The story of Ali Khwaja, a Baghdad merchant – Alif Laila
During the reign of Caliph Harun Rashid, there lived a small merchant named Alikhwaja in Baghdad. He lived alone in his ancestral house, which was small. He had not married and his parents had also died. He had a very small business and only a couple of people knew him. Among them was a close friend of his merchant.
The said merchant dreamed for three consecutive nights that an old man of divine form was telling him, why don’t you perform your Islamic duty to perform Hajj? You immediately leave for Mecca. Now he decided that he must go to Mecca. He closed his business and hired a tenant in the house. After wrapping up the business, he kept some of what he found with himself for the expenses of the journey, the remaining one thousand Ashrafis were left with whom he planned to do business again after returning from Hajj. He didn’t want to have them together. Because there was also the fear of being robbed on the way. He placed asharfis in a pot and then filled his mouth with olive oil. Going to his merchant friend he said, Brother, I want to go for Hajj. Keep this oil pot of mine. I’ll take it back. He didn’t tell her that there are asharfis in it. The merchant gave him the key to his warehouse and said, Place your oil pot wherever you want. If you return, pick it up from there. The friend merchant did not even look at the handi.
Alikhwaja started the journey to Makkah by keeping the handi in the godown, but he also took some small sales items after loading it on the camel so that he could do some business there too. After completing all the duties of Haj, he opened his own small shop there. One day two people came to his shop and started saying that you will make less profit here, these things of yours will be sold at higher prices in Cairo.
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Alikhwaja did not have any relatives of his own who would wait for his return to Baghdad. He had also heard the praise of the beauty of the land of Egypt. He immediately loaded his goods on the camel and left for Cairo with the merchant party. There he sold his goods at a very high price and expanded his business by earning a lot of profit. He also traveled extensively in Cairo and other places in the country of Egypt. He also visited the ahrams (pyramids) built over the centuries on the Nile and visited other Egyptian cities after seeing the sights of Cairo. After spending several months there in this way, he headed towards Damascus. On the way he also went to the island called Rhodes and there he also saw the famous mosques built by the Muslims in the olden days. Then he reached the city of Damascus doing business with promenade. Damascus was a beautiful city. The markets and palaces there were very well decorated and there were countless gardens around them. There were various types of fruits and flowers and water bodies, canals, springs etc. Seeing the beauty of this place, he forgot about Baghdad. After many years, his life was filled from there too. After this he lived in the cities of Halab, Mosil and Shiraz etc. After that he came back to Baghdad. His return came after seven years in this city.
Alikhwaja had done only so much business while living abroad that his work continued, during the rest of the time he used to roam around. After coming to Baghdad, he needed his saved thousand Ashrafis to establish business. But a few days before his return, his merchant friend had cheated him. It so happened that one day just a few days before the merchant’s arrival, his merchant friend had cheated on him. It so happened that one day the merchant’s wife said that olive oil has not been lying in anything in the house for a long time, to bring it from the market tomorrow. The merchant remembered Alikhwaja’s pot and said, Alikhwaja had kept a pot of olive oil in my warehouse on the way to Hajj. Take some oil from it. Well that oil is very old and must have gone bad. But let’s see, maybe it’s good.
His wife said, what do you do? It is a sin to even touch someone’s heritage. I am not so fond of olive oil that you do anything against religion and morality for me. The merchant said, you have gone mad. If one bowl of oil is taken from the whole pot, then what will be the deficiency. Then what about Alikhwaja? He had gone to Hajj seven years ago. It does not take seven years to perform Hajj. Don’t know where he is and whether he may or may not know. Don’t know whether he is dead or alive. The woman said, whatever it is, don’t touch its oil. How can you say that he will not come now? Who has such a period of seven years? Maybe it will come tomorrow.
