.
'Moral: A fisherman cannot catch a fish in the Tigris without a day of
luck and a fish cannot die on dry ground without the decree of
A man whose hands and feet had been amputated killed a millipede
and a pious passer-by exclaimed: 'Praised be Allah! In spite of the thousand
feet he possessed he could not escape from a man without hands and feet
when his fate had overtaken him.'
When the life-taking foe comes in the rear
Fate ties the legs of a running man.
At the moment when the enemy has slowly arrived
It is useless to draw the Kayanian bow.
I have seen a fat fool, dressed in a costly robe, with a turban
of Egyptian linen on his head, riding on an Arab horse. Someone said: 'Sa'di,
what thinkest thou of this famous brocade upon this ignorant animal?' I
replied: 'It is like ugly characters scrawled with gold-water.'
Verily he is like an ass among men,
A calf, a body which is bleating.
This animal cannot be said to resemble a man
Except in his cloak, turban and outward adornment.
Examine all his property and belongings of his estate
Thou wilt find nothing lawful to take except his
If a noble man becomes impoverished imagine not
That his high worth will also decrease.
But if into a silver threshold golden nails are
By a Jew, think not that he will thereby become
A thief said to a mendicant: 'Art thou not ashamed to stretch out
thy hand for a grain of silver to every sordid fellow?' He
'To hold out the hand for a grain of silver
Is better than to get it cut off for one dane and a
It is related that an athlete had been reduced to the greatest
distress by adverse fortune. His throat being capacious and his hands unable
to fill it, he complained to his father and asked him for permission to
travel as he hoped to be hoped to be able to gain a livelihood by the strength
of his arm.
Excellence and skill are lost unless exhibited.
Lignum aloes is placed on fire and musk rubbed.
The father replied: 'My son, get rid of this vain idea and place
the feet of contentment under the skirt of safety because great men have
said that happiness does not consist in exertion and that the remedy against
want is in the moderation of desires.
No one can grasp the skirt of luck by force.
It is useless to put vasmah on a bald man's brow.
If thou hast two hundred accomplishments for each hair of thy
They will be of no use if fortune is unpropitious.
What can an athlete do with adverse luck?
The arm of luck is better than the arm of strength.
The son rejoined: 'Father, the advantages of travel are many, such
as recreation of the mind entailing profit, seeing of wonderful and hearing
of strange things, recreation in cities, associating with friends, acquisition
of dignity, rank, property, the power of discriminating among acquaintances
and gaining experience of the world, as the travellers in the Tariqat have
As long as thou walkest about the shop or the
Thou wilt never become a man, 0 raw fellow.
Go and travel in the world
Before that day when thou goest from the world.'
The father replied: 'My son, the advantages of travel such as thou
hast enumerated them are countless but they regard especially five classes
of men: firstly, a merchant who possesses in consequence of his wealth
and power graceful male and female slaves and quick-handed assistants,
alights every day in another town and every night in another place, has
recreation every moment and sometimes enjoys the delights of the
A rich man is not a stranger in mountain, desert or
Wherever he goes he pitches a tent and makes a sleeping
Whilst he who is destitute of the goods of this
Must be in his own country a stranger and unknown.
Secondly, a scholar, who is for the pleasantness of his speech,
the power of his eloquence and the fund of his instruction, waited upon
and honoured wherever he goes.
The presence of a learned man is like pure gold
Whose power and price is known wherever he goes.
An ignorant fellow of noble descent resembles Shahrua,
Which nobody accepts in a foreign country.
Thirdly, handsome fellows with whom the souls of pious men are
inclined to commingle because it has been said that a little beauty is
better than much wealth. An attractive face is also said to be a slave
to despondent hearts and the key to locked doors, wherefore the society
of such a person is everywhere known to be very acceptable:
A beautiful person meets with honour and respect
Although perhaps driven away in anger by father and
I have seen a peacock feather in the leaves of the
I said: 'I see thy position is higher than thy deserts.'
It said: 'Hush, whoever is endowed with beauty,
Wherever he places his foot, hands are held out to receive
When a boy is symmetrical and heart-robbing
It matters not if his father disowns him.
He is a jewel which must not remain in a shell.
A precious pearl everyone desires to buy.
Fourthly, one with a sweet voice, who retains, with a David-like
throat, water from flowing and birds from soaring. By means of this talent
he holds the hearts of people captive and religious men are delighted to
associate with him.
My audition is intent on the beautiful melody.
Who is that performing on the double chord?
How pleasant is the gentle and melancholy lay
To the ear of the boon companions who quaff the morning
Better than a handsome face is a pleasant voice.
The former is joy to the senses, the latter food for the
Fifthly, the artisan, who gains a sufficient livelihood by the
strength of his arm, so that his reputation is not lost in struggling for
bread; as wise men have said:
If he goes abroad from his own town
The patcher of clothes meets with no bardship or
But if the government falls into ruin
The king of Nimruz will go to bed hungry.
The qualities which I have explained, 0 my son, are in a journey
the occasion of satisfaction to the mind, stimulants to a happy life but
he, who possesses none of them, goes with idle fancies into the world and
no one will ever hear anything about his name and fame.
He whom the turning world is to afflict
Will be guided by the times against his aim.
A pigeon destined not to see its nest again
Will be carried by fate towards the grain and net.
The son asked: 'O father, how can I act contrary to the injunctions
of the wise, who have said, that although food is distributed by predestination
the acquisition of it depends upon exertion and that, although a calamity
may be decreed by fate, it is incumbent on men to show the gates by which
it may enter?
'Although daily food may come unawares
It is reasonable to seek it out of doors
And though no one dies without the decree of fate
Thou must not rush into the jaws of a dragon.
'As I am at present able to cope with a mad elephant and to wrestle
with a furious lion, it is proper, O father, that I should travel abroad
because I have no longer the endurance to suffer misery.
'When a man has fallen from his place and station
Why should he eat more grief? All the horizons are his
At night every rich man goes to an inn.
The dervish has his inn where the night overtakes
After saying this, he asked for the good wishes of his father,
took leave of him, departed and said to himself:
'A skilful man, when his luck does not favour
Goes to a place where people know not his name.'
He reached the banks of a water, the force of which was such that
it knocked stones against each other and its roaring was heard to a farsang's
A dreadful water, in which even aquatic birds were not
The smallest wave would whirl off a millstone from its
He beheld a crowd of people, every person sitting with a coin of
money at the crossing-place, intent on a passage. The youth's hands of
payment being tied, he opened the tongue of laudation and although he supplicated
the people greatly, they paid no attention and said:
'No violence can be done to anyone without money
But if thou hast money thou hast no need of force.'
An unkind boatman laughed at him and said:
'If thou hast no money thou canst not cross the river by
What boots the strength of ten men? Bring the money for
The young man's heart was irritated by the insult of the boatman
and longed to take vengeance upon him. The boat had, however, started;
accordingly he shouted: 'If thou wilt be satisfied with the robe I am wearing,
I shall not grudge giving it to thee.' The boatman was greedy and turned
the vessel back.
Desire sews up the vision of a shrewd man.
Greediness brings fowl and fish into the snare.
As soon as the young man's hand could reach the beard and collar
of the boatman, he immediately knocked him down and a comrade of the boatman,
who came from the vessel to rescue him, experienced the same rough treatment
and turned back. The rest of the people then thought proper to pacify the
young man and to condone his passage money.
When thou seest a quarrel be forbearing
Because gentlemen will shut the door of strife.
Use kindness when thou seest contention.
A sharp sword cannot cut soft silk.
By a sweet tongue, grace, and kindliness,
Thou wilt be able to lead an elephant by a hair.
Then the people fell at his feet, craving pardon for what had passed.
They impressed some hypocritical kisses upon his head and his eyes, received
him into the boat and started, progressing till they reached a pillar of
Yunani workmanship, standing in the water. The boatman said: 'The vessel
is in danger. Let one of you, who is the strongest, go to the pillar and
take the cable of the boat that we may save the vessel.' The young man,
in the pride of bravery which he had in his head, did not think of the
offended foe and did not mind the maxim of wise men who have said: 'If
thou hast given offence to one man and afterwards done him a hundred kindnesses,
do not be confident that he will not avenge himself for that one offence,
because although the head of a spear may come out, the memory of an offence
will remain in the heart.'
'How well,' said Yaktash to Khiltash,
'Hast thou scratched a foe? Do not think thou art
Be not unconcerned for thou wilt be afflicted
If by thy hand a heart has been afflicted.
Throw not a stone at the rampart of a fort
Because possibly a stone may come from the fort.
As soon as he had taken the rope of the boat on his arm, he climbed
to the top of the pillar, whereon the boatman snatched it from his grasp
and pushed the boat off. The helpless man was amazed and spent two days
in misery and distress. On the third, sleep took hold of his collar and
threw him into the water. After one night and day he was cast on the bank,
with some life still remaining in him. He began to eat leaves of trees
and to pull out roots of grass so that when he had gained a little strength,
he turned towards the desert and walked till thirst began to torment him.
He at last reached a well and saw people drinking water for a pashizi but
possessing none he asked for a coin and showed his destitute condition.
The people had, however, no mercy with him, whereon he began to insult
them but likewise ineffectually. Then he knocked down several men but was
at last overpowered, struck and wounded:
A swarm of gnats will overpower an elephant
Despite of all his virility and bravery.
When the little ants combine together
They tear the skin of a furious lion.
As a matter of necessity he lagged in the rear of the caravan,
which reached in the evening a locality very dangerous on account of thieves.
The people of the caravan trembled in all their limbs but he said: 'Fear
nothing because I alone am able to cope with fifty men and the other youths
of the caravan will aid me.' These boastful words comforted the heart of
the caravan-people, who became glad of his company and considered it incumbent
upon themselves to supply him with food and water. The fire of the young
man's stomach having blazed into flames and deprived his hands of the bridle
of endurance, hunger made him partake of some morsels of food and take
a few draughts of water, till the dev of his interior was set at rest and
he fell asleep. An experienced old fellow, who was in the caravan, said:
'O ye people, I am more afraid of this guard of yours than of the thieves
because there is a story that a stranger had accumulated some dirhems but
could not sleep in the house for fear of the Luris. Accordingly he invited
one of his friends to dispel the terrors of solitude by his company. He
spent several nights with him, till he became aware that he had money and
took it, going on a journey after spending it. When the people saw the
stranger naked and weeping the next morning, a man asked: "What is the
matter? Perhaps a thief has stolen those dirhems of mine?" He replied:
"No, by Allah. The guard has stolen them."'
I never sat secure from a serpent
Till I learnt what his custom was.
The wound from a foe's tooth is severe
Who appears to be a friend in the eyes of men.
'How do you know whether this man is not one of the band of thieves
and has followed us as a spy to inform his comrades on the proper occasion?
According to my opinion we ought to depart and let him sleep.' The youths
approved of the old man's advice and became suspicious of the athlete,
took up their baggage and departed, leaving him asleep. He knew this when
the sun shone upon his shoulders and perceived that the caravan had started.
He roamed about a great deal without finding the way and thirsty as well
as dismayed as he was, he sat down on the ground, with his heart ready
to perish, saying:
Who will speak to me after the yellow camels have
A stranger has no companion except a stranger.
He uses harshness towards strangers
Who has not himself been exiled enough.
The poor man was speaking thus whilst the son of a king who happened
to be in a hunting party, strayed far from the troops, was standing over
his head, listening. He looked at the figure of the athlete, saw that his
outward appearance was respectable but his condition miserable. He then
asked him whence he had come and how he had fallen into this place. The
athlete briefly informed him of what had taken place, whereon the royal
prince, moved by pity, presented him with a robe of honour and a large
sum of money and sent a confidential man to accompany him till he again
reached his native town. His father was glad to see him and expressed gratitude
at his safety. In the evening he narrated to his father what had befallen
him with the boat, mentioned the violence of the boatman, the harshness
of the rustics near the well and the treachery of the caravan people on
the road. The father replied: 'My son, have not I told thee at thy departure
that the brave hands of empty-handed persons are like the broken paw of
How well has that empty-handed fighter said:
'A grain of gold is better than fifty mann of strength.'
The son replied: 'O father, thou wilt certainly not obtain a treasure
except by trouble, wilt not overcome thy foe unless thou hazardest thy
life and wilt not gather a harvest unless thou scatterest seed. Perceivest
thou not how much comfort I gained at the cost of the small amount of trouble
I underwent and what a quantity of honey I have brought in return for the
sting I have suffered.
Although not more can be acquired than fate has
Negligence in striving to acquire is not commendable.
If a diver fears the crocodile's throat
He will never catch the pearl of great price.
The nether millstone is immovable, and therefore must bear a
What will a fierce lion devour at the bottom of his
What food does a fallen hawk obtain?
If thou desirest to catch game at home
Thou must have hands and feet like a spider.
The father said to his son: 'On this occasion heaven has been propitious
to thee and good luck helpful so that a royal person has met thee, has
been bountiful to thee and has thereby healed thy broken condition. Such
coincidences occur seldom and rare events cannot be reckoned
The hunter does not catch every time a jackal.
It may happen that some day a tiger devours him.
Thus it happened that one of the kings of Pares, who possessed
a ring with a costly beazle, once went out by way of diversion with some
intimate courtiers to the Masalla of Shiraz and ordered his ring to be
placed on the dome of Asad, promising to bestow the seal-ring upon any
person who could make an arrow pass through it. It happened that every
one of the four hundred archers in his service missed the ring, except
a little boy who was shooting arrows in sport at random and in every direction
from the flat roof of a monastery. The morning breeze caused his arrow
to pass through the ring, whereon he obtained not only the ring but also
a robe of honour and a present of money. It is related that the boy burnt
his bow and arrows and on being asked for the cause replied: 'That the
first splendour may be permanent.'
It sometimes happens that an enlightened sage
Is not successful in his plans.
Sometimes it happens that an ignorant child
By mistake hits the target with his arrow.
I heard that a dervish, sitting in a cave, had closed the doors
upon the face of the world, so that no regard for kings and rich persons
remained in the eyes of his desire.
Who opens to himself a door for begging
Will till he dies remain a needy fellow.
Abandon greediness and be a king
Because a neck without desire is high.
One of the kings of that region sent him the information that,
trusting in the good manners of the respected dervish, he hoped he would
partake of bread and salt with him. The sheikh agreed because it is according
to the sonna to accept an invitation. The next day the king paid him a
visit, the a'bid. leapt up, embraced him, caressed him and praised him.
After the monarch's departure the sheikh was asked by one of his companions
why he had, against his custom, paid so many attentions to the padshah,
the like of which he had never seen before. He replied: 'Hast thou not
heard that one of the pious said:
"In whose company thou hast been sitting
To do him service thou must necessarily rise.
