On the Description of the Productiveness of the Trees of Charity and Liberality, and the Shedding of their Blossoms in the Shape of Gifts in Dinàrs and Derums.

The moral of Charity is bestowing a thing which ought to be given, without observing self-interest or seeking a return there­of, whether that self-interest or (expectation of) return may take the form of elegant eulogium or ample reward.

Who is a charitable person? He from whom proceeds every act of charity for God. Whatever of beneficence and charity is for praise and reward, must be taken to be a purchase and sale (and not charity).

He, whose object in practising charity is to obtain fame in the world, is a citizen of the city of charity and of the town of li­berality, with his house situated outside the gates of the city (i.e., he is only a nominal resident of that city).

I. They asked a liberal person: Do you feel any inward self-adoration, or do you feel you confer an obligation from what you bestow upon needy persons and shower upon beggars? He replied: Alas! My relation to my efforts (of charity) and to my liberality is that of a ladle in the hand of a cook. Although whatever that cook gives, passes through the medium of the ladle, yet how can the ladle presume to be (itself) the giver? [Note. The real giver is God; man is only an instrument there­in.]

Although livelihood (of the poor) is (apparently) from the hands of a rich man, still the (real) giver thereof is God; (hence) it is not a happy thing that an obligation should lie on the heads of the consumers of this daily food from that rich man. The rich man is nothing but the cup and spoon of the couldron of food: it is better for the cup and the spoon to be void of all (idea of conferring) obligations.

II. A Suft was describing something of another and was speaking by way of acquaintance and knowledge. He observed that such and such a person (when giving a banquet) is one adorning the table, (i.e., as good as a guest), and not keeping the the table, (i.e., a host), (i.e., he never shows that he is a host and putting obligations on guests, but thinks himself a guest and under the obligation of other guests). He regards himself as a (mere) sharer on the table, not the king thereof. He is exactly like others eating at the table, nay, he regards himself as their (i.e., his guests') uninvited guest.

When a rich man sets out his table for the poor in his guest--house, he is but a child playing on the road if he does not consider himself to be their uninvited guest. [Note. Tifl-i­ràh in Sufism means one not yet initiated into divinity.]

III. An Arab came and sat quietly before the Commander of the Faithful A'li,—who is the Lord of the generous of all ancient and modern times,—may God be pleased with him and may God's grace be on his countenance! The drooping spirit of poverty and hunger was manifest on his forehead. The Com­mander of the Faithful asked him what his wants were. As he was ashamed to speak, he wrote on the ground that he was a destitute man. A'li gave him two coverings for the body as a present, and excepting these two (things), he was (at that time) possessed of nothing. The Arab used one of these as a mantle and the other as a loin-cloth. He then stood up, and recited some impromptu verses, full of the greatest eloquence and simple elegance, appropriate to the occasion. His Excellency the Amir liked this and gave him another present of 30 dinàrs, which he had with him belonging to his sons Hasan and Hu-sain ,—Commanders of the Faithful,—may God be pleased with them! The Arab took these and said: O you Commander of the Faithful! You have made me richest of all members of my family, and saying this he went away. His Excellency the Amir observed that he had heard from His Excellency the Prophet, who said: The price of everything is as the (intrinsic) beauty therein, that is to say, the price of everything is in proportion to what adorns it of good actions and novel sayings.

The value of a man is not (to be ascertained) from his gold and silver: the value of a man is in proportion to his virtue. Many slaves there have been who, by acquiring virtue, had greater worth than their masters! And (similarly) many masters there have been who, on account of want of virtue, are without protection on the path of their slaves, (i.e., are at the disposal of their more intelligent slaves).

IV. It is related of A'bdullà-Abn-Ja'far that one day he resolved on a journey. Seeing a crowd of persons in a date-grove, he came down. A negro slave was the keeper of those (date) trees. Two leaves of bread were sent to this slave from a house. A dog was standing near him, and he threw one of these to that dog. The dog ate it away, and the other loaf also being thrown to him, that too he ate away. A'bdullà asked him what his daily allowance was, to which he replied: What you (now) saw. Being asked why he did not offer that to his own self, he observed: This (dog) is a stranger in this our land. I think he has come from a great distance and is hungry, and I did not wish to leave him hungry. Being then asked as to what he would eat that day, he said that he would observe fast. A'bdullà said to himself: All people blame me for my liberality (as being carried to excess), while here is a slave more liberal than myself. He then purchased the slave and the date-grove, emancipated the slave and presented him with the date-grove.

