The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
DISTRESS, SUFFERING AND OPPRESSION: A THEODICY

Yet even aside from the devaluation of the world and the goods of this world due to their transitoriness, and aside from their religious inferiority and the danger they pose, the image of earthly existence remains very dismal. Indeed, even the minimum which is necessary to eke out one's life is not available everywhere. People's needs are badly provided for, the general distribution of goods is arbitrary, and mankind is subjected to suffering and oppression. As we shall see, it is chiefly through the mouth of the poorest of the poor, ₿Aṭṭār's fool figures, that the people, otherwise condemned to silence, voice their criticism against the government and the administration—often in quite strange language.


1

God apparently wishes that the poor man should go hungry and weep because of hunger.

A man sees a fool weeping and asks him why he's crying. The fool says:
"Because I'm naked and hungry." The man: "You may well be hungry but that's
no reason to weep like this!" The fool: "But that's exactly why He causes me to
go hungry, so I should weep!" (MN 21/12).

Qushayrī, Risāla 66, Bāb al-jū₿; Sendschreiben 209/13.4. Perhaps weeping is to be judged
positively from a religious point of view. See 15/1, 14), p. 244), below. But the stories which
follow here scarcely allow that sort of positive interpretation.

Another person replies to a fool who asks him for bread: "That's God's af-
fair." The fool says: "I already experienced that in the year of hunger. Those who
died of starvation were lying about and He didn't give me any bread." (MN 27/8).

A pious officer has a neighbor who's an indigent fool and he regularly has
food sent to him. One day at the king's order the officer must go off on a jour-
ney. The fool comes to him in consternation and asks whom he intends to en-
trust him to. The officer says: "God!" The fool responds: "Don't do that! He'll let
me starve." (AN 16/2 in Ayasofya 4792, fol. 216a).

-55-

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