At that time the merchant agreed on the advice of his wife. But now he wondered why Alikhwaja kept the pot of olive oil. What was the matter with the oil that required it to be preserved? At night he hid from his wife and went to the warehouse to see how the oil was and what was its condition. He went to the warehouse and lit the candle and taking a new pot, he shook Alikhwaja’s pot and started pouring oil from it. The oil was also bad in taste and foul smell was also coming from it, but by shaking the pot, an Ashrafi fell into the merchant’s pot. Now he knew the difference of the oil. He slowly overturned all the oil in his pot and took out all the asharfis from Alikhwaja’s pot. Some oil of the handi had spilled and spilled out and after the ash was released, its surface in the pot had also become low, so the merchant cleaned the floor thoroughly and the bad and smelly oil of the handi thrown out in the drain. Waking up in the morning, he bought olive oil from the market and filled it in Alikhwaja’s hand till his mouth and kept it in its place.
A month later, Alikhwaja returned from a foreign trip and asked for his oil pot from his merchant friend. The merchant said, brother, I had not even seen your hand. You put it in the warehouse. Take the key and take it from where you kept your pen.
Alikhwaja went to the warehouse and took his hand and went to his house. He went home and poured castor oil in another vessel and looked for his asharfis but he could not find a single asharfi. He turned to the merchant friend and said, where are the thousand asharfis kept in it? The merchant said, what kind of asharfis? Alikhwaja cried and said, Brother, I say by the grace of God that I had kept a thousand Asharfis in the bottom of the oil pot. If you have spent them for some need, then it does not matter, return them later.
The merchant friend said, Alikhwaja, what are you talking about. I did not even look at your hand while carrying and carrying you and you kept it in the godown and picked it back up from the same place. What do I know whether it had asharfis or what. You pointlessly accuse me falsely. These things are neither of friendship nor of kindness. When you had kept the pot of oil, you had asked to keep oil only, you did not talk about Asharfis. You said oil, you got it. If it had asharfis, you would have found it too.
Alikhwaja joined him many hands and feet. He said, If I don’t get the Asharfis, I will be ruined. I don’t have anything at the moment. I have to run business with those ashrafis. Have mercy on me and give my goods to me. The merchant said angrily, Alikhwaja, you are a very lowly man. You are falsely accusing me of theft and want to extort thousand of ashrafis from me by dishonesty. You run away and never come in front of me. When the quarrel escalated, many people of the locality gathered. Some people considered Alikhwaja to be true and some considered the merchant. By evening the fight between Alikhwaja and his friend merchant became famous throughout Baghdad. And people started talking different things.
Alikhwaja went to the Qazi and did Nalish. He called the merchant and listened to the statements of both. He said to Alikhwaja, do you have any witnesses to prove your point? Ali Khwaja said, no one, government! I did not tell this to anyone for fear of being exposed. The Qazi said to the merchant that can you say that you did not take Asharfis by taking the blessings of God? He said, “By the grace of God, I don’t know anything about the Ashrafis.” Hearing this, the Qazi left him. Alikhwaja wrote an application to the Caliph and gave it to the Caliph when he went out for Friday prayers. He read the application and said, “Tomorrow you will come to the court with that merchant, only then I will give the decision.”
In the same evening, the Caliph, according to his monthly rules, disguised as Minister Jafar and came out to know the condition of the subjects. At night, the moonlight spread. The Caliph saw ten or twelve boys playing in a field. One of the boys, who seemed to be the most handsome and intelligent, said, “Come, let us play the game of Alikhwaja’s trial.” If one of you may claim a thousand Ashrafis as Alikhwaja, the other oppose as a trader, I will decide as a Qazi. On hearing this, the Khalifa and Jafar began to secretly see how these children decide the case, the application of which was received by the Khalifa on the same day.
