Storytelling dates as early as 30,000 years ago evidenced by the cave drawings in Lascaux and Chavaux in France.
The National Geographic defines Storytelling as “the act of telling or writing stories, or narratives.” For centuries, stories have been an essential tool to pass on the wealth of knowledge from one generation to the next.
Why then, are people drawn to stories?
One reason may be that stories help us feel in control.
By telling a story you tap into your imagination allowing you to visualise and organise events which makes you feel powerful.
Stories can also let us see how others think and feel making them a direct source of inspiration.
Stories are one of the most important aspects of Islamic religion. The Quran, which is the book of guidance for Muslims around the world is filled with stories about Prophets and noble men.
These stories are further backed up by the Narrations of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which are essentially stories of how he lived and interacted with his community. These stories provide a more hands-on, practical guide to everyday life. Take it as lessons directly from the teacher himself.
The Story of the Bedouin man is one of most fascinating stories I have ever heard. I recall being only 8 years old when I first heard this story from my Imam (teacher) at the time. To this day, I still get chills even as I write this article.
In this article, I attempt to retell the story and share its lessons and how they have influenced my life.
The Bedouin are an Arabic-speaking nomadic tribe of the Middle Eastern desert. This tribe is common in areas of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.
They are commonly known to travel vastly across the Sahara Desert trading commodities and seeking greener pastures for their cattle. They are expert navigators of the desert, knowing all the routes and shortcuts by heart.
One day, a Bedouin man was travelling through the desert carrying with him few of his profits from trade to take home to his family. As he was travelling, he noticed unusually large thunderhead clouds gathering in the horizon. He realised that a sandstorm was about to befall him.
The Bedouin man recalled a cave not very far from where he was where he could take refuge from the storm. The cave however was not entirely a safe place as it was rigged with bandits who would rest therein to escape from the scorching heat of the desert’s day. The Bedouin man took a leap of faith and rushed his camel to the cave. Upon arrival, he then tied his camel under a tree that was outside the cave and he went inside the cave.
must be thinking, hey! this almost sounds like Aladdin. I assure you it’s not 😅.
After the sandstorm had passed, the Bedouin man came out of the cave safe and sound. He walked outside towards his camel and noticed something strange.
He realised that his camel was standing over a wooden surface which the storm had revealed. He untied the camel and moved it to the side and started to investigate.
He started digging through the sand around this strange object, lo and behold, it was a treasure chest! filled with golden coins!
“This must be the bandits treasure!” he realised. He rushed to collect as many golden coins as he could fearing that the bandits might come back at any time to find him meddling with their hidden treasure.
He filled everything he could find with golden coins. His pockets, his personal bag, the camel sachets, even his turban! All filled with gold coins!
He however noted something strange, even with all those coins he collected, he was merely scratching the surface.
In fact, there were so many coins left that it was as if the chest was untouched. He further noticed that the sun was now about to set, the bandits will most definitely be on their way now!
Confused, the Bedouin man recalled one of the verses of the Quran
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
Which translates to:
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.”
This verse simply means, Allah (s.w.t) does not burden anyone with any trouble/good in which they are unable, physically or mentally, to bear.
The Bedouin man having contemplated this verse, he put all the coins back in the treasure chest and left.
Yes! He left it all behind.
He untied his camel, put his belongings in his bag and resumed his journey back home.
The Bedouin’s Wife
The Bedouin man was warmly greeted by his family that were eagerly waiting outside the house as the sun had already set and the darkness had engulfed them. The family was particularly worried about him as it was considered unsafe to travel during sundown.
His wife welcomed him home as the kids took care of the camel and unpacked the luggage.
His wife however, noticed that her husband was not in his ordinary mood. He would often come home with a smile on his face and express his excitement to see his family after months of travel. Having noticed this, she waited for the kids to go to bed, and she sat with her husband.
Wife: My dear husband, how was your journey? Why do you seem out of mood?
