Love is never tempted by wealth and grandeur. Shirin, the daughter of a poor man, but rich in ideal, was kidnapped and taken to the Shah of Faras, who instantly became enamored of her, and gave great rewards to those who had brought her. But, to his great disappointment, he found that Shirin was unresponsive to his love, and her ideal was too great to allow her to be tempted by the wealth and grandeur of the Shah. He did everything to please her and to make her willing to marry him, but every effort had the contrary effect.
When Shirin saw that there was no hope anywhere of rescue from the palace, which to her was a cage, and the importunity of the Shah and his servants wore out her patience so much that she was obliged to consent to their offer, she did so on one condition, which was that a canal should be made as a memorial of the occasion. This was, of course, a pretext for putting off the marriage, for the cutting of a canal was the work of years. The Shah was so much fascinated by her youth and beauty that he seized upon even the smallest sign of yielding, and at once gave command to the engineers and architects of the court to begin work on a canal without a moment’s delay, and to accomplish it as soon as possible, sparing no expense or labor. Thousands of workmen were soon engaged in this, and the work went on night and day unceasingly, under the watchful eye of the king himself and his servants.
The nearer the work came to being accomplished, the stronger grew the hope of the king, and he, with great pleasure, requested Shirin to go and look at her canal. She, with despondent mind, went to see the canal, fearing that it would soon be finished and she would have to yield to the wishes of the Shah, which she regarded as worse than death. While she was walking, looking at the work going on where thousands of workmen were busy night and day, to her great surprise a workman came up, won entirely by her beauty and charm, and fearlessly exclaimed, ‘O Shirin, I love you.’ ‘Love overlooks the difference of position of the lover and the beloved, and the height that the lover has to climb.’
It was that voice of love and that word of devotion that Shirin was looking for, and had not found until then. Shirin replied, ‘Do you love me? Then break these mountains, and cut a pathway through them.’ ‘Gold has a test to go through.’ Farhad said at once, ‘Most willingly. Yes, Shirin, whatever you please.’ ‘There is nothing too hard for the lover to do for the beloved.’
Farhad set out on his journey wholeheartedly, not wondering why he should cut a path, nor reasoning how this great work might be accomplished. He did not stop to think how long it would take to finish, nor had he any misgiving that his efforts might ever be in vain. He went to those mountains in the wilderness and began to break the rocks with his pickax. He repeated the name of Shirin at every stroke he gave. The strokes of Farhad wrought a miracle. Instead of one stroke it was as if a hundred strokes fell at a time. ‘Man’s power is the strength of his body, but love’s power is the might of God.’ No sooner was the work begun than it neared completion. Work that would have taken years with many workers engaged on it was accomplished in days.
Shirin had refused the Shah since she had seen Farhad, saying, ‘There is another lover who is undergoing a test, and until I know the outcome of his trial I think it better to keep from marriage.’
The king’s spies had been watching Farhad from afar, and they immediately sent a report that Farhad had completed his work before the canal was finished. The Shah was very much alarmed, thinking that Farhad would most probably win Shirin’s love, and that after his having done all this for her, Shirin would not be his. When he told this to his confidants one among them said, ‘Sire, you are the king, Farhad is a workman. What comparison between heaven and earth? I will go, if it be the pleasure of your Majesty, and will finish him in a moment.’ ‘Oh, no,’ said the Shah, ‘Shirin will see the stain of his blood on me, and will turn her back on me forever.’ One among the king’s servants said, ‘It is not difficult for me, my Lord, to bring the life of Farhad to an end without shedding a single drop of blood.’ ‘That is much better’, said the Shah.
The servant went to Farhad, who had very nearly finished his work, with great hope of a glance from Shirin. ‘The lover’s happiness is in the pleasure of the beloved.’ This servant of the Shah said, ‘O Farhad, alas, all in vain! O, that rival of the moon, your beloved Shirin, has passed away by a sudden death.’ Farhad said in the greatest bewilderment, ‘What? Is my Shirin dead?’ ‘Yes,’ the servant said, ‘O Farhad, alas, Shirin is dead.’ Farhad heaved a deep sigh, and fell to the ground. ‘Shirin’ was the last word that his lips uttered, and made a way for his life to pass away.
