Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, Alberuni's India (v. 1)

(London :  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.,  1910.)



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A parable



in the


degrees of


tioned eight commandments (sic, vide p. 74), whoso
glories in them, is successful by means of them, and
believes that they are liberation, will remain in the
same stage."

The following is a parable characterising those who
vie with each other in the progress through the various
stages of knowledge :—A man is travelling together
with his pupils for some business or other towards the
end of the night. Then there appears something stand¬
ing erect before them on the road, the nature of which
it is impossible to recognise on account of the darkness
of night. The man turns towards his pupils, and asks
them, one after the other, what it is ? The first says :
" I do not know what it is." The second says : " I do
not know, and I have no means of learning what it is."
The third says: "It is useless to examine what it is,
for the rising of the day will reveal it. If it is some¬
thing terrible, it will disappear at daybreak; if it is
something else, the nature of the thing will anyhow be
clear to us." Now, none of them had attained to know¬
ledge, the first, because he was ignorant; the second,
because he was incapable, and had no means of know¬
ing ; the third, because he was indolent and acquiesced
in his ignorance.

The fourth pupil, however, did not give an answer.
He stood still, and then he went on in the direction of
the object. On coming near, he found that it was pump¬
kins on which there lay a tangled mass of something.
Now he knew that a living man, endowed with free
will, does not stand still in his place until such a
taugled mass is formed on his head, and he recognised
at once that it was a lifeless object standing erect.
Further, he could not be sure if it was not a hidden
place for some dunghill. So he went quite close to it,
struck against it with his foot till it fell to the ground.
Thus all doubt having been removed, he returned to
his master and gave him the exact account.    In such a
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