Saturday, December 08, 2007


Then comes an anecdote of a cowardly Sufi who boasted of his bravery, but had not courage enough even to slay a captive infidel. Verily, the "greater warfare," viz., that against one's own lusts and passions, demands as much courage as the "lesser warfare" against the infidels.

from Rumi: Masnavi I Ma'navi, Book V, translated by E.H. Whinfield [1898]


What kind of "courage" is needed to slay a non-Muslim captured during a raid and now held helpless, unarmed? Surely, what the "cowardly" Sufi lacked was hard-heartedness. Surely, what stood between him and this act of "bravery" - slaying a helpless captive - was compassion, or perhaps a simple sense of conscience? Or is that too much to ask, even of the venerable Rumi?

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