Although a person, who, at the sacrifice of the dog of his own desire, throws a morsel or two to the soul of the dog, may be, for example, a slave, yet, (on account of such an act), rich per­sons ought to acknowledge themselves as his slaves.

V. * * *

VI. During the reign of Moà'viah, one thousand derums were annually given to Abdullà Ja'far from the royal treasury, but when came Yazid's turn (to the Khalifat), (i.e., when Yazid became Khalif), he augmented the sum to five thousand (For this) they reproached Yazid and said: On this money extends the claims of all Musalmans: why do you give that away to one individual only? He replied: (as a matter of fact) I give it to every needy person of Madinah, because he (Jafa'r) does not withhold anything of this money from the really indi­gent. A man was secretly sent after him to follow him to Madinah, and (it was found that) in the period of one month, he (Ja'far) disbursed the whole sum, so much so that he was obliged to incur debts out of need.

Even if the whole world falls at a time into the hand of a libe­ral man, what is the world to him, (i.e., it is too insignificant an object of charity), and what a hundred more such worlds? Since the purse of his liberality is the treasury of the dervish, why should the heart of the dervish be distracted by the grief (of poverty)?

VII. A Khalif of Baghdàd was with his retinue riding the horse of grandeur and pomp, when a divàneh encountered him and addressed him thus: O Khalif! draw in your reins, because I have composed three couplets in your praise. The Khalif asked him to recite them, which he did. The Khalif was pleased. When the divàneh marked this, he observed: Bestow upon me 3 derums, so that I may eat butter and dates and eat my fill. The Khalif ordered a thousand derums to be given to him for every one couplet.

When the misery of hunger oppresses an eloquent man, it is allowable if he eulogises a liberal king. If the person praised is generous, it is meet for him to give a treasure of jewels for every couplet of the poetry.

VIII. Abràhim Abn Sulimàn Abn A'bdul Malik says: At the time when the Khalàfat passed from Bani-Umay-yah to Bani-al-A'bbàs and when Bani-al-A'bbàs captured and killed Bani-Umayyah, I was sitting out-side Kufah on the terrace of a house over-hanging the desert. I saw black standards coming out of Kufah, and as it struck my mind that that company was coming forth in my search, I descended from the terrace. In Kufah then I knew nobody in whose house I may conceal myself. Reaching the gateway of a big house, I beheld at that time a handsome individual standing there on horseback, and surrounded by a crowd of slaves and servants. I went before him and saluted him. Being asked who I was and what my necessity was, I replied: I am a fugi­tive, and being in dread of my foe, I have sought refuge in your house. He took me to his house and kept me in a room adjoining his harem, (as being the safest position). I stayed there for some days in a most comfortable way, being provided with everything which I most liked of food, drink and clothes. He did not ask me anything. Every day he used to go once on a ride and come back. One day I asked him: Everyday I see you mounting your horse and returning soon. On what errand do you go? He replied: Abràhim bin Sulimàn has killed my father, and hearing that he is in concealment, I go out daily with the hope that I may find him out, and retaliate upon him my father's blood. When I heard these words from him I was amazed at my adversity, which thrust me, by chance, into the house of a man, who was searching to kill me. I became hopelessly wearied of my life. On asking that man his and his father's name, I found that he was speaking the truth. I (then) said: O liberal man! You have many claims (hanging) upon my res­ponsibility, and it is (therefore) incumbent upon me to guide you to your enemy, and thus bring an end to this your practice of going and coming back (in his search). I am Abràhim bin Sulimàn: avenge your father's blood upon me! He did not believe me, but only observed that I was weary of my life and wanted to be delivered from that misery, whereupon I said: No, by God! and repeated that I had killed him. I then gave him some indications, from which he knew that I was speaking the truth. The colour of his face gleamed (red), his eyes became bloodshot, and for a time he hung his head down. He then said: It may soon be that you may join my father (in the other world). But though he demands your blood (to be shed) in retribution for his, yet I will not nullify the refuge that I have given to you. Get up and go out, because I cannot res­train (lit., be secure against) my passion. May it not be that I do you harm. He said this and gave me a present of a 100 dinàrs, which I took and came away.

