Tuesday December 07, 2021

Counsel for governance

November 30, 2020

Random thoughts

By Dr A Q Khan

One of the drawbacks of the internet and social media is that the younger generation is no longer interested in reading. What a pity! We have such a rich old culture. The books I mentioned last week have been considered masterpieces for time periods varying from 100 to 1000 years.

Here is some old wisdom and wise advice presented in a free rendering of Richard Francis Burton’s translation of 'Bostan' published by the Iran Chamber Society.

"Tukla, King of Persia, once visited a devotee and complained: 'Fruitless have been my years. None but the beggar carries riches from the world when earthly dignitaries are passed. Now I will sit in the corner of devotion so that I may usefully employ the few short days that remain to me.' The devotee became angry and replied: 'Enough! Religion consists only in the service of the people, not in prayer-beads, prayer-rugs or tattered garments. Be a king in sovereignty and a devotee in purity of morals. Action, not words, is demanded by religion because words without action are void of substance.'

"Never say that there is no dignity that exceeds that of the sovereign because nobody in the kingdom is as free from care as the dervish is. They are the most lightly burdened yet they are the first to reach their destination. The poor man suffers from lack of food and the king bears the cares of his kingdom while the dervish knows none of these cares. Though one may rule and the other serve; though one may be exalted and the other languish in prison, when death has claimed them it will not be possible to distinguish between the two.

"In Damascus, there was once such a severe famine that even lovers forgot their love. No rains fell from the sky to moisten the sown fields and the date trees. Fountains dried up and there was famine in the land. Like beggars, the trees stood leafless and the mountains lost their cover. The locusts devoured what was left of the gardens and people, for lack of food, devoured the locusts.

"At that time an old friend came to see me – his frame consisting only of skin and bones. I was surprised since he was of lofty rank and rich. 'Oh friend', I said, 'What misfortune has befallen you?' 'Where is your sense', he answered. 'Cannot you see the severity of the famine around you? Rains do not fall and the lamentations of the suffering do not seem to reach heaven.' 'But you at least have nothing to fear', I countered. 'Poison kills only where there is no antidote (and you have yours in your belongings)'.

"Regarding me with indignation and in the same manner as a learned man regards a fool, he replied: 'Although a man may be safely on the shore, he cannot look on while his friends drown. My face is not pale through lack of food; the sorrows of the poor have wounded my heart. Although, praise to be Allah, I am free from wounds, I tremble when I see the wounds of others. Bitter are the pleasures for him who is in health when a sick man is at his side. When the beggar has not eaten, one’s own food becomes bitter'.

"A bully once fell down a well and passed the night wailing and lamenting. A passer-by threw a stone on his head saying: 'Did you ever go to anyone’s assistance? How then dare you cry out for help now? Did you ever do any virtuous deed? Who would want to put salve on your wounds when they all know of your tyrannies? Across everyone’s path you dug a pit into which you have now yourself fallen. If you do evil, expect not goodness in return. Never does a withered grapevine bear sweet fruit. Oh you who try to sow seeds in autumn, you will not be able to reap corn at harvest time. If you nourish a thorn tree in the desert, do not ever expect to eat any fruit. One can only expect to receive the same fruit as that of the seeds you have sown'."