SWEETEST SOUND, A RAMADAN STORY
This story comes from Persia, an area now known as the countries
of Afghanistan and Iran.
Once there was a King of Persia who liked to ask riddles. He particularly
liked to ask his four advisors riddles. Sometimes the King knew
the answer. Other times he didn’t. The King asked those riddles
to hear what his advisors would say.
One day, just before the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month
of the Muslim calendar, the King of Persia asked his four advisors,
"What is the sweetest sound?"
The first advisor immediately said, "Oh, your Majesty, that
is such a simple riddle. The sweetest sound is the sound of a flute."
The second advisor disagreed. "Yes, the sound of a flute is
sweet. But the sweetest sound is the sound of a harp."
The third advisor shook his head and declared, "The flute
and the harp do make sweet sounds. However, I have heard a violin.
And that is, by far, the sweetest sound."
The King looked at his fourth advisor who merely smiled. The King
nodded at him, saying, "Hmm, it looks as if my fourth advisor
is not yet ready to give his answer. I will wait until he is ready."
Days passed. The month of Ramadan started. The King of Persia stopped
asking riddles and spent more time in prayer, as is the custom during
You see, during the month of Ramadan, all Muslim adults refrained
from eating and drinking between daybreak and sunset. This fasting
during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fasting
serves many purposes. First, the time and energy normally spent
preparing food and eating can be spent contemplating and praying.
Second, the fasting reminds people of the poor and how it feels
to be hungry. Charity is another of the Five Pillars of Islam. Third,
fasting helps teach people self-control. If they can avoid things
which are good for them, think of how much easier it will be to
avoid things which are bad for them.
After sunset each day, the fast is broken by a meal, called the
Iftar. Often people invite friends over for the Iftar.
So it was not unusual when the fourth advisor invited the King
and the other three advisors over for the Iftar one evening. When
the King and the three other advisors arrived, they were quite surprised.
The fourth advisor ushered them into the dining room, but there
were no platters of food on the table, just empty plates and silverware.
Nor could they smell any cooking smells from the kitchen. They looked
at each other questioningly.
Just then, a man came in playing the flute. It was a sweet sound.
He was followed by a man playing the harp, then by another playing
the violin. Finally, the three musicians played together, beautiful,
intricate music, which was also somewhat loud. That was just as
well, because all their stomachs were growling.
Finally, one of the lesser kitchen servants came in, carrying a
simple pot and a ladle. As the ladle, brimming with stew, hit the
first plate, the King smiled broadly and said, "Yes, yes, my
fourth advisor. You are right. The sweetest sound is the sound of
silverware hitting a plate when you are hungry. As the proverb says,
the most delicious meal is the meal that you eat when you are hungry."