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Random thoughts

June 8, 2020

Words of wisdom

Opinion

June 8, 2020

More than enough is being written about the coronavirus and (dirty) politics, so I turn instead to words of wisdom from the famous Sadi Shirazi.

"There was once a vizier who had a not-so-intelligent son, so he gave him into the charge of a scholar to instruct him and, if possible, to make him intelligent. After some time of ineffectual instruction, the learned man sent word to the father saying: 'The boy is not becoming intelligent and instead of that he is making a fool of me. When a nature is receptive, instruction will take effect. No kind of polishing will improve iron whose quality is originally bad.'

"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. Silver and gold can also be a danger because a thief may steal them or the owner may spend them gradually and be left with nothing. But a profession is a living fountain of permanent wealth and although a professional man may lose his riches, it does not matter because the profession itself is wealth and wherever he goes he will enjoy respect, whereas he who has no traded will glean only crumbs and see hardships. If you want your father’s inheritance, then acquire his knowledge because his property may be spent within days.'

"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 to show his bruises, the father’s heart was moved with pity. Accordingly, he called for the tutor and said: 'You do not indulge in so much cruelty towards the children of my subjects as you inflict upon my son. What is the reason?'

"The tutor replied: 'It is necessary for everyone to converse in a polite way and behave properly, but even more so for a padshah because whatever they say or do is commented upon by everyone, the utterances and acts of common people being of no such consequence. If a hundred unworthy things are uttered by a dervish, his companions would not know the difference. But if a padshah utters one jest, it is borne from country to country. It is the duty of a royal prince’s tutor to train the sons of his lord in refinement and morals more diligently than the sons of common people. He who has not been punished as a child will not prosper when he becomes a man. A stick can be bent in many ways while it is green; when it is dry, fire alone can change it.'

"There was once a schoolmaster who was sour-faced, uncouth of speech, ill-humoured, troublesome to the people, of a beggarly nature and without self-restraint, so that the very sight of him disgusted the people and when reading the Quran, he distressed the hearts of the Muslims. A number of innocent boys and little girls suffered at the hands of his tyranny, venturing neither to laugh nor to speak because he would slap them. His behaviour had attained such notoriety, that he was expelled from the school and another installed.

"This man 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 the children lost the fear they had and, taking advantage of his gentle manners, they behaved like demons towards each other and neglected their studies. Two weeks later, while passing the same mosque, I again saw the first master with whom the people had reconciled and reinstalled. When I asked why, an old man, experience in the world, smiled and said: 'Have you not heard the maxim ‘The severity of a teacher is better than the love of a father’.

"The son of a pious man inherited great wealth from some uncles, whereupon he plunged into dissipation, became a spendthrift, left no transgression unperpetrated and no intoxicant untasted. I advised him saying: 'Income is a flowing water and expense a turning mill; only he who has a fixed revenue is entitled to indulge in abundant expenses. If you have no income, spend but frugally. If there is no rain in the mountains, the Tigris will dry up in one year. Abandon play and sport because your wealth will be exhausted and you will fall into trouble and repent.'

"The youth did not heed my advice saying: 'Why should possessors of enjoyment of luck bear sorrow for fear of distress? The pain of tomorrow must not be eaten today.' Upon seeing his attitude, I left off admonishing him. After some time I saw him sewing patch after patch on his clothes and gathering crumb after crumb but I did not want to sprinkle salt on his wounds and left him.

"A padshah entrusted a tutor with the care of his son saying: 'This is thy son. Educate him as if he were one of your own children.' The tutor kept the prince for some years and strove to instruct him, but could effect nothing, while his own sons made great 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. The tutor replied: 'O King, the instruction is the same but the natures are different.' "

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