The Donkey in the Well

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a Sufi story from the oral traditions.  There are several versions of the story floating around but its origin is Central Asia.  Qom is in modern Iran.

By the city of Kashan, a hundred miles east of the holy city of Qom, lived a poor peasant named Ahmad.  Ahmad’s village was at the edge of a desert, facing barren mountains to the north.  High on the mountains, snow fell heavily from December until March.  As the snow melted, a river flowed into the valley below until May, and then dried up for the rest of the year.  Peasants dug wells at the foot of the mountains, connected them together with underground tunnels, and brought water to the valley below.

Ahmad, like every other peasant, had a share of this water for the melons in his plot.  Every day, he woke up before sunrise, prayed to God, counted his blessings, and then went to work in the fields, under the blazing sun.  He worked gladly, as sweat dripped from his face.  He collected melons in gunnysacks, put them on his donkey’s back, and then took them to the bazaar.

One day, on his way to the bazaar, Ahmad’s donkey fell into an abandoned well.  Ahmad sat by the edge of the well and listened to his donkey, as it cried piteously.  Listening to the sound of the donkey’s cry, Ahmad reasoned that the donkey may have broken its legs, and since the donkey was old, he thought he should put the donkey out of its misery.

He went back to the village and called a few of the villagers to help him.  Ahmad asked every man to grab a shovel and begin to shovel dirt into the well.  Realising what was happening, the donkey, at first, cried and wailed horribly.  Then a few shovelfuls later, the donkey quieted down completely.  The peasants peered down into the well and were astounded by what they saw.  With every shovelful of dirt that landed on its back, the donkey was doing something amazing.  He was shaking the dirt off and taking a step up on a new layer of dirt.

As the peasants continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.  Soon, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off, to the shock and astonishment of all the peasants.

Then Ahmad grinned and said, “We all have to learn from my wise donkey.  When life throws a shovel of dirt at you, all kinds of dirt, the trick to getting out of such circumstances is to not to let the dirt bury you.  Shake it off and take a step up.  Each of our troubles is a steppingstone.  Like the donkey, we can get out of the deepest wells by not stopping and never giving up!  Shake off the dirt, take a step up, and then praise God.”


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