O young man, learn liberality! Learn manliness from manly persons of the world. Preserve your heart against the revengeful spirit of revengers, and preserve your tongue against the taunt of evil-speakers. Do good to him who has done you evil, because by that evil, he makes a breach in his own good fortune. If you adopt the principle of beneficence, that will re-act on nobody but yourself.

IX. One night the Jàma' mosque of Egypt cought fire and was burnt. The Mahomedans suspected that the Christians had done it, and so in retaliation they put to fire the houses of the Christians, and burnt them. The Sultàn of Egypt got those persons captured, who had put those houses on fire, and assem­bled them in one place. He ordered notes to be (made and) written, as many in number (as there were prisoners), on some to be written ‘to kill,’ on others, ‘to cut off the hands,’ while on the rest, ‘to whip.’ These notes were (then) distribu­ted among them, and everyone, who picked a note, was dealt with according to the contents thereof. One person who got a note, the contents of which were ‘to kill,’ said: I am not afraid of being killed, but I have a mother who has no one (to depend on) but myself. By his side was another man, who had the note ‘to whip.’ He gave his own note to that man, himself taking his note, and said: I have no mother: kill me for him, and whip him instead of me. This was done.

With gold and silver you can practise liberality. Happy is the man who is liberal with his life! When he recognized that his friend needed his life, he sacrificed his own life to save that of his friend!

X. Asma'i says: I had friendship with a generous man, whose house I constantly visited with expectations of (receiving) obligations. Once when I went to his house, a keeper was seated there, who prevented me from going to him, and said: O Asma'i! The cause of my preventing you from going in is distress and poverty, which have come to him. I then wrote the following verses and gave them to the keeper to take them to him:

If a liberal man is behind the curtain (and thus inaccessible), where is the liberal man's superiority over the miser?

It was not long before the porter came out with a letter, on the back of which was written:

If a liberal man has little wealth, he conceals himself from his creditors behind the curtain.

And accompanying the letter was a bag containing 500 dinàrs. I said to myself: Never has a stranger circumstance happened to me; I shall (represent it and thus) make a present of it at the court of Màmun. When I went to Màmun, he asked me: O Asma'i! Whence do you come? I replied: From the most liberal of all Arab lords. He inquired who he was, to which I replied that he was a man, who had enriched me with his knowledge and wealth, and I put down on the ground before him that letter and that purse. When he saw the purse, his face grew red and he said: This is with the seal of my treasurer; I wish to call that man. I said: O Amir! I am ashamed lest fear should find way on his countenance, on account of your (sending) many officers (to fetch him). Màmun ordered one (only) of his courtiers to accompany Asma'i and to tell that man, when he saw him, that the Amir wanted him, without creating any disturbance in his mind. When that person arrived, Màmun said to him: Are you not that man, who came yesterday before us representing your poverty and hunger, and (on account of which) we gave you this purse (of money), so that you may spend it for your sustenance? And you have given that away to Asma'i for one couplet sent to you by him! He replied: By God, O Amir! When I represented my poverty and starvation I uttered no lie. But I did not wish that I should send back his courier excepting in the way in which, (i.e., without giving him that with which), the Amir sent me back. Màmun liked his words and ordered another sum of 1,000 dinàrs to be given to him. Asma'i said: O Amir! Join me also with him in this bounty, whereupon Màmun ordered it to be perfected by 1,000 dinàrs more, and enrolled that man in the circle of his courtiers.

When the hand of a liberal man remains empty of derums, it is meet if he shuts his door out of indigence. Moreover, the closing of entrance (to him) is the same as stopping the flow of derums. [Note. When a generous man shuts his door, it signifies that his bags are all empty.]

