The Gulistan of Sa'di, by Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa'di Shirazi

Chapter viii

On Rules for Conduct in Life

Maxim 1

Property is for the comfort of life, not for the accumulation of wealth. A sage, having been asked who is lucky and who is not, replied: ‘He is lucky who has eaten and sowed but he is unlucky who has died and not enjoyed.’

Pray not for the nobody who has done nothing,

Who spent his life in accumulating property but

has not enjoyed it.

Moses, upon whom be peace, thus advised Quran: ‘Do thou good as Allah has done unto thee.’ But he would not listen and thou hast heard of his end:

Who has not accumulated good with dirhems and dinars

Has staked his end upon his dirhems and dinars.

If thou desirest to profit by riches of the world

Be liberal to mankind as God has been liberal to thee.

The Arab says: Be liberal without imposing obligations and verily the profit will return to thee.

Wherever the tree of beneficence has taken root

Its tallness and branches pass beyond the sky.

If thou art desirous to eat the fruit thereof

Do not put a saw to its foot by imposing obligations.

Thank God that thou hast been divinely aided

And not excluded from his gifts and bounty.

Think not thou conferrest an obligation on the sultan by serving him

But be obliged to him for having kept thee in his service.

Maxim 2

Two men took useless trouble and strove without any profit, when one of them accumulated property without enjoying it, and the other learnt without practising what he had learnt.

However much science thou mayest acquire

Thou art ignorant when there is no practice in thee.

Neither deeply learned nor a scholar will be

A quadruped loaded with some books.

What information or knowledge does the silly beast posses

Whether it is carrying a load of wood or of books?

Maxim 3

Knowledge is for the cherishing of religion, not for amassing wealth.

Who sold abstinence, knowledge and piety

Filled a granary but burnt it clean away.

Maxim 4

A learned man who is not abstinent resembles a torchbearer who guides others but does not guide himself.

Who has spent a profitless life

Bought nothing and threw away his gold.

Maxim 5

The country is adorned by intelligent and the religion by virtuous men. Padshahs stand more in need of the advice of intelligent men than intelligent men of the proximity of padshahs.

If thou wilt listen to advice, padshah,

There is none better in all books than this:

‘Entrust a business to an intelligent man

Although it may not be his occupation.’

Maxim 6

Three things cannot subsist without three things: property without trade, science without controversy and a country without punishment.

Speak sometimes in a friendly, conciliatory, manly way

Perhaps thou wilt ensnare a heart with the lasso.

Sometimes speak in anger; for a hundred jars of sugar

Will on occasion not have the effect of one dose of colocynth.

Maxim 7

To have mercy upon the bad is to injure the good; to pardon tyrants is to do violence to dervishes.

If thou associatest and art friendly with a wretch

He will commit sin with thy wealth and make thee his partner.

Admonition 1

The amity of princes and the sweet voice of children are not to be trusted, because the former is changed by fancy and the latter in the course of one night.

Give not thy heart to a sweetheart of a thousand lovers,

And if thou givest it, thou givest that heart for separation.

Admonition 2

Confide not to a friend every secret thou possessest. How knowest thou that he will not some time become thy foe? Inflict not every injury thou canst upon an enemy because it is possible that one day he may become thy friend.

Admonition 3

Reveal not thy secret to any man although he may be trustworthy, because no one can keep thy secret better than thyself.

Silence is preferable than to tell thy mind

To anyone; saying what is to remain unsaid.

O simpleton, stop the source of the spring.

When it becomes full, the brook cannot be stopped.

Maxim 8

A weak foe, who professes submission and shows friendship, has no other object than to become a strong enemy. It has been said that as the friendship of friends is unreliable, what trust can be put in the flattery of enemies?

Admonition 4

Who despises an insignificant enemy resembles him who is careless about fire.

Extinguish it today, while it may be quenched,

Because when fire is high, it burns the world.

Allow not the bow to be spanned

By a foe because an arrow may pierce.

Admonition 5

Speak so between two enemies that thou mayest not be put to shame if they become friends.

Between two men contention is like fire,

The ill-starred back-biter being the wood-carrier.

When both of them become friends again

He will among them be unhappy and ashamed.

