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Parables of Love

By Khurram Ali Shafique

Dedication: Idries Shah

O Saki! Bring again that cup and wine.


In the literary traditions of the East, especially Islam, a discourse on love is not complete without allusions to religious metaphors nor is a discourse on religion complete without references to the notions of human love. The tradition held the physical love and religious devotion in a unity that was only too human, only a bit more refined, for everyone to understand and relate to.

This was grossly misinterpreted under the influence of the early orientalists and their local followers, who applied the ideals of Victorian hypocrisy to such stories as Layla Majnun, etc., so that the notion of love in them came to be identified with the strange and alien concept of Platonic love.

Today we stand in need to first restore the honest frankness of the mystic tradition, and then look at our contemporary world from that perspective. This book attempts to do both.

In the recent past it has often been asked: What has the East got to offer to the modern world? Here is one possible answer.

Parables of Love

1. The broken pot, 1

A farmer was ploughing in his fields when he found a broken piece of earthenware. He brought it home to show to his friends who used to gather at his place in the evening. Everyone looked at it and found it to be very amusing.

“Who has painted it with so much care? Must have been a foolish person to have spent so much time on a piece of clay!” Someone would say.

“And why did he break it after spending so much paint on it?” Another one would say.

“And who put it there in the wheat fields? Surely a very strange place to keep a pot!”

Now, this farmer made a new friend who was a merchant. One day the merchant stayed with the farmer for several hours and, when he left, the broken pot was mistakenly carried along with his luggage.

When the farmer next came to visit the merchant, the merchant told the farmer about the broken pot. The farmer, whose old friends had lost interest in the pot by now, laughed and said to the merchant:

“Only a gross fool could take such a thing seriously. You can keep it for a few days to show to your friends here. Then throw it away. You will only save me the trouble of throwing it away myself.”

Now, the merchant knew that it was a very special pot. It belonged to a bygone age and the merchant himself had bought its missing piece from an antique dealer at a very high price. He had taken his piece to the King, who was fond of such things, but the King had refused to buy it unless the other piece was found and the pot put together to make one whole. The merchant had been looking for the missing piece, and now he had thought he would tell the farmer about the matter. But the farmer had said that only a gross fool would take interest, so the merchant kept quiet.

After the farmer had gone, the merchant went to have a special audience before the King. The King was only too pleased to see the antique pot joined together as one whole. He ordered gold coins to be given to the merchant and said to him:

“You are given a special place in our court. Come to us tomorrow morning.”

The merchant said:

“My lord! One half of the pot was found by a friend of mine. I am going to share this money with him. If it pleases you, kindly grant my friend a place in your court too.”

And that was granted.

When the merchant arrived at the farmer’s place, all too eager to break the good news, he saw the farmer surrounded by old friends. A cow had been stolen from the village and at that time they were discussing this issue.

The merchant started, “The broken pot…” but he was interrupted by the farmer’s friends who broke out in irritation and said:

“Who is this man who has the bad humor to bring up a subject like the broken pot at a time when we are discussing such an important issue as the theft of a cow!”

2. The broken pot, 2

A woman or a man who loves is the merchant. He or she who is loved is the farmer. Love and beauty are the two pieces of the broken pot. Only the lover can recognize the true value of beauty, which is merely a plaything to its other admirers.

3. Infatuation

There was once a Sufi who said he was infatuated with a woman. He was asked whether or not his infatuation had a physical dimension.
The Sufi answered: “Your question implies that either I must be feeling a sexual urge or I must not be feeling it. Now, both these states belong to the animal existence. There are some animals that do not have sex, such as amoeba. And there are others, like dogs and cats, which are sexual. Not feeling the desire is living like an amoeba. Feeling it is living like cats and dogs. The essence of being human is to exist on several other levels of sexuality that are not perceivable by animals.”
“And what are those other levels?”
“Each one of them can only be understood by the person who lives it.”
4. Seer’s Love
Seer, the mystic poet of Chitral, arrived at his spiritual stature through a cataclysmic love. It is said that he was in love with a lady and so much in love that it is hard to describe. Yet on one occasion when he was crossing a bridge on which that same lady was coming from the other side, he jumped down into the chilled waters of the river flowing beneath in order to avoid the touch of her flesh: the bridge was too narrow.
Those who are unaware of the mysteries of the path say that it was Platonic love. The reality is that Seer’s desire for that woman was stronger than most people ever feel for anyone in their entire life-times, stronger than many people can even imagine a desire to be. The point was not abstention.
Since Seer’s desire was stronger than most people can imagine, how could he have touched the person of his desire in a manner in which anyone would have had touched her even without desiring and as a matter of no choice?
To respect the enormity of his own desire he had to wait, before fulfilling it, for a situation that could compare in grace to the intensity of his desire.

