Long ago, a simple man lived in a town near the desert. Each day he left his home and walked through the dusty streets to the communal well.

On his way to the well, the man must pass the home of a respected lady of the community. But this woman had no love for the man. She hated him for having different ideas and customs, even though she only knew the man from rumors and second hand reports of his teachings. Every day she would wait at her window above the street for the man to pass beneath.

Each day the man must pass under the woman's window on his way. And each day, the spiteful woman would hurl refuse upon his head. She would empty dish water on him, the ashes from her cooking fire, and even her chamber pots. She would also hurl words at the man. Words sometimes more foul than the refuse.

Every day the man was soiled, and every day the man would stop and lean against a wall as he wiped himself clean again. He never replied to the woman's harsh words. After cleaning himself he would continue on his way.

This same scenario played out day after day, for many years. Until one day, as the man readied himself for the daily deluge, nothing happened. The man looked up into the window, and the woman was nowhere to be seen. Thankful for his good luck, the man walked on to the well.

For the next week, the woman was remiss again. After so many years of her consistent behavior, the man thought that something must be wrong. So he went to the door and knocked. When the ladies servant answered the door he asked to speak to her. The servant replied that she was ill and could not leave her bed. She then led him to the woman's bed chamber.

The woman was very sick. But when she saw the man, fear and anger lit within her eyes and she started to hurl profanity at him. After a few words she began coughing and could not continue. The man sat beside her bed and spoke quietly with her and helped the servant care for her all that day. He returned every day to help the woman and speak with her. In time, the woman grew well again.

During her convalescence, she came to know the man and understand his gentle ways. His kindness and humility had shown her the errors of her behavior and she became a student and great supporter of his teachings. She used her influence in the town to help the man, and soon his message reached other villages, towns, countries, and eventually the whole world.

This is from a Sufi parable I read several years ago. I hope my memory has done it justice. The man's name was Muhammad.

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