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The Bustan of Sadi, tr. by A. Hart Edwards, [1911], at

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Concerning Benevolence

If thou art wise, incline towards the essential truth, for that remains, while the things that are external pass away.

He who has neither knowledge, generosity, nor piety resembles a man in form alone..

He sleeps at peace beneath the ground who made tranquil the hearts of men.

Give now of thy gold and bounty, for eventually will it pass from thy grasp. Open the door of thy treasure to-day, for to-morrow the key will not be in thy hands.

If thou would not be distressed on the Day of Judgment, forget not them that are distressed.

Drive not the poor man empty from thy door, lest thou should wander before the doors of strangers.

He protects the needy who fears that he himself may become needful of the help of others.

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Art not thou, too, a supplicant? Be grateful, and turn not away them that supplicate thee.


A woman said to her husband: "Do not again buy bread from the baker in this street. Make thy purchases in the market, for this man shows wheat and sells barley, 12 and he has no customers but a swarm of flies."

"O light of my life," the husband answered, "pay no heed to his trickery. In the hope of our custom has he settled in this place, and not humane would it be to deprive him of his profits."

Follow the path of the righteous, and, if thou stand upon thy feet, stretch out thy hand to them that are fallen.


The wife of an officer of a king said to her husband: "Arise, and go to the royal palace, that they may give thee food, for thy children are in want."

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"The kitchen is closed to-day," he answered; "last night the Sultan resolved to fast awhile."

In the despair of hunger, the woman bowed her head and murmured: "What does the Sultan seek from his fasting when his breaking the fast means a festival of joy for our children?"

One who eats that good may follow is better than a Mammon-worshipper who continually fasts. Proper it is to fast with him who feeds the needy in the morning.


A certain man had generosity without the means of displaying it; his pittance was unequal to his benevolence. (May riches never fall to the mean, nor poverty be the lot of the generous!) His charities exceeding the depth of his pocket, therefore was he always short of money.

One day a poor man wrote to him saying: "O thou of happy nature! Assist me with funds, since for some time have I languished in prison."

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The generous man would have willingly acceded to the request, but he possessed not so much as the smallest piece of money. But he sent someone to the creditors of the prisoner with the message: "Free this man for a few days, and I will be his security."

Then did he visit the prisoner in his cell and say: "Arise, and fly with haste from the city."

When a sparrow sees open the door of its cage, it tarries not a moment. Like the morning breeze, the prisoner flew from the land. Thereupon, they seized his benefactor, saying: "Produce either the man or the money."

Powerless to do either, he went to prison, for a bird escaped is ne’er recaught. Long there did he remain, invoking help from none, nor complaining, though he slept not at nights through restlessness.

A pious man came to him and said: "I did not think that thou wert dishonest; why art thou here imprisoned?"

"No villainy have I committed," he replied. I saw a helpless man in bonds and his freedom

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only in my own confinement. I did not deem it right that I should live in comfort while another was fettered by the legs."

Eventually he died, leaving a good name behind.

Happy is he whose name dies not! He who sleeps beneath the earth with a heart that lives is better than he who lives with a soul that is dead, for the former remains for ever.


In a desert a man found a dog that was dying from thirst. Using his hat as a bucket, he fetched water from a well and gave it to the helpless animal. The prophet of the time stated that God had forgiven the man his sins because of his kindly act.

Reflect, if thou be a tyrant, and make a profession of benevolence.

He who shows kindness to a dog will not do less towards the good among his fellows.

Be generous to the extent of thy power. If thou hast not dug a well in the desert, at least place a lamp in a shrine. 13

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Charity distributed from an ox's skin that is filled with treasure counts for less than a dinar given from the wages of toil.

Every man's burden is suited to his strength—heavy to the ant is the foot of the locust.

Do good to others so that on the morrow God may not deal harshly with thee.

Be lenient with thy slave, for he may one day become a king, like a pawn that becomes a queen.


A poor man complained of his distressed condition to one who was rich as well as ill-dispositioned. The latter refused to help him, and turned roughly upon him in anger.