XI. They asked Hàtem whether he had seen any one more liberal than himself. He said: Yes. One day I alighted at the house of an orphan, who had ten sheep. Immediately he killed one, cooked it and brought it before me. One (particular) piece of meat thereof I liked more. I ate it and said: By God! This is very savoury. That boy went out, killed one sheep after another, cooked that particular joint and put it before me. And I was not aware of all this. But when I came out to ride away, I saw that a great quantity of blood was spilled outside the house, and on inquiring what it was, I was told that he had killed all his sheep. I reproached him for doing that, whereupon he said: God be praised! If you like a thing of which I am the owner, and if I practise parsimony therein, it would be a most abhorrent qualification among the Arabs. They then asked Hàtem what he gave that boy in return. He said: Three hundred red-haired camels and five hundred sheep. On this they observed whether he himself was not more liberal, to which he replied: Alas! He gave me all that he had, while I did not give him more than a little of what much I have.

When a beggar, who has only half a bread, gives it away all from his house, this is a greater act of charity than the giving away of half his treasure, by a king of the world.

XII. A poet came to the house of Ma'an Zàhed with the expectation of some benefit. He went there for some days, but could not get an audience. (One day) he entered his garden, and requested the gardener to inform him when Ma'an came to the garden and sat near the pond. When that time arrived, the gardener informed him accordingly. The poet composed the following verses, wrote them on a piece of wood and threw that into the water:

O the liberality of Ma'an is our crown in our needs! Ex­cepting Ma'an I have no intercessor (in my poverty).

When that board reached Ma'an, he ordered it to be taken out, and on reading that he called the poet, gave him ten bags of gold, and put that board under his carpet. The next day he pulled out the board from below his carpet, read it, then called the poet and gave him 100,000 derums more. On the third day also he acted in that precise way. The The poet was afraid lest he (Ma'an) may repent, and take back what was given to him, and so he fled away. When on the fourth day he again took out that piece of wood and sent for the poet, he was not to be found, whereupon Ma'an observed: It was incumbent upon the responsibility of my liberality to give him presents till not a derum remained in my trea­sury: but he had not the capacity to receive them, (i. e., his expectations could not reach, and his imagination could not conceive, the high pitch of my generosity).

Who is a liberal man? He who, when a mendicant brings to his door as great hopes as can be contained in his heart, opens the hand of bounty and bestows upon him so much, that it cannot be contained even in the mendicant's capacity of desire.

XIII. An Arab composed a Qasidah to welcome the arrival of a great man of the Arab princes. He recited it before him and ended it thus:

Stretch out that your hand to me, the palm whereof is habituated to the distribution of gold and wealth, and the back whereof is kissed by needy and beggarly people, (being the part turned towards them in the act of giving).

That nobleman extended his hand to him, and when the poet kissed it, the former said by way of joke that the hairs on his lips had scratched his hand. (Upon this) the poet observed: What harm can the hard bristles of a porcupine inflict on the claws of a formidable lion? The nobleman liked these words and observed that those words came pleasanter to him than that Qasidah. He ordered 1,000 derums to be given to him for the Qasidah, and 3,000 derums for those words.

If that person who, by means of his eulogy, exalts you above the sky, is not an intelligent person, he is the meanest of all. Do you know who is a man skilled in words? That one, who discerns bad from good, and good from better (expressions).

Notes on the Fourth Garden.

Tafail. He was a man, who went uninvited to festivals and pleasure-parties. The guests thinking that he was a friend of the host, and the host thinking that he was some friend of a guest, honoured him very much, till one day the true circums­tance was discovered. Hence the word has come to mean an uninvited guest.

It is said that when A'li was born, his face turned to­wards Mahomed the very moment it came out of his mother's womb. Hence the benediction of God upon his face.

Divàneh, literally, a mad man, was generally the name given to a certain class of Sufis, who really were doing excellent work in the world under the direct orders and superintendence of God, but who outwardly put on all the appearance and guise of madmen.