A belief in eternity is a part of all love.
5. As you like it
There was a man who was crazy about the woman he loved. And yet he would never address her with her first name, nor speak to her unless asked.
The woman wanted to know why it was so.
The man explained why:
“In your presence, your name is a part of your entity. Just as I won’t touch your lips, unless you give me the permission, I can’t bring your name to my own lips unless you allow me. My hand would not touch you, unless you give me the permission, and neither would my voice.”
The woman laughed and said:
“I give you the permission to kiss my name with your lips and caress me with your voice.”

Courtesy is the first manner in the manners of love.
6. Polygamy
There was a woman who led an awareness campaign against polygamy.
One day, a friend said to her: “The verse of the Book which allows men to marry up to four wives if they could do justice between them is perhaps redundant, since the permission for polygamy has long outlived its purpose.”
The woman replied:
“The Book gives a universal principle of spirituality. To give your heart to diverse loves without breaking it. To share with many what is indivisible. To distribute your Self among many pursuits in life without losing its integrity. To do justice where it is most invisible.
“Women and men who strive to become masters of all trades should make a vow they’ll do justice as if it was a matter of treating many spouses. Those who can’t make this commitment should keep to a single goal.”
7. Stolen love
A man promised his beloved to meet on a certain night.
It so happened that on that same night a small child in the neighborhood got seriously injured, and this man being the only physician available, spent the whole night tending her.
He explained the situation to the beloved when they next met. The woman said:
“It only shows how less important I am in your life: even less important than a neighbor with whom you have only casual terms!”
The man replied:
“You would be shocked and much offended if I were to steal a piece of jewelry from my neighbor’s house and offer you as a gift.
“How could you expect me to offer you time when that is actually deserved by a neighbor’s child?
“Only that which is pure is to be offered as a gift of love.”
8. Desire not to desire?
There was once a man who was known to have a gift for knowing what was in the people’s hearts. He could identify the existence of anyone who came face to face with him. With these special powers he healed a number of people of their psychological problems.
One day the man was told in his dream that a woman in need of his help was coming to him and that he was supposed to heal her. The next day, the woman came and when the man looked at her he felt a strong sexual desire such that he had never felt before nor had he ever known that he was capable of feeling a desire so consuming. But he was a healer, after all, so he immediately purged himself of his desire and began treating the woman the way he had treated so many people before.
As time passed by, he noticed that some of his perceptions about the woman’s existence and her problems are turning out to be false. Hence the treatment he is giving the woman is no good. She is not getting any help.
The man went to his master, who had died long ago. The master said:
“The heart is like a mirror. The mirror reflects the images before it. However, in order to look at the images of things in a mirror, you have to keep it clean of all dust. To look at things in the mirror of your heart you have to save it from getting clouded with desire.”
“But I have purged my heart of all desire,” the man cried.
“The desire not to have a desire is also a desire,” the master replied. “You have yet to learn about the state of existence where you neither cherish desire nor abandon it.”
9. The difference between love and desire
A young man was telling his friend how much in love he was with a particular woman, and how intense, true and pure his love for her was.
“Does she also wish it to be like this?” The friend asked.
The young man admitted that he did not know.
The friend commented, “Then it is desire, not love.”
10. Silence
Silence derives meaning from its context. That is true, but it also gives meaning to its context.
11. The one who wanted to sin
There was one who said to God:
“It is written in your book that the human being is given the freedom to choose between being obedient or to commit the sin. I have lived in obedience all my life and now, just once, I want to commit a sin. And I am not being able to do it. Where is my freedom?”
And God answered:
“When it is I who has given you the freedom why do you try yourself to arrange for your sin? Let Me be your Lord in sinning, and your Confidant, as I have been in your prayers and in your obedience. For My sake alone have you refused sin a thousand times. Will I not help you for your sake in doing it once? Surely you are making a poor estimate of My bounty.”
And the person said:
“Indeed You are. And nothing else is.”
And God said:
“O human! When you sin, sin without putting a blemish on My Creation. And I will call upon the angels of My Throne to be witnesses on your sin and say to them: It was for this day that I gave Adam the freedom to choose. Is not his one moment of sin better than your seventy thousand years of prayers? Is it not fragrant with My breath that I breathed into him on the Day of Creation?”
Now, how God provided for that person’s one sin or whether God did provide or not is not important. What is important is the life this person spent with a desire for sin and not turning the face to the others but only to God even in this desire.
And when this person died the angels came upon the grave and said this:
“We have not come here to ask you ‘Who is thy Lord?’ That we came to know long ago. We have come here to ask whether you would like to live a life once again.”
12. Memory, the ash of experience
There were once a man and a woman who were madly in love but never got the chance to meet in the private. Only one mutual friend knew about this, and one day, he arranged for a secret meeting.
After the lovers had spent several hours together, and after the woman had gone home, the friend asked the man to share what had happened between him and his beloved. The man said he could not remember. “Now, how can I believe that you would not remember such a thing,” said the friend.
“Love does not scheme. Love is the abeyance of will. So it did not really matter to us what we did or what we did not. What mattered was that we were together. And that was the finest experience of being. Now, you ask me to recall it. Since memory is the ash of experience, how can there be ash when the fuel was so refined that it left no ashes behind?”

