Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
Essays | Recipes | Gallery

Hasan, Habib & the Roast
Detail from A Seated Princess, Persian, 1600. Click for complete painting.

One day Hasan al-Basri came to call on Habib al-Ajami. Habib placed two rounds of barley bread and a little salt before Hasan. Hasan began to eat. A beggar came to the door, and Habib gave the two rounds and the salt to him.

"Habib," remarked the astonished Hasan, "you are a worthy man. If you only had some knowledge, it would be better. You took the bread from under the nose of your guest and gave it all to the beggar. You ought to have given a part to the beggar and a part to the guest."

Habib said nothing. Soon, a slave entered with a tray on his head. A roast lamb was on the tray, together with sweetmeat and fine bread, and five hundred silver dirhams. He set the tray before Habib. Habib gave the money to the poor, and placed the tray before Hasan.

"Master," he said when Hasan had eaten some of the roast. "you are a good man. If only you had a little faith, it would be better. Knowledge must be accompanied by faith."