Possibly an ear may during a lifetime
Not hear the sound of drum, lute or fife.
The eye may be without the sight of a garden.
The brain may be without the rose or nasrin.
If no feather pillow be at hand
Sleep may be had with a stone under the head
And if there be no sweetheart to sleep with
The hand may be placed on one's own bosom,
But this disreputable twisting belly
Cannot bear to exist without anything."'
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On the Advantages of Silence
I said to a friend that I have chosen rather to be silent than
to speak because on most occasions good and bad words are scattered concurrently
but enemies perceive only the latter. He replied: 'That enemy is the greatest
who does not see any good.'
The brother of enmity passes not near a good
Except to consider him as a most wicked liar.
Virtue is to the eyes of enmity the greatest
Sa'di is a rose but to the eye of enemies a thorn.
The world illumining sun and fountain of light
Look ugly to the eye of the mole.
A merchant, having suffered loss of a thousand dinars, enjoined
his son not to reveal it to anyone. The boy said: 'It is thy order and
I shall not tell it but thou must inform me of the utility of this proceeding
and of the propriety of concealment.' He replied: 'For fear the misfortune
would be double; namely, the loss of the money and, secondly, the joy of
neighbours at our loss.'
Reveal not thy grief to enemies
Because they will say 'La haul' but rejoice.
An intelligent youth possessed an abundant share of accomplishments
and discreet behaviour so that he was allowed to sit in assemblies of learned
men but he refrained from conversing with them. His father once asked him
why he did not likewise speak on subjects he was acquainted with. He replied:
'I fear I may be asked what I do not know and be put to
Hast thou heard how a Sufi drove
A few nails under his sandals
And an officer taking him by the sleeve
Said to him: 'Come and shoe my horse.'
For what thou hast not said no one will trouble
But when thou hast spoken bring the proof.
A scholar of note had a controversy with an unbeliever but, being
unable to cope with him in argument, shook his head and retired. Someone
asked him how it came to pass that, with all his eloquence and learning,
he had been unable vanquish an irreligious man. He replied: 'My learning
is in the Quran, in tradition and in the sayings of sheikhs, which he neither
believes in nor listens to. Then of what use is it to me to hear him
To him of whom thou canst not rid thyself by the Quran and
The best reply is if thou dost not reply anything.
Galenus saw a fool hanging on with his hands to the collar of a
learned man and insulting him, whereon he said: 'If he were learned he
would not have come to this pass with an ignorant man.'
Two wise men do not contend and quarrel
Nor does a scholar fight with a contemptible fellow.
If an ignorant man in his rudeness speaks harshly
An intelligent man tenderly reconciles his heart.
Two pious men keep a hair between them untorn
And so does a mild with a headstrong man.
If however both sides are fools
If there be a chain they will snap it.
An ill-humoured man insulted someone.
He bore it and replied: 'O man of happy issue,
I am worse than thou canst say that I am
Because I know thou art not aware of my faults as I
Subhan Vail is considered to have had no equal in rhetorics because
he had addressed an assembly during a year and had not repeated the same
word but, when the same meaning happened to occur, he expressed it in another
manner and this is one of the accomplishments of courtiers and
A word if heart-binding and sweet
Is worthy of belief and of approbation.
When thou hast once said it do not utter it again
Because sweets, once partaken of, suffice.
I heard a philosopher say that no one has ever made a confession
of his own folly except he who begins speaking, whilst another has not
yet finished his talk.
Words have a head, O shrewd man, and a tail.
Do not insert thy words between words of others.
The possessor of deliberation, intelligence and
Does not say a word till he sees silence.
Several officials of Sultan Mahmud asked Hasan Muimandi one day
what the sultan had told him about a certain affair. He replied: 'You must
yourselves have heard it.' They rejoined: 'What he says to thee he does
not think proper to communicate to the like of us.' He answered: 'Because
he trusts that I shall not reveal it. Then why do you ask me to do
A knowing man will not utter every word which occurs to
It is not proper to endanger one's head for the king's
I was hesitating in the conclusion of a bargain for the purchase
of a house when a Jew said: 'Buy it for I am one of the landholders of
this ward. Ask me for a description of the house as it is and it has no
defect.' I replied: 'Except that thou art the neighbour of
A house which has a neighbour like thee
Is worth ten dirhems of a deficient standard
But the hope must be entertained
That after thy death it will be worth a thousand.
A poet went to an amir of robbers and recited a panegyric but he
ordered him to be divested of his robe. As the poor man was departing naked
in the world, he was attacked from behind by dogs, whereon he intended
to snatch up a stone but it was frozen to the ground and, being unable
to do so, he exclaimed: 'What whore-sons of men are these? They have let
loose the dogs and have tied down the stones.' The amir of the robbers
who heard these words from his room laughed and said: 'O philosopher, ask
something from me.' He replied: 'I ask for my robe if thou wilt make me
a present of it.'
We are satisfied of thy gift by departure.
A man was hoping for the gifts of people.
I hope no gift from thee. Do me no evil.
The robber chief took pity upon him, ordered his robe to be restored
to him and added to it a sheepskin jacket with some
An astrologer, having entered his own house, saw a stranger and,
getting angry, began to insult him, whereon both fell upon each other and
fought so that turmoil and confusion ensued. A pious man who had the scene
'How knowest thou what is in the zenith of the
If thou art not aware who is in thy house?'
A preacher imagined his miserable voice to be pleasing and raised
useless shouts, thou wouldst have said that the crow of separation had
become the tune of his song; and the verse- for the most detestable of
voices is surely the voice of asses- appears to have been applicable to
him. This distich also concerns him:
When the preacher Abu-l-Fares brays
At his voice Istakhar-Fares quakes.
On account of the position he occupied the inhabitants of the locality
submitted to the hardship and did not think proper to molest him. In course
of time, however, another preacher of that region, who bore secret enmity
towards him, arrived on a visit and said to him: 'I have dreamt about thee,
may it end well!' 'What hast thou dreamt?' 'I dreamt that thy voice had
become pleasant and that the people were comfortable during thy sermons.'
The preacher meditated a while on these words and then said: 'Thou hast
dreamt a blessed dream because thou hast made me aware of my defect. It
has become known to me that I have a disagreeable voice and that the people
are displeased with my loud reading. Accordingly I have determined henceforth
not to address them except in a subdued voice':
I am displeased with the company of friends
To whom my bad qualities appear to be good.
They fancy my faults are virtues and perfection.
My thorns they believe to be rose and jessamine.
Say. Where is the bold and quick enemy
To make me aware of my defects?
He whose faults are not told him
Ignorantly thinks his defects are virtues.
A man used to shout superfluous calls to prayers in the mosque
of Sinjar and in a voice which displeased all who heard it. The owner of
the mosque, who was a just and virtuous amir, not desirous to give him
pain, said: 'My good fellow, in this mosque there are old muezzins' to
each of whom I pay five dinars monthly but to thee I shall give ten, if
thou wilt go to another place.' The man agreed and went away. Some time
afterwards however, he returned to the amir and said: 'My lord, thou hast
injured me by turning me away for ten dinars from this place because where
I next went they offered me twenty dinars to go to another locality but
I refused.' The amir smiled and said: 'By no means accept them because
will give thee even fifty dinars.'
No one can scrape the mud from gravel with an
As thy discordant shouting scrapes the heart.
A fellow with a disagreeable voice happened to be reading the Quran,
when a pious man passed near, and asked him what his monthly salary was.
He replied: 'Nothing.' He further inquired: 'Then why takest thou this
trouble?' He replied: 'I am reading for God's sake.' He replied: 'For God's
sake do not read.'
If thou readest the Quran thus
Thou wilt deprive the religion of splendour.
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On Love and Youth
Hasan Maimundi was asked that, as the Sultan Mahmud possesses so
many beautiful slaves, each of whom is a marvel in the world, how it happens
that he manifests towards none of them so much inclination and love as
to Iyaz, although he is not more handsome than the others. He replied:
'Whatever descends into the heart appears good to the
He whose murid' the sultan is
If he does everything bad, it will be good.
But he whom the padshah throws away
Will not be cared for by anyone in the household.
If anyone looks with an unfavourable eye
Even the figure of Joseph will indicate ugliness
And if he looks with the eye of desire on a demon,
He will appear an angel, a cherub in his sigh].
It is said that a gentleman possessed a slave of exquisite beauty,
whom he regarded with love and affection. He nevertheless said to a friend:
'Would that this slave of mine, with all the beauty and good qualities
he possesses, had not a long and uncivil tongue!' He replied: 'Brother,
do not expect service, after professing friendship; because when relations
between lover and beloved come in, the relations between master and servant
When a master with a fairy-faced slave
Begins to play and to laugh
What wonder if the latter coquets like the master
And the gentleman bears it like a slave?
A slave is to draw water and make bricks.
A pampered slave will strike with the fist.
I saw a religious man, who had fallen in love with a fellow to
such a degree that he had neither strength to remain patient nor to bear
the talk of the people but would not relinquish his attachment, despite
of the reproaches he suffered and the grief he bore,
I shall not let go my hold of thy skirt
Even if thou strike me with a sharp sword.
After thee I have no refuge nor asylum.
To thee alone I shall flee if I flee.
I once reproached him, asking him what had become of his exquisite
intellect so that it had been overcome by his base proclivity. He meditated
a while and then said:
'Wherever love has become sultan
Piety's arm has no strength left.
How can a helpless fellow live purely
Who has sunk up to his neck in impurity?'
One had lost his heart and bidden farewell to his life because
the target which he aimed at was in a dangerous locality, portending destruction
and no chance promising a morsel easily coming to the palate nor a bird
falling into the trap.
When thy sweetheart's eye has no regard for
Mud and gold are of equal value to thee.
I once advised him to abandon his aspiration to a fancy impossible
of realization because many persons are enslaved by the same passion like
himself, the feet of their hearts being in chains. He lamented and
'Tell my friends not to give me advice
Because my eyes are fixed on her wishes.
By the strength of fist and shoulders warriors
Slay enemies but sweethearts a friend.'
It is against the requirements of love to renounce affection to
our sweethearts for fear of losing our lives.
Thou who art a slave to thy selfishness
Art mendacious in the game of love.
If there be no way to reach the friend
Friendship demands to die in pursuit of it.
I rise as no other source is left to me
Though the foe may smite me with arrow and sword.
If chance serves me I shall take hold of her sleeve.
Or else I shall go and die on her threshold.
His friends, who considered his position, pitied his state, gave
him advice and at last confined him but all to no purpose.
Alas, that the physician should prescribe patience,
Whereas this greedy lust requires sugar.
Hast thou heard that the mistress secretly
Told him who had lost his heart:
'As long as thou possessest thy own dignity,
What will mine amount to in thy eyes?'
It is related that the royal prince who was the object of his affection
had been informed to the effect that a good-natured and sweet-spoken youth
was constantly attending on the plain, uttering graceful words; and strange
tales having been heard of him, it appeared that his heart is inflamed
and that he has a touch of insanity in his head. The boy knew that his
heart had become attached to him and that he had raised this dust of calamity.
Accordingly he galloped towards him. When the youth perceived the prince
approaching him, he we and said:
'He who has slain me has come back again.
It seems his heart burns for him whom he has slain.'
Although he accosted the youth graciously, asking him whence he
came and what his occupation was, he was so plunged in the depths of the
ocean of love that he could not breathe:
If thou recitest the seven portions of the lesson by
When thou art demented by love thou knowest not the A, B,
The prince said: 'Why speakest thou not to me? I also belong to
the circle of dervishes; nay I am even in their service.' In consequence
of the force of the friendly advances of his beloved, he raised his head
from the dashing waves of love and said:
'It is a marvel that with thy existence mine
That when thou speakest words to me remain.'
Saying these words he uttered a shout and surrendered his
It would not be strange if he had been slain at his tent
But it would be strange that if alive he should escape
A schoolboy was so perfectly beautiful and sweet-voiced that the
teacher, in accordance with human nature, conceived such an affection towards
him that' he often recited the following verses:
I am not so little occupied with thee, O heavenly
That remembrance of myself occurs to my mind.
From thy sight I am unable to withdraw my eyes
Although when I am opposite I may see that an arrow
Once the boy said to him: 'As thou strivest to direct my studies,
direct also my behaviour. If thou perceivest anything reprovable in my
conduct, although it may seem approvable to me, inform me thereof that
I may endeavour to change it.' He replied: 'O boy, make that request to
someone else because the eyes with which I look upon thee behold nothing
The ill-wishing eye, be it torn out
Sees only defects in his virtue.
But if thou possessest one virtue and seventy faults
A friend sees nothing except that virtue.
I remember that one night a dear friend of mine entered when I
jumped up in such a heedless way that the lamp was extinguished by my sleeve.
A vision appeared in the night and by its appearance the darkness was
I was amazed at my luck exclaiming whence this
He took a seat and began reproving me saying that when I beheld
him I extinguished the lamp. I said: 'I thought the sun had risen and wits
When an ugly person comes before the lamp
Arise to him and pull him into the assembly
But if it be a sugar-smiled, sweet-lipped one
Pull him by the sleeve and extinguish the lamp.'
One who had for a considerable time not seen his friend asked him
where he had been and said he had been longing. He replied: 'To be longing
is better than to be satisfied.'
Thou hast come late, O intoxicated idol,
We shall not soon let go thy skirt from the hand.
He who sees his sweetheart at long intervals
Is after all better off than if he sees too much of
When thou comest with friends to visit me
Although thou comest in peace thou art attacking.
If my sweetheart associates one moment with
It wants but little and I die of jealousy.
She said smiling: 'I am the lamp of the assembly, O
What is it to me if a moth kills itself?'
I remember how in former times I and another friend kept company
with each other like two almond kernels in one skin. Suddenly a separation
took place but after a time, when my companion returned, he commenced to
blame me for not having sent him a messenger during it. I replied: 'I thought
it would be a pity that the eyes of a messenger should be brightened by
thy beauty and I deprived thereof.'
Tell my old friend not to give me advice with the
Because even a sword will not compel me to repent.
I am jealous that anyone should see thee to satiety.
Again I say that no one will be satiated.
I knew a learned man who had fallen in love with someone but his
secret having fallen from the veil of concealment into publicity, he endured
abundant persecution and displayed boundless patience. I said once to him
by way of consolation: 'I know thou entertainest no worldly motive nor
inclination for baseness. It is nevertheless unbecoming the dignity of
a scholar to expose himself to suspicions and to bear the persecutions
of mannerless persons.' He replied: 'O friend, take off the hand of reproach
from my skirt because I have often meditated on the opinion which thou
entertainest but have found it easier to bear persecution for his sake
than not to see him; and philosophers have said that it is easier to accustom
the heart to strife, than to turn away the eye from seeing the
Who has his heart with a heart-ravisher
Has his beard in another's hand.
