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Burton: King Jali'ad of Hind and His Wazir Shimas: Followed by the History of King Wird Khan, son of King Jali'ad with His Women and Wazirs (cont.)

[Go back to The Blind Man and the Cripple]

Q "Which of the learned men is most worthy of praise, according to thee?"--"He who is learned in the knowledge of Allah and whose knowledge profiteth him." Q "And who is this?"--"Whoso is intent upon seeking to please his Lord and avoid His wrath." Q "And which of them is the most excellent?"-- "He who is most learned in the knowledge of Allah." Q "And which is the most experienced of them?"--"Whoso in doing according to his knowledge is most constant." Q " And which is the purest hearted of them?"-- "He who is most assiduous in preparing for death and praising the Lord and least of them in hope, and indeed he who penetrateth his soul with the awful ways of death is as one who looketh into a clear mirror, for that he knoweth the truth, and the mirror still increaseth in clearness and brilliance." Q "What are the goodliest of treasures?"--"The treasures of heaven." Q "Which is the goodliest of the treasures of Heaven?"--"The praise of Allah and His magnification." Q "Which is the most excellent of the treasures of earth?"--"The practice of kindness."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Eleventh Night,

She said: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir Shimas asked the King's son, saying, "Which is the most excellent of the treasures of earth?" he answered, "The practice of kindness." So the Minister pursued, "Tell me of three several and different things, knowledge and judgment and wit, and of that which uniteth them."--"Knowledge cometh of learning, judgment of experience and wit of reflection, and they are all stablished and united in reason. Whoso combineth these three qualities attaineth perfection, and he who addeth thereto the piety and fear of the Lord is in the right course." Q "Take the case of a man of learning and wisdom, endowed with right judgment, luminous intelligence and a keen wit and excelling, and tell me can desire and lust change these his qualities?"--"Yes; for these two passions, when they enter into a man, alter his wisdom and understanding and judgment and wit, and he is like the Ossifrage which, for precaution against the hunters, abode in the upper air, of the excess of his subtlety; but, as he was thus, he saw a fowler set up his nets and when the toils were firmly staked down bait them with a bit of meat; which when he beheld, desire and lust thereof overcame him and he forgot that which he had seen of springes and of the sorry plight of all birds that fell into them. So he swooped down from the welkin and pouncing upon the piece of meat, was meshed in the same snare and could not win free. When the fowler came up and saw the Ossifrage taken in his toils he marvelled with exceeding marvel and said, 'I set up my nets, thinking to take therein pigeons and the like of small fowl; how came this Ossifrage to fall into it?' It is said that when desire and lust incite a man of understanding to aught, he considereth the end thereof and refraineth from that which they make fair and represseth with his reason his lust and his concupiscence; for, when these passions urge him to aught, it behoveth him to make his reason like unto a horseman skilled in horsemanship who, mounting a skittish horse, curbeth him with a sharp bit, so that he go aright with him and bear him whither he will. As for the ignorant man, who hath neither knowledge nor judgment, while all things are obscure to him and desire and lust lord it over him, verily he doeth according to his desire and his lust and is of the number of those that perish; nor is there among men one in worse case than he." Q "When is knowledge profitable and when availeth reason to ward off the ill effects of desire and lust?"--"When their possessor useth them in quest of the goods of the next world, for reason and knowledge are altogether profitable; but it befitteth not their owner to expend them in the quest of the goods of this world, save in such measure as may be needful for gaining his livelihood and defending himself from its mischief, but to lay them out with a view to futurity." Q "What is most worthy that a man should apply himself thereto and occupy his heart withal?"-- "Good works and pious." Q "If a man do this it diverteth him from gaining his living; how then shall he do for his daily bread wherewith he may not dispense?"--"A man's day is four-and-twenty hours, and it behoveth him to employ one third thereof in seeking his living, another in prayer and repose and the other in the pursuits of knowledge; for a reasonable man without knowledge is a barren land, which hath no place for tillage, tree-planting or grass-growing. Except it be prepared for filth and plantation, no fruit will profit therein; but, if it be tilled and planted, it bringeth forth goodly fruits. So with the man lacking education; there is no profit in him till knowledge be ranted in him; then cloth he bear fruit." Q "What sayst thou of knowledge without understanding?"--"It is as the knowledge of a brute beast, which hath learnt the hours of its foddering and waking, but hath no reason." Q "Thou hast been brief in thine answer here anent; but I accept thy reply. Tell me, how shall I guard myself against the Sultan?"--"By giving him no way to thee." Q "And how can I but give him way to me, seeing that he is set in dominion over me and that the reins of my affair be in his hand?"--"His dominion over thee lieth in the duties thou owest him; wherefore, an thou give him his due, he hath no farther dominion over thee." Q "What are a Wazir's duties to his King?"--"Good counsel and zealous service both in public and private, right judgment, the keeping of his secrets, and that he conceal from his lord naught of that whereof he hath a right to be informed, lack of neglect of aught of his need with the gratifying of which he chargeth him, the seeking his approval in every guise, and the avoidance of his anger." Q "How should the Wazir do with the King?"