ON RULES FOR CONDUCT IN LIFE
Property is for the comfort of life, not for the accumulation of
wealth. A sage, having been asked who is lucky and who is not,
replied: ‘He is lucky who has eaten and sowed but he is unlucky who
has died and not enjoyed.’
Pray not for the nobody who has done nothing,
Who spent his life in accumulating property but
has not enjoyed it.
Moses, upon whom be peace, thus advised Quran: ‘Do thou good as
Allah has done unto thee.’ But he would not listen and thou hast heard
of his end:
Who has not accumulated good with dirhems and dinars
Has staked his end upon his dirhems and dinars.
If thou desirest to profit by riches of the world
Be liberal to mankind as God has been liberal to thee.
The Arab says: Be liberal without imposing obligations and verily
the profit will return to thee.
Wherever the tree of beneficence has taken root
Its tallness and branches pass beyond the sky.
If thou art desirous to eat the fruit thereof
Do not put a saw to its foot by imposing obligations.
Thank God that thou hast been divinely aided
And not excluded from his gifts and bounty.
Think not thou conferrest an obligation on the sultan by serving him
But be obliged to him for having kept thee in his service.
Two men took useless trouble and strove without any profit, when one
of them accumulated property without enjoying it, and the other learnt
without practising what he had learnt.
However much science thou mayest acquire
Thou art ignorant when there is no practice in thee.
Neither deeply learned nor a scholar will be
A quadruped loaded with some books.
What information or knowledge does the silly beast posses
Whether it is carrying a load of wood or of books?
Knowledge is for the cherishing of religion, not for amassing
Who sold abstinence, knowledge and piety
Filled a granary but burnt it clean away.
A learned man who is not abstinent resembles a torchbearer who
guides others but does not guide himself.
Who has spent a profitless life
Bought nothing and threw away his gold.
The country is adorned by intelligent and the religion by virtuous
men. Padshahs stand more in need of the advice of intelligent men than
intelligent men of the proximity of padshahs.
If thou wilt listen to advice, padshah,
There is none better in all books than this:
‘Entrust a business to an intelligent man
Although it may not be his occupation.’
Three things cannot subsist without three things: property without
trade, science without controversy and a country without punishment.
Speak sometimes in a friendly, conciliatory, manly way
Perhaps thou wilt ensnare a heart with the lasso.
Sometimes speak in anger; for a hundred jars of sugar
Will on occasion not have the effect of one dose of colocynth.
To have mercy upon the bad is to injure the good; to pardon
tyrants is to do violence to dervishes.
If thou associatest and art friendly with a wretch
He will commit sin with thy wealth and make thee his partner.
The amity of princes and the sweet voice of children are not to be
trusted, because the former is changed by fancy and the latter in
the course of one night.
Give not thy heart to a sweetheart of a thousand lovers,
And if thou givest it, thou givest that heart for separation.
Confide not to a friend every secret thou possessest. How knowest
thou that he will not some time become thy foe? Inflict not every
injury thou canst upon an enemy because it is possible that one day he
may become thy friend.
Reveal not thy secret to any man although he may be trustworthy,
because no one can keep thy secret better than thyself.
Silence is preferable than to tell thy mind
To anyone; saying what is to remain unsaid.
O simpleton, stop the source of the spring.
When it becomes full, the brook cannot be stopped.
A weak foe, who professes submission and shows friendship, has no
other object than to become a strong enemy. It has been said that as
the friendship of friends is unreliable, what trust can be put in
the flattery of enemies?
Who despises an insignificant enemy resembles him who is careless
Extinguish it today, while it may be quenched,
Because when fire is high, it burns the world.
Allow not the bow to be spanned
By a foe because an arrow may pierce.
Speak so between two enemies that thou mayest not be put to shame if
they become friends.
Between two men contention is like fire,
The ill-starred back-biter being the wood-carrier.
When both of them become friends again
He will among them be unhappy and ashamed.
To kindle fire between two men
Is not wise but is to burn oneself therein.
Converse in whispers with thy friends
Lest thy sanguinary foe may hear thee.
Take care of what thou sayest in front of a wall
Because an ear may be behind the wall.
