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The Bustan of Sadi, tr. by A. Hart Edwards, [1911], at

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Concerning Humility

Thou, O creature of God, vast created of the dust; therefore, be humble as the dust. Be not covetous, nor oppressive, nor headstrong. Thou art from the dust; be not like fire. When the terrible fire raised his head in pride, the dust prostrated itself in humility.

And since the fire was arrogant and the dust was meek, from the former were the demons formed, and from the latter mankind.


A raindrop fell from a spring cloud, and, seeing the wide expanse of the sea, was shamed. "Where the sea is," it reflected, "where am I? Compared with that, forsooth, I am extinct."

While thus regarding itself with an eye of contempt, an oyster took it to its bosom, and Fate so shaped its course that eventually the raindrop became a famous royal pearl.

It was exalted, for it was humble. Knocking at the door of extinction, it became existent.

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A sagacious youth of noble family landed at a seaport of Turkey, and, as he displayed piety and wisdom, his baggage was deposited in a mosque.

One day the priest said to him: "Sweep away the dust and rubbish from the mosque."

Immediately, the young man went away and no one saw him there again. Thus, did the elder and his followers suppose he did not care to serve.

The next day, a servant of the mosque met him on the road and said: 'Thou didst act wrongly in thy perverse judgment. Knowest thou not, O conceited youth, that men are dignified by service?"

Sorrowfully, the youth began to weep. "O soul-cherishing and heart-illuminating friend!" he answered; "I saw no dirt or rubbish in that holy place but mine own corrupt self. Therefore, I retraced my steps, for a mosque is better cleansed from such."

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Humility is the only ritual for a devotee. If thou desire greatness, be humble; no other ladder is there by which to climb.


When Bayazid was coming from his bath one morning during the Id festival, some one unwittingly emptied a tray of ashes from a window upon his head. With his face and turban all bespattered, he rubbed his hands in gratitude and said: I am in truth worthy of the fires of hell; why should I be angered by a few ashes?"

The great do not regard themselves; look not for godliness in a self-conceited man. Eminence does not consist in outward show and vaunting words, nor dignity in hauteur and. pretension.

On the Day of Judgment thou wilt see in. Paradise him who sought truth and rejected vain pretension.

He who is headstrong and obdurate falleth headlong; if thou desire greatness, abandon pride

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Expect not him who is possessed of worldly vanities to follow the path of religion, nor look for godliness in him who wallows in conceit.

If thou desire dignity, do not, like the mean, regard thy fellows with contemptuous eyes.

Seek no position more honourable than that of being known to the world as a man of laudable character.

Thou deemest him not great who, being of equal rank, is haughty towards thee; when thou makest a similar display before others, dost thou not appear before them as the arrogant appear before thee?

If thou art eminent, laugh not, if thou art wise, at them that are lowly. Many have fallen. from high whose places have been taken by the fallen.

Though thou be free from defect, revile not me who am full of blemishes.

One holds the chain of the Kaba temple in his hands; another lies drunken in the tavern.

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[paragraph continues] If God call the latter, who can drive him away? If He expel the former, who can bring him back? The one cannot implore the divine help by reason of his good deeds, nor is the door of repentance closed upon the other.


À poorly-clad doctor of law and divinity sat one day in the front row of seats in a Cadi's court. The Cadi gave him a sharp look, whereupon the usher took the man by the arm and said: "Get up; dost thou not know that the best place is not for such as thee? Either take a lower seat, or remain standing, or leave the court altogether. Be not so bold as to occupy the seat of the great. If thou art humble, pose not as a lion. Not every one is worthy of the chief seat; honour is proportionate to rank, and rank to merit."

He who sits with honour in a place lower than that of which he is worthy falls not with ignominy from eminence.

Fuming with anger, the doctor moved to a lower seat. Two advocates in the court then

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entered into a spirited discussion, and flew at each other with their tongues like fighting-cocks with beak and claw. They were involved in a complicated knot which neither could unravel. From the last row of seats the tattered doctor roared out with the voice of a lion in the forest.

