Moses and the Shepherd (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 400 words.
Moses once heard a shepherd praying as follows: "O God, show me where thou art, that I may become Thy servant. I will clean Thy shoes and comb Thy hair, and sew Thy clothes, and fetch Thee milk."
When Moses heard him praying in this senseless manner, he rebuked him, saying, "O foolish one, though your father was a Muslim, you have become an infidel. God is a Spirit, and needs not such gross ministrations as, in your ignorance, you suppose."
The shepherd was abashed at his rebuke, and tore his clothes and fled away into the desert.
Then a voice from heaven was heard, saying, "O Moses, wherefore have you driven away my servant? Your office is to reconcile my people with me, not to drive them away from me. I have given to each race different usages and forms of praising and adoring me. I have no need of their praises, being exalted above all such needs. I regard not the words that are spoken, but the heart that offers them. I do not require fine words, but a burning heart. Men's ways of showing devotion to me are various, but so long as the devotions are genuine, they are accepted."
the men of Hind the usages of Hind are praiseworthy,
In the men of Sind those of Sind.
I am not purified by their praises,
'Tis they who become pure and shining thereby.
I regard not the outside and the words,
I regard the inside and the state of heart.
I look at the heart if it be humble,
Though the words may be the reverse of humble.
Because the heart is substance, and words accidents,
Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause.
How long wilt thou dwell on words and superficialities?
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
Kindle in thy heart the flame of love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.
Lovers must burn every moment,
As tax and tithe are levied on a ruined village.
If they speak amiss, call them not sinners;
If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away.
Blood is better than water for martyrs,
This fault is better than a thousand correct forms.
No need to turn to the Ka'ba when one is in it,
And divers have no need of shoes.
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Source: E. H. Whinfield, The Masnavi (1898). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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