09 March 2008

A Sunday story: Father, Son and the Holy Donkey

During their formative years monotheistic religions appropriated and conveniently adopted, with or without suitable modifications, many pagan customs, traditions and deities. New saints and otherwise holy men (and women) have continued to be created out of figments of imagination, hazy scraps of ancient legends or from outright fakers (for a recent example, see this post). Unfortunately, the "true" believers are too brainwashed to see thru the fake, yet thin, veil of authenticity what is actually hiding behind the purported holiness.

In his memoirs, My Life as an Explorer (1925), Sven Anders Hedin mentions the abundance of saints' graves around the city of Kashgar in 1890. He also relays this self-parodying story that was apparently popular at that time among the local Moslems.

A sheik used to teach the Koran to his disciples at a saint's grave outside Kashgar. One day, one of the pupils came to the sheik and said: "Father, give me money and food, so that I may go out into the world and try my luck." The sheik answered: "I have nothing else to give you but a donkey. Take it, and may Allah bless your journey."
So the youth took the donkey and left. He wandered around for a while and one day when he was crossing a desert, the donkey died. The youth buried the donkey and then sat down on the grave to cry. Just then, a caravan of some rich merchants happened to be passing by. When the merchants inquired about the reason for the youth's sorrow, he told them that he had lost his "faithful travelling-companion." The merchants were so touched by this that in the due course of time they had a magnificent mausoleum erected at the spot.
The tale of the new saint's grave travelled fast, and pilgrims from far and near thronged there to perform their devotions. After many years, the old sheik from Kashgar also went there. Astonished at finding his former pupil a sheik at so prominent a saint's grave, he asked: "Tell me, in confidence, who is the saint that rests under this cupola?" The pupil whispered: "It is only the donkey you gave me. Now you tell me who was the saint that reposed where you used to teach me?" To which the old sheik replied: "It was the father of your donkey."


Sue said...

I could say amen, but it would only be sarcastic. I still love your brain.

Dave Coulter said...

Sums it up nicely, I'd say, lol...