The Muslim mendicant

The Emperor Sajahan had heard many good things about a particular Muslim mendicant in his kingdom. People said that the mendicant always prayed to Allah and that he was very pious and spiritual. Everybody felt that he said and did the right thing at all times, and they greatly appreciated and admired him. The Emperor was also full of appreciation for him and had a strong desire to meet him. Of course, since he was the Emperor, Sajahan could have asked to see the mendicant at any time. But Sajahan never wanted to summon him or in any way force him to come to his court.

One day when Sajahan was on the third floor of his palace with some of his close friends and relatives, this particular mendicant happened to walk by the palace gate. Everybody said to the Emperor, “Look, here is the mendicant whom you have wanted to meet for such a long time.”

Sajahan said to his relatives, “Since he is near the palace, please tell him that I would be extremely grateful if he would come to see me for a few minutes. Tell him that he does not even have to walk up the stairs. We will hang a basket off the balcony by a rope and lift him up to the third floor.”

The mendicant was very surprised to hear that the Emperor himself wanted to see him. He was very humble and said, “If his Majesty wants to see me, how can I refuse?”

So he sat in the basket and Sajahan and a few others pulled him up. The Emperor said, “I am so happy and grateful that you have accepted my invitation. Today I wish to discuss spiritual matters with you. All the time I am with people who don’t practise spirituality, and I am also in that same category. If I wanted to, I could make time for my spiritual life. Unfortunately, I don’t have sincere aspiration. But I do appreciate you and admire you very much.”

The mendicant said, “Your Majesty, I don’t deserve your appreciation and admiration. You and your subjects see only my face; you don’t know my mind. My mind is uglier than the ugliest. I have so many bad thoughts. Outwardly I may appear very calm and peaceful, but inwardly my mind is very undivine. So I don’t deserve your appreciation.”

The Emperor said, “I deeply appreciate your sincerity, but I know that you are truly a very pure and pious man. Please tell me how you have become so close to Allah. Is it because you pray and meditate all the time?”

The mendicant said, “No, no, no! You think that I am close to Allah, and many others also believe the same. But I tell you, I am not closer to Allah than any of his other children. It is like the relationship between an Emperor and his subjects. I am one of your most useless subjects. I have no capacity. Would I ever have dared to request an audience with a great Emperor like you? A beggar, an insignificant subject like me, would never ask you to grant him an audience. It is your kindness, your affection, your love and your concern for a useless fellow like me that enabled me to come and speak to you. I don’t deserve to see you at all.

“You wanted to see me and honour me. If I had had pride and haughtiness, I would not have come to you. I would have thought, ‘Oh, although you are the Emperor, you don’t pray and meditate. So why should I go to you? I don’t need you’. But I was humble, and I was also moved by your invitation.

“Similarly, I am moved by the Call of Allah. Allah does not need an insignificant creature like me. Allah does not really need anyone. Out of His infinite Love and Compassion, He calls me and I respond. In this way He calls each and every man in secret. But very few are lucky enough to be able to respond to His unconditional Call. Because I have been lucky enough to respond to His Call, I am becoming close to Him. It is not my capacities or my qualities that have made me close to Allah, but His unconditional Concern and Love for a useless creature like me. In the same way He can, does and will call each and every human being. Unfortunately, very few respond to His Call.”