Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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You Cannot Feed a Dervish
Baker, early 7th/13th Century. Click for complete painting.

There was once a dervish who came to a baker's shop; he stood in front of the window looking at the beautiful loaves of fresh bread, and smiled at the baker. The baker asked the dervish, "Are you hungry?" "Yes, I am hungry," said the dervish. "Then I will feed you!" "But you cannot feed me!" "What do you mean, I can't feed you? Of course I can feed you! Come inside." So the dervish went into the bakery and, whoof! One loaf gone. Two loaves — whoof! Three loaves — whoof! He ate and ate and ate, then turned to the baker and asked, "Is there any more? I'm still hungry!"

The Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, used to say, "I am proud of my poverty." And he wasn't poor. Yes, he slept on just a mat, and he gave away everything in his house so that by morning only a date remained, but he certainly wasn't poor, so what was he talking about? He was talking about his need — by poverty he meant, "I am in need, I am hungry." But for what? Not for comfort, not for food. He is hungry for Allah. So that's why the dervish said to the baker, "You cannot feed me — I can swallow the bread from forty bakeries and I will still be hungry."