--"An thou be Wazir to the King and wouldst fain become safe from him, let thy hearing and thy speaking to him surpass his expectation of thee, and be thy seeking of thy want from him after the measure of thy rank in his esteem, and beware lest thou advance thyself to a dignity whereof he deemeth thee unworthy for this would be like presuming against him. So, if thou take advantage of his mildness and raise thee to a rank beyond that which he deemeth thy due, thou wilt be like the hunter, whose wont it was to trap wild beasts for their pelts and cast away the flesh. Now a lion used to come to that place and eat of the carrion, and in course of time, he made friendship with the hunter who would throw meat to him and wipe his hands on his back whilst the lion wagged his tail. But when the hunter saw his tameness and gentleness and submissiveness to him, he said to himself, 'Verily this lion humbleth himself to me and I am master of him, and I see not why I should not mount him and strip off his hide, as with the other wild beasts.' So he took courage and sprang on the lion's back, presuming on his mildness and deeming himself sure of him; which when the lion saw, he raged with exceeding rage and raising his fore-paw, smote the hunter, that he drove his claws into his vitals, after which he cast him under foot and tare him in pieces and devoured him. By this we may know that it behoveth the Wazir to bear himself towards the King according to that which he seeth of his condition and not presume upon the superiority of his own judgment, lest the King become jealous of him."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Twelfth Night,

She continued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth, the son of King Jali'ad, said to Shimas the Wazir, "It behoveth the Minister to bear himself towards the Monarch according to that which he seeth of his condition, and not to presume upon the superiority of his own judgment lest the King wax jealous of him." Quoth Shimas, "How shall the Wazir grace himself in the King's sight."--"By the performance of the trust committed to him and of loyal counsel and sound judgment and the execution of his commands." Q "As for what thou sayest of the Wazir's duty to avoid the King's anger and perform his wishes and apply himself diligently to the doing of that where with he chargeth him, such duty is always incumbent on him; but how, an the King's whole pleasure be tyranny and the practice of oppression and exorbitant extortion; and what shall the Wazir do if he be afflicted by intercourse with this unjust lord? An he strive to turn him from his lust and his desire, he cannot do this, and if he follow him in his lusts and flatter him with false counsel, he assumeth the weight of responsibility herein and becometh an enemy to the people. What sayst thou of this?"-- "What thou speakest, O Wazir, of his responsibility and sinfulness ariseth only in the case of his abetting the King in his wrong doing; but it behoveth the Wazir, when the King taketh counsel with him of the like of this, to show forth to him the way of justice and equity and warn him against tyranny and oppression and expound to him the principles of righteously governing the lieges, alluring him with the future reward that pertaineth to this and restraining him with warning of the punishment he otherwise will incur. If the King incline to him and hearken unto his words, his end is gained, and if not, there is nothing for it but that he depart from him after courteous fashion, because in parting for each of them is ease." Q "What are the duties of the King to his subjects and what are the obligations of the lieges to their lord?"--"They shall do whatso he ordereth them with pure intent and obey him in that which pleaseth him and pleaseth Allah and the Apostle of Allah. And the lieges can claim of the lord that he protect their possessions and guard their women, even as it is their duty to hearken unto him and obey him and expend their lives freely in his defence and give him his lawful due and praise him fairly for that which he bestoweth upon them of his justice and bounty." Q "Have his subjects any claim upon the King other than that which thou hast said?"--"Yes. The rights of the subjects from their Sovran are more binding than the liege lord's claim upon his lieges, for that the breach of his duty towards them is more harmful than that of their duty towards him, because the ruin of the King and the loss of his kingdom and fortune befal not save by the breach of his devoir to his subjects; wherefore it behoveth him who is invested with the kingship to be assiduous in furthering three things: to wit, the fostering of the faith, the fostering of his subjects and the fostering of government; for by the ensuing of these three things, his kingdom shall endure." Q "How cloth it behove him to do for his subjects' weal?"--"By giving them their due and maintaining their laws and customs and employing Olema and learned men to teach them and justifying them, one of other, and sparing their blood and defending their goods and lightening their loads and strengthening their hosts." Q "What is the Minister's claim upon the Monarch?"--"None hath a more imperative claim on the King than hath the Wazir, for three reasons: firstly, because of that which shall befal him from his liege lord in case of error in judgment, and because of the general advantage to King and commons in case of sound judgmen; secondly, that folk may know the goodliness of the degree which the Wazir holdeth in the King's esteem and therefore look on him with eyes of veneration and respect and submission; and thirdly, that the Wazir, seeing this from King and subjects, may ward off from them that which they hate and fulfil to them that which they love." Q "I have heard all thou hast said of the attributes of King and Wazir and liege and approve thereof; but now tell me what is incumbent in keeping the tongue from lying and folly and slandering good names and excess in speech."--"It behoveth a man to speak naught but good and kindness and to talk not of that which toucheth him not, to leave detraction nor carry tale he hath heard from one man to his enemy, neither seek to harm his friend nor his foe with his Sultan and reck not of any (neither of him from whom he hopeth for good nor of him whom he feareth for mischief) save of Allah Almighty; for He indeed is the only one who harmeth or profiteth. Let him not impute default unto any nor talk ignorantly, lest he incur the weight and the sin thereof before Allah and earn hate among men; for know thou that speech is like an arrow which once shot none can avail to recall. Let him also beware of disclosing his secret to one who shall discover it, lest he fall into mischief by reason of its disclosure, after confidence on its concealment; and let him be more careful to keep his secret from his friend than from his foe, for the keeping a secret with all folk is of the performance of faithful trust." Q "Tell me how a man should bear himself with his family and friends."