Whoever makes peace with the enemies of his friends greatly
injures his friends.
Wash thy hands, O wise man, from a friend
Who is sitting together with thy foes.
When thou art uncertain in transacting an affair, select that
portion of it which will entail no danger to thee.
Speak not harshly to a man of gentle speech.
Seek not to fight with him who knocks at the door of peace.
As long as an affair can be arranged with gold, it is not proper
to endanger life.
When the hand is foiled in every stratagem
It is licit to put the hand to the sword.
Do not pity the weakness of a foe because when he gains strength
he will not spare thee.
Boast not of thy moustaches when thou seest thy foe is weak.
There is marrow in every bone, a man in every coat.
Whoever slays a bad fellow saves mankind from a calamity and him
from the wrath of God.
Condonation is laudable but nevertheless
Apply no salve to the wound of an oppressor of the people.
He who had mercy upon a serpent
Knew not that it was an injury to the sons of Adam.
It is a mistake to accept advice from an enemy but permissible to
hear it; and to act contrary to it is perfectly correct.
Be cautious of what a foe tells thee to do
Lest thou strike thy knee with the hand of pain.
If he points thy way to the right like an arrow
Deflect therefrom and take that to the left hand.
Wrath beyond measure produces estrangement and untimely kindness
destroys authority. Be neither so harsh as to disgust the people
with thee nor so mild as to embolden them.
Severity and mildness together are best
Like a bleeder who is a surgeon and also applies a salve.
A wise man uses neither severity to excess
Nor mildness; for it lessens his authority.
He neither exalts himself too much
Nor exposes himself at once to contempt.
A youth said to his father: ‘O wise man,
Give me for instruction one advice like an aged person.’
He said: ‘Be kind but not to such a degree
That a sharp-toothed wolf may become audacious.’
May that prince never govern a kingdom
Who is not an obedient slave to God.
It is incumbent upon a padshah to give way to anger towards his
slaves only so far as to retain the confidence of his friends. The
fire of anger first burns him who has given cause for it and
afterwards the flame may or may not reach the foe.
It is not proper for sons of Adam born of earth
To inflate their heads with pride, violence and wind.
Thou who displayest so much heat and obstinacy
Must be, I think, not of earth but of fire.
I visited a hermit in the country of Bilqan
And requested him to purge me of ignorance by instruction.
He replied: ‘Be patient like earth, O lawyer,
Or else, bury under the earth all thy learning.’
An ill-humoured man is captive in the hands of a foe, from the grasp
of whose punishment he cannot be delivered wherever he may go.
If from the hand of calamity an ill-natured man escapes into the sky
The evil disposition of his own nature retains him in calamity.
When thou perceivest that discord is in the army of the foe, be thou
at ease; but if they are united, be apprehensive of thy own distress.
Go and sit in repose with thy friends
When thou seest war among the enemies;
But if thou perceivest that they all agree
Span thy bow and carry stones upon the rampart.
When all the artifices of an enemy have failed he shakes the chain
of friendship, and thereon performs acts of friendship which no
enemy is able to do.
Strike the head of a serpent with the hand of a foe because one of
two advantages will result. If the enemy succeeds thou hast killed the
snake and if the latter, thou hast been delivered from a foe.
If thou art aware of news which will grieve a heart, remain silent
that others may convey it.
Nightingale, bring tidings of spring.
Leave bad news to the owl.
Give not information to a padshah of the treachery of anyone, unless
thou art sure he will accept it; else thou wilt only be preparing
thy own destruction.
Prepare to speak only when
Thy words are likely to have effect.
Speech is a perfection in the soul of man
But do not ruin thyself by speaking.
Whoever gives advice to a self-willed man stands himself in need
Swallow not the deception of a foe. Purchase not conceit from a
panegyrist. The one has laid out a snare for provisions and the
other has opened the jaws of covetousness.
A fool is pleased by flattery like the inflated heel of a corpse
that has the appearance of fatness.
Take care not to listen to the voice of a flatterer
Who expects cheaply to derive profit from thee.
If one day thou failest to satisfy his wishes
He enumerates two hundred faults of thine.