In the hour glass of Love there are many other times than this passing one and they have no names.
13. The third dimension
You say that you don’t believe in love being divine. I will not argue with you. It may be possible to have an amorous experience without dabbling into the finer dimensions of soul. However, this book is concerned with the lessons learnt through love, and not with the experience of love itself. In order to learn any lesson from love there has to be a third dimension apart from the lover and the beloved.
14. Love and lust
Between love and lust, do you know the difference? One is the pickaxe of Farhad, the other the scheming of Pervez.
15. Shirin, Farhad
So great was the love of Farhad, the sculptor, for Shirin, the Perfect Beauty of Persia, that he did not flinch from standing up in rivalry against Pervez, the King of Persia, also a candidate to the hand of Shirin. And when Pervez told Farhad he could get Shirin only if he cuts the Mountain of Bayston and brings out a stream of pure milk right up to the Royal Palace, Farhad took up the challenge and actually did it!
It is only too sad that Pervez did not keep his promise, sending false news of Shirin’s death on which Farhad, like Romeo of the other story, took his own life.
And there was someone who was intrigued upon reading this strange tale of the past. This person went to a sage and said:
“How could it be that a man gets energy to cut down a mountain, all on his own. Is the power of love so great?”
“Indeed, and greater,” the sage replied. “That is a given fact of life. There are energies within the human self that remain dissipated between our varied longings. When a desire for a single object of love, so much worthy of love, consumes all other desires then these energies become concentrated. Mountains are no match.”
“And how sad, Farhad could not get to his beloved even after that!”
“That is sad too, indeed,” the sage replied. “But that is how the ignorant respond to the story. For those who know the secrets of the path the real tragedy is that Farhad was granted this energy so that he could become the Perfect Beauty himself. The simple stonecutter spent it in cutting stones. Had he bothered to chisel his heart he would have found his beloved there. Shirin has to be sought not in the house of Pervez, but in the palace of one’s own desire.”
16. The highest degree of Love
Moses witnessed God on Sinai, and fell unconscious. Qais looked at the face of Layla, and lost his senses.
Those unaware of the secrets of the path say Moses saw God and Qais, Layla.
The truth is they both saw God. One, unveiled. The other, behind a veil that had the likeness of female beauty. The point was not that which was seen. It was that which they felt within.
To behold the beloved and yet refrain from union is an intoxication sought by those who know its pleasures. The wine, however is too strong for the human container.
Moses, roughened by twenty years of shepherdry, still came back to consciousness – to rift apart the seas and lay open the hearts of the mountains with the power of this intoxication. Qais, the softened child of a wealthy chief, lost his senses forever.

