Bibliotherapy

Qutb al-Din Askevari-The Great Hermes, Part 2

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A ROMAN ARCHAISTIC MARBLE HERM OF HERMES PROPYLAIOS CIRCA 1ST CENTURY B.C. 1ST CENTURY A.D. The god with archaic-style flowing beard and hair, the hair arranged in three rows of tight curls over the brow, with long strands falling on to his shoulders, wearing a fillet, on an integral rectangular base.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is the continuation of the note devoted to HERMES, a chapter from Qutb al-Din Askevari ‘s, ‘The Hearts’ Beloved’, page 292 to 300. Edition du Cerf_2016. Mathieux Terrier’s timely French translation from the original Persian with impressive commentaries. After translating the notice devoted to ASCLEPIOS into English, we continue our labors of inter-textual, trans-cultural bridge-building with the notice devoted to HERMES.

It is a fascinating piece that offers an insider view of how Hermes, his hagiography and teachings were ‘understood’ and re-arranged and put to fit the needs of early Islam. We divided our work into two parts, as the notice is quite lengthy.

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Hermes the Great

Part 2

The Sayings & Sermons of Hermes the Great

Here is a choice of the maxims of wisdom (hikam), of the exhortations (mawa’iz) and the moral sentences (adab) of the Great Hermes:

He said: ‘The first duty of a man of a virtuous nature and laudable origin, whose devotion is agreeable to God, alike his deeds, is to genuinely venerate God and be grateful for the knowledge he receives from Him. After that, he owes to the Law, obedience and the acknowledgment of his rank; to the prince, counsel and submission; to his soul, effort and the steadiness in the pursuit of happiness; to his loyal friends, affectionate friendliness and diligent generosity. If these bases are firm, he should just avoid evil that comes from headless people and to have an equanimous presence in society.’‘No one can pay back God in the measure of the grace that He bestowed to all His creatures’.‘

He who is eager to reach to the virtuous knowledge and behavior, he must let go of the instruments of ignorance and lame attitude; It is the same with an artisan who is gifted in many crafts, and when he wishes to do some embroidery, he uses his embroidery tools and let go of the carpentry ones, and when he wants to do calligraphy, he lets go of the embroidery tools and devotes himself to the beauty of drawing letters with is calligraphy tools. So, the love for the virtuous life cannot be mixed in the same heart with the love for the life of lust.’

‘Your prayers will never rise if you are ignorant and your intentions are obscure. Do not disobey God, do not outreach his Law and its limits. May each of you treat one another like he wishes to be treated, as a brother. Establish concord, practice fasting and prayer in a communal way, with pure views and firm intentions. Help each other in the obedience and devotion to God. Practice alms and live a benevolent and modest life, fulfilling God’s prescriptions without pride and excess. Stay away from pride and do not overestimate the fruits of your good actions.’

‘Avoid being associated with criminals, lust pursuers, drowsy followers of insane and hideous schemes. Do not use the name of God in impious manner, do not take oaths lightly and be assured that piety towards God is the main wisdom, the supreme grace, the path leading to goodness, the key of the understanding and intelligence; God, out of love for His servants, bestowed them with intelligence, and rose upon them prophets by the power of the holy spirit (ruh al-qudus), un-veiled to them the secrets of genuine religion and the truths of wisdom, so that they put an end to the wandering and follow the right path.’

‘Understand the ways of wisdom, practice genuine religion, let your soul be accustomed to decency (waqar) and stillness, use good manners, contemplate your worldly affairs and don’t haste, especially in the punishment of criminals. May your modesty be your honor, and the fear of God your permanent concern. Beware of regrets and their consequences. Through these bindings, the soul is strengthened and freed from the yoke of ignorance and the slavery of youthful appetites.’

‘O Man, don’t be like the child that shouts when he is hungry, nor like the servant who rebels when he is satiated, not like the ignorant who abuses all when he is given the power to rule.’

‘Avoid gluttony, because the heart grows hollow while being complacent. Know when your simple needs are met and avoid the spirit of hoarding, especially when life is being generous with you.’ There is a Persian verse that I remember: ‘You will not live a genuinely religious life until you spend your wealth to benefit others. The branch of a tree benefit everyone with the blessings of its fruits. A tree that is not harvested dies meaningless.’

He said: ‘Get used to honor the good people and the wicked. The good people for their kindness; the wicked to avoid their filth.’

