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HISTORY has not left for us any lesson that it did not teach us. For this reason, the lessons are always in what a prudent official can benefit from his predecessors who succeeded in their mission.
By that he takes up a proper path that leads to stability and the renaissance of his state, instead of preaching what he does not practice, like in the story of the fox, the pigeon and the heron in the book “Kalila and Dimna”.
In that story, King Dabeshlim asked the philosopher Bidpai about the matter of fate and destiny, and their predominance over things.
He said, “Tell me about someone who seeks harm from others because of the harm that has befallen him, without taking his affliction as a lesson that deters him from committing injustice and aggression against others”.
Bidpai replied, “This is similar to the fable of the pigeon, the fox and the heron. There was once a pigeon who always chose a palm tree for her nesting. She had to put a lot of effort into building the nest as the palm tree was really high. After she laid her eggs and they hatched, a fox would stand at the bottom of the tree and threaten to climb up and eat her if she did not throw her squabs to him. She would do it out of fear and then feel devastated for her loss later.
One day a heron was passing by and he saw how sad the pigeon was. He asked her about the reason and learned about the fox’s habit.
He told her that the next time the fox threatens her, she should refuse and ask him to leave at once, for she could always save herself if not her squabs.
When her nesting period was over and the fox turned up as was his habit, the pigeon repeated the heron’s words. The fox was amazed and asked who taught her that, and she told him.
The fox went to meet the heron on the river bed and saw him standing by the water. He praised all bird species for their sensibility, and asked the heron where he would put his head if the wind came from his right. The answer he got was, “To my left”.
The fox then asked, “What if it came from your left side?” and the heron replied, “Then I will move to my right”.
The fox then asked, “What if the wind came from all directions?” and the heron answered, “Under my wing”.
The fox was amazed and asked for a demonstration as it was hard for him – a mere mammal – to imagine such a move.
The heron then put his head under his wing, and the fox immediately attacked the heron and killed it. While doing so, he mocked the heron for providing the pigeon with a trick, but not being smart enough to avoid his trick.
In this case, the heron deserves the title of “foolish advisor”, as he gave advice to the pigeon which was the means of salvation, but he forgot himself and did not act on his advice… In other words, he did not practice what he preached.
In the aforementioned fable, the heron is a lesson for everyone who advises others but does not follow their own advice. The fox is an example of those who are overwhelmed by greed, and hence craft ways to loot, steal, and trample on values and principles in order to achieve their goals.
In this, there is a lot that a wise official can rectify so that he does not fall into the evil of his actions, and that he has his own decision, with which he can guide his people to the right path. This is necessary so that he does not take risks, or leave the matter to those around him who do not understand the art of management, for such people are suitable for entertainment during leisure, and not to share opinion on state affairs.
We have in this regard the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty, as some of its rulers with “foolish advisors” sought to weaken their dynasty, when they left the state matters to those who did not deserve or were unqualified for such tasks.
Some of its rulers took amusement as their way of life, and hence weakened the state, and paved the way for its division and collapse.
Among such rulers is Caliph Yazid III, the 12th Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty, who tried to follow the example of Omar bin Abdul-Aziz, the 8th Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty, when he decided to reduce the salaries of the soldiers, and hoarded money from his people, which had angered the people against him.
On the other hand, there were three great caliphs who could be emulated. If their qualities were adopted by a leader of the current times, that state would have become the most powerful in the world. These three caliphs are Caliph Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan (the first caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty) who made the small state expand until it became an empire, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (the second caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty), and the renowned 8th Umayyad ruler Omar bin Abdul-Aziz, who in his reign managed to eliminate poverty.
These three rulers were not alone in heading the state, as they had chosen strong, trustworthy, sincere, and virtuous advisors and aides.
On the other hand, the council of Caliph Yazid III consisted of fans of amusement and foolish advisors who led him into the hands of his soldiers who ended up assassinating him.
This was what Bidpai meant in the lesson he gave to King Dabeshlim, which is, “Preach what you practice”, or as Abu Al-Aswad Al-Du’ali (a 6th century Arab poet and grammarian) said, “Do not forbid a character and then practice it… Great shame on you if you do so”.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times