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A Moment for Reflection
Oct 1, 2003

Camels on the Roof

One night, when sleeping, a man heard sounds on his roof. There were loud footsteps and he wondered what could be happening. He shouted out the window, Who is it? Is there a genie on my roof? An extraordinary, mysterious man looked into the window from above and said, We are going around by night, searching.

What are you searching for? the man asked.

Camels, he replied.

You must be joking! he exclaimed. Youre looking for camels on my roof?!

Thats right, camels. Just as you seek God on His throne. Is this so very different?

It was this and no more.

No one saw the man on the roof again.

He vanished like a genie in flight.

But did he not make his point about the madness of man,

That a camel which flies is no crazier than he

Who seeks God on the throne of delight?

Silence lies in the ocean,

While words flow through the river.

The ocean waits for you, do not wait for the river.

Look to the ocean and watch its message,

It will come, it will come

Death Makes Everybody Equal

A solitary dervish had taken up his station in the corner of a desert, when a king passed by. Inasmuch as contentment is the enjoyment of a kingdom, the dervish did not raise his head, nor show the king the least attention and, inasmuch as sovereignty is regal pomp, the king took offense, and said: "The tribe of ragged mendicants resemble brute beasts, and have neither grace nor good manners." The vizier stepped up to the dervish, and said: "O generous man! The sovereign of this land has passed by you; why did you not do him homage, and discharge the duty of obeisance?" He answered and said, "Speak to your sovereign, saying: Expect service from that person who will court your favor; let him moreover know that the purpose of kings is the protection of the people; it is not the purpose of the people to be the subjects of kings. It is for their benefit that the kings glory is exalted, yet the king is but the shepherd of the poor. The sheep are not intended for the service of the shepherd, but the shepherd is

appointed to tend the sheep. Today you may observe one man proud from prosperity, another with a heart sore from adversity; have patience for a few days 'till the dust of the grave can consume the brain of that vain and foolish head. When the record of destiny comes into effect, the distinction of liege and subject disappears. Were a person to turn up the dust of the deceased, he could not distinguish that of the rich man from the poor."

These words made a strong impression upon the king; he said, "Ask me for something." The wise man replied, "What I desire is that you will not trouble me again!" The king said, "Favor me with a piece of advice." He answered, "Now that the good things in life are in your hands, attend to them; wealth and dominion are passing from one hand into another." 

The Unjust do not Remain Unpunished

A story is told of a profiteer who bought firewood from the poor at a low price, and sold it to the rich at a profit. A good and holy man went up to him and said, "You are a snake, which bites everybody it sees, or an owl, which digs up and fouls the place where it nests. Although your injustice may pass unpunished among us, it cannot escape God, the knower of secrets. Be not unjust with the people of this earth, so that their complaints may not rise up to heaven." They say the unjust man was offended at these words, turned his face away from the holy man, and showed him no civility. But then, as it is expressed in the Qur'an: He, the glorified God, overtook him amidst his sins. One night, a spark from his kitchen fire flew onto a stack of wood, and caused a fire that burnt up all his belongings, laying him up in bed, tormenting him with the ashes of Hell. The good and holy man happened to be passing and saw that the profiteer was remarking to his friends, "I do not understand how this fire fell upon my dwelling." The good man said, "It was from the smoke of the hearts of the poor! Guard against the smoke of the sore-afflicted heart, for a sore hidden away will at last gather to a head. Give no heart pain so long as you can avoid it, for one sigh may set the whole world into flames."

It is said that the following inscription was engraved upon Kai-Khosraus* crown: "For how many years, and for what a continuance of ages, shall mankind walk over my head on this earth? As the kingdom came to me, from hand to hand, so it shall pass into the hands of others."

* Kai Khosrau was one of the Seljuk Sultans of Anatolia, 1192-1196.