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Home Sufism Teaching stories The bones of Father Adam

The bones of Father Adam

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Once there was a woodcutter.  Every day he would cut the thick scrub above his village, and haul it to the village to sell.  After twenty years of this he became tired of it and said "I don't want to do this anymore -  I'll cut one last load of firewood and then look for the bones of our father Adam, who brought all this pain and trouble upon us, and burn them up."


But God sent an angel to him in the form of a man.  The angel asked him what he was doing.  The woodcutter said he was searching for the bones of father Adam to burn them up, because of all the pain and trouble he brought. The angel said, "What if someone were to free you from all this work and weariness?"  The woodcutter said, "I would thank him a thousand thanks!"  The angel said, "Then I will transport you to a garden where you will never have to work; only you must promise that no matter what you see, you will not speak a single word."

The woodcutter agreed, and the angel clapped his hands together. The next instant the woodcutter was in a beautiful garden of tall trees, bubbling streams, fruits and berries.

After a little while, the woodcutter saw a man walking through the garden cutting wood.  But he was cutting the live branches from the trees and leaving the dead ones.  The woodcutter thought about his promise to the angel, but as he watched the man work, he couldn't restrain himself from saying, "You there! Don't you know the right way to do that is to cut the dead branches and leave the live ones?"  The man paused and said, "Have you been here long?"  The next instant the woodcutter was back in the thicket above his village with his axe. He began to wail and beat his breast in anguish.  Again the angel appeared to him and asked what had happened.  When the woodcutter told him, the angel said, "Didn't I tell you not to speak?"  "I promise I will not say a word if you let me go back," said the woodcutter.  So the angel clapped his hands and the woodcutter was back in the garden.

After a little while, the woodcutter saw a gazelle running through the garden and an old man in his nineties hobbling after it.  Without thinking, the woodcutter shouted, "That gazelle is bounding hither and yon, old man.  When will

you give up and stop hobbling after it?"  The old man stopped and said, "Have you been here long?" The next instant, the woodcutter was back at his woodpile in the thicket.  Again he wailed and moaned.  And again the angel returned.  "Please have pity," said the woodcutter, "if you give me one more  chance, may I be cursed if I speak again."  The angel agreed, and in an instant the woodcutter was back in the garden.

This time, the woodcutter remained silent for three or four days;

but then he saw four men struggling to move the millstone of an oil press.  They would all lift on the same side, and the millstone would fall onto the other side.  Then they would go to the other side and repeat the same process.  The woodcutter thought to himself, "Should I tell them or not?  These men are senseless.  I have to tell them." So the woodcutter shouted, "You men, if you want to carry that millstone, you should lift it from all sides!"  One of the men turned to the woodcutter and said, "Have you been here long?"  And the next instant the woodcutter was back at his woodpile.

The woodcutter wailed and wailed.  The angel appeared to him, and the woodcutter begged and pleaded to return to the garden.  But the angel said, "Your father Adam only sinned once.  You have committed sin upon sin upon sin.  Your place shall be here among the firewood until the end of your days."

A story from Palestine



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