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 TWENTY-TWO
THE RELATIONSHIP WITH ANIMALS

As is known, dogmatic tenets which are friendly toward animals are found within the doctrinal school of the Muʿtazila. This school teaches that animals which have suffered in the here and now, especially because of other animals, will be compensated for their suffering in the hereafter. And there were many who taught that retribution would be exacted from the wicked animals for what they have done to the good ones. (Ashʿarī, Maqālāt 254–55).

The Ṣūfīs have not speculated on these matters but they maintain the principle that a Ṣūfī should not torment a person or an animal. In this way they have developed an especially friendly relationship with animals, which is reflected in a great number of their stories.

Humility itself already demands that the Ṣūfī does not imagine himself to be so much higher than animals. The dog has the same origin as he does. (Above pp. 317 f.).

Maʿshūq Ṭūsī, not completely in control of himself because of the great heat,
throws a stone at a dog. Then a horseman in green clothes appears, strikes him
with a whip and shouts at him: "Don't you know whom you've thrown a stone
at? Doesn't he have the same origin as you? Why do you take him to be lesser
than yourself?" (IN 2/7, pp. 56–57).

A Ṣūfī will not kill and torment an animal.

Abū Isḥāq al-Kāzarūnī is preaching. A sparrow flies down and perches on the
shaykh's hand. The shaykh says: "Do you know why the bird has perched on my
hand in particular? He knows I won't kill him and eat him and torment him."
Then he says to the little bird: "Oh sparrow, don't be afraid! I'll neither kill you,
nor torment you, but I'll let you go." (Firdaws al-murshidiyya 165–66).

A disciple of Abū Saʿīd strikes a dog on its front leg with a stick. The dog
runs to Abū Saʿīd howling and whimpering, and shows him the limb where it was
struck. The shaykh takes the Ṣūfī to task. The Ṣūfī says: "The dog itself is
guilty. Why did it soil my robe?" The dog goes on howling. The shaykh says to
the dog: "Say what I should do, and don't postpone the reckoning until judge-
ment on the Final Day. If you want, I'll punish him. For you must be made con-

-337-

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