A Chishti Tale

A parrot, called Tuti, was asked by Khojasta, its mistress: “I like to hear a Sufi tale. Why don’t you tell me one?” Tuti answered, “Oh mistress, no evil will come to one who avoids these four things: first, anger; second, temper; third, indolence; fourth, haste. Although love and patience are not compatible, still one should not act in haste. If an unfortunate incident should arise, you should be able to extricate yourself just as the woman who saved herself from the leopard.”

Khojasta inquired: “How did that happen?”

Tuti replied: “It is reported that there lived a man in a city who had a wife who was extremely bad-tempered, quarrelsome, sharp-tongued, gossipy and peevish.

O Nakhshabi, if a woman always act like a shrew
Even a div will not endure a tongue so insolent.
There is no one on earth who will not run from a demon;
Even a devil shuns a female who is virulent.

The woman ranted as though she had thirty-two tongues like the harp. Her husband continually heard profanity pouring forth from her windpipe. One day as if he was tuning a rubab, he twisted her ears and pummelled her several times like a bass drum.

This woman from the gutter, who in wickedness was like a two-faced drum, left the house in a rage with her two children and went to the jungle. She reached a desolate wasteland, which was so terrifying that even a frog because of fear would not dare to make a noise and even a bird because of fright would not flap its wings.

Suddenly a leopard looking like a lion and with the power of an elephant appeared before her and wanted to carry off her children.

The woman thought to herself, “Whoever disobeys her husband and leaves her house without permission will experience what I am undergoing.” She greatly regretted her action and was so repentant in her heart that she made a vow saying to herself, “If I am ever rescued from this danger, I will never again leave my husband and will always serve and obey him”. Yea, the ignorant will act in the same way as the wise but only after feeling the whip of indignation and being subjected to humiliation.

O Nakhshabi, ignorance creates a heavy shackle.
I do not know what would cause you to become ecstatic.
The fact that the unwitting will follow the wise man’s path
Only after shame and disgrace is axiomatic.

When the woman realized that she was overtaken by disaster, she thought to herself, “I must devise a scheme and must think of some stratagem. If I am successful, I will achieve my purpose; if not my conscience will be clear that I have done everything I could.”
The woman shouted in a loud voice, “Oh leopard, come closer and listen to me.”

The leopard was astonished and said, “How dare you address me in this fashion?”

“There is a lion in this vicinity,” she said, “which by one assault can destroy the whole world. Every day three human beings supply the food for his kitchen. The people in my community have agreed to provide these to him. Today it is my turn with my children for our names have been drawn by lot.

“I am a woman who is descended from a tribe of dervishes. None of my ancestors has ever refused anyone his daily bread. Although you are here to make an attempt against my life, I do not wish you to go away unsatisfied. Come and eat one of my children and half of my body. In this way you will not be deprived of your share and at the same time the lion will get his portion.”

When the leopard heard these words, he was amazed and said, “Oh madam, I have never heard of anyone generous enough to offer herself as a means of subsistence to her enemy!”

The woman said, “Oh leopard, acts like these are not unusual for the devout and are not uncommon amongst the observers of religious precepts. ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (he was noted for his high religious and ethical standards, so much so that ‘Umar II was his nickname; he ruled as an ‘Umayyad caliph between 717-720; Siraj) who was the enthroned sultan of the caliphate was given poison by a slave, the news of which was widely reported. ‘Umar summoned the slave and asked him, ‘Did you commit the act of administering poison to me?’ He replied, ‘Yes the vizier, may his gall bladder rupture, forced me to do this for he coveted abundant riches. ‘Umar gave him money for travel and said, ‘This poison has been effective, and I will not survive its fatal dose. The rumour of this deed has spread. While I am still alive and before they arrest you for the attempt on my life, take this money and leave the city’.”

O Nakhshabi, be like the companions of Muhammad
In distinguishing between true friend and deceitful foe.
Others will have generosity only for their friends
Buth those with the prophet to their enemies grace did show.

“Oh leopard, since I am going to die today and my body is going to be eaten, it does not matter whether it is by a lion or by a leopard. To me you are more deserving because I have met and talked with you, but not with the lion. If you eat one of the children and half of my body and leave the other half for the lion, take care not to remain in these parts for the lion will not touch what has been eaten by another. Since we have been promised to him, he will ask for us. When he finds us in such a condition, he will pursue you and no matter where he overtakes you, he will not only slaughter you but will also exterminate your wife and children.”

When the leopard heard these words, he left the woman in such haste that for several miles he did not even glance back. Suddenly a fox appeared and saw the leopard in a state of great agitation and trepidation.

He said: “Oh leopard, what has happened?”

The leopard related to him everything that the woman had told him. The fox opened his mouth and said, “What people say is true: All brave men are foolish. Oh leopard you are not very proud of your courage. God has bestowed reason and the Creator has given intelligence. From head to foot man is full of deceit, hypocrisy and trickery. We who are famous for our cunning and shrewdness and are celebrated for our craftiness and chicanery have our hides made into capes by men and sometimes our pelts into garments.”

“How can a woman recognise bravery, and how can a female intimidate a leopard? Oh leopard, what does she mean with a promise to provide food for the lion and ‘eat half of us and leave the other half for the lion?’ Do not be deceived by her words. Go back immediately and free your heart from fear of her and do not miss eating such a delicious meal. Take me along with you so that through your charity I may replenish my kitchen and by your good fortune I may have some kebab.”

The leopard replied: “Oh fox, it is possible that the woman was telling the truth and the lion will come. Then you will dash into a hole and I will be left to be caught by his claws.”

“If you do not have faith in my ingenuity and do not trust my judgment”, the fox said, “tie me firmly to your leg and take me there with you. If the lion appears, throw me at his feet and run away from him.” The leopard agreed.

When the woman saw the fox bound to the leopard’s leg, she surmised that this was a manoeuvre of the fox. She cried out, “Oh hello, hello! You are welcome. Nowadays it is considered that one’s daily bread and food allotment should be brought and placed before him, and for a human being it should be delivered to his home.”

“Oh leopard, I am a woman who is a sorceress and a female who is a hyena. In this wilderness my food consists of the meat of crocodiles and my stew of the kebab of leopards. When I told you the story of the lion and of the promise made to him, I did so thinking that you would become angry and would come nearer to me, then with my own hands I would prepare kebab from your meat for my children and make soup from your bones. You left me and I regretted what I have said. Now you have returned and brought the fox as your donation, but what purpose will this lump of flesh serve and how can this meat satisfy my needs? If you intended to make a gift, you should have brought a lion or an elephant.”

When the fox heard these words, he said: “Oh leopard, this is not a human being. It is a curse from heaven. This is not a woman but a witch of the wilderness. If you can, escape as quickly as possible and safe your life by running away from her at once.”

The leopard fled and the fox, which was tied to his leg, was hit and wounded by flying stones and clods of dirt, while at the same time he was laughing and smiling in ridicule.

The leopard said, “Oh fox, why are you laughing?”

He replied: “I am laughing at your stupidity. Is this the time for you to carry a heavy load with you. If that sorceress overtakes you and swallows you like a morsel, what will become of you?”

The leopard untied the fox from his leg and the fox immediately dashed into a hole. Then the leopard ran so fast that he looked neither to the right nor left and never once looked backward. By this trick the woman saved herself from the leopard.

O, Nakhshabi, it is wise to take careful precautions
To escape from fatal entanglements by some device.
Should a man find himself in a perilous position
For lack of craftiness he must not his life sacrifice.