A gazelle with a halter on the neck
Is not able to walk of its own accord.
If he, without whom one cannot abide,
Becomes insolent it must be endured.
I one day told him to beware of his friend
But I often asked pardon for that day.
A friend does not abandon a friend.
I submit my heart to what he wills.
Whether he kindly calls me to himself
Or drives me away in anger he knows best.
In the exuberance of youth, as it usually happens and as thou knowest,
I was on the closest terms of intimacy with a sweetheart who had a melodious
voice and a form beautiful like the moon just rising.
He, the down of whose cheek drinks the water of
Whoever looks at his sugar lips eats sweetmeats.
I happened to notice something in his behaviour which was contrary
to nature and not approved of by me. Accordingly I gathered up my skirt
from him and, picking up the pieces of the chess-game of friendship,
'Go and do as thou listest.
Thou hast not our head; follow thine.'
I heard him saying when he went away:
'If the bat desires not union with the sun
The beauty of the sun will not decrease.'
Saying this, he departed and his distress took effect on
I lost the time of union and man is ignorant
Of the value of delightful life before adversity.
Return. Slay me. For to die in thy presence
Is more sweet than to live after thee.
Thanks be to the bounty of God, he returned some time afterwards
but his melodious voice had changed, his Joseph like beauty had faded,
on the apple of his skin dust had settled as upon a quince so that the
splendour of his beauty had departed. He wanted me to embrace him. I complied
'On the day when thou hadst a beauteous incipient
Thou drovest him, who desired the sight, from thy
Today thou camest to make peace with him
But hast exhibited Fathah and Zammah.
His fresh spring is gone and he has become yellow.
Bring not the kettle because our fire is extinguished.
How long wilt thou strut about, showing arrogance,
Imagining felicity which has elapsed?
Go to him who will purchase thee.
Coquet with him who asks for thee.
They said: "Verdure in the garden is pleasing."
He knows it who utters these words.
Namely, heartfelt affection for that green line
Fascinates the hearts of lovers more and more.
Thy garden is a bed of leeks.
The more thou weedest it the more they grow.
Whether thou pluckest out thy beard or not
This happiness of youthful days must end.
Had I the power of life as thou of the beard
I would not let it end till resurrection-day.
I asked and said: What has befallen the beauty of thy
That ants are crawling round the moon?
He replied, smiling: "I know not what is the matter
with my face.
Perhaps it wears black as mourning for my beauty."'
I asked one of the people of Baghdad what he thought of beardless
youths. He replied: 'There is no good in them for when one of them is yet
delicate and wanted he is insolent; but when he becomes rough and is not
wanted he is affable.'
When a beardless youth is beautiful and sweet
His speech is bitter, his temper hasty.
When his beard grows and he attains puberty
He associates with men and seeks affection.
One of the ullemma had been asked that, supposing one sits with
a moon-faced beauty in a private apartment, the doors being closed, companions
asleep, passion inflamed, and lust raging, as the Arab says, the date is
ripe and its guardian not forbidding, whether he thought the power of abstinence
would cause the man to remain in safety. He replied: 'If he remains in
safety from the moon-faced one, he will not remain safe from evil
If a man escapes from his own bad lust
He will not escape from the bad suspicions of accusers.
It is proper to sit down to one's own work
But it is impossible to bind the tongues of men.
A parrot, having been imprisoned in a cage with a crow, was vexed
by the sight and said: 'What a loathsome aspect is this! What an odious
figure! What cursed object with rude habits! 0 crow of separation, would
that the distance of the east from the west were between
Whoever beholds thee when he rises in the morning
The morn of a day of safety becomes evening to him.
An ill-omened one like thyself is fit to keep thee
But where in the world is one like thee?
More strange still, the crow was similarly distressed by the proximity
of the parrot and, having become disgusted, was shouting 'La haul', and
lamenting the vicissitudes of time. He rubbed the claws of sorrow against
each other and said: 'What ill-luck is this? What base destiny and chameleonlike
times? It was befitting my dignity to strut about on a garden-wall in the
society of another crow.
'It is sufficient imprisonment for a devote
To be in the same stable with profligates.
'What sin have I committed that I have already in this life, as
a punishment for it, fallen into the bonds of this calamity in company
with such a conceited, uncongenial and heedless fool?'
No one will approach the foot of the wall
Upon which they paint thy portrait.
If thy place were in paradise
Others would select. hell.
I have added this parable to let thee know that no matter how much
a learned man may hate an ignorant man the latter hates him
A hermit was among profligates
When one of them, a Balkhi beauty, said:
'If thou art tired of us sit not sour
For thou art thyself bitter in our midst.'
An assembly joined together like roses and tulips!
Thou art withered wood, growing in its midst,
Like a contrary wind and unpleasant frost,
Like snow inert, like ice bound fast.
I had a companion with whom I had travelled for years and eaten
salt. Boundless intimacy subsisted between us till at last he suffered
my mind to be grieved for the sake of some paltry gain and our friendship
closed. Despite of an this, however, mutual attachment of heart still subsisted
between us because I heard him one day reciting in an assembly the following
two distichs of my composition:
When my sweetheart enters sweetly smiling
She adds more salt to my bleeding wound.
How would it be if the tip of her curls fell into my
Like the sleeve of the bountiful into the hands of
Some friends bore witness not so much to the gracefulness of these
verses as to the beauty of my conduct which they approved; and among the
rest, the said friend likewise added his share of praise, regretting the
loss of our former companionship and confessing his fault so that his affection
became known. Accordingly I sent the following distichs and made
Was not there a covenant of friendship between
Thou hast been cruel and not loving.
I once tied my heart to thee, disregarding the world.
Not knowing thou wouldst turn back so soon.
If thou yet desirest conciliation, return
Because thou wilt be more beloved than before.
The beautiful wife of a man died but her mother, a decrepit old
hag, remained in the house on account of the dowry. The man saw no means
of escaping from contact with her until a company of friends paid him a
visit of condolence and one of them asked him how he bore the loss of his
beloved. He replied: 'It is not as painful not to see my wife as to see
the mother of my wife.'
The rose has been destroyed and the thorn remained.
The treasure has been taken and the serpent left.
It is better that one's eye be fixed on a spear-head
Than that it should behold the face of an enemy.
It is incumbent to sever connection with a thousand
Rather than to behold a single foe.
I remember having in the days of my youth passed through a street,
intending to see a moon-faced beauty. It was in Temuz, whose heat dried
up the saliva in the mouth and whose simum boiled the marrow in my bones.
My weak human nature being unable to endure the scorching sun, I took refuge
in the shadow of a wall, wishing someone might relieve me from the summer
heat and quench my fire with some water; and lo, all of a sudden, from
the darkness of the porch of a house a light shone forth, namely a beauty,
the grace of which the tongue of eloquence is unable to describe. She came
out like the rising dawn after an obscure night or the water of immortality
gushing from a dark cavern, carrying in her hand a bowl of snow-water,
into which sugar had been poured and essence of roses mixed. I knew not
whether she had perfumed it with rose-water or whether a few drops from
her rosy face had fallen into it. In short, I took the beverage from her
beautiful hands, drank it and began to live again.
The thirst of my heart cannot be quenched
By sipping limpid water even if I drink oceans of
Blessed is the man of happy destiny whose eye
Alights every morning on such a countenance.
One drunk of wine awakens at midnight,
One drunk of the cupbearer on the morn of resurrection.
In the year when Muhammad Khovarezm Shah concluded peace with the
king of Khata to suit his own purpose, I entered the cathedral mosque of
Kashgar and saw an extremely handsome, graceful boy as described in the
Thy master has taught thee to coquet and to ravish
Instructed thee to oppose, to dally, to blame and to be
A person of such figure, temper, stature and gait
I have not seen; perhaps he learnt these tricks from a
He was holding in his hand the introduction to Zamaksharni's Arabic
syntax and reciting: Zaid struck Amru and was the injurer of Amru. I said:
'Boy! Khovarezm and Khata have concluded peace, and the quarrel between
Zaid and Amru still subsists!' He smiled and asked for my birthplace. I
replied: 'The soil of Shiraz.' He continued: 'What rememberest thou of
the compositions of Sa'di?' I recited:
'I am tired by a nahvi who makes a furious attack
Upon me, like Zaid in his opposition to Amru.
When Zaid submits he does not raise his head
And how can elevation subsist when submission is the
He considered awhile and then said: 'Most of his poetry current
in this country is in the Persian language. If thou wilt recite some, it
will be more easily understood.' Then I said:
'When thy nature has enticed thee with syntax
It blotted out the form of intellect from our heart.
Alas, the hearts of lovers are captive in thy snare.
We are occupied with thee but thou with Amru and
The next morning, when I was about to depart, some people told
him that I was Sa'di, whereon he came running to me and politely expressed
his regret that I had not revealed my identity before so that he might
have girded his loins to serve me in token of the gratitude due to the
presence of a great man.
In spite of thy presence no voice came to say: I am
He also said: 'What would it be if thou wert to spend in this country
some days in repose that we might derive advantage by serving thee?' I
replied: 'I cannot on account of the following adventure which occurred
I beheld an illustrious man in a mountain region
Who had contentedly retired from the world into a
Why, said I, comest thou not into the city
For once to relax the bonds of thy heart?
He replied: 'Fairy-faced maidens are there.
When clay is plentiful, elephants will stumble.'
This I said. Then we kissed each other's heads and faces and took
leave of each other.
What profits it to kiss a friend's face
And at the same time to take leave of him?
Thou wouldst say that he who parts from friends is an
One half of his face is red and the other yellow.
If I die not of grief on the day of separation
Reckon me not faithful in friendship.
A man in patched garments' accompanied us in a caravan to the Hejaz
and one of the Arab amirs presented him with a hundred dinars to spend
upon his family but robbers of the Kufatcha tribe suddenly fell upon the
caravan and robbed it clean of everything. The merchants began to wail
and to cry, uttering vain shouts and lamentations.
Whether thou implorest or complainest
The robber will not return the gold again.
The dervish alone had not lost his equanimity and showed no change.
I asked: 'Perhaps they have not taken thy money?' He replied: 'Yes, they
have but I was not so much accustomed to that money that separation therefrom
could grieve my heart':
The heart must not be tied to any thing or person
Because to take off the heart is a difficult affair.
I replied: 'What thou hast said resembles my case because, when
I was young, my intimacy with a young man and my friendship for him were
such that his beauty was the Qiblah of my eye and the chief joy of my life
union with him':
Perhaps an angel in heaven but no mortal
Can be on earth equal in beauty of form to him.
I swear by the amity, after which companionship is
No human sperm will ever become a man like him.
All of a sudden the foot of his life sank into the mire of non-existence.
The smoke of separation arose from his family. I kept him company on his
grave for many days and one of my compositions on his loss is as
Would that on the day when the thorn of fate entered thy
The hand of heaven had struck a sword on my head;
So that this day my eye could not see the world without
Here I am on thy grave, would that it were over my
He who could take neither rest nor sleep
Before he had first scattered roses and narcissi.
The turns of heaven have strewn the roses of his
Thorns and brambles are growing on his tomb.
After separation from him I resolved and firmly determined to fold
up the carpet of pleasure during the rest of my life and to retire from
mixing in society:
Last night I strutted about like a peacock in the garden of
But today, through separation from my friend, I twist my head
The profit of the sea would be good if there were no fear of
The company of the rose would be sweet if there were no pain
A king of the Arabs, having been informed of the relations subsisting
between Laila and Mejnun, with an account of the latter's insanity, to
the effect that he had in spite of his great accomplishments and eloquence,
chosen to roam about in the desert and to let go the reins of self-control
from his hands; he ordered him to be brought to his presence, and this
having been done, he began to reprove him and to ask him what defect he
had discovered in the nobility of the human soul that he adopted the habits
of beasts and abandoned the society of mankind. Mejnun
'Many friends have blamed me for loving her.
Will they not see her one day and understand my
Would that those who are reproving me
Could see thy face, O ravisher of hearts,
That instead of a lemon in thy presence
They might heedlessly cut their hands.
That the truth may bear witness to the assertion: This is he for
whose sake ye blamed me.
The king expressed a wish to see the beauty of Laila in order to
ascertain the cause of so much distress. Accordingly he ordered her to
be searched for. The encampments of various Arab families having been visited,
she was found, conveyed to the king and led into the courtyard of the palace.
The king looked at her outward form for some time and she appeared despicable
in his sight because the meanest handmaids of his harem excelled her in
beauty and attractions. Mejnun, who shrewdly understood the thoughts of
the king, said: 'It would have been necessary to look from the window of
Mejnun's eye at the beauty of Laila when the mystery of her aspect would
have been revealed to thee.'
If the record of the glade which entered my
Had been heard by the leaves of the glade they would
have lamented with me.
O company of friends, say to him who is unconcerned
'Would that thou knewest what is in a pining heart
Who are healthy have no pain from wounds.
I shall tell my grief to no one but a sympathizer.
It is useless to speak of bees to one
Who never in his life felt their sting.
As long as thy state is not like mine
My state will be but an idle tale to thee.
It is related that the qazi of Hamdan, having conceived affection
towards a farrier-boy and the horseshoe of his heart being on fire, he
sought for some time to meet him, roaming about and seeking for opportunities,
according to the saying of chroniclers:
That straight tall cypress my eyes beheld
It robbed me of my heart and threw me down.
Those wanton eyes have taken my heart with a lasso.
If thou desirest to preserve thy heart shut thy
I was informed that the boy, who had heard something of the qazi's
passion, happening to meet him in a thoroughfare, manifested immense wrath,
assailed the qazi with disrespectful and insulting words, snatched up a
stone and left no injury untried. The qazi said to an ullemma of repute
who happened to be of the same opinion with him:
'Look at that sweetheart and his getting angry,
And that bitter knot of his sweet eyebrow.'
The Arab says: 'A slap from a lover is a raisin.
A blow from the hand on the mouth
Is sweeter than eating bread with one's own hand.
In the same way the boy's impudence might be indicating kindness
as padshahs utter hard words whilst they secretly wish for
Grapes yet unripe are sour.
Wait two or three days, they will become sweet.
After saying these words he returned to his court of justice, where
some respectable men connected with him kissed the ground of service and
said: 'With thy permission we shall, doing obeisance, speak some words
to thee although they may be contrary to politeness because illustrious
men have said:
It is not permissible to argue on every topic.
To find fault with great men is wrong.
