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Golden Deeds of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Yakub
> Sheikh of Andlusia (Spain)
Books Section > The Golden Deeds of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Yakub Khan > Sheikh of Andlusia (Spain)
of Andlusia (Spain):
Long, long ago, when the peninsula of Spain was under the sway of Islam, there lived in one of the busiest business centres of that country a merchant of great name and enormous riches. His name was Sheikh Idris Ahmad, commonly called the Sheikh of Andlusia, for Andlusia was the name given to that land by its Muslim conquerors and rulers.
Idris was by no means a man born to a life of riches. He was an entirely self-made man. Born into an obscure family in Arabia, his parents had bequeathed him only one legacy - a true Islamic character. Equipped with this weapon, he strenuously fought his way up till he became the wealthiest man of Andlusia.
In his native land, fortune refused to smile on Idris. He was in need of even his daily bread. He went from place to place in search of work but he got none. His early Islamic training, however, stood him in good stead. Every time he was going to give way to despair, there came to cheer him up that great message of hope given in the Quran:
Slacken not and be not grieved; for you are bound to win, provided you have faith.
Every fresh defeat was thus converted into a spur to his drooping spirits, and with redoubled energy he would resume his fight against adversity.
Having met with failure in every quarter in his homeland, Idris went to Syria to try his luck there. The turning point came at last, and one day as he was seated in one of the mosques in that country, he chanced to come across a merchant who showed great interest in him.
Merchant: "What job are you good at? Do you know how to read and write at all?"
Idris: "I am sorry I don't. But I am fairly skilled in horsemanship and lancing."
Merchant: "Fancy, a man of your skill knocking about for a job!"
Idris: "What is written is written. When it should please God, all would be well. A Muslim must only do his best and leave the rest to His will."
Merchant: "Listen! I am a native of Andlusia. In a day or two I am leaving for home. I shall be pleased to take you along with me, should you care to take up service under me."
Idris: "I am at your service. What shall be my work?"
Merchant: "Why, didn't you tell me just now that you were good at horsemanship and lancing? That shall be your job. You will act as my bodyguard."
Idris: "You will ever find me dutiful and faithful."
A few days later Idris was on his way to Andlusia by the side of his master. The small caravan travelled by day and rested by night at some wayside habitation. Immediately at nightfall, Idris would mount his lance on his shoulder and keep guard at the merchant's camp. After a long and weary journey they at last arrived at the seacoast. During all this time Idris had given not the slightest cause for complaint to his master. He had been brought up in a truly Islamic home and had at an early age cultivated the high sense of duty characteristic of that early Muslim society.
Idris' devotion to duty and faithfulness to his master were, however, yet to be put to the most crucial test. The merchant, along with his party, was encamped at the seaside. He was going home after many years' absence. Besides valuable merchandise, he had with him a great deal of gold and diamonds. The homeward bound ship was to take another few days to sail. He had hardly been there a week when the hour of trial came. Far off in the distance, there appeared on the horizon a dark speck that grew larger and larger as it approached the coast. This was a pirate boat.
The coast guard officer assembled some of his best men to guard the coast. They patrolled the harbour till sunset, but the pirate ship was yet far off and it was feared that the pirates might effect a landing in the darkness of night. The officer, therefore, divided his men into batches of ten and ordered them to keep guard by turn the whole night. The travellers who were there, waiting for the boat for Andlusia, also planned their own defence. The merchant ordered all his servants to keep watch in turns along with Idris.
It was a moonless night. The whole encampment was enveloped in thick darkness. Stars twinkled in the sky. The stillness of the night was broken by a sudden uproar on the coast. The pirates had at last landed and swooped down. The merchant's encampment was about half a mile from the coast. Idris was as usual keeping guard along with a few others of the merchant's servants. Hearing the noise, he raised an alarm and in a moment everybody was up, armed with spears, patrolling the area. The pirate gang was upon the encampment. The merchant rushed to his tent-door, sword in hand, and shouted to his men to be ready.
