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 FIFTEEN
THE INTERPRETATION OF SUFFERING.
PATIENCE—GRATITUDE—CONTENTMENT

2

Islamic piety, broadly speaking, has developed the following conceptual motifs for interpreting the suffering with which human beings are afflicted on this earth:

1) Suffering is perdetermined and fixed in writing, i.e. "recorded". It will occur whatever the circumstances. "What has not struck them was unable to strike them, and what has struck them was unable not to strike them." A person should therefore be glad once it has run its course. This is one of the religious foundations for the attitude known as Oriental fatalism.

Ashʿarī, Maqālāt 2935–6; Qūt 1/2117; Nahrung 2/102 f./32.162; Iḥyāʾ 4/11225, al-Rukn al-
thālith min kitāb al-şabr, etc.; Stufen
266 ff./B.263 ff. I have not consulted the special treatise
of ʿIzz al-Dīn Maqdisī (d. 687/1279), Ms. Berlin, Ahlwardt 8786, 2, and the numerous ser-
mon-books that exist. Belief in providence and the attitude toward death among different
classes of the population in Egypt are vividly described by M. al-Muwayliḥī in Ḥadīth ʿĪsā b.
Hishām
, Cairo 1330, pp. 185–91.

One is obliged to surrender (taslīm) to this predetermination.

A ship is caught in a violent storm. A gebr is aboard. He's gripped by great
fear and calls out to the fire that he worships: "Come and help me!" The captain
says: "Be quiet, you fool! What help can fire give you here?" The gebr: "Then
what should we do?" The skipper: "Surrender ourselves to what has been deter-
mined for us." (MN 2/1).

When the ocean of predetermination is raging, then the lion is silent just like
the mouse.

During a shipwreck a cat and a mouse save themselves on a board. At that
moment the mouse no longer fears the cat, nor does the cat think of catching the
mouse. Both have forgotten themselves. (MN 2/2).

2) It has simply been ordained by God that the pious must suffer. The prophets suffer the worst, then the pious, etc., according to a gradated scale.

-238-

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