Conditions for Being a Dervish

There was a man who had a friend who was a dervish, and this man very much wanted to take hand with his friend’s shaykh.  so one day, he asked his friend to talk to the shaykh on his behalf.  The shaykh didn’t say anything about initiation, but told his dervish to tell his friend that it would be OK if he came to the dergah and watched and listened.  so he came, and watched and listened, and after a while became  impatient, and again asked, begged his friend to intercede with the shaykh on his behalf.  The shaykh said that he could now clean the bathrooms, and wash the floors, but could not yet participate.  Now the man very eagerly performed his new duties, but soon he again begged for his friend to approach the shaykh and ask when he could become a dervish.  the shaykh said that there was going to be a gathering in 2 nights, and that his friend could bring him a glass of water when he asks for it.  So they got together, and the dervish taught his friend how to serve the shaykh water.  How to hold it properly in his right hand, with the left over it, how to approach and bow, crossing the right toe over the left, how to go down on the right knee, and hold the water out for the shaykh to take.  Anxiously  awaiting this honor and opportunity, the man practiced at home until he felt comfortable, and was sure that he could give the shaykh a glass of water without spilling any. 

the night came, and the dergah was crowded.  All the shaykh’s dervishes were there, as well as other shaykhs and some of their dervishes as well. the shaykh was talking very emotionally, and at one point asked if he might have a glass of water.  At this point the man hurriedly filled up a glass, held it the way he was taught and carried it out to the shaykh.  While the shaykh was talking, the man got down on one knee and held out the glass.  Just at that moment the shaykh caught up in the emotion of what he was saying gestured with his arm, and hit the man’s arm.  The glass went  flying and the water rose out of the glass into the air.  At the horror and shock and embarrassment, the man shut his eyes....

When he opened them, he was all alone on the top of a cliff overlooking a vast sea.  He certainly couldn’t understand, but realized that just lying there on the ground would not help.  He got up, faced away from the cliff, and in the distance saw the lights of a town.  A while later, upon entering the town he realized how dirty and hungry he was.  Passing a restaurant, he couldn’t resist.  He felt his pocket, but had no wallet with him.  Well, the worst that could happen would be that they would beat him, maybe they’d just let him work off the meal, but in either case, he’d be better off than he felt now.  So he went in, sat down and ordered a huge feast.  After coffee and dessert, when he could no longer eat, he started to pat his pockets and make a commotion.  the waiter came and asked what was wrong and the man had to admit that he seemed to have lost his wallet, and had no money to pay for his meal.  “Money? What’s that?” the waiter asked.  “But what do you mean?  I have to pay  for this meal you gave me, don’t I?”  “No.  But if you feel you must absolutely do something, then my grandmother died a short while age.  Please say a Fatihah for her.”  The man thanked him, said a Fatihah for the waiter’s grandmother, and left.

Walking down the street, he soon came to a clothing store, and noticed all the beautiful clothes on display.  He stood looking in the window, occasionally looking down at his own old and dirty clothing wondering how he could possibly get some new clothes.  After just a few minutes the owner of the store came out and invited the man in.  “You look like you’ve been travelling a long way and have just come to our town. Would you like a new suit of clothes?”  “Yes I would, but I don’t seem to have any money with me!”  “Money?  You are new here.  We don’t use any money.  No one pays for anything in our town; it’s all free.”  “Are you serious?  You mean you’d make me a suit of clothes, and I wouldn’t have to pay a thing?”  “That’s right, but if you are uncomfortable, then say a Fatihah for my parents, and that will be more than enough.”  After he was fitted for his new clothes, the tailor asked him if he had a place to live since he seemed to be so newly arrived.  On hearing that he did not, the tailor said that he could stay in the apartment upstairs since it was now empty as he had recently gotten married. “That would be wonderful,” said the the man, “but how could I pay you?”  “I could not think of asking you to pay anything.  Just, if you remember, once in a while say a Fatihah for my parents.”

He was settled in and resting that evening in his new apartment when all of a sudden he heard noises, and laughter, and a general commotion outside.  He went to the window and it seemed to him that every single woman and girl in the entire village was outside, and no men!  Out of the corner of his eye he saw the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen.  As he watched, she walked past the house he was in and continued across town.  He followed after her with his eyes until he could see her no more, and then just stood staring off into the night. Eventually he got tired of standing there, and went to bed, but sleep never came.

The next morning when he came down, the tailor had already opened up the shop.  When the tailor saw him, with big bags under his eyes and a depressed look on his face, he became very concerned.  “What’s the matter?  Are you sick?  Was the bed uncomfortable?”  “No, no, it wasn’t that.  There’s nothing wrong.”  “There must be...Oh, I know.  Last night was the women’s night, and you saw someone you liked, didn’t you?”  “But that’s wonderful, why are you so sad?”  “But I don’t know who she is...”  “That’s doesn’t matter.  Here’s what you must do.  Tonight they will come out again.  Take a candle and have it ready.  Wait by the window, and if you see her, go quickly downstairs, light the candle and offer it to her.  If she accepts it, she likes you and all will be well.”  “But how will I know who she is.  How..”  “Don’t worry about a thing.  If she accepts you, just wait.  Someone will come to you soon.”

That night, he anxiously waited by the window.  slowly, in ones and twos, the women started to come out and wander the streets.  There, across the street, he saw her.  Quickly, he lit the candle he had been holding, rushed downstairs, made his way through the crowded street, and walked up to the unknown woman he had fallen in love with.  He stood in front of her.  When she stopped to prevent walking into him, without saying a word, he held out the lit candle to her.  She looked at him intently, and after a few moments gave a little smile, took the candle from his hand, turned around and walked away without a word.