"It is not the veins of the neck that should stand out in argument," he said, "but the proofs, which should be full of meaning. I, too, have the faculty of argument."

"Speak on," they answered.

With the quill of eloquence that he possessed, the doctor engraved his words upon the minds of his listeners like inscriptions on a signet-ring; and, drawing his pen through the letters of pretension, he invoked applause from every corner. So hard did he drive the steed of speech that the Cadi lagged behind like an ass in the mire. Removing his cloak and turban, the latter sent them to the doctor as a token of his respect.

"Alas!" he said, "I did not discern thy merit, nor welcome thee on thy arrival. I regret

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to see thee in this condition with such a stock of knowledge."

The usher then approached the stranger courteously in order that he might place the Cadi's turban upon his head. But the doctor repelled him with his hands and tongue, saying:

"Place not upon my head the fetters of pride, for to-morrow this fifty-yarded turban would turn my head from those in jaded garb. Those who called me 'lord' and 'chief' would then appear insignificant in mine eyes. Is pure water different whether it be contained in a. goblet of gold or an earthen ewer? A man's head requires brain and intellect, not an imposing turban like thine. A big head does not make one worthy; it is like the gourd, void of kernel. Be not proud because of thy turban and beard, for the one is cotton and the other grass. One should aim at the degree of eminence that is conformable with one's merit. With all this intellect, I will not call thee man, though a. hundred slaves walk behind thee. How well spoke the shell when a greedy fool picked it out of the mire: 'None will buy me for the smallest price: be not so insane as to wrap me up in silk?

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[paragraph continues] A man is not better than his fellows by reason of his wealth, for an ass, though covered with a satin cloth, is still an ass."

In this way the clever doctor washed the rancour from his heart with the water of words. Thus do those who are aggrieved speak harshly. Be not idle when thine enemy has fallen. Dash out his brains when thou art able, for delay will efface the grudge from thy mind.

So overcome was the Cadi by his vehemence that he exclaimed, "Verily, this day is a hard one." He bit his fingers in amazement, and his eyes stared at the doctor like the two stars near the pole of the lesser bear. As for the latter, he went abruptly out and was never seen there again. They in the court clamoured to know whence such an impertinent fellow had come. An official went in search of him, and ran in all directions, asking whether a man of that description had been seen. Some one said: "We know no one in this city so eloquent as Sadi."

A hundred thousand praises to him who said so; see how sweetly he uttered the bitter truth!

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A man of smiling countenance sold honey,. captivating the hearts of all by his pleasant manner. His customers were as numerous as flies around the sugar-cane—if he had sold poison people would have bought it for honey.

A forbidding-looking man regarded him with envy, being jealous of the way his business. prospered. One day he paraded the town with a tray of honey on his head and a scowl on his face. He wandered about crying his wares, but no one evinced desire to buy. At nightfall, having earned no money, he went and sat dejectedly in a corner, with a face as bitter as that of a sinner fearful of retribution.

The wife of one of his neighbours jokingly remarked: "Honey is bitter to one of sour temper."

It is wrong to eat bread at the table of one whose face is as wrinkled with frowns as the cloth on which it is served.

O sir! add not to thine own burdens, for an evil temper brings disaster in its train.

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If thou hast not a sweet tongue like Sadi; thou hast neither gold nor silver.


I have heard that a debased drunkard caught a pious man by the collar. The latter received his blows in silence, and in forbearance lifted not his head.

A passer-by remarked: "Art thou not a man? It is a pity to be patient with this ignorant fellow."

The pious man replied: "Speak not thus to me. A foolish drunkard collars one by the neck in the thought that he is fighting with a lion; there is no fear that a learned man will contend with an inebriated fool."

The virtuous follow this rule in life—when they suffer oppression they display kindness.


A dog bit the leg of a hermit with such violence that venom dropped from its teeth,

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and the poor man could not sleep all night through pain.

His little daughter chided him, saying: "Hast thou not teeth as well?"

The unfortunate parent wept, and then smilingly replied: "Dear child! Although I was stronger than the dog, I restrained my anger. Should I receive a sword-blow on the head, I could not apply my teeth to the legs of a dog."

One can revenge oneself upon the mean, but a man cannot act like a dog.


An eminent man, famous for his many virtues, possessed a slave of evil disposition, who in ugliness of feature surpassed every one in the city. He closely attended his master at meal-times, but he would not have given a drop of water to a dying man. Neither reproof nor the rod influenced him; the house was in a constant state of disorder through him. Sometimes, in his bad temper, would he litter the paths with thorns and rubbish; at other times, throw

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the chickens down the well. His unhappy temperament was written on his face, and never did he perform a task successfully.

Some one asked his master: "What is there that thou likest in this slave—his agreeable manners, or his skill, or beauty? Surely, it is not worth while to keep such an unruly knave and burden thyself with such an affliction. I will procure for thee a slave of handsome appearance and good character. Take this one to the slave-market and sell him. If a price is offered for him, do not refuse it, for he would be dear at that."

The good-natured man smiled and said: "O friend! although the character of my slave is certainly bad, my character is improved by him, for when I have learned to tolerate his manner I shall be able to put up with anything at the hands of others. It were not humane to sell him and thus make known his faults. And it is better to endure his affliction myself than to pass him on to others."

Accept for thyself what thou wouldst accept for others. If distressed thyself, involve not thy fellows.

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Forbearance is at first like poison, but when engrained in the nature it becomes like honey.


No one follows the path of Maruf Karchi who does not first banish the idea of fame from his head.

A traveller once came to Maruf's house at the point of death—his life was joined to his body by a single hair. He passed the night in wailing and lamentation, sleeping not himself nor permitting any one else to sleep by reason of his groans. His mind was distressed and his temper was vile; though he died not himself, he killed many by his fretting. Such was his restlessness that every one flew from him. Maruf Karchi alone remained. He, like a brave man, girt his loins and sat up many nights in attendance at the sick man's bedside. But one night Maruf was attacked by sleep—how long can a sleepless man keep up?

As soon as the invalid saw him asleep he began to rave: "Cursed be thy abominable

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race!" he cried: "what knows this glutton, intoxicated with sleep, of the helpless man who has not closed his eyes?"

Maruf took no notice of these words, but one of the women of the harem, overhearing them, remarked: "Didst thou not hear what that wailing beggar said? Turn him out, and tell him to take his abuse with him and die elsewhere. Kindness and compassion have their occasions, but to do good to the evil is evil; only a fool plants trees in barren soil. A grateful dog is better than an ungrateful man."

Maruf laughed: Dear woman," he replied, "be not offended at his ungracious words. If he rave at me through sickness, I am not angered. When thou art strong and well thyself, bear gratefully the burdens of the weak. If thou cherish the tree of kindness, thou wilt assuredly eat of the fruits of a good name."

They attain to dignity who rid themselves of arrogance.

He who worships grandeur is the slave of pride; he knows not that greatness consists in meekness.

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An impudent fellow begged of a pious man, but the latter had no money in his house. Otherwise, would he have showered gold upon him like dust. The infamous rascal, therefore, went out and began to abuse him in the street.

The eye of the fault-finder sees no merits. What regard has he who has acted dishonourably for the honour of another?

Being informed of his words, the pious man smiled and said: "It is well; this man has enumerated only a few of my bad qualities—only one out of a hundred that are known to me. The evil that he leas supposed in me I know for certain that I possess. Only one year has he been acquainted with me; how can he know the faults of seventy years? None but the Omniscient knows my faults better than myself. Never have I known one who has attributed to me so few defects. If he bear witness against me in the Day or Judgment, I shall have no fear. If he who thinks ill of me seek to reveal my faults, tell him to come and take the record from me."

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Be humble when the veil is torn from off thy character. If a pitcher were made of the dust of men, the calumnious would shatter it with stones.


