The Wise Thief

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani

wise thief

A flip of a double-edged stone will decide on whom is to go first; they agreed.

Once upon a time, there was a godly man who lost his way in the desert; several days went on without him having eaten or drunk any food or drink respectively, and death was approaching him from afar; indeed, not that far!

Suddenly, he was encountered by an assaulter, a thief, who threatened him with a weapon ordering the godly man to give out all and anything he has.

Humbly, the godly man said: I have lost my way amidst this barren desert for days and I have nothing on me, no food, no drink, no money, nothing! I cannot believe you are attacking me here, in this barren desert, and trying to steal from me! How can you do that?!

The thief said: I have lost my way for days too and I have nothing on me, neither food nor water, and I have been looking for anything to eat since then!

The godly man said: Let’s stick together and see what will happen to the both of us. The godly man and the thief set off together searching for anything to eat or anyone to rescue them from this desperate situation and scorching inhospitable desert.

After they had traveled a long distance, they saw a town at the mountain’s foot. Hopefully but cautiously, they said to themselves: We need to go to that town and see whether its people would help us.

After thinking their next move over, they decided that it would be better and wiser not to enter the town together – to reduce dangers – and that only one of them should go and see what would happen then call upon the other to join him.

But, the question that begs answering here is: Who will take the risk and go first? Who will sacrifice his own safety and will go to the town first?

A flip of a double-edged stone will decide on whom is to go first; they agreed. After it was thrown up into the air, the stone reached the ground and settled itself on the edge the thief has already chosen. Consequently, the thief headed for the town and reached its gates in a short while.

Astonished as he was, the thief saw numerous people welcoming as well as cheering at him; they raised him high on their shoulders and started to loudly shout out, “Long live His Majesty!, Long live His Majesty! Long live His Majesty!”

While he was sinking in the abyss of confusion and wonderment, one of the subjects started to explain what was happening to him. The subject told him that their original king has passed away and that all subjects of the kingdom agreed to appoint as their new king the first newcomer and that he was the first to visit their kingdom following the demise of their king.

The newly appointed king’s happiness was beyond imagination and immediately he started to act as one. A lavish banquet of a variety of foods and drinks was served and he ate until he was completely satisfied. Then, the new king remembered the godly man and the agreement they made together. He ordered the guards to go up the mountain and respectfully accompany the godly man and bring him to the court. Immediately, the guards did as they were told.

When the godly man arrived, he saw the new king on his throne and was told all about the story by his “old companion”. Food and drinks were served and he ate until he was satisfied by the Grace of Allah, the Sustainer of all.

Then, while they were chatting together, one of the guards came in and told the king that in his capacity as the king he should sit for settling disputes and judge between the kingdom’s subjects; he told him that this is part of their customs and norms.

The king nodded his head in agreement and ordered the guards to let the litigants enter his royal court. The litigants, as well as the defendants, came in and the session started.

“What did this person do? What is his crime?” the king asked.

“He robbed so-and-so, my king.” One of the guards answered.

“Kill him.” The king ordered without showing any remorse!

“What about this one? What did he do?” the king asked.

“He was unable to pay off a debt to so-and-so.” The guards answered.

“Cut his head and put it on a spear in front of my palace for all to see.” The king ordered.

“And this one, what about him?” the king inquired.

“He backbit one of his neighbors.” They answered.

“Cut off his right leg along with his left arm.” The king answered.

The cases continued to be presented in front of the king one by one and his aggressive and unjust rulings continued to be issued as well until the godly man broke his silence and said to the king, “What are you doing? These are all unjust rulings and unfair sentences. Fear God! God will not be pleased with what you are doing!”

Assuredly, the king said, “On the contrary! God will be pleased with what I am doing now and here! The stone chose me and not you, remember?! God knows me better than you do and knows that I would do that to them. If God willed it, the stone would have chosen you and you would have judged between them justly and fairly, but God did not will that to happen. You know why? Because God knows that these people are not godly and that they deserve me and not you. God is the All-Just, the All-Fair and He never does injustice to any of His creatures!”

Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an what means,

“Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his own soul: nor is thy Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His Servants.” (Fussilat 41: 46)

It is obvious from the above story that Allah the Almighty, God, never does any injustice to any of His servants or slaves; it is us who do injustice and spread mischief on earth. We deserve what we have already; if we are good, God will give us good rulers and vice versa. However, this should not be understood as a way of relinquishing from standing firm against the unjust rulers and defying them and their injustices. This is not intended here in any way!


Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department,; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator, and researcher. You can reach him at [email protected].



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