'But as in consequence of favours conferred by thy lordship in
former times upon thy servants it would be a kind of treachery to withhold
the opinion they entertain, they inform thee that the proper way is not
to yield to thy inclinations concerning this boy but to fold up the carpet
of lascivious desires because thy dignity as qazi is high and must not
be polluted by a base crime. The companion thou hast seen is this, and
our words thou hast heard are these:
One who has done many disreputable things
Cares nothing for the reputation of anyone.
Many a good name of fifty years
Was trodden under foot by one bad name."
The qazi approved of the unanimous advice of his friends and appreciated
their good opinion as well as their steadfast fidelity, saying that the
view taken by his beloved friends on the arrangement of his case was perfectly
right and their arguments admitting of no contradiction.
Although love ceases in consequence of reproval
I heard that just men sometimes concoct falsehoods.
Blame me as much as thou listest
Because blackness cannot be washed off from a negro.
Nothing can blot out my remembrance of thee.
I am a snake with broken head and cannot turn.
These words he said and sent some persons to make inquiries about
him, spending boundless money because it is said that whoever has gold
in his hand possesses strength of arm and he who has no worldly goods has
no friends in the whole world:
Whoever has seen gold droops his head,
Although he may be hard to bend like iron-backed
In short, one night he obtained privacy but during that night the
police obtained information that the qazi is spending the whole of it with
wine in his hand and a sweetheart on his bosom, enjoying himself, not sleeping,
Has this cock perhaps not crowed at the proper time this
And have the lovers not had their fill of embrace, and
Whilst alas for only a moment the eye of confusion is
Remain awake that life may not elapse in vain
Till thou hearest the morning call from the Friday-mosque
Or the noise of kettle-drums on Atabek's palace-gate.
Lips against lips like the cock's eye
Are not to part at the crowing of a silly cock.
Whilst the qazi was in this state one of his dependants entered
and said: 'Arise and run as far as thy feet will carry thee because the
envious have not only obtained a handle for vexation but have spoken the
truth. We may, whilst the fire of confusion is yet burning low, perchance
extinguish it with the water of stratagem but when it blazes up high it
may destroy a world.' The qazi, however, replied:
'When the lion has his claws on the game
What boots it if a jackal makes his appearance?
Keep thy face on the face of the friend and leave
The foe to chew the back of his own hand in rage.'
The same night information was also brought to the king that in
his realm such a wickedness had been perpetrated and he was asked what
he thought of it. He replied: 'I know that he is one of the most learned
men, and I account him to be the paragon of our age. As it is possible
that enemies have devised a plot against him, I give no credit to this
accusation unless I obtain ocular evidence because philosophers have
He who grasps the sword in haste
Will repenting carry the back of his hand to his teeth and bite
I heard that at dawn the king with some of his courtiers arrived
at the pillow of the qazi, saw a lamp standing, the sweetheart sitting,
the wine spilled, the goblet broken and the qazi plunged in the sleep of
drunkenness, unaware of the realm of existence. The king awakened him gently
and said: 'Get up for the sun has risen.' The qazi, who perceived the state
of affairs, asked: 'From what direction?' The sultan was astonished and
replied: 'From the east as usual.' The qazi exclaimed: 'Praise be to Allah!
The door of repentance is yet open because according to tradition the gate
Of repentance will not be locked against worshippers till the sun rises
in its setting place.'
These two things impelled me to sin:
My ill-luck and my imperfect understanding.
If thou givest me punishment I deserve it
And if thou forgivest pardon is better than revenge.
The king replied: 'As thou knowest that thou must suffer capital
punishment, it is of no use to repent. But their faith availed them not
after they had beholden our vengeance.
'What is the use to promise to forego thieving
When a lasso cannot be thrown up to the palace?
Say to the tall man: "Do not pluck the fruit",
For he who is short cannot reach the branch.
'For thee, who hast committed such wickedness, there is no way
of escape.' After the king had uttered these words, the men appointed for
the execution took hold of him, whereon he said: 'I have one word more
to speak in the service of the sultan.' The king, who heard him, asked:
'What is it?' And he recited:
'Thou who shakest the sleeve of displeasure upon
Expect not that I shall withdraw my hand from thy
If escape be impossible from this crime which I
I trust to the clemency which thou possessest.'
The king replied: 'Thou hast adduced this wonderful sally and hast
enounced a strange maxim but it is impossible according to reason and contrary
to usage that thy accomplishments and eloquence should this day save thee
from the punishment which I have decreed; and I consider it proper to throw
thee headlong from the castle that others may take an example.' He continued:
'O lord of the world, I have been nourished by the bounty of this dynasty,
and this crime was not committed only by me in the world. Throw another
man headlong that I may take the example.' The king burst out laughing,
pardoned his crime and said to his dependents who desired the qazi to be
'Everyone of you who are bearers of your own
Ought not to blame others for their defects.'
A virtuous and beauteous youth
Was pledged to a chaste maiden.
I read that in the great sea
They fell into a vortex together.
When a sailor came to take his hand,
Lest he might die in that condition,
He said in anguish from the waves:
'Leave me. Take the hand of my love.'
Whilst saying this, he despaired of life.
In his agony he was heard to exclaim:
'Learn not the tale of love from the wretch
Who forgets his beloved in distress.'
Thus the lives of the lovers terminated.
Learn from what has occurred that thou mayest know
Because Sa'di is of the ways and means of love affairs
Well aware in the Arabian city of Baghdad.
Tie thy heart to the heart-charmer thou possessest
And shut thy eye to all the rest of the world.
If Mejnun and Laila were to come to life again
They might indite a tale of love on this occurrence.
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On Weakness and Old Age
I was holding a disputation with a company of learned men in the
cathedral mosque of Damascus when a youth stepped among us, asking whether
anyone knew Persian, whereon most of them pointed to me. I asked him what
the matter was and he said that an old man, aged one hundred and fifty
years, was in the agony of death but saying something in Persian which
nobody could understand and that if I were kindly to go and see him I might
obtain the information whether he was perhaps desirous of making his last
will. When I approached his pillow, he said:
'A while ago I said I shall take some rest
But alas, the way of my breath is choked.
Alas, that from the variegated banquet of life
We were eating a while and told it is enough.'
I interpreted these words in the Arabic language to the Damascenes
and they were astonished that despite of his long life he regretted the
termination of it so much. I asked him how he felt and he replied: 'What
shall I say?'
Hast thou not seen what misery he feels,
The teeth of whose mouth are being extracted?
Consider what his state will be at the hour
When life, so precious to him, abandons his body.
I told him not to worry his imagination with the idea of death
and not to allow a hallucination to obtain dominion over his nature because
Ionian philosophers have said that although the constitution may be good
no reliance is to be placed on its permanence and although a malady may
be perilous it does not imply a full indication of death. I asked: 'If
thou art willing, I shall call a physician to treat thee?' He lifted his
eyes and said, smiling:
'The skilled doctor strikes his hands together
On beholding a rival prostrate like a potsherd.
A gentleman is engaged in adorning his hall with
Whilst the very foundation of the house is ruined.
An aged man was lamenting in his last agony
Whilst his old spouse was rubbing him with sandal.
When the equilibrium of the constitution is destroyed
Neither incantations nor medicines are of any avail.'
It is related that an old man, having married a girl, was sitting
with her privately in an apartment adorned with roses, fixing his eyes
and heart upon her. He did not sleep during long nights but spent them
in telling her jokes and witty stories, hoping to gain her affection and
to conquer her shyness. One night, however, he informed her that luck had
been friendly to her and the eye of fortune awake because she had become
the companion of an old man who is ripe, educated, experienced in the world,
of a quiet disposition, who had felt cold and warm, had tried good and
bad, who knows the diities of companionship, is ready to fulfil the conditions
of love, is benevolent, kind, good-natured and sweet-tongued.
As far as I am able I shall hold thy heart
And if injured I shall not injure in return.
Though sugar may be thy food as of a parrot
I shall sacrifice sweet life to thy support.
Thou hast not fallen into the hands of a giddy youth, fun of whims,
headstrong, fickle minded, running about every moment in search of another
pleasure and entertaining another opinion, sleeping every night in another
place and taking every day another friend.
Young men are joyous and of handsome countenance
But inconstant in fidelity to anyone.
Expect not faithfulness from nightingales
Who sing every moment to another rose.
Contrary to aged men who spend their lives according to wisdom
and propriety; not according to the impulses of folly and
Find one better than thyself and consider it
Because with one like thyself thou wilt be disappointed.
The old man said: 'I continued in this strain, thinking that I
had captivated her heart and that it had become my prey.' She drew, however,
a deep sigh from her grief-filled heart and said: 'All the words thou hast
uttered, weighed in the scales of my understanding, are not equivalent
to the maxim I once heard enounced in my tribe: An arrow in the side of
a young woman is better than an old man.'
When she perceived in the hands of her husband
Something pendant like the nether lip of a fasting
She said: 'This fellow has a corpse with him
But incantations are for sleepers not for corpses.'
A woman who arises without satisfaction from a
Will raise many a quarrel and contention.
An old man who is unable to rise from his place,
Except by the aid of a stick, how can his own stick
In short, there being no possibility of harmony, a separation at
last took place. When the time of the lady's uddat had terminated, she
was given in marriage to a young man who was violent, ill-humoured and
empty-handed. She suffered much from his bad temper and tyrannical behaviour,
and experienced the miseries of penury. She nevertheless said: 'Praise
be to Allah for having been delivered from that wretched torment, and attained
this permanent blessing.'
Despite of all this violence and hasty nature
I shall try to please thee because thou art beauteous.
To be with thee in hell burning is for me
Better than to be with the other in paradise.
The smell of an onion from the mouth of a pretty
Is indeed better than a rose from an ugly hand.
A nice face and a gown of gold brocade,
Essence of roses, fragrant aloes, paint, perfume and
All these are ornaments of women.
Take a man; and his testicles are a sufficient ornament.
I was in Diarbekr, the guest of an old man, who possessed abundant
wealth and a beautiful son. One night he narrated to me that he had all
his life no other son but this boy, telling me that in the locality people
resorted to a certain tree in a valley to offer petitions and that he had
during many nights prayed at the foot of the said tree, till the Almighty
granted him this son. I overheard the boy whispering to his companion:
'How good it would be if I knew where that tree is that I might pray for
my father to die.' Moral: The gentleman is delighted that his son is intelligent
and the boy complains that his father is a dotard.
Years elapse without thy visiting
The tomb of thy father.
What good hast thou done to him
To expect the same from thy son?
One day, in the pride of youth, I had travelled hard and arrived
perfectly exhausted in the evening at the foot of an acclivity. A weak
old man, who had likewise been following the caravan, came and asked me
why I was sleeping, this not being the place for it. I replied: 'How am
I to travel, having lost the use of my feet?' He said: 'Hast thou not heard
that it is better to walk gently and to halt now and then than to run and
to become exhausted?'
O thou who desirest to reach the station
Take my advice and learn patience.
An Arab horse gallops twice in a race.
A camel ambles gently night and day.
The active, graceful, smiling, sweet-tongued youth happened once
to be in the circle of our assembly. His heart had been entered by no kind
of grief and his lips were scarcely ever closed from laughter. After some
time had elapsed, I accidentally met him again and I learned that he had
married a wife and begotten children but I saw that the root of merriment
had been cut and the roses of his countenance were withered. I asked him
how he felt and what his circumstances were. He replied: 'When I had obtained
children I left off childishness.'
Where is youth when age has changed my ringlets?
And the change of time is a sufficient monitor.
When thou art old abstain from puerility.
Leave play and jokes to youths.
Seek not a youth's hilarity in an old man
For the water gone from the brook returns no more.
When the harvest-time of a field arrives
It will no longer wave in the breeze like a young
The period of youth has departed.
Alas, for those heart-enchanting times.
The force of the lion's claws is gone.
Now we are satisfied with cheese Eke a leopard.
An old hag had dyed her hair black.
I said to her: 'O little mother of ancient days,
Thou hast cunningly dyed thy hair but consider
That thy bent back will never be straight.'
In the folly of youth I one day shouted at my mother who then sat
down with a grieved heart in a corner and said, weeping: 'Hast thou forgotten
thy infancy that thou art harsh towards me?'
How sweetly said the old woman to her son
When she saw him overthrow a tiger, and elephant-bodied:
'If thou hadst remembered the time of thy infancy
How helpless thou wast in my arms
Thou would'st this day not have been harsh
For thou art a lion-like man, and I an old woman.'
The son of a wealthy but avaricious old man, having fallen sick,
his well-wishers advised him that it would be proper to get the whole Quran
recited or else to offer a sacrifice. He meditated a while and then said:
'It is preferable to read the Quran because the flock is at a distance.'
A holy man, who had heard this, afterwards remarked: 'He selected the reading
of the Quran because it is at the tip of the tongue but the money at the
bottom of the heart.'
It is useful to bend the neck in prayers
If they are to be accompanied by almsgiving.
For one dinar he would remain sticking in mud like an
But if thou askest for Alhamdu he will recite it a hundred
An old man, having been asked why he did not marry, replied that
he could not be happy with an aged woman, and on being told that as he
was a man of property, he might take a young one, he said: 'I being an
old man and unwilling to associate with an old woman, how could a young
one conceive friendship for me who am aged?'
Let not a man of seventy years make love.
Thou art confessedly blind, kiss her and sleep.
The lady wants strength, not gold.
One passage is preferable to her than ten mann of
I have heard that in these days a decrepit aged
Took the fancy in his old head to get a spouse.
He married a beauteous little girl, Jewel by name,
When he had concealed his casket of jewels from the eyes of
A spectacle took place as is customary in weddings.
But in the first onslaught the organ of the sheikh fell
He spanned the bow but hit not the target; it being
impossible to sew
A tight coarse robe except with a needle of steel.
He complained to his friends and showed proofs
That his furniture had been utterly destroyed by her
Such fighting and contention arose between man and
That the affair came before the qazi; and Sa'di
'After all this reproach and villainy the fault is not the
Thou whose hand trembles, how canst thou bore a
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On the Effects of Education
A vezier who had a stupid son gave him in charge of a scholar to
instruct him and if possible to make him intelligent. Having been some
time under instruction but ineffectually, the learned man sent one to his
father with the words: 'The boy is not becoming intelligent and has made
a fool of me.'
When a nature is originally receptive
Instruction will take effect thereon.
No kind of polishing will improve iron
Whose essence is originally bad.
Wash a dog in the seven oceans,
He will be only dirtier when he gets wet.
If the ass of Jesus be taken to Mekkah
He will on his return still be an ass.