Unless an orator’s defects are mentioned by someone, his good points
will not be praised.
Be not proud of the beauty of thy speech,
Of the approbation of an ignoramus and of thy own opinion.
Everyone thinks himself perfect in intellect and his child in
A Jew was debating with a Musalman
Till I shook with laughter at their dispute.
The Moslem said in anger: ‘If this deed of mine
Is not correct, may God cause me to die a Jew.’
The Jew said: ‘I swear by the Pentateuch
That if my oath is false, I shall die a Moslem like thee.’
Should from the surface of the earth wisdom disappear
Still no one will acknowledge his own ignorance.
Ten men eat at a table but two dogs will contend for one piece of
carrion. A greedy person will stir be hungry with the whole world,
whilst a contented man will be satisfied with one bread. Wise men have
said that poverty with content is better than wealth and not
Narrow intestines may be filled with dry bread
But the wealth of the surface of the world will not fill a greedy
When the term of my father’s life had come to an end
He gave me this one advice and passed away:
Lust is fire, abstain therefrom,
Make not the fire of hell sharp for thee.
In that fire the burning thou wilt not be able to bear,
Quench this fire with water today.
Whoever does no good in the time of ability will see distress in the
time of inability.
No one is more unlucky than an oppressor of men
Because in the day of calamity no one is his friend.
Life is in the keeping of a single breath and the world is an
existence between two annihilations. Those who sell the religion for
the world ‘are asses’, they sell Joseph but what do ‘they buy’? Did
I not command you, O sons of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan?
On the word of a foe thou hast broken faith with a friend.
See from whom thou hast cut thyself off and to whom united.
Satan cannot conquer the righteous and the sultan the poor.
Lend nothing to a prayerless man
Although his mouth may gasp from penury;
Because he who neglects the commands of God
Will also not care for what he may be indebted to thee.
Whatever takes place quickly is not permanent.
I have heard that eastern loam is made
In forty days into a porcelain cup.
A hundred are daily made in Baghdad.
Hence thou seest also their price is vile.
A little fowl issues from the egg and seeks food
Whilst man’s progeny has no knowledge, sense or discernment.
Nevertheless the former attains nothing when grown up
Whilst the latter surpasses all beings in dignity and excellence.
Glass is everywhere, and therefore of no account,
But a ruby difficult to get, and therefore precious.
Affairs succeed by patience and a hasty man fails.
I saw with my eyes in the desert
That a slow man overtook a fast one.
A galloping horse, fleet like the wind, fell back
Whilst the camel-man continued slowly his progress.
Nothing is better for an ignorant man than silence, and if he were
to consider it to be suitable, he would not be ignorant.
If thou possessest not the perfection of excellence
It is best to keep thy tongue within thy mouth.
Disgrace is brought on a man by his tongue.
A walnut, having no kernel, will be light.
A fool was trying to teach a donkey,
Spending all his time and efforts in the task.
A sage observed: ‘O ignorant man, what sayest thou?
Fear blame from the censorious in this vain attempt.
A brute cannot learn speech from thee.
Learn thou silence from a brute.’
Who does not reflect what he is to answer
Will mostly speak improperly.
Come. Either arrange thy words like a wise man
Or remain sitting silent like a brute.
Whenever a man disputes with one who is more learned than himself to
make people know of his learning, they will know that he is ignorant.
If one better than thyself begins to speak,
Although thou mayest know better, contradict him not.
Whoever associates with bad people will see no good.
If an angel associates with a demon
He will learn from him fear, fraud and hypocrisy.
Of the wicked thou canst learn only wickedness.
A wolf will not take to sewing jackets.
Reveal not the secret faults of men because thou wilt put them to
shame and wilt forfeit thy own confidence.
Who acquires science and does not practise it, resembles him who
possesses an ox but does not use him to plough or to sow seed.
From a body without a heart obedience does not arise and a husk
without a kernel is no stock in trade.
Not everyone who is brisk in dispute is correct in business.
Many a stature concealed by a sheet
If revealed appears to be the mother of one’s mother.
If every night were to be the night of Qadr, the night of Qadr would
be without Qadr.
If all stones were rubies of Badakhshan,
The price of rubies and of stones would be the same.
