An integral part of Sufi teaching is in the mold of teaching through example. Usually, these examples are experienced directly, in the form of a learned person ie: the Shaykh, which the student or dervish spends most of his waking hours with. The dervish learns how to behave morally and strengthen his character from(at first) emulating, then eventually experiencing and implementing the values on which the Shaykh’s conduct is based.
Many times these examples are given thrugh the form of a story. Ageless wisdom is thus woven into the rich tapestry of tales and tradition, creating an empathy in the listener for the protagonists in the stories, the lack of which often creates a gap of comprehension between the speaker and the audience when done in a “strictly-the-facts” type of fashion. In essence, this type of teaching is not only much more powerful in impact, but has an enduring and lasting appeal on the listener, one which he can identify with on a much more personal level.
Here. Let me show you.
A poor man dressed in rags came to the palace to attend the banquet. Out of courtesy he was admitted but, because of his tattered clothing, he was seated at the very end of the banquet table. By the time the platters arrived at his seat, there was no food left on them.
So he left the banquet, returning several hours later dressed in robes and jewels he had borrowed from a wealthy friend. This time he was brought immediately to the head of the table and, with great ceremony, food was brought to his seat first.
“Oh, what delicious food I see being served upon my plate.” He rubbed one spoonful into his clothes for every one he ate.
A nobleman beside him, grimacing at the mess, inquired, “Sir, why are you rubbing food into your fine clothes?”
“Oh,” he replied with a chuckle, “Pardon me if my robes now look the worst. But it was these clothes that brought me all this food. It’s only fair that they be fed first!”