Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi and the Thieves
One night Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi went walking among his subjects after taking off his royal clothes and putting on ordinary clothes. He chanced to come upon a group of thieves who were consulting amongst themselves. On seeing him they asked: “Who are you?”
The King (Sultan) replied: “I am also one like yourselves.” They understood that to mean that he was also a thief like themselves and allowed him to join their company. They then continued the conversation amongst themselves and it was decided that each one of them should explain what speciality or skill he possesses so that at the time of need a task could be put before him to show that special skill.
One of the thieves said: “Friends, I have a special gift in my ears, that whenever a dog barks, I fully understand what he says.”
The second one said: “I have a special gift in my eyes, that whatever I see in the darkness of night, I am able to recognize it in the light of day.”
The third one said: “I have this speciality in my arms that through the strength that lies in my arms, I can make a hole in the strongest wall, to enter a house.”
The fourth one said: “I have this special gift in my nose that by smelling the sand on the ground I am able to ascertain whether there is any treasure buried underneath it or not. It is just like in the case of Majnoon, who without being told, merely by smelling the ground, got to know where Layla was buried.”
The fifth one said: “I have such strength in my hands that no matter how high a building is, I can climb along its wall with my rope ladder and easily enter the building in this manner.”
Thereafter they all asked the King: “O man, what special gift do you possess which we can make use of in our thieving activities?”
The King replied: “I have this speciality in my beard that when criminals are handed over to their executioner, I merely shake my beard and such criminals are immediately set free.” (In other words, if as a show of mercy I shake my beard, the criminals found guilty of murder, are set free).
On hearing this the thieves said: “O dear Qutub, on the day of difficulty, you will be our one means of salvation.” (In other words, if we are arrested, then through you blessings we will be saved. Now we do not have to fear, because the rest of us had the special gift which would help us in our thieving exploits, but none of us had the means of granting safety from punishment. This speciality lies only with you. Now we need not have any fear of punishment. Now we can get on with our work).
They all went in the direction of the palace of Shah Mahmood with the King in their midst. Along the way a dog barked and the one who understood the dog’s language translated: “The King is also in you midst.” Although they heard it, no one paid any attention to this information, as their greed was uppermost in their minds. One of them smelled the ground and explained that this is the Royal Palace . There is a treasure in this place. The other one threw a rope ladder against the wall. The other one made a hole in the wall and they all entered to burgle. Afterwards they divided the loot amongst themselves and hastily each one of them went to hide his share of the spoils.
The King noted each one’s description and found out where each of them resided. He left them and secretly re-entered the Royal Palace . The following day the King related the entire story to his courtiers and thereafter sent the policemen to arrest them and to inform them of their death sentence.
When they were brought before the Court with hands bound together, they were all trembling in fear before the King’s throne. However, the thief who had this special gift of recognizing anybody during the day whom he had seen during the darkness, was quite at ease. In him together with the signs of fear there were also sights of hope. In other words, although he was struck by awe while standing before the King and although fearing the King’s wrath and revenge, he also had the hope, that the King would be true to his word, that when in mercy he shakes his beard, criminals will be set free. Furthermore he also had the hope of setting free al his companions because the King will surely not turn away from all those whom he knew and recognized.
This person’s face was changing from yellow to red, as within himself the feelings of fear and hope alternated. The Sultan Mahmood in Kingly dignity passed judgment that they all should be handed over to the Executioner to be hung on the gallows. As the King himself was witness to their crime, there was no need for any other witnesses.
As soon as the King announced his judgement, this person appealed in great humility: “Sire, with you permission, may I say something?” The King permitted him to speak and he said: “O Master, each one of us had exhibited his special gift which helped in this crime. Now it is time that the Kingly speciality should be exhibited according to the promise. I have all the while recognized you. Remember you had promised that in you beard there is this speciality, that if you cause it to move in mercy, the criminal will be saved from punishment. Hence, O King, shake you beard, so that through the blessings of your grace, all of us can be saved from the punishment of our crimes. Our specialities have brought us to the gallows. Now it is only you special gift that is left which can save us from being punished of our crimes. Our specialities have brought us to the gallows. Now it is only you special gift that is left which can save us from being punished. Now is the time for the exhibition of your speciality. Kindly shake your beard. Because of fear our lives have reached right up to our mouths. Please save us with the special gift that lies in your beard.”
Sultan Mahmood smiled at the plea and became filled with mercy and grace as he heard their pitiful admission of guilt. He said: “Each one of you have exhibited his special quality to such an extent that it has brought you to the brim of destruction, except in the case of this one. He recognized me as the Sultan. He saw me in the darkness of the night and recognized me as the Sultan. Hence for his having recognized me, I set all of you free. I feel ashamed at those eyes which recognized me not to shake my beard and thereby exhibit my special quality.”