‘Don’t follow the offence by a hasty punishment. Because, you will be deprived of the in-between path where one may ask for forgiveness.’

‘The mistake of the wise man is like the downfall of a ship, when it sinks, many people die with him.’

‘The anger of the ignorant is in his speech, while the intelligent (al-aqi) man’s anger is in his actions.’

‘Sound education (adab) is the ruler of intelligence; embellish your intelligence by a sound education.’

‘He who ignores the rule of wisdom, ignores himself; he who ignores himself is more ignorant than everything that surrounds him,’

‘The intelligent man must not ask for other people’s obedience while himself has not tamed his own soul.’

‘Do not praise someone whose chastity is questionable for the perfection of his intelligence; also, do not praise someone’s faulty intelligence for the perfection of his knowledge.’

‘To give an advice to someone in public is like a rebuke.’‘To remind someone’s demand for forgiveness is a reminder of the offence.’

‘The ignorant is short-legged, even in an advanced age, while the wise man is great even though at young age.’

‘Ignorance and stupidity are to the soul what hunger is to the body, because both are the emptiness of the soul while the latter is emptiness of the body.’

Someone asked Hermes why the wise men knocked on the door of the rich more often than the rich call-in to the wise men? He answered: ‘Because the wise men know the value of wealth, while the rich ignore the value of wisdom.’

He said: ‘The understanding of good and evil is the perfection of knowledge; with the perfection of knowledge comes the perfection of wisdom; with the perfection of wisdom comes the great unbinding or freedom in God (salamat al-aqiba).’‘Men are of two kinds; those who seek and do not find; and those who find and are eager for more.’

‘The intelligent man does not rejoice more for the vices he casts away but for the virtues he manifests.’

‘The sign of a generous nature (garizat al-gud) is benevolence in adversity; the sign of a demanding nature (al-wara) is sincerity in indignation; the sign of a merciful nature (al-hilm) is forgiveness in anger.’

‘The greatest actions are about three: To foster the enemy into becoming a friend, to nurture the ignorant into being a wise man and to bring back the depraved (fağir) into living a pious life (barr).’

‘How shallow is the benefit of knowledge when ruled by carnal needs! How great is the harvest of wisdom when the soul rules in balance!’

‘Avoid the company of the liar, he is like the shining mirage who ever slips away when asked about being accountable.’

‘He who praises you for what you are not, be assured that, one day, he will blame you also for what you are not.’

‘He who speaks heedlessly about what is not of his concern, is deprived of his own affairs.’

‘The best of friends is the one that forgets your wrong and does not remind you of it.’

‘Live according to the Law; if you don’t, the Judge will be your opponent.’

‘A grace given to the ignorant is like a garden in the middle of a pile of manure.’

‘To a profusion of words, the best answer is silence; to the noise of unorderly actions, the best course is stillness; of a handful of disagreeable relationships, the just attitude is solitude.’

‘In this world, the best of God’s creatures is Man; in Man, the best of him is his intelligence; of the deeds of his intelligence, the best is to rule in justice one’s subjects so that they are not taken side-ways.’

‘If the king cannot tame his senses and rule his appetite, how can he master his entourage? If he is unable to master his entourage, how can he rule his helpers? If he cannot rule his helpers, how can he submit his subjects and his kingdom? The path the king must follow is to first rule his soul before even thinking ruling others.’

‘The man that is content with enough, is not enriched by the natural overflow. It blinds him not to look at others to help them with the fruits if this overflow.’

There is a verse by Imam Ali, the ‘Door if the City of Knowledge’: ‘The soul is weary of poverty but it is greater than any material wealth that imposes its empire. Wealth of the soul is the aim; when we forget and long for material possessions, nothing will be ever enough!’

Hermes said: ‘The material world despises the man who honors it. Earth swallows the one that recklessly feeds upon it.’ ‘May it be enough for you that the envious is saddened by your achievements.’

Hermes one day asked his disciple: ’Have you understood what I just told you?’- ‘Yes’ answered the disciple’- ‘No, I don’t see the effects of understanding upon you.’- ‘What is that?’- ‘You are not joyful. The sign of understanding is joy.’

‘To put wealth aside when you are prosperous is not the same as when you try to retain what is left of your wealth when you are having hard times.’

‘No one can find goodness and wisdom if he does not purify his soul on the journey back to God; and he will not be saved without possessing three things: A minister (wazir), an ally (wali) and a friend (sadik). The minister is his intelligence; his ally his chastity; his friend his pious actions.’

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