The sea pirates had anchored at an unexpected place and, having dodged the coast guard, they had fallen upon the travellers who were awaiting the arrival of the boat to take them to Spain. Most of these travellers had a number of attendants of their own. Idris master also had half a dozen men. The pirate chief tried to seduce these men. Whoever joined hands with him, he shouted, would get a goodly share of the plunder. This evoked an enthusiastic response from several tents. These mean fellows came rushing out, yelling and shouting, made common cause with the pirates and fell upon their masters, whose salt they had eaten.
Idris master was also the victim of this treachery. Two of his servants grappled with him, pinned him to the ground and firmly pinioned him. One servant, sword in hand, kept guard over him, while the rest helped themselves to his goods and other possessions.
Idris was, in the meanwhile, keeping guard over the tent where the merchandise was kept. He knew nothing of the fate of his master. Some seven pirates pointed their spears at him but Idris was a match for them all. He was a skilled spearsman and made short work of three of his assailants. The others, seeing the fate of their comrades, let Idris alone and turned away in search of easier prey.
All this time, Idris was wondering why his master's voice was no longer heard. While thus lost in thought, one of his fellow-servants who was posted there along with him, came up to him and thus accosted him:
Servant: "Idris, why waste time still standing here? It is only once in a life-time that an opportunity like this comes one's way."
Idris: "What nonsense do you talk? What on earth do you mean?"
Servant: "Let us plunder the merchandise. We will share it fifty-fifty. Half goes to you alone and half to the rest of us. The merchant cannot stir. We have him firmly secured. Come along. What do you say?"
Idris knew but one reply to such a wicked suggestion. Hardly had this villain finished the last word when the point of Idris' spear was in his chest. Giving out a shrill cry, he fell to the ground.
The pirates had in the meantime picked up their loot and were hurrying towards the seashore. Idris rushed to his master's tent. Here too, he found treachery at work. The servants had taken possession of the chests containing cash and jewellery and were ready to decamp. When they saw Idris approaching, they thought he had accepted their offer communicated to him through the fellow now lying lifeless in the dust.
"Hello Idris!" they said. "Are you ready? The camels will be here in a minute."
The merchant was lying close by on the ground with his face turned downwards. One of these mutineers, pointing to him with a kick to his back, asked Idris, "How shall we dispose of this wretch?" Idris was touched to the quick at this pitiable condition of his master. One of the servants was holding a naked sword over his head whereas the others were packing up his goods.
Idris was a Muslim and a Muslim would much rather die than turn a traitor. His master was now lying in dust before him, tightly pinioned. The assassin's sword was hanging over his head. It was no easy task to attempt his rescue. Idris knew full well that in doing so he would be risking his own life. A slight move on his part and the half dozen fellows now busy packing their loot would forthwith be on him. If, on the other hand, he would just let things have their course, the next dawn would find him a millionaire. He was to have full half of those chests of treasures and so many camel-loads of valuable goods. From a penniless watchman to a millionaire was not a small stroke of fortune and any other mortal would have yielded to the temptation. Idris, however, had a much higher code of honour. He was a Muslim. He could not be mean. He had once pledged his word to his master and a Muslim's word is his bond. The path of duty was clear. He must spurn at millions and keep his word, come what may.
And Idris was a man of determination. He was no coward and knew how to live up to his conviction. His blood boiled within him at the barbarity. With tiger-like agility he sprang at the man keeping watch over his prostrate master, and with a single stroke chopped the fellow's head off his shoulders. Then he hastened to cut asunder the ropes around the body of his master and release him. Spear in hand, he shouted a shrill challenge to the rest of the gang who, as soon as they heard Idris' challenge, rushed out to meet him. His master, who was also a brave man, now joined Idris. Three of the ruffians were despatched there and then. The rest took to their heels and, joining the sea-pirates, made haste towards the coast.
The next morning a ship was spotted in the distance sailing full speed. This was the pirate ship, laden with the booty of the preceding night. The pirates left behind them ten dead and many wounded men. Almost every traveller had been attacked and robbed. The merchant of Andlusia was the only man who escaped unscratched and unharmed. This was due to the bravery and fidelity of Idris. Everybody praised Idris for his courage and character. To all these compliments he would modestly reply that as a Muslim he had only done his duty. The Quran had taught him to keep his word under all circumstances. He was a follower of the Holy Prophet [pbuh], the Al-Amin, and he could not sully the name of his illustrious sire by bad faith or cowardice.
