Idris Shah: Three Stories from the Wisdom of Idiots
By Idris Shah
Because what narrow thinkers imagine to be wisdom is often seen by the Sufis to be folly, the Sufis in contrast sometimes call themselves ‘The Idiots’. By a happy chance, too, the Arabic word for ‘Saint’ (wali) has the same numerical equivalent as the word for ‘Idiot’ (Balid) So we have a double motive for regarding the Sufi great ones as our own Idiots.
THE FRUIT OF HEAVEN
There was once a woman who had heard of the Fruit of Heaven. She coveted it.
She asked a certain dervish, whom we shall call Sabar:
‘How can I find this fruit, so that I may attain to immediate knowledge?’
‘You would best be advised to study with me’, said the dervish. ‘But if you will not do so, you will have to travel resolutely and at times restlessly throughout the world.’
She left him and sought another, Arif the Wise One, and then found Hakim, the Sage, then Majzup the Mad, then Alim the Scientist, and many more……
She passed thirty years in her search. Finally she came to a garden. There stood the Tree of Heaven, and from its branches hung the bright Fruit of Heaven.
Standing beside the Tree was Sabar, the First Dervish.
‘Why did you no tell me when we first met that you were the Custodian of the Fruit of Heaven?’ she asked him.
‘Because you would not then have believed me. Besides, the Tree produces fruit only once in thirty years and thirty days’.
THE SUFI AND THE TALE OF HALAKU
A Sufi teacher was visited by a number of people of various faiths who said to him:
‘Accept as your disciples, for we see that there is no remaining truth in our religions, and we are certain that what you are teaching is the one true path’.
The Sufi said:
‘Have you not heard of the Mongol Halaku Khan and his invasion of Syria? Let me tell you. The Vizier Ahmad of the Caliph Mustasim of Baghdad invited the Mongol to invade his master’s domains. When Halaku had won the battle for Baghdad, Ahmad went out to meet him, to be rewarded. Halaku said: “Do you seek your recompense?” and the Vizier answered, “Yes”.
‘Halaku told him:
‘ “You have betrayed your own master to me, and yet you expect me to believe that you will be faithful to me”. He ordered Ahmed to be hanged.
‘Before you ask anyone to accept you, ask yourself whether it is not simply because you have not followed the path of your own teacher. If you are satisfied about this, then come and ask to become disciples’.
Mir Abu Tahir attracted many students through his illuminating discourses and by circulating epistles which were favourably commented upon by all the major thinkers of the day.
When, however, people collected to hear him speak in person, they could only get him to repeat a single phrase:
‘The desire for the merit, not for the man’.
This admonition was given out several times a day for five years. Someone went to the sage Ibriqi and begged him to help with some sort of explanation of the strange conduct of Abu Tahir.
‘You complain because the Mir says something regularly. But you do not complain that the sun raises and sets every single day. Yet the two things are the same. Like the sun, the Mir is doing something valuable. If you make no use of it, he must still continue to ‘shine’ for the benefit of those who can profit, or of you, at a time when you can benefit’.