One day a Dervish arrived in a village while he was crossing a desert with his donkey. He was exhausted and decided to rest at an inn in the village. First, he placed his donkey in the care of a boy at a stable beside the Inn.
The inn was filled to capacity with men of different backgrounds. Some were upright Sufis, others were Dervishes like him, and some were rogues who were interested in the animal that the Dervish had put in the stable.
Of the different groups, the rogues gave him the warmest welcome. These mischievous men had been patiently waiting for a stranger to come to town – someone who would bring with him something of value that they could use for themselves.
These men, ten in all, slipped away to the stable, grabbed the donkey from the helpless stable boy and sold it to an innocent passer-by. The rogues then spent the money on food, drinks and sweets and returned to the inn.
They invited everyone to share in a feast to honour the arrival of the Dervish. They exclaimed: “The pleasure of the arrival of a Dervish is kindness and love!”
The Dervish was touched by their hospitality and felt pleased.
As the night wore on and the party became animated, one of the men who knew about the theft and sale of the Dervish’s donkey started to beat his drum and began singing in a loud voice:
The donkey has gone, the donkey has gone, the donkey has gone”
Everyone then joined in a chorus and sang these two lines.
The Dervish became very cheerful and soon forgot that he was tired.
Thinking that the words “the donkey has gone!” had some special meaning to the crowd at the inn, he too joined in the singing “The donkey has gone!”, and began liking the song more than everyone else.
The Dervish finally fell asleep. After being fully rested he returned to the stable for his donkey to continue with his journey. But the animal was nowhere to be seen!
“Where’s the donkey I put you in charge of last night?” the Dervish demanded of the boy.
The long beard and attire of the Dervish gave the boy a reason to start making fun of the hapless Dervish.
The Dervish grew agitated and angry. “My young fellow, stop fooling and making fun of me. Hurry up! Bring my donkey, or else I’ll take you to court and the judge will disgrace you!”
The stable boy replied, “You’re the one who is the fool, my old fellow! Where do you think all that food that we consumed last night came from? It came from the money from selling your donkey!”
Questioned the Dervish, “My donkey? Who gave you permission to sell my donkey?”
The boy answered: “I didn’t sell it. A team of rogues came here, stole it from me and sold it at a nearby street. I was afraid for my life and I stayed quiet until I could finally make my way to you.”
Continued the boy:
“When I arrived at the Inn to tell you what had happened I saw that you were celebrating the donkey’s departure. You were dancing, and singing louder than anyone else: ‘The donkey has gone! The donkey has gone!’
There was nothing more for me to say,”
Explained the boy:
“I thought to myself that here was a generous Dervish who wanted to make other Dervishes happy by selling his own donkey and using the money to throw a party. What would you have done if you were in my place?”
The Dervish realized his foolhardiness. He said to the stable boy:
“I followed the wrong-doers in their behaviour and became like one of them. My ignorance caused you to misunderstand the situation and whatever chance I might have had of recovering my most valuable possession was gone.”
This incident taught the Dervish to use the mind intelligently and wisely and not to copy others blindly.
Adapted by: Jamil Pirani, Ottawa, from “Rumi Stories for Young Adults” translated by Muhammad Nur Abdus Salam
Other books in this series are:
“Attar Stories for Young Adults”
“Saadi Stories for Young Adults”
“Kalil and Dimnah Stories for Young Adults”