Monday, March 12, 2007

Caliph Omar, the poor woman and the sack of rice

Went to a Muslim meeting at UCC last week.  An imam in a Nehru jacket told us some nice stories about the early Caliphs.  I was on my way somewhere else so I just slipped in the back of the meeting for half an hour, a pity I couldn't stay longer. Here is one of the stories he told. 
Caliph Omar wondered about the conditions of the poor people of Damascus. His advisers assured him all was well but he wasn’t convinced.  In order to see for himself, he put aside his fine robes, and wandered incognito through the streets, mingling with the people.  One night in a poor district of the city, he heard children wailing.  Pushing aside the curtain of the of the house where the noise came from, he found a woman boiling stones in a pot. He asked, why are the children wailing and why are you boiling stones?  She said, the children are hungry. They think it’s food, and by the time they find out they will have cried themselves to sleep.  Caliph Omar was distressed to discover such poverty in his city.  He rushed to his palace, called for a sack of rice, threw it on his back, and weighed down with this heavy load, trudged through the streets towards the poor district.  He chanced to meet a Muslim man who recognising him, said : Caliph, let me carry your burden.  The Caliph replied : No, for who will carry the burden of my sins when I meet my Lord?