Not everyone who is handsome in form possesses a good character; the
qualities are inside not upon the skin.
It is possible in one day to know from a man’s qualities
What degree of science he has reached.
Be however not sure of his mind nor deceived.
A wicked spirit is not detected sometimes for years.
Who quarrels with great men sheds his own blood.
One who thinks that he is great
Is truly said to be squinting.
Thou wilt soon see thy forehead broken
If thou buttest it in play against a ram.
To strike one’s fist on a lion, and to grasp the sharp edge of a
sword with the hand, is not the part of an intelligent man.
Do not fight or try thy strength with a furious man.
Hide thy hands in thy arm-pits to avoid his finger-nails.
A weak man trying to show his prowess off against a strong one
only aids his foe to encompass his own destruction.
What strength has one brought up in the shade
To go against champions in a fight?
A man with weak arms in his folly throws
His fist upon a man with iron claws.
Whoever does not listen to advice will have occasion to hear
If admonition enters not thy ear
Be silent when I blame thee.
Elegant saying 1
Men void of accomplishments cannot behold those who possess some,
without barking like the curs of the bazar on seeing a hunting dog,
but dare not come forward; that is to say, when a base fellow is
unable to vie with an accomplished man he sets about slandering him
according to his own wickedness.
The envious mean fellow will certainly slander,
Whose tongue of speech is dumb when face to face.
If there were no craving of the stomach, no bird would enter the
snare of the fowler; nay, he would not even set the snare.
Sages eat slow, devotees half satisfy their appetite, recluses
only eat to preserve life, youths until the dishes are removed, old
men till they begin to perspire, but qalandars till no room remains in
the bowels for drawing breath and no food on the table for anybody.
A slave to constipation spends two sleepless nights,
One night from repletion and another from distress.
To consult women brings on ruin and to be liberal to rebellious
To have mercy on sharp-toothed tigers
Is to be tyrannical towards sheep.
Who has power over his foe and does not slay him is his own enemy.
With a stone in the hand and a snake on a stone
It is folly to consider and to delay.
Others, however, enounce a contrary opinion and say that it is
preferable to respite captives because the option of killing or not
killing remains; but if they be slain without delay, it is possible
that some advantage may be lost, the like of which cannot be again
It is quite easy to deprive a man of life.
When he is slain he cannot be resuscitaied again.
It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
Because when the arrow leaves the bow it returns no more.
When a sage comes in contact with fools, he must not expect to be
honoured, and if an ignorant man overcomes a sage in an oratorical
contest, it is no wonder, because even a stone breaks a jewel.
What wonder is there that the song
Of a nightingale ceases when imprisoned with a crow
Or that a virtuous man under the tyranny of vagabonds
Feels affliction in his heart and is irate.
Although a base stone may break a golden vase,
The price of the stone is not enhanced nor of the gold lost.
Be not astonished when a wise man ceases to speak in company of vile
persons, since the melody of a harp cannot overcome the noise of a
drum and the perfume of ambergris must succumb to the stench of rotten
A blatant ignoramus proudly lifted his neck
Because he had overcome a scholar by his impudence.
Knowest thou not that the Hejazi musical tune
Succumbs to the roar of the drum of war?
Even after falling into mud a jewel retains its costliness, and
dust, although it may rise into the sky, is as contemptible as before.
Capacity without education is deplorable and education without
capacity is thrown away. Ashes are of high origin because the nature
of fire is superior, but as they have no value of their own, they
are similar to earth and the price of sugar arises not from. the
cane but from its own quality.
The land of Canaan having no natural excellence,
The birth of a prophet therein could not enhance its worth.
Display thy virtue if thou hast any, not thy origin.
The rose is the offspring of thorns and Abraham of Azer.
Musk is known by its perfume and not by what the druggist says. A
scholar is silent like the perfumer’s casket but displays
accomplishments, whilst an ignoramus is loud-voiced and
intrinsically empty like a war-drum.
A learned man among blockheads
(So says the parable of our friends)
Is like a sweetheart among the blind
Or a Quran among unbelievers.
A friend whom people have been cherishing during a lifetime they
must not suddenly insult.
