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Story No 85

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85 - Alee Khwaajaa and the Merchant of Bagadaad

During the period of reign of the Caliph Haaroon al-Rasheed, there lived a merchant, named Alee Khwaajaa who had a small wealth and by which he made a bare livelihood for himself. It so came to happen that once he saw a dream for three consecutive nights - a Sheikh said to him - "You go to make a pilgrimage to Makkaa, why are you living here?" He got frightened, so he sold his everything and went to Makkaa. He let his home on rent, and joined a caravan to go to Makkaa. He took 1,000 gold coins over and above his needs for the journey. He kept them in an earthen jar, filled up with Sparrow olives, tied its mouth and took it to a merchant friend of many years' of standing and said to him - "I am going to Makkaa, I have brought a jar of olives, so keep it till I come back." The merchant rose and gave the key of store to him and said - "Take this key, open the store and keep this jar anywhere you like and you may take it when you come back from the same place where you left it." So Alee kept the jar in the store, locked it and gave the key to its master. Then he went to Makkaa.

He performed all the necessary rites at Makkaa, then he set up a shop there to sell his merchandise. By chance two merchants passed from his shop and admired his merchandise a lot for their beauty and excellence and one said to another - "He can get a good price of such materials in Cairo." Hearing the name of Cairo, Alee thought to go to Cairo. So he gave up his intention to go back to Bagadaad, and went to Cairo with a caravan buying and selling his merchandise and making good money out of those. He stayed there for one month, then he went to Jerusalem. He prayed there in the temple of Baanoo Israel and came to Damascus. It was so beautiful that he forgot about Bagadaad. He went to some other places too and returned to Bagadaad after seven years.

Here, for seven long years the Bagadaad merchant never once thought of Alee Khwaajaa, until one day at evening meal, his wife talked about olives. He said - "Some seven years ago Alee left a jar of Sparrow olives while going to Makkaa, who knows where is he now? A man who lately came from Makkaa told me that he left Makkaa for Egypt. Only Allaah knows whether he is dead or alive. However, let me go bring some olives from it and taste them. Give me a plate and a lamp." His wife was an honest woman, she asked him not to breach the trust. Perhaps he might come back from Egypt safe and sound and ask his jar, then we would be disgraced before your friend. I don't want to be part of this, nor I will taste any olives. Besides they may not be good to eat after seven years."

Although the merchant agreed for this, still he kept his plan in his mind. So one day, out of his obstinacy, he went to the store room and by chance met his wife there. She again said - "I am no partner with you in this ill-action. In truth some evil will fall on you if you do this." He did not pay any attention to her and went into the store, opened the jar and found the olives spoiled, but as he tilted the jar to pour its contents into a dish, an Asharfee came out with the olives. Filled with greed he turned out all that was within the jar. He was surprised to see that the lower part of the jar was full of Asharfees. He put all the Asharfees and olives back in the jar, closed it and said to his wife - "You said right, the fruits were spoiled, so I returned them to the jar." But the merchant could not sleep that night thinking how he could take all those Asharfees. Next morning he took out all Asharfees, bought fresh olives, filled the jar with olives, closed it and kept it at the same place.

Now by Allaah's mercy Alee came back by the end of the month and went to meet his friend and asked for his jar. He said - "Take this key and take your jar from wherever you put it." So Alee went in the store, took his jar, handed over the key to his friend and went to his house. He opened the jar and did not find the gold coins, so he got very sad and returned to his friend - "By Allaah, When I went to Makkaa, I left gold coins in this jar, but now they are not there. Can you tell me what happened to them? If you have used them, no problem, you may return them when you are able to return."

The merchant said - "My friend, You yourself kept the jar in the store, I did not know that you have something else also other than the olives. It was there as you kept it. Still you are blaming me for theft. When you went you did not mention about any money in it, but said that it was full of olives and the same you must have found." Alee begged hard - "I had only those 1,000 Asharfees, please be kind to me and give those Asharfees back to me." But the merchant got very angry at this and asked him not to come to his house again.

