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Saadi’s 'Bostan': 'If You Wish to Attain Dignity, Let Humility Be Your Path’

By Dr A Q Khan

July 6, 2020

Here are some more anecdotes from Saadi’s 'Bostan' in a free rendering of the translation by Dr Khwaji Hameed Yazdani.

“You, O creature of God, who was created from dust. Be as humble as the dust you were created from. Do not be covetous, oppressive or headstrong. Remember, you are from dust and not like fire. When the terrible fire raises its head, dust prostrates itself in humility. And since fire was arrogant and dust was meek, from the former the demons were formed and from the latter mankind.

“A sagacious youth of noble family landed at a seaport in Turkey and, as he displayed piety and wisdom, his baggage was deposited in a mosque. One day the priest said to him: ‘Sweep away the dust and rubbish from the mosque.’ Since the young man immediately went away, the older ones and his followers assumed that he did not want to serve. The next day a servant of the mosque met him on the road and said: ‘You acted wrongly; do you not know, O conceited youth, that men are dignified by service?’ Sorrowfully the youth began to weep. “O cherished friend!’ he answered. ‘I saw no dirt or rubbish in that holy place but my own corrupt self. So I left, for a mosque is better rid of such as I.’ Humility is the only ritual for a devotee. If you desire greatness, be humble; no other ladder is there by which climb.

"When Bayazid was coming from his bath one morning during the Eid festival, someone unwittingly emptied a tray of ashes upon his head from a window above. With his face and turban all bespattered, he rubbed his hands in gratitude and said: ‘I am in truth worthy of the fires of hell. Why should I be angered by a few ashes:’ The great do not regard themselves; don’t look for godliness in a self-conceited man. Eminence does not consist in outward show and vaunting words, nor dignity in hauteur and pretension. On the day of Judgement you will see those in Paradise who sought the truth and rejected vain pretensions. He who is headstrong and obdurate falls on his face; if you desire greatness, abandon pride.”

“Do not expect anyone who possesses worldly vanities to follow the path of religion, nor look for godliness in someone who wallows in conceit. Seek no more honourable position in the world than being known as a man of laudable character. You do not respect one of equal rank who is haughty towards you, so do not do the same to others. Laugh not at those who are lowly; they may have fallen from much higher stations and the same may befall you. One holds the chain of the Kaaba in his hands; another lies drunken in the tavern. If God calls the latter, who can drive him away. If God expels the former, who can bring him back? One cannot implore the divine, nor is the door of repentance closed.

“One day a poorly clad doctor of law and divinity sat in the front row in a Ghazi’s court. The Ghazi gave him a sharp look whereupon the usher took the man by the arm and said: ‘Do you not know that the best place is not for the likes of you? Either take a lower seat, remain standing or leave the court altogether. Be not so bold as to occupy the seat of the great. If you are humble, pose not as a lion. Not everyone is worthy of the chief seat; honor is proportionate to rank, and rank to merit. He who sits with honour in a place lower than that of which he is worthy, does not fall from eminence’.

"Fuming with anger, the doctor moved to a lower seat. Two advocates in the court then entered into a spirited discussion. They were involved in a complicated knot which neither could unravel. From the last row of seats, the tattered doctor called out loudly: ‘It is not the veins of the neck that should stand out in argument’, he said, ‘but the proofs which should be full of meaning.’ With his eloquence he invoked applause from everyone. The Ghazi was ashamed and, taking off his cloak and turban, he sent them to the doctor as a token of his respect. But the doctor rejected them saying: ‘Place not upon my head the fetters of pride, for tomorrow this fifty-yarded turban would turn my head from those in jaded garb. A man’s head requires brains and intellect, not an imposing turban like yours.’”

“A certain man knew something of astronomy and he became filled with pride. He journeyed far and visited Kushyar, their sage, who could teach him nothing. Disappointed, he was about to leave when Kushyar spoke these words: ‘You think you are full of knowledge. How can a vessel that is full, receive more? Rid yourself of your pretensions so that you may be able to absorb more. Being full of vanity, you go empty.’

“Someone heard the barking of a dog in the ruined hut of a pious man. He went in search but found no trace of a dog; only the devotee was in the hut. When he was about to leave, the owner of the hut said: ‘Come in; why do you stand by the door? Do you not know, O friend, that it was I who barked? When I realized that humility was acceptable to God, I banished pride and vanity from my heart and barked at the door of God, for I saw none more lowly than a dog. If you wish to attain dignity, let humility be your path.’”

OriginalHeadline: Wise words

Source: The News International, Pakistan


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