It takes a stone many a year to become a ruby.
Beware not to break it in a moment with a stone.
Intellect may become captive to lust like a weak man in the hands of
an artful woman.
Bid farewell to pleasure in a house
Where the shouting of a woman is loud.
A design without strength to execute it is fraud and deception and
application of strength without a design is ignorance and lunacy.
Discernment is necessary. Arrangement and intellect, then a realm;
For realm and wealth with an ignorant man are weapons against
A liberal man who eats and bestows is better than a devote who fasts
Who has renounced appetites for the sake of approbation by men has
fallen from licit into illicit appetites.
A devotee who sits in a corner not for God’s sake
Is helpless. What can he see in a dark mirror?
Little by little becomes much and drop by drop will be a torrent;
that is to say, he who has no power gathers small stones that he may
at the proper opportunity annihilate the pride of his foe.
Drop upon drop collected will make a river.
Rivers upon rivers collected will make a sea.
Little and little together will become much.
The granary is but grain upon grain.
A scholar is not meekly to overlook the folly of a common person
because thus both parties are injured; the dignity of the former being
lessened, and the ignorance of the latter confirmed.
Speak gracefully and kindly to a low fellow,
His pride and obstinacy will augment.
Transgression by whomsoever committed is blamable but more so in
learned men, because learning is a weapon for combating Satan and,
when the possessor of a weapon is made prisoner, his shame will be
It is better to be an ignorant poor fellow
Then a learned man who is not abstemious;
Because the former loses the way by his blindness
While the latter falls into a well with both eyes open.
Whose bread is not eaten by others while he is alive, he will not be
remembered when he is dead. A widow knows the delight of grapes and
not the lord of fruits. Joseph the just, salutation to him, never
ate to satiety in the Egyptian dearth for fear he might forget the
How can he who lives in comfort and abundance
Know what the state of the famished is?
He is aware of the condition of the poor
Who has himself fallen into a state of distress.
O thou who art riding a fleet horse, consider
That the poor thorn-carrying ass is in water and mud.
Ask not for fire from thy poor neighbour’s house
Because what passes out of his window is the smoke of his heart.
Ask not a dervish in poor circumstances, and in the distress of a
year of famine, how he feels, unless thou art ready to apply a salve
to his wound or to provide him with a maintenance.
When thou seest an ass, fallen in mud with his load,
Have mercy in thy heart and step not on his head.
But when thou hast gone and asked him how he fell,
Gird thy loins and take hold of his tail like a man.
Two things are contrary to reason: to enjoy more than is decreed and
to die before the time appointed.
Fate will not change by a thousand laments and sighs,
By thanks or complaints, issuing from the mouth.
The angel appointed over the treasures of wind
Cares not if the lamp of a widow dies.
O thou asker of food, sit for thou wilt eat; and 0 thou asked by
death, run not for thou wilt not save thy life.
Whether thou strivest for a maintenance or not
God the most high and glorious will send it to thee;
And if thou rushest into the jaw of a lion or tiger
They will not devour thee unless on the day decreed.
What is not placed cannot be reached by the hand and whatever is
placed will be reached wherever it is.
Hast thou heard that Alexander went into the darkness
And after all his efforts could not taste the water of
A rich profligate is a lump of earth gilded and a pious dervish is a
sweetheart besmeared with earth. The latter is the patched garment
of Moses and the former is the bejewelled beard of Pharaoh.
Nevertheless good men retain a cheerful countenance in adversity
whilst the rich droop their heads even in prosperity.
Who possesses wealth and dignity but therewith
Succours not those whose minds are distressed,
Inform him that no kind of wealth and dignity
He will enjoy in the mansion of the next world.
An envious man is avaricious with the wealth of God and hates the
guiltless as foes.
I saw a crackbrained little man,
Reviling a possessor of dignity,
Who replied: ‘O fellow, if thou art unlucky,
What guilt is there in lucky men?’
Forbear to wish evil to an envious man
Because the ill-starred fellow is an evil to himself.
What needest thou to show enmity to him
Who has such a foe on the nape of his neck?
