الأَسْئِلَةُ الثَّلَاثَة

The Three Questions

The following Arabic short story is an abridged one. It is taken from a series of long stories written by Mohammed Al-Abrashi. The original text is written in a more advanced Arabic. This version is a simplified one.

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كَانَ عَلِيٌّ رَجُلاً غَنِيًّا، وكَانَ النَّاسُ يُحِبُّونَهُ. كَانَ لِعَليٍّ قَصْرٌ، وكَانَ هَذَ القَصْرُ أَجْمَلَ مِنْ قَصْرِ مَلِكِ الدَّوْلَة. كَانَ المَلِكُ رَجُلاً ظَالِمًا، وكَان النَّاسُ يَكْرَهُونَهُ. عِنْدَمَا سَمِعَ المَلِكُ أَنَّ قَصْرَ عَلِيٍّ اَجْمَلُ مِنْ قَصْرِهِ، غَضِبَ وَدَعَا عَلِيًّا إِلَى قَصْرِهِ.

Ali was a rich man, and people loved him. He had a palace. The palace was more beautiful than the palace of the king of the state. The king was an oppressive man, and people hated him. When the king heard that Ali’s palace is more beautiful than his, he became angry. He called Ali to his palace.

عِنْدَمَا وَصَلَ عَلِيٌّ إِلَى مَجْلِسِ المَلِكِ، قَالَ لَهُ المَلِكُ: لَا يَحِقُّ لَكَ أَنْ تَسْكُنَ فِي قَصْرٍ أَجْمَلَ مِنْ قَصْرِي. قَالَ عَلِيٌّ: لَكِنِّي بَنَيْتُهُ مِنْ مَالِي الخَاص، يَا مَوْلَاي.

When Ali arrived at the king meeting room, the king said to him, “you do not deserve to live in a more beautiful palace than mine.” Ali said, “but I built it from my own money, my lord.”

غَضِبَ المَلِكُ وَقَالَ: سَأَقْطَعُ رَأْسَكَ وَآخُذُ ثَرْوَتَك إِنْ لَمْ تُجِبْ عَنْ ثَلاثَةِ أَسْئِلَةٍ.

The king became angry and said, “I would chop your head off and take your wealth if you did not answer three questions.”

السَّؤَالُ الأَوَّلُ: مَا هُوَ المَخْلُوقُ الَّذِيْ يَمْشِي عَلَى أَرْبَعٍ ثُمَّ عَلَى اِثْنَتَيْنِ ثُمَّ عَلَى ثَلَاثٍ؟

The first question: what is the creature that walks on four feet, then on two, then on three?

السَّؤَال الثَّانِي: مَا أَسْرَعُ شَيءٍ يَطُوْفُ العَالَمَ كُلَّهُ فِي يَوْمٍ وَاحدٍ؟

The second question: what is fastest thing that goes around the entire earth in one day?

السَّؤَالُ الثَّالِثُ: مَا الَّذِيْ أُفَكِّرُ فِيْهِ الآنَ؟

The third question: what is it that am I thinking of right now?

أَمْهَلَ المَلِكُ عَلِيًّا أُسْبُوعِيْنِ. خَرَجَ علَيٌّ مِن بَيْتِهِ لِيَبْحَثَ فِي الكُتُبِ وَيَسْأَلَ العُلَمَاءَ لَكِنَّهُ لَمْ يَجِدْ إِجَابَةً. حَزُنَ عَلِيٌّ وعَادَ إِلَى قَصْرِهِ. فِي الطَّرِيْقِ، لَقِيَ عَلِيٌّ رَاعِيًا.

The king gave Ali two weeks. Ali left his house to look for answers in books and to ask the knowledgeable, but his did not find an answer. Ali became sad and returned to his palace. On the way, he ran into a shepherd.

تَحَدَّثَ عَلِيٌ إِلَى الرَّاعِي وَأَخْبَرَهُ بِأَسْئِلَةِ المَلِكِ. قَالَ الرَّاعِي: أَسْتَطِيْعُ أَنْ أُسَاعِدَك. كَانَ الرَّاعِي يُشْبِهُ عَلَيًّا كَثِيْرًا.