--"There is no rest for a son of Adam save in righteous conduct; he should render to his family that which they deserve and to his brethren whatso is their due." Q "What should one render to one's kinsfolk?"--"To parents, submission and soft speech and affability and honour and reverence. To brethren, good counsel and readiness to expend money for them and assistance in their undertakings and joyance in their joy and grieving for their grief and closing of the eyes toward the errors that they may commit; for, when they experience this from a man, they requite him with the best of counsel they can command and expend their lives in his defence; wherefore, an thou know thy brother to be trusty, lavish upon him thy love and help him in all his affairs."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirteenth Night,

She pursued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth, the son and heir of King Jali'ad, when questioned by the Wazir upon the subjects aforesaid, returned him satisfactory replies; when Shimas resumed, "I see that brethren are of two kinds, brethren of trust and brethren of society. As for the first who be friends, there is due to them that which thou hast set forth; but now tell me of the others who be acquaintances."--As for brethren of society, thou gettest of them pleasance and goodly usance and fair speech and enjoyable company; so be thou not sparing to them of thy delights, but be lavish to them thereof, like as they are lavish to thee, and render to them that which they render to thee of affable countenance and an open favour and sweet speech, so shall thy life be pleasant and thy words be accepted of them." Q "Tell me now of the provision decreed by the Creator to all creatures. Hath He alloted to men and beasts each his several provision to the completion of his appointed life term; and if this allotment be thus, what maketh him who seeketh his livelihood to incur hardships and travail in the quest of that which he knoweth must come to him, if it be decreed to him, albeit he incur not the misery of endeavour; and which, if it be not decreed to him, he shall not win, though he strive after it with his uttermost striving? Shall he therefore stint endeavour and in his Lord put trust and to his body and his soul give rest?"-- "Indeed, we see clearly that to each and every there is a provision distributed and a term prescribed; but to all livelihood are a way and means, and he who seeketh would get ease of his seeking by ceasing to seek; withal there is no help but that he seek his fortune. The seeker is, however, in two cases: either he gaineth his fortune or he faileth thereof. In the first case, his pleasure consisteth in two conditions: first, in the having gained his fortune, and secondly, in the laudable issue of his quest; and in the other case, his pleasure consisteth, first, in his readiness to seek his daily bread; secondly, in his abstaining from being a burthen to the folk; and thirdly, in his freedom from liability to blame." Q "What sayst thou of the means of seeking one's fortune?"--"A man shall hold lawful that which Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) alloweth, and unlawful whatso He forbiddeth." Reaching this pass the discourse between them came to an end, and Shimas and all the Olema present rose and prostrating themselves before the young Prince, magnified and extolled him, whilst his father pressed him to his bosom and seating him on the throne of kingship, said, "Praised be Allah who hath blessed me with a son to be the coolth of mine eyes in my lifetime!" Then said the King's son to Shimas in presence of all the Olema, "O sage that art versed in spiritual questions, albeit Allah have vouchsafed to me but scanty knowledge, yet do I comprehend thine intent in accepting from me what I proffered in answer concerning that whereof thou hast asked me, whether I hit or missed the mark therein, and belike thou forgavest my errors; but now I am minded to question thee anent a thing, whereof my judgment faileth and whereto my capacity is insufficient and which my tongue availeth not to set forth, for that it is obscure to me, with the obscurity of clear water in a black vessel. Wherefore would have thee expound it to me so no iota thereof may remain doubtful to the like of me, to whom its obscurity may present itself in the future, even as it hath presented itself to me in the past; since Allah, even as He hath made life to be in lymph and strength in food and the cure of the sick in the skill of the leach, so hath He appointed the healing of the fool to be in the learning of the wise. Give ear, therefore, to my speech." Replied the Wazir, "O luminous of intelligence and master of casuistical questions, thou whose excellence all the Olema attest, by reason of the goodliness of thy discretion of things and thy distribution thereof and the justness of thine answers to the questions I have asked thee, thou knowest that thou canst enquire of me naught but thou art better able than I to form a just judgment thereon and expound it truly, for that Allah hath vouchsafed unto thee such wisdom as He hath bestowed on none other of men. But inform me of what thou wouldst question me." Quoth the Prince, "Tell me from what did the Creator (magnified be His all-might!) create the world, albeit there was before it naught and there is naught seen in this world but it is created from something; and the Divine Creator (extolled and exalted be He!) is able to create things from nothing, yet hath His will decreed, for all the perfection of His power and grandeur, that He shall create naught but from something." The Wazir replied, "As for those, who fashion vessels of potter's clay, and other handicraftsmen, who cannot originate one thing save from another thing, they are themselves only created entities; but, as for the Creator, who hath wrought the world after this wondrous fashion, an thou wouldst know His power (extolled and exalted be He!) of calling things into existence, extend thy thought and consider the various kinds of created things, and thou wilt find signs and instances, proving the perfection of His puissance