~ Abai Kunanbaev ~

Word Ten

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A good child is a joy,
but a bad one is a burden.
Who knows what kind of a child
God will bestow on you?
Or haven't you had enough
of the humiliation you have
had to swallow all your life?


From Word Ten, The Book of Words

A good child is a joy, but a bad one is a burden.

People pray to God to send them a child. What does a man need a child for? They say that one ought to leave an heir, a son to provide for his parents in their old age and to pray for them after their death. Is that all? Leaving an heir — what does it mean? Are you afraid there will be no one to look after your property? But why should you care about things you will leave behind? What, are you sorry to leave them to other people? What kind of treasures have you gained to regret them so much?

A good child is a joy, but a bad one is a burden. Who knows what kind of a child God will bestow on you? Or haven't you had enough of the humiliation you have had to swallow all your life? Or have you committed too few misdeeds? Why are you so eager to have a child, to rear yet another scoundrel and doom him to the selfsame humiliations?

You want your son to pray for you after your death. But if you have done good in your lifetime, who will not utter prayers for the repose of your soul? And if you have done only evil, what will be the use of your son's prayers? Will he perform good deeds in your stead — those you have failed to accomplish?

If you beg for a child who will experience the joys of the next world, it means that you wish him an early death. But if you want him to secure for yourself the joys of this world, then can a Kazakh beget a son who, on growing to manhood, will show care and concern for his parents and protect them from suffering? Can such a people and a father like you raise a worthy son of this kind?

You want him to feed and clothe you in your decrepit old age? A vain hope, too! First of all, will you live to reach your dotage? Second, will your son grow up so merciful as to care for you in your old age? If you happen to own livestock — there will always be someone ready to look after you. If you have none, who knows who will provide for you and how. And who knows whether your son will increase your wealth or squander what you have gained by your labor?

Well, supposing God has heard your prayers and given you a son. Will you manage to educate him well? No, you will not! Your own sins will be compounded by those of your son.

From the very outset of his life you will be telling him lies, promising him now this, now that. And you will be glad when you manage to deceive him. Then whom can you blame when your son grows up a liar? You will teach him bad language and to revile other people, you will condone his misdeeds: "Now, don't touch this obstinate lad!" and encourage his cheekiness. For his schooling, you choose a mullah whom you pay little, just to teach him to read and write; you teaching him to be cunning and underhand, you make him suspicious of his peers and graft on bad inclinations. Is that your upbringing? And you expect kindness from a son like that? In the same way, people pray to God for wealth. What does man need wealth for? You have prayed to God? Yes, you have, and God has given, but you won't take! He has endowed you with strength to work and prosper. But do you use this for honest labor? No! God granted you the power to learn, a mind capable of assimilating knowledge, but who knows what you used it for. Who will fail to prosper if he works hard, perseveres without tiring and makes good use of his mind? But you don't need that! You pray to get rich by intimidating, cheating and begging from other people. What kind of prayer is that? It is simply plunder and beggary on the part of a person who has lost his conscience and honor.

Supposing you have chosen this path and gained possession of livestock. Well, use it to get an education! If not for yourself, then for your son. There can be neither faith nor well-being without an education. Without learning, no prayers or fasts or pilgrimages will achieve their purpose. I have yet to see a person who, having acquired wealth by dishonest means, has put it to good use. Ill-gotten gains are likewise ill spent. And nothing remains of such wealth save the bitterness of disappointment, anger and anguish of the soul.

While he has wealth, he will boast and swagger. Having frittered it away, he will brag about his former affluence. Impoverished, he will stoop to begging.

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