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On the twists of fortune and fate. A Sufi story.

bradford

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Fatima the Spinner and the Tent

As retold by Idries Shah in Tales of the Dervishes, p. 74

Version attributed to Sheikh Mohamed Jamaludin, d. 1750

Once in a city in the Farthest West there lived a girl called Fatima. She was the daughter of a prosperous spinner. One day her father said to her: “Come daughter; we are going on a journey, for I have business in the islands of the Middle Sea. Perhaps you may find some handsome youth in a good situation whom you could take as a husband.”

They set off and travelled from island to island, the father doing his trading while Fatima dreamt of the husband who might soon be hers. One day, however, they were on their way to Crete when a storm blew up, and the ship was wrecked. Fatima, only half-conscious, was cast up on the seashore near Alexandria. Her father was dead, and she was utterly destitute.

She could only remember dimly her life until then, for her experience of the shipwreck, and her exposure in the sea, had utterly exhausted her.

While she was wandering on the sands, a family of cloth-makers found her. Although they were poor, they took her into their humble home and taught her their craft. Thus it was that she made a second life for herself, and within a year or two she was happy and reconciled to her lot.. But one day, when she was on the seashore for some reason, a band of slave-traders landed and carried her, along with other captives, away with them.

Although she bitterly lamented her lot, Fatima found no sympathy from the slavers, who took her to Istanbul and sold her as a slave.

Her world had collapsed for the second time. Now it chanced that there were few buyers at the market. One of them was a man who was looking for slaves to work in his woodyard, where he made masts for ships. When he saw the dejection of the unfortunate Fatima, he decided to buy her, thinking that in this way, at least, he might be able to give her a slightly better life than if she were bought by someone else.

He took Fatima to his home, intending to make her a serving maid for his wife. When he arrived at the house, however, he found he had lost all his money in a cargo which had been captured by pirates. He could not afford workers, so he, Fatima and his wife were left alone to work at the heavy labor of making masts.

Fatima, grateful to her employer for rescuing her, worked so hard and so well that he gave her her freedom, and she became his trusted helper. Thus it was that she became comparatively happy in her third career.

One day he said to her: “Fatima, I want you to go with a cargo of ships’ masts to Java, as my agent, and be sure that you sell them at a profit.”

She set off, but when the ship was off the coast of China a typhoon wrecked it, and Fatima found herself again cast up on the seashore of a strange land. Once again she wept bitterly, for she felt nothing in her life was working in accordance with expectation. Whenever things seemed to be going well, something came and destroyed all her hopes.

“Why is it?” she cried out for the third time, “that whenever I try to do something it comes to grief? Why should so many unfortunate things happen to me?” But there was no answer. So she picked herself up from the sand, and started to walk inland.

Now it so happened that nobody in China had heard of Fatima, or knew anything about her troubles. But there was a legend that a certain stranger, a woman, would one day arrive there, and that she would be able to make a tent for the Emperor. And, since there was as yet nobody in China who could make tents, everyone looked upon the fulfillment of this prediction with the greatest anticipation.

In order to make sure that this stranger, when she arrived, would not be missed, successive Emperors of China had followed the custom of sending heralds, once a year, to all the towns and villages of the land, asking for any foreign woman to be produced at Court.

When Fatima stumbled into a town by the Chinese seashore, it was one such occasion. The people spoke to her through an interpreter, and explained that she would have to go to see the Emperor.

“Lady,” said the Emperor, when Fatima was brought before him, “can you make a tent?”

“I think so,” said Fatima.

She asked for rope, but there was none to be had. So, remembering her time as a spinner, she collected flax and made ropes. Then she asked for stout cloth, but the Chinese had none of the kind which she needed. So, drawing on her experience with the weavers of Alexandria, she made some stout tentcloth. Then she found that she needed tent-poles. But there were none in China. So Fatima, remembering how she had been trained by the wood-fashioner of Istanbul, cunningly made stout tent-poles. When these were ready, she racked her brains for the memory of all the tents she had seen in her travels: and lo, a tent was made.

When this wonder was revealed to the Emperor of China, he offered Fatima the fulfillment of any wish she cared to name. She chose to settle in China, where she married a handsome prince, and where she remained in happiness surrounded by her children, until the end of her days.

It was through these adventures that Fatima realized that what had appeared to be an unpleasant experience at the time, turned out to be an essential part of the making of her ultimate happiness..
 

my_key

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Thanks Bradford. It reminded me of similar theme in this zen story on the changing fortunes of a farmer.

One day in late summer, an old zen farmer was sitting on his porch – as he did most days after he completed his work – drinking tea and eating Goji berry pastries with his nosey neighbor Katcha. But on this particular day a storm began to brew. There was a loud crack of thunder that spooked the zen farmer’s only horse and it took off into the distance headed for the mountains.

Katcha, the nosey neighbor, offered his condolences: “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper? This is the worst thing that has ever happened to you” The farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”

Two days the zen farmer and his nosey neighbor Katcha were drinking tea on the porch once again when the old horse came galloping back. He brought with him a fleet of wild horses. He had returned with twelve younger, healthier horses to help him tend to the land.

Katcha squealed: “How fortunate you are! I thought your horse running off was the worst thing that ever happened to you. As it turns out, it’s simply the best thing. Now you have many more horses. You will certainly have the most prosperous farm in all the land. Isn’t this the best thing that ever happened?”

The zen farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”

The following day, the farmer’s 18-year old son was training the wild horses while the zen farmer and his nosey neighbor Katcha drank their tea. He was thrown to the ground by one of them and broke his leg.

“Oh no.” said nosey neighbor Katcha.” I thought when the day your horse ran off was by far the worst day of your life. But this, is certainly your worst day ever. What a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad”.

Once again, as he always did, the zen farmer said: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see”

Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that all the young men in the village be be conscripted. The farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg.

Nosey neighbor Katcha said: “What good fortune you have!!”

And, the farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see.”

When the broken leg healed the son was only left with a slight limp. And by that time, most of the young village boys had died in the war. Lucky for the villagers the zen farmer and his son were still able to tend to their farm. The old farmer became wealthy and generously shared his crops with the village.

They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy. You have such luck!”

To which, the zen farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see.”
 

Freedda

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Thanks Bradford. It reminded me of similar theme in this zen story on the changing fortunes of a farmer.

.... To which, the zen farmer replied: “Could be good. Could be bad. We shall see.”
It was a Daoist farmer not zen one!

' ... But Sei Weng only replied, "What makes you think this is good?"'
 

Trojina

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The tale of the farmer, as told by Bradford is on post 12 of this sticky

So Brad already has a sticky with these ideas on but this story in t his thread fits well too
 

moss elk

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Perhaps that should have been the consideration before gloating about the banning of jukkoddave all he was doing was asking questions and pointing out some rather obvious contradictions and lack of coherent consistency.
No, he is doing much more than that isn't he? He is lying and being disruptive, and pretending to be something his is not.
Isn't he?

I wonder if he ever wondered what his life would be like if he stopped lying to people.

I wonder if he ever read the text of 25?
There is a great underlying principle there:

There will be suffering for those without Integrity, for the pretenders.
 
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bradford

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Freedda

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Bradford, thanks again for sharing. I am not all that familiar with mythology, but this story makes me wonder, could it be part of a myth or story 'cycle' where we might also have a sufi farmer, or a hindu farmer, or a muslim farmer, or a viking farmer as well? Sort of like the various flood and creation myths and stories we find across the world?

Best, D.
 
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my_key

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