The beggar's heart bled by reason of this violence: "Strange!" he reflected, "that this rich man should be of such forbidding countenance! Perhaps he fears not the bitterness of begging."

The rich man ordered his slave to drive the beggar away. As a result of his ingratitude

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for the blessings that he enjoyed, Fortune forsook him, and lie lost all that he possessed. His slave passed into the hands of a generous man of enlightened mind, who was as gladdened at the sight of a beggar as the latter is at the sight of riches.14

One night a beggar asked alms of the latter, and he commanded his slave to give the man to eat. When the slave took food to the supplicant he involuntarily uttered a cry, and went back weeping.

"Why these tears?" his master asked.

My heart is grieved at the plight of this unfortunate old man," the slave replied. "Once was he the owner of much wealth, and I his slave."

The master smiled and said: This is not cause for grief, O son. Time, in its revolutions, is not unjust. Was not that indigent man formerly a merchant who carried his head high in the air through pride? I am he whom that day he drove from his door. Fate has now put him in the place that I then occupied. Heaven befriended me and washed the dust of sorrow

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from my face. Though God, in His wisdom, closed one door, another, in His mercy, did He open."

Many a needy one has become filled, and many a Plutos has gone empty.


Some one saw a fox that was bereft of the use of its legs. He was wondering how the animal managed to live in this condition when a tiger drew near with a jackal in its claws. The tiger ate the jackal, and the fox finished the remains. The next day also did the Omnipotent Provider send the fox its daily meal. 9

The eyes of the man were thus opened to the light of true knowledge. "After this," he reflected, "I will sit in a corner like an ant, for the elephant's portion is not gained by reason of its strength."

So did he sit in silence, waiting for his daily food to come from the Invisible. No one heeded him, and soon was he reduced to skin and bones. When, at last, his senses had almost gone through weakness, a voice came out from the wall of a mosque, saying:

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"Go, O false one! Be the rending tiger, and pose not as a paralytic fox. Exert thyself like the tiger, so that something may remain from thy spoil. Why, like the fox, appease thy hunger with leavings? Eat of the fruits of thine own endeavours; strive like a man, and relieve the wants of the needy."

Seize, O youth, the hand of the aged; fall not thyself, saying, "Hold my hand." In the two worlds does he obtain reward who does good to the people of God.


In the remote regions of Turkey there lived a good and pious man, whom I and some fellow-travellers once visited. He received us cordially, and seated us with respect. He had vineyards, and wheat-fields, slaves and gold, but was as miserly as a leafless tree. His feelings were warm, but his fireplace was cold. He passed the night awake in prayer, and we in hunger. In the morning he girt his loins and recommenced the same politeness of the previous night.

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One of our party was of merry wit and temper. "Come, give us food in change for a kiss," 15 he said, "for that is better to a hungry man. In serving me, place not thy hand upon my shoe, but give me bread and strike thy shoe upon my head."

Excellence is attained by generosity, not by vigils in the night.

Idle words are a hollow drum; invocations without merit are a weak support.


Hatim Tai possessed a horse whose fleetness was as that of the morning breeze. Of this was the Sultan of Turkey informed.

"Like Hatim Tai," he was told, "none is equal in generosity; like his horse, nothing is equal in speed and gait. As a ship in the sea it traverses the desert, while the eagle, exhausted, lags behind."

"From Hatim will I request that horse," the king replied. "If he be generous and give it to me, then shall I know that his fame is true; if not, that it is but the sound of a hollow drum."

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So he despatched a messenger with ten followers to Hatim. They alighted at the house of the Arab chief, who prepared a feast and killed a horse 17 in their honour.

On the following day, when the messenger explained the object of his mission, Hatim became as one mad with grief. "Why," he cried, "didst thou not give me before thy message? That swift-paced horse did I roast last night for thee to eat. No other means had I to entertain thee; that horse alone stood by my tent, and I would not that my guests should sleep fasting."

To the men he gave money and splendid robes, and when the news of his generosity reached to Turkey, the king showered a thousand praises upon his nature.