The first lesson contained is this story is that while a person is committing a crime the true King of Kings is with him, and is fully aware of all that he does. “And He is with you wherever you are.” When a person commits any disobedience to Allah he is actually committing treachery against Him. Anyone who fails in his duty to Allah or in the rights which are due to me, is like a thief committing the theft of Allah’s treasures. For this reason, one should always bear in mind that the Master is the witness, seeing us at all times, and is aware of all that we do. If we commit any disobedience or iniquity, it means that in His very presence His treasury is being looted and robbed.
Think for a moment! Whom are you robbing? That King and Master tells you: “I am seeing what you do. I am with you. My laws have been revealed to you. Today your breaking that law. Today, in this world I will hide your fault, hoping that perhaps you will come upon the right road. But if you do not come to your senses, then tomorrow on the day of Qiyamat when you will be brought before Me, with hands bound together, then who will be able to save you from My anger and revenge?”
The second lesson from this story is that Allah will punish sinners in the hereafter although He may initially overlook them in this world. We see that at the time the thieves were looting the Royal treasury, the Sultan witnessed the entire incident. He was with them and allowed them to proceed without being punished. However in the end, he had them arrested. If, at all times, this thought is uppermost in our minds that Allah sees all our deeds then there will surely be fear in the heart against committing sins.
The third lesson from this story is this that on the day of Qiyamat no special quality will be of any benefit. All those deeds which contravene the laws of Allah will on the day of Qiyamat be bound around man’s neck even though, in this world, they were considered as being special qualities. The thieves mentioned those special gifts and qualities as if the were qualities of virtue, but in reality those very qualities were the cause of their destruction:
“Each one of them exhibited their special quality,
But all their qualities only caused their misfortune to increase.”
Any special quality which does not bring a person nearer to his Creator, and which does not connect the heart to Allah, and which is not a medium towards the remembrance of Allah is no quality of virtue. In fact it is a cure and a misfortune. All the powers and attributes of man which are used in rebellion against Allah and towards disobedience and negligence, will one day cause him to be brought before Allah as a criminal. All those nations who have made great progress and through scientific inventions have made this world subservient to them, but turn away from Allah, passing their lives in disobedience, will realize on the day of Qiyamat, whether the speciality of scientific progress had been the cause of receiving Allah’s grace or His anger.
“Blessed be to you the subjugation of the sun and moon,
But if there is no light in the heart there is no light anywhere.”
The fourth lesson from this story is that no special quality will be of benefit except that which leads towards recognizing Allah, just like the person who having seen the Sultan, recognized him and through this special quality, he not only saved himself but was also able to intercede on behalf of this companions. As for his other companions, their special quality became a means towards earning Allah’s punishment.
“Only the sight of the fortunate one was of any use
Who recognized the Sultan during darkness of night.”
The lesson derived is that this world is like a place of darkness. In the darkness of this world, every servant of Allah who follows the Divine Laws of Shariat and through its blessings recognizes Allah, will be provided with salvation against the punishment on hell-fire, on the day of Qiyamat. This recognition will also be a means towards intercession on behalf of other criminals, from among the sinners of the people of faith. However, there should not be any pride and over confidence in this recognition. In fact, one should alternate between fear and hope and in utmost humility beg for this intercession. Then Allah will accept this intercession from whomever He wishes according to His Mercy . For those whom He will not accept this intercession, He will in perfect justice exhibit His overwhelming vengeance. Hence, fortunate indeed is the person who, in the world, created within himself the knowledge of recognizing Allah. The Aarifeen (True knowers of Allah) who through their spiritual efforts and exercises recognize Allah with their souls, will tomorrow on the day of Qiyamat see Allah and attain salvation. Furthermore their intercession on behalf of other sinners will also be accepted. But the disbelievers and criminals will through their special qualities be admitted into hell-fire. On that day these poor starving ones with pale faces, patched coarse clothing, who today are being ridiculed and jeered at, will feast their eyes upon the countenance of Allah. On that day, the criminals will envy them:
“Would that we had lived like them in the world and acquired their qualities.
Would that we had recognized Allah properly!”
The fifth lesson is this that the story also illustrates the high position these righteous and saintly ones have as far as their humanity is concerned. What a pity that nations and people, just like those thieves, spend their short span of worldly lives looking upon means of delight and comfort as special gift and accomplishment, and look upon material progress as being actual progress. Whereas on the other hand, they have adopted uncouth habits like urinating while standing and cleansing themselves with paper after defecating. They also consider it normal to take a bath sitting in a tub and allow the water, which had become dirtied through being in contact with the anus to be drawn into their mouth and nose. They consider those actions as the norms of society. Can such people ever be considered to be cultured and people of progress? What a pity it is that the beloved cultural ways of Muslims should be cast aside and that such despicable ways of these people should be adopted.