To kindle fire between two men

Is not wise but is to burn oneself therein.

Converse in whispers with thy friends

Lest thy sanguinary foe may hear thee.

Take care of what thou sayest in front of a wall

Because an ear may be behind the wall.

Admonition 6

Whoever makes peace with the enemies of his friends greatly injures his friends.

Wash thy hands, O wise man, from a friend

Who is sitting together with thy foes.

Admonition 7

When thou art uncertain in transacting an affair, select that portion of it which will entail no danger to thee.

Speak not harshly to a man of gentle speech.

Seek not to fight with him who knocks at the door of peace.

Admonition 8

As long as an affair can be arranged with gold, it is not proper to endanger life.

When the hand is foiled in every stratagem

It is licit to put the hand to the sword.

Admonition 9

Do not pity the weakness of a foe because when he gains strength he will not spare thee.

Boast not of thy moustaches when thou seest thy foe is weak.

There is marrow in every bone, a man in every coat.

Maxim 9

Whoever slays a bad fellow saves mankind from a calamity and him from the wrath of God.

Condonation is laudable but nevertheless

Apply no salve to the wound of an oppressor of the people.

He who had mercy upon a serpent

Knew not that it was an injury to the sons of Adam.

Maxim 10

It is a mistake to accept advice from an enemy but permissible to hear it; and to act contrary to it is perfectly correct.

Be cautious of what a foe tells thee to do

Lest thou strike thy knee with the hand of pain.

If he points thy way to the right like an arrow

Deflect therefrom and take that to the left hand.

Admonition 10

Wrath beyond measure produces estrangement and untimely kindness destroys authority. Be neither so harsh as to disgust the people with thee nor so mild as to embolden them.

Severity and mildness together are best

Like a bleeder who is a surgeon and also applies a salve.

A wise man uses neither severity to excess

Nor mildness; for it lessens his authority.

He neither exalts himself too much

Nor exposes himself at once to contempt.

A youth said to his father: ‘O wise man,

Give me for instruction one advice like an aged person.’

He said: ‘Be kind but not to such a degree

That a sharp-toothed wolf may become audacious.’

Maxim 11

May that prince never govern a kingdom

Who is not an obedient slave to God.

Admonition 11

It is incumbent upon a padshah to give way to anger towards his slaves only so far as to retain the confidence of his friends. The fire of anger first burns him who has given cause for it and afterwards the flame may or may not reach the foe.

It is not proper for sons of Adam born of earth

To inflate their heads with pride, violence and wind.

Thou who displayest so much heat and obstinacy

Must be, I think, not of earth but of fire.

I visited a hermit in the country of Bilqan

And requested him to purge me of ignorance by instruction.

He replied: ‘Be patient like earth, O lawyer,

Or else, bury under the earth all thy learning.’

Maxim 12

An ill-humoured man is captive in the hands of a foe, from the grasp of whose punishment he cannot be delivered wherever he may go.

If from the hand of calamity an ill-natured man escapes into the sky

The evil disposition of his own nature retains him in calamity.

Admonition 12

When thou perceivest that discord is in the army of the foe, be thou at ease; but if they are united, be apprehensive of thy own distress.

Go and sit in repose with thy friends

When thou seest war among the enemies;

But if thou perceivest that they all agree

Span thy bow and carry stones upon the rampart.

Maxim 13

When all the artifices of an enemy have failed he shakes the chain of friendship, and thereon performs acts of friendship which no enemy is able to do.

Admonition 13

Strike the head of a serpent with the hand of a foe because one of two advantages will result. If the enemy succeeds thou hast killed the snake and if the latter, thou hast been delivered from a foe.

Advice

If thou art aware of news which will grieve a heart, remain silent that others may convey it.

Nightingale, bring tidings of spring.

Leave bad news to the owl.

Caution

Give not information to a padshah of the treachery of anyone, unless thou art sure he will accept it; else thou wilt only be preparing thy own destruction.

Prepare to speak only when

Thy words are likely to have effect.

Speech is a perfection in the soul of man

But do not ruin thyself by speaking.

Maxim 14

Whoever gives advice to a self-willed man stands himself in need of advice.

Admonition 14

Swallow not the deception of a foe. Purchase not conceit from a panegyrist. The one has laid out a snare for provisions and the other has opened the jaws of covetousness.

Maxim 15

A fool is pleased by flattery like the inflated heel of a corpse that has the appearance of fatness.

Take care not to listen to the voice of a flatterer

Who expects cheaply to derive profit from thee.

If one day thou failest to satisfy his wishes

He enumerates two hundred faults of thine.

Maxim 16

Unless an orator’s defects are mentioned by someone, his good points will not be praised.

Be not proud of the beauty of thy speech,

Of the approbation of an ignoramus and of thy own opinion.

Maxim 17

Everyone thinks himself perfect in intellect and his child in beauty.

A Jew was debating with a Musalman

Till I shook with laughter at their dispute.

The Moslem said in anger: ‘If this deed of mine

Is not correct, may God cause me to die a Jew.’

The Jew said: ‘I swear by the Pentateuch

That if my oath is false, I shall die a Moslem like thee.’

Should from the surface of the earth wisdom disappear

Still no one will acknowledge his own ignorance.

Maxim 18

Ten men eat at a table but two dogs will contend for one piece of carrion. A greedy person will stir be hungry with the whole world, whilst a contented man will be satisfied with one bread. Wise men have said that poverty with content is better than wealth and not abundance.

Narrow intestines may be filled with dry bread

But the wealth of the surface of the world will not fill a greedy eye.

When the term of my father’s life had come to an end

He gave me this one advice and passed away:

Lust is fire, abstain therefrom,

Make not the fire of hell sharp for thee.

In that fire the burning thou wilt not be able to bear,

Quench this fire with water today.

Admonition 15

Whoever does no good in the time of ability will see distress in the time of inability.

No one is more unlucky than an oppressor of men

Because in the day of calamity no one is his friend.

Maxim 19

Life is in the keeping of a single breath and the world is an existence between two annihilations. Those who sell the religion for the world ‘are asses’, they sell Joseph but what do ‘they buy’? Did I not command you, O sons of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan?

On the word of a foe thou hast broken faith with a friend.

See from whom thou hast cut thyself off and to whom united.

Maxim 20

Satan cannot conquer the righteous and the sultan the poor.

Lend nothing to a prayerless man

Although his mouth may gasp from penury;

Because he who neglects the commands of God

Will also not care for what he may be indebted to thee.

Maxim 21

Whatever takes place quickly is not permanent.

I have heard that eastern loam is made

In forty days into a porcelain cup.

A hundred are daily made in Baghdad.

Hence thou seest also their price is vile.

A little fowl issues from the egg and seeks food

Whilst man’s progeny has no knowledge, sense or discernment.

Nevertheless the former attains nothing when grown up

Whilst the latter surpasses all beings in dignity and excellence.

Glass is everywhere, and therefore of no account,

But a ruby difficult to get, and therefore precious.

Maxim 22

Affairs succeed by patience and a hasty man fails.

I saw with my eyes in the desert

That a slow man overtook a fast one.

A galloping horse, fleet like the wind, fell back

Whilst the camel-man continued slowly his progress.

Maxim 23

Nothing is better for an ignorant man than silence, and if he were to consider it to be suitable, he would not be ignorant.

If thou possessest not the perfection of excellence

It is best to keep thy tongue within thy mouth.

Disgrace is brought on a man by his tongue.

A walnut, having no kernel, will be light.

A fool was trying to teach a donkey,

Spending all his time and efforts in the task.

A sage observed: ‘O ignorant man, what sayest thou?

Fear blame from the censorious in this vain attempt.

A brute cannot learn speech from thee.

Learn thou silence from a brute.’

Who does not reflect what he is to answer

Will mostly speak improperly.

Come. Either arrange thy words like a wise man

Or remain sitting silent like a brute.

Admonition 16

Whenever a man disputes with one who is more learned than himself to make people know of his learning, they will know that he is ignorant.

If one better than thyself begins to speak,

Although thou mayest know better, contradict him not.

Maxim 24

Whoever associates with bad people will see no good.

If an angel associates with a demon

He will learn from him fear, fraud and hypocrisy.

Of the wicked thou canst learn only wickedness.