From that day the merchant relieved Idris of his watchman's work and made him his personal confidant and adviser. They sailed for Andlusia and after a pleasant voyage safely landed there. In his native town the merchant owned palatial buildings and lovely gardens. He was the richest man of the town. Idris also settled here along with his master. Every year the merchant would celebrate the day of his rescue by holding a feast to which he invited the elite of the area and would relate the whole story of Idris' fidelity over again. Life thus went on with Idris, enjoying universal esteem for his Islamic character, when fortune, as we shall see as we go on, added to his life-drama, a scene at once romantic and tragic.
Away from the crowded town and its dust and din, there spread a vast plain laid out with lovely green turf. It belonged to no particular man. The Muslim state of Spain had set apart such parks in every town and village to serve as recreation grounds for the public. To the north of this field stood a magnificent building, while all around it was encircled by terraces and pavilions where crowds of spectators might sit on tournament days.
Tournaments were common in those days in Spain and they were open to people of every creed and colour. The Muslims were the ruling class, but the Jews and the Christians, the rulers and the ruled, were all welcome to participate in these tournaments without distinction. Whenever a tournament was held, the national flag of Islam was flown at the top of the building.
Year after year one such tournament was held on the day of Id-ul-Fitr. The tournament opened with a military parade, followed by martial feats of arms and sports. Muslim knights invited Christian princes and renowned military veterans to friendly contests in horsemanship, lancing, archery and so forth. People from far and wide flocked to see the tournament. They enjoyed the best of hospitality. The Muslim gentry of the area would open their doors wide for these strangers and treat them to sumptuous banquets. Such of them as could not find room under some private roof were accommodated in state hotels and entertained at the expense of the state.
The month of Ramadan was drawing to a close and the inhabitants of the town were eagerly looking forward to the annual tournament. They were busy making preparations for the reception of their guests. The common practice was that whoever from outside wanted to take part in a tournament informed his friends in the town in advance to arrange for his stay. The programme consisted of a display of all manly games but horseracing, archery and lancing were the favourite games and aroused the greatest enthusiasm. The Id-ul-Fitr was still three days away, yet the names of the Christian princes and chiefs coming to participate in the tournament had already spread in the town.
Among these competitors, Christians as well as Muslims, there was one name that was on everybody's lips. This was Ishaq, the son of our hero, Idris. Idris, it will be remembered, had come with his merchant master and settled in Spain. He had saved the life of his master and the latter had taken him for his most trusted counsellor. After some time the merchant died, bequeathing a goodly portion of his vast riches to Idris. This made Idris the wealthiest man in the town. He spent much of his wealth on the poor and the needy, and every year when the pilgrim party embarked for Makkah, he sent the choicest presents for the House of God. He married but remained without an issue for a long time. He was forty-five when a son was born to him. This was Ishaq. Idris had taken good care to give him the best Islamic upbringing. Besides education, which the Prophet had made compulsory for every Muslim, he was trained in all the manly games - horsemanship, archery and lancing. He grew up to be a stalwart youth and won a great name at the annual national tournaments. Idris was already an old man and Ishaq, the sole prop of his declining years. For two consecutive years Ishaq had won the gold trophy for archery and this year much enthusiasm was caused by the news that Christian veterans from far and wide were coming to contest the laurels with him.
It was the last day of 'Id-ul-Fitr, and on this day was to be held the most exciting contest in archery. From early in the morning people flocked to the field. The royal band played the sweetest of tunes. Everybody, wearing gala dress, was on his way to the field. The ladies were particularly enthusiastic. Gay, bright and cheerful, and attired in their best costumes, they seemed to vie with the men in their love of sport. It was customary on such occasions to reserve one whole wing of pavilions for the ladies. The King, the officers of the state and royal guests had a special wing reserved for them.
