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. 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 he could bring his friend to the dergah to watch and listen. He came, and watched and listened, and after a while became impatient, and again 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. The man very eagerly performed his new duties, but soon he begged again for his friend to approach the shaykh, to ask when he could become a dervish. The shaykh said that there was going to be a gathering in two nights, and that his friend could bring him a glass of water when he asked for it. 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. The shaykh was speaking very emotionally, and at one point asked if he might have a glass of water. The man hurriedly filled 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. With horror, shock and embarrassment, the man shut his eyes.

            When he opened them, he was alone on the top of a cliff overlooking a vast plain. He didn’t understand what happened, 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 hungry he was. Passing a restaurant, he couldn’t resist. He felt in his pocket, but had no wallet with him. Well, the worst that could happen would be that they would beat him; maybe they would let him work off the meal, but in either case, he’d be better off. 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? Don’t I have to pay for this meal?

            “No. But if you feel you must absolutely do something, please say a Fatihah for my grandmother, who died a short while age.” 

            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 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; everything is free.”  

            “Do 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 have just 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 man, “but how could I pay you?”  

            “I could not think of asking you to pay anything. It would be sufficient, if you remember, once in a while to 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 the street was filled with woman and girls and no men were in sight!  He spotted the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. As he watched, she walked under his window, and continued down the street. 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, 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, not at all. There is nothing wrong.” 

            “There must be! Oh, I know! Last night was women’s night. Did you see someone you liked? That’s wonderful; why are you so sad?”  

            “But I don’t know who she is...”  

            “It 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?”

            “Don’t worry. If she accepts you, just wait. Someone will come to you soon.”

            That night, he anxiously waited by the window. Slowly, the women started to come out and wander the streets. There, across the street, he saw her. Quickly, he rushed downstairs, lit the candle, 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, 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 two huge policemen there.  

            “Come,” said one of them.  “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. Would you like to marry my daughter?”  

            “Oh yes sir, very much.”  

            “I understand that your are new to town, and I would like to explain our rules. Your own house, food and clothing will be provided for you. 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 three 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 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, so he went there. 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, for she might be hungry after her nap, he picked it up and returned to where she lay peacefully sleeping. When she awoke, the first thing she saw was this beautiful apple. Sitting up quickly, she looked at her husband and said, “What is 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 her father’s, house, he slowly gathered the things they had brought, 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?” He 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?” 


            “Do you own the orchard where it was found?”  


            “Did you look for the owner and ask for him to make the apple a gift to you?” 


            “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 strict. I didn’t realize how careful one had to be. Please, I am sorry, and it won’t happen again.”  

            “Well, all right, but this is your last chance. You have broken two 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. Once on his daily walk, he discovered 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 would watch them while hiding behind a thick bush. One day, as he watched, 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 leave our land.” And nodding to the two policeman he said, “Take him back to where he came from.” They escorted him to the cliff, and grabbing hold of his arms and legs, swung him three times and cast him into space. As he fell he tightly closed his eyes in fear.

            As he was falling, he suddenly opened his eyes to see the shaykh in front of him gently, compassionately smiling. The water from the glass was still traveling through the air. 

            “You see,” said the shaykh. “You are not ready yet.”