The Sultan Who Moved His Beard
There was once a ruler called Sultan Mahmud who often went out at night in disguise, to learn about the condition of his subjects. On one such occasion he fell in with a group of five rough-looking men.
“Who might you be?” asked the sultan.
“Well, friend, to tell the truth, we are a band of thieves,” one of the group told him.
“Ha, that is good,” said the king, “for I too am a thief.”
When the thieves heard this, they were delighted, and the most outspoken among them exclaimed, “Well met, brother. Come and join our band. We were just planning a robbery for this very night, and as you came along we were about to elect a leader; but before doing so, each one of us is to describe his own most special skill. Now, brothers,” he addressed the band, “tell us what you do best.”
“I am an expert at fixing rope ladders in place at the very first attempt,” the first thief said. “When I have done this, hundreds of my companions can use it.”
“My special skill is to break through walls swiftly and silently,” said the second thief.
“But mine is a very rare and useful one,” said the third. “Wherever a treasure may be hidden, I can smell its presence and lead you to it.”
“It is easy for me to understand the language of the animals,” offered the fourth thief, “and this is often of more help than you might imagine.”
Then the fifth and last thief said, “My special skill is that I can always recognize a person once I have met him, even if it is on a night as dark as pitch.”
As the thieves were speaking, the sultan wondered what it might be best for him to say. “My skill is one that you may not yet have heard of,” he told them when they all turned to him. “By a little movement of my beard I can save even the worst of thieves from the noose of the hangman.”
The thieves, entranced by this unique ability, decided to choose him as their leader.
They put their heads together and, after some discussion, decided to rob the sultan’s palace, which was nearby. The sultan felt compelled to go along with them. As they were walking towards the palace, a dog began to bark. “Tell us, brother, what is the dog saying?” the thieves asked their companion.
“It is very strange indeed,” said the thief who could understand the language of the animals. “The dog is hinting that one of us poor fellows is a sultan.”
At this fantastic notion, all of the thieves and the sultan had a hearty laugh.
They soon reached the palace and fell to work. The first thief fixed in place a rope ladder, by which all of them climbed over the outer wall and into the palace grounds. The second thief broke through the wall of the palace itself. The third smelled out the hiding place of the sultan’s treasure, and led his companions to it. They then tied the treasure into bundles, left the palace by the way they had entered and, once outside the palace walls, divided the booty equally among themselves. They all then quickly dispersed to their homes.
In the morning, the sultan sent out his guards, telling them to arrest the five thieves and have them hanged. But as the poor fellows were being marched to the gallows, the fifth thief recognized the sultan and stepping forward said in a loud voice, “O my Sultan, I can recognize you now in the light of day, for you were with our band last night. Have pity on us, O gracious Sovereign. Please move your beard and save our worthless lives, and all of us will solemnly promise never to steal again. Instead, we will enter your service and serve you faithfully for the rest of our lives.”
The sultan then took pity on the wretched men and nodded his head. In that timeless gesture of mercy he caused his beard to move. And at once their shackles were taken off and they gladly entered the service of their ruler.
Just so, God comes in human form to put thieves, rogues and all those who are drowning in the phenomena of this world onto the right path. Saints have to resort to all kinds of means to save human beings.
Tales of the Mystic East
The perfect Master does not reveal all that he is on the first day. As the ability of the disciple increases, the Master also reveals more and more.
Saints have various ways of imparting their teachings. It is said that a certain king’s son shirked all his studies and instead busied himself all day with his hobby of keeping pigeons. One day a holy man visited the king. “O holy man,” the king pleaded, “my son avoids his studies and spends all his time doting on his pigeons. Kindly advise him to study a little.”
The holy man sent for the boy and asked, “How many pigeons do you have ?” “Twenty,” the boy replied.
“That is not good enough,” said the holy man. “You should keep one or two hundred – then we can really enjoy their flight.”
“All right, Sir,” the boy answered, delighted.
When the pigeons arrived, the Saint exclaimed, “There are too many of them. We must give them names.”
He gave them names like A, B, C and so on, writing their names on their wings. In this way the holy man taught the boy to read and write.
Instead of forcing people to do something they are reluctant to do, it is better to know their aptitude and teach them accordingly.
Tales of the Mystic East