An apple that ravaged a Sufi’s soul By Meher Murshed
Abu Saleh Mousa Jangi Dost lived sometime in the eleventh century in Naif town in the district of Gilan, present day Iran. He had renounced the world and wandered from village to village, town to town, in search of the truth; to tread the path of the just. One day he was weary from his travels on foot. Hunger and fatigue seized his limbs. He came to a river. Jangi Dost sat there on the banks in contemplation. He performed his ablutions and said his namaaz.
And just there, he saw an apple, gleaming red, floating on the river. Hunger pangs were gnawing at his stomach. Jangi Dost rushed into the river, waded through the waters and grabbed the apple, bobbing tantalizingly in the water. In seconds, there was just the core left.
The next moment his heart sank. He had committed a sin. Jangi Dost had eaten an apple that belonged to someone else. He had eaten the fruit without his permission. He had to hunt for the nearest garden. He must track down the owner and seek his forgiveness; for hunger had forced him to violate his creed: honesty.
Years later in the khanqah of Baba Farid in Ajodhan, now Pakpattan, a similar story played out.
Nizamuddin Auliya was a disciple of Baba Farid. Everyone in the khanqah was assigned various chores. Nizamuddin’s responsibility was to boil a broth of wild fruits. Baba Farid and his disciples led a life of poverty. Whatever food came as futuh or unasked for gifts, Baba Farid distributed amongst the poor. He never kept anything for the next day, as it would show he had no trust in God to provide. When there was no futuh, they ate broth made of wild fruit. Nizamuddin was boiling the broth, when he found there was no salt in the kitchen. He went to the grocer and bought some salt on credit since he had no money. He placed the broth before his master.
Baba Farid put his hand into the broth and stopped. “My hand has become heavy. Perhaps, there is something in it that I am not permitted to put a morsel in my mouth,” he said.
Nizamuddin trembled. He placed his head on the ground and said: “My master, Jalal, Badruddin Ishaq and Husamuddin bring wood, wild fruit and water for the kitchen. This man boils the wild fruit and prepares the broth. He brings it before his master. There seems nothing to doubt. The master knows that.”
Baba Farid asked about the salt. Nizamuddin placed his head on the ground again and told him how he had got it.
“Dervishes prefer to die of starvation rather than incur debt to satisfy their desires. Debt and resignation are poles apart and cannot co-exist,” Baba Farid said. He did not touch the broth.
Now Jangi Dost’s soul was ravaged. He had satisfied his hunger, but how? He had eaten an apple that belonged to someone else.
Jangi Dost began his tired walk upstream, his limbs aching, his soul ravaged by the crime he had just committed. Guilt pounded his heart, it raced as he picked up his pace to look for the orchard. Panic set it. And then in the distance, he saw a branch of a tree. It was hanging over the river. “It must be the orchard. I must hasten,” he said to himself.
He came upon the garden and gingerly entered. He looked around. An old man sat quietly in one corner. Jangi Dost asked after the owner.
“What is your problem, son? What troubles you so? I am the owner you eagerly seek.”
Jangi Dost recognized the man as his panic ceased and his heart was relieved that he could own up to the sin that he had committed. He could seek forgiveness. The old man was none other than the noted saint, Abdullah Somai.
“Oh Sir, I have sinned. I was hungry. I saw an apple float down the stream and I quietened my hunger by eating the fruit. Please forgive me.”
Abdullah Somai couldn’t believe his ears. He stared hard at Jangi Dost, whose panic returned, thinking the saint would erupt in anger and not forgive him.
Abdullah Somai looked at the newcomer again. He saw a man of noble upbringing; of serene disposition; of honour.
“How innocent is this young man?” Abdullah Somai thought. “Every day, scores of apples are stolen from my garden, but nobody comes to beg my pardon. Here is this man who has eaten an apple that he picked from the river and has come to seek my pardon. I have not seen such an honest person in my life.”
“What is your name my son?”
“Mousa Kunyat Abu Saleh, but people call me Jangi Dost.”
“And your father?”
“Abdullah Al Jili.”
Abdullah Somai smiled.
“Abdullah Al Jili, the great saint, the descendant of Imam Hassan! Yes, I know him. He is famous for his piety, integrity and spiritual knowledge.”
“Then will you please forgive me?”
“No, I will not forgive you unless you fulfil a condition. You must tend to my garden for two years.”
Jangi Dost was quiet. He was hesitant to take up the responsibility. But he knew Abdullah Somai would not back down. He would have to look after the garden. Abdullah Somai had been searching for an honest man to manage his orchard, and in Jangi Dost, he had found a man who mirrored his soul.
For the next two years, Jangi Dost toiled hard under the hawk eyes of Abdullah Somai. The apple trees blossomed. Abdullah Somai made good money. And right then he knew: Jangi Dost would make a good husband to his precious daughter.
At the end of the two years, Jangi Dost approached Abdullah Somai and asked with all humility if he could take his leave. He had, after all, fulfilled his obligations and he could now go.
‘But you cannot leave!’
‘You have another task. You must marry my daughter. She who is blind. She who is deaf. She who is dumb. And crippled.’
Jangi Dost thought he had just heard the pronouncement of his condemnation to hell. He didn’t know how to get out of this trap.
“What if I refuse?”
“Then I don’t forgive you for eating the apple!”
There was no way out of this. The marriage was solemnized. Jangi Dost entered his wife’s room and that instant, ran back out, trembling.
Abdullah Somai was surprised.
“There is someone else in the room. It is not your daughter. She cannot be my wife – for she is beautiful. She is not deaf. Nor dumb. Nor crippled.”
“My son, she is your wife. I told you she was blind because she has not cast her eyes on anything forbidden; deaf because she has never heard anything wrong; dumb because she has not spoken anything ill; and crippled, as she has not stepped out of the four walls of her father’s house.”
The couple led a content married life. They had a son called Abdul Qader. He would grow be to be known as Gaus Al Azam. But that is another story.
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