The Caliph's Lesson

The Caliph's Lesson

A Story by She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

The famous Harun al-Rashid, hero of the Arabian Nights, had learned a very valuable lesson in his life


Harun, the son of the Caliph, Al-Mahdi, and his wife, Al-Khayzuran, sat in his tutor’s classroom. His tutor,his Mu'adib*, was running late and the Caliph’s son was losing his patience.


Finally the man arrived, bustling energy. He came in, adjusting his robe. He greeted the Caliph’s son with the traditional Islamic greeting*. And after Harun’s response, he slapped him across his face tightly.

The Caliph’s son burned with outrage and injustice. How dare he hit him with no reason? Had the man no value for his life?

But Harun had been taught better than to raise his hand on his elders and superiors. He sat quietly and lifted not so much as a finger at his Mu’adib, who had sat down began his lesson.


Bay’ah this was called; The Pledge of Allegiance.  Every time a new Caliph was appointed; his viziers, knights and courtiers would gather round him. They would kneel and kiss his ring, pledging to him their loyalty *. The ceremony began right after Harun’s appointment as the Prince of the Believers. He sat proudly in his chair, smiling down at every man who pledged his allegiance. He would make them a good leader, he promised them. By Allah, he will lead with courage and protect them with his life.

A herald entered his court and announced that a man deigned to see him. After inquiring about this man, Harun learned that it was his old teacher, whose slap still ached his cheek. Harun swallowed down his fear as discreetly as he could (Surely the man wouldn’t dare to hit the Caliph!) and called him in.

His old teacher entered. He was now thin and wrinkled with age, his beard grew long. But the man still held himself with every ease and grace. His gait, which Harun respected greatly, was now tampered by a limp in his left leg. But still, his Mu’adib looked so stern that Harun was shocked when he took a bow.

“O’ Prince of the Believers,” his Mu’adib called. “Do you remember the slap I gave you?”

Harun had the urge to rub his cheek. “Of course, I do.”

His Mu’adib didn’t look at all abashed or ashamed. In fact, he straightened himself. “Would you like you to know why?”

“Yes, I would,” said the Prince of the Believers, his voice becoming thick with rage.

But his Mu’adib’s tone wasn’t short of respectful. “O’ Prince of the Believers, I first implore your forgiveness. I’m a man on the verge of death and cannot meet Allah with your rage upon my shoulders.”

“Of course you are forgiven,” said the Caliph. How could he deny this old man this simple request? The same old man who raised him. The Caliph pushed away his anger and looked at the man thoughtfully.

“I always knew you would be high in rank, O’ Prince of the Believers,” said the man simply. “And so, I gave you a taste of injustice to let you know how it feels, so that you would not be unjust to those under your care.”


© 2011 She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

Author's Note

A/N: This is my first story on this site. If it's not too boring maybe I should tell you how I got it. In Saudi Arabia, we have a book for reading purposes. We are graded on how well we can read. There was this short story called 'The Last Lesson', in which a teacher finishes the last lesson of the curriculum and the students ask him to give them advice . Some of the girls in my class took this rather seriously. They asked each and every teacher to give us advice at the end of the semester. My Home Economics teacher gave us advice to be best in character, always hold ourselves with manners and always respect those who are older than us. A girl stood up and said that there are some teachers that are horrible and rude. Our Home Economics teacher remained unmoved and told us this story. I think I can say that she's pretty awesome.

* 'Ameer Al-Mu'mineen' translated 'Prince of the Believers' or 'Commander of the Faithful' was a title first given to the second Caliph, Umar bin Al-Khattab. Then, it was given to each Caliph after him. I adore this title and wished the King would use it. However he leans for the Mamlukn's title 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques'

* Mu'adib: it means one who teaches you manners.

* 'Asslamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuh' is the full Islamic greeting. It means. 'May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah Be Upon you'

* Bay'ah is the Pledge of Allegiance, it's still done in the court of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. However, it was done differently in the time of the Prophet; the one pledging would swear it to the Prophet and he would take the man's hands in his. Thought I should mention it.

Do comment and tell me your opinions. I also have this horrible habit of overlooking Grammar mistakes the first time I edit it. So if you find any, please tell me.

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Added on May 23, 2011
Last Updated on May 23, 2011
Tags: Harun al-Rashid, Islam, Allah, Abbasid, Caliph, Wisdom, Tutor, Mu'adib



Riyadh, Najd, Saudi Arabia

"What can my enemies possibly do to me? My paradise is in my heart; wherever I go it goes with me, inseparable from me. For me, prison is a place of (religious) retreat; execution is my opportunity fo.. more..