What is youth but to burn in the fire of one’s own blood? Rigor turns the bitter of the life, sweet.

Love turned me into an ocean with no shores. I fear lest my being with my Self becomes my shore.
17. Qais and Mansur
To fall in love with God is more dangerous than falling in love with a woman.
When Qais said about Layla: “She is God”, people called him mad and left him alone. But when Mansur cried: “I am God”, he was arrested and crucified.
18. Jealousy
Jealousy is a feeling unknown to those who attain perfection of love. For who has ever seen a moth getting jealous of a fellow moth circling the same light?
19. Beauty
A young woman was passionately loved.
One day, she was telling an older woman about the strength of her lover’s feelings about her: the intensity of his desire, its spiritual dimension, its completeness, and its energies. The older woman, after listening to all, said:
“You have said a lot about his love but nothing about your own.”
“But he is love. I am beauty,” replied the young woman.
“Let us take it for that,” said the older one. “But even so, the true value of love is determined by the nature of the beauty it seeks. If the strength and energy of your own soul does not match the intensity of his passion then he is worshipping an idol. For what is the difference between idol worshipping and a true prayer except that the idol cannot respond with an equal degree of warmth, and God can with greater?
“To be loved as an object is one thing, to be loved as a living being another. The latter is not a passive activity.”
20. Perfection
Perfection of beauty is to become love itself just as perfection of love is to become beauty.
21. Franklin’s tale
Two lovers were walking on the sea-shore.
The woman said:
“I wish that rock wasn’t there.” And she pointed to a little mountain that was out of proportion with the rest of the scene.
The man did not meet her after that day until a year later, and then they went to the same place again.
The rock wasn’t there.
“I wonder where the rock is!” Said the lady.
“You wished it not to be. I have erased it. That’s what took me so long.”
The woman was deeply moved. She said:
“I appreciate your feelings, but you have been a bit too rash. What I said that day was more like a figure of speech, you didn’t have to actually do it.”
A few days later, when the lovers were walking in a garden, the woman stepped over a thorn.
“I think there is a thorn in my foot,” she sighed.
The lover’s face became contorted with inner conflict. Then he asked:
“Is it so, or is it a figure of speech?”
“Hurry up, stupid!” The woman cried with pain. “I’m dying.”
Those who want their wishes to be fulfilled by their lovers must learn to speak only what they really mean.
22. The jeweler’s bag
There was a jeweler who was asked by the King to present a special diamond.
The jeweler worked on the diamond, day and night, for a month. When it was ready, he took it to the Royal Court.
“Have you brought our diamond?” The King asked.
“Yes, My lord!” Said the jeweler, and shoved his hand into the huge bag he was carrying with him. When it came out, there was a small pebble to be seen.
“I beg your pardon, My lord!” The jeweler said nervously. “This was not meant for this court, I had kept it for a very persistent beggar.”
He tried again, but this time it was shapeless granite.
“I am sorry again, my lord! This was only meant to please my children, I don’t know how it came here.” And the jeweler emptied the bag on the floor, all its contents coming out at once.
Now he could see the diamond sparkling among the rest of the stones, but the King stood up before the jeweler could make the offer.
“A jeweler who keeps the king’s diamond in the same bag with the beggar’s pebble and the children’s stone is not worth the Royal attention.”
23. The Sleeping Beauty
There was a girl brought up thinking she was Cinderella. But she was rich, and she had so many maids to serve her she never had to look into a mirror.
One day she thought she wanted to see herself. A mirror was brought, and she held it up to her face.
“Oh, but this is not a mirror, just a portrait. For I see in it the face of the Sleeping Beauty.”
As long as the Sleeping Beauty thinks she is Cinderella, she will never wake up. Unless, of course, the Prince comes and wakes her up with a kiss before holding up the mirror to her again.
24. Clark Gable
There was a woman so fascinated with Gone With The Wind that she imagined herself Vivien Leigh and always dreamt of a Clark Gable to fill her life…
Until her Clark Gable came, lived with her, and then dumped her, saying: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
25. The signs
“And We shall show you Our signs in the world within you and in the world around you.” So has said the Almighty in the Book.
For those who see, the signs of God are to be witnessed in things as simple as the sunrise, sunset, night and day. Or in their sleeping and awakening.
But there are some whose vision is screened with the dust of their own experiences, and yet God does not wish to abandon them. To them His signs occur in things which are natural to others but unbelievable to them. Things that shake their entire system of understanding, turning it upside down.
You look within yourself to say there is no love. And you find out that in being not in love you have been in love like you have never been before.
The touch of a person becomes the transmitter of electric waves for you, and yet no one else can feel it.
You look within yourself to see your familiar old self, and find out that you are someone else.
Even a magician can produce flowers out of thin air. The miracle of God is to make a miracle of that which is not a miracle.
26. With his own eyes
The man who could look into the hearts of others could not see much about his own fate. Someone asked him to explain this.
He said:
“I look at people with my heart’s eyes. But you can’t see yourself even when your eyes may count the feathers of a bird flying in the skies. To see yourself you need a mirror placed at least at a small distance.”