A disciple without intention is a lover without money; a traveller
without knowledge is a bird without wings; a scholar without
practice is a tree without fruit, and a devotee without science is a
house without a door. The Quran was revealed for the acquisition of
a good character, not for chanting written chapters. A pious
unlettered man is like one who travels on foot, whilst a negligent
scholar is like a sleeping rider. A sinner who lifts his hands in
supplication is better than a devotee who keeps them proudly on his
A good humoured and pleasant military officer
Is superior to a theologian who injures men.
One being asked what a learned man without practice resembled,
replied: ‘A bee without honey.’
Say to the rude and unkind bee,
‘At least forbear to sting, if thou givest no honey.’
A man without virility is a woman and an avaricious devote is a
O thou, who hast put on a white robe for a show,
To be approved of men, whilst the book of thy acts is black.
The hand is to be restrained from the world,
No matter whether the sleeve be short or long.
Regret will not leave the hearts of two persons and their feet of
contention will not emerge from the mire: a merchant with a wrecked
ship and a youth sitting with qalandars.
Dervishes will consider it licit to shed thy blood
If they can have no access to thy property.
Either associate not with a friend who dons the blue garb,
Or bid farewell to all thy property.
Either make no friends with elephant-keepers
Or build a house suitable for elephants.
Although a sultan’s garment of honour is dear yet one’s own old robe
is more dear; and though the food of a great man may be delicious, the
broken crumbs of one’s own sack are more delicious.
Vinegar by one’s own labour and vegetables
Are better than bread received as alms, and veal.
It is contrary to what is proper, and against the opinion of to
partake of medicine by guess and to go after a caravan without
seeing the road. The Imam Murshid Muhammad Ghazali, upon whom be the
mercy of Allah, having been asked in what manner he had attained
such a degree of knowledge, replied: ‘By not being ashamed to ask
about things I did not know.’
The hope of recovery is according to reason,
That he should feel thy pulse who knows thy nature.
Ask what thou knowest not; for the trouble of asking
Will indicate to thee the way to the dignity of knowledge.
Whatever thou perceivest will become known to thee in due course
of time. Make no haste in asking for it, else the awe of thy dignity
will be lessened.
When Loqman saw that in the hands of David
All iron became by miracle soft like wax,
He asked not: ‘What art thou doing?’ Because
He knew he would learn it without asking.
One of the requirements for society is to attend to the affairs of
thy household and also at the house of God.
Tell thy tale according to thy hearer’s temper,
If thou knowest him to be biased to thee.
Every wise man who sits with Mejnun
Speaks of nothing but the story of Laila’s love.
Anyone associating with bad people, although their nature may not
infect his own, is supposed to follow their ways to such a degree that
if he goes to a tavern to say his prayers, he will be supposed to do
so for drinking wine.
Thou hast branded thyself with the mark of ignorance,
When thou hast selected an ignoramus for thy companion.
I asked some scholars for a piece of advice.
They said: ‘Connect thyself not with an ignorant man,
For if thou be learned, thou wilt be an ass in course of time
And if unlearned thou wilt become a greater fool.’
The meekness of the camel is known to be such that if a child
takes hold of its bridle and goes a hundred farsakhs, it will not
refuse to follow, but if a dangerous portion occurs which may occasion
death and the child ignorantly desires to approach it, the camel tears
the bridle from his hand, refusing any longer to obey because
compliance in times of calamity is blamable. It is also said that by
complaisance an enemy will not become a friend but that his greed will
only be augmented.
To him who is kind to thee, be dust at his feet
But if he opposes thee fill his two eyes with dust.
Speak not kindly or gently to an ill-humoured fellow
Because a soft file cannot clean off inveterate rust.
Who interrupts the conversation of others that they may know his
excellence, they will become acquainted only with the degree of his
An intelligent man will not give a reply
Unless he be asked a question.
Because though his words may be based on truth,
His claim to veracity may be deemed impossible.
I had a wound under my robe and a sheikh asked me daily how, but not
where it is, and I learned that he refrained because it is not
admissible to mention every member; and wise men have also said that
whoever does not ponder his question will be grieved by the answer.
Until thou knowest thy words to be perfectly suitable
Thou must not open thy mouth in speech.
