Whenever anyone who was anyone in Aleppo wanted to buy a horse, they would go to only one person: Sheikh Raschid, who bought horses from all over Arabia, and whose clientele included even the Prince of Cordoba. One day, the Sheikh was struck down with an ailment which no doctor could diagnose, and soon after, he passed away.
The Sheikh left behind three sons, each a paragon of virtue in his own way – Abdul, the eldest; Abu, the second, and Abbas, the youngest. All his wealth was to be divided among them. Now, Sheikh Raschid understood nothing as much as he did horses, and so most of his wealth was in his stables. And he left very precise instructions on how his horses were to be apportioned among them. Abdul, the eldest, would get half of the steeds. Abu would get one-third. And Abbas, who was only twelve years old, would get a ninth share.
And so, after an appropriate period of mourning, the three sons went early one morning to the stables to carry out their father’s wishes. Counting the horses, they found their father’s inventory consisted of 17 fine stallions and mares.
The sons were perplexed. How would they divide 17 horses into half?
As they stood outside the stables, wondering how best to solve this conundrum while remaining faithful to their father’s wishes, they saw an old man riding on a horse towards them. Seeing them, the man stopped to find out what the problem was. The Sheikh’s sons told him of their tricky predicament.
The man thought awhile, and said, “Good sirs, I am a merchant from Damascus, and I am on my way to sacred pilgrimage. I have been looking for an opportunity to do a good deed, so that Allah may smile upon me, and here is one such opportunity before me. Here is my horse. What use is he for me any more? Add him to your numbers, and make your inheritance easier to share.”
The young men were reluctant to accept the stranger’s generosity, but he was insistent, and so they agreed to add the stranger’s horse to the stable, and proceeded to divide their legacy, now a total of 18 horses.
First, they allowed Abbas, the youngest to choose, and he picked the finest 2 of his father’s horses – one ninth.
Then the second, Abu, picked one-third, or 6 of the horses.
And then Abdul picked his one-half, or 9 horses.
And after they had each picked their share, they saw that there was still one horse of the eighteen left over – the old man’s mare. And the old man said, “It appears that your problems are solved, and Allah has willed that my one horse is left over! With your permission, I will mount my old steed once again, and proceed on my way.” And thus, bidding them farewell, he galloped off into the distance, leaving them each with their rightful inheritance.
There was only one horse merchant in Aleppo – the redoubtable Sheikh Raschid, who bought horses from all over Arabia, and whose clientele included even the Prince of Cordoba. One day, the Sheikh died, as all mortal men must, and his legacy passed on to his four sons.
The Sheikh’s four sons were strong, noble, just and well-educated – Abdul, the eldest; Abu, the second, Abbas, the third, and little Ali, who was only 4 years old, but every bit as noble as his brothers. All his wealth was to be divided among them. Now, Sheikh Raschid left behind very little gold and property, but most of his wealth was in his stables, in the form of his fine stallions and mares. And he left very precise instructions on how his horses were to be apportioned among his sons. Abdul, the eldest, would get half of the steeds. Abu would get one-third. Abbas would get one-sixth. And little Ali, who was too small to even climb a horse, would get one-eighteenth.
After an appropriate period of mourning, the sons, along with the Qadi, went to the stables to divide the horses amongst themselves. Counting the horses, they found their father’s inventory consisted of 19 fine stallions and mares.
The sons were perplexed. How would they divide 19 horses into half? Or into one-eigtheenth? The task was impossible. The Qadi proclaimed his helplessness. He had never seen such a case before.
As they stood outside the stables, wondering how best to solve this conundrum while remaining faithful to their father’s wishes, they saw an old man walking slowly towards them. Seeing them, the man stopped to find out what the problem was. The Sheikh’s sons told him of their tricky predicament.
The man thought awhile, and said, “Good sirs, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I, too, was a rich merchant once, but times have been hard on me, and over the years, I have slowly lost all of my wealth to calamities and bad investments. Now I have very little money left, but with what I have, I want to make one final trip, to make the holy Haj to Makkah. Allah has put you in a position to be of some assistance to me at this juncture. I am old; I do not know how far I will be able to get on my own feet. Give me one of your father’s horses, noble sirs, and you will solve your problem, while helping one less fortunate than yourself.”
The boys thought this was an excellent idea, and they gave the finest of their father’s fine steeds to the old man, and began dividing the remaining eighteen among themselves.
First, the eldest, Abdul, took half of the horses – 9.
Then Abu took his one-third share – 6.
And then Abbas took his one-sixth share – 3.
And then there were none left. And little Ali, seeing that there was not even a single horse for him among his father’s riches, began to bawl his heart out.
Hearing the little boy cry so piteously for his inheritance, the stranger felt a surge of sorrow and pity. He knelt next to little Ali and told him, “Don’t cry, little one. Your sorrow is my fault, because it is I who have robbed you of your inheritance. How many horses is your share? One-eighteenth? That makes one out of 18. Here, take back this one, the finest of your father’s horses. It belongs to you; it has always belonged to you. Learn to ride it, and ride it well! Now I will leave, and the peace of Allah upon you all!”
Thus saying, the old man handed back his horse to little Ali, and stepped back on the road, with Allah’s blessings – and all of the Sheikh’s sons’, too – upon him.