A Parable from Fareed ud-Deen Al-Attar (رحمه الله) — Dhikr.
‘ There was once a sultan who had a skilled hunting dog which he dearly loved. The sultan would give much importance to this dog and admire it greatly. He would never leave on a hunting expedition except he would bring it with him. It even had a collar encrusted with jewels and anklets of gold and silver on its legs while its back was covered with a garment of woven silk.
One day, the king proceeded on a hunting trip with the men from his fort and took with him this hunting dog as was his custom. The king was fully composed riding on his horse with dignity and in his hand was a silken leash tied to the dog’s collar. Suddenly, something happened that ruined the king’s trance of euphoria and delight. The dog had suddenly occupied itself with something other than the king — as if it had forgotten him completely. The sultan tried with great force to pull back the leash so that the dog might be dissuaded from what it was occupied with. But alas, the king was only grieved further since his efforts were unsuccessful. The dog continued licking the bone that was in front of it and tried biting it. The sultan was compelled to shout out angrily and with astonishment:
‘How can there be such complete distraction in my presence and such forgetfulness of me!?’
The sultan was greatly grieved and bothered. For the denial of him by the dog showed the absence of its loyalty and its heedlessness. The king did not excuse or forgive just because it was a dog. For the dog’s busying itself , after the great goodness it had received as well as all the honour and consideration, all of a sudden with a bone and its complete forgetfulness of the king — was not worthy of being forgiven.
The king definitively said, ‘Leave to be free this ungrateful, bad-mannered one!’ Once the heedless dog understood the severity and seriousness of the situation, the matter was already done and dusted. Nothing could further be done. The men said to the sultan, ‘O our master. Let us strip away from it the encrusted jewels and the gold and silver. And then let it go!’ The king replied, ‘No. Leave it and let it go as it is’, before adding by saying, ‘let it wander about a stranger, suffering from hunger and thirst in the heat and barrenness of the desert. Then let it look at those jewels, so it lives with the burning thoughts, pain and regret over the blessings and goodness which it lost in front of its very eyes!’
We could expound much on this parable but sometimes the more you say, the less you say. So, let us be brief. The king in this parable — and to Allah (swt) belongs the incomparable similitude — represents the Majesty of Allah (swt). And kings are to be honoured. The dog is man, who is lavishly blessed by God with uncountable blessings and gifts. From his sensory, spiritual, emotional and intellectual faculties, like the ability to know, see, understand, empathise, love, ponder, touch, feel happiness — and even to feel sadness as it contains its own wisdoms — to our blessings of food, family, friends, varied tastes and enjoyments, knowledge, health, consciousness itself, power, language; spoken, written, facial and even gestures, science and technology…and the list goes on.
The Majesty of Allah (swt) deserves the undying and total attention of the human being, not only because of these blessings that He has bestowed upon man, but also because Allah (swt) is deserving of such attention, honour and praise — just because of Allah’s being Allah and His Names and Attributes demand it. Just like a king is honoured, on his merely being a king. Then what of a King to whom we are indebted due to his infinite kindnesses?
The dog licking the bone is our ignorance of Allah. Our forgetting Him and of His Magnificence and of His Position as the Godhead. Instead, we turn our attention to worthless, material things that gives us passing pleasures. Further, we perceive that we have attained the bone from our own ingenuity, but in reality, it too is only thanks to the length of the leash around our necks (and therefore another favour from God).
Allah’s wrath is ‘our letting go free’. But free only from no longer having the honour of remembering Allah and His Remembering of us. Like the Noble Hadith Qudsi mentions Allah (swt) saying, “… and if My servant remembers Me in himself, I remember him in Myself …’. Our going free is the loss of Divine favour and support, not necessarily the loss of material blessings. Those material blessings remain with us to keep the wretched distracted from God, so in the end they realise the magnitude of their loss and the worthlessness and futility of what they sold their lives for besides Allah (swt). And so, Magnitude and Praise of Allah is taken from him forcibly, from he who would not give it volitionally. For Allah is the King of all that is. And kings are to be honoured.
Originally published at https://dhikr.com.au on December 12, 2020.