Ebrahim al-Khauwas and the monk

Once I heard that in Byzantium there was a monk who had been living for seventy years in a monastery in the state of celibacy.

“Amazing!” I exclaimed. “Forty years is the qualification for being a monk.”

So I set forth to call on 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 over the dog and preventing it from doing mischief to people. But for that, I am not what you supposed.”

“O God,” I exclaimed on hearing this answer, “Thou art able to guide Thy servant aright even when he is in very error!”

“Ebrahim,” the monk said to 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.”

From “Muslim Saints and Mystics”

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