A Peculiar Friend


Among the many darvishes Javad had befriended since coming to Tehran were a number of qalandars – wandering dervishes with no home and few, if any possessions – most of whom were not even members of the Nimatullahi order. These darvishes came to him when they were in need or trouble because they knew that no matter what their difficulty was, he would always be willing to befriend them in whatever way he could, without ever questioning their motives or passing judgment on them.

One of these qalandars, a man who Javad had helped a number of times in the past, was named Hajji Mohammad Jafar Kermani. It came as no surprise to Javad, therefore, when he was awoken one night by the sound of someone knocking on the khanaqah door and found Hajji Mohammad there in an extremely agitated state.

Javad welcomed the qalandar, despite the late hour, and took him to his room. Once there, Hajji Mohammad calmed down enough to explain his problem. After hearing him out, Javad instructed his friend to spend the night in his room and not to worry. Then, ignoring how late it was, he left to attend the matter.

A few hours later Javad returned to the khanaqah and let Hajji Mohammad know that by God’s grace his problem had been resolved and everything would be all right. They then sat together on the floor and shared a simple breakfast of tea, bread and cheese.

Just as Javad was about to pour Hajji Mohammad a second glass of tea, the master happened to stop by to consult with him about some urgent business. Upon seeing the qalandar there, however, the master immediately excused himself and left. To him qalandars were people who had no sense of responsibility, who only imposed themselves upon others without any thought of the trouble they were causing. He felt strongly that all darvishes should have an occupation and be of service to the society in which they lived, so to him the qalandars had no place in the khanaqah. On more than one occasion the master had expressed his displeasure about Javad’s practice of letting such darvishes into the khanaqah. But Javad considered Hajji Mohammad a honourable man and could not bring himself to refuse his friend.

Knowing that the master had left only because of Hajji Mohammad’s presence, Javad excused himself and went to the master’s room to see what he wanted. There, the master informed him that the printer of the books published by the khanaqah had called to say that he was on his way to deliver their most recent publications, a collection of the master’s poetry. Since they owed the printer 500 tomans, he instructed Javad to go to the bank and withdraw the money from the khanaqah’s account.

There was only one trouble. Javad knew that less than 50 tomans were left in the account. However much he wanted to avoid disappointing the master, he had no choice but to tell him the truth. After letting the master know about the shortage of funds, he admitted that he didn’t think he could raise that much money on such short notice. Since nothing remained to be said or done, Javad excused himself and returned to his guest.

Hajji Mohammad sensed something was wrong the moment he stepped into the room. What had happened, he wanted to know. Javad assured his friend that the situation had nothing to do with him and that there was nothing he could do to help. Hajji Mohammad was insistent though, saying he wished to share in his friend’s problem, whatever it was – especially since Javad had been so hlpful in taking care of the problem earlier.

Javad finally relented and let his friend know about the book and the khanaqah’s lack of funds. With this, Hajji Mohammad lowered his head in meditation. Then, after a few minutes, to Javad’s astonishment, he suddenly burst out laughing.

Javad stared at his guest and wondered if he had lost his mind. Without saying anything, Hajji Mohammad proceeded to remove his tattered coat and turn it inside out. Without the slightest hesitation he tore open the lining and pulled out a small package which he handed over to Javad.

“This packet contains over 500 tomans, money I have saved over all those years to pay for my burial, so I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone. But now I realize this is in no way proper for a darvish, for it shows lack of trust in God. This money has bothered me for a number of years now and finally I see why. You’d be doing me a great service by accepting it now as a gift”.

Javad objected strenuously, saying that he couldn’t possibly take the money, but Hajji Mohammad would not be dissuaded.

“Truly, I will be relieved to get rid of this money. Please give the tomans to your master to pay the printer for the books. When the time comes, God will take care of my burial. Besides, what true qalandar would ever have such money?” he added with a smile.