Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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The King and the Dervish
Detail from Another Inadequate Gift. Persian, 1556. Click for complete painting.

In a cave there lived a dervish who had turned away from the world; his heart bore no desire for the company of powerful or wealthy men. A king of that region sent a message to him that, trusting in his good will, he hoped the dervish would share bread and salt with him. The dervish agreed, for it is the sunna to accept an invitation. When the king arrived, that servant of God rose up, embraced him, served him, and praised him. After the king left the dervish was asked by a companion why he had paid him so much attention; he had never seen the dervish act in such a manner before. The dervish replied, "Has it not been said:

A man must rise up in service
to the One in Whom all abide.
Failing this, the ear might in a life time
Become deaf to the song of the lute, flute or drum.
The eye might miss sight of a garden,
The fragrance of roses might pass unsavored.
For want of a feather pillow
one might sleep with only a stone;
And for loss of a loving companion,
One might just as well sleep alone.
But this lowly, aching body
Cannot bear existence bereft of these gifts.