and that He is able to create the ens from the non-ens; nay, He called things into being, after absolute non-existence, for the elements which be the matter of created things were sheer nothingness. I will expound this to thee, so thou mayst be in no scepticism thereof, and the marvel-signs of the alternation of Night and Day shall make this clear to thee. When the light goeth and the night cometh, the day is hidden from us and we know not the place where it abideth; and when the night passeth away with its darkness and its terror, the day cometh and we know not the abiding-place of the night. In like manner, when the sun riseth upon us, we know not where it hath laid up its light, and when it setteth, we ignore the abiding-place of its setting; and the examples of this among the works of the Creator (magnified be His name and glorified be His might!) abound in what confoundeth the thought of the keenest witted of human beings." Rejoined the Prince, "O sage, thou hast set before me of the power of the Creator what is incapable of denial; but tell me how He called His creatures into existence." Answered Shimas, "He created them by the sole power of His one Word, which existed before time, and wherewith he created all things." Quoth the Prince, "Then Allah (be His name magnified and His might glorified!) only willed the existence of created things, before they came into being?" Replied Shimas, "And of His will He created them with His one Word and, but for His speech and that one Word, the creation had not come into existence."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Fourteenth Night,

She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that after the King's son had asked his sire's Wazir the casuistical questions aforesaid, and had received a sufficient answer, Shimas said to him, "O dear my son, there is no man can tell thee other but tints I have said, except he twist the words handed down to us of the Holy Law and turn the truths thereof from their evident meaning. And such a perversion is their saying that the Word hath inherent and positive power and I take refuge with Allah from such a mis-belief! Nay, the meaning of our saying that Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) created the world with His Word is that He (exalted be His name!) is One in His essence and His attributes and not that His Word hath independent power. On the contrary, power is one of the attributes of Allah, even as speech and other attributes of perfection are attributes of Allah (exalted be His dignity and extolled be His empery!); wherefore He may not be conceived without His Word, nor may His Word be conceived without Him, for, with His Word, Allah (extolled be His praise!) created all His creatures, and without His Word, the Lord created naught. Indeed, He created all things but by His Word of Truth, and by Truth are we created." Quoth the Prince, "I comprehend that which thou hast said on the subject of the Creator and from thee I accept this with understanding, but I hear thee say that He created the world by His Word of Truth. Now Truth is the opposite of Falsehood; whence then arose Falsehood with its opposition unto Truth, and how cometh it to be possible that it should be confounded therewith and become doubtful to human beings, so that they need to distinguish between the twain? And cloth the Creator (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) love Falsehood or hate it? An thou say He loveth Truth and by it created all things and abhorreth Falsehood, how came the False, which the Creator hateth, to invade the True which He loveth?" Quoth Shimas, "Verily Allah the Most High created man all Truth, loving His name and obeying His word, and on this wise man had no need of repentance till Falsehood invaded the Truth whereby he was created by means of the capability which Allah had placed in him, being the will and the inclination called lust of lucre. When the False invaded the True on this wise, right became confounded with wrong, by reason of the will of man and his capability and greed of gain, which is the voluntary side of him together with the weakness of human nature; wherefore Allah created penitence for man, to turn away from him Untruth and stablish him in Truth, and He created for him also punishment if he should abide in the obscurity of Falsehood." Quoth the Prince, "Tell me how came Untruth to invade Truth, so as to be confounded therewith, and how became man liable to punishment and so stood in need of repentance." Replied Shimas, "When Allah created man with Truth, He made him loving to Himself and there was for him neither repentance nor punishment; but he abode thus till Allah put in him the soul, which is of the perfection of humanity, albeit naturally inclined to lust which is inherent therein. From this sprang the growth of Untruth and its confusion with Truth, wherewith man was created and with the love whereof his nature had been made; and when man came to this pass, he declined from the Truth with disobedience, and whoso declineth from the Truth falleth into Falsehood." Said the Prince, "Then Falsehood invaded Truth only by reason of disobedience and transgression?" Shimas replied, "Yes, and it is thus because Allah loveth mankind, and of the abundance of His love to man He created him having need of Himself, that is to say, of the very Truth. But oftentimes man lapseth from this by cause of the inclination of the soul to lusts and turneth to frowardness, wherefore he falleth into Falsehood by the act of disobeying his Lord and thus deserveth punishment, and, by putting away from himself Falsehood with repentance and by the returning to the love of the Truth, he meriteth future reward." Quoth the Prince, "Tell me the origin of sin, whilst all mankind trace their being to Adam, and how cometh it that he, being created of Allah with truth, drew disobedience on himself; then was his disobedience coupled with repentance, after the soul had been set in him, that his issue might be reward or retribution? Indeed, we see some men constant in sinfulness, inclining to that which He loveth not and transgressing in this the original intent and purpose of their creation, which is the love of the Truth, and drawing on themselves the wrath of their Lord, whilst we see others constant in seeking the satisfaction of their Creator and obeying Him and meriting mercy and future recompense. What causeth this difference prevailing