The Tale Of The Two Foxes

Ibn Zafar’s well of wisdom provides us with another fable to ponder.  How the reader relates it to his or her own life experience, or to the world’s current events, will be up to him or her to decide.  While the narrative below is my own, I have also included some of Ibn Zafar’s quotes (as translated by J. Kechichian and R. Dekmejian–with minor variations by me–in their excellent edition of the Sulwan Al-Muta’) as they appear at relevant points in the story.

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The Tale Of Firuz, A King Of Persia

The following story is told by the political theorist Ibn Zafar (1104–1172?) in his treatise on the art of government.  We have encountered him several times previously in these pages, and have discussed many of his ideas on leadership, governance, and the conduct of foreign affairs.  There are times when anecdotes can bring certain principles into sharp focus.

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The Final Act Of All Is Never Considered Late

It is a feature of human nature to try to control our environment.  We wish to exert some kind of influence over the outcome of events, and thereby enhance our own feelings of security and comfort.  Yet there are many times when human labor will fall short; it will prove itself to be incapable of dealing with a situation, or unable to weigh the nuances of an evenly balanced pattern of fact.  When these situations come about, we must step back from the work-shop; we must move away from the work-table, the field of conflict, or the courtroom, and Fortune take over the guidance of events.

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The Tale Of The Two Ministers: Redemption Through Patience And Faith

The following tale is told by Ibn Zafar al-Siqilli (“The Sicilian”) in his political and ethical treatise سلوان المطاع في عدوان الأتباع (The Consolation of the Ruler in Dealing with His Subjects’ Hostility).  The story’s purpose is to emphasize the importance that faith and endurance play in the fates of princes.  We should note that Ibn Zafar does not advocate a passive resignation or inaction in the face of hardship.  Instead he counsels us to do all we can to resolve our problems; but once one has exhausted his actionable remedies, he must submit himself to the workings of Fate.  In this he is very much like the Stoic sages who preceded him by so many centuries.

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Tumart: Until You Can Change Things, You Must Endure Them

The founder of the Almohad movement–a puritanical reformist school originating in North Africa–was a man named Ibn Tumart (أبو عبد الله محمد ابن تومرت).  The historians tell us that he was a Berber from the Atlas Mountains in what is now southern Morocco, and that he lived from 1080 to about 1130.  The biographer Ibn Khallikan relates numerous anecdotes about him that center on his strictness and piety.  As is often the case with such anecdotes, however, we may sift through them and find something useful for our own lives.

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Decisive Action In An Emergency Can Always Be Justified

There are some who take a relaxed view of human intervention in the events of Fate.  They believe that nascent crises can be placed on the “back burner,” so to speak, and left to stew in their own juices until a reasonable solution presents itself.  They say that one should monitor developments, stay informed of the shifting winds, and act when one can be reasonably certain of a favorable outcome.

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The Importance Of Knowing What Boundaries Should Not Be Crossed

One of the characteristics of the fool is his inability to comprehend the idea of boundaries.  He has failed to learn what rules of conduct can, and cannot, be broken.  He flaunts his whims and desires without any care as to their consequences; he rates his own judgment above that of all others, and scorns the normative guidelines of social interaction.  He believes that what he wishes to be done, in fact ought to be done, and reverse-engineers whatever rationalizations are needed to vindicate his behavior.

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