Story from Masnavi: Competition between Chinese and the Greeks artists
Story from Maulana Rumi’s Masnavi: Competition between Chinese and the Greeks artists
The Chinese said, “We are the better artists”; the Greeks said, “Our art is superior”
“I will test and determine that,” said the Sultan. The Chinese requested the King to give them a hundred colours: the King opened his treasury to the Chinese.
Every morning, with his generous consent, the colours were provided from the treasury to the Chinese. The Greeks took a bizarre approach, “No colours are suited for our artwork, we just need to remove the rust”
They shut the door and went on polishing: their ‘artwork’ became clear and pure like the sky.
When the Chinese had finished their work, the King entered and saw the pictures there After that, he went to the Greeks: they removed the dividing curtain. The reflection of the Chinese pictures and works of art reflected in the walls polished by the Greek [who made mirror].
All that he had seen in the Chinese room seemed more beautiful in Greek’s art and Sultan was astonished The Greeks, o’ father, are the Sufis: they do not depend on study, books and scholarhsip
But they have polished their hearts and purified themselves from greed and hatred. That purity of the mirror unquestionably is the heart which receives countless images.
Prophet Moses holds in his chest the infinite formless Unseen [divine light], which reflected from his heart. Every new image that falls on the heart forever more appears in it without any imperfection.
They who polish their hearts have escaped from mere scent and colour: they effortlessly behold Divine Beauty at every moment. They have relinquished the form and outer shell of knowledge, they have raised the banner of the knowledge of certainty.
Even though they have abandoned grammar (nahw) and jurisprudence (fiqh), instead, they have taken up mystical self-effacement (mahw) and spiritual poverty (faqr).