This story has been narrated by many scholars, including Anwar Al Alwaki, below is a good summary of this famous story.
If you were to travel through the barren dunes of Arabia, you could be forgiven for thinking that the average Bedouin is a very simple person. After all, the harsh Arabian Desert, the difficult camels of Arabia, the tough unforgiving desert – where could the Bedouin find poetry and inspiration? Rather, for inspiration, one would need to go to the most beautiful of sceneries, just like the English poets used to do when they used to go to the Lake District in northern UK.
Yet in my travels through Arabia, I have found the Arabian Desert to have parables and examples that bewilder the mind. One such parable was from a wise old man who used to sell the miswak in the gates of the Prophet’s mosque. At a time when America was bombing Afghanistan, I and a couple of friends came up to the man and wanted to buy some miswak. Whilst we were looking over the miswak, one of us mentioned the indiscriminate bombing and the human cost of the war. At that point, the old man looked at us and said: “Let me tell you the story of the three bulls.” What he was to tell us, was a parable I have not forgotten till today.
“There was once three bulls – a red bull, a white and a black one. When they were all together, they were very strong and the lions could not eat them. So one day, a lion came and told the black and red bull – if you help me eat the white bull, I will let you go. After a lot of deliberation, the red and black bulls agreed. So the red and black bulls looked on whilst the lion killed and ate the white bull. Many months later, the lion came to the black bull and said – if you help me eat the red bull, I will let you go. Without daring to hesitate, the black bull agreed to the proposition. So the lion came and ate the red bull whilst the black bull looked on. Many months later, the lion was hungry again. Now there was nothing but the black bull left. As the black bull looked on whilst the lion pounced on him and as he was choking and dying – with his last breath, the black bull said: Truly, I was killed the day the white bull was killed.” With that, we gazed into the man’s eyes lost in thought from the wisdom of his speech.
If we Muslims continue to deny our brotherhood, continue overlooking the plight of our brothers and sisters around the world, continue with our own life being oblivious to the problems facing them, continue to spy and cheat and harm – then know that our fate will have been sealed already.
If you were to ask me, which of the three bulls do I most sympathize with? I would have to reply: the black one. Truly the one, who Allah had mercy on, was the first bull who died a death free of guilt. However, the black bull lived a life of guilt and sorrow that was worse than death itself.
I pity our brothers and sisters who harm the Muslims and are not moved at their plight. How miserable their lives must be! A life that is devoid of tasting the sweetness of emaan and devoid of love that is in the Islamic brotherhood is truly a miserable life. If only they knew how rewarding it is to help the Muslims, how good it feels to hear a person thank you and make dua for you, how great it feels to see a smile on your brother and sister. What a wonderful feeling and how pitiful are those who deny themselves this blessing.
“And those who before them, had homes (in Al-Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their hearts for that which they have been given, and prefer (their brothers) over themselves, even though they were in severe need. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, then such are the successful.” [59:9]
Source: AlKauthar Institute