Shah Mahmud & the Fisher Lad

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Farid ad-Din ‘Aththar (q.s.) wrote, in his Manthiq ath-Thayr:

“One day, Shah Mahmud, riding with the wind,
Hunting, left his retinue behind,
And coming to a river, whose swift course,
Doubled back game and dog, and man and horse,
Beheld upon the shore, a little lad,
Fishing, very poor, and tatter-clad,
He was, and weeping as his heart would break.
So, the great sultan, for good humour’s sake,
Pulled in his horse a moment, and drew nigh,
And after making his salam, asked why,
He wept — weeping, the Sultan said, ‘so sore,’
As he had never seen one weep before.
The boy looked up, and ‘O Amir,’ he said,
‘Seven of us are at home, and father dead,
And mother left with scarce a bit of bread:
And now since sunrise have I fished — and see!
Caught nothing for our supper — woe is me!’
The Sultan lighted from his horse.  ‘Behold,’
Said he, ‘Good fortune will not be controlled:
And, since today yours seems to turn from you,
Suppose we try for once what mine will do,
And we will share alike in all I win.’
So, the Shah took, and flung his fortune in,
The net; which, cast by the great Mahmud’s hand,
A hundred glittering fishes brought to land.
The lad looked up in wonder — Mahmud smiled,
And vaulted into saddle.  But the child,
Ran after — ‘Nay, Amir, but half the haul,
Is yours by bargain’ — ‘Nay, today take all,’
The Sultan cried, and shook his bridle free —
‘But mind — tomorrow all belongs to me — ‘
And so, rode off.   Next morning, at divan
The sultan’s mind upon his bargain ran,
And being somewhat in a mind for sport,
Sent for the lad: who, carried up to court,
And marching into royalty’s full blaze,
With such a catch of fish as yesterday’s,
The Sultan called and set him by his side,
And asking him, ‘What luck?’  The boy replied,
This is the luck that follows every cast,
Since over my net the Sultan’s shadow passed.’”

Here the story of a boy and his encounter with the Sultan is narrated.  The boy is in a destitute situation: his father had passed away; his mother barely has a morsel to feed their big family.  They now count on the boy, who has had very little luck fishing since sunrise.  The Sultan chances upon him and offers to help, and strikes a bargain with the boy: whatever the Sultan catches today belongs to the boy, but whatever the boy catches tomorrow will be for him.  One manner of understanding it, the boy is representative of the individual.  His situation is the Hell he creates for himself when one chooses to rely on his own resources.   In gnosis, the Master of everything is recognised, and one should have no resource other than Him to rely on.  The Sultan’s arrival represents gnostic recognition, ma’rifah, and how it is the key to abundance.  Abundance is a state of being rather than a physical phenomenon; therefore, it is irrelevant what form it comes in.  It lies in the satisfaction that accompanies every moment of remembrance, and the awareness of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Hand in everything, for He is the Owner of Creation.


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