Once some Chinese told a King: “We are very well known for our ability to decorate and adorn buildings”. Then some Romans said: “We are able to produce more splendid decorations and adornments.” Thereupon the King said: “All right, we shall test your abilities to see who is best”.
“The Romans and the Chinese came before the King, while the Romans were noted for being more knowledgeable.”
Then the Chinese told the King: “Give us a house so that we may decorate it. Let the house be hidden behind a curtain so that these Romans cannot copy or imitate our decorations.” According to these conditions they started decorating the house in their own excellent manner.
Then the Romans said: “We shall prepare a decorated house our own, just opposite the spot where the Chinese shall work, so that you may easily ascertain by comparing the two houses, as to whose work is better.”
The Romans also started working behind a curtain in a secret way, they did not make any decorated paintings. They merely started cleaning and polishing the wall of the house until in the end the wall of the house started shining like a mirror.
Then came the time of the test. The curtains were removed and the result was that the beautiful paintings and pictures in the house of the Chinese became reflected on the wall of the Romans so that their art appeared more beautiful. The King came along.
“He saw the decorations made by the Chinese. So beautiful were they that they drove the mind away. Thereafter the King inspected the Romans’ decorations. And was astonished at what he saw. Whatever the King saw on the other side, here appeared more beautiful. So that through the efforts of decorating, the eyes were popping out of their sockets.”
Maulana Rumi compared the work of the Romans to that done by the Saintly ones because these Saintly ones place great emphasis upon cleaning the heart and through the blessings of that, without studying books and revision, they become decorated with beautiful character.
“However, the Saintly ones cleanse and polish their hearts profusely, whereby greed, stinginess and enmity is removed from it.
One Saint says: “Our law is to keep the heart like a mirror, clean and free of dust. And our way is this, that to retain therein, is a major crime.”
(Ma’aarif – e – Mathanwi, Maulana Hakeem Akhtar)