The next day he came down to the shop in even worse shape than the day before.  “What happened?  Did she reject you?’ asked the tailor. “No, she took it, but she just left.  How will I find out who she is?” “Didn’t I tell you not to worry?  Just be patient.  Someone will come to you soon enough.”  ThAt night, at about midnight, there was a loud pounding on his door.  He jumped out of bed, and opened the door to find 2 huge policemen there.  “Come,” said one.  “The  mayor wants to see you.”  “Now?  What did I do?”  “Don’t ask us,  We were told to bring you.  That’s all we need to know.”.. so he quickly got dressed, and went with the men to the mayor’s palace.

He was shown into the reception room where a very dignified man stood up at his approach.  “So you’re the young man whom my daughter has accepted. so, would you like to marry my daughter?”  “Oh yes sir, very much.”  “I understand that your new to town, and I would like to explain our rules.  You will have your own house, food and clothing, for which you will not have to pay anything.  In a little while, after you get used to being married, we will arrange for some job for you to do.  All you need do is promise to love, care and protect my daughter, as well as follow 3 simple rules.”  “Yes, anything.”  “It’s really very simple.  You must watch your tongue, you hand, and what is below your waist.”   “Is that all?  I can do that, no problem.”

They were married, and moved into the house that had been prepared for the daughter of the Town mayor.  things were wonderful.  And then one day several months after they were married, in the early evening someone knocked at the door.  The man asked his wife, “Dear, could you get that please.  I’m really tired.  If it’s for me, please just say that I’m out.”  “Excuse me?  What did you say?”  “I said, ‘If it’s for me, tell them I’m out.’”  “That’s what I thought you said.”  And she put on her scarf, and a jacket and left the house.  She didn’t return that night, and the next morning he was rather angry.  He thought that if she was out the entire night, she must have gone to her father’s house, and slept there.  so he went.  When he was shown into the mayor’s office by the huge policeman he had met earlier, he said,  “Excuse me for bothering you, but is my wife here?”  “Where else would you expect my daughter to come after you have broken you promise and our rules?”  “What?! What promise?  What rule?”  “You promised to watch your tongue.  And now you have not only lied, but you wished my daughter to lie as well!”  “What?  Just because I said that I wasn’t home.  I’d hardly call that lying.”  “Nevertheless, you were home, and you lied.”  “Well I am sorry.  I never dreamed you were so exacting.  It will never happen again, now that I know you are so strict.”

So the man and his wife returned home, and as before their life was one of peace and joy.  One fine spring day several months later they were out walking in the countryside.  they had walked for an hour or so, and he told his wife that if she wanted to rest, she should lie down in the shade of a tree, and he would just wander a little further and then come back.  So she lay down, and he walked through an apple orchard that was nearby.  Soon, he found on the ground the biggest, reddest, most perfect apple he had ever seen.  Thinking that it would be nice to surprise his wife with, for she might be hungry after her nap, he picked it up and returned to where she lay peacefully sleeping.  when she awoke about a half hour later, the first thing she saw was this beautiful apple.  Sitting up quickly, she looked at her husband and said, “What’s this?”  “An apple.”  “I know that, but where did you get it?”  “In an orchard about half a mile away.”  “Whom did you get it from?”  “What do you mean?  It doesn’t belong to anyone.  It was just lying on the ground, and I picked it up.”  Without a further word, she got up, put her scarf back on, and walked away.”

Knowing that she would go directly to the mayor’s, her father’s, house, he slowly gathered the things they had brought together, and slowly followed her.  This time, the mayor did not even wait for the man to speak.  As soon as he entered his office, the  mayor said, “So now you break the second rule and are a thief.”  “A thief?”  the was quite annoyed.  “A thief?  And what was it I am supposed to have stolen?”  “An apple.”  “I stole no apple.  I merely picked it up.  It belonged to no one.”  “But that is not true.  Did you plant the tree from which it fell?” “no.”  “Do you own the orchard where it was found?”  “no.”  “Did you look for the owner and ask for him to make the apple a gift to you?” “no.”  “So you stole it.  You took something that neither belonged to you, nor was put there with your hand.  That’s stealing!”  “Father-in-law, the rules here are so fine.  I didn’t realize how careful one had to be.  Please, I am sorry, and it won’t happen again.”  “Well, alright., but this is your last chance.  You have broken 2 of the rules, and if you do it again, you will have to go back to where you came from.”

As before, they returned home together, and the man was very good.  However, there was a certain spot by a river on the outskirts of the town where the women would go to do their washing.  They would take their scarves off, roll up their sleeves, pull up their long skirts over their knees, and wade into the water to do the wash.  Our friend began to go there, and hiding behind a huge boulder, watch them.  Once while he was there he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.  It was the huge policeman who had first brought him to the mayor.  “Come with me.”  Silently he went along to his father-in-law’s house.  There  his father-in-law, looking more sad than angry, said, “You have broken all three of our laws. You have failed to control your tongue, you hand and your sex, so now you must go from our land.”  And nodding to the 2 policeman he said, “Take him back to where he came.”  They escorted him to the cliff, and grabbing hold of his arms and legs, swing him 3 times and cast him into space.  As he fell in fear he tightly closed his eyes.

When the sensation of movement gently ceased, he opened his eyes to see the shaykh in front of him gently, compassionately smiling, and the water still traveling through the air.  “You see,” said the shaykh.  “You’re not ready yet.”