THE DERVISH AND HIS BEARD
In the time of Moses there was a dervish who spent days and nights in a state of adoration, yet experienced no feeling for spiritual things. He had a beautiful long beard and often while praying would stop to comb it. One day, seeing Moses, he went to him and said, "O Pasha of Mount Sinai, ask God, I pray you, to tell me why I experience neither spiritual satisfaction nor ecstasy."
The next time Moses went up on Sinai, he spoke to God about the dervish, and God said, in a tone of displeasure, "Although this dervish has sought union with Me, nevertheless he is constantly thinking about his long beard." When Moses came down, he told the Sufi what God had said. The Sufi thereupon began tearing out his beard, weeping bitterly. Gabriel then came along to Moses and said, "Even now your Sufi is thinking about his beard. He thought of nothing else while praying, and is even more attached to it while he is tearing it out!"
O you who think you have ceased to be preoccupied with your beard, you are plunged in an ocean of affliction. When you can regard it with detachment, you will have a right to sail across this ocean. But if you plunge in with your beard, you will have difficulty in getting out.
Farid ud-Din Attar