A sage, instructing boys, said to them: 'O darlings of your fathers,
learn a trade because property and riches of the world are not to be relied
upon; also silver and gold are an occasion of danger because either a thief
may steal them at once or the owner spend them gradually; but a profession
is a living fountain and permanent wealth; and although a professional
man may lose riches, it does not matter because a profession is itself
wealth and wherever he goes he will enjoy respect and sit in high places,
whereas he who has no trade will glean crumbs and see
It is difficult to obey after losing dignity
And to bear violence from men after being caressed.
Once confusion arose in Damascus.
Everyone left his snug corner.
Learned sons of peasants
Became the veziers of padshahs.
Imbecile sons of the veziers
Went as mendicants to peasants.
If you wanted thy father's inheritance, acquire his
Because this property of his may be spent in ten
An illustrious scholar, who was the tutor of a royal prince, had
the habit of striking him unceremoniously and treating him severely. The
boy, who could no longer bear this violence, went to his father to complain
and when he had taken off his coat, the father's heart was moved with pity.
Accordingly he called for the tutor and said: 'Thou dost not permit thyself
to indulge in so much cruelty towards the children of my subjects as thou
inflictest upon my son. What is the reason?' He replied: 'It is incumbent
upon all persons in general to converse in a sedate manner and to behave
in a laudable way but more especially upon padshahs because whatever they
say or do is commented on by everybody, the utterances or acts of common
people being of no such consequence.
'If a hundred unworthy things are committed by a
His companions do not know one in a hundred.
But if a padshah utters only one jest
It is borne from country to country.
'It is the duty of a royal prince's tutor to train up the sons
of his lord in refinement of morals-and Allah caused her to grow up as
a beautiful plant-more diligently than the sons of common
He whom thou hast not punished when a child
Will not prosper when he becomes a man.
While a stick is green, thou canst bend it as thou
When it is dry, fire alone can make it straight.
The king, being pleased with the appropriate discipline of the
tutor and with his explanatory reply, bestowed upon him a robe of honour
with other gifts and raised him to a higher position.
I saw a schoolmaster in the Maghrib country, who was sour-faced,
of uncouth speech, ill-humoured, troublesome to the people, of a beggarly
nature and without self-restraint, so that the very sight of him disgusted
the Musalmans and when reading the Quran he distressed the hearts of the
people. A number of innocent boys and little maidens suffered from the
hand of his tyranny, venturing neither to laugh nor to speak because he
would slap the silver-cheeks of some and put the crystal legs of others
into the stocks. In short, I heard that when his behaviour had attained
some notoriety, he was expelled from the school and another installed as
corrector, who happened to be a religious, meek, good and wise man. He
spoke only when necessary and found no occasion to deal harshly with anyone
so that the children lost the fear they had entertained for their first
master and, taking advantage of the angelic manners of the second, they
acted like demons towards each other and, trusting in his gentleness, neglected
their studies, spending most of their time in play, and breaking on the
heads of each other the tablets' of their unfinished
If the schoolmaster happens to be lenient
The children will play leapfrog in the bazar.
Two weeks afterwards I happened to pass near that same mosque where
I again saw the first master whom the people had made glad by reconciliation
and had reinstalled in his post. I was displeased, exclaimed 'La haul',
and asked why they had again made Iblis the teacher of angels. An old man,
experienced in the world, who had heard me, smiled and said: 'Hast thou
not heard the maxim?
A padshah placed his son in a school,
Putting in his lap a silver tablet
With this inscription in golden letters:
The severity of a teacher is better than the love of a
The son of a pious man inherited great wealth left him by some
uncles, whereon he plunged into dissipation and profligacy, became a spendthrift
and, in short, left no heinous transgression unperpetrated and no intoxicant
untasted. I advised him and said: 'My son, income is a flowing water and
expense a turning mill; that is to say, only he who has a fixed revenue
is entitled to indulge in abundant expenses.
'If thou hast no income, spend but frugally
Because the sailors chant this song:
"If there be no rain in the mountains
The bed of the Tigris will be dry in one year."
'Follow wisdom and propriety, abandon play and sport because thy
wealth will be exhausted, whereon thou wilt fall into trouble and will
repent.' The youth was prevented by the delights of the flute and of drink
from accepting my admonition but found fault therewith, saying that it
is contrary to the opinion of intelligent men to embitter present tranquillity
by cares concerning the future:
Why should possessors of enjoyment and luck
Bear sorrow for fear of distress?
Go, be merry, my heart-rejoicing friend.
The pain of tomorrow must not be eaten today.
And how could I restrain myself, who am occupying the highest seat
of liberality, have bound the knot of generosity and the fame of whose
beneficence has become the topic of general conversation?
Who has become known for his liberality and
Must not put a lock upon his dirhems.
When the name of a good fellow has spread in a locality
The door cannot be dosed against it.
When I perceived that he did not accept my advice and that my warm
breath was not taking effect upon his cold iron, I left off admonishing
him and turned away my face from his companionship, acting according to
the words of philosophers, who said: Impart to them what thou hast and
if they receive it not, it is not thy fault.
Although thou knowest thou wilt not be heard,
Whatever thou knowest of good wishes and advice.
It may soon happen that thou wilt behold a silly
With both his feet fallen into captivity,
Striking his hands together, and saying: 'Alas,
I have not listened to the advice of a scholar.'
After some time I saw the consequences of his dissolute behaviour-which
I apprehended-realized. When I beheld him sewing patch upon patch and gathering
crumb after crumb, my heart was moved with pity for his destitute condition,
in which I did not consider it humane to scratch his internal wounds with
reproaches or to sprinkle salt upon them. Accordingly, I said to
A foolish fellow in the height of intoxication
Cares not for the coming day of distress.
The tree which sheds its foliage in spring
Will certainly have no leaves remaining in winter.
A padshah entrusted a tutor with the care of his son, saying: 'This
is thy son. Educate him as if he were one of thy own children.' He kept
the prince for some years and strove to instruct him but could effect nothing,
whilst the sons of the tutor made the greatest progress in accomplishments
and eloquence. The king reproved and threatened the learned man with punishment,
telling him that he had acted contrary to his promise and had been unfaithful.
He replied: 'O king, the instruction is the same but the natures are
Although both silver and gold come from stones
All stones do not contain silver and gold.
Canopus is shining upon the whole world
But produces in some places sack-leather and in others
I heard a pir-instructor say to his murid: 'The mind of man is
so much occupied with thoughts about maintenance that he would surpass
the position of angels if he were to devote as many of them to the giver
Yazed has not forgotten thee at the time
When thou wast sperm, buried, insensible.
He gave thee a soul, nature, intellect and perception,
Beauty, speech, opinion, meditation and acuteness.
He arranged five fingers on thy fist.
He fixed two arms to thy shoulders.
O thou whose aspirations are base, thinkest he will
Forget to provide thee with a maintenance?
I saw an Arab of the desert who said to his boy: 'O son, on the
day of resurrection thou wilt be asked what thou hast gained and not from
whom thou art descended, that is to say, thou wilt be asked what thy merit
is and not who thy father was.'
The covering of the Ka'bah which is kissed
Has not been ennobled by the silkworm.
It was some days in company with a venerable man
Wherefore it became respected like himself.
It is narrated in the compositions of philosophers that scorpions
are not born in the same manner like other living beings but that they
devour the bowels of their mother and, after gnawing through the belly,
betake themselves to the desert. The skins which may be seen in the nests
of scorpions are the evidence of this. I narrated this story to an illustrious
man who then told me that his own heart bore witness to the truth of it
for the case could not be otherwise inasmuch as they, having in their infancy
dealt thus with their fathers and mothers, they were beloved and respected
in the same manner when they grow old.
A father thus admonished his son:
O noble fellow, remember this advice.
'Whoever is not faithful to his origin
Will not become the companion of happiness.'
A scorpion, having been asked why he did not go out in winter,
replied: 'What honour do I enjoy in summer that I should come out also
The wife of a dervish had become enceinte and when the time of
her confinement was at hand, the dervish who had no child during all his
life said: 'If God the most high and glorious presents me with a son, I
shall bestow everything I possess as alms upon dervishes, except this patched
garment of mine which I am wearing.' It happened that the infant was a
son. He rejoiced and gave a banquet to the dervishes, as he had promised.
Some years afterwards when I returned from a journey to Syria, I passed
near the locality of the dervish and asked about his circumstances but
was told that he had been put in prison by the police. Asking for the cause,
I was told that his son, having become drunk, quarrelled and having shed
the blood of a man, had fled; whereon his father was instead of him loaded
with a chain on his neck and heavy fetters on his legs. I replied: 'He
had himself asked God the most high and glorious for this
If pregnant women, O man of intellect,
Bring forth serpents at the time of birth,
It is better in the opinion of the wise
Than to give birth to a wicked progeny.
When I was a child I asked an illustrious man about puberty. He
replied: 'It is recorded in books that it has three signs. First, the age
of fifteen years; secondly nocturnal pollutions; and thirdly, sprouting
of hair on the pudenda; but in reality there is only one sign which is
sufficient that thou shouldst seek the approbation of the most high and
glorious rather than to be in the bondage of sensual pleasures; and whoever
does not entertain this disposition is by erudite men considered not to
have attained puberty.'
The form of man was attained by a drop of water
Which remained forty days in the womb.
If in forty years it has not attained sense and
It can in reality not be called a man.
Virility consists in liberality and amiableness.
Think not that it is only in the material figure.
Virtue is necessary because the form may be painted
In halls with vermilion or verdigris.
If a man possesses not excellence and goodness
What is the difference between him and a picture on the
It is no virtue to gain the whole world.
Gain the heart of one person if thou canst.
One year discord had arisen in a caravan among the walking portion
and I also travelled on foot. To obtain justice we attacked each other's
heads and faces, giving full vent to pugnacity and contention. I saw a
man sitting in a camel litter and saying to his companion: 'How wonderful!
A pawn of ivory travels across the chess-board and becomes a farzin, and
the footmen of the Haj travelled across the whole desert only to become
Tell on my part to the man-biting Haji
Who tears the skins of people with torments:
Thou art not a Haji but a camel is one
Because, poor brute, it feeds on thorns and bears
An Indian who was learning how to throw naphtha was thus reproved
by a sage: 'This is not a play for thee whose house is made of
Speak not unless thou knowest it is perfectly
And ask not what thou knowest will not elicit a good
A little man with a pain in his eyes went to a farrier to be treated
by him. The farrier applied to his eyes what he used to put in those of
quadrupeds so that the man became blind and lodged a complaint with the
judge who, however, refrained from punishing the farrier, saying: 'Had
this man not been an ass, he would not have gone to a farrier.' The moral
of this story is to let thee know that whoever entrusts an inexperienced
man with an important business and afterwards repents is by intelligent
persons held to suffer from levity of intellect.
A shrewd and enlightened man will not give
Affairs of importance to a base fellow to transact.
A mat-maker although employed in weaving
Is not set to work in a silk-factory.
An illustrious man had a worthy son who died. Being asked what
he desired to be written upon the sarcophagus of the tomb, he replied:
'The verses of the glorious book' are deserving of more honour than to
be written on such a spot, where they would be injured by the lapse of
time, would be walked upon by persons passing by and urinated upon by dogs.
If anything is necessarily to be written, let what follows
Wah! How-every time the plants in the garden
Sprouted-glad became my heart.
Pass by, O friend, that in the spring
Thou mayest see plants sprouting from my loam.'
A pious man happened to pass near a rich fellow who had a slave
and was just chastising him after having tied his feet and hands. He said:
'My son, God the most high and glorious has given a creature like thyself
into thy power and has bestowed upon thee superiority over him. Give thanks
to the Almighty and do not indulge in so much violence towards the man
because it is not meet that in the morn of resurrection he should be better
than thyself and put thee to shame.'
Be not much incensed against a slave.
Oppress him not, grieve not his heart.
Thou hast purchased him for ten dirhems
And hast not after all created him by thy power.
How long is this command, pride and power to last?
There is a Master more exalted than thou.
O thou owner of Arslan and of Aghosh,
Do not forget him who is thy commander.
There is a tradition that the prince of the world, upon whom be
the benediction of Allah and peace, has said: 'It will occasion the greatest
sorrow on the day of resurrection when a pious worshipper is conveyed to
paradise and a lord of profligacy to hell.'
Upon the slave subject to thy service
Vent not boundless anger but treat him gently
Because on the day of reckoning it will be a shame
To see the slave free and his owner in chains.
One year I travelled from Balkh with Damascenes and the road being
full of danger on account of robbers, a young man accompanied us as an
escort. He was expert with the shield and the bow, handled every weapon
and so strong that ten men were not able to span his bow-string. Moreover
the athletes of the face of the earth could not bend his back down to the
ground. He was, however, rich, brought up in the shade, without experience
in the world, the drum-sounds of warriors never having reached his ears
nor the lightning of the swords of horsemen dazzled his
He had not fallen prisoner into the hands of a
No shower of arrows had rained around him.
I happened to be running together with this youth, who threw down
by the force of his arm every wall that came in his way, and pulled up
by the strength of his fist every big tree he saw, exclaiming,
Where is the elephant that he may see the shoulders of the
Where is the lion that he may see the fists of men?
On that occasion two Indians showed their heads from behind a rock,
desirous to attack us. One of them had a club in his hand whilst the other
showed a sling under his arm. I asked our youth what he was waiting
Show what thou hast of bravery and strength
For here is the foe, coming on his own feet to the
I saw the arrow and bow falling from the hands of the young man
and his bones trembling:
Not everyone who splits a hair with a cuirass-piercing
Can, on the day of attack by warriors, extricate his
We saw no other remedy but to abandon our baggage, arms and clothes,
whereby we saved our lives.
Employ an experienced man in important affairs
Who is able to ensnare a fierce lion with his lasso.
A youth, though he may have a strong arm and elephant-body,
His joints will snap asunder for fear in contact with a
The issue of a battle is known by a tried man before the
Like the solution of a legal question to a learned
I noticed the son of a rich man, sitting on the grave of his father
and quarreling with a dervish-boy, saying: 'The sarcophagus of my father's
tomb is of stone and its epitaph is elegant. The pavement is of marble,
tesselated with turquois-like bricks. But what resembles thy father's grave?
It consists of two contiguous bricks with two handfuls of mud thrown over
it.' The dervish-boy listened to all this and then observed: 'By the time
thy father is able to shake off those heavy stones which cover him, mine
will have reached paradise.'
An ass with a light burden
No doubt walks easily.
A dervish who carries only the load of poverty
Will also arrive lightly burdened at the gate of
Whilst he who lived in happiness, wealth and ease
Will undoubtedly on all these accounts die hard.