A certain man knew something of astronomy and his head, in consequence, was filled with pride. Journeying far, he visited Kushyar, 23 the sage, who turned his eyes from him and would teach him nothing. When the disappointed traveller was on the point of leaving, Kushyar addressed him with these words:

"Thou imaginest that thou art full of knowledge. How can a vessel that is full receive of more? Rid thyself of thy pretensions, so that thou mayest be filled. Being full of vanity, thou goest empty."


Some one heard the barking of a dog in the ruined hut of a pious man. Reflecting upon the strangeness of the fact, he went and searched, but found no traces of a dog. In truth, the devotee alone was in the house.

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Not wishing his curiosity to be revealed, the man was departing, when the owner of the house cried out: "Come in; why standest thou upon the door? Knowest thou not, O friend, that I it was who barked? When I discerned that humility was acceptable to God, I banished pride and vanity from my heart, and clamoured with barks at the door of God, for I saw none more lowly than a dog."

If thou desire to attain to dignity, let humility be thy path.

Behold, when the dew lies low upon the earth, the sun doth raise it to the skies.


The slave of a king escaped, and, though a search was made, was not discovered. Later, when the fugitive returned, the king, in anger, ordered that he should be put to death.

When the executioner brought out his scimitar, like the tongue of a thirsty man, the despondent slave cried out:

O God! I forgive the king the shedding of my blood, for I have ever enjoyed his bounty and shared in his prosperity. Let him not

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suffer for this deed on the Day of Judgment, to the delight of his enemies."

When the king heard these words his anger was appeased, and he appointed the slave to be an officer of the standard.

The moral of this story is that soft speech acts like water on the fires of wrath. Do not the soldiers on the battle-field wear armour consisting of a hundred folds of silk?

O friend! be humble when thou dealest with a fierce foe, for gentleness will blunt the sharpest sword.


Many writers affirm the falsity of the idea that Hatim was deaf.

One morning his attention was attracted by the buzzing of a fly, which had become ensnared in a spider's web. "O thou," he observed, "who art fettered by thine own avarice, be patient. Wherever there be a tempting bait, huntsman and snare are close at hand."

One of his disciples remarked: "Strange it is that thou couldst hear the buzzing of a fly

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that hardly reached our ears. No longer can: they call thee deaf."

The Sheikh replied: "Deafness is better than the hearing of idle words. Those that sit with me in private are prone to conceal my faults and parade my virtues; thus, do they make me vain. I feign deafness that I may be spared their flattery. When my assumed affliction has become known to them they will speak freely of that which is good and bad in me; then, being grieved at the recital of my faults, I shall abstain from evil."

Go not down a well by a rope of praise. Be deaf, like Hatim, and listen to the words of them that slander thee.


A certain man, whose heart was as pure as Sadi's, fell in love. Although taunted by his enemies in consequence, he showed no anger.

Some one asked him: "Hast thou no sense of shame? Art thou not sensible to these indignities? It is abject to expose oneself to

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ridicule, and weak to endure patiently the scoffs of enemies. To overlook the errors of the, ignorant is wrong, lest it be said that thou hast neither strength nor courage."

How elegantly did the distracted lover make reply! His words are worthy to be writ in letters of gold:

"Alone in my heart there dwelleth affection for my loved one; thus, it contains no room. for malice."


I have heard that Luqman was of dark complexion and careless of his appearance. Some one mistook him for a slave, and employed him in digging trenches at Baghdad. Thus he continued for a year, no one suspecting who he was. When the truth was known the master was afeared, and fell at Luqman's feet, offering excuses.

The sage smiled and said: "Of what use are these apologies? For a year my heart has bled through thine oppression. How can II forget that in one hour? But I forgive thee, good man, for thy gain has caused to me no.

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loss. Thou hast built thy house; my wisdom and knowledge have increased. I, too, possess a slave, and frequently set him to arduous labour. Nevermore, when I remember the hardships of my toil, will I afflict him."

He who has not suffered at the hands of the strong grieves not at the frailness of the weak.

If thou be sorrowed by those above thee, be not harsh with thine inferiors.

Next: Chapter V. Concerning Resignation