This heartwarming story of a shaykh and a notorious caravan thief, somehow we as South Africans can identify with it due to our high crime levels, ie. showing bravery in the face of would be criminals (note: theres a huge difference in bravery & being rash) We should be assertive & strong but at the same time careful not to agitate.
The Caravan To Mecca:
Around the turn of the century, Shaykh Mahboob was on his way to the pilgrimage in Mecca, on a camel caravan from Syria. He was accompanying his teacher, Shaykh Ahmed Mekki. The journey took three months and along the way, there were many difficulties, non-the least desert robbers.
On one afternoon, they came across another caravan heading east to China. They shared camp that evening exchanged stories of their lands and experiences. The leader of the caravan warned the pilgrims to be very careful in the next few days, as there were reports of the presence of an infamous thief in the area. His infamy was on the fact that he was a ruthless man, not caring whom he robbed or killed and not even sparing the caravans of pilgrims.
The next day, while having traveled for many miles, the Shaykh’s caravan stopped to perform the afternoon prayer of Asr. As they were doing their ablutions, shouts were heard from all quarters of the caravan. Soon there were shots heard and the caravan was under siege by the band of thieves under the leadership of the infamous marauder, who they had been warned about the night before.
The thieves were relentless in their appetite for blood. Many Hajjis’ were killed and the caravan was ransacked. Shaykh Mahboob could see the chief thief in the distance. Like a proud king or landowner, he remained away from the camp, until most of the damage was done. Then he entered the camp to survey the booty his men had collected. As he moved through the crowds of the vanquished Hajji’s, all heads bowed in fear of catching his eye and disfavor, risking death or a beating.
As he came closer, Shaykh Mahboob lifted his head and challenged the chief thief. He admonished him for laying siege on a caravan of helpless Hajji’s on their way to the holy pilgrimage. Most were astonished at the courage and bold stance the Shaykh had taken. Fear ran through most though; fear that this would be the invitation of their deaths. The thief addressed the Shaykh, saying, “Do you know who I am? Do you know that I have killed men for less than what you have done today!’ The Shaykh answered, ” I only fear Allah, my life is in His hands and in His hands only. If it be that I should die today having challenged evil, than let it be so.”
The thief dismounted his camel and approached the Shaykh. He addressed the Shaykh saying: “I fear no man or God, but I am the one feared by all” The Shaykh answered “Then I pity your illusion, and I will pray for you to repent”. The thief was so impressed with the Shaykh’s courage, that he had all his men gather around Shaykh Mahboob to introduce him as an equal to himself. He extolled the Shaykh’s courage in standing up, and speaking to himself. In respect to Shaykh Mahboob, he let him live and brought to him a gift of three camels, gladdened with gold and silver. Shaykh Mahboob asked his Shaykh if he could accept the three camels of gold and silver from the infamous thief. His Shaykh was clear and direct in his response. He could not accept these gifts, as they were surely, stolen from others. It would be haram, or forbidden.
As Shaykh Mahboob returned to where the thief was to refuse the gifts, the Shaykh surprised everyone when he in fact, accepted the gifts. The thief was gratified and with his men disappeared into the desert. Shaykh Mahboob had now become an outcast. His Shaykh refused to see him and he was sent with his camels to the end of the caravan, forbidden to eat, or fraternize with the rest of the caravan’s Hajji’s. He even was stoned and spat on several occasions.
After many days, the Shaykh’s caravan came across the royal caravan from the Khalifa of Turkey. There was blood everywhere. The infamous thief had laid them siege to several days before. He had stolen all the gift supplies that the Khalifa had sent to Mecca and Medina to help for the Hajj. There were also three camels of gold and silver taken. This was a special gift from the Khalifa, intended to feed and clothe the poor Hajji’s on pilgrimage. From the back of the caravan, Shaykh Mahboob came forward with the three camels of gold and silver, and placed their reins on the hands of their rightful guardians. A roar and cheer went up throughout the two caravans. Shaykh Mahboob was now a hero. As the roar and shouts praising his insight and courage died down, his own Shaykh emerged from the crowd. As he approached Shaykh Mahboob he bowed slightly, taking Shaykh Mahboob’s hand and kissing it, saying from this day forward you are a Shaykh of Tariqa.