Hazrat Ali's JudgementDuring Hazrat Ali's caliphate, it so happened once that two Arabs were travelling together through the sandy stretches of Hedjaz. At meal times they sat together on a convenient spot and opened their packages. One of them had five loaves of bread and the other three. They were about to eat their humble fare when came a stranger and after ceremonial salutations asked whether he might share their meal. "You are welcome, brother," they said, and they had a pleasant time together.
When the hour for parting arrived, the stanger gave them eight dirhams and asked them to divide it between themselves. To accept money in return for hospitality is viewed by the Muslims as inappropriate conduct, but the gift was presented so politely and in such a spirit that to refuse it would have amounted to being rude. Hence they accepted it.
Once the gift was accepted, they began to quarrel about how it was to be divided. The man who had five breads claimed five of the eight dirhams, but the one had three loaves was not willing to accept less than half the value of the gift. The money was not the question, it was a question of principle and none would forego his right. At last it was decided that they should approach the Caliph for a just and reasonable settlement.
Hazrat Ali listened to their narration attentively, pondered over it a while and then said to 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 quarelling 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," said 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 happily.
"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 single dirham of the gift and left the court in joy.Source: Africa Ismaili - Students Page, March 28, 1969
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