STORY XVI. 'Ali's Forbearance.
'Ali, the "Lion of God," was once engaged in conflict with a Magian
chief, and in the midst of the struggle the Magian spat in his face. 'Ali,
instead of taking vengeance on him, at once dropped his sword, to the Magian's
great astonishment. On his inquiring the reason of such forbearance, 'Ali
informed him that the "Lion of God" did not destroy life for the
satisfaction of his own vengeance, but simply to carry out God's will, and that
whenever he saw just cause, he held his hand even in the midst of the strife,
and spared the foe. The Prophet, 'Ali continued, had long since informed him
that he would die by the hand of his own stirrup-bearer (Ibn Maljun), and the
stirrup-bearer had frequently implored 'Ali to kill him, and thus save him from
the commission of that great crime; but 'Ali said he always refused to do so,
as to him death was as sweet as life, and he felt no anger against his destined
assassin, who was only the instrument of God's eternal purpose. The Magian
chief, on hearing 'Ali's discourse, was so much affected that he embraced
Islam, together with all his family, to the number of fifty souls.
How the Prophet whispered to 'Ali's stirrup-bearer
that he would one day assassinate his master.
"The Prophet whispered in the ear of my servant
That one day he would sever my head from my neck.
The Prophet also warned by inspiration me, his friend,
That the hand of my servant would destroy me.
My servant cried, "O kill me first,
That I may not become guilty of so grievous a sin!"
I replied, "Since my death is to come from thee,
How can I balk the fateful decree?"
He fell at my feet and cried, "O gracious lord,
For God's sake cleave now my body in twain,
That such an evil deed may not be wrought by me,
And my soul burn with anguish for its beloved."
I replied, "What God's pen has written, it has written;
In presence of its writings knowledge is confounded;
There is no anger in my soul against thee,
Because I attribute not this deed to thee;
Thou art God's instrument. God's hand is the agent.
How can I chide or fret at God's instrument?"
He said, "If this be so, why is there retaliation?" 1
I answered, "'Tis from God, and 'tis God's secret;
If He shows displeasure at His own acts,
From His displeasure He evolves a Paradise;
He feels displeasure at His own acts,
Because He is a God of vengeance as of mercy.
In this city of events He is the Lord,
In this realm He is the King who plans all events.
If He crushes His own instruments,
He makes those crushed ones fair in His sight.
Know the great mystery of 'whatever verses we cancel,
Or cause you to forget, we substitute better for them.' 2
Whatever law God cancels, He makes as a weed,
And in its stead He brings forth a rose.
So night cancels the business of the daytime,
When the reason that lights our minds becomes inanimate.
Again, night is cancelled by the light of day,
And inanimate reason is rekindled to life by its rays.
Though darkness produces this sleep and quiet,
Is not the 'water of life' in the darkness? 3
Are not spirits refreshed in that very darkness?
Is not that silence the season of heavenly voices?
For from contraries contraries are brought forth,
Out of darkness was created light.
The Prophet's wars brought about the present peace,
The peace of these latter days resulted from those wars.
That conqueror of hearts cut off a thousand heads,
That the heads of his people might rest in peace."
God's rebuke to Adam for scorning Iblis.
To whomsoever God's order comes,
He must smite with his sword even his own child.
Fear then, and revile not the wicked,
For the wicked are impotent under God's commands.
In presence of God's commands bow down the neck of pride.
Scoff not nor chide even them that go astray!
One day Adam cast a look of contempt and scorn
Upon Iblis, thinking what a wretch he was.
He felt self-important and proud of himself,
And he smiled at the actions of cursed Iblis.
God Almighty cried out to him, "O pure one,
Thou art wholly ignorant of hidden mysteries.
If I were to blab the faults of the unfortunate,
I should root up the mountains from their bases,
And lay bare the secrets of a hundred Adams,
And convert a hundred fresh Iblises into Mosalmans."
Adam answered, "I repent me of my scornful looks;
Such arrogant thoughts shall not be mine again.
O Lord, pardon this rashness in Thy slave;
I repent; chastise me not for these words!"
O Aider of aid-seekers, guide us,
For there is no security in knowledge or wealth;
"Lead not our hearts astray after Thou hast guided us," 4
And avert the evil that the "Pen" has written.
Turn aside from our souls the evil written in our fates,
Repel us not from the tables of purity!
O God, Thy grace is the proper object of our desire;
To couple others with Thee is not proper.
Nothing is bitterer than severance from Thee,
Without Thy shelter there is naught but perplexity.
Our worldly goods rob us of our heavenly goods,
Our body rends the garment of our soul.
Our hands, as it were, prey on our feet;
Without reliance on Thee how can we live?
And if the soul escapes these great perils,
It is made captive as a victim of misfortunes and fears,
Inasmuch as when the soul lacks union with the Beloved,
It abides forever blind and darkened by itself.
If Thou showest not the way, our life is lost;
A life living without Thee esteem as dead!
If Thou findest fault with Thy slaves,
Verily it is right in Thee, O Blessed One!
If Thou shouldst call sun and moon obscure,
If Thou shouldst call the straight cypress crooked,
If Thou shouldst declare the highest heaven base,
Or rich mines and oceans paupers,
All this is the truth in relation to Thy perfection!
Thine is the dominion and the glory and the wealth!
For Thou art exempt from defect and not-being,
Thou givest existence to things non-existent, and again
Thou makest them non-existent.