Kurdish Proverb


(which means, “Extend your leg [feet] on your carpet,” or usually it means “Stay within your limits”)

No doubt, knowing ourselves and our abilities is the first step for success if we [want to] stop [stay] within our limits. I am not going to argue with philosophers about the definition of a human being, but I accept their philosophy that knowing ourselves is the key for knowing our universe and our Creator. But this proverb is not for teaching us who we are, and it does not explain for us our planet. If you would like to know something about this, I recommend that you read Dr. Alexis Carlyle’s book, Human, That Unknown Creature.

Kurds, who were mostly poor and lived in mountainous areas, struggled to survive and did not have an opportunity to educate themselves, and there were not a lot of philosophers among them, but they learned from life and experience, and by their nature understood who they were! Until now, I myself have not spent time reading philosophical arguments about where we came from: we are here, and this is the fact. So I will share with you this Kurdish proverb, which instead of arguing about where we came from, tells us what we should do [to live properly]. It’s easy and simple: “Do not do anything that is bigger than you are, [or that exceeds] your ability.” Each of us has different capacities and we know our abilities; this proverb tells us to stop there, within our limits.

When people try to do whatever they are not good at, or have no knowledge of, or have no means for doing, or [find that the action] is far ahead of their ability, they will never be successful, but will end up in corruption. When, in Kurdistan, they see someone try things that are above his capacity, they tell him, extend your feet on your carpet! When someone claims [that he has done] things that are impossible for him to have done, Kurds tell him, stop [stay] in your limits. This is really true today. All the economists are approving this [not staying within your limits] economically, as the scientists do scientifically, but with that we hear that banks are declaring bankruptcy, and we read a lot of sad stories about people and what happened to them because of loans (credit cards) and payments. Some people end up in tragedy, and others end up living under stress because they don’t know how to pay back [their loans], and they can’t make all these [different] payments. It’s not fair: many companies push people and deceive them by advertisements to take [over] the loans, or to use [another] credit card, and after that people are in trouble [trying] to make the payments. Some people have car or house payments for the next 10 or 20 years; if anything happens [to them]––they get sick or lose their jobs––they will lose everything. We start to hear about banks and companies declaring bankruptcy––this is all because they extend their legs [farther] than their carpets. This Kurdish proverb tells us we should spend only what we have.

- We must do only what we can, and we should say or ask only what is possible. A famous and pious ruler, Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, heard that his son had bought a ring for 1,000 dirhams. At that time it was a very expensive ring. So he wrote to his son advising him, "It has reached me that you bought a ring for 1,000 dirhams. Sell the ring and feed a thousand people. And buy another ring for 2 dirhams and inscribe on it 'May Allah have Mercy on the one who knows himself (ability) and who stops within his own limits!'"

- How many people break their backs because they carry weight they can’t [manage]?

- How many people lie because they are not able to return [pay] a loan on time, and how many of them are stressed by paying back a loan that they used for unnecessary things?

- How many people break their promises because they promised what is bigger than themselves [their abilities]?

- It’s beautiful to drive a new car, but if you can’t get one, it’s no shame to drive an old one!

- It’s nice to live in a huge house, but if you can’t afford it, it’s fine to live in a small one.

- It’s easy to go shopping and eat in restaurants––if you have extra money. But if not, it’s foolish to [pay] by loan and credit card.

Hopefully this proverb helps you to know your limits and to stop within them.


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February 7, 2009

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