Hearing all this the neighbors came and heard all that what happened; then it became known in the whole Bagadaad. When he could not recover his money like that, he went to Qaazee and explained his case. He asked - "Is there any witness who can speak for you?" "No, I did not tell anybody else. Allaah is the only witness for me. This merchant was my friend and I trusted him." The Qaazee said - "OK, Let me send for the merchant and ask him to take an oath." So the merchant came and he took that oath that he did not know about any Asharfee of Alee. Hearing this Qaazee pronounced him innocent and dismissed him from the court. Alee also went home sad.

Next day he made a statement and when the Caliph was going for his Friday prayers, he fell down at his feet and presented his paper. He ordered both to come in his court next day. That night he with his Vazeer Zaafar and eunuch Masaroor walked on the streets of Bagadaad. Soon he came to Bazaar where he heard some noise of 10-12 boys playing in the moonlight. One boy said to others - "Come, Let us play the game of Qaazee. I will be the judge, one of you will be Alee and another the merchant with whom he placed his money." Hearing this the Caliph stopped to see how the boys play this game. He thought that even the children know about this event in the city.

The judge asked - "O Alee, What is your claim against this merchant?" Alee told his matter. Then the Qaazee said to the merchant - "What do you say about this, and why didn't you return his coins?" The merchant denied as the real merchant did. Then the Qaazee said - "I would like to see the jar of olives which Alee gave to you." Then he said to Alee - "Go and bring the jar you kept with the merchant." When the jar had come, the Qaazee said - "See it now, and tell me, is this the jar you kept with the merchant?" "Yes." The Qaazee said - "Now you open the jar and bring its contents so that I may see the state in which the Asharfee and olives actually are."

Then he tasted the fruit and said - "How is it that the taste of olives is so fresh and their state is so excellent. Surely the olives must have rotten after seven years. Bring me two olive merchants of the town who can tell me about them." Then the two boys as olive merchants came to the Qaazee. The Qaazee asked them - "Are you the merchants of olives?" "Yes, We are in this trade for generations." The Qaazee asked them - "Tell me, For how long can these olives be kept fresh and fit for eating?" They said - "If they are kept carefully, in the third year they change their color and are no longer good for eating. In fact they should be then thrown away."

"OK, Tell me how old these olives are?" The merchants said - "They are in good condition." Qaazee said - "You are lying, because Alee kept this jar seven years ago when he was going to Makkaa." The merchants said - "Say whatever you want, but these olives are of this year's produce." Then the merchant was asked to taste the fruit, and he had to admit that those olives were of this year's. The Qaazee said to the merchant - "It shows that you were lying and you deserve punishment." The Qaazee clapped his hands and handed over him to executioners.

The Caliph was very pleased with the boy who played the role of the Qaazee. He asked Zaafar to produce that boy next morning in his court. He will play this act in my presence in real tomorrow. Summon also the Qaazee so that he can learn the administration of justice from this boy. Ask all to bring the jar he gave to the merchant, and two olive merchants."

When next morning the Vazeer went to bring the Qaazee boy, the school headmaster said - "All boys have gone to their homes." Somehow the Vazeer found the boy and brought him to the Caliph. His mother was afraid of this, but the Vazeer consoled her that she should not worry about the boy, her boy will come back soon, maybe with favor. So all gathered in the Caliph's court. The Caliph ordered Alee and the merchant to present their cases in the presence of the child Qaazee. And when the merchant was about to take the oath, the child Qaazee stopped him to do so and said - "Do not take oath until you are told to take. First produce the jar in the court." Alee presented the jar and the child Qaazee opened the jar, then tasting one olive, he gave some to the two olive merchants to test their freshness. They told him that those fruits were of this year's produce.

The child Qaazee said - "I think you are mistaken, Alee kept this jar seven years ago, then how can these olives be of this year's?" But they replied - "If you don't believe us you may ask other merchants." So when the merchant saw that he could not escape, he admitted that he stole the Asharfees and filled the jar with fresh olives.

Hearing this the boy said to the Caliph - "Last night we tried to solve this problem, but you alone have the power to apply the penalty." The Caliph ordered the merchant to be hanged after telling where he has put the money and giving them back to Alee. He asked Qaazee to learn to do justice from the child Qaazee. He asked his Vazeer to give 1,000 gold coins to the child Qaazee and conduct him safely to his home. After the boy became man, the Caliph made him his cup-companion.

End of Story No 85


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Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 07/15/14