While travelling in the historical cities of Iran such as Qom, Isfahan and Shiraz, I recalled what I was taught in my childhood days in Indian Sufi seminaries in the textbooks written by the Islamic mystics and Persian poets. They beautifully explored the universal values and ultimate truths of the mankind. One such exploration was penned down by a famous Persian poet and Sufi philosopher Sheikh Sa’adi, the Persian poet of the 13th century who hailed from Shiraz.
One mystical maxim in Gulistan that inspires one and all is entitled Bani Adam, which means: “Children of Adam”. Weaved into a moving story in a beautiful Persian rhyme, this Sufi anecdote contains an inspirational universal and harmonious message for our times. It reminds the human beings of their common origin, spiritual symbiosis in their creation and oneness of their creator. Saadi says that Bani Adam are the limbs of the same body, and are from the same essence in their creation. Therefore, whenever a turmoil or hardship befalls on any of these parts, other parts also feel the same pain. From this inclusive and all-embracing spiritual premise, Saadi infers that whosoever remains indifferent to the pathetic plight of other children of Adam, it is not befitting to call him/her a human being. This spiritual principle was basically laid down by the Prophet Muhammad in his well-known prophetic tradition. His saying goes on like this:
“The example of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with restlessness.”
The Sufi anecdote of Bani Adam has such a great appeal in itself that it has been celebrated by the United Nations too. The largest and the most splendid carpet at the entrance of the United Nations, which was gifted by the Persian philanthropists is adorned by the same couplet of Sheikh Saadi. It has been aptly translated into English as the following:
Saadi sang these eternally relevant poems in the 13th century:
The human family is one body with many parts
Creations arising from one unseen essence
Any harm to any part summons an awakening
a dis-ease and a healing response from all parts
You who fail to feel the pain of others cannot be called truly human.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an alim (classical Islamic scholar) and a Delhi-based writer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org