786 The Zahuri Web Site - Sufi Stories
Sufi Stories 4
Here is a story of my own:

The Story of the Maiden in the Tower and the Two Brothers

In the days when there were such things as castles and fair damsels, (and we may
assume also dragons, knights, sorcerers, and such like things, though they have
nothing to do with our tale) there were two brothers. They shared similar handsome
features and were both blessed with a strong robust physique. In short each was, in
appearance, the very stuff of the heroes of fairy stories or legends. They were both in
the prime of their young manhood and thus brave and foolish by turns, and of course
utterly susceptible to the charms of fair maidens and smitten by the pleasure of
competitive sport. Indeed they differed only in one thing – for whilst one was diligent
in studies and cautious in nature the other was a man of action rather than words.

Now it so happened that one day they climbed on their trusty steeds (for in such
stories as this it is a necessity to have trusty steeds) and set out on a journey of
discovery to satisfy a wanderlust that had grown within them in their formative years
and had reached such a point that it would not be denied. Neither could have
described their purpose in setting out on their journey nor could either have denied
the call within.

Their journey took them through many a foreign land wherein they discovered strange
folk and different customs and encountered many an adventure. Both adversity and
good fortune attended them and throughout it all their bond of brotherhood became
ever stronger. Still their sense of yearning was not satiated. However as the year
passed they reached the point where they knew they must turn back to their duties
and the responsibilities of their own family and home. With a strong sense of
disappointment they settled down for a final meal before turning back. They were
camped out in a wilderness and they talked deep into the night but finally had to
resolve to turn back the following morning. The night was storm tossed and wild and
for long periods great dark clouds rolled across the heavens hiding the moon and
stars. It seemed to reflect their inner anguish. At last they dropped off to a restless

They woke however, with no little surprise, to a bright sparkling day. The sunlight
glanced off a thousand drops of dew each with a brightness scarce less intense than
its source that had by now climbed into the sky. Everywhere the colours of nature
had a crisp intensity that seemed to pervade their very senses. Birdsong and the
trickle of a nearby stream permeated their hearing. Nature itself seemed to be
determined to hold converse with them. The air was fresh and they were cooled by a
gentle breeze that had a saltiness about it that suggested its source was some nearby

They looked at each other and knew without words that they must travel on for one
more day. Had they cared to speak of it they might have said that they should seek
the ocean at the very least, but words seemed redundant in the present case and they
mounted their horses in silence lest they should disturb somehow the natural
symphony that surrounded them.

After an hour or two they did indeed come upon a vast ocean whose waves lapped
lazily on to a sandy shore. On a hill overlooking the idyllic scene was a great tower.
Perhaps it had been built as some kind of watchtower but whatever its original
purpose it had now achieved an awesome splendour and beauty of its own that made
it seem a very part of nature.

Dismounting they walked up to its ancient door – surprisingly it looked in good
repair and they began to suspect the tower was lived in. A noise from above attracted
their attention and they simultaneously glanced up. Suddenly the beauties of the
natural scene that had held them entranced seemed grey and insignificant. The face of
a beautiful woman, neither young nor old but rather of timeless grace, looked down
from the very top window which she had just opened; in a moment they were lost
forever. Each fancied that even from that distance they could see deep lustrous eyes
looking at them alone. Locks of long dark hair framed, as they should in a story of
this type, a face of such beauty that it instantly drove from their mind any comparison
with any other beauty they had ever met. The words she spoke seemed to reverberate
not in their ears but from within their own hearts. What she actually said was ‘Come
noble sirs, welcome! I have a repast here, already laid out, won’t you share it with
me.’ With that she disappeared from the window, but you may well imagine her
image did not disappear so quickly from our hero’s hearts. It was several minutes
before they regained their senses sufficiently to consider how to respond to her
invitation and then they found they had a problem, for the door remained firmly
closed with no obvious way of access.

Further searching soon discovered a board on which were written in an ancient but
still decipherable script some instructions. They were clear instructions – ‘Do not’ it
ran, ‘on pain of death attempt to pass through this door if it is not opened to you from
within’. They read further, struggling at times with the archaic language and it said
‘When the door is opened, pass into the hall but wait there until you are escorted up
the first flight of stairs. At the top of these stairs wait again until you are again
escorted into the presence of the Lady of this Tower’.

They waited awhile but nothing seemed to happen and the door remained resolutely
closed. They tried knocking but nothing happened. At this point the differing
character of the two brothers came into play. The studious one determined to sit and
wait for the door to be opened but his more adventurous brother, fired by his desire
to meet such a beauty, would wait no longer. He walked back a few yards and
reconnoitred the tower. Careful inspection revealed that what appeared at first to be
an insurmountable obstacle actually had the possibility of being scaled. Indeed there
were some things that seemed even to invite one to climb it. To begin with the
window was actually more like French doors and remained invitingly open. It could
obviously be entered with relative ease from a balcony. Secondly, he noticed a
partially hidden ladder that, whilst it would not reach all the way, would enable one
to reach the first floor. From there trellis work and various other hand holds could be
descried. ‘I am going up that way’ he said pointing out the route. ‘But brother’, said
the other ’what is written on this board clearly forbids such a thing; we must follow
the instruction to the letter I think’.

