Sufi stories, especially those involving Mullah Nasruddin, are often like one of those unusually shaped stones we find sometimes at the beach. The stone attracts our attention, and when we hold it in our hand and turn it, it seems at one moment as if it resembles something – a heart? the head of a dog? – but when we turn it again, it has changed, and now looks like something else. In the end, perhaps we put it in our pocket, where our fingers re-visit it from time to time, puzzling over its form.
The tale of the Mullah shopping for clothes, posted here, is an example. Are we being shown that the Mullah has no grasp of commerce? Is he so unworldly? Does he really suppose that the new jacket now belongs to him, without having given the merchant a cent? Or is the Mullah more clever than clever, a fast talking, sly manipulator bent on tricking the shop-keeper out of his wares?
Both interpretations are plausible, of course, but the story can also be taken as an illustration of how easily we adapt our reasoning to suit our own interests. We are eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting the short-comings of others; we see their pre-conceptions and their prejudices clearly. But we are (usually) much less demanding of ourselves.
Hazrat Inayat Khan teaches us that this asymmetrical view is due to our awareness of, indeed our total absorption in our own reasons and intentions, and our blindness toward the intentions of others. If we happen to say something that causes offence to another, well, we ‘know’ that we weren’t intending to offend anyone, and we perhaps conclude that the other person is simply over-reacting. On the other hand, if someone offends us, our first thought is that they surely should have known better.
The cry of the world right now is for justice, and there is certainly much injustice that should be set right. We must begin, though, by ourselves learning to be just. If we are unable to rule ourselves fairly and justly, we should not be surprised if the world around us is no better.