By ten o'clock, the whole field was full of men, women and children. The competitors were all ready. Dressed in their respective national costumes and mounted on thorough-breds pulling at their reins, impatient for action, they stood by the royal canopy awaiting the arrival of His Majesty, the Khalifat-ul-Muslimin. Christians and Muslims were all there rubbing shoulders as members of a common fraternity. Presently, the usual beat of drums announced the arrival of the King. The royal cavalry led the van of the procession. It consisted purely of Arab youths with drawn swords and mounted on the best Arab steeds. The cavalry was followed by a platoon of infantry. These veterans of many wars were dressed in the military uniform of their units and bore in their hands the flags and ensigns which they had won as trophies of war on many battlefields. High state dignitaries came next, then appeared the King's own bodyguard, clad in the most gorgeous uniforms. Each one of them was carrying a small spear in his hand with a scimitar suspended from his waist. And at last when His Majesty himself, surrounded by the princes of royal blood, appeared on his snow-white charger, wearing full court robes, with a jewel-studded sword clanging by his side and a big diamond shining across his forehead, up went the usual lusty shouts of Allah-o-Akbar! from the vast concourse of people crowded on the terraces and the pavilions. The ladies waved thousands of fancy multicoloured handkerchiefs to welcome the royal visitor.
When the King had occupied the chair especially prepared for him, one of the chiefs presented the competitors one by one to him. Among them, there were some that had taken part in the previous tournaments and were known to the King. As to the newcomers, their heredity and antecedents were proclaimed by another chief. Ishaq was among the first. He had been the champion for the last two years. When he, in his turn, bowed to the King, His Majesty greeted him with a smile, saying: "Assalam-o-Alaikum, Ishaq! You did well last year. This year, it is rather tough work. You will have to contest with archers of great name and fame." Ishaq made another respectful bow. "With the help of Allah, Your Majesty," he said, " I will do my best."
The drumbeat shortly afterwards announced to the eager crowds that the first round was to start. It was a hard contest and in the first two rounds only ten out of some sixty competitors came out successful. Now began the hardest contest. In the centre of the field was a long, fixed pole. At the top of the pole was planted a beautiful bird of silk. A strong current of wind made it flutter its wings and spin swiftly round and round in its place. Each one of the competitors was to try three arrow-shots to bring it down to the ground. Five archers tried their hand one after another, but failed to bring the bird down. The other four who followed, likewise failed. Now it was the turn of Ishaq. He was the champion of the last year and according to the rules of the game he was to come last. As he stepped forward, he was greeted with a deafening shout of Allah-o-Akbar! As he set himself into position and stretched his bow-string, a dead hush prevailed over the vast concourse.
With bated breath and eyes wide open, the crowds watched from the terraces and the pavilions when Ishaq stretched his bow-string and took aim at the silk sparrow at the top of the pole, flapping its wings and spinning round and round. Ishaq had a sharp eye and a steady hand. "Twang!" and the arrow whizzed through the air and pierced both the wings of the spinning silk bird. "Bravo! Bravo!" came the shouts from all sides. The condition of the contest, however, was still unfulfilled. The sparrow had not been brought down to the ground. Ishaq took up another arrow. Another "twang", and the arrow pierced through the chest of the bird. Once more came the shouts, "Well done!" The bird still stuck to its place. A third "twang" and this time the arrow cut through the thin iron bar on which the silk bird was perched, and in the midst of universal acclamation and shouts of Allah-o-Akbar, the bird toppled down to the ground. Ishaq got up, made a graceful bow to His Majesty, the Khalifa-tul-Muslimin, who congratulated him and awarded him the gold cup, the trophy of the tournament. Taking hold of this much-coveted prize, Ishaq made another bow to the King and turned homeward, surrounded by a crowd of friends and admirers.
Idris lived in a lovely villa some distance from the town, where the news of his sons victory reached him. Several of his acquaintances hastened there and congratulated him, even before Ishaq could get there. Idris was too old now to move about. His heart, however, was full of joy and he managed to walk up to the front door of his villa to welcome his victorious son. Presently the party arrived, roaring with joy. Ishaq dismounted and embraced his dear father who implanted an affectionate kiss on his blooming cheek. Before the party dispersed, they were treated to coffee and light refreshments after the Arab fashion.
