During the times of Hazrat Ali’s caliphate, two Arabs were travelling together through the Hijaz desert. At meals, they sat together on a convenient spot and opened their food packages. One of them had five loaves of bread and the other three. As they were about to begin their meal, a stranger queried whether he might share their meal. “You are welcome, brother,” they said in unison, and all three had a pleasant time together.
At the time of farewell, the stranger presented them eight dirhams and asked them to divide it amongst themselves. Although, to accept money in lieu for hospitality is considered inappropriate by the Muslims, but the gift was presented in a spirit and manner such that to refuse it would have deemed rude. Therefore they accepted it.
There arouse a disagreement on the matter of distribution of dirhams. The man who had possessed greater share of bread sought five of the eight dirhams. On the other hand, the one with lesser portion demanded an equal half of the amount. It was a question of principle and none would forego his right. Since there was no amicable solution, both agreed to approach the Caliph for a just and reasonable settlement.
Hazrat Ali attentively listened to their account, pondered over it for a while and then addressed the man who had three breads: “Brother! Accept the three dirhams which your companion offers you, for, in reality, you don’t have a right to even those three dirhams.”
“O Caliph!” said the Arab. “It is not the money I’m arguing for; it is my right that I seek. If it is proven reasonably that I deserve not a single dirham, by ALLAH, I shall have no complaint!”
“Then listen,” said Hazrat Ali. “You had three breads and your companion had five, which makes a total of eight loaves and there were three of you to share them. Do you agree?”
“I do,” replied the Arab.
“Now, eight breads could not be divided equally in three shares without dividing them.”
“There you are,” said Hazrat Ali, appreciating the remark by the Arab. “But the breads had to be divided in three equal shares and you did it in practice though not apprehensively. The simplest practical solution to this riddle is, let us suppose, each bread was cut into three equal pieces; therefore your three breads made nine pieces and your companion’s five breads made fifteen. Thus making a total of 24 pieces and all of you ate 8 pieces each.
“Excellent!” exclaimed the Arab with joy.
“Patience, brother,” said the Caliph, while an amusing smile appeared on his lips. “Now, let us understand that you ate 8 pieces out of your nine and spared only one for the stranger. Your companion also ate 8 pieces out of his 15 and spared 7 pieces for the traveller. It is therefore just that he takes seven dirhams for his seven pieces that the stranger ate and that you take one dirham for your single piece.”
“By ALLAH! Wa-ALLAH! You are the wisest of the men on earth,” proclaimed the Arab and accepted his share of single dirham from the gift and left the court being content with the verdict.
There are many such wisdom crammed events of this virtuous Caliph who happened to be a first cousin of our beloved Prophet PBUH. InshALLAH in future we seek to enlight our audience on Hazrath Ali’s wit.
On the lines of the wonderful advice Luqman AS gave to his son, Hazrat Ali likewise extended wisdom to his son, Hazrat Hassan that we all can pass down our generation:
“My son, remember four things from me, and four more; you will come to no harm as long as you act in accordance with them:
The richest of riches is intelligence, and the greatest poverty is stupidity.
The loneliest isolation is conceit, and the noblest value is goodness of character.
- Do not befriend a fool, for he hurts you when he wants to help you
- Do not befriend a stingy man, for he will distance himself from you when he is most needed
- Do not befriend a profligate, as he will sell you for a trifle
- And do not befriend a liar, for he is like a mirage, making the distant seem near to you and the near seem distant.”