Tuesday, March 24, 2009

اعمل الطيب وارمه في البحر - An Arabic Proverb

اعمل الطيب وارمه في البحر

“Do good things, and throw them in the sea”. This is what my Saudi friend Ahmed told me when asked for the translation of this Arabic writing I found in my notes. Scrutinizing further for its deeper meaning, I found that one should not expect rewards for good deeds.

This reminded me of a biblical verse in Ecclesiastes 11 that says about “casting your bread upon the water”. It caught my attention that both phrases used the word “water”.

I learned that literal rendering of the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes 11 says, "Send your substance [out] over the face of the water [i.e., the sea] that you may find it [again] many days hence. The expression is taken from the custom of sowing seed by casting it from boats into overflowing rivers, or in marshy ground. When the waters recede, the grain will fall to the soil and spring up.

Of course this could also be the entire context of the Arabic proverb and both the biblical verse and the Arabic proverb make a good metaphor for benevolence.

“Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.” ~Daniel Berrigan

Isn’t it a great feeling that you handed the piece of bread to a starved man?

Here are some nuggets worth posting:

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

~Nelson Henderson

The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.

~Laurence Leamer, King of the Night

No man stands so straight as when he stoops to help a boy.

~Knights of Pythagoras

Charity sees the need, not the cause.

~German Proverb

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was:

"If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"

But... the good Samaritan reversed the question:

"If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.

~Author Unknown

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.

~Tracy Chapman


  1. Naniniwala din ako dun parekoy...
    ang paggawa ng mabuti ay hindi dapat naghahangad ng kapalit... tama na yung makaramdam ka ng kasiyahan nang ginawa mo ang isang kabutihan..

    thats the best reward ever..
    happiness ang feeling good in doing good!

  2. Great post again pareng NJ.

    It always a great thing to give especially if you do not expect to get anything back.

    Human as we are we still have that feeling when someone gives you something you are expected to give something in return. ;-)It is still better to give than to receive.

    As Winston Churchill said: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

  3. Tutuo...di mapapantayan ang pakiramdam pag ika'y nakatulong na walang inaasahang kapalit...

    Salamat sa lahat brod, nagbabalik :D

  4. Helping is doing something that will make a difference. The giver/helper felt the warm feeling of joy and satisfaction - the receiver felt relieved and hopeful.

    Helping should be open heart, without expecting anything in return. because sabi nga nila " When do some good today, it will swing back to you tomorrow tenfold." God knows who to be blessed.

  5. Wow! A proverb from Saudi Arabia... these words have taken me directly to the Red Sea- it must be the sea they're referring to!

    Matatakot sina Og Mandino at Paulo Coelho sa post niyong ito, Tito NJ. U

  6. TAKOT?! Mali yata ang word na ginamit ko. Kung buhay lang si Og Mandino o 'di kaya'y mababasa ito ni Paulo Coelho, siguradong mati-THREATEN sila sa post niyong ito. (,"o

  7. This post reminds me of my boss. Bawat buwan pinapagawa niya ako ng tseke para sa mga charity sa Egypt, Iran, Lebanon at Jordan. Ganun kabait ang mga Arabo. Naniniwala kasi sila (ako din) na pag kusa kang nagbibigay di lang ang binibigyan mo ang siyang pinapasaya mo..Pati na rin si Allah (Lord)..Inspiring post..

  8. Kosa
    Agree ako sa u...napakasarap ng feeling mo when u do something to alleviate the plight of others without expecting anything in return.

    Doing good, from man's point of view is like doing business... you do something in exchange of something. It is often said "Nothing is free in this world".
    Nonetheless, a person who does good will never be unrewarded. This reward may not necessarily come from the recipient of his act but from someone else...but still it should not be the motive for helping others. Thanks for the quote from Winston Churchill. It's a bulls eye!

    Lord CM
    Very well said... it's not just happiness but joy from within when you help others without expecting anything in return.

    Agree ako dyan...there's a chemistry that happens between the giver and receiver... something which cannot be explained by combining ehemical elements, etc. What do ya think chemical engr?

    Doc RJ,
    The Alchemist, The Winner Stands Alone at Greatest Salesman ba ang ibig mong sabihin or ung pagiging quotable nila...hehehe? Well, they've really nothing to bother about... they're gurus in their own fields at ako nama'y abang blogger-harvester ng mga shrimps sa Red Sea...
    Gotcha! Red Sea rin ung iniisip ko habang ginagawa ko ang post na ito...hahaha

  9. Sarap basahin...Aamal al tayib, warmihi fi al bahar!

    Very elucidating! Naks.

    Totoo: masarap ang pakiramdam kapag tumutulong sa kapwa. Lalong lalo na sa mga nangangailangan. Lalong lalo pa kung walang nakakaalam.

    Mas masarap ang feeling pag si Lord ang pumuri sa yo kesa mga tao.

    I heart your post NJ.

  10. "When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own"

    That phrase makes me think! It has several meanings.

  11. Very inspiring kaibigan ang iyong panulat, tama ka, mas makahulugan ang pagtulong sa kapwa kapag hindi ito humihingi o umaasa ng kapalit. Sapagka't nasusulat -

    "Datapuwa't pagka ikaw ay naglilimos, ay huwag maalaman ng iyong kaliwang kamay ang ginagawa ng iyong kanang kamay"

    "Upang ang iyong paglilimos ay malihim: at ang iyong Ama na nakakikita sa lihim ay gagantihin ka".

    Mateo 6:3-4

    Purihin ka kaibigan.

  12. parang ang sama naman kung tutulong tapos mageexpect ng kapalit...

  13. galeng naman! ayos tong post mo brad!

  14. do a good thing and throw them in the sea. hm,,,, i like it....

  15. I really like this post... maybe i would come back and ready it over and over.

    Doing good things and casting them in the sea could also mean that we should not expect something in return... do good things and forget that you have done it. I always thought that every time i do good and get rewarded, the good deed i have is being paid and therefore i don't have the right to keep it or own it.

  16. Hi...great post! Am researching Ecc. 11:1-8 for a theology exegesis and came across your blog!

    I liked your statement about the origin of the proverb 'Bread Upon the Waters' and would really like to know where your explanation came from (about throwing seed into the overflowing river). It makes sense and I'd like to include all possible explanations of origins in my paper.

    Ive read an interesting story about Mohammed (son of Hassan) who had an unusual experience with regard to this proverb. He had been in the habit of throwing loaves of bread into the river daily (maybe to feed the fish?)...

    One day the adopted son of Caliph Mutewekkel escaped drowning by climbing onto a rock, preserving his life. Mohammed saw this as a sign that the proverb is true. (Maybe the fish returned the favour?)

    My reference for this comes from Barton, G. (1908) 'Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes', who refers it again to - Diaz' Denkwurdigkeiten von Asien. Of course the comments in () are mine!

    Since Ecc. is part of the wisdom literature of the OT, I have understood it as Qoheleth (an unknown Jewish author mimiking Solomon) to be encouraging risks in life, giving of oneself, ones resources or investing financially for God. It comes after much despair over what Qoheleth percieves as the meaninglessness of work and possessions when the motive is for the benefit of oneself rather than for serving God.

    There is also the interpretation that it refers to not putting all of ones eggs in one basket, that one should invest wealth in many ways so to avoid losing all in case of disaster. I suppose this should ideally be in ventures that glorify or advance God's purpose.

    I also tend to think that it does imply one will be rewarded, or that the good deed will find the doer again in future.

    God bless