Ali had a little talk with the shepherd, and he told him about the questions of the king.

The shepherd said, “I can help you.” The shepherd resembles Ali a lot.

بَعْدَ أُسْبُوعَيْنِ، لَبِسَ الرَّاعِي ثِيَابَ عَلِيٍّ، وَذَهَبَ إِلَى المَلِكِ. ظَنَّ المَلِكُ أَنَّ الرَّاعِي عَلِيًّا. قَالَ الرَّاعِي: مَوْلَاي! أَسْتَطِيْعُ أَنَّ أُجِيْبَ عَنْ الأَسْئِلَةِ الثَّلَاثَةِ.

After two weeks, the shepherd dressed in Ali’s clothes and went to the king. The king thought that the shepherd is Ali.

The shepherd said, “my lord! I can answer the three questions.”

قَالَ الرَّاعِي: المَخْلُوقُ الَّذِيْ يَمْشِي عَلَى أَرْبَعٍ ثُمَّ عَلَى اِثْنَتَيْنِ ثُمَّ عَلَى ثَلَاثٍ هُوَ الإِنْسَان. فَالإِنْسَانُ يَحْبُو عَلَى أَرْبَعٍ عِنْدَمَا يَكُوْنُ رَضِيْعًا، وَيَمْشِي عَلَى اِثْنَتَيْنِ عِنْدَمَا يَصِيْرُ طِفْلًا، وَيْمْشِي عَلَى ثَلاثٍ عِنْدَمَا يُصْبِحُ شَيْخًا كَبِيْرًا.

The shepherd said, “the creature that walks on four feet, then on two, then on three is the human being. The human being crawl on four when he is a toddler, he walks on two when he becomes a child, and he walks on three when he become an old man.”

هَزَّ المَلِكُ رَأْسَهُ وَاِبْتَسَمَ.

The king shook his head and smiled.

قَالَ الرَّاعِي: أَسْرَعُ شَيءٍ يَطُوفُ العَالَمَ كُلَّهُ فِي يَوْمٍ وَاحِدٍ هُوَ الشَّمْس.

The shepherd said, “the fastest thing that goes around the earth in one day is the sun.”

اِبْتَسَم المَلِكُ وَقَالَ: أَنْتَ رَجُلٌ حَكِيْمٌ يَا عَلِي.

The king smiled and said, “you are a wise man, Ali.”

قَالَ الرَّاعِي: يَا مَوْلَاي، تُفَكِّرُ أَنِّي عَلِيٌّ الغَنِي، وَالحَقِيْقَةُ أَنِّي رَاعٍ بَسْيْطٌ. خَلَعَ الرَّاعِي لِبَاسَهُ فَظَهَرَتْ ثِيَابُهُ القَدِيْمَةُ.

The shepherd said, “my lord, you think that I am Ali, the rich. That fact is that I am a simple shepherd.” The shepherd took off his dress, so his old clothes appeared.

ضَحِكَ المَلِكُ كَثِيْرًا وَقَالَ: أَنْتَ رَجُلٌ ذَكِيٌّ وَمَرِحٌ، لِذَلِكَ سَأَمْنَحُكَ قَصْرَ سَيِّدِكَ. قَالَ الرَّاعِي: لَا يَا مَولَاي! لَوْ قَبِلْتُ لَكُنْتُ غَيْرَ وَفِيٍّ لِسَيِّدِي.

The king laughed a lot and said, “you are a smart and funny man, so I will give you the palace of your lord (Ali). The shepherd said, “no my lord! If I accepted, I would not be loyal to my lord (Ali).”

اِبْتَسَمَ المَلِكُ وَأَعْطَى الرَّاعِي مُكَافَأَةً وَعَفَى عَنْ عَلِيٍّ.

The king smiled, gave the shepherd a reward, and forgave Ali.

Salima T. Guimba
Masha Allah. I would like to use this story for my students in Islamic Values as a man of good behavior and humbleness. I hope that you could publish more stories relevant to this one. In shaa Allah.

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