The following tale gives a glimpse of Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khana (1556 – 1627 CE) who was a Sufi poet, soldier and statesman. He was the stepson of the Emperor Akbar and served as one of the Emperor’s nine principal ministers or ‘jewels’. It might surprise us that Abdur Rahim was also a devotee of Krishna, and is considered one of the foremost Bhakta poets of India, but Akbar’s reign was marked by a highly evolved culture, with dignity and respect shown towards all beliefs. Unfortunately, not many of Abdur Rahim’s couplets have been translated into English, but as a prelude to this anecdote, here is one:
The alley is narrow, Rahim, it won’t take both of us.
If I go, the lord can’t; and if the lord does I can not.
It is said that every Thursday evening there was a gathering of the devoted, the learned and the wise, an assembly which Abdur Rahim traditionally attended. Once, as the meeting was getting underway, a certain man arrived and announced that he had had a strange dream that he wished to share, one that seemed to have meaning. He told that he had seen a wide space in which a great fire was burning, and in the very middle of the flames was the figure of Krishna, while outside the fire, apparently approaching it, was the figure of Ram.
After a moment, one man spoke up. ‘It is obvious,’ he said – ‘the fire represents the flames of hell, and Krishna has been thrown there for his sins. Ram will soon join him.’
There was an uncomfortable silence following this statement. These were not the words the assembly was accustomed to hearing. After a long pause, Abdur Rahim, who had been sitting with head bowed and hands clasped in his lap, looked gently and directly at the interpreter of the dream, and said quietly, ‘Friend, if you allow me, I should say that you have committed two very grave mistakes: first, you have abused the figures which our Hindu brethren hold in great respect and devotion, and this is morally wrong from the Islamic point of view. Also, generally, we should not speak ill of someone else’s beloved. The second mistake you have committed is spiritual: you have shown a strange haste in interpreting a dream which should be regarded as a sign from the realm of the unseen.’
These words refreshed the gathering very much. Then, after another silence, Abdur Rahim spoke again. ‘Friends, there is another way to look at the dream. Let us regard the fire that you saw in your dream as the fire of love; then we understand that Krishna, being the archetype of perfection in love, should be in the centre of that fire, and Ram, being yet a novice and a seeker, was still standing outside the fire.’