A wolf will not take to sewing jackets.

Admonition 17

Reveal not the secret faults of men because thou wilt put them to shame and wilt forfeit thy own confidence.

Maxim 25

Who acquires science and does not practise it, resembles him who possesses an ox but does not use him to plough or to sow seed.

Maxim 26

From a body without a heart obedience does not arise and a husk without a kernel is no stock in trade.

Not everyone who is brisk in dispute is correct in business.

Many a stature concealed by a sheet

If revealed appears to be the mother of one’s mother.

Maxim 27

If every night were to be the night of Qadr, the night of Qadr would be without Qadr.

If all stones were rubies of Badakhshan,

The price of rubies and of stones would be the same.

Maxim 28

Not everyone who is handsome in form possesses a good character; the qualities are inside not upon the skin.

It is possible in one day to know from a man’s qualities

What degree of science he has reached.

Be however not sure of his mind nor deceived.

A wicked spirit is not detected sometimes for years.

Caution 2

Who quarrels with great men sheds his own blood.

One who thinks that he is great

Is truly said to be squinting.

Thou wilt soon see thy forehead broken

If thou buttest it in play against a ram.

Maxim 29

To strike one’s fist on a lion, and to grasp the sharp edge of a sword with the hand, is not the part of an intelligent man.

Do not fight or try thy strength with a furious man.

Hide thy hands in thy arm-pits to avoid his finger-nails.

Caution 3

A weak man trying to show his prowess off against a strong one only aids his foe to encompass his own destruction.

What strength has one brought up in the shade

To go against champions in a fight?

A man with weak arms in his folly throws

His fist upon a man with iron claws.

Maxim 30

Whoever does not listen to advice will have occasion to hear reproof.

If admonition enters not thy ear

Be silent when I blame thee.

Elegant saying 1

Men void of accomplishments cannot behold those who possess some, without barking like the curs of the bazar on seeing a hunting dog, but dare not come forward; that is to say, when a base fellow is unable to vie with an accomplished man he sets about slandering him according to his own wickedness.

The envious mean fellow will certainly slander,

Whose tongue of speech is dumb when face to face.

Maxim 31

If there were no craving of the stomach, no bird would enter the snare of the fowler; nay, he would not even set the snare.

Maxim 32

Sages eat slow, devotees half satisfy their appetite, recluses only eat to preserve life, youths until the dishes are removed, old men till they begin to perspire, but qalandars till no room remains in the bowels for drawing breath and no food on the table for anybody.

A slave to constipation spends two sleepless nights,

One night from repletion and another from distress.

Maxim 33

To consult women brings on ruin and to be liberal to rebellious men crime.

To have mercy on sharp-toothed tigers

Is to be tyrannical towards sheep.

Admonition 18

Who has power over his foe and does not slay him is his own enemy.

With a stone in the hand and a snake on a stone

It is folly to consider and to delay.

Others, however, enounce a contrary opinion and say that it is preferable to respite captives because the option of killing or not killing remains; but if they be slain without delay, it is possible that some advantage may be lost, the like of which cannot be again obtained.

It is quite easy to deprive a man of life.

When he is slain he cannot be resuscitaied again.

It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient

Because when the arrow leaves the bow it returns no more.

Maxim 34

When a sage comes in contact with fools, he must not expect to be honoured, and if an ignorant man overcomes a sage in an oratorical contest, it is no wonder, because even a stone breaks a jewel.

What wonder is there that the song

Of a nightingale ceases when imprisoned with a crow

Or that a virtuous man under the tyranny of vagabonds

Feels affliction in his heart and is irate.

Although a base stone may break a golden vase,

The price of the stone is not enhanced nor of the gold lost.

Maxim 35

Be not astonished when a wise man ceases to speak in company of vile persons, since the melody of a harp cannot overcome the noise of a drum and the perfume of ambergris must succumb to the stench of rotten garlic.

A blatant ignoramus proudly lifted his neck

Because he had overcome a scholar by his impudence.

Knowest thou not that the Hejazi musical tune

Succumbs to the roar of the drum of war?

