After he had defeated the Egyptians in battle and accepted their surrender, Harun-in’-Rashid decided to teach his new subjects a lesson. “Egypt’s rulers called themselves gods,” he said, “and so they were arrogant enough to challenge me. Now they will be ruled by the lowest of my slaves,” and he made Khosaib, a stupid negro, Egypt’s new governor. Khosaib, however, was so stupid that when a group of farmers came to him for help because the cotton they’d planted on the banks of the Nile had been destroyed by heavy rains, he replied, “You should have planted wool instead.”
A pious man heard what Khosaib said and recited these lines:
If knowledge were the measure of all wealth,
the ignorant would live in poverty.
Yet here is a man who should be starving,
and his prosperity leaves the wise speechless-
which proves that getting rich is not a skill,
and who knows why God granted him such luck?
It happens: Sages must stand aside like beggars
for stupid men who are given royal robes.
If an alchemist dies bitter in his failure,
know that somewhere a fool found gold in the trash.
—Sa’di (trans. by Richard Jeffrey Newman)
—found in Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan