Mian Mir: The King’s Poverty

The Sufi master Mian Mir (1550 – 1635), whose most famous student was Dara Shikoh, lived in the region of Lahore in what is today Pakistan.  He had renounced the world and led the austere and simple life of a faqir,  as much as possible avoiding contact with rulers who might come to ask for blessings.  As his fame spread, he kept mureeds at his gate to prevent the entry of such people.  Once it happened that the Emperor Jehangir himself came to pay homage to the saint.  He arrived with all the pomp and ceremony that befits an emperor, but the mureeds requested him to wait outside until their master gave permission to enter.  Jehangir was not accustomed to have to wait anywhere, and when at last he was admitted, with wounded pride he said, “On the doorstep of a dervish, there should be no sentry.”  Unconcerned with the feelings of the emperor, Mian Mir replied, “It is to keep the dogs of the world outside.”

At that time Jehangir was preparing to launch a military campaign to invade the kingdom of the Deccan, and he asked Mian Mir to pray for his success.  Just then a devotee came into the assembly, and laid a single rupee as an offering before the saint.  Mian Mir told the man to give it to the most needy person in the gathering, and the devotee went from one rag-clad dervish to another, but none accepted the offering.  “They do not need it,” said Mian Mir. Then pointing to Jehangir, he said,  “Give it to him.  He is the most needy person here.  An entire kingdom is not enough for him.  He lusts after another.  For that he came all the way from Delhi to beg.  Give the rupee to him.”

On another occasion, Jehangir invited Mian Mir to visit him in Agra.  When the Sufi arrived, the emperor treated him with great veneration.  The saint had a long conversation with Jehangir, dwelling principally upon the instability and unreliability of the world, and his words had such a profound effect upon the mind of the emperor that he expressed a desire to abandon the world and become a disciple of Mian Mir.  The Sufi, however, advised him to continue his worldly pursuits, telling him that kings had been made as a protection for God’s people, and that in ruling over his kingdom he was fulfilling an important duty entrusted to him by God.

This answer pleased the emperor very much, and he asked Mian Mir if he wanted anything.

“I shall ask you for one thing,” the saint replied.  “Do you promise to give it to me?”

“Most certainly I shall grant your wish,” Jehangir replied.

“My only wish is that your majesty will not give me the trouble of coming to you again.”

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