Maxim 36

Even after falling into mud a jewel retains its costliness, and dust, although it may rise into the sky, is as contemptible as before. Capacity without education is deplorable and education without capacity is thrown away. Ashes are of high origin because the nature of fire is superior, but as they have no value of their own, they are similar to earth and the price of sugar arises not from. the cane but from its own quality.

The land of Canaan having no natural excellence,

The birth of a prophet therein could not enhance its worth.

Display thy virtue if thou hast any, not thy origin.

The rose is the offspring of thorns and Abraham of Azer.

Maxim 37

Musk is known by its perfume and not by what the druggist says. A scholar is silent like the perfumer’s casket but displays accomplishments, whilst an ignoramus is loud-voiced and intrinsically empty like a war-drum.

A learned man among blockheads

(So says the parable of our friends)

Is like a sweetheart among the blind

Or a Quran among unbelievers.

Maxim 38

A friend whom people have been cherishing during a lifetime they must not suddenly insult.

It takes a stone many a year to become a ruby.

Beware not to break it in a moment with a stone.

Maxim 39

Intellect may become captive to lust like a weak man in the hands of an artful woman.

Bid farewell to pleasure in a house

Where the shouting of a woman is loud.

Maxim 40

A design without strength to execute it is fraud and deception and application of strength without a design is ignorance and lunacy.

Discernment is necessary. Arrangement and intellect, then a realm;

For realm and wealth with an ignorant man are weapons against himself.

Maxim 41

A liberal man who eats and bestows is better than a devote who fasts and hoards.

Maxim 42

Who has renounced appetites for the sake of approbation by men has fallen from licit into illicit appetites.

A devotee who sits in a corner not for God’s sake

Is helpless. What can he see in a dark mirror?

Little by little becomes much and drop by drop will be a torrent; that is to say, he who has no power gathers small stones that he may at the proper opportunity annihilate the pride of his foe.

Drop upon drop collected will make a river.

Rivers upon rivers collected will make a sea.

Little and little together will become much.

The granary is but grain upon grain.

Maxim 43

A scholar is not meekly to overlook the folly of a common person because thus both parties are injured; the dignity of the former being lessened, and the ignorance of the latter confirmed.

Speak gracefully and kindly to a low fellow,

His pride and obstinacy will augment.

Maxim 44

Transgression by whomsoever committed is blamable but more so in learned men, because learning is a weapon for combating Satan and, when the possessor of a weapon is made prisoner, his shame will be greater.

It is better to be an ignorant poor fellow

Then a learned man who is not abstemious;

Because the former loses the way by his blindness

While the latter falls into a well with both eyes open.

Maxim 45

Whose bread is not eaten by others while he is alive, he will not be remembered when he is dead. A widow knows the delight of grapes and not the lord of fruits. Joseph the just, salutation to him, never ate to satiety in the Egyptian dearth for fear he might forget the hungry people.

How can he who lives in comfort and abundance

Know what the state of the famished is?

He is aware of the condition of the poor

Who has himself fallen into a state of distress.

O thou who art riding a fleet horse, consider

That the poor thorn-carrying ass is in water and mud.

Ask not for fire from thy poor neighbour’s house

Because what passes out of his window is the smoke of his heart.

Admonition 19

Ask not a dervish in poor circumstances, and in the distress of a year of famine, how he feels, unless thou art ready to apply a salve to his wound or to provide him with a maintenance.

When thou seest an ass, fallen in mud with his load,

Have mercy in thy heart and step not on his head.

But when thou hast gone and asked him how he fell,

Gird thy loins and take hold of his tail like a man.

Maxim 46

Two things are contrary to reason: to enjoy more than is decreed and to die before the time appointed.

Fate will not change by a thousand laments and sighs,

By thanks or complaints, issuing from the mouth.

The angel appointed over the treasures of wind

Cares not if the lamp of a widow dies.

Admonition 20

O thou asker of food, sit for thou wilt eat; and 0 thou asked by death, run not for thou wilt not save thy life.

Whether thou strivest for a maintenance or not

God the most high and glorious will send it to thee;

And if thou rushest into the jaw of a lion or tiger

They will not devour thee unless on the day decreed.

Maxim 47

What is not placed cannot be reached by the hand and whatever is placed will be reached wherever it is.

