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Random thoughts

March 18, 2020

Behaviour of rulers

Opinion

March 18, 2020

In our country it has become general tradition that those who come into power consider themselves above all others in knowledge, wisdom and administrative abilities. They do not listen to the sane advice of those who know better.

Here are some fine examples of the manners and thoughts of past rulers, taken from ‘Gulistan-e-Saadi’ as translated by Francis Burton.

“I heard a padshah giving orders to kill a prisoner. The helpless fellow began to insult the king on that occasion of despair and to use foul expressions. When the king asked what he was saying, a good-natured vizier replied: ‘My Lord, he says: Those who bridle their anger and forgive men, Allah loveth the beneficent.’ The king, moved with pity, forbore to take the prisoner’s life but another vizier, 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 the 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.’”

“The following inscription was written on the portico of a hall: ‘O brother, the world remains with no one. Bind thy heart to the Creator, it is enough. Rely not upon possessions and this world. Because it has cherished many like thee and slain them. When the pure soul is about to depart, what does it matter if one dies on a throne or on the ground?’

“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 sockets and looking around. All the sages were unable to give an interpretation except one dervish, who made his salutation and said: ‘He is still looking with amazment how his kingdom now 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 earth, was so consumed by the soil that not a bone remained.

“The glorious name of Nushirvan survives in good repute, although much time has 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 more.”

“I have heard that a royal prince of short stature and not very handsome, whose brothers were tall and good-looking, once saw his father glancing at 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. Everything bigger in stature is not higher in price. A sheep is nice to eat and an elephant is carrion. The smallest mountain on earth is Tur; 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 worth more than a stable full of asses.’

“The father laughed at this and approved, but the brothers felt much aggrieved. However, on a certain occasion the king was menaced by a powerful enemy and when the two armies were about to encounter each other, the first who entered the battlefield was the small fellow who said: ‘I am not he whose back you will see on the day of battle but he whom you shall see in dust and blood. He who fights, stakes his own life in battle, but he who flees, stakes the blood of his army.’

“After uttering these words he rushed among the troops of the enemy, slew several warriors and returned to his father. The troops of the enemy were numerous and those of the king, being but few, were about to flee, but the puny youth shouted: ‘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 gained victory.

“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 to the throne. His brothers became envious and placed poison in his food but they were perceived doing so by his sister from her apartment, whereupon she closed the window violently. 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 place.’

“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 is said that ten dervishes may sleep under the same blanket, but one country cannot hold two padshahs.”

“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.”

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