There followed an animated discussion one holding that climbing up was not
expressly forbidden, the other that such an approach might not only be considered
rude manners but that it was implicit that this was unacceptable and possibly carried
a sentence of death with it. Eventually the brother who preferred action, cut short all
argument when he saw what he thought was the curtain being twitched, perhaps from
within. In a minute or so he had reached the top of the ladder. There he was startled
by a bird and slid unceremoniously down again. Shaken he sat for a while on the
ground. Just then it happened that an old man chanced to be passing by dressed in a
long robe with a long flowing white beard. He assisted the young man to his feet and
he enquired as to what he thought he was doing. Enchanted by the old man's manner
our young hero found himself telling him the whole story. 'Why do you not follow the
instructions as your brother is doing' he enquired? The young man attempted to
describe his feelings and the beauty that inspired him. The old man interrupted him. 'I
am one of the servants of the lady you saw' he explained. 'If I cannot counsel you to
follow your brothers example then I suppose I must help you how I can'.  He then
pointed out to him the intricacies of the climb in such detail that our hero could only
assume a first hand knowledge. Thus it was when the old man took his leave it was
with renewed purpose that the young man gathered himself and began a more steady
assault on the climb. This time he reached the top of the ladder without any serious
incident. He rested there a moment and locating some good hand holds and
convenient ledges attempted to continue his perilous ascent.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the tower the other brother continued to study the text
for some clues. After what seemed like a lifetime but was really only a matter of
hours, he sat down, unable to find in it any further indications despite memorising it
by heart. His brother had disappeared from view and he had no way of determining
whether or not he had succeeded or indeed what the outcome of his temerity was. He
sat with his back to the door in despair and as he leaned against it, it gave way and
creaked open.

A shadowy figure, completely covered in a hat and cloak so that his appearance
could not be discerned, beckoned to him to enter, and preceded him up a flight of
stairs. On the first floor, he was shown to a seat and politely sat to wait as per the
instructions he had memorised so well. He felt quite satisfied with himself – after all
his careful study of the text and obedience to it had brought the promised results. He
congratulated himself and compared in his mind his progress with that of his errant
brother of whose probable unfortunate fate remained a cause of genuine anxiety. An
old grandfather clock in the corner ticked steadily away and slowly his self
satisfaction gave way to concern then to dismay as no one appeared. From above he
would occasionally hear a silvery laugh and what sounded like merriment. He ran
over the text in his mind and determined that he was following the right course but he
had again reached the point of despair before the shadowy figure re-appeared.

This time he was ushered up several more flights of stairs and finally into a
brilliantly lit chamber, resplendent, as they usually are in such stories, with mirrors
encased in jewel studied frames. Large chandeliers hung from the sumptuously
decorated ceiling reflected many times over by splendid large rubies and other
precious stones woven into the floral decoration of the walls. Amazingly intricate
screens of gold filigree stood at the edges of the room. Silk cushions were strewn
around the floor and a sumptuous feast of every kind of delicacy lay spread out on a
pristine white silk tablecloth. Seated around it were a bevy of beautiful handmaidens
who beckoned to him to join the feast and soon he found himself seated enjoying
food like he had never before tasted and gentle flirtatious exchanges in equal
measure. No comfort was denied him. He was feted by all present for his proper
following of the instructions at the door.

Indeed so totally enjoyable was it that it was some time before he bethought himself
to ask concerning two things that may have occurred to you O reader. The first was;
which of these maidens who all seemed so equally beautiful in their own way had it
been he had seen at the window: and the second, what of the fate of his poor brother?
In regard to the first he was informed that the lady he had seen at the window was not
actually in the room but was in the adjacent room beyond a thin silk curtain. She was
there with her dear beloved but would soon appear. As to the second question that
was to be answered shortly. Indeed it was only a matter of moments before the
curtain parted and the lady in question appeared. It was well indeed that she wore a
thin veil across the lower part of her face since even so her radiance filled the room.
She was accompanied by the shadowy man who had shown him in. She greeted our
hero with all the joy of one meeting a long lost, dearly loved, relative.

When all the greetings had been completed and joy that seemed to fill every part of
our hero had settled into deep satisfaction he finally recalled the second part of his
question. She anticipated him. ‘You want to know of your brother of course?’ she
said, and turned to the shadowy figure of her beloved. He at once removed his cloak
and hat and, as I am sure you have guessed, there was his brother.

They greeted each other as true brothers should and when the scene of affectionate re-
uniting was over the lady explained. The one who loved me so well as to follow all
my rules is the one who deserves and gets my affection and the hospitality of my
home – but the one whose love for me was so strong that he risks all, he is truly my
lover and thus my beloved also.

One of the morals of this story is to ‘know oneself’ and to tolerate others. In
following their own inherent traits each brother achieved his goal on his own way.
Neither brother had cause for criticism of the other. Thus it is with the relationship
between the Sufi and the pious religious believer. But if O reader you fancy yourself
as one who can climb beware, examine yourself with care and do not attempt it
without the assistance of one familiar with the way. But God knows best.

November 13/14th 2004

Here is a brief quote from one of Zahurmian's Lectures:

'A wise man is one who combines activity with patience and perseverance.'

The Sustaining Power of Patience. 1984.