Bedouin Man: It is nothing my dear. This time around the journey was difficult, I barely came back with anything. Trade has been particularly hard… and furthermore Indeed Allah has tested me.
Wife: How so?
Bedouin Man: I noticed a sandstorm from a distance and hid in a nearby cave. After the storm, I found my camel standing on top of a treasure chest filled with golden coins. I dug it out and filled every single bag and clothing I could find.
Wife: (Interrupting) I have seen your luggage and your cloths but haven’t seen a single golden coin. Are you sure of what you are talking about?
Bedouin Man: My dear wife, I tried filling every single bag I could find but I realised that I had left so many coins in the chest. It was as if I barely took anything. I tried carrying the whole chest, but it was too heavy. My darling wife, I remembered Allah, and having complete faith in Him, put back every single coin in the chest and buried it exactly where I found it and left.
Wife: Indeed, I am astonished by this, but I understand, for Allah never burden’s his servant with more than he can bare. My dear husband, where is this chest located? that we may go back tomorrow morning to seek it? I and the kids will help you carry it.
Bedouin Man: It is located along the Abyssinian route; the chest lies under a tree that is outside the cave along the Medina prefecture.
The Servant and his Friends
One of the Bedouin man servants overheard this tale between the Bedouin man and his wife. He escaped and quickly run to his friends. On arrival he told them all about the treasure and its whereabouts.
“We must leave tonight. The Bedouin man and his family are planning to go back and reclaim the treasure tomorrow morning.” The servant appealed to his friends.
The Servant and his friends mounted their horses and rushed to the cave. They located the tree and dug out the treasure chest. They were so excited! “What a fool my master is,” the servant exclaimed to his friend.
Alas, they got the treasure chest out of the ground. Now to open it, Ahh the excitement!
“Scorpions!!!!!” one of them shouted. They all took a step back from the opened chest which was gashing with scorpions. The servant and his friends were shocked and ran to a safe distance.
“My Master has surely misled us; he has made a mockery of us and we shall make him pay for his deceit.” The servant beseeched his friends.
“What do you suggest we should do?” his friends asked.
“Let us carry this chest of scorpions and pour it over their heads as they sleep! That will surely be a fitting punishment for him and his family!” The servant explained as his friends nodded in approval.
The servant and his friends carefully closed the chest and carried it with them through the dead of night. They rode back to town and successfully located Bedouin’s house.
They carefully carried the chest up the roof of the Bedouins house. They opened the roof hatch and in fear of alerting the neighbours, they opened the chest and quickly poured the scorpions through the open hatch straight to the room where the Bedouin man and his wife were fast asleep.
The servant and his friends closed the hatch, got off the roof and rode off with their horses. Never to return to that village.
“My husband, wake up!” The Bedouin man’s wife exclaimed.
The Bedouin man pushed his sheets in a rush and got up on his feet.
“Gold coins, everywhere! Hasbunallah, indeed we have been favoured.” exclaimed his wife tightly hugging his beloved husband who was in utter shock as tears of joy run down his wife’s eyes.”
The poisonous scorpions which were poured over them had miraculously turned back to golden coins!
The Bedouin man saw the open roof hatch and decided to climb the roof only to find the same chest he found in the dessert only this time it was empty!
“My dear wife, Do you recall the chest I told you about last night? Indeed Allah has favoured us.” said the Bedouin man hugging his wife and children.
In no time, The Bedouin man went from being an ordinary dessert trekker to a just ruler of an entire kingdom. His story spread everywhere and because of his vast knowledge in trade, he was trusted by other tribes who united under him to form the United Arabian Family (which would eventually become the United Arabian Emirates (UAE)
The Bedouin man and his family lived a blissful life filled with happiness and gratitude.
حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ
“Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).”
Part 2: Lessons Learned
The story of the Bedouin man carries a lot of lessons that I hold dear. As mentioned, I was quite young when I first heard the story, but I dare say it has shaped the way I see the world.
I believe by now you have picked one or two lessons from the story. This is my version of lessons learned, feel free to add more as you wish:
1. Purity of intentions
The tale of the Bedouin man has one foundational theme, pure intentions.