Hast thou heard that Alexander went into the darkness

And after all his efforts could not taste the water of

immortality?

Maxim 48

A rich profligate is a lump of earth gilded and a pious dervish is a sweetheart besmeared with earth. The latter is the patched garment of Moses and the former is the bejewelled beard of Pharaoh. Nevertheless good men retain a cheerful countenance in adversity whilst the rich droop their heads even in prosperity.

Who possesses wealth and dignity but therewith

Succours not those whose minds are distressed,

Inform him that no kind of wealth and dignity

He will enjoy in the mansion of the next world.

Maxim 49

An envious man is avaricious with the wealth of God and hates the guiltless as foes.

I saw a crackbrained little man,

Reviling a possessor of dignity,

Who replied: ‘O fellow, if thou art unlucky,

What guilt is there in lucky men?’

Forbear to wish evil to an envious man

Because the ill-starred fellow is an evil to himself.

What needest thou to show enmity to him

Who has such a foe on the nape of his neck?

Maxim 50

A disciple without intention is a lover without money; a traveller without knowledge is a bird without wings; a scholar without practice is a tree without fruit, and a devotee without science is a house without a door. The Quran was revealed for the acquisition of a good character, not for chanting written chapters. A pious unlettered man is like one who travels on foot, whilst a negligent scholar is like a sleeping rider. A sinner who lifts his hands in supplication is better than a devotee who keeps them proudly on his head.

A good humoured and pleasant military officer

Is superior to a theologian who injures men.

One being asked what a learned man without practice resembled, replied: ‘A bee without honey.’

Say to the rude and unkind bee,

‘At least forbear to sting, if thou givest no honey.’

Maxim 51

A man without virility is a woman and an avaricious devote is a highway robber.

O thou, who hast put on a white robe for a show,

To be approved of men, whilst the book of thy acts is black.

The hand is to be restrained from the world,

No matter whether the sleeve be short or long.

Maxim 52

Regret will not leave the hearts of two persons and their feet of contention will not emerge from the mire: a merchant with a wrecked ship and a youth sitting with qalandars.

Dervishes will consider it licit to shed thy blood

If they can have no access to thy property.

Either associate not with a friend who dons the blue garb,

Or bid farewell to all thy property.

Either make no friends with elephant-keepers

Or build a house suitable for elephants.

Maxim 53

Although a sultan’s garment of honour is dear yet one’s own old robe is more dear; and though the food of a great man may be delicious, the broken crumbs of one’s own sack are more delicious.

Vinegar by one’s own labour and vegetables

Are better than bread received as alms, and veal.

Maxim 54

It is contrary to what is proper, and against the opinion of to partake of medicine by guess and to go after a caravan without seeing the road. The Imam Murshid Muhammad Ghazali, upon whom be the mercy of Allah, having been asked in what manner he had attained such a degree of knowledge, replied: ‘By not being ashamed to ask about things I did not know.’

The hope of recovery is according to reason,

That he should feel thy pulse who knows thy nature.

Ask what thou knowest not; for the trouble of asking

Will indicate to thee the way to the dignity of knowledge.

Admonition 21

Whatever thou perceivest will become known to thee in due course of time. Make no haste in asking for it, else the awe of thy dignity will be lessened.

When Loqman saw that in the hands of David

All iron became by miracle soft like wax,

He asked not: ‘What art thou doing?’ Because

He knew he would learn it without asking.

Maxim 55

One of the requirements for society is to attend to the affairs of thy household and also at the house of God.

Tell thy tale according to thy hearer’s temper,

If thou knowest him to be biased to thee.

Every wise man who sits with Mejnun

Speaks of nothing but the story of Laila’s love.

Maxim 56

Anyone associating with bad people, although their nature may not infect his own, is supposed to follow their ways to such a degree that if he goes to a tavern to say his prayers, he will be supposed to do so for drinking wine.

Thou hast branded thyself with the mark of ignorance,

When thou hast selected an ignoramus for thy companion.

I asked some scholars for a piece of advice.

They said: ‘Connect thyself not with an ignorant man,

For if thou be learned, thou wilt be an ass in course of time

And if unlearned thou wilt become a greater fool.’

