Sikaki was a skilled artist and artisan. With great expertise and interest, he made such a nice and beautiful inkpot that it could be presented to the king. He expected that, appreciating his artistic skill, the king would encourage him as far as possible. So, with countless hopes and thousands of desires, he presented that inkpot to the king. In the beginning the king was very impressed by his artistic skill. But afterwards such an unpleasant event occurred that it caused an extraordinary change in Sikaki’s life and artistic capabilities.
When the king was observing the skilled artistry of the beautiful inkpot and Sikaki was lost in the world of thoughts, the people informed that a learned or literary person or jurisconsult is about to come to the court. After a while this learned man entered the court. The king got so much absorbed in welcoming and talking with him that he could not keep in mind anything about Sikaki and his skilled artistry. This incident was enough to adversely affect the heart and brain of an artist like Sikaki. So, this carelessness of the king had a deep effect on his heart.
He realized that now he would not receive the encouragement he had expected. And now to have a hope or to keep any desire is of no use. But Sikaki’s high thinking and his artistic capability did not allow him to remain in peace and he started thinking as to what he should do? He decided that he should also do the same as the others have done uptil now. (He thought:) “I will also have to follow the same path as the others have been following uptil now.” Hence he finally decided to search for his lost hopes in the world of knowledge, literature and books. But for such a wise man who had spent the days of his youth in other works, it was not easy to get engaged in studies and start teaching small children. Still, he remained firm with his decision. Moreover, there was no other alternative before him. After all when the fish is taken out from water, it is fresh.
But the most difficult thing was this that in the beginning, he did not find any interest in reading and writing. Perhaps, his spending a long time in artistic and handicraft works was the reason for stagnancy in his scientific and literary talent. But his advanced age and less capability could not stand in the way of his decision. And with great interest, enthusiasm and zeal for attaining knowledge, he got busy with his studies. Meanwhile, another incident occurred.
The teacher, who was teaching Fiqh-iShafi’i (Shafi’i jurisprudence), taught him this lesson: “It is the teacher’s belief that the skin of the dog becomes ‘tahir’ (pure) after tanning.” Sikaki repeated this sentence for at least ten times, so that at the time of examination he might succeed in securing good marks. But when he was questioned on this lesson, giving the answer, he said: “Dog’s belief is this that the teacher’s skin becomes tahir after tanning.”
On hearing his reply like this, all the audience started laughing. And everyone thought that the old man is absolutely incapable of reading and writing. After this incident, Sikaki not only left that school, but he also left that town and went towards the jungle. By chance, he reached the foot of a mountain, where he saw that the water is falling drop by drop from the top. And because of the falling of water, drop by drop, a hole has been formed even in that hard stone. For some time, he kept on thinking over this matter. It had a deep effect on his heart and mind. And he said, “May be my heart is not at all inclined towards
reading and writing, but it is not as hard as this stone. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible that I go on studying continuously with diligence but do not attain knowledge.” Thinking like this, he came back and got busy with the attainment of knowledge. The result of this was that after some time, he was reckoned among the popular scholars of his time.
Source: Selected excerpt from ‘Anecdotes of Pious Men‘ by Shaheed Murtadha Mutahhari