If thou speakest truth and remainest in captivity,
It is better than that thy mendacity deliver thee therefrom.
Mendacity resembles a violent blow, the scar of which remains,
though the wound may be healed. Seest thou not how the brothers of
Joseph became noted for falsehood, and no trust in their veracity
remained, as Allah the most high has said: Nay but ye yourselves
have contrived the thing for your own sake.
One habitually speaking the truth
Is pardoned when he once makes a slip
But if he becomes noted for lying,
People do not believe him even when speaking truth.
The noblest of beings is evidently man, and the meanest a dog, but
intelligent persons agree that a grateful dog is better than an
A dog never forgets a morsel received
Though thou throwest a stone at him a hundred times.
But if thou cherishest a base fellow a lifetime,
He will for a trifle suddenly fight with thee.
Who panders to his passions will not cultivate accomplishments and
who possesses none is not suitable for a high position.
Have no mercy on a voracious ox
Who sleeps a great deal and eats much.
If thou wantest to have fatness like an ox,
Yield thy body to the tyranny of people like an ass.
It is written in the Evangel: ‘O son of Adam, if I give thee riches,
thou wilt turn away from me with mundane cares, and if I make thee
poor thou wilt sit down with a sad heart; then where wilt thou enjoy
the sweetness of adoring me, and when wilt thou hasten to serve me?’
Sometimes thou art made haughty, and careless by wealth,
Sometimes art in distress from exhaustion and penury.
If thy state be such in joy and in distress,
I know not when thou wilt turn to God from thyself.
The will of the Inscrutable brings down one from the royal throne,
and protects the other in the belly of a fish.
Happy is the time of the man
Who spends it in adoring thee.
When God draws the sword of wrath, prophets and saints draw in their
heads, but if he casts a look of grace, he converts wicked into
If at the resurrection he addresses us in anger
What chance of pardon will even prophets have?
Say: ‘Remove the veil from the face of mercy
Because sinners entertain hopes of pardon.’
Whoever does not betake himself to the path of rectitude in
consequence of the castigations of this world will fall under
eternal punishment in the next. Allah the most high has said: And we
will cause them to taste the nearer punishment of this world besides
the more grievous punishment of the next.
Admonition is the address of superiors and then fetters.
If they give advice and thou listenest not, they put thee in
Fortunate men are admonished by the adventures and similes of
those who have preceded them, before those who follow them can use the
event as a proverb, like thieves who shorten their hands, lest their
hands be cut off.
The bird does not go to the grain displayed
When it beholds another fowl in the trap.
Take advice by the misfortunes of others
That others may not take advice from thee.
How can he hear whose organ of audition has been created dull, and
how can he avoid progressing upon whom the noose of happiness has been
To the friends of God a dark night
Shines like the brilliant day.
This felicity is not by strength of arm
Unless God the giver bestows it.
To whom shall I complain of thee? There is no other judge
And there is no other hand superior to thine.
Whom thou guidest -no one can lead astray.
Whom thou castest off no one can guide.
The earth receives showers from heaven and gives to it only dust.
Every vessel exudes what it contains.
If my humour appears to thee unbecoming
Lose not thy own good humour.
A mendicant with a good end is better than a padshah with a bad end.
The grief thou sufferest before the joy
Is better than the grief endured after joy.
The Most High sees a fault and conceals it, and a neighbour sees
it not, but shouts.
Let us take refuge with Allah.
If people knew our faults
No one could have rest from interference by others.
Gold is obtained from a mine by digging it, but from a miser by
digging the soul.
Vile men spend not, but preserve.
They say hope of spending is better than spending.
One day thou seest the wish of the foe fulfilled
The gold remaining and the vile man dead.
Who has no mercy upon inferiors will suffer from the tyranny of
Not every arm which contains strength
Breaks the hand of the weak for showing bravery.
Injure not the heart of the helpless
For thou wilt succumb to the force of a strong man.
When a wise man encounters obstacles, he leaps away and casts anchor
at the proper opportunity, for thus he will be in the former
instance safe on shore, and in the latter he will enjoy himself.
The gambler requires three sixes and only three aces turn up.
The pasture is a thousand times more pleasant than the racecourse
But the steed has not the bridle at its option.
A dervish prayed thus: ‘O Lord, have mercy upon the wicked,
because thou hast already had mercy upon good men by creating them
to be good.’
The first sovereign who laid stress on costume and wore rings on his
left hand was Jamshid; and being asked why he had adorned his left
whereas excellence resides in the right hand, he replied: ‘The right
hand is fully ornamented by its own rectitude.’
Feridun ordered Chinese embroiderers
To write around the borders of his tent:
‘Keep the wicked well, O intelligent man,
Because the good are in themselves great and fortunate.’
A great man having been asked why he wore his seal-ring on his
left hand, whereas the right possesses so much excellence, replied:
‘Knowest thou not that the meritorious are always neglected?’
He who has created joy and distress
Apportions either excellence or luck.
He may freely warn who neither fears to lose his life nor hopes
Pour either gold at the feet of a monotheist
Or place an Indian sabre to his head.
He entertains no hope nor fear from anyone
And this is a sufficient basis of monotheism.
The padshah is to remove oppressors; the police, murderers; and
the qazi to hear complaints about thieves; but two enemies willing
to agree to what is right will not apply to him.
When thou seest that it must be given what is right
Pay it rather with grace than fighting and distressed.
If a man pays not his tax of his own accord
The officer’s man will take it by force.
The teeth of all men are blunted by sourness, but those of the
qazi by sweetness.
The qazi whom thou bribest with five cucumbers
Will prove that ten melon-fields are due to thee.
What can an old prostitute do but vow to become chaste, and an
policeman not to commit oppression upon men?
A youth who sits in a corner is a hero in the path of God
Because an old man is unable to rise from his corner.
A youth must be strong minded to abstain from lust,
Because even the sexual tool of an old man, of sluggish desire,
A sage was asked: ‘Of so many notable, high and fertile trees
which God the most high has created, not one is called free, except
the cypress, which bears no fruit. What is the reason of this?’ He
replied: ‘Every tree has its appropriate season of fruit, so that it
is sometimes flourishing therewith, and looks sometimes withered by
its absence; with the cypress, however, neither is the case, it
being fresh at all times, and this is the quality of those who are
Place not thy heart on what passes away; for the Tigris
Will flow after the Khalifs have passed away in Baghdad.
If thou art able, be liberal like the date tree,
And if thy hand cannot afford it, be liberal like the cypress.
Two men died, bearing away their grief One had possessed wealth
and not enjoyed it, the other knowledge and not practised it.
No one sees an excellent but avaricious man
Without publishing his defect
But if a liberal man has a hundred faults
His generosity covers his imperfections.
Conclusion of the Book
The book of the Gulistan has been completed, and Allah had been
invoked for aid! By the grace of the Almighty, may his name be
honoured, throughout the work the custom of authors to insert verses
from ancient writers by way of loan, has not been followed.
To adorn oneself with one’s own rag
Is better than to ask for the loan of a robe.
Most of the utterances of Sa’di being exhilarant and mixed with
pleasantry, shortsighted persons have on this account lengthened the
tongue of blame, alleging that it is not the part of intelligent men
to spend in vain the kernel of their brain, and to eat without
profit the smoke of the lamp; it is, however, not concealed from
enlightened men, who are able to discern the tendency of words, that
pearls of curative admonition are strung upon the thread of
explanation, and that the bitter medicine of advice is commingled with
the honey of wit, in order that the reader’s mind should not be
fatigued, and thereby excluded from the benefit of acceptance; and
praise be to the Lord of both worlds.
We gave advice in its proper place
Spending a lifetime in the task.
If it should not touch anyone’s ear of desire
The messenger told his tale; it is enough.
O thou who lookest into it, ask Allah to have mercy
On the author and to pardon the owner of it.
Ask for thyself whatever benefit thou mayest desire,
And after that pardon for the writer of it.
If I had on the day of resurrection an opportunity
Near the Compassionate one I should say: ‘O Lord,
I am the sinner and thou the beneficent master,
For all the ill I have done I crave for thy bounty.’
Gratitude is due from me to God that this book is ended Before my
life has reached its termination.