Maxim 57

The meekness of the camel is known to be such that if a child takes hold of its bridle and goes a hundred farsakhs, it will not refuse to follow, but if a dangerous portion occurs which may occasion death and the child ignorantly desires to approach it, the camel tears the bridle from his hand, refusing any longer to obey because compliance in times of calamity is blamable. It is also said that by complaisance an enemy will not become a friend but that his greed will only be augmented.

To him who is kind to thee, be dust at his feet

But if he opposes thee fill his two eyes with dust.

Speak not kindly or gently to an ill-humoured fellow

Because a soft file cannot clean off inveterate rust.

Maxim 58

Who interrupts the conversation of others that they may know his excellence, they will become acquainted only with the degree of his folly.

An intelligent man will not give a reply

Unless he be asked a question.

Because though his words may be based on truth,

His claim to veracity may be deemed impossible.

Maxim 59

I had a wound under my robe and a sheikh asked me daily how, but not where it is, and I learned that he refrained because it is not admissible to mention every member; and wise men have also said that whoever does not ponder his question will be grieved by the answer.

Until thou knowest thy words to be perfectly suitable

Thou must not open thy mouth in speech.

If thou speakest truth and remainest in captivity,

It is better than that thy mendacity deliver thee therefrom.

Maxim 60

Mendacity resembles a violent blow, the scar of which remains, though the wound may be healed. Seest thou not how the brothers of Joseph became noted for falsehood, and no trust in their veracity remained, as Allah the most high has said: Nay but ye yourselves have contrived the thing for your own sake.

One habitually speaking the truth

Is pardoned when he once makes a slip

But if he becomes noted for lying,

People do not believe him even when speaking truth.

Maxim 61

The noblest of beings is evidently man, and the meanest a dog, but intelligent persons agree that a grateful dog is better than an ungrateful man.

A dog never forgets a morsel received

Though thou throwest a stone at him a hundred times.

But if thou cherishest a base fellow a lifetime,

He will for a trifle suddenly fight with thee.

Maxim 62

Who panders to his passions will not cultivate accomplishments and who possesses none is not suitable for a high position.

Have no mercy on a voracious ox

Who sleeps a great deal and eats much.

If thou wantest to have fatness like an ox,

Yield thy body to the tyranny of people like an ass.

Maxim 63

It is written in the Evangel: ‘O son of Adam, if I give thee riches, thou wilt turn away from me with mundane cares, and if I make thee poor thou wilt sit down with a sad heart; then where wilt thou enjoy the sweetness of adoring me, and when wilt thou hasten to serve me?’

Sometimes thou art made haughty, and careless by wealth,

Sometimes art in distress from exhaustion and penury.

If thy state be such in joy and in distress,

I know not when thou wilt turn to God from thyself.

Maxim 64

The will of the Inscrutable brings down one from the royal throne, and protects the other in the belly of a fish.

Happy is the time of the man

Who spends it in adoring thee.

Maxim 65

When God draws the sword of wrath, prophets and saints draw in their heads, but if he casts a look of grace, he converts wicked into virtuous men.

If at the resurrection he addresses us in anger

What chance of pardon will even prophets have?

Say: ‘Remove the veil from the face of mercy

Because sinners entertain hopes of pardon.’

Maxim 66

Whoever does not betake himself to the path of rectitude in consequence of the castigations of this world will fall under eternal punishment in the next. Allah the most high has said: And we will cause them to taste the nearer punishment of this world besides the more grievous punishment of the next.

Admonition is the address of superiors and then fetters.

If they give advice and thou listenest not, they put thee in

fetters.

Maxim 67

Fortunate men are admonished by the adventures and similes of those who have preceded them, before those who follow them can use the event as a proverb, like thieves who shorten their hands, lest their hands be cut off.

The bird does not go to the grain displayed

When it beholds another fowl in the trap.

Take advice by the misfortunes of others

That others may not take advice from thee.

Maxim 68

How can he hear whose organ of audition has been created dull, and how can he avoid progressing upon whom the noose of happiness has been flung?

To the friends of God a dark night

Shines like the brilliant day.

This felicity is not by strength of arm

Unless God the giver bestows it.

To whom shall I complain of thee? There is no other judge

And there is no other hand superior to thine.