Shirin heard from her well-wishers that Farhad had done marvels, that he had cut the path through the mountains, repeating the name ‘Shirin’ with his every stroke, and finished the work that might have taken a whole life time in the shortest time. Shirin, the chords of whose heart had already been struck by Farhad, and through whose soul the love of Farhad had pierced, had not the patience to rest one moment, and she set out for the mountains at the first opportunity she could find. ‘The higher powers separate two hearts that come together.’ Shirin, who had the great fortune of having a lover like Farhad, had not the fortune to see him anymore.
To her greatest grief and disappointment, Shirin found the body of Farhad lying by the side of the wonderful work he had done for her. The spies of the Shah came near to assure her of his death, hoping that now that Farhad was no more she might fix her mind on the crown of the Shah. They said, ‘This is poor Farhad. Alas, he is dead.’ Shirin heard from the blowing of the wind, from the running of the water, from rocks, from trees, the voice of Farhad calling, ‘Shirin, Shirin.’ The whole atmosphere of the place held her soul with the magnetism of love that Farhad had created all around. She fell down, struck by the great loss that her loving heart could no longer sustain, crying, ‘Farhad, I am coming too, to be with you.’ 'The fate of the lover is a great disappointment in the sight of the world, but it is the greatest satisfaction in the eyes of the wise.’
Those people whose qualities harmonize, like each other. It may be the bodily qualities that harmonize, of the mental qualities, of the qualities of the soul. The physical fascination lasts least, the emotional fascination lasts longer, and the spiritual fascination lasts forever.
Love little expressed kindles another heart, love more expressed haunts it, but when it is too much expressed it repels the object of love.
Contact makes people friends, though neither the contact of mortals nor friendship is everlasting. Being together, sitting together, eating together, breathing the same air, bring hearts closer. Two burning coals close together in time make one fire. The flames unite them. When the two hands are joined, an electric current goes from one hand to the other. This is the reason for the custom of shaking hands, that the flame in the two people may meet. This is why people have a tendency to clasp their hands, fold their arms and cross their legs when sitting or lying, for it comforts them. This is the reason of the affinity existing between those of the same nation or race.
Love has a tendency to produce the qualities, even the likeness, of the object of love in the lover. Often we see that friends, husband and wife, lovers, the murshid and mureed, in time grow to look alike. The portraits of the different Shadkhs of Khandan-i Chisht all look as if they had been molded in the same mold. A person who goes away from his own country, and lives a long time in another country, becomes familiar with that country, likes it, and sometimes does not want to go back to his own land, because love is produced in him by association.
Meeting is the kindling of love, and separation is the blazing of love. As far as is the object of love from the reach of the lover, so wide a scope is there for the expansion of love. Therefore the love for the unattainable object has every possibility of developing, whereas when the object of love is within reach this is often a check upon love. If separation lasts a short time it increases love, but if it lasts very long the love dies. If the meeting is for a short time it kindles love, but it is hard to keep up the flame. And if the association lasts a long time, love is not so much stimulated, but it takes root, to grow and flourish and to last long. In the absence of the beloved hope is the oil which keeps the flame of love burning. Presence and absence in turn keep the fire of love blazing. Too much association chokes the fire of love, and in absence too long continued its flame dies from lack of oil.
We may spend a year in a town, and we may know people there and like them very much, and they may like us very much, so that the love increases and we think, ‘If we could only spend all our life there!’ When we go away it is hard to leave them. Then we go away, and our friends send letters and we answer, first every day, then every week, then every month, until the correspondence is reduced to a Christmas card or New Year’s greetings. For we grow apart by the fact that we have much less to do with them and much more to do with those who may now surround us. If we go back to the same place after five or six years we first find that the climate is strange to us, and then that neither are the streets and houses familiar nor is there that warmth in the friends that there was. If a person is ignorant he blames the friends. If he understands he will blame himself too. It is growing together that increases love and being separated that has the tendency to decrease it, and so it is with our attachment to places also.