About mid-day, when Idris had said his prayers, he sent for his son and addressed him thus: "Ishaq dear, I am already in the twilight of my life and there is no knowing when the call may come. I wish to see you married before my own eyes. Let it be within this very month." Ishaq kept quiet. A gentle smile was all that came to his lips.
His aged mother placed her hand on his head and said tenderly: "Your uncle, Sheikh Abdul Karim, has invited you to tea this afternoon. He has also invited several of his friends to meet you. You must now change and go to your uncle's house in the town. But mind that you come back before sunset."
"Now this is something I really can't promise, dear mother," replied Ishaq smiling. "It rests with Uncle when he will allow me to return."
"But he, too, is expected here by sunset," rejoined the mother, "Your father is giving a dinner tonight in honour of your victory."
Ishaq took a bath and changed, and mounting his Arab steed, went to the town. His uncle, Abdul Karim, was a very wealthy man. He had only one issue, a daughter, who was engaged to Ishaq. To celebrate the victory of his son-in-law-to-be, he had arranged this garden party and invited the prominent people of the town. On his arrival at the party, Ishaq received a hearty ovation from all those present.
After enjoying a delightful evening, the guests left one by one. Ishaq also took leave of his uncle and mounting his horse, started homeward. The last lingering rays of the setting sun were imparting their parting kiss to the tops of the western hills. Flocks of birds were on their wings to their roosting places in the woods. Just then, Ishaq was passing by the royal cemetery when all of a sudden his horse took fright at something and began to prance about. A wayfarer, who was passing by with a load on his back, accidentally received a kick and was rolled over along with his load. Ishaq held in his reins and apologised. "I am awfully sorry," he said. "I hope I did not hurt you."
Wayfarer: " It seems you are both blind and arrogant."
Ishaq: "You look like a stranger. Where do you come from?"
Wayfarer: "What the devil is it to you? I know you Muslims look upon yourselves as the ruling nation, but this much I must tell you, that this intoxication of yours will soon be gone."
Ishaq: "Friend, don't be so cross. You look like a wayfarer. Please pardon me. Here is some money as compensation."
Wayfarer: "You fool! Do you take me for a native of Andlusia? I come from a land where people wouldn't even spit on money from a Muslim's hand."
Ishaq: "Please hold your tongue! You may call me whatever names you will but you have no business to insult the great Muslim nation."
Wayfarer: "Hold my tongue? By Jove! I have not seen a coward like you in my life."
Ishaq: "Be gone! My religion forbids me to raise a hand against a wayfarer or I would have torn your tongue out."
Wayfarer: "Dare you threaten me like that, you coward! Just be a man and get down from your horse and we will settle the account."
Ishaq: "No more, I say."
And as he said so, Ishaq began to dismount.
The wayfarer was, however, too quick for him. Ishaq's left foot was still in the stirrup when his opponent rushed at him and plunged his dagger into his heart. Instantaneously Ishaq fell to the ground and in the twinkle of an eye he was no more.
Ishaq was dead. There by the side of his steed, in dust and in his own blood, lay the only son of Idris, the Sheikh of Andlusia. His assassin, seized with consternation and in utter bewilderment, looked about for a way of escape. There was nobody about. Ishaqs servant, who had trailed behind his master, had just appeared in the distance and was following with hasty steps. Not a minute was to be lost, thought the terror-stricken murderer. Leaving his load on the spot, he took to his heels to put a safe distance between himself and Ishaq's servant.
Idris, in the meanwhile, was awaiting the return of his son with his usual eagerness. Little did he dream that the only prop of his old age lay weltering in his own blood, a victim of an assassin's dagger. The sun had already set and it was growing dark. All sorts of misgivings crossed the old man's mind. Restlessly he paced up and down in front of his villa to watch along the road whether his son was coming. Meeting, however, with disappointment, he at last asked his servant to fetch a jug of water for ablutions. The latter enquired whether he would say his evening prayers in his own room or whether he would go out to the mosque. "To the mosque, of course," replied the old Sheikh. "Has not the Prophet said that he would like to set the house on fire whose inmates, instead of joining the congregational prayers in the mosque said their prayers at home? But wait!" he said, "Who is this man coming along running?"