between them?" Replied Shimas, "The origin of disobedience descending upon mankind is attributable to Iblis, who was the noblest of all that Allah (magnified be His name!) created of angels and men and Jinn, and the love of the Truth was inherent in him, for he knew naught but this; but whenas he saw himself unique in such dignity, there entered into him pride and conceit, vainglory and arrogance which revolted from loyalty and obedience to the commandment of His Creator; wherefore Allah made him inferior to all creatures and cast him out from love, making his abiding- place to be in disobedience. So when he knew that Allah (glorified be His name!) loved not disobedience and saw Adam and the case wherein he was of truth and love and obedience to his Creator, envy entered into him and he devised some device to pervert Adam from the truth, that he might be a partaker with himself in Falsehood; and by this, Adam incurred chastisement for his inclining to disobedience, which his foe made fair to him, and his subjection to his lusts, whenas he transgressed the charge of his Lord, by reason of the appearance of Falsehood. When the Creator (magnified be the praises of Him and hallowed be the names of Him!) saw the weakness of man and the swiftness of his inclining to his enemy and leaving the truth, He appointed to him, of His mercy, repentance, that therewith he might arise from the slough of inclination to disobedience and taking the arms and armour of repentance, overcame therewith his foe Iblis and his hosts and return to the Truth, wherein he was created. When Iblis saw that Allah (magnified be His praise!) had appointed him a protracted term, he hastened to wage war upon man and to best him with wiles, to the intent that he might oust him from the favour of his Lord and make him a partaker with himself in the wrath which he and his hosts had incurred; wherefore Allah (extolled be His praises!) appointed unto man the capability of penitence and commanded him to apply himself to the Truth and persevere therein; and forbade him from disobedience and frowardness and revealed to him that he had on the earth an enemy warring against him and relazing not from him night nor day. Thus hath man a right to future reward, if he adhere to the Truth, in the love of which his nature was created; but he becometh liable to punishment, if the flesh master him and incline him to lusts."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the young Prince had questioned Shimas touching disputed points of olden time and had been duly answered, he presently said, "Now tell me by what power is the creature able to transgress against his Creator, seeing that His omnipotence is without bounds, even as thou hast set forth, and that naught can overcome Him or depart from His will? Deemest thou not that He is able to turn His creatures from this disobedience and compel them eternally to hold the Truth?" Answered Shimas, "In very sooth Almighty Allah (honoured be His name!) is just and equitable and loving-kind to the people of His affection. He created His creatures with justice and equity and of the inspiration of His justice and the overflowing of His mercy, He gave them kingship over themselves, that they should do whatever they might design. He showeth them the way of rightwousness and bestoweth on them the power and ability of doing what they will of good: and if they do the opposite thereof, they fall into destruction and disobedience." Q "If the Creator, as thou sayest, have granted to mankind power and ability and they by reason thereof are empowered to do whatso they will, why then doth He not come between them and that which they desire of wrong and turn them to the right?"--"This is of the greatness of His mercy and the goodliness of His wisdom; for, even as aforetime he showed wrath to Iblis and had no mercy on him, even so he showed Adam mercy, by means of repentance, and accepted of him, after He had been wroth with him." Q "He is indeed mere Truth, for He it is who requiteth every one according to his works, and there is no Creator save Allah who hath power over all things. But tell me, hath He created that which He loveth and that which He loveth not or only that which He loveth?"--"He created all things, but favoureth only that which he loveth." Q "What reckest thou of two things, one whereof is pleasing to God and earneth future reward for him who practiseth it and the other offendeth Allah and entaileth lawful punishment upon the doer?"--"Expound to me these two things and make me to apprehend them, that I may speak concerning them." Q "They are good and evil, the two things inherent in the body and in the soul."--"O wise youth, I see that thou knowest good and evil to be of the works which the soul and the body combine to do. Good is named good, because it is in favour with God, and evil is termed ill, for that in it is His ill-will. Indeed, it behoveth thee to know Allah and to please Him by the practice of good, for that He hath bidden us to this and forbidden us to do evil." Q "I see these two things, to wit, good and evil, to be wrought only by the five senses familiarly known in the body of man, which be the sensorium whence proceed speech, hearing, sight, smell and touch. Now I would have thee tell me whether these five senses were created altogether for good or for evil."--"Apprehend, O man, the exposition of that whereof thou askest and it is a manifest proof; so lay it up in thine innermost thought and take it to thy heart. And this it is that the Creator (extolled and exalted be He!) created man with Truth and impressed him with the love thereof and there proceedeth from it no created thing save by the puissance of the Most High, whose trace is in every phenomenon. He (extol we Him and exalt we Him!) is not apt but to the ordering of justice and equity and beneficence, and He created man for the love of Him and set in him a soul, wherein the inclination to lusts was innate and assigned him capability and ableness and appointed the Five Senses aforesaid to be to him a means of winning Heaven or Hell." Q "How so?"