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November 2008
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Children's Corner

Calling the Shepherd
By Khushthar Jamal
In the days of old, when there were no schools and colleges, the parents would send their children to the wise men of great renown to learn under them, and gain wisdom and useful skills.

There was a man who studied under a Sheikh for 30 years. His parents had left him under Sheikh's care in a hermitage. One day the student asked the Sheikh to allow him to go so that he could travel to various parts of the country and teach the people.

The Sheikh looked at him and said he would put a simple question to see if he was ready for the task. He said: "On your way to different cities and towns, it is possible that you may come across a place where there are many shepherds tending their flock of sheep."

His student was impatient. He said: "It is possible that I may come across such places. But what is your question."

The Sheikh noticed the lines of impatience on his face. Nonetheless, he asked him calmly: "As you walk by this place where there is a shepherd with his sheep, and if five of his sheepdogs attacked you at once, what would you do?"

The student said: "Well, I would pick up a stone and throw it at them."

And, the Sheikh continued: "You might hit one dog, but the other four will definitely get you and tear you to pieces."

The student stubbornly argued: "Well, I would pick up a stick and scare them away."

The Sheikh continued: "This way you may at best scare away a couple of them, but others may still get you. Your answers still do not carry the maturity ought to be seen in a teacher."

The student was clearly disturbed by this thought, and in all humility asked the Sheikh: "Please tell me the answer."

At this, the Sheikh told him that the best way to get the dogs away was to call out the shepherd, who would call each dog by its name, and the dogs would definitely obey the master."

Then the Sheikh said: "My parting advice to you would be: In this world there are people who will attack you like dogs, especially when you enjoin on them what is right and forbid them from doing what is wrong, and if you try to fight them off, they will most certainly win, for you will be in a minority of one. But, if you call on their Owner, the One who created them and you, then he will call them by name. They will have no other alternative except to heed His Command, and this way you will be protected by the Almighty Allah! Therefore, it will do you a lot of good, if you remember that Dua (supplications beseeching the help of the Almighty God) is the most potent weapon in the hands of a believer. Remember to use it in times of peace as well as crises. It is by Dua that you will be able to win the hearts and minds of people who will then heed your call.”

The Pious Baker
Once the Caliph of Baghdad disguised as a commoner was wandering around the city to know about the welfare of his subjects. He happened to pass by a baker's shop where he heard the wife of the baker complaining that they did not have any money to buy flour to run the bakery.

The Caliph heard the baker consoling his wife: “Don't cry my dear, Allah will ­surely find a way to help us.”

Deeply impressed by the man's faith, the Caliph decided to help them. Nonetheless, he decided to test the baker's faith in Allah.

The next day, he entered the shop in disguise and asked the baker for a loaf of bread. He told him that he did not have any money on him to pay for it and would instead pledge his gold ring for a day and return tomorrow with the money to claim the ring back.

The baker agreed and gave him the loaf of bread while keeping the ring in his cash box.
As soon as the Sultan returned to the palace, he commanded his Grand Vizier to go to the baker's shop the next day, distract the baker and steal the gold ring from his cash box. The vizier did accordingly and removed the gold ring and brought it back to the caliph.

The next day he sent a messenger to summon the baker to the palace. At that time, the baker was desperately searching his cash box for the missing ring. But, he immediately obeyed the order of the Caliph. When he was shown in presence of the Caliph, he was shocked for he had recognized the Caliph as the person who had purchased the loaf of bread after pledging his ring as a security. The Caliph gave him the money and asked for his ring. The frightened baker told the Caliph that someone had stolen the ring from his cash box.

The Caliph remained unmoved by the baker's plight. He told the baker that the ring was worth a lot of money. If he did not return the ring within six days, he would be beheaded for the crime of cheating the Caliph.

Resigning himself to his fate, the baker bowed before the Caliph and said: “What Allah had willed, so will it happen!” He returned home to tell his wife the happenings at the palace.

The baker and his wife searched every nook and corner. But all in vain. It was the fifth day and he was now in a state of deep anguish about the fate that would fall his way if he returned to the palace without the ring.

At the same time the Caliph decided to hunt in the forest. He had to pass by a river, and feeling thirsty, he got down from his horse to drink some water from the river. He decided to take a swim in the river. While he was swimming, his ring slipped from his hand and sank in the river.

Farther down the river, a fisherman who had cast his net in the river hauled in a rich bounty of fish to sell in the market. Meanwhile, the baker was saying to his wife: “Since all hope of finding the ring is lost, let us make merry with our last meal together for I have now entrusted my life in the hands of Allah.” The baker went to the bazaar and purchased a huge fish for their last supper together.
With a heavy heart, the baker's wife took the fish to clean it for their dinner. A pall of gloom had descended on their house. When she started cleaning the fish for dinner, she shouted with joy when she discovered the Caliph's ring in the belly of the fish. Rushing out of the kitchen, she gave the ring to her startled husband. Overjoyed by the sudden turn of events he rushed to the Caliph's presence and returned the precious ring.

When the Sultan saw his ring, he was amazed and was filled with wonder at this miracle. Now, he needed no further proof of the baker's piety and faith. His own faith in Allah was strengthened and he honored the baker before all his courtiers and held him up as an example to all his subjects.

A town hewn out of Rocks
Khushthar Jamal
Petra is the name of an ancient city in Jordan, west of the city of Maan in the southern part of the country. Rediscovered by J.L Burckhardt in 1812, it is situated amongst the red sandstone hills south of the Dead Sea. The rose-red city of Petra – half as old as time – was once the capital of Nabateans, the Arab people who dominated this region before the Romans conquered them. The city was cut into the rocks with the houses made up of intricate structures and columns. The approach to the city is through a ravine, which is less than four meters wide. The name 'Petra' comes from Greek, and can be translated as "city of rock". The ruins of Petra include temples, houses, theatre and tombs all hewn out of the living rock and the temple of Ed Deir has a magnificently carved facade, 150 feet long and 138 feet high.

Oman's Majlis Al-Din caves
Magandeli or Majlis Al Jinn cave is the largest in Oman and one of largest subterranean caves in the Arab Peninsula. One could reach there after crossing the Eastern Hajar Mountains (Al Hajar Al Sharqi). Majlis Al Jinn cave is more than 50 stories deep and one of the largest in the world. Oman is exploring the prospects of opening these caves for the tourists.