Flower delivery in Iran


Literature * FAQ * Write for The Iranian
* Editorial policy

Fate not in our hands?
Only fools set out without using their heads

November 28, 2001
The Iranian

From Saadi Stories for Young Adults, translated and adapted by Muhammad Nur Abdus Salam. Illustrations by Bakhtiari Rose (2000, ABC International Group). The translation is based on the Persian prose adaptation from verse by Mehdi Azar-Yazdi.


A ship moved away from the shore to start out on a voyage. Its passengers were several traders who were traveling abroad to do business and some travelers who were on a pleasure journey. While the ship moved out to sea several of the passengers were sitting on the deck watching the coast grow smaller.

Whenever a group of people first meet each other and have nothing to talk about, someone makes a comment and they begin to talk about that subject. Then each person wants the others to know that he too is among them and to exhibit his own taste and opinions.

The gaze of the passengers fell upon a small boat following their ship. There were two people in it.

One of the company pointed to it and said, "They shouldn't be setting out in the open sea in that tiny boat. If a storm arises, they'll be in a lot of danger."

This observation led to a discussion of fate and free will. One of the passengers believed in absolute predestination and said that the will of man is an empty fantasy. A second said that a man's fate is the result of his intelligence, knowledge, and education. Everyone wanted to offered an opinion.

The first speaker answered the second, saying, "No, brother, the accounting of fate is not in our hands. No one knows anything. Who is to say that our ship will reach its destination safely and the little boat will not?"

The others started to put their own two cents into the discussion. Said one:

"What are you saying? It's true that no man knows everything, but he must take control of his affairs as much as he is able. Drifting thoughtlessly will only lead to failure."

Another said:

"That won't do! Every person has his own job. One is a trader who buys and sells. Another is a scholar who follows his researches and enquiries. If everyone were afraid of the ocean and remained at home, then the world's trade would collapse. Certainly one must look for the best way to do anything. When going on a sea journey, you have to choose the best ship. And that's what we have done."

Still another said:

"A person going on a sea voyage should know how to swim."

Another: "God forgive your father! If there is a storm and the ship breaks up in the middle of the ocean, what good will your swimming be?"


"No, no! You're speaking from your inexperience. Knowing something is always better than not knowing something. A person who doesn't know how to swim can drown taking a bath! The person who knows how to swim may be able to keep himself afloat until some means of help arrives."

The former answered:

"That's what I've been saying. But a passenger in a small boat should stay near the coast, even if he knows how to swim."

"I was saying something else. It doesn't make any difference if you're near the coast or far away from it. If your life is not over, you'll survive a raging inferno or the oceans waves. If not, you won't survive even in your own bed at home."

"No, dear friend," said another. "Don't speak like that! Your life is over, your life is not over! What does that mean? The accounting of a man's life is not in the hands of blind and deaf fate. Most of a person's fate is made by himself. If a man walks into a raging inferno without wearing protective clothing he will certainly burn! If the life of a person were entirely a matter of predestination and fate no one would bother to take any precautions for his own safety. I myself am fearful right now for the fate of those in that small boat."

"Don't waste your fears," said one of the men. "They may be a lot smarter than you or I. How do we know they aren't expert swimmers? It's said that even a mad man is aware of his own best interest. Anyway, why should there be a storm?"

"Well, they've taken care to follow our big ship, haven't they? If they have a problem, they can reach us."

"That's just talk! God forbid that something bad should happen. Who knows what may happen?"

"Despite that, it's smart for everyone to consider what might happen before it does. As the saying goes: 'a problem should be solved before it occurs.' Life is not without calculation! We who are traders, if we were to think that all we have to do is depend upon God for our livelihood and not use our brains, well, we might as well carry cumin seed to Kerman to sell, which is where it comes from! We would surely lose our money. Only fools set out without using their heads."

As they were debating thus, a north wind began to blow and in the sea little waves appeared. Soon the waves grew in size and began to break over the deck of the vessel. A storm was raging and the ship was listing right and left. The deck began to toss so much that the passengers grabbed anything they could find to hold onto.

The little boat following the ship was thrown about by the waves. Finally an especially heavy wave crashed against the boat and turned it over. The two men who had been in it fell into the water and struggled helplessly as the storm drove the capsized boat away from them.

The passengers on the ship who had been watching this terrible event cried out together.

One of the traders who had a merciful heart but didn't know how to swim said, "Now they'll drown! If any of you can do something, if anyone can save those two men, I'll give him one hundred gold coins as reward, fifty for each one who is saved!"

A sailor who had come up to strike the sails heard him and said, "I can do it. Nobody else but me can survive those waves."

He stripped off his outer clothing and dived into the water. With a great deal of effort he managed to save one of the two men. The other disappeared beneath the waves.

Commented the first speaker of the previous debate, "Everything is just as I said. Now you see!"

Two of the others replied, "We said the same thing. The destined life of one of them was over and he drowned, but the other still has life remaining, so he was saved. No one knows anything. Every person has his own destiny."

"No, it was just as we said," said a couple of the others. "Who is now receiving the reward of fifty gold coins? The man who knew how to swim! No one else earned anything in the middle of this sea. The young sailor made an effort and learned how to swim. Today he has been rewarded for his efforts!"

"No, it's just as I said," exclaimed another. "I told you I was afraid from the beginning. Now did you see how that man was drowned?"

The young sailor who had saved one of the two men from the capsized boat had been listening to this discussion. He found his voice and said:

"It's true that the sea is full of danger and there are many unexpected things that happen in life. But there is also another consideration. I got the reward because I knew how to swim. It is the wages of knowledge and the hire of skill. If someone else had been able to help, then we could have saved both men. I wasn't able to bring them both back to the ship by myself. If I had tried to take them both, they would have overpowered me in their panic and things would have become very difficult. We all might have drowned together.

"However, they were in fact two brothers from my neighborhood and I knew them. As I was jumping into the water everything came back to me. When we were children, one of them once hit me unfairly while we were playing. But the other, when he found me one day in the desert tired and weak, let me ride his camel home. They themselves had settled their fate today in those days!

"I was able to save only one of them today, so I chose the one whom I liked and went to his side. Anyone in my place would have done the same. He would first save the person who had done him a kindness. And that is what I did."

But the passengers persisted in their own ideas:

"If he had hadn't known them, the choice wouldn't have mattered."

"If they hadn't found themselves in the middle of the sea, one of them wouldn't have been drowned."

"If they had been far from our ship, even that one wouldn't have been saved."




I am starting to believe
I don't think events in life are a bunch of probabilities
By Ali Kazemi

What makes us
What is "ghessmat"?
By Mahyar Etminan

What luck
I wish I'd broken both my legs
By Kamran Seyed Moussavi


* Recent

* Cover stories

* Writers

* Arts & lit

* Opinion

* Satire

* History

* Interviews

* Travel

* Women

* Rights

* Surveys

* All sections

Flower delivery in Iran
Copyright © Iranian.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Terms for more information contact: times@iranian.com
Web design by BTC Consultants
Internet server Global Publishing Group