--"In that He created the Tongue for speech, the Hands for action, the Feet for walking and the Eyes for seeing and the Ears for hearing, and upon each bestowed especial power and incited them to exercise and motion, bidding each of them do naught save that which pleaseth Him. Now what pleaseth Him in Speech is truthfulness and abstaining from its opposite, which is falsehood; and what pleaseth Him in Sight is turning it unto that which He loveth and leaving the contrary, which is turning it unto that which He hateth, such as looking unto lusts; and what pleaseth Him in Hearing is hearkening to naught but the True, such as admonition and that which is in Allah's writ and leaving the contrary, which is listening to that which incurreth the anger of Allah; and what pleaseth Him in the Hands is not hoarding up that which He entrusteth to them, but expending it in such way as shall please Him and leaving the contrary, which is avarice or spending in sinfulness that which He hath committed to them; and what pleaseth Him in the Feet is that they be constant in the pursuit of good, such as the quest of instruction, and leave its contrary, which is the walking in other than the way of Allah. Now respecting the rest of the lusts which man practiseth, they proceed from the body by command of the soul. But the lusts which proceed from the body are of two kinds, the lust of reproduction and the lust of the belly. As for the former, that which pleaseth Allah thereof is that it be not other than lawful and He is displeased with it if contrary to His law. As for the lust of the belly, eating and drinking, what pleaseth Allah thereof is that each take naught save that which the Almighty hath appointed him be it little or mickle, and praise the Lord and thank Him; and what angereth Him thereof is that a man take that which is not his by right. All precepts other than these are false, and thou knowest that Allah created everything and delighteth only in Good and commandeth each member of the body to do that which He hath made on it incumbent, for that He is the All-wise, the All- knowing." Q "Was it foreknown unto Allah Almighty (exalted be His power!) that Adam, by eating of the tree from which He forbade him and whence befel what befel, would leave obedience for disobedience?"--"Yes, O sage youth. This was foreknown unto Allah Almighty ere He created Adam, and the proof and manifestation attached thereto is the warning He gave him against eating of the tree and His informing him that, if he ate of the fruit he would be disobedient. And this was in the way of justice and equity, lest Adam should have an argument wherewith he might excuse himself against his Lord. When therefore, he fell into error and calamity and when disgrace waxed sore upon him and reproach, this passed to his posterity after him; wherefore Allah sent Prophets and Apostles and gave to them Books and they taught us the divine commandments and expounded to us what was therein of admonitions and precepts and made clear to us and manifest the way of righteousness and explained to us what it behoved us to do and what to leave undone. Now we are endowed with Freewill and he who acteth within these lawful limits winneth his wish and prospereth, while whoso transgresseth these legal bounds and doeth other than that which these precepts enjoin, resisteth the Lord and is ruined in both Abodes. This then is the road of Good and Evil. Thou knowest that Allah over all things is Omnipotent and created not lusts for us but of His pleasure and volunty, and He bade us use them in the way of lawfulness, so they might be to us a good; but, when we use them in the way of sinfulness they are to us an evil. Therefore what of righteous we compass is from Allah Almighty, and what of wrongous from ourselves His creatures, not from the Creator, exalted be He herefor with highmost exaltation!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixteenth Night,

She continued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth, King Jali'ad's son had questioned Shimas concerning these subtleties and had been duly answered, he pursued, "That which thou hast expounded to me concerning Allah and His creatures I understand; but tell me of one matter, concerning which my mind is perplexed with extreme wonderment, and that is that I marvel at the sons of Adam, how careless they are of the life to come and at their lack of taking thought thereof and their love to this world, albeit they know that they must needs leave it and depart from it, whilst they are yet young in years."--"Yes, verily; and that which thou seest of its changefulness and traitorousness with its children is a sign that Fortune to the fortunate will not endure nor to the afflicted affliction; for none of its people is secure from its changefulness and even if one have power over it and be content therewith, yet there is no help but that his estate change and removal hasten unto him. Wherefore man can put no trust therein nor profit by that which he enjoyeth of its gilding and glitter; and we knowing this will know that the sorriest of men in condition are those who are deluded by this world and are unmindful of the other world; for that whatso of present ease they enjoy will not even the fear and misery and horrors which will befal them after their removal therefrom. Thus are we certified that, if the creature knew that which will betide him with the coming of death and his severance from that which he enjoyeth of pleasure and delight, he would cast away the world and that which is therein; for we are certified that the next life is better for us and more profitable." Said the Prince, "O sage, thou hast dispelled the darkness that was upon my heart by the light of thy shining lamp and hast directed me into the right road I must tread on the track of Truth and hast given me a lantern whereby I may see." Then rose one of the learned men who was in the presence and said, "When cometh the season of Prime, needs must the hare seek the pasture as well as the elephant; and indeed I have heard from you twain such questions and solutions as I never before heard; but now leave that and let me ask you of somewhat. Tell me, what is the best of the goods of the world?" Replied the Prince, "Health of body, lawful livelihood and a virtuous son." Q "What is the greater and what is the less?"-- "The greater is that to which a lesser than itself submitteth and the less that which submitteth to a greater than itself." Q "What are the four things wherein concur all creatures?"--"Men concur in meat and drink, the sweet of sleep, the lust of women and the agonies of death." Q "What are the three things whose foulness none can do away?"--"Folly, meanness of nature, and lying." Q "What is the best kind of lie, though all kinds are foul?"