At all events, a prisoner who escapes from all his
Is to be considered more happy than an amir taken
I asked an illustrious man for the reason of the tradition: Account
as an enemy the passion which is between thy two loins. He replied: 'The
reason is because whatever enemy thou propitiatest becomes thy friend,
whereas the more thou indulgest in a passion, the more it will oppose
Man attains angelic nature by eating sparingly
But if he be voracious like beasts he falls like a
He whose wishes thou fulfillest will obey thy command
Contrary to passion, which will command, when obeyed.
Contention of Sa'di with a Disputant concerning Wealth and
I saw a man in the form but not with the character of a dervish,
sitting in an assembly, who had begun a quarrel; and, having opened the
record of complaints, reviled wealthy men, alleging at last that the hand
of power of dervishes to do good was tied and that the foot of the intention
of wealthy men to do good was broken.
The liberal have no money.
The wealthy have no liberality.
I, who had been cherished by the wealth of great men, considered
these words offensive and said: 'My good friend, the rich are the income
of the destitute and the hoarded store of recluses, the objects of pilgrims,
the refuge of travellers, the bearers of heavy loads for the relief of
others. They give repasts and partake of them to feed their dependants
and servants, the surplus of their liberalities being extended to widows,
aged persons, relatives and neighbours.'
The rich must spend for pious uses, vows and
Tithes, offerings, manumissions, gifts and sacrifices.
How canst thou attain their power of doing good who art
To perform only the prayer-flections and these with a
If there be efficacy in the power to be liberal and in the ability
of performing religious duties, the rich can attain it better because they
possess money to give alms, their garments are pure, their reputation is
guarded, their hearts are at leisure. Inasmuch as the power of obedience
depends upon nice morsels and correct worship upon elegant clothes, it
is evident that hungry bowels have but little strength, an empty hand can
afford no liberality, shackled feet cannot walk, and no good can come from
a hungry belly.
He sleeps troubled in the night
Who has no support for the morrow.
The ant collects in summer a subsistence
For spending the winter in ease.
Freedom from care and destitution are not joined together and comfort
in poverty is an impossibility. A man who is rich is engaged in his evening
devotions whilst another who is poor is looking for his evening meal. How
can they resemble each other?
He who possesses means is engaged in worship.
Whose means are scattered, his heart is distracted.
The worship of those who are comfortable is more likely to meet
with acceptance, their minds being more attentive and not distracted or
scattered. Having a secure income, they may attend to devotion. The Arab
says: 'I take refuge with Allah against base poverty and neighbours whom
I do not love. There is also a tradition: Poverty is blackness of face
in both worlds.'
He retorted by asking me whether I had heard the Prophet's saying:
Poverty is my glory. I replied: 'Hush! The prince of the world alluded
to the poverty of warriors in the battlefield of acquiescence and of submission
to the arrow of destiny; not to those who don the patched garb of righteousness
but sell the doles of food given them as alms.'
O drum of high sound and nothing within,
What wilt thou do without means when the struggle
Turn away the face of greed from people if thou art a
Trust not the rosary of one thousand beads in thy
A dervish without divine knowledge rests not until his poverty,
culminates in unbelief; for poverty is almost infidelity, because a nude
person cannot be clothed without money nor a prisoner liberated. How can
the like of us attain their high position and how does the bestowing resemble
the receiving hand? Knowest thou not that God the most high and glorious
mentions in his revealed word the Pleasures of paradise-They shall have
a certain provision in paradise-to inform thee that those who are occupied
with cares for a subsistence are excluded from the felicity of piety and
that the realm of leisure is under the ring of the certain
The thirsty look in their sleep
On the whole world as a spring of water.
Wherever thou beholdest one who has experienced destitution and
tasted bitterness, throwing himself wickedly into fearful adventures and
not avoiding their consequences, he fears not the punishment of Yazed and
does not discriminate between what is licit or illicit.
The dog whose head is touched by a clod of earth
Leaps for joy, imagining it to be a bone.
And when two men take a corpse on their shoulders,
A greedy fellow supposes it to be a table with food.
But the possessor of wealth is regarded with a favourable eye by
the Almighty for the lawful acts he has done and preserved from the unlawful
acts he might commit. Although I have not fully explained this matter nor
adduced arguments, I rely on thy sense of justice to tell me whether thou
hast ever seen a mendicant with his hands tied up to his shoulders or a
poor fellow sitting in prison or a veil of innocence rent or a guilty hand
amputated, except in consequence of poverty? Lion-hearted men were on account
of their necessities captured in mines which they had dug to rob houses
and their heels were perforated. It is also possible that a dervish, impelled
by the cravings of his lust and unable to restrain it, may commit sin because
the stomach and the sexual organs are twins, that is to say, they are the
two children of one belly and as long as one of these is contented, the
other will likewise be satisfied. I heard that a dervish had been seen
committing a wicked act with a youth, and although he had been put to shame,
he was also in danger of being stoned. He said: 'O Musalmans, I have no
power to marry a wife and no patience to restrain myself. What am I to
do? There is no monasticism in Islam." Among the number of causes producing
internal tranquility and comfort in wealthy people, the fact may be reckoned
that they take every night a sweetheart in their arms and may every day
contemplate a youth whose brightness excels that of the shining morn and
causes the feet of walking cypresses to conceal themselves
Plunging the fist into the blood of beloved
Dying the finger-tips with the colour of the jujube-fruit.
It is impossible that with his beauteous stature he should prowl
around prohibited things or entertain intentions of ruin to
How could he who took as booty a Huri of paradise
Take any notice of the benes of Yaghma?
Who has before him fresh dates which he loves
Has no need to throw stones on clusters upon trees.
Mostly empty handed persons pollute the skirt of modesty by transgression,
and those who are hungry steal bread.
When a ferocious dog has found meat
He asks not whether it is of the camel of Saleh or the ass
What a number of modest women have on account of poverty fallen
into complete profligacy, throwing away their precious reputation to the
wind of dishonour!
With hunger the power of abstinence cannot abide.
Poverty snatches the reins from the hands of piety.
Whilst I was uttering these words, the dervish lost the bridle
of patience from his hands, drew forth the sword of his tongue, caused
the steed of eloquence to caper in the plain of reproach and said: 'Thou
hast been so profuse in this panegyric of wealthy men and hast talked so
much nonsense that they might be supposed to be the antidote to poverty
or the key to the storehouse of provisions; whereas they are a handful
of proud, arrogant, conceited and abominable fellows intent upon accumulating
property and money and so thirsting for dignity and abundance, that they
do not speak to poor people except with insolence, and look upon them with
contempt. They consider scholars to be mendicants and insult poor men on
account of the wealth which they themselves possess and the glory of dignity
which they imagine is inherent in them. They sit in the highest places
and believe they are better than anyone else. They never show kindness
to anybody and are ignorant of the maxim of sages that he who is inferior
to others in piety but superior in riches is outwardly powerful but in
reality a destitute man.
If a wretch on account of his wealth is proud to a
Consider him to be the podex of an ass, though he may be a
I said: 'Do not think it allowable to insult them for they are
possessors of generosity.' He rejoined: 'Thou art mistaken. They are slaves
of money. Of what use is it that they are like bulky clouds and rain not,
like the fountain of light, the sun, and shine upon no one? They are mounted
on the steed of ability but do not use it; they would not stir a step for
God's sake nor spend one dirhem without imposing obligation and insult.
They accumulate property with difficulty, guard it with meanness and abandon
it with reluctance, according to the saying of illustrious men that the
silver of an avaricious man will come up from the ground when he goes into
One man gathers wealth with trouble and labour
And if another comes, he takes it without either.'
I retorted: 'Thou hast not become aware of the parsimony of wealthy
men except by reason of mendicancy or else, to him who has laid aside covetousness,
a liberal and an avaricious man would appear to be the same. The touchstone
knows what gold is and the beggar knows him who is stingy.' He rejoined:
'I am speaking from experience when I say that they station rude and insolent
men at their gates to keep off worthy persons, to place violent hands upon
men of piety and discretion, saying: "Nobody is here", and verily they
have spoken the truth.'
Of him who has no sense, intention, plan or
The gatekeeper has beautifully said: 'No one is in the
I said this is excusable because they are teased out of their lives
by people expecting favours and driven to lamentation by petitions of mendicants;
it being according to common sense an impossibility to satisfy beggars
even if the sand of the desert were to be transmuted into
The eye of greediness, the wealthy of the world
Can no more fill than dew can replenish a well.
Hatim Tai dwelt in the desert; had he been in a town he would have
been helpless against the assaults of beggars and they would have torn
to pieces his upper garments as it is recorded in the
Look not at me that others may not conceive
Because there is no reward to be got from beggars.
He said: 'No. I take pity on their state.' I replied: 'No. Thou
enviest them their wealth.' We were thus contending with each other, every
pawn he put forward I endeavoured to repel, and every time he announced
check to my king, I covered him with my queen until he had gambled away
all his ready cash and had shot off all the arrows of his quiver in
Have a care; do not throw away the shield when attacked by an
Who has nothing except borrowed eloquence to show,
Practise thou religion and marifet because a Suja-speaking
Displays weapons at the gate but no one is in the
At last no arguments remained to him and, having been defeated,
he commenced to speak nonsense as is the custom of ignorant men who, when
they can no more address proofs against their opponent, shake the chain
of enmity like the idol-carver Azer who being unable to overcome his son
in argument began to quarrel with him saying if thou forbearest not I will
surely stone thee. The man insulted me. I spoke harshly to him. He tore
my collar and I caught hold of his chin-case.
He falling upon me and I on him,
Crowds running after us and laughing,
The finger of astonishment of a world
On the teeth; from what was said and heard by us.
In short we carried our dispute to the qazi and agreed to abide
by a just decision of the judge of Musalmans, who would investigate the
affair and tell the difference between the rich and the poor. When the
qazi had seen our state and heard our logic, he plunged his head into his
collar and after meditating for a while spoke as follows: 'O thou, who
hast lauded the wealthy and hast indulged in violent language towards dervishes,
thou art to know that wherever a rose exists, there also thorns occur;
that wine is followed by intoxication, that a treasure is guarded by a
serpent, and that wherever royal pearls are found, men-devouring sharks
must also be. The sting of death is the sequel of the delights of life
and a cunning demon bars the enjoyment of paradise.
'What will the violence of a foe do if it cannot touch the seeker
Treasure, serpent; rose, thorn; grief and pleasure are all
'Perceivest thou not that in a garden there are musk-willows as
well as withered sticks? And likewise in the crowd of the rich there are
grateful and impious men, as also in the circle of dervishes some are forbearing
and some are impatient.
'If every drop of dew were to become a pearl
The bazar would be full of them as of ass-shells.
'Those near to the presence of the most high and glorious are rich
men with the disposition of dervishes and dervishes with the inclination
of the rich. The greatest of rich men is he who sympathizes with dervishes
and the best of dervishes is he who looks but little towards rich men.
Who trusts in Allah, he will be his sufficient support.'
After this the qazi turned the face of reproof from me to the dervish
and said: 'O thou who hast alleged that the wealthy are engaged in wickedness
and intoxicated with pleasure, some certainly are of the kind thou hast
described; of defective aspirations, and ungrateful for benefits received.
Sometimes they accumulate and put by, eat and give not; if for instance
the rain were to fail or a deluge were to distress the world, they, trusting
in their own power, would not care for the misery of dervishes, would not
fear God and would say:
If another perishes for want of food
I have some; what cares a duck for the deluge?
The women riding on camels in their howdahs
Take no notice of him who sinks in the sana.
The base when they have saved their own blankets
Say: What boots it if all mankind perishes?
'There are people of the kind thou hast heard of, and other persons
who keep the table of beneficence spread out, the hand of liberality open,
seeking a good name and pardon from God. They are the possessors of this
world and of the next, like the slaves of His Majesty Padshah of the world
who is aided by devine grace, conqueror, possessor of authority among nations,
defender of the frontiers of Islam, heir of the realm of Solomon, the most
righteous of the kings of the period, Muzaffar-ud-dunia wa uddin Atabek
Abu Bekr Ben Sa'd Ben Zanki, may Allah prolong his days and aid his
'A father never shows the kindness to his son
Which the hand of thy liberality has bestowed on
God desired to vouchsafe a blessing to the world
And in his mercy made thee padshah of the world.'
When the qazi had thus far protracted his remarks and had caused
the horse of his eloquence to roam beyond the limits of our expectation,
we submitted to his judicial decision, condoned to each other what had
passed between us, took the path of reconciliation, placed our heads on
each other's feet by way of apology, kissed each other's head and face,
terminating the discussion with the following two distichs:
Complain not of the turning of the spheres, O
Because thou wilt be luckless if thou diest in this frame of
O wealthy man, since thy heart and hand are successful
Eat and be liberal for thou hast conquered this world and the
The Gulistan of Sa'di
On Rules for Conduct in Life
Property is for the comfort of life, not for the accumulation of
wealth. A sage, having been asked who is lucky and who is not, replied:
'He is lucky who has eaten and sowed but he is unlucky who has died and
Pray not for the nobody who has done nothing,
Who spent his life in accumulating property but
has not enjoyed it.
Moses, upon whom be peace, thus advised Quran: 'Do thou good as
Allah has done unto thee.' But he would not listen and thou hast heard
of his end:
Who has not accumulated good with dirhems and
Has staked his end upon his dirhems and dinars.
If thou desirest to profit by riches of the world
Be liberal to mankind as God has been liberal to
The Arab says: Be liberal without imposing obligations and verily
the profit will return to thee.
Wherever the tree of beneficence has taken root
Its tallness and branches pass beyond the sky.
If thou art desirous to eat the fruit thereof
Do not put a saw to its foot by imposing obligations.
Thank God that thou hast been divinely aided
And not excluded from his gifts and bounty.
Think not thou conferrest an obligation on the sultan by serving
But be obliged to him for having kept thee in his
Two men took useless trouble and strove without any profit, when
one of them accumulated property without enjoying it, and the other learnt
without practising what he had learnt.
However much science thou mayest acquire
Thou art ignorant when there is no practice in thee.
Neither deeply learned nor a scholar will be
A quadruped loaded with some books.
What information or knowledge does the silly beast
Whether it is carrying a load of wood or of books?
Knowledge is for the cherishing of religion, not for amassing
Who sold abstinence, knowledge and piety
Filled a granary but burnt it clean away.
A learned man who is not abstinent resembles a torchbearer who
guides others but does not guide himself.
Who has spent a profitless life
Bought nothing and threw away his gold.
The country is adorned by intelligent and the religion by virtuous
men. Padshahs stand more in need of the advice of intelligent men than
intelligent men of the proximity of padshahs.
If thou wilt listen to advice, padshah,
There is none better in all books than this:
'Entrust a business to an intelligent man
Although it may not be his occupation.'
