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Story 18: The Merchant And The Passerby

A man with an attractive personality, who was tall, broad-shouldered, big-boned, with a sunburnt face and a scar on the corner of his eye, which was a testimony to his presence on the battlefield, passed through the market of Kufah with firm and assured steps.

On the other side, a merchant was sitting in his shop. In order to entertain his friends and make them laugh, threw a handful of garbage at the passerby. Without so much as a wrinkle of his brow, the passerby paid no attention and continued on his way with firm and assured steps.

As he went a few steps ahead, one of the merchant’s friends in the market said to him, “Did you recognize the passerby, the person whom you have insulted?”

“No, I did not recognize him! He was a passerby like thousands of others who pass before us every day.”

“How strange! You did not recognize him? The passerby was Malik al-Ashtar al-Nakhai the famous Commander-in-Chief!”

“What! That man was Malik al-Ashtar? The same Malik who makes the heart of a lion paralyzed with fear and whose name strikes fear in the heart of his enemies?”

“Yes, that was Malik!”

“Woe betides me! What have I done? Surely, he will issue an order to punish and chastise me severely. I will run to him and throw myself at his feet and beg him to excuse me for my blunder.”

He began to run after Malik al-Ashtar and followed him. Seeing him turn towards the Mosque, he also entered the Mosque and saw him performing prayers. He waited until Malik completed his prayers, then he introducing himself in a pleading and supplicating tone. He said, “I am the one who made a blunder and was impudent towards you.”

Malik said in reply, “As for me, I swear by Allah, I did not come to the Mosque for you. I see that you are a misbehaving, ignorant, illiterate and misguided person and that you harass others for no reason. Thus, I felt you deserve my compassion and I came here to pray for you, asking Allah to show you the straight path. I had no other intention than this and not what you presumed about me.”1

  • 1. Safinat ul-Bihar, (Ilem Shatara).