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Shah On Fanaticism

January 13, 2013

Excerpted from The Commanding Self, by Idries Shah:


There was once a Dervish who was a barber.  One of his customers was a religious fanatic, a Mulla with a great bushy beard which he decided to get trimmed, as it was beginning to grow into his mouth.  As he was a greedy eater, the beard had started to get in the way of his meals.

The first time the Dervish trimmed the beard, he asked his customer: ‘How do you feel about infidels?’

The second time the Mulla settled down for his beard-trim, the Dervish-barber again said, ‘Are the infidels getting stronger these days?’

And again, the third time the Mulla came for his trim, the Dervish who was a barber said, ‘Let’s talk about infidels…’

The Mulla rounded on him and shouted: ‘Why can’t you talk about something more wholesome?  Every time I come here you want to talk about infidels.  It strikes me that you have degenerate tastes, and yet you are supposed to be a Dervish…’

The Dervish laughed.  ‘It’s nothing to do with my tastes,’ he said, ‘it’s just that whenever you hear the word “infidel”, your beard bristles so much that it is easier to cut.’

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