[Go back to The Angel of Death and the King of the Children of Israel]
It is related that Iskender Dhoulkernein came once, in his travels, upon a tribe of poor folk, who owned nought of the goods of the world and who dug their graves over against the doors of their houses and were wont at all times to frequent them and sweep the earth from them and keep them clean and visit them and worship God the Most High in them; and they had no food save herbs and the fruits of the earth. Iskender sent a man to them, to bid their king to him, but he refused to come, saying, 'I have no occasion to him.' So Iskender went to him and said to him, 'How is it with you and what manner of folk are you? For I see with you nothing of gold or silver nor aught of the good things of the world.' 'None hath his fill of the goods of the world,' answered the king. 'Why do you dig your graves before the doors of your houses?' asked Iskender. 'That they may be the cynosure of our eyes,' replied the king, 'so we may look on them and still take thought unto death neither forget the world to come. Thus is the love of the world banished from our hearts and we are not distracted thereby from the service of our Lord, exalted be His name!' Quoth Iskender, 'Why do ye eat herbs?' And the other answered, 'Because it misliketh us to make our bellies the tombs of beasts and because the pleasure of eating overpasseth not the gullet.'
Then he brought out a human skull and laying it before Iskender, said to him, 'O Dhoulkernein, knowest thou whose was this skull?' 'Nay,' answered Iskender; and the other rejoined, 'He whose skull this is was a king of the kings of the world, who dealt tyrannously with his subjects, oppressing the weak and passing his days in heaping up the perishable goods of the world, till God took his soul and made the fire his abiding-place; and this is his head.'
Then he produced another skull and laying it before Iskender, said to him, 'Knowest thou this?' 'No,' answered the prince; and the other rejoined, 'This is the skull of another king, who dealt justly by his subjects and was tenderly solicitous for the people of his realm and his dominions, till God took his soul and lodged him in His Paradise and made high his degree [among His blessed].' Then he laid his hands on Iskender's head and said, 'Whether of these twain art thou?' Whereupon Iskender wept sore and straining the king to his bosom, said, 'An thou be minded to consort with me, I will commit to thee the government of my affairs and share with thee in my kingdom.' 'Away! away!' replied the other. 'I have no mind to this.' 'Why so?' asked Iskender, and the King answered, 'Because all men are thine enemies by reason of the wealth and possessions thou hast gotten, and all men are my friends in verity, because of my contentment and poverty, for that I possess nothing, neither covet aught of the goods of the world; I have no desire unto them nor wish for them, neither reck I of aught save contentment.' So Iskender pressed him to his bosom and kissed him between the eyes and went his way.
[Go to The Righteousness of King Anoushirwan]
Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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