Allah!!! (shouted very loudly – and drawn out)

Greetings, strangers. Welcome to the market place. My name is Akhi, and I am a beggar. All day long I sit here in the market place, and I beg. People push and shove. They buy and sell. But Akhi, he sits and begs.

Perhaps you wonder why Akhi is a beggar. Akhi! Why don’t you do honorable work, you might think. Maybe you think that. It is a good wonder. I will tell you why I am a beggar. It is because I have a beggar’s path. Oh, yes. Each of us is called to a path. And to follow one’s path is holy – always. Akhi is called to be a beggar. For Akhi, not to beg would be a sacrilege. So Akhi begs. But he begs with pride.

I have studied for many years. I have practiced and sat at the feet of the Masters. You know, I went to the academy of beggars. Yes. You must beg your way in and beg your way out. It is like the universities in the United States, I understand. Yes, I beg, and I learned from the great Master beggar – from Raul who could beg life into a dead baby, and Abraham who could beg rain upon the desert. They were Master beggars. Akhi, he is a beggar, but he is following a beggar’s path. That is the difference.

But why do we beg, you may wonder. I will tell you, it because of the dance. That is why we beg. Oh, yes, each of us is called to the dance. Yes. We move our prayers as other people move their feet. But there are people – there are people in the market place who are afraid of the dance. They cling to their life, to their possessions of, to their reputation. Oh, yes. And they are weighted down with all of them. They cannot move. It’s like human camels, like stones. What a pity these people do not know how to dance.

But that is why we have beggars. We sit in the market place, and when they come we say, “Oh, give us a piece of bread, give us a coin in the name of Allah.” and if they do, if they reach into their pockets and give us a coin, they are lighter – maybe they can dance. You see. You see. Beggars try to make people lighter so they can dance.

And so begging is holy. Oh, yes. But you smile. You say, “Akhi, are you joking with me?” What??  Cannot a beggar joke with you? What do you think? You probably wonder, “Oh, Akhi, you take our coins and spend them on yourself.” Ha !!

You think I want to be a human camel like you? No! Ha. I will tell you a secret. Your bread we feed to the birds. Your coins – well, that is another matter. I have friend, Amat, from Baghdad. Oh, yes. Every holy day he take the coins you give him. He puts them in his purse, and he goes to the holy river, to the Euphrates, and throws them in the water to listen to the splash. It is his weakness – the splash. It is also his prayer. Akhi, he climbs the first level of the holy mountain every day at noon and takes the silver and gold coins you give him and throws them a the sun – and watches them glisten – and listens to them sing as they dance down the mountain. It is Akhi’s weakness, Akhi’s prayer. And why should it not be so? The coins you have come from the holy mountain, come from the holy river. Should they not return there? We beggars, we are middle men. We help with the cash flow. We know you will go back to the mountain and river searching for them again. And so it is. We are content. It makes for the dance.

Ha! I will tell you something. One day – and day- Allah may it be soon – one day everybody will be dancing. Oh, what a day that will be. If you go in the market place – you go looking – you will see our rugs, our rags, our bowls. But you will not see us. The beggars will be gone, because our path will be over. Yes. The dance will be here. We will not be necessary. Allah, bring this day closer. So many camels. So many camels. Ask yourself, “Am I too heavy? Can I dance today?” If you can’t, you know what you must do. And maybe, maybe you are not following your path yet. What is your path? What is your path, stranger? Maybe one of you is called to be a beggar. You could do worse, you now. Yes. Yes, you could go to the academy and study with Abraham and with Raul. Yes. And you could sit there with me in the market place. And together we could beg. How good it would be. What is your path? What is your path? Are you finding it? I hope so.

May Allah guide you. But now I must go back to my begging. May Allah watch over you. May you find your path. And may you join me in the dance. Praised be Allah! Praised be his children!! Praised be the universe!

Allah!!! (shouted very loudly – and drawn out)

From ‘Foolish Wisdom: Stories, Activities, and Reflections from Ken Feit’ by Joseph F. Martin, 1990