Praise for a Dog’s Gleaming White Teeth

Jesus was once with his disciples when they passed the carcass of a dog. They said: “What a stench!”

Jesus then said: “How gleaming white its teeth are!” He then proceeded to chastise his disciples for speaking badly of the dog, and instructed them:
“Say nothing about God’s creatures except praise!”
(Ghazali, Ihya’, Vol. 3, p. 383)

The following version of this story is found in Nizami’s Makhzan al-asrar:

Jesus’ feet which had wandered across the world
Once stepped past a marketplace.
He noticed the carcass of a dog,
Abandoned like Joseph in the well.
A group of men were looking at the carcass
As if they were vultures.
One of them said: “Phew! This darkens
The mind like wind blowing out a torch!”
Another said: “It also blinds the eye
And makes one feel sick!”
Each person there continued in this vein,
Venting their ill-will on that carcass.
When it was Jesus’ turn to speak,
He did not comment on its flaws, but perceived its inner truth,
Saying: “A painting hanging on one’s wall
Does not have teeth as white as this dog’s!”
Those two bystanders then out of fear and hope
Desisted from their talk, shown up by those white teeth.
Don’t look at others’ flaws and your own virtue.
Turn your gaze inwards towards yourself.
(Nizami, Makhzan al-asrar, pp. 83-4)
A version of this story is also found in ‘Attar’s Musibat-nama:

A dog lay dead by the wayside,
With its jaws open wide.
A truly foul stench rose from that dog.
When Jesus came to it
He told his companions: “This dog belongs to God;
Look how white its teeth are!”
He perceived neither ugliness nor a foul stench,
But saw all the unpleasantness as pleasant in reality.
Learn to see purely like this, if you’re a bondsman
And one who perceives realities.
See everything as having the same color and worth –
See the gem in its mouth, rather than the serpent!
Choose goodness, kindness to others,
Munificence and fidelity.
If you have knowledge of God, be His bondsman,
Be a grateful recipient of bounty from Him;
Year in and year out you enjoy bounty from Him,
But neglect what is owed for it!
(‘Attar, Musibat-nama, p. 302)

This is from recently re-published “Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis” by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh. Available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon and iTunes.

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