It happened that a well known Sufi was asked, ‘What is invisibility?’
And he said, ‘I shall answer that when an opportunity for a demonstration occurs.’
Some time later, the man and the one who had asked him the question were stopped by a band of soldiers. And the soldiers said, ‘We have orders to take all dervishes into custody — for the king of this country says that they will not obey his commands and that they say things which are not welcome to the tranquility of the thought of the populace.’
And the Sufi said, ‘And so you should, for you must do your duty.’
‘But are you not Sufis?’ said the soldiers.
‘Test us,’ said the Sufi.
The officer took out a Sufi book….
— a book that is tremendously respected by the Sufis. It is called THE BOOK OF THE BOOKS. It has only a few sentences written in it, otherwise it is empty.
‘What is this?’ the Sufi Master said.
— as if he had not even recognized the book. The soldiers had brought the book which will be a sign of a Sufi — the moment the Sufi sees THE BOOK OF THE BOOKS he will bow down. It is a great treasure.
The Sufi Master said, ‘What is this?’
— as if he did not recognize the book.
The Sufi looked at the title page. ‘It is something which I will burn in front of you,’ said the Master, ‘since you have not already done so.’ He set light to the book and the soldiers rode away satisfied.
The Sufi’s companion asked, ‘What was the purpose of that action?’
‘To make us invisible,’ said the sufi. ‘For to the man of the world, visibility means that you look like something or someone he expects you to resemble. If you look different your true nature becomes invisible to him.’
The Sufi Master is saying, ‘I have become invisible to these soldiers because they could not believe that a Sufi could burn THE BOOK. They have a certain expectation — that the Sufis revere THE BOOK. The moment I burned THE BOOK we were no longer Sufis. I had become invisible to him. ‘
And that’s how Sufis become invisible to people.
Although enormously attractive as sheer entertainment, dervish tales were never presented merely on the level of fable, legend or folklore.
They stand comparison in wit, construction and piquancy with the finest stories of any culture, yet their true function as Sufi teaching stories is so little known in the modern world that no technical or popular term exist to describe them. For centuries, dervish masters have instructed their disciples by means of these tales, which are held to convey powers of increasing perception unknown to the ordinary man.
These are teaching stories in the Sufi tradition. Those who probe beyond the surface will find multiple meanings to challenge assumptions and foster new ways of thinking and perceiving.
Sold all over the world in many languages, this is deservedly a classic and an essential reading for anyone interested in Sufi thought, the significance and history of tales, or simply superb entertainment.