You come to know yourself when inclined towards someone else. The eyes are opened when the heart is given away.
27. Dream
There was a woman who used to have true dreams.
She said to someone who professed love to her:
“You must not be very important, because you are the only one around me whom I have never seen in a dream.”
“You can’t,” said he. “Because I am not to be dreamed. I am the reality.
“When you look at the things in the world, you only see their outside. If you have an inward eye, it shows you the hidden when your physical eyes are closed. Since my outside and my hidden are both present before you when I am present, you have no need to dream me. Look at me, if you can, without looking with your physical eyes. Your inward eye will show you what it shows.
“I have come to you so that you could see in the awakening what you have so far seen only in your dreams.”
28. Intuition
Your intuitions are like the signposts on the way. You need to read them properly, and that requires training.
Even if you are trained in reading them, you never suspend your judgment. If the signpost says: “Go ahead”, but you see an abyss in front of you, then you understand that either you have misunderstood the signpost or the signpost has been misplaced or something on the path has changed since the signpost was erected.
Intuitions should never, nor are they meant to, overrule the wisely understood principles of justice: they are no substitute for common sense.
29. Choice
God asked a woman:
“Do you want to be like Arabia Basra, the saint, or like Theodora, the libertine. Just say it.”
“What!” The woman looked up. “Have you run out of moulds? I want to be myself.”
30. Eye, sight
Between me and you is a relation like that of eye and sight. For the sight is always with the eye when at the farthest from it.
31. Truth
“How sincere are you?”
“35 kilograms.”
“But you cannot measure sincerity in kilograms!”
“Can you measure sincerity at all?”
(From Bushra A. Khurram & S. M. Taha)
32. Who gets the ticket?
Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, went to watch a movie. They pooled in the money to buy tickets. The boy offered to get them, but the ‘gents’ window was too crowded. The girl took the money and got the tickets from the ‘ladies’ window in no time.
“Thanks.” Said the boy.
“For what?” Said the girl, and they both laughed.
Years passed by. They could not see each other, and got busy on their diverse paths of life.
They met after twenty-five years, both in their early middle ages. He was a lonely person, without many resources. She, a prosperous business manager with a happy domestic life.
They talked about old times, about films they had watched together, things they had done for each other. And a few days later, the woman took the man to a beautiful, aesthetically furnished house.
“This is a gift.” Said the woman.
“But how can I take it?” The man protested. “I haven’t earned it.”
“Did you refuse to watch the movie when I went to the window to get the ticket?
“Long ago, we both pooled in our emotional strengths to prepare us for the life to come. Once again, I have been able to make it to the window of success – just a matter of coincidence. Would you refuse to enjoy the show, when the drives that have made me achieve all this were not mine alone. They belonged to both of us.”
33. Reasons for love
There was once a man, already married, who professed love to a woman. And the woman said to him:
“I want to understand why you love me. There can be three possible reasons. Either your own wife does not satisfy you. Or you are generally deprived of the female company. Or you had always cherished an ideal woman in your mind, which you now see in me.”
The man said it was none of these things.
“Then what is the cause?” asked the woman.
“You will see,” said he.
A couple of weeks later the woman said to him:
“I have watched you very closely. Your married life is the happiest one I have ever seen and now I know that you are perfectly satisfied with your wife. Also, you are always surrounded by women in the social gatherings and try half the time to keep them away. So it cannot be that you are deprived of the female company. Now, I can see only one reason for your falling in love with me. And that is if I am your ideal woman. But you have said even that is not the case.”
“Truly that is the reason why I love you. I had always had this ideal in my mind, and looking at you I feel as if I am dreaming a fantasy rather than looking at a real person,” the man replied.
“But why did you deny that a couple of weeks back?”
“You named three possible causes of my love. Two of them were those that arise out of mischief and they are temporary. The last one arises out of the loftiest part within us, the divine spark, the human yearning for the supernatural, and it is permanent and primordial. Now, as long as you thought it was possible for me to love you for a false reason, how could have you understood that I love you for the sake of the truth itself?”
34. Multiple choice
Whether what you are saying is true or not depends also upon what else are you saying with it. It is quite possible for you to say something that seems like the truth but is false due to the context you create for your words. The highest realities of life do not know of multiple choice.
If you say: “God is either One or two or many,” then what you are saying is not one-third of the truth. It is total false. Because the Oneness of God means that it is impossible for us to conceive of Him as two or many.
If you say: “God is either the Merciful or the Destroyer or the Creator,” then you are missing the point that God is not either one or the other of these, He is all of them. What you are saying does not hold any truth even though you are using three words that could have defined the reality in a different word structure.
The pagan worshippers of Makkah never had any problem accepting God as one of the many ones they were worshipping. But that was not granted to them because God placed among 360 gods would not have been God. A Certainty surrounded with 360 doubts in the temple of your heart cannot be the Certainty you may think it is.
35. Need to love?
To love is to miss not the beloved in absence. For an urge to be together represents a need, and the reason to love is not to get your needs fulfilled. Love must exist for its own sake alone.
(Abbas M. Husain)
36. The other cheek
The sage said to the one who was worried about being cheated by other people: “Do not allow your faith in the humanity to be wavered. You cannot be robbed of anything more valuable than this one thing. This is what Christ meant when he told his followers to turn their other cheeks to whoever slaps them on one.”
“But our Prophet said: A believer never gets bitten through the same hole twice,” the disciple answered. “Surely that is a very different message from the one of Christ that you are quoting.”
The sage replied: “Christ is telling you to suffer with wisdom. Muhammad tells you not to suffer through folly. Where is the contradiction?”

