Islamic Heritage of South Asia

A Parable of Two Frogs

Submitted by Professor Nazeer Ahmed

Once upon a time there lived a little frog in a tiny pond. Years of living in cramped shallow waters had turned its color muddy red. The pond was isolated from other sources of water so the frog had no idea about the mighty rivers that flowed through the land or the vast oceans that covered more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface. The little red frog was happy in its ignorance, content that it was the king of the pond which it believed was the largest body of water in the world.

One day, the region was hit by a powerful hurricane. There was a mighty downpour lasting days, creating a deluge that occurs only once in a century. The rivers overflowed; the land was flooded and became one continuous lake as far as the eye could see.

A blue frog that lived in the ocean was caught up in the floods and was hurled into the small pond that was home to the red frog.

The red frog had never seen a blue frog. It was curious to learn about the companion that had just landed in its domain.

“Where did you come from?”, asked the red frog of the newcomer.

“My home is the ocean. I have lived there for generations. The floods carried me off my turf and have landed me into your pond”, answered the blue frog.

The red frog was curious. “I wonder what kind of a pond this other frog comes from? Are there other ponds out there bigger than my pond?”, it ruminated.

“How large is your pond?”, asked the red frog.

“It is larger than this pond”, came the answer.

Jealousy overtook curiosity. “Surely, this newcomer is lying”, thought the red frog. “After all, I have lived in this pond all my life. I know, for sure, there is no pond larger than mine”.

It was time for a test. The red frog took a long hop, then turned to the blue frog and asked: “Is your pond as large as that hop?”

“It is larger”, replied the blue frog.

The red frog took two long hops. “Surely”, it mused, “his pond cannot be bigger than two of my hops”.

“Is your pond as big as my two hops?”, asked the red frog.

“It is bigger”, was the reply.

Jealousy gave way to suspicion. “Surely, this newcomer is a confirmed liar”, thought the red frog.

This time, the red frog took three long hops. It jumped as far as it could and was certain in its knowledge that this time it had traversed a larger distance than the extent of the pond that the blue frog came from.

“Surely, your pond is not larger than the distance I covered in my three hops”, asserted the red frog.

“It is much, much larger”, said the blue frog. “It is larger than a thousand of your ponds”.

The red frog was frothing at the mouth. Suspicion gave way to anger. “What more evidence do I need to confirm this intruder is a big liar? I have known all my life that my pond is the biggest”.

Seething with anger, the red frog lunged at the blue frog and chased it away.

“Where ignorance is bliss, it is foolish to be wise”. Ignorance is the doorkeeper of the Ego. It is the curtain that keeps the light out from Nafs e Ammara.

How many civilizations have destroyed themselves because they closed their doors and failed to learn from other civilizations?