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Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness - 18 The parable of the cruise ship and the island



Type of Spiritual Experience


This parable is intended to illustrate that those who cling on to worldly things, the materialistic,  metaphorically 'miss the boat', but it has also been used for those who cling to life regardless.

It actually offers some comfort to those whose loved ones have died early - they get the best places in the cruise ship that is heaven!

A description of the experience

Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness – 18  The parable of the cruise ship and the island

We may close these illustrations of the deceit­fulness of the world with the following short parable. Suppose a ship to arrive at a certain well-wooded island.

The captain of the ship tells the passengers he will stop a few hours there, and that they can go on shore for a short time, but warns them not to delay too long. Accordingly the passengers disembark and stroll in different directions.

The wisest return after a short time, and, finding the ship empty, choose the most comfortable places in it.

A second band of the passengers spend a some­what longer time on the island, admiring the foliage of the trees and listening to the song of the birds. Coming on board, they find the best places in the ship already occupied, and have to content themselves with the less comfortable ones.

A third party wander still farther, and, finding some brilliantly coloured stones, carry them back to the ship. Their lateness in coming on board compels them to stow themselves away in the lower parts of the ship, where they find their loads of stones, which by this time have lost all their brilliancy, very much in their way.

The last group go so far in their wanderings that they get quite out of reach of the captain’s voice calling them to come on board, and at last he has to sail away without them. They wander about in a hopeless condition and finally either perish of hunger or fall a prey to wild beasts.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Reducing desires
Reducing opportunities