Whom thou guidest — no one can lead astray.

Whom thou castest off no one can guide.

Maxim 69

The earth receives showers from heaven and gives to it only dust. Every vessel exudes what it contains.

If my humour appears to thee unbecoming

Lose not thy own good humour.

Maxim 70

A mendicant with a good end is better than a padshah with a bad end.

The grief thou sufferest before the joy

Is better than the grief endured after joy.

Maxim 71

The Most High sees a fault and conceals it, and a neighbour sees it not, but shouts.

Let us take refuge with Allah.

If people knew our faults

No one could have rest from interference by others.

Maxim 72

Gold is obtained from a mine by digging it, but from a miser by digging the soul.

Vile men spend not, but preserve.

They say hope of spending is better than spending.

One day thou seest the wish of the foe fulfilled

The gold remaining and the vile man dead.

Maxim 73

Who has no mercy upon inferiors will suffer from the tyranny of superiors.

Not every arm which contains strength

Breaks the hand of the weak for showing bravery.

Injure not the heart of the helpless

For thou wilt succumb to the force of a strong man.

Maxim 74

When a wise man encounters obstacles, he leaps away and casts anchor at the proper opportunity, for thus he will be in the former instance safe on shore, and in the latter he will enjoy himself.

Maxim 75

The gambler requires three sixes and only three aces turn up.

The pasture is a thousand times more pleasant than the racecourse

But the steed has not the bridle at its option.

Story 1

A dervish prayed thus: ‘O Lord, have mercy upon the wicked, because thou hast already had mercy upon good men by creating them to be good.’

Maxim 76

The first sovereign who laid stress on costume and wore rings on his left hand was Jamshid; and being asked why he had adorned his left whereas excellence resides in the right hand, he replied: ‘The right hand is fully ornamented by its own rectitude.’

Feridun ordered Chinese embroiderers

To write around the borders of his tent:

‘Keep the wicked well, O intelligent man,

Because the good are in themselves great and fortunate.’

Story 2

A great man having been asked why he wore his seal-ring on his left hand, whereas the right possesses so much excellence, replied: ‘Knowest thou not that the meritorious are always neglected?’

He who has created joy and distress

Apportions either excellence or luck.

Maxim 77

He may freely warn who neither fears to lose his life nor hopes for gold.

Pour either gold at the feet of a monotheist

Or place an Indian sabre to his head.

He entertains no hope nor fear from anyone

And this is a sufficient basis of monotheism.

Maxim 78

The padshah is to remove oppressors; the police, murderers; and the qazi to hear complaints about thieves; but two enemies willing to agree to what is right will not apply to him.

When thou seest that it must be given what is right

Pay it rather with grace than fighting and distressed.

If a man pays not his tax of his own accord

The officer’s man will take it by force.

Maxim 79

The teeth of all men are blunted by sourness, but those of the qazi by sweetness.

The qazi whom thou bribest with five cucumbers

Will prove that ten melon-fields are due to thee.

Maxim 80

What can an old prostitute do but vow to become chaste, and an policeman not to commit oppression upon men?

A youth who sits in a corner is a hero in the path of God

Because an old man is unable to rise from his corner.

A youth must be strong minded to abstain from lust,

Because even the sexual tool of an old man, of sluggish desire,

rises not.

Maxim 81

A sage was asked: ‘Of so many notable, high and fertile trees which God the most high has created, not one is called free, except the cypress, which bears no fruit. What is the reason of this?’ He replied: ‘Every tree has its appropriate season of fruit, so that it is sometimes flourishing therewith, and looks sometimes withered by its absence; with the cypress, however, neither is the case, it being fresh at all times, and this is the quality of those who are free.’

Place not thy heart on what passes away; for the Tigris

Will flow after the Khalifs have passed away in Baghdad.

If thou art able, be liberal like the date tree,

And if thy hand cannot afford it, be liberal like the cypress.

Maxim 82

Two men died, bearing away their grief. One had possessed wealth and not enjoyed it, the other knowledge and not practised it.

No one sees an excellent but avaricious man

Without publishing his defect

But if a liberal man has a hundred faults

His generosity covers his imperfections.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29