37. Justice
Justice is only a higher form of aesthetics.
38. Wisdom
You do not have to taste poison in order to know that it may kill you.
39. The truthful
Even before Muhammad became the Prophet, the people of Makkah began to call him al Sadiq, or the Truthful one.
It is usually said that he received the title because he never told a lie. That is also true but the place of ‘the Truthful one’ is far above. It is not only refraining from telling a lie, but also to be in the state of truthfulness.
Learning to swim is one thing, living in water like a fish another.
40. Ali
When the Prophet called upon his tribe to enlist themselves for the Mission, nobody stood up except Ali, the nine year old boy.
The elders laughed at his naiveté and some even thought him to be arrogant for assessing his strength as more than what it really seemed to be.
They were unaware of this basic manner of love: When the beloved asks as a gift something you already possess, you do not start by assessing its value!
41. Abu Bakr
When they were hiding from the enemy in the Cave of Thor, the Prophet told Abu Bakr he was going to sleep.
While the Prophet was lying asleep, his head resting in Abu Bakr’s lap, the latter was stung by a scorpion. Such was the pain that he could not control his tears, but he still did not wake up the Prophet. A true lover, how could he allow his own grief to overrule the will of the beloved, which was expressed in the act of sleeping?
The Prophet woke up when Abu Bakr’s tear fell on his face – in spite of the latter’s effort to control it. The poison of the scorpion was no match to the sweetness of the one who had been sent down as the Blessing of the Worlds, and Abu Bakr was cured in no time.
A lover does not share her or his own happiness with the beloved. A lover seeks to be happy in the happiness of the beloved. A lover does not share grief with the beloved, for pain is not one of the gifts to be given in love.
42. The value of love
The treasure of my grief for you is not to be given away. I break in my eyes the tear that swells from my heart.
In my being and nothingness, thought had many doubts. In love was this point revealed: I am.
43. What you will
There was a certain person who always prayed:
“O God! Give me what pleases You.”
A friend asked one day:
“Why do you say this prayer? Don’t you quite know what it is that you want?”
“Indeed, I do,” said that person. “But so does God.”