One of the kings of Yaman was renowned for his liberality, yet the name of Hatim was never mentioned in his presence without his falling into a rage. "How long," he would ask, "wilt thou speak of that vain man, who

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possesses neither a kingdom, nor power, nor wealth?"

On one occasion he prepared a royal feast, which the people were invited to attend. Someone began to speak of Hatim, and another to praise him. Envious, the king despatched a. man to slay the Arabian chief, reflecting: "So long as Hatim lives, my name will never become famous."

The messenger departed, and travelled far seeking for Hatim that he might kill him. As he went along the road a youth came out to meet him. He was handsome and wise, and showed friendliness toward the messenger, whom he took to his house to pass the night. Such liberality did he shower upon his guest that the heart of the evil-minded one was turned to goodness.

In the morning the generous youth kissed his hand and said: "Remain with me for a few days."

"I am unable to tarry here," replied the messenger, "for urgent business is before me."

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"If thou wilt entrust me with thy secret," said the youth, "to aid thee will I spare no effort."

"O generous man!" was the reply, "give ear to me, for I know that the generous are concealers of secrets. Perhaps in this country thou knowest Hatim, who is of lofty mind and noble qualities. The king of Yaman desires his head, though I know not what enmity has arisen between them. Grateful shall I be if thou wilt direct me to where he is. This hope from thy kindness do I entertain, O friend!"

The youth laughed and said: "I am Hatim; see here my head! strike it from my body with thy sword. I would not that harm should befall thee, or that thou shouldst fail in thy endeavour."

Throwing aside his sword, the man fell on the ground and kissed the dust of Hatim's feet. "If I injured a hair on thy body," he cried, "I should no longer be a man." So saying, he clasped Hatim to his breast and took his way back to Yaman.

"Come," said the king as the man approached, "what news hast thou? Why didst thou

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not tie his head to thy saddle-straps? Perhaps that famous one attacked thee and thou wert too weak to engage in combat."

The messenger kissed the ground and said: "O wise and just king! I found Hatim, and saw him to be generous and full of wisdom, and in courage superior to myself. My back was bent by the burden o f his favours; with the sword of kindness and bounty he killed me."

When he had related all that he had seen of Hatim's generosity, the king uttered praises upon the family of the Arab chief and rewarded the messenger with gold.


A certain man, in the ceiling of whose house some bees had built their hives, asked his wife for a butcher's knife so that he might destroy them. "Do not so," the woman said, for the poor creatures will be greatly distressed when turned out of their homes."

Accordingly, the foolish man left the bees in peace.

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One day the woman was stung by one of the insects and stood wailing on the doorstep. Hearing her cries, the husband left his shop and hurried towards the house. Angered, he said: "O wife! show not such a bitter face to the world; remember thou didst say to me, 'Kill not the poor bees.'"

How can one do good to the evil? Forbearance with the wicked but increases their iniquity.

What is a dog that a dish of viands should be set before him? Command that they should give him bones. A kicking animal is best well-burdened.

If the night-watchman display humanity, no one sleeps at night for fear of thieves.

In the battle-field, the spear-shaft is worth more than a hundred thousand sugarcanes.

When thou rearest a cat, she destroys thy pigeons; when thou makest fat a wolf, he rends one who is dear to thee.

Raise not a building that has not a strong foundation; if thou dost, beware.

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Protect him whose father is dead; remove the dust from his raiment, and injure him not. Thou knowest not how hard is his condition; no foliage is there on a rootless tree. Give not a kiss to a child of thine own in the sight of a helpless orphan. If the latter weep, who will assuage his grief? If he be angered, who will bear his burden? See that he weeps not, for the throne of God trembles at the orphan's lament. With pity, wipe the tears from his eyes and the dust from his face. If the protecting shadow of his father's care be gone, cherish him beneath the shadow of thy care.

Upon my head was a kingly crown when it reposed upon the bosom of my father. Then, if a fly settled upon my body, many were distressed on my behalf. Now, should I be taken in captivity, not one among my friends would come to aid me. Well do I know the orphan's sorrow, for my father departed in my childhood.

Next: Chapter III. Concerning Love