--"That which averteth harm from its utterer and bringeth gain." Q "What kind of truthfulness is foul, though all kinds are fair?"--"That of a man glorying in that which he hath and vaunting himself thereof." Q "What is the foulest of foulnesses?"--"When a man boasteth himself of that which he hath not." Q "Who is the most foolish of men?"--"He who hath no thought but of what he shall put in his belly." Then said Shimas, "O King, verily thou art our King, but we desire that thou assign the kingdom to thy son after thee, and we will be thy servants and lieges." So the King exhorted the Olema and others who were in the presence to remember that which they had heard and do according thereto and enjoined them to obey his son's commandment, for that he made him his heir-apparent, so he should be the successor of the King his sire; and he took an oath of all the people of his empire, literates and braves and old men and boys, to mention none other, that they would not oppose him in the succession nor transgress against his commandment. Now when the Prince was seventeen years old, the King sickened of a sore sickness and came nigh to die, so, being certified that his decease was at hand, he said to the people of his household, "This is disease of Death which is upon me; wherefore do ye summon my son and kith and kin and gather together the Grandees and Notables of my empire, so not one of them may remain except he be present." Accordingly they fared forth and made proclamation to those who were near and published the summons to those who were afar off, and they all assembled and went in to the King. Then said they to him, "How is it with thee, O King, and how deemest thou for thyself of these thy dolours?" Quoth Jali'ad, "Verily, this my malady is mortal and the shaft of death hath executed that which Allah Almighty decreed against me: this is the last of my days in the world here and the first of my days in the world hereafter." Then said he to his son, "Draw near unto me." So the youth drew near, weeping with weeping so sore, that he well nigh drenched the bed, whilst the King's eyes welled tears and all who were present wept. Quoth Jali'ad, "Weep not, O my son; I am not the first whom this Inevitable betideth; nay, it is common to all that Allah hath created. But fear thou the Almighty and do good deeds which shall precede thee to the place whither all creatures tend and wend. Obey not thy lusts, but occupy thy soul with lauding the Lord in thy standing up and thy sitting down, in thy waking and in thy sleeping. Make the Truth the aim of thine eyes; this is the last of my speech with thee and--The Peace."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Seventeenth Night,

She pursued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when King Jali'ad charged his son with such injunctions and made him his heir to succeed him in his reign, the Prince said, "O dear father mine, thou knowest that I have ever been to thee obedient and thy commandment carrying out, mindful of thine injunctions and thine approof seeking, for thou hast been to me the best of fathers; how, then, after thy death, shall I depart from that which contenteth thee? And now, having fairly ordered my nurture thou art about to depart from me and I have no power to bring thee back to me; but, an I be mindful of thy charge, I shall be blessed therein and great good fortune shall betide me." Quoth the King, and indeed he was in the last agony of departing life, "Dear my son, cleave fast unto ten precepts, which if thou hold, Allah shall profit thee herewith in this world and the next world, and they are as follows. Whenas thou art wroth, curb thy wrath; when thou art afflicted, be patient; when thou speakest be soothfast; when thou promisest, perform; when thou judgest, do justice; when thou hast power, be merciful; deal generously by thy governors and lieutenants, forgive thy foes; be lavish of good offices to thine adversary, and stay thy mischief from him. Observe also other ten precepts, wherewith Allah shall profit thee among the people of thy realm: to wit, when thou dividest, be just; when thou punishest, oppress not; when thou engagest thyself, fulfil thine engagement; hearken to those that give thee loyal counsel; when offence is offered to thee, neglect it; abstain from contention; enjoin thy subjects to the observance of the divine laws and of praiseworthy practices; abate ignorance with a sharp sword; withhold thy regard from treachery and its untruth; and, lastly, do equal justice between the folk, so they may love thee, great and small, and the wicked and corrupt of them may fear thee." Then he addressed himself to the Emirs and Olema which were present when he appointed his son to be his successor, saying, "Beware ye of transgressing the commandment of your King and neglecting to hearken to your chief, for therein lieth ruin for your realm and sundering for your society and bane for your bodies and perdition for your possessions, and your foe would exult over you. Well ye wot the covenant ye made with me, and even thus shall be your covenant with this youth and the troth which plighted between you and me shall be also between you and him; wherefore it behoveth you to give ear unto and obey his commandment, for that in this is the well being of your conditions. So be ye constant with him anent that wherein ye were with me and your estate shall prosper and your affairs be fair; for behold, he hath the Kingship over you and is the lord of your fortune, and--The Peace." Then the death agony seized him and his tongue was bridled; so he pressed his son to him and kissed him and gave thanks unto Allah, after which his hour came and his soul fared forth. All his subjects and the people of his court mourned and keened over him and they shrouded him and buried him with pomp and honour and reverence, after which they returned with the Prince and clad him in the royal robes and crowned him with his father's crown and put the seal-ring on his finger, after seating him on the Throne of Sovranship. The young King ordered himself towards them, after his father's fashion of mildness and justice and benevolence, for a little while till the world waylaid him and entangled him in its lusts, whereupon, its pleasures made him their prey and he turned to its gilding and gewgaws, forsaking the engagements which his father had imposed upon him and casting off his obedience to him, neglecting the affairs of