A Muslim king once said to a group of his admirers, “I am not in the mood today to chat with you people. Instead I wish you to tell me some inspiring stories. Whoever can tell me the most inspiring and illumining story will be rewarded.”
There were two or three who volunteered to tell most inspiring stories. The last man to speak said, “O King, ten years ago I killed one of your very dear ministers.”
Everybody was very shocked, and the guards wanted to arrest the man. But the king said, “No, allow him to finish his story.”
The man continued, “You sent your soldiers to kill me. For many weeks and months they searched for me. Since they were making such a thorough search, I was afraid I would be caught. So I left your kingdom and went to a neighbouring kingdom. That king happened to be your friend, so there too people were searching for me to arrest me and bring me to you. I went from village to village hiding from the authorities.
“I was haunted by the thought that I would be arrested. One day I was running and running until I fell down and fainted. While I lay unconscious, I was found by a most kind-hearted middle-aged man who carried me to his home. When I recovered, the man asked me what had happened.
“I told him that I had killed a very important person and that I was afraid of being arrested. The man said, ‘Oh, I see, I see! You can rest assured that I will always help you. Already I have shown you hospitality, and now your sincerity has touched my sympathetic heart. But I have a secret mission, and I must leave early every morning and return only late in the evening. I will see that the members of my family give you food and meet with all your need’s.
“This arrangement went on for six months. One day my host came home very, very sad, depressed and exhausted. I said to him, ‘Today you are so sad. What is the matter? True, every day you seem somewhat sad, but today you are extremely depressed’.
“My host answered, ‘Some time ago someone killed my father. Now people are saying that he has run away and come to this vicinity. The king has offered to give ten thousand gold coins to anybody who can find him, and now many people are looking for him. That is why I am sad. I took a vow that I would personally kill that fellow. For years I have been looking for him. Every day I go out in search of him, but still I have not been able to find him. It will be a disgrace if someone else catches him and gets the reward. I don’t want the money, but I do want to fulfil my vow and kill this man.
“‘So you see, you have killed one individual, and somebody else has killed my father. People are looking for you, and I am looking for someone else. This world is like that — a battlefield. I will not tell anybody that you have killed someone. I will always protect you. But how I wish I could find the person who killed my father! I know that he is right in this vicinity’.
“I said to my host, ‘I am sure that you will find him someday. I will pray for you’.
“The following morning, when my host came to say hello to me, I said, ‘Please do not go out in search of the murderer. It is not necessary’.
“He said to me, ‘Without going out, how will I find him?’
“I paused and then I pointed to myself. ‘Here is the person whom you are looking for’, I said.
“The man couldn’t believe his ears. ‘You?’ he said.
“I said, ‘Yes! I am the person who killed your father. Since that time I have changed my appearance totally. That is why you don’t recognise me as the person you are looking for. I have lost weight, and I have grown a beard. For many years what agony I have gone through to escape punishment! But now let my suffering come to an end. Just kill me! If you want the reward money first, I will go to the king with you. The king will keep his promise and give you the money. Then you can keep your promise and kill me’.
“The man said, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that. I was generous to you and you were generous to me. Two generous people cannot suddenly be unkind to each other. But God knows if tomorrow I will be in the same frame of mind as I am in now. Please leave my house immediately. After a few months, if I gain back my anger, again I will go in search of you in order to kill you. In the meantime, if somebody else finds you and takes you to the king, I will not be responsible. I have no idea whether or not my anger will return and I will try to kill you. Now I find it in my heart to forgive you, so I am telling you to leave. But tomorrow I may not be able to forgive you. So go now!’
“So, O King, I left his house, and now, ten years after I killed your minister, I am finally telling you the story.”
The king was shedding tears. He said, “What am I going to do now? If the son of the man you killed had the heart to forgive you, how can I have the heart to kill you?”