The power to punish

Once Akbar asked his ministers, "Tell me, who is superior, God or me?"

The Ministers were all amused by this question. Outwardly they acted very serious and made the Emperor feel that he had asked a most significant and difficult question, but inwardly they were all laughing at Akbar for being foolish enough to try to compare himself with God.

At last Birbal came forward and said, "I can answer this question. Undoubtedly you are far superior to God."

Akbar was outwardly amused, but inwardly he was deeply pleased. He challenged Birbal, "Prove that I am superior to God."

Birbal said, "Your Majesty, when somebody commits a very serious crime, you have the power to punish him. You have the power to place him in a prison cell for the rest of his life. But poor God! He created everything and the whole creation belongs to Him, yet He does not have the power to give a lifelong sentence to anybody. His Power of Compassion is infinitely more powerful than His Power of Justice. He cannot punish anybody the way you do. So you are far superior to God, because you have the power to punish severely."

Akbar was satisfied and pleased with this answer, but the ministers were all amused.


The judgement of equals is condemnation and punishment. But the judgement of the One who is really superior is identification and illumination.