Three things cannot subsist without three things: property without
trade, science without controversy and a country without
Speak sometimes in a friendly, conciliatory, manly
Perhaps thou wilt ensnare a heart with the lasso.
Sometimes speak in anger; for a hundred jars of
Will on occasion not have the effect of one dose of
To have mercy upon the bad is to injure the good; to pardon tyrants
is to do violence to dervishes.
If thou associatest and art friendly with a
He will commit sin with thy wealth and make thee his
The amity of princes and the sweet voice of children are not to
be trusted, because the former is changed by fancy and the latter in the
course of one night.
Give not thy heart to a sweetheart of a thousand
And if thou givest it, thou givest that heart for
Confide not to a friend every secret thou possessest. How knowest
thou that he will not some time become thy foe? Inflict not every injury
thou canst upon an enemy because it is possible that one day he may become
Reveal not thy secret to any man although he may be trustworthy,
because no one can keep thy secret better than thyself.
Silence is preferable than to tell thy mind
To anyone; saying what is to remain unsaid.
O simpleton, stop the source of the spring.
When it becomes full, the brook cannot be stopped.
A weak foe, who professes submission and shows friendship, has
no other object than to become a strong enemy. It has been said that as
the friendship of friends is unreliable, what trust can be put in the flattery
Who despises an insignificant enemy resembles him who is careless
Extinguish it today, while it may be quenched,
Because when fire is high, it burns the world.
Allow not the bow to be spanned
By a foe because an arrow may pierce.
Speak so between two enemies that thou mayest not be put to shame
if they become friends.
Between two men contention is like fire,
The ill-starred back-biter being the wood-carrier.
When both of them become friends again
He will among them be unhappy and ashamed.
To kindle fire between two men
Is not wise but is to burn oneself therein.
Converse in whispers with thy friends
Lest thy sanguinary foe may hear thee.
Take care of what thou sayest in front of a wall
Because an ear may be behind the wall.
Whoever makes peace with the enemies of his friends greatly injures
Wash thy hands, O wise man, from a friend
Who is sitting together with thy foes.
When thou art uncertain in transacting an affair, select that portion
of it which will entail no danger to thee.
Speak not harshly to a man of gentle speech.
Seek not to fight with him who knocks at the door of
As long as an affair can be arranged with gold, it is not proper
to endanger life.
When the hand is foiled in every stratagem
It is licit to put the hand to the sword.
Do not pity the weakness of a foe because when he gains strength
he will not spare thee.
Boast not of thy moustaches when thou seest thy foe is
There is marrow in every bone, a man in every coat.
Whoever slays a bad fellow saves mankind from a calamity and him
from the wrath of God.
Condonation is laudable but nevertheless
Apply no salve to the wound of an oppressor of the
He who had mercy upon a serpent
Knew not that it was an injury to the sons of Adam.
It is a mistake to accept advice from an enemy but permissible
to hear it; and to act contrary to it is perfectly correct.
Be cautious of what a foe tells thee to do
Lest thou strike thy knee with the hand of pain.
If he points thy way to the right like an arrow
Deflect therefrom and take that to the left hand.
Wrath beyond measure produces estrangement and untimely kindness
destroys authority. Be neither so harsh as to disgust the people with thee
nor so mild as to embolden them.
Severity and mildness together are best
Like a bleeder who is a surgeon and also applies a
A wise man uses neither severity to excess
Nor mildness; for it lessens his authority.
He neither exalts himself too much
Nor exposes himself at once to contempt.
A youth said to his father: 'O wise man,
Give me for instruction one advice like an aged
He said: 'Be kind but not to such a degree
That a sharp-toothed wolf may become audacious.'
May that prince never govern a kingdom
Who is not an obedient slave to God.
It is incumbent upon a padshah to give way to anger towards his
slaves only so far as to retain the confidence of his friends. The fire
of anger first burns him who has given cause for it and afterwards the
flame may or may not reach the foe.
It is not proper for sons of Adam born of earth
To inflate their heads with pride, violence and
Thou who displayest so much heat and obstinacy
Must be, I think, not of earth but of fire.
I visited a hermit in the country of Bilqan
And requested him to purge me of ignorance by instruction.
He replied: 'Be patient like earth, O lawyer,
Or else, bury under the earth all thy learning.'
An ill-humoured man is captive in the hands of a foe, from the grasp
of whose punishment he cannot be delivered wherever he may
If from the hand of calamity an ill-natured man escapes into the
The evil disposition of his own nature retains him in
When thou perceivest that discord is in the army of the foe, be
thou at ease; but if they are united, be apprehensive of thy own
Go and sit in repose with thy friends
When thou seest war among the enemies;
But if thou perceivest that they all agree
Span thy bow and carry stones upon the rampart.
When all the artifices of an enemy have failed he shakes the chain
of friendship, and thereon performs acts of friendship which no enemy is
able to do.
Strike the head of a serpent with the hand of a foe because one
of two advantages will result. If the enemy succeeds thou hast killed the
snake and if the latter, thou hast been delivered from a
If thou art aware of news which will grieve a heart, remain silent
that others may convey it.
Nightingale, bring tidings of spring.
Leave bad news to the owl.
Give not information to a padshah of the treachery of anyone, unless
thou art sure he will accept it; else thou wilt only be preparing thy own
Prepare to speak only when
Thy words are likely to have effect.
Speech is a perfection in the soul of man
But do not ruin thyself by speaking.
Whoever gives advice to a self-willed man stands himself in need
Swallow not the deception of a foe. Purchase not conceit from a
panegyrist. The one has laid out a snare for provisions and the other has
opened the jaws of covetousness.
A fool is pleased by flattery like the inflated heel of a corpse
that has the appearance of fatness.
Take care not to listen to the voice of a flatterer
Who expects cheaply to derive profit from thee.
If one day thou failest to satisfy his wishes
He enumerates two hundred faults of thine.
Unless an orator's defects are mentioned by someone, his good points
will not be praised.
Be not proud of the beauty of thy speech,
Of the approbation of an ignoramus and of thy own
Everyone thinks himself perfect in intellect and his child in
A Jew was debating with a Musalman
Till I shook with laughter at their dispute.
The Moslem said in anger: 'If this deed of mine
Is not correct, may God cause me to die a Jew.'
The Jew said: 'I swear by the Pentateuch
That if my oath is false, I shall die a Moslem like
Should from the surface of the earth wisdom disappear
Still no one will acknowledge his own ignorance.
Ten men eat at a table but two dogs will contend for one piece
of carrion. A greedy person will stir be hungry with the whole world, whilst
a contented man will be satisfied with one bread. Wise men have said that
poverty with content is better than wealth and not abundance.
Narrow intestines may be filled with dry bread
But the wealth of the surface of the world will not fill a
When the term of my father's life had come to an
He gave me this one advice and passed away:
Lust is fire, abstain therefrom,
Make not the fire of hell sharp for thee.
In that fire the burning thou wilt not be able to
Quench this fire with water today.
Whoever does no good in the time of ability will see distress in
the time of inability.
No one is more unlucky than an oppressor of
Because in the day of calamity no one is his friend.
Life is in the keeping of a single breath and the world is an existence
between two annihilations. Those who sell the religion for the world 'are
asses', they sell Joseph but what do 'they buy'? Did I not command you,
O sons of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan?
On the word of a foe thou hast broken faith with a
See from whom thou hast cut thyself off and to whom
Satan cannot conquer the righteous and the sultan the
Lend nothing to a prayerless man
Although his mouth may gasp from penury;
Because he who neglects the commands of God
Will also not care for what he may be indebted to
Whatever takes place quickly is not permanent.
I have heard that eastern loam is made
In forty days into a porcelain cup.
A hundred are daily made in Baghdad.
Hence thou seest also their price is vile.
A little fowl issues from the egg and seeks
Whilst man's progeny has no knowledge, sense or
Nevertheless the former attains nothing when grown
Whilst the latter surpasses all beings in dignity and
Glass is everywhere, and therefore of no account,
But a ruby difficult to get, and therefore precious.
Affairs succeed by patience and a hasty man
I saw with my eyes in the desert
That a slow man overtook a fast one.
A galloping horse, fleet like the wind, fell back
Whilst the camel-man continued slowly his progress.
Nothing is better for an ignorant man than silence, and if he were
to consider it to be suitable, he would not be ignorant.
If thou possessest not the perfection of excellence
It is best to keep thy tongue within thy mouth.
Disgrace is brought on a man by his tongue.
A walnut, having no kernel, will be light.
A fool was trying to teach a donkey,
Spending all his time and efforts in the task.
A sage observed: 'O ignorant man, what sayest thou?
Fear blame from the censorious in this vain attempt.
A brute cannot learn speech from thee.
Learn thou silence from a brute.'
Who does not reflect what he is to answer
Will mostly speak improperly.
Come. Either arrange thy words like a wise
Or remain sitting silent like a brute.
Whenever a man disputes with one who is more learned than himself
to make people know of his learning, they will know that he is
If one better than thyself begins to speak,
Although thou mayest know better, contradict him
Whoever associates with bad people will see no
If an angel associates with a demon
He will learn from him fear, fraud and hypocrisy.
Of the wicked thou canst learn only wickedness.
A wolf will not take to sewing jackets.
Reveal not the secret faults of men because thou wilt put them
to shame and wilt forfeit thy own confidence.
Who acquires science and does not practise it, resembles him who
possesses an ox but does not use him to plough or to sow
From a body without a heart obedience does not arise and a husk
without a kernel is no stock in trade.
Not everyone who is brisk in dispute is correct in
Many a stature concealed by a sheet
If revealed appears to be the mother of one's mother.
If every night were to be the night of Qadr, the night of Qadr
would be without Qadr.
If all stones were rubies of Badakhshan,
The price of rubies and of stones would be the same.
Not everyone who is handsome in form possesses a good character;
the qualities are inside not upon the skin.
It is possible in one day to know from a man's
What degree of science he has reached.
Be however not sure of his mind nor deceived.
A wicked spirit is not detected sometimes for years.
Who quarrels with great men sheds his own blood.
One who thinks that he is great
Is truly said to be squinting.
Thou wilt soon see thy forehead broken
If thou buttest it in play against a ram.
To strike one's fist on a lion, and to grasp the sharp edge of
a sword with the hand, is not the part of an intelligent
Do not fight or try thy strength with a furious
Hide thy hands in thy arm-pits to avoid his finger-nails.
A weak man trying to show his prowess off against a strong one
only aids his foe to encompass his own destruction.
What strength has one brought up in the shade
To go against champions in a fight?
A man with weak arms in his folly throws
His fist upon a man with iron claws.
Whoever does not listen to advice will have occasion to hear
If admonition enters not thy ear
Be silent when I blame thee.
Elegant saying 1
Men void of accomplishments cannot behold those who possess some,
without barking like the curs of the bazar on seeing a hunting dog, but
dare not come forward; that is to say, when a base fellow is unable to
vie with an accomplished man he sets about slandering him according to
his own wickedness.
The envious mean fellow will certainly slander,
Whose tongue of speech is dumb when face to face.
If there were no craving of the stomach, no bird would enter the
snare of the fowler; nay, he would not even set the
Sages eat slow, devotees half satisfy their appetite, recluses
only eat to preserve life, youths until the dishes are removed, old men
till they begin to perspire, but qalandars till no room remains in the
bowels for drawing breath and no food on the table for
A slave to constipation spends two sleepless
One night from repletion and another from distress.
To consult women brings on ruin and to be liberal to rebellious
To have mercy on sharp-toothed tigers
Is to be tyrannical towards sheep.
Who has power over his foe and does not slay him is his own
With a stone in the hand and a snake on a stone
It is folly to consider and to delay.
Others, however, enounce a contrary opinion and say that it is
preferable to respite captives because the option of killing or not killing
remains; but if they be slain without delay, it is possible that some advantage
may be lost, the like of which cannot be again obtained.
It is quite easy to deprive a man of life.
When he is slain he cannot be resuscitaied again.
It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be
Because when the arrow leaves the bow it returns no
When a sage comes in contact with fools, he must not expect to
be honoured, and if an ignorant man overcomes a sage in an oratorical contest,
it is no wonder, because even a stone breaks a jewel.
What wonder is there that the song
Of a nightingale ceases when imprisoned with a crow
Or that a virtuous man under the tyranny of vagabonds
Feels affliction in his heart and is irate.
Although a base stone may break a golden vase,
The price of the stone is not enhanced nor of the gold
Be not astonished when a wise man ceases to speak in company of
vile persons, since the melody of a harp cannot overcome the noise of a
drum and the perfume of ambergris must succumb to the stench of rotten
A blatant ignoramus proudly lifted his neck
Because he had overcome a scholar by his impudence.
Knowest thou not that the Hejazi musical tune
Succumbs to the roar of the drum of war?
Even after falling into mud a jewel retains its costliness, and
dust, although it may rise into the sky, is as contemptible as before.
Capacity without education is deplorable and education without capacity
is thrown away. Ashes are of high origin because the nature of fire is
superior, but as they have no value of their own, they are similar to earth
and the price of sugar arises not from. the cane but from its own
The land of Canaan having no natural excellence,
The birth of a prophet therein could not enhance its
Display thy virtue if thou hast any, not thy origin.
The rose is the offspring of thorns and Abraham of
Musk is known by its perfume and not by what the druggist says.
A scholar is silent like the perfumer's casket but displays accomplishments,
whilst an ignoramus is loud-voiced and intrinsically empty like a
A learned man among blockheads
(So says the parable of our friends)
Is like a sweetheart among the blind
Or a Quran among unbelievers.
A friend whom people have been cherishing during a lifetime they
must not suddenly insult.
It takes a stone many a year to become a ruby.
Beware not to break it in a moment with a stone.
Intellect may become captive to lust like a weak man in the hands
of an artful woman.
Bid farewell to pleasure in a house
Where the shouting of a woman is loud.
A design without strength to execute it is fraud and deception
and application of strength without a design is ignorance and
Discernment is necessary. Arrangement and intellect, then a
For realm and wealth with an ignorant man are weapons
A liberal man who eats and bestows is better than a devote who
fasts and hoards.
Who has renounced appetites for the sake of approbation by men
has fallen from licit into illicit appetites.
A devotee who sits in a corner not for God's
Is helpless. What can he see in a dark mirror?
Little by little becomes much and drop by drop will be a torrent;
that is to say, he who has no power gathers small stones that he may at
the proper opportunity annihilate the pride of his foe.
Drop upon drop collected will make a river.
Rivers upon rivers collected will make a sea.
Little and little together will become much.
The granary is but grain upon grain.
A scholar is not meekly to overlook the folly of a common person
because thus both parties are injured; the dignity of the former being
lessened, and the ignorance of the latter confirmed.
Speak gracefully and kindly to a low fellow,
His pride and obstinacy will augment.