"Looks like a stranger," rejoined the servant. "But he is running rather desperately. Let us hope there is nothing wrong."
Presently Ishaqs assassin was at the front door of Idris villa, his hands and clothes red with blood, his face full of terror and consternation. A tremor had seized him from head to foot, but on account of extreme fear, he could not find his tongue to utter a word. Seeing the old Sheikh, he kneeled on the ground, and with folded hands at last managed to utter a few broken words.
Assassin: "O Sheikh! I am a stranger to this land. I am away from my homeland and . . . and . . .."
Sheikh: "And what? Go on! Don't be afraid. Say what is wrong with you. Step in and compose yourself!"
Assassin: "I want asylum. Please save me. I am innocent! Asylum in the name of Allah, in the name of Muhammad! Pity! Have pity on me!"
Sheikh: "Asylum you shall have. A Muslim is never so mean as to shut his door against a man in distress. You need have no fear on that account. But do tell us what is the matter with you." (Turning to his servant) "Go and fetch him a glass of cool drink."
The servant soon returned with cool refreshing syrup that moistened the dry throat and tongue of the assassin. But even then he only mumbled.
Assassin: "O Sheikh! You are the chief of your clan and I am a stranger. I was fresh into the town . . . on the way a few Muslims met me. I was alone. They jeered at me and abused me."
Sheikh: "God forbid! Who could these wretched fellows be? No Muslim can injure the feelings of a fellow man."
Assassin: "O Sheikh! I resented their foul words; I told them not to do so. This enraged them and they began to belabour me. Some of them took out their knives to stab me. I took out my dagger in self-defence to ward off their attacks and in the scuffle, one of them accidentally got wounded and died instantaneously. I came running away for my life. By God! I am innocent. It was not a wilful murder. Please give me asylum. I am a stranger."
The Sheikh was impressed with the story as true and was very moved at the plight of the stranger. Little did he know that the blood that stained the stranger's hands was that of his own dear son. In a most tender tone, he thus consoled the man:
Sheikh: "Step in, brother! What if youre a Christian? The Prophet has taught us that a Muslim must regard all men as his brothers, creations of the same God. Come in and be of good cheer. You are under my protection and no harm shall come to you."
Seeing the assassin hesitate, however, as if not prepared to believe such a chivalrous welcome, the Sheikh continued: "Why hesitate? Just step in and you are safe. Even if the relations of the man you have slain come to demand you, I will never give you up. Have no worry. You have my word for it and a Muslim's word is his bond. You will find me true to my word by the help of Allah."
The assassin once more made an obeisance, kissed the skirt of the Sheikh's flowing robe and followed the servant into the interior of the unexpected asylum.
Idris, it will be recollected, had invited the elite of the town to a dinner party in honour of Ishaq's victory. The guests were already in their seats awaiting the return of Ishaq, who was unusually late. As a rule, he returned home before sunset. This was the first time that he had overstayed. The evening prayers were over and yet no Ishaq. This caused his aged father much anxiety. Presently the suspense was broken by some noise at the front door and forthwith one of the servants burst into the dining-hall, horribly agitated.
"What is the matter?" exclaimed the Sheikh. "I hope nothing is wrong?"
"Ishaq is no more," mumbled the servant, in the midst of tears and lamentations.
A bolt from the blue could have caused no greater consternation. The party could hardly believe their ears. The Sheikh was bodily crushed and it was only with a supreme effort that he could manage to get to his feet and drag his old limbs along to the courtyard, followed by the guests. Drenched in blood, Ishaq's body lay on a stretcher, surrounded by a little crowd. With a trembling hand, Idris took off the corner of the sheet that was covering the body. There, indeed, was the face of his dear Ishaq. His once blooming cheeks were now pale in death and the pair of lovely eyes that once sparkled with life and joy now closed in death, no longer lifted towards Idris with their affectionate gleam. "From Allah we came and unto Him we must return!" exclaimed the old man in true Islamic resignation. The world grew dark before his eyes. For a while his grey, dark head sank and lay buried in his hands. Then, raising his head, he asked: "What does all this mean? Where did you find his body and who killed Ishaq?"
