The story behind “This too shall pass…” (Persian proverb by Sufi saint Fariduddin Attar
A dervish who had traveled long and hard through the desert finally came to civilization after a long journey. The village was called Sandy Hills, and it was dry and hot… . The dervish politely asked … where he could find food and lodging for the night. “Well,” said the man, scratching his head, “we don’t have such a place in our village, but I am sure Shakir would be happy to provide for you tonight.” Then the man gave directions to the ranch owned by Shakir, whose name means “one who thanks the Lord constantly.” …… As it turned out, Shakir was a very hospitable and kind person. He insisted that the dervish stay a couple of days in his house…. At the end of his stay, they even supplied him with plenty of food and water for the journey. On his way back to the desert, the dervish could not help puzzling over the meaning of Shakir’s last words at the time of farewell. The dervish had said, “Thank God that you are well off.”… Shakir had replied, “Don’t be fooled by appearances, for this too shall pass.”
During his years on the Sufi path the dervish had come to understand that anything he heard or saw during his journey offered a lesson to be learned and thus was worthy of contemplation. In fact, that was the reason he had undertaken the journey in the first place—to learn more… .And so he passed five more years of traveling to different lands, meeting new people, and learning from his experiences along the way. Every adventure offered a new lesson to be learned… .
One day, the dervish found himself returning to Sandy Hills, the same village at which he had stopped a few years before. He remembered his friend Shakir and asked after him. “He lives in the neighboring village, ten miles from here. He now works for Haddad,” a villager answered… . Happy at the prospect of seeing Shakir again, [the dervish] rushed toward the neighboring village. At Haddad’s marvelous home, the dervish was greeted by Shakir, who looked much older now and was dressed in rags. “What happened to you?” the dervish wanted to know. Shakir replied that a flood … had left him with no cattle and no house. So he and his family had become servants of Haddad… . This turn of fortune, however, had not changed the kind and friendly manner of Shakir and his family. They graciously took care of the dervish … and gave him food and water before he left. As he was leaving, the dervish said, “I am so sorry for what has happened to you and your family. I know that God has a reason for what He does.” “Oh, but remember, this too shall pass.”
Shakir’s voice kept echoing in the dervish’s ears. The man’s smiling face and calm spirit never left his mind… .…
The dervish traveled to India. Upon returning to his homeland, Persia, he decided to visit Shakir one more time… . But instead of finding his friend Shakir there, he was shown a modest grave with the inscription, “This too shall pass.” … “Riches come and go,” thought the dervish to himself, “but how can a tomb change?”From that time on, the dervish made it a point to visit the tomb of his friend every year… . However, on one of his visits, he found the cemetery and the grave gone, washed away by the flood… . He lifted his head to the sky and, as if discovering a greater meaning, … said, “This too shall pass.”
When the dervish had finally become too old to travel, he decided to settle down… . People came from all over to have the benefit of his wisdom. Eventually his fame spread to the king’s great ad-visor, who happened to be looking for someone with great wisdom.
The fact was, the king desired a ring be made for him. The ring was to be a special one: it was to carry an inscription such that if the king was sad, he could look at the ring and it would make him happy,and if he was happy, … it would make him sad… . Many men and women came forward with suggestions for the ring, but the king liked none of them. So the ad-visor wrote to the dervish … asking for help… . A few days later, an emerald ring was made and presented to the king. The king, who had been depressed for days, reluctantly put the ring on his finger… . Then he started to smile, and a few moments later, he was laughing loudly. On the ring were inscribed the words, “This too shall pass.”