Tuesday June 25, 2024

Patience is a virtue

By Dr A Q Khan
October 13, 2020

The Almighty has told us in the Holy Quran that He is with those who show patience under all circumstances. Shaikh Sadi (ra) has explained it beautifully with excellent examples in his world-famous book ‘Bostan-e-Saadi’, translated by Richard Francis Burton. Given below is a free rendering of some of these translations.

“Happiness comes from the favour of God, not from might or power. If the heavens do not bestow fortune, then it cannot be obtained by any means. The ant suffers not because of its minuteness and relative weakness; the tiger does not eat by means of its strength alone. So accept as inevitable the fortune that comes your way. If you are destined to live a long life, then no snake or sword will harm you. When the day of your death arrives, the antidote will kill you as surely as the snake’s poison will.”

“In Isfahan I had a friend who was warlike, spirited and shrewd. His hands and his dagger were forever stained with blood from war. The hearts of his enemies were consumed by fear of him. In battle he was like a bird amongst locusts. In combat, birds and men were alike to him. Neither in bravery nor in magnanimity did he have an equal. This warrior formed a liking for my company, but I was not destined to remain is Isfahan. Fate transferred me from Iraq to Syria. After some time the desire for my home town overtook me and I returned to Iraq.

“One night I remembered my friend and the times we had spent together. I went to Isfahan to meet him and inquired as to where he lived. I met him there but was surprised to find that he who had been youthful had become old. His form, once erect as an arrow, had become bent like a bow. His head was covered with snowy hair. Time had conquered him. The pride of his strength had gone; the head of weakness was upon his shoulders. ‘Oh tiger-killer’, I exclaimed. ‘What has turned you into this old fox?’ He laughed and said: ‘Since the day of the battle of Tartary I have expelled the thoughts of fighting from my head. There I saw the earth arrayed with spears like a forest of reeds. I fought, but when fortune does not favour you, then what use is fury? I, who could take a ring off my opponent’s finger with my spear, was not befriended by the stars. The enemy encircled me but I managed to flee. Only a fool strives to fight fate. How could my helmet and sword save me when my star had deserted me? We fought bravely but were overpowered and surrendered. Since fortune had averted her face, our shields had become useless.’”

“One night a villager could not sleep because of a pain in his side. A doctor said the pain had been caused by eating the leaves of a vine. ‘I should be surprised if he survives until morning for an arrow in his breast would have been better for him than eating such indigestible food’ the doctor said. That night, the doctor himself died. Forty years have since passed and the villager is still alive. Such is fate.”

“The ass of a villager died so he put its head on a vine in his garden so as to ward off the Evil Eye. A sage old man passed by and laughingly remarked: ‘Do you think, friend, that this will have the desired effect? In life, the ass could not protect itself, so it died. How then can it protect you? What does the physician know of the condition of the sick when he is helpless to cure himself?’”

“A poor man once dropped a dinar on the road. He searched and searched but could not find it. Finally, in despair, he abandoned the attempt. Someone came along and found the coin by chance. Good and ill fortunes are predestined. Our daily portion depends not upon our strength and efforts, for those who are strongest and strive the most often stand in the direst need.”

“There was once a rich and prosperous man. His neighbour, who was extremely poor, was upbraided by his wife who said: ‘Nobody is as poor and unfortunate as you are. Take a lesson from your neighbours, who are well-to-do. Why are you not fortunate like them?’ The man replied: ‘I am incapable of anything; don’t quarrel with fate. I have not been endowed with the power to make myself rich.’”

“A dervish, whose wife was not pretty, remarked: ‘Since fate has not made you pretty, do not encrust your face with cosmetics.’ Who can obtain fortune by force? Who can make the blind see? Not a single philosopher from Greece or Rome could produce honey from thorns. Wild beasts cannot become men. A mirror can be freed of stains but it cannot reflect what is not there. Roses do not blossom on the branches of the willow. Hot baths and potions have never ever made an Ethiopian white. Since one cannot escape the arrows of fate, resignation is the only shield. Fate is the helmsman of the ship of life.”

“O Saadi! Do not look to any man for aid. God is the giver and He alone. If you worship Him, the door of His mercy will suffice. If He drives you away, no one will make your life easier. If He gives you a crown to wear, raise your head and be grateful. If not, bow your head in acceptance.”