The attendant who had accompanied Ishaq stepped forward and said: "O Sheikh! From a distance I saw the young Sheikh talk to someone. I could not hear what the talk was about. Then I saw my master dismount but before he could set his foot on the ground the fellow had stabbed him. Before I could get to the place, Ishaq had expired and the assassin had escaped."
As if struck by some sudden flash of thought, Idris paused and pondered. "God's will be done," he said after a moment. "What is written is written and there is no running away from it."
The kith and kin of Ishaq had meanwhile all come. Several of his friends had set out in search of the assassin. Deep sorrow brooded over the villa. In the adjoining room, the Christian refugee was bewildered to hear the lamentations. All sorts of thoughts and fears crowded upon his mind. "Was it the house of the man he had killed?" he asked himself. It could not be, he reassured himself. If that were so, the relatives of the deceased would already have been upon him and he would have been a dead man long ago. He was thus plunged in thought when the door opened and the old man entered, lamp in hand.
"Was the man you killed all alone?" he enquired of the stranger, "or did he have someone else along with him?"
Assassin: "No, he was not alone. There were four of them. I used my dagger only in self-defence. But but . . . for Allah's sake, don't hand me over. I am innocent."
Sheikh: "Do not be not afraid! Just come and follow me."
With trembling steps the assassin followed the Sheikh. At the door of the room where Ishaqs body lay, the latter beckoned him to stop. Entering the room, the Sheikh asked the four men appointed to recite the Quran over Ishaq's body to leave by another door. When left alone, he bade the assassin enter, and raising the sheet off the face of Ishaq, asked: "Do you recognise this man?"
The assassin turned ghastly pale at the sight of his victim.
"Is this the man you killed?" demanded the Sheikh. "Have no fear and speak the truth."
Assassin: "Y . . . y . . . yes, but for heaven's sake, have mercy on me. I am innocent. This young man abused me and ."
Sheikh: "Let us go back to your room now. There is yet a good bit of light left. Rest yourself and early in the morning I will arrange your escape."
While the assassin was musing what fate might await him in the morning, the Sheikh kept a vigil by the side of his son. At dawn, he requested one of his attendants to keep the fastest of his camels in readiness at the front door, together with a water-skin full of water. While the attendant was busy at the stable, the Sheikh, taking a purse full of money and a bag containing dry fruits, awaited his arrival at the appointed place. The attendant returned, leading the camel. The Sheikh then told the latter to go to the stranger's room and quietly bring him there. The assassin had not had a wink of sleep all night. At the sight of the attendant, he thought his last moment had come. Having said his last prayers according to the rites of his faith, he prepared himself for death and staggered along after the attendant, trembling with fear. The Sheikh, holding the animal by the nose-string, was reclining against the compound wall. When the two arrived, he beckoned the attendant to retire and thus addressed the assassin:
"You wretch! The man you have slain is my own darling son, Ishaq. You can't imagine what distress you have caused. You have snatched from me the only prop of my old age. You can't imagine all that I am passing through, at the moment. There is Ishaq standing before my eyes crying out for revenge. There is my deep love for Ishaq crying out to hand you over to the executioner. Ishaq was in the full bloom of youth. We were looking forward to his joyous wedding. I am in the twilight of life. Ishaq was my only son, my only hope. You have ruined the whole of our family. All this makes my blood boil within me. But there is a call yet higher to which I must bow. In the name of God and his Holy Apostle, I had solemnly pledged my word of honour to protect you. Let it not be said that a follower of the Prophet of Islam was so mean as to go back upon his word. Be gone! You are free. Here is the swiftest camel of my stable for you to run off with before the law can lay a hand on you. Here, also, is some money and some fruit to serve you on your journey. Ishaq was dearer to me than life itself. But I forgive you his blood. Let it not be said that a son of Islam was untrue to his word of honour. That would sully the name of Islam and the good name of Islam is dearer to me than the blood of Ishaq."
Golden Deeds of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Yakub
> Sheikh of Andlusia (Spain)