Rise high in your Self, so that God Himself may ask His servant before writing down the destiny: What is thy will?
44. We have transgressed
There were three who discussed the meaning of the Book.
One of them said:
“When you commit a sin you should say to God what our first parents said after they had approached the forbidden tree: ‘O Provider ours! Verily we have transgressed upon our selves, and if You forgive us not and if You give us not your Mercy, we will be the losers.”
The second said:
“You should say this when you think of committing a sin.”
The third said:
“What both of you have said is also good. But it seems you are willing to take too much upon yourselves. The human beings were created in the best of the forms. Every good or bad action is an exercise in free will that takes us away from the form we were created in. We need ask forgiveness whenever we think of doing anything, even the good things. Good or bad is what God makes good or bad.”
45. An angel comes down
God said to an angel:
“Go down, and don’t come back until you find someone who has worshipped more than you have.”
The angel met several women and men. Some had been praying for thirty years, some for sixty, and among those who had a chance to live longer, there were people who had been prostrating themselves before God for ninety years.
The angel knew he was lost because the devotion of all these people put together would not equal a fraction of what he had done in the heavens. But then he met a person who said:
“I have prostrated before God only three times in life.
“Once was the day my property was destroyed by fire. I said to God: I thank You for the pleasure You allowed me while I had it. I thank You for taking it away, for it shows that You think about me. I thank You for letting me thank you.
“The second was when friends had arranged a night of sinning. When I heard the call for the morning prayer, I left the pleasures for a while, and said to God: How You treat me for doing what I am doing is within Your power, but I know You are generally merciful. On my part, I want to say to You that I am enjoying what is being given to me, and for that I thank You.
“The third was when I came upon a beautiful landscape, such as I had never seen before. I was overwhelmed. Something inside me told me to offer a prayer on that spot. I said to God: To me it appears to be the best of what You have created. Please allow me to do here the best of what You have enabled me to do, and save me from disrespect.”
The angel knew it was time to go home.
46. The metaphor of awakening in Summer of ’42
Summer of ’42 has intrigued many a reader because what seems at the surface a text of soft pornography leaves you at the end with a sense of enrichment that you do not usually associate with stories of that sort – and which is totally absent in the film made on this novel. This experience can be designated to the metaphor of destiny that is embedded in this story of sexual awakening of a teenager.
Hermie, at age 15, can be seen as a metaphor for the human soul, inexperienced and un-awakened in its deep slumber of ignorance. Dorothy is the agent through whom its awakening is destined to take place – Aggie cannot make it happen, no matter how much she tries and no matter how well things are schemed out. For the awakening will only happen at the fixed hour, at the fixed place, under the fixed circumstances and Oscy and Benjie also have their part in this plan of God. They prepare Hermie for the moment, as unknowing catalysts: they have to be left out from the actual happening, neither shall they ever know what happens in the experience of awakening.
But the most powerful character in this eternal parable is Time. From the pages of this book we can almost see the face of Time looking out at us – basically formidable, sometimes more cheerful, but always graceful and awesome.
People don’t set moods, situations don’t present opportunities, places don’t make things happen, and only Time fulfills its own despotic whims. It is Time who sets its own moods: happy, innocent, ecstatic, loving or estranged. People don’t laugh but Time laughs and they laugh with it. People don’t decide to make love, but Time decides that it is to happen and then they carry out its decision. People can’t bring about their own awakening, only Time can. And they can’t help themselves from getting apart when Time decides for estrangement.
Dorothy does not belong to Packett Island, but to the ocean of Time. When her function in the Plan is over she is lost forever, not in the wilderness of America, but in that same ocean of Time.
