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This is a painting of mostly bearded men in a mosque. (Source: https://www.amazon.fr/Gulistan-Contes-persans-Reza-Dalvand/dp/2352901766) If the shape of their mouths is to be relied on, they appear to be talking, singing or chanting. Some on the upper floor may be discussing, according to their arm-waving. One is up in the minaret perhaps on his way to the top, possibly indicating the moment before the call to prayer. Why is a man in the foreground touching the only beardless one? Is this a depiction of some kind of youth initiation ritual (hence the beardlessness)? or teaching singing/chanting by drawing attention to vibrations in the abdomen? If not, what is going on?

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EDIT: The image is a recent illustration by Reza Dalvand from the cited book, although it might have been modeled after older art. I received the image by email and was hasty to post it here without enquiring about the source first. I am not sure if my question is still valid.

EDIT 2: The young man has just been admitted as a sage by 10 other sages (counting out the minaret man). He is replying to his father that he would rather remain silent about it than risk saying anything stupid. This does not explain the body language however.

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  • Where did you come across it? – Gort the Robot Jan 7 at 16:42
  • It was emailed to me. – syre Jan 7 at 16:58
  • Thanks for the update. Though the Gulistan is definitely historical in nature, interpreting a recent illustration may be less so. If you can find the actual chapter and story this is from then a translation of the original text should provide your explanation. (That may be oversimplification as well, however, since according to the wiki article Each word of Sa'di has seventy-two meanings )... – justCal Jan 8 at 3:11
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It appears from your description this artwork is being used to illustrate Story III, from Chapter iV of the Gulistan (1256CE). A translation of this work can be found at the source books collection Fordham.edu:

A sensible youth made vast progress in the arts and sciences, and was of a docile disposition; but however much he frequented the societies of the learned, they never could get him to utter a word. On one occasion his father said: "O my son, why do not you also say what you know on this subject?" He replied: "I am afraid lest they question me upon what I know not, and put me to shame.---Hast thou not heard of a Sufi who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal. An officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, 'Come along, and shoe my horse.'---So long as thou art silent and quiet, nobody will meddle with thy business; but once thou divulges it, be ready with thy proofs."

This would indicate the father in the scene is reaching out to his son, to encourage him to participate.

Note the artist does have a website where you could contact him. If you do so self answering a question with such details is sometimes done here.


This story does remind me of a favorite quote which is often attributed to many different authors including Lincoln and Twain:

"It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it."

Perhaps your story here is the true source of that quote...

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