Transgression by whomsoever committed is blamable but more so in
learned men, because learning is a weapon for combating Satan and, when
the possessor of a weapon is made prisoner, his shame will be
It is better to be an ignorant poor fellow
Then a learned man who is not abstemious;
Because the former loses the way by his blindness
While the latter falls into a well with both eyes
Whose bread is not eaten by others while he is alive, he will not
be remembered when he is dead. A widow knows the delight of grapes and
not the lord of fruits. Joseph the just, salutation to him, never ate to
satiety in the Egyptian dearth for fear he might forget the hungry
How can he who lives in comfort and abundance
Know what the state of the famished is?
He is aware of the condition of the poor
Who has himself fallen into a state of distress.
O thou who art riding a fleet horse, consider
That the poor thorn-carrying ass is in water and
Ask not for fire from thy poor neighbour's house
Because what passes out of his window is the smoke of his
Ask not a dervish in poor circumstances, and in the distress of
a year of famine, how he feels, unless thou art ready to apply a salve
to his wound or to provide him with a maintenance.
When thou seest an ass, fallen in mud with his
Have mercy in thy heart and step not on his head.
But when thou hast gone and asked him how he fell,
Gird thy loins and take hold of his tail like a
Two things are contrary to reason: to enjoy more than is decreed
and to die before the time appointed.
Fate will not change by a thousand laments and
By thanks or complaints, issuing from the mouth.
The angel appointed over the treasures of wind
Cares not if the lamp of a widow dies.
O thou asker of food, sit for thou wilt eat; and 0 thou asked by
death, run not for thou wilt not save thy life.
Whether thou strivest for a maintenance or not
God the most high and glorious will send it to thee;
And if thou rushest into the jaw of a lion or tiger
They will not devour thee unless on the day decreed.
What is not placed cannot be reached by the hand and whatever is
placed will be reached wherever it is.
Hast thou heard that Alexander went into the
And after all his efforts could not taste the water
A rich profligate is a lump of earth gilded and a pious dervish
is a sweetheart besmeared with earth. The latter is the patched garment
of Moses and the former is the bejewelled beard of Pharaoh. Nevertheless
good men retain a cheerful countenance in adversity whilst the rich droop
their heads even in prosperity.
Who possesses wealth and dignity but therewith
Succours not those whose minds are distressed,
Inform him that no kind of wealth and dignity
He will enjoy in the mansion of the next world.
An envious man is avaricious with the wealth of God and hates the
guiltless as foes.
I saw a crackbrained little man,
Reviling a possessor of dignity,
Who replied: 'O fellow, if thou art unlucky,
What guilt is there in lucky men?'
Forbear to wish evil to an envious man
Because the ill-starred fellow is an evil to himself.
What needest thou to show enmity to him
Who has such a foe on the nape of his neck?
A disciple without intention is a lover without money; a traveller
without knowledge is a bird without wings; a scholar without practice is
a tree without fruit, and a devotee without science is a house without
a door. The Quran was revealed for the acquisition of a good character,
not for chanting written chapters. A pious unlettered man is like one who
travels on foot, whilst a negligent scholar is like a sleeping rider. A
sinner who lifts his hands in supplication is better than a devotee who
keeps them proudly on his head.
A good humoured and pleasant military officer
Is superior to a theologian who injures men.
One being asked what a learned man without practice resembled,
replied: 'A bee without honey.'
Say to the rude and unkind bee,
'At least forbear to sting, if thou givest no honey.'
A man without virility is a woman and an avaricious devote is a
O thou, who hast put on a white robe for a show,
To be approved of men, whilst the book of thy acts is
The hand is to be restrained from the world,
No matter whether the sleeve be short or long.
Regret will not leave the hearts of two persons and their feet
of contention will not emerge from the mire: a merchant with a wrecked
ship and a youth sitting with qalandars.
Dervishes will consider it licit to shed thy
If they can have no access to thy property.
Either associate not with a friend who dons the blue
Or bid farewell to all thy property.
Either make no friends with elephant-keepers
Or build a house suitable for elephants.
Although a sultan's garment of honour is dear yet one's own old
robe is more dear; and though the food of a great man may be delicious,
the broken crumbs of one's own sack are more delicious.
Vinegar by one's own labour and vegetables
Are better than bread received as alms, and veal.
It is contrary to what is proper, and against the opinion of to
partake of medicine by guess and to go after a caravan without seeing the
road. The Imam Murshid Muhammad Ghazali, upon whom be the mercy of Allah,
having been asked in what manner he had attained such a degree of knowledge,
replied: 'By not being ashamed to ask about things I did not
The hope of recovery is according to reason,
That he should feel thy pulse who knows thy nature.
Ask what thou knowest not; for the trouble of asking
Will indicate to thee the way to the dignity of
Whatever thou perceivest will become known to thee in due course
of time. Make no haste in asking for it, else the awe of thy dignity will
When Loqman saw that in the hands of David
All iron became by miracle soft like wax,
He asked not: 'What art thou doing?' Because
He knew he would learn it without asking.
One of the requirements for society is to attend to the affairs
of thy household and also at the house of God.
Tell thy tale according to thy hearer's temper,
If thou knowest him to be biased to thee.
Every wise man who sits with Mejnun
Speaks of nothing but the story of Laila's love.
Anyone associating with bad people, although their nature may not
infect his own, is supposed to follow their ways to such a degree that
if he goes to a tavern to say his prayers, he will be supposed to do so
for drinking wine.
Thou hast branded thyself with the mark of ignorance,
When thou hast selected an ignoramus for thy companion.
I asked some scholars for a piece of advice.
They said: 'Connect thyself not with an ignorant
For if thou be learned, thou wilt be an ass in course of
And if unlearned thou wilt become a greater fool.'
The meekness of the camel is known to be such that if a child takes
hold of its bridle and goes a hundred farsakhs, it will not refuse to follow,
but if a dangerous portion occurs which may occasion death and the child
ignorantly desires to approach it, the camel tears the bridle from his
hand, refusing any longer to obey because compliance in times of calamity
is blamable. It is also said that by complaisance an enemy will not become
a friend but that his greed will only be augmented.
To him who is kind to thee, be dust at his feet
But if he opposes thee fill his two eyes with dust.
Speak not kindly or gently to an ill-humoured fellow
Because a soft file cannot clean off inveterate
Who interrupts the conversation of others that they may know his
excellence, they will become acquainted only with the degree of his
An intelligent man will not give a reply
Unless he be asked a question.
Because though his words may be based on truth,
His claim to veracity may be deemed impossible.
I had a wound under my robe and a sheikh asked me daily how, but
not where it is, and I learned that he refrained because it is not admissible
to mention every member; and wise men have also said that whoever does
not ponder his question will be grieved by the answer.
Until thou knowest thy words to be perfectly
Thou must not open thy mouth in speech.
If thou speakest truth and remainest in captivity,
It is better than that thy mendacity deliver thee
Mendacity resembles a violent blow, the scar of which remains,
though the wound may be healed. Seest thou not how the brothers of Joseph
became noted for falsehood, and no trust in their veracity remained, as
Allah the most high has said: Nay but ye yourselves have contrived the
thing for your own sake.
One habitually speaking the truth
Is pardoned when he once makes a slip
But if he becomes noted for lying,
People do not believe him even when speaking truth.
The noblest of beings is evidently man, and the meanest a dog,
but intelligent persons agree that a grateful dog is better than an ungrateful
A dog never forgets a morsel received
Though thou throwest a stone at him a hundred times.
But if thou cherishest a base fellow a lifetime,
He will for a trifle suddenly fight with thee.
Who panders to his passions will not cultivate accomplishments
and who possesses none is not suitable for a high position.
Have no mercy on a voracious ox
Who sleeps a great deal and eats much.
If thou wantest to have fatness like an ox,
Yield thy body to the tyranny of people like an
It is written in the Evangel: 'O son of Adam, if I give thee riches,
thou wilt turn away from me with mundane cares, and if I make thee poor
thou wilt sit down with a sad heart; then where wilt thou enjoy the sweetness
of adoring me, and when wilt thou hasten to serve me?'
Sometimes thou art made haughty, and careless by
Sometimes art in distress from exhaustion and penury.
If thy state be such in joy and in distress,
I know not when thou wilt turn to God from thyself.
The will of the Inscrutable brings down one from the royal throne,
and protects the other in the belly of a fish.
Happy is the time of the man
Who spends it in adoring thee.
When God draws the sword of wrath, prophets and saints draw in
their heads, but if he casts a look of grace, he converts wicked into virtuous
If at the resurrection he addresses us in anger
What chance of pardon will even prophets have?
Say: 'Remove the veil from the face of mercy
Because sinners entertain hopes of pardon.'
Whoever does not betake himself to the path of rectitude in consequence
of the castigations of this world will fall under eternal punishment in
the next. Allah the most high has said: And we will cause them to taste
the nearer punishment of this world besides the more grievous punishment
of the next.
Admonition is the address of superiors and then
If they give advice and thou listenest not, they put thee
Fortunate men are admonished by the adventures and similes of those
who have preceded them, before those who follow them can use the event
as a proverb, like thieves who shorten their hands, lest their hands be
The bird does not go to the grain displayed
When it beholds another fowl in the trap.
Take advice by the misfortunes of others
That others may not take advice from thee.
How can he hear whose organ of audition has been created dull,
and how can he avoid progressing upon whom the noose of happiness has been
To the friends of God a dark night
Shines like the brilliant day.
This felicity is not by strength of arm
Unless God the giver bestows it.
To whom shall I complain of thee? There is no other
And there is no other hand superior to thine.
Whom thou guidest -no one can lead astray.
Whom thou castest off no one can guide.
The earth receives showers from heaven and gives to it only dust.
Every vessel exudes what it contains.
If my humour appears to thee unbecoming
Lose not thy own good humour.
A mendicant with a good end is better than a padshah with a bad
The grief thou sufferest before the joy
Is better than the grief endured after joy.
The Most High sees a fault and conceals it, and a neighbour sees
it not, but shouts.
Let us take refuge with Allah.
If people knew our faults
No one could have rest from interference by others.
Gold is obtained from a mine by digging it, but from a miser by
digging the soul.
Vile men spend not, but preserve.
They say hope of spending is better than spending.
One day thou seest the wish of the foe fulfilled
The gold remaining and the vile man dead.
Who has no mercy upon inferiors will suffer from the tyranny of
Not every arm which contains strength
Breaks the hand of the weak for showing bravery.
Injure not the heart of the helpless
For thou wilt succumb to the force of a strong man.
When a wise man encounters obstacles, he leaps away and casts anchor
at the proper opportunity, for thus he will be in the former instance safe
on shore, and in the latter he will enjoy himself.
The gambler requires three sixes and only three aces turn
The pasture is a thousand times more pleasant than the
But the steed has not the bridle at its option.
A dervish prayed thus: 'O Lord, have mercy upon the wicked, because
thou hast already had mercy upon good men by creating them to be
The first sovereign who laid stress on costume and wore rings on
his left hand was Jamshid; and being asked why he had adorned his left
whereas excellence resides in the right hand, he replied: 'The right hand
is fully ornamented by its own rectitude.'
Feridun ordered Chinese embroiderers
To write around the borders of his tent:
'Keep the wicked well, O intelligent man,
Because the good are in themselves great and fortunate.'
A great man having been asked why he wore his seal-ring on his
left hand, whereas the right possesses so much excellence, replied: 'Knowest
thou not that the meritorious are always neglected?'
He who has created joy and distress
Apportions either excellence or luck.
He may freely warn who neither fears to lose his life nor hopes
Pour either gold at the feet of a monotheist
Or place an Indian sabre to his head.
He entertains no hope nor fear from anyone
And this is a sufficient basis of monotheism.
The padshah is to remove oppressors; the police, murderers; and
the qazi to hear complaints about thieves; but two enemies willing to agree
to what is right will not apply to him.
When thou seest that it must be given what is
Pay it rather with grace than fighting and distressed.
If a man pays not his tax of his own accord
The officer's man will take it by force.
The teeth of all men are blunted by sourness, but those of the
qazi by sweetness.
The qazi whom thou bribest with five cucumbers
Will prove that ten melon-fields are due to thee.
What can an old prostitute do but vow to become chaste, and an
policeman not to commit oppression upon men?
A youth who sits in a corner is a hero in the path of
Because an old man is unable to rise from his corner.
A youth must be strong minded to abstain from
Because even the sexual tool of an old man, of sluggish
A sage was asked: 'Of so many notable, high and fertile trees which
God the most high has created, not one is called free, except the cypress,
which bears no fruit. What is the reason of this?' He replied: 'Every tree
has its appropriate season of fruit, so that it is sometimes flourishing
therewith, and looks sometimes withered by its absence; with the cypress,
however, neither is the case, it being fresh at all times, and this is
the quality of those who are free.'
Place not thy heart on what passes away; for the
Will flow after the Khalifs have passed away in
If thou art able, be liberal like the date tree,
And if thy hand cannot afford it, be liberal like the
Two men died, bearing away their grief One had possessed wealth
and not enjoyed it, the other knowledge and not practised
No one sees an excellent but avaricious man
Without publishing his defect
But if a liberal man has a hundred faults
His generosity covers his imperfections.
Conclusion of the Book
The book of the Gulistan has been completed, and Allah had been
invoked for aid! By the grace of the Almighty, may his name be honoured,
throughout the work the custom of authors to insert verses from ancient
writers by way of loan, has not been followed.
To adorn oneself with one's own rag
Is better than to ask for the loan of a robe.
Most of the utterances of Sa'di being exhilarant and mixed with
pleasantry, shortsighted persons have on this account lengthened the tongue
of blame, alleging that it is not the part of intelligent men to spend
in vain the kernel of their brain, and to eat without profit the smoke
of the lamp; it is, however, not concealed from enlightened men, who are
able to discern the tendency of words, that pearls of curative admonition
are strung upon the thread of explanation, and that the bitter medicine
of advice is commingled with the honey of wit, in order that the reader's
mind should not be fatigued, and thereby excluded from the benefit of acceptance;
and praise be to the Lord of both worlds.
We gave advice in its proper place
Spending a lifetime in the task.
If it should not touch anyone's ear of desire
The messenger told his tale; it is enough.
O thou who lookest into it, ask Allah to have
On the author and to pardon the owner of it.
Ask for thyself whatever benefit thou mayest desire,
And after that pardon for the writer of it.
If I had on the day of resurrection an opportunity
Near the Compassionate one I should say: 'O Lord,
I am the sinner and thou the beneficent master,
For all the ill I have done I crave for thy bounty.'
Gratitude is due from me to God that this book is ended Before
my life has reached its termination.