Hermie at age 35, standing on the New England coast, is the human soul, once awakened, lost forever in its loneliness – left there by Time to face the agonies and ecstasies of life, the pangs of separation from the dear ones, all on its own.
No matter how much he wishes, Hermie cannot call back the setting, the people, the situations of the happy moment of ’42 because Time is the master of destiny and follows its own will.
47. The destiny of Messiah
Jesus told his apostles on the night of the Last Supper that before the next morning comes, one of them would betray him, while another one would deny having had known him at all.
It is the fate of every Messiah to be crucified by one of those whom she or he had come to save, and to be given up by some who love her or him in their hearts.
48. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
A young man developed an intense passion for the plays of William Shakespeare in the last days of the bard’s life, when the great poet had retired from the stage and living quietly in his home town, Stratford upon Avon.
This young man started collecting the plays soon after the poet’s death. He had never met him, but often imagined himself in his shoes and when reading an old play by William Shakespeare for the first time after discovering some nearly lost quarto edition of it, or acquiring the last existing copy from an actor, he would feel as if he himself had written it.
He at last decided to find out about the life of Shakespeare, and traveled to Stratford. There, he met an old friend of the master, and asked him, “Through my intensive reading of the quartos I have come to the conclusion that Shakespeare retired from the stage because he had finally discovered his true self, which he had been trying to represent through so many diverse characters all his life. Am I right in my reading?”
“You are right and wrong,” said the old man. “Life doesn’t offer solutions, it merely points out the problems. Shakespeare retired because, at last, he had understood that he could not discover his true self until he stopped representing it through fragments tainted by his imagination.”
The young man came back to London and thought about this thing for several weeks. Then he took all the plays of William Shakespeare, which he had collected over the years, to two friends of the dead poet, who were trying to compile a collection, and requested them not to acknowledge him in the Folio.
49. The moon and the sun
When a certain master died he was succeeded by a young disciple who was mild of temperament and soft of speech.
Some of the followers once remarked:
“We were sad when the master had died but now we can see it was a blessing in disguise, for the new master we have got is so much more pleasant than the great one we had before him.”
When the disciple heard this, his soft face turned red with anger, for once. He said:
“While my master was before you, you would often show surprise at the strange ways of his life, which were beyond your understanding. How do you know what seems to you his death wasn’t yet another mode of his living?
“You compare me to him like people compare the cool moon with the hot sun. Yet they don’t forget that the moon takes its light from the sun itself, and you seem to be forgetting this. Everyone likes a moonlit night but only a blind one would prefer it over a bright summer day.”

Who would be humbler before the sun than a little candle?


This book could not have been written without the presence of Abbas M. Husain, my mentor.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Bushra, my wife, for all the support she gave.
My special thanks go to Sherry Rehman of Herald for her deepest interest in making sure that this book comes out in good shape.
The friends who supported me with much of what was needed, are: Khuda Bux Abro, Harris Khalique, Irfan Ahmad Khan, Nasir Mahmood and Rayad Afzal.
And She who helped with her own unique contribution to make the book possible has chosen to remain unnamed. Since She knows it anyway, it does not matter.

The quotation on the dedication page, as well as the ones that appear after some of the parables are translations from the Urdu and Persian verses of Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet of the East. The only exceptions are the ones after stories 4 and 41. Other sources, wherever used, have been indicated in the text.

Source: Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan
By G. W. Choudhury (1967). Green Book House, Dacca (East Pakistan)

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