There was a wise mullah who, at the end of his evening teaching, would ask his four pupils one question, which they would answer one by one, beginning with the weakest pupil and ending with the brightest. It was a good policy which prevented the brightest from wasting time on easy answers which would leave the others with nothing to say.
One evening he said, ‘Our thoughts today have been many and taxing. I do not want to burden you further, so my question this evening is simple: why do we not eat pork?’
After being invited to speak the first pupil replied, ‘Because it is the command of Allah, both in the ancient scriptures and in the Holy Q’uran, and to obey Allah is the greatest aim that man can have in life, which is why our faith is called Islam, which means obedience, and that is why we do not eat pork.’
The mullah praised the pupil, saying, ‘You have spoken wisely and well, and although it is my custom to praise even the poorest answer for whatever kernel of truth lies in it, in this instance I find no need for correction at all.’
He turned to the second pupil who replied as follows:
‘All that my fellow pupil says is true, but I would add that a pig is an animal that eats in the dirt. It wallows in its own slime and where it wallows, it eats. Allah, who gives us life and set our father Abraham to be our guide in all obedience, gave us this command because He only wants good for those who obey His commands and, for those who do not, they alone shall suffer from eating the flesh of this unclean animal. That is why we do not eat pork.’
The mullah gave even higher praise to this pupil, ‘because,’ he said, ‘not only have you shown that obedience to the will of Allah is the highest aim of man, but you have also shown his tender mercy towards those who obey him and his stern justice to those who do not.
The third student now began his answer.
‘I bow before the wisdom of my fellow pupils, but perhaps I may add something; In many countries pigs are now bred in clean surroundings and well fed, and it has been shown that their meat in these conditions can be, I am told, sweet and wholesome. But our forefathers who obeyed the will of Allah in this matter passed this law on to us and we keep it today. In so doing we give honour to them and through them to The Prophet, may his name be praised, and to our father Abraham; and so we stand with them in obedience to Allah, and this is why we do not eat pork.’
The Mullah paused before replying, then praised the third pupil greatly.
‘You have spoken fully and well, for obedience to Allah, understanding of His mercy and compassion, fear of His just wrath and honour to the Prophet, may peace be upon him, and to our forefathers who kept the Law, are what lead to perfection.
He turned then to his fourth pupil who as yet had not spoken, and said, ‘I think your fellow students have answered wisely and well and to add more to such a complete answer may be vanity. there is no shame if you have nothing to add.’
‘Indeed,’ replied the wisest student, ‘there is nothing to add that would not be mere embellishment and vanity, for obedience to Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and to honour our father Abraham and the Prophet, peace be upon him, is surely the path to that pefection which is our duty.
‘And yet,’ he continued, ‘there is something further I feel I must say.’
The mullah frowned slightly as the student took a deep breath before continuing, ‘This morning the sun rose beautifully over the mountains, it sparkled like diamonds on the sea and now is setting in fiery grandeur in the West. A soft wind blows and the fig and vine leaves tremble at its touch. All this is a gift from Allah like a precious jewel a lover gives to his beloved. How can one so loved not respond? I do not eat pork, but I pray that whatever I do, I shall do it because I love Allah.’
There was a silence for a time; then, without speaking, the mullah slowly unwound his turban, folded it gently and laid it on the fourth student’s head.