The handsome and intelligent boy sat gracefully on a high place like a qazi, and two boys each became his pawns. A boy posing as Alikhwaja came weeping for a thousand Ashrafis. The second boy stood up seriously as a businessman. The boy, who had become a qazi in a high place, asked Alikhwaja, “What is your matter? He told in detail everything that Alikhwaja had told him. Qazi asked the other boy, do you accept that you have taken Alikhwaja’s asharfis? He said, I say under the blessings of God that I have not even seen those Asharfis. The boy who was made Qazi said, I want to see the oil bowl in which the oil of Alikhwaja is kept. The boy made Alikhawaja picked up an ax from somewhere and said, this is the government, that hand and the oil which I got from the merchant’s place.
The boy who had become a qazi tasted the oil by putting his finger in the ax. Then he said, I thought that seven years old oil must have completely rotted. It is surprising that this oil tastes so good. It is difficult to know whether the oil is new or old. Then he said that bring the traders of oil from the market and put them here.
Two more boys came as oil merchants. The boy who became a qazi asked him, do you sell oil? He said, yes government, this is our business. That said, you can tell how long olive oil doesn’t go bad. He said he was fine for at most three years. Then no matter how hard it is kept, both its taste and smell get spoiled and in such condition it is thrown away. The boy who was made qazi said, looking at the oil of this handi, tell how is the color and taste of it. Both of them sniffed and tasted the imaginary oil by putting false fingers in the axes. Then said, this oil is very good, it can be more than one year old. The boy who became a qazi said, you people are absolutely wrong. Alikhwaja had kept this oil in the merchant’s warehouse seven years ago. The boy who became a merchant said, Whatever the government wants, but the truth is that this oil has been extracted from the crusher within a year. You can call any trader from all over Baghdad and show it. No one will call this oil older than one year.
Now the boy who became the qazi said to the boy who became the defendant, now you taste this oil and tell whether the oil is new or old. With folded hands he said, Government have mercy on me. I accept my guilt. I took out the oil and asharfis of this handi a month ago and filled another oil in it. The boy who became Qazi said, you have been dishonest in the heritage and also ate the false promise of God. You have done the work of getting hanged and you will get the same punishment. Soldiers, grab it and take it. Two boys, who had become soldiers, dragged him away. The rest of the boys jumped up and started making noise. The court game is over.
The Caliph was astonished to see the child’s intelligence. He said to Jafar, To present these children in the court tomorrow. Tomorrow I will get the decision from this boy. Also bring two oil traders from the market. Sending Alikhwaja to Kahlwa that if he comes for Nalish, then he should also take oil pots. Saying this the Caliph went to the palace.
The minister went to that locality in the morning and asked the teacher of the madrasa there that which boys study in your place. All the boys told by him were taken from their homes by the minister to the court. When the parents of the children panicked, the minister assured them that no harm would be done to the children. Satisfied with this, his parents dressed him well and sent him to the court. The Caliph said, “Which boy had become the Qazi in the trial game you played last evening?” The boy who became a Qazi bowed his head and said, I was made. The Caliph made him sit beside him and said, You decide the real trial today like yesterday. You have to do all the hearing too.
On the arrival of the parties concerned, the Khalifa announced, I will not hear and decide this case, but this child will. Hence the child took the statements of both the parties. The merchant said, by the grace of God, I do not know anything about the Ashrafis. The child said, who told you to eat Saugandh? I want to see the pot in which the oil is kept. The handi was placed in front of the child. At the behest of the child, the Caliph himself tasted the oil and also tasted the oil merchants. He confirmed that the oil is good and was prepared within a year. Now the child said to the respondent trader, your promise is false. Alikhwaja had kept the oil seven years ago, where did the new oil come from. The merchant admitted that he had changed the oil and removed the asharfis. The boy folded his hands and said to the Caliph, Government, I have taken the decision by your order, but in today’s case whether to punish or not to punish is in your hands. The Caliph said, I will impose the same punishment as you did. The merchant’s property should be confiscated and hanged and one thousand Ashrafis should be given to Alikhwaja from his property. He gave a reward of one thousand Ashrafis to the boy who became the Qazi and gave some reward to the other boys as well.
After telling this story, Malika Shehrzad started a new story the next day.