Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Wealth of Hatim Tai

A king of the Hejaz was proud of his liberality, but jealous of the good reputation of others. Hearing stories of the legendary generosity of Hatim Tai, the king became envious. Hatim Tai lived in the wilderness, but possessed a seemingly inexhaustible supply of riches and treasures. From this store, he bestowed gifts without hesitation upon friend and stranger alike.

The king called to his court the prince, his son. He said to him, “I'm sending you on an errand. Go into the wilderness and seek Hatim Tai. When you find him, ask of him something precious. Ask for his head. If he offers it, bring it to me severed from his body. And this will be the end of his generosity. If he refuses, then he isn't so generous as men say.”

The prince obeyed his father and set out. He wandered in deserts and wilderness, asking of every man he met where he might find Hatim Tai. He came at last to Hatim Tai’s threshold. A young servant  welcomed him graciously and brought him before his master, the great Hatim Tai. Hesitating, the prince asked Hatim Tai for food and drink. At once, a great feast was set out before him. The prince asked then for half the riches and treasures in Hatim Tai's possession. At once, these treasures, in chests and bags and cases were brought to him, more than he could carry, more than he could imagine. But Hatim Tai said, "I think there's something more you seek from me, that there's something else you desire, and that these requests don't satisfy that desire."

The prince hesitated, but at last revealed, "What I seek isn't for myself, but for my father. He asks for your head."

Hatim Tai said nothing, but left the room and did not return. The prince considered this a refusal, and was secretly relieved. He left the treasures behind, mounted his horse and took the road to his father's kingdom. However, he came only a day's journey when Hatim Tai's servant caught up with him, having ridden swiftly after him.

The servant was weeping, saying nothing, and handed to the prince a small chest of treasure. The servant departed as swiftly as he came. The prince wondered at the chest, until he saw it dripping blood.

Cursing the king, his father, the prince abandoned his station, his family, all his wealth, and traded his princely robes for rags, gave away his horse to a dervish, and wandered on foot alone in the wilderness.

Wherever he went, where people saw his condition, they gave him coins, and food, and drink, but always he refused these offerings, or gave them to others in need. The king died, and the vizier sent soldiers to find his son, the heir. When they discovered him in this state, they brought him before the vizier who said, "You're wasted and filthy, a beggar without possession. Claim your inheritance and be restored to wealth and comfort." But the prince refused, saying, "You think I'm poor, but no kingdom can increase my wealth. Though I've renounced riches, and repented sincerely, still I keep my head."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ibrahim ibn Adham

Here is a small offering for my absence:

A sufi, having journeyed without provision, came to a mosque where he thought to sleep a little while untroubled. But the townsfolk saw him and accused him of impiety and sloth. The worshippers clutched him by his soiled cloak and dragged him by the feet outside, and his head struck each step in turn and his blood flowed freely.

Lying in the road before the mosque, he was covered in dust and caked in blood. The townsfolk shouted curses at him for befouling their place of worship. When asked by them about his miserable state, he answered, “By your curses, I am relieved of curse. And I have known no greater blessing that to incarnadine His road and the steps to His presence with my life’s blood.”