his reign and treading a road wherein was his own destruction. The love of women waxed stark in him and came to such a pass that, whenever he heard tell of a beauty, he would send for her and take her to wife; and after this wise, he collected women more in number than ever had Solomon, David-son, King of the children of Israel. Also he would shut himself up with a company of them for a month at a time, during which he went not forth neither enquired of his realm or its rule nor looked into the grievances of such of his subjects as complained to him; and if they wrote to him, he returned them no reply. Now when they saw this and witnessed his neglect of their affairs and lack of care for their interests and those of the state, they were assured that ere long some calamity would betide them and this was grievous to them. So they met privily one with other and took counsel together blaming their King, and one of them said to the rest, "Come, let us go to Shimas, Chief of the Wazirs, and set forth to him our case and acquaint him with that wherein we are by reason of this King, so he may admonish him; else, in a little, calamity will dawn upon us, for the world hath dazzled the Sovran with its delights and seduced him with its snares." Accordingly, they repaired to Shimas and said to him, "O wise man and prudent, the world hath dazed the King with its delights and taken him in its toils, so that he turneth unto vanity and worketh for the undoing of the state. Now with the disordering of the state the commons will be corrupted and our affairs will run to ruin. We see him not for days and months nor cometh there forth from him any commandment to us or to the Wazir or any else. We cannot refer aught of our need to him and he looketh not to the administration of justice nor taketh thought to the condition of any of his subjects, in his disregard of them. And behold we are come to acquaint thee with the truth of things, for that thou art the chiefest and most accomplished of us and it behoveth not that calamity befal a land wherein thou dwellest, seeing that thou art most able of any to amend this King. Wherefore go thou and speak with him; haply he will hearken to thy word and return unto the way of Allah." So Shimas arose forthright and repairing to the palace, foregathered with the first page he could find and said to him, "Fair my son, I beseech thee ask leave for me to go in to the King, for I have an affair, concerning which I would fain see his face and acquaint him therewith and hear what he shall answer me there anent." Answered the page, "O my lord, by Allah, this month past hath he given none leave to come in to him, nor have I all this time looked upon his face; but I will direct thee to one who shall crave admission for thee. Do thou lay hold of such a blackamoor slave who standeth at his head and bringeth him food from the kitchen. When he cometh forth to go to the kitchen, ask him what seemeth good to thee, for he will do for thee that which thou desirest." So the Wazir repaired to the door of the kitchen and sat there a little while, till up came the black and would have entered the kitchen; but Shimas caught hold of him and said to him, "Dear my son, I would fain stand in presence of the King and speak with him of somewhat especially concerneth him; so prithee, of thy kindness, when he hath ended his undurn-meal and his temper is at its best, speak for me and get me leave to approach him, so I may bespeak him of that which shall suit him." "I hear and obey," answered the black and taking the food carried it to the King, who ate thereof and his temper was soothed thereby. Then said the black to him, "Shimas standeth at the door and craveth admission, so he may acquaint thee with matters that specially concern thee." At this the King was alarmed and disquieted and commanded to admit the Minister.--And Shahrazed perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Eighteenth Night,

She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King bade the blackamoor admit Shimas, the slave went forth to him and bade him enter; whereupon he went in and falling prone before Allah, kissed the King's hands and blessed him. Then said the King, "What hath betided thee, O Shimas, that thou seekest admission unto me?" He answered, "This long while have I not looked upon the face of my lord the King and indeed I longed sore for thee; and now, behold, I have seen thy countenance and come to thee with a word which I would fief say to thee, O King stablished in all prosperity!" Quoth the King, "Say what seemeth good to thee;" and quoth Shimas, "I would have thee bear in mind O King, that Allah Almighty hath endowed thee with learning and wisdom, for all the tenderness of thy years, such as He never vouchsafed unto any of the Kings before thee, and hath fulfilled the measure of his bounties to thee with the Kingship; and He loveth not that thou depart from that wherewith He hath endowed thee unto other than it, by means of thy disobedience to Him; wherefore it behoveth thee not to levy war against Him with thy hoards but of His injunctions to be mindful and unto His commandments obedient. Indeed, I have seen thee, this while past, forget thy sire and his charges and reject his covenant and neglect his counsel and words of wisdom and renounce his justice and good governance, remembering not the bounty of Allah to thee neither requiting it with gratitude and thanks to Him." The King asked, "How so? And what is the manner of this?"; and Shimas answered, "The manner of it is that thou neglectest to administer the affairs of the state and that which Allah hath committed unto thee of the interests of thy lieges and surrenderest thyself to thy lower nature in that which it maketh fair to thee of the slight lusts of the world. Verily it is said that the welfare of the state and of the Faith and of the folk is of the things which it behoveth the King to watch; wherefore it is my rede, O King, that thou look fairly to the issue of thine affair, for thus wilt thou find the manifest road wherein is salvation, and not accept a trifling pleasure and a transient which leadeth to the abyss of destruction, lest there befal thee that which befel the Fisherman." The King asked, "What was that?"; and Shimas answered, "there hath reached me this tale of...

[Go to The Foolish Fisherman]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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