This story has taught me to always have pure intentions in anything that I do.
It was pure intentions that led the Bedouin man to the bandits cave.It was his pure intentions that the led him to the treasure and eventually his decision to leave it all behind.I further argue that it was the purity of his intentions that led the treasure back to him.
I believe that if you carry pure intentions in your heart, the universe paves the way for you.
People with pure intentions might not always win but they eventually win. It might take weeks or even years, but the universe will ultimately reward you for your intentions.
We also learn that pure intentions help us cope with uncertainties.
It was the storm that led the Bedouin man to the cave in the first place. It was his consoling wife that led the servant to seek the treasure out.
It was the purity of his intentions that turned the scorpions to pure gold!
2. Taking Chances
When the Bedouin man uncovered the treasure, he attempted to fill everything he had with the golden coins. He even told his wife that he tried carrying the chest with him but it was too heavy.
It is taking chances that makes life worthwhile.
Remember that you once said your first word? How about your first steps? See, and yet here you are today. The truth is we all take chances, it’s what those chances are that define us.
Sometimes it’s that simple, take chances. Better yet, take time re-define your steps. This will influence the impact you make.
As you do so, also remember to take a step back and reflect. It’s not about taking the big leap but rather taking one step at a time and keep building on it.
3. Pick your battles
The Bedouin man left all the golden coins behind. Why do you think that was so?
Not every battle is worth fighting for. He recalled a verse that reminded him that the burden he was about to carry was not worth it. The Quran says this explicitly:
And whoever worships Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.
The concept of sustenance in Islam is really beautiful. Sustenance (rizq) is preordained which means that whatever you have or will have was only written specifically for you. If you carry this belief with you, it eases your heart from the stress of achieving or not achieving your goals.
This does not mean however that you shouldn’t make an effort to achieve your goals. The concept is more about learning to unburden yourself with expectations that constantly surround you.
You must put all your effort in and if it was decreed for you, then it will be yours. if it doesn’t happen, then you should be grateful and remain positive.
One of my favourite narrations from the Prophet ﷺ on the concept of sustenance says:
“…If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]…; and know that if nations were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” Narrated by bin Abbas R.A
4. The Strength of One's Character and Nobility
“Reputation is what others think of you, but character is who you really are. “Kingsman.
Nobility is about upholding the highest and standards, morals, or principles. These principles are uncompromisable in every way, the footsteps you take, the decisions you make big or small. Everything that you come across, is influenced by these principles.
Imagine you being in the middle of the desert, and you find a chest filled with golden coins. Would you have the strength to leave it all behind? Undoubtedly, it takes great character and nobility to make such a decision.
The story makes an emphasis on working on ones character because it’s what influences the decisions you make. Take some time to think about your character, map out things you do well and things you would want to improve. Work on those areas and seek support. Doing so allows you to mould your character which will eventually influence the decisions you make in your life.
5. Success and Honour
The story of the Bedouin man makes one reflect on the true meaning of success and. Let's contemplate on this for a bit.
Maybe to you, the Bedouin’s decision to leave the treasure behind is unjustified. After all, he could have taken one or two coins with him, right?
I urge that the real reason he left the treasure was because he had found something more valuable than the treasure itself.
Can you guess what it is?
He felt burdened by the golden coins he carried which made him content with pennies that he had. He realised that he was a noble man, he didn’t need the coins to prove that. He found himself content with leaving it all behind.
The question here is, what does success look like to you?
Is it a treasure chest filled with golden coins so large that four people are needed to carry it? or, is it true contentment with the little that you have?
Take a moment to reflect.
Do you remember the servant’s plot against his master? Did you learn anything from that?
Honour is the act of knowing and doing what is morally right.
The servant’s attempt of revenge against his master turned out to be an act of assistance.
You should always seek to take the higher road. Take a deep breath, wish people well, unburden yourself with expectations and always celebrate others. Be sure that your day will come. You too will find contentment.