THIS is a noble quality and a praiseworthy disposition. The Refuge of Prophecy (on whom be blessings and peace!) has called it a branch of the tree of the Faith, saying, “A sense of Shame is a branch of the Faith.” And this Sense is one of the things essential to the good order of society: for if the Sense of Shame should fall away among us, and one man felt no embarrassment before another, the bonds of society would be broken, and the proprieties of human life would be torn asunder: but the quality of the Sense of Shame will not allow that each man shall do what he pleases.

The Sense of Shame overthrows the troops of the main body of forbidden actions:
It intercepts the road of the squadrons of unlawful pursuits.

It is manifest therefore that, to high and low, there is the greatest advantage in the Sense of Shame, and without the beams of the Sun of this feeling, the fruits of good morals would be unpleasant and unripe. If it were not for a Sense of Shame, the practice of chastity would fall off among us: and if there be a veil among us, it is by the operation of this principle. Shame for having committed an offence, is one among the different divisions of this feeling; that is, where the offender is ashamed of his act. Thus the illustrious Adam, the chosen (on whom be peace!) when he had eaten the wheat of Paradise; and the garments in which he was clothed had fallen from his body; went running to the right hand and the left, to hide himself behind each tree: a voice reached him, saying, “Adam! dost thou flee from us?” He said, “Nay, Lord! how should I flee from Thee? and whither can I flee? but I am ashamed of my own offence.”

For if they forgive the crime, contrition remains.

Another kind of this feeling is the delicacy of a generous temper: for a generous man is ashamed that a petitioner should turn back mortified from his dwelling. It is recorded in the Traditions, that the Almighty is possessed of this quality of the tenderness of generosity: When any one of his servants lifts up his hands in prayer to His presence, He is averse from sending back those hands empty of His bounty and mercy, but rather lays the sum of desire on the palm of his wishes.

It is impossible, if thou lay thy head at this gate,
That the hand of supplication shall return to thee empty.

And it is the utmost extent of generosity, that a man should not send away a petitioner from before him, ashamed and abashed. Thus it is related in history, that, in the reign of the Caliph Māmūn, there was an Arab of the desert who had grown up in a land of salt, and had never seen nor tasted any but brackish and bitter water.

The bird who has no knowledge of sweet water,
Dips his beak all the year in that which is salt.

A famine once fell out in his tribe, and under the necessity of seeking provisions, he set out from his favourite birth-place and from his usual abode: When he had passed the salt-district, his way fell upon a spot which was fit for cultivation; he saw a pond in which a quantity of rain-water was collected, and from which the blowing of the wind had removed the weeds and rubbish; and it appeared in his sight to be water of the utmost purity and sweetness. For the Arab had never at any time seen rain-water upon the face of the earth; he was astonished; he advanced and tasted a little of the water, and it seemed to his taste wonderfully fresh and palatable. He said to himself, “I have heard that the Almighty has water in Paradise, the taste of which never alters: in it are streams without cor­ruption: if I mistake not, God has taken pity on my poverty and fasting; and in reward, for my hunger and wretchedness, has sent this water from Paradise upon earth. Now the most prudent thing is to take a little of this water and carry it to the Caliph of the Age; and he, of a certainty, in return for this service, will show great bounty with respect to me: and I and all the people of my house, by the help of Caliph’s gifts, shall escape from the famine.” Then having filled the leathern bag that he carried with him, with the water, he asked the way to Bagdad, and turned his face to the seat of empire. There was yet some distance between the Arab and Bagdad, when the glitter of the retinue and the noise of the pomp of Māmūn reached him: the Arab perceived that it was the Caliph, and that he was going out to hunt; he instantly came into the middle of the road, and broke forth in the language of blessings and praise. Māmūn, turning his attention to him, said, “Arab! whence dost thou come?” He replied, “From such a desert, where the people are worn out with the sorrow of famine, and the misery of want.” The prince said, “And whither art thou going?” The Arab answered, “I am on my way to thy court, nor am I empty handed: but on the contrary have got such a present, and have brought such an offering, that the hand of no man’s wishes, in this world, has reached the skirt of its enjoyment; nor has the eye of the desire of any created being beheld the splendour of its beauty.” The Caliph was astonished, and said, “Bring it; what hast thou got, O Arab?” He produced the leather bag, and said, “This is the water of Paradise. This is the water of Paradise, which no man, in this world, has seen or tasted.

Call it not water; it is the sweet juice of the branches of plants:
And in flavour it is the sister of the water of Life.”

Māmūn ordered the groom to fetch him instantly a cup of the water; which he perceived to be altered in colour, and disgusting in smell: the grease of the Arab’s leather-bag had affected it, and the colour and smell of it had undergone a strange alteration. The Caliph tasted a little of it; and with great penetration perceived what was the state of the case: but the shame of Generosity did not permit him to lift up the veil from the face of the Arab’s undertaking. He said to him, “O Arab, thou hast spoken truly; it is wonderfully delightful water, and an extremely delicious beverage: this should not be given to every one.” Then he commanded the groom to pour the cup of water into his private ewer, and to fling the bag into a corner; and gave injunctions, beyond all bounds, for preserving the water: after which he turned to the Arab, and said, “Thou, honour of Arabia! hast brought a splendid present, and an acceptable offering: what is thy desire? what object hast thou?” He answered, “O Caliph of the Believers! my people are on the point of ruin from fasting and want of support: I place my hopes on the mercy of God and thy generosity.” The Caliph ordered them to bring a thousand dīnars, and said, “Take this money; go back from this very spot; and turn thy face to thy birth-place.” The Arab, having taken the money, instantly went back. One of the chief nobles asked the reason why he had not allowed any one else to taste of the water, and why he had sent the Arab back from that very place. The Caliph said, “The water was disagreeable in taste and bad in smell; but in comparison with the water on which the Arab has been brought up, it seemed to him the water of Paradise. It was probable that, if one of you had drunk a little of the water, and not being in the secret, he would have reproached the Arab for it, and have upbraided him; and the poor fellow would have been mortified. And if I had not sent him back, he would perhaps have gone on and seen the water of the Tigris, and tasted of that pleasant and sweet stream; and he would have been struck with Shame at what he had done and what he had brought. We felt abashed that any one should approach us, and upon any pretence, shew any expectation of our generosity, and then turn back with the dust of mortification on the page of his fortune.”

The liberal man feels ashamed
That the beggar should return, abashed, from his court.

A sense of decorum is another part of this feeling; as where, although an action is such; that according to law and reason, the performance of it is not forbidden; a sense of decorum prevents the man from doing it. Thus Nau­shīrvān would never converse with his wives and slaves in a house where there were any Narcissus-flowers; and used to say that the eye of the Narcissus resembled eyes which have sight. But in truth this behaviour, as coming from Naushīrvān, is not a sense of Decorum; for that is a sense of Decorum which grows out of the Faith; and he was a fire-worshipper: indeed, it was nothing but a form of decorum which he used to observe; but when princes of the true Faith observe such forms it is a sense of Decorum.

“If a heart is filled with this quality of a Sense of Decorum,
It becomes the mirror of the light of the Lord.
The eye that is without Modesty, is not agreeable:
In the sight of wisdom it is, in fact, no eye.”