Tale of the Three Questions

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A certain Sultan owned everything a man could wish for, and still he did not know the purpose of life. The answer to three questions made his life difficult:

1. What should I do?
2. With whom should I do the things God asks me to do?
3. When should I do it?

The Sultan asked the advice of all kinds of wise people, but without a satisfactory answer. Then he was told that there was a Chishti dervish who lived far away, and who might give him an answer. The Sultan immediately left to find him, and after a journey of several weeks he came upon the dervish, who was cultivating his own land. He was a simple man, but no simpleton, as he was reciting a Persian quatrain over and over again :

Kaarist waraai ‘elm raw aanraa baash
Dar bande gohar mabaash raw kaan raa baash
Del hast maqaame gaah begozaar o biaa
Jaan manzele aakherast raw jaan raa baash.

There is a work beyond knowledge, realise that, go!
Do not work to get jewels, be the mine, go!
The heart is a temporary abode, leave it and come!
The soul is the final abode, realise that, go!

The Sultan was not interested in Persian poems, however, and asked his three questions of the dervish. The dervish did not answer him, but continued with his work. The Sultan became angry and said: “Don’t you know who I am? I am the Sultan of Sultans!” But this did not make any impression on the dervish, who continued doing what he was doing.

Suddenly, a wounded man appeared from the forest, looking as if he were attacked by a wild animal. He dropped to the ground in front of the dervish. The dervish said to the Sultan: “Help me to carry this man to my place!”

“I’ll help you,” the Sultan said, “but will you answer my questions afterwards?”

“Later!” the dervish said, and so together they brought the wounded man to the hut of the dervish and took care of him.

“And now I’d like to receive the answers to my questions,” the Sultan said.

“You can return to your palace,” the dervish said, “because you have already received the answers to your questions. As to what to do, you should do what comes to you on your path. As to with whom you should do it, the answer is with those who are present. And as for the when to do it, you should do it the moment it takes place.”

Mohammed Siraj
Taken (and slightly edited) from the Sufi Healing Yahoo group.

Ya Haqq!


15 Responses to Tale of the Three Questions

  1. EFfloresce says:

    Another one to benefit from and again and again in retelling to my children.

  2. chaiwala says:

    A lovely story Irving! Profound indeed,

  3. lulando says:

    May we all live up to that wisdom.
    May we all inhale the second principle, “with those who are present.” That simply includes everybody :) How wonderful.


  4. Raza Rumi says:

    this is such a profound story – your blog is a true gem of wisdom and love..God bless you…

  5. gulnaz says:

    to do what comes your way, to do it with the person you are with and to do it now…that is a lesson i need to learn. there is no point in complaining about what is lost and injustices done to you….
    i need to mull over this…thank you.

  6. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brothers and Sisters:

    Thank you for the kind comments :) The story indeed illustrates perfectly one of the lessons of the path, and of life. Do not hesitate to do what must be done in kindness and love to those with you in the moment. The Sufi path is nothing more than to serve God by serving all of His creation with loving-kindness. To reach this state of heart may take years, but that is a topic for another time :)

    Ya Haqq!

  7. Barbara says:

    Salaams Irving,

    I am always looking for stories such as this beautiful master piece to share with my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old granddaughter. Thanks for sharing this jewel.

    Bless you,

  8. mshahin says:


    Thank you for sharing this inspirational story :)

  9. pbsweeney says:

    Oh the simplicity of this! If we could just manage to do it and stop fussing and posturing. Such a good story – such a potent reminder.

  10. Abdur Rahman says:

    Salaams Baba Darvish!

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. True indeed. Or, as our esteemed Nimatullahi brethren would say….

    Ya Haqq!

    Abdur Rahman

  11. Sophia says:

    What an amazing parable! Thanks for sharing. :)

  12. Joubin Houshyar says:

    Salaam Brother Darvish,

    It may be helpful for your readers to know the distinction made in Persian mystic expression between ‘Maskan’ (Abode), Khaaneh (Dwelling) and Manzel (House/Home). Abode (from abide) is a temporary place of residence. Khaaneh is a ‘construct’ (i.e. eshaareh beh vaz’e rooh dar maad’deh..). Home is where the Heart (Qalb) Is.

    Maqaam means station. Gaah means moment. Del (in this context) is probably indicative of a ‘personal’ ‘center’, distinct from Qalb. Begozar means ‘frolic’. Fun loving people say “biaa o begozar’. Sufis say ‘begozar o biaa’ (and of course ‘zaahedaan’ just say biaa!!” )… given that this earthly life is ‘upside down’.

    So, do smell the flowers in the earthly garden when in bloom, but leave not your heart in the earthly garden, “Biaa”: (come back…)

    Thank you again for your blog on the net. Every visit is refreshment to quieten the soul in turbulent times. May HE Be Pleased with you for your efforts and Grant you your Heart’s Desire… a Lovely Manzel in the Shadow of HIS Everlasting Mercy.

    /& Salaam

  13. nuh ibn says:

    As salaam alaikum.

    I enjoyed this piece.

    Ma’as salaama,

    nuh ibn

  14. beautiful and heart warming story! I loved every bit of it!. and the poem is a gem!

    Thank you for sharing!

  15. lulando says:


    Four Ways of the Bodhisattva to take care of your fellow HUmans

    Words of Love
    Selfless Help
    Become One

    Thanks to my beloved Sister (my real sister, we share the same parents and she’s a Zennie, so she must know)

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