Story of Sufi Saint Ebrahim Al-Khauwas and the Monk
Tadhkirat al-Auliya (Memorial of the Saints) by Farid al-Din Attar
Hazrat Farid al-Din Attar writes in Tadhkirat al-Auliya, a key book on biography of Sufi saints:
‘I heard that in Byzantium [modern day Istanbul] there was a monk who had been living for 70 years in a monastery as celibate, avoiding all worldly and sexual pleasures.
“Amazing!” I exclaimed. “Forty years of restraint is a qualification for being a monk!”
So I went on journey to meet him. When I came near he opened a little wicket.
“Ebrahim, why have you come?” he enquired. “I am not seated here as a celibate. I have a dog which falls upon people. Now I am seated here keeping watch of the dog and preventing it from doing mischief to people.”
“O’ God,” I replied on hearing this answer, “Are you able to guide your servant even when he is in very error!?”
“Ebrahim,” the monk advised me, “how long will you search for men? Search for yourself, and when you have found yourself, sit in watch over yourself. For every day this wayward desire puts on three hundred and sixty various guises of divinity and invites a man to error.”’