Extracted from Aap Beti, by Hazrat Sheikh Zakariyya (Rahmatullah Alayhi)
My father often told us a very interesting story with a good lesson. Once there was a king who had a bad habit of great interest in 'kemia' (an art that turns things into gold with usage of certain herbs; alchemy). Everyone who does that becomes addicted to it and it is worse than addiction to chess. You lose track of yourself and of your mind even moreso.
(I have met many friends who are victims of this hobby. You see them walking along, with their eyes glued on their feet looking this way and that and when they have any doubt about any herb they stare at it, touching it and smelling it).
The king was also interested in herbs, medicines etc. One of the ministers told him: "Huzoor, why are you so troubled? In your kingdom there is a certain water-carrier who is an accomplished chemist and knows this art of kemia quite well."
He replied: "So there is an expert of this art and I worry myself to death. Send four soldiers to bring him here!"
The water-carrier was brought before the king. He was dressed in torn, tattered clothes, loin cloth and a torn thick blanket. When the king saw his condition, he already had a great dislike for him. He asked him: "Do you know kemia?"
The poor water-carrier answered: "Huzoor Badshah. You are a man of intelligence. Ruler of the world. If I had known the art of kemia, would I have been in the poor state in which you see me? If I had known it, I would have built a similar palace like yours."
The answer seemed quite reasonable and the king let him go. He called the wazir (minister) and reprimanded him for giving him wrong information. But the wazir insisted that the water-carrier was indeed an expert chemist.
The king still had this overwhelming desire to learn kemia. He, thus, left his kingdom in the hands of the regent crown prince and took the wazir with him as he went to the house of the water carrier in disguised state. When they arrived there, he sent the wazir back.
The king sat down outside the door of the 'saqqa' (water carrier). When the water carrier went to do his job that afternoon, the king followed him. The king said: "Old man, you are very old. You have great difficulty in doing this job. Let me do it. Show me the houses so that I can bring the water to the houses."
The water-carrier replied: "No, this is the means of my Rizq (sustenance). Go and do your own thing. Leave me alone." The king told him: "Old man, you are a vary nice person in my sight. It is my desire to remain in your service. I will not ask you for anything, neither do I want any food."
When in the evening the Saqqa brought two rotis, which was begged from somewhere, he offered it to the king but he declined to accept it. He said that he was not hungry, although he was in a troubled and starving state. In the end the saqqa made him eat one or two morsels.
(Here I wish to point out the same thing which I had said in connection with the story of Mamu Uthman. A water-carrier's sense of honour would not tolerate that someone should work for him without being paid. But we have the fear, that in spite of doing Allah's work with sincerity and diligence, He may allow us to die of hunger. The difference however is this: the saqqa is not the knower of the unseen. Our Lord and Master is. And He knows who is doing His work with sincerity and who is a fraud).
The king served the saqqa for a long time; filled his bag with water by day and pressed his legs by night. The king was a strong young man and soon the saqqa began to appreciate his assistance. The saqqa practically begged him to accept something for the services rendered for two to three months but he answered: "No Sir, if I had wanted employment, the whole world is full of employment opportunities. I like you. I was sitting on the road, saw your face and started liking you."
The king showed his so much love towards him that the saqqa was surprised that now in his old age someone had become so attached to him. Sometimes the king said: "Father put on a lungi and let me wash your clothes."
He would reply: "No Bhai. I will wash it myself."
The king would say: "Why should you undertake that trouble in your old age."
The king had some money with him and bought food with it, eating secretly, while pretending to the saqqa that he was starving, living a life of fasting, abstinence and want.
After about six months, the old man told the king: "My son, I know kemia. That confounded, accursed king also asked me whether I knew it, but I denied having any knowledge of it. But I will teach you the art."
When the king heard this he became excited inwardly, but outwardly he declined the offer vehemently saying: "What do I want with kemia? It is your love that has taken hold of me."
For eight or ten days the old man insisted on teaching him and the king continued to decline. Then the old man said: "I am gone very old, this art and knowledge will die with me. I am not going to tell anybody else except you. Bhai, love begets love, and now I have also learnt to love you, even though you have never yet told me who you are and where you are from."
The king replied: "Father, my condition is such, I am completely alone, I just roam about here and there. I have even forgotten my home. Just make me your son."
One morning the old man took him to the woods and showed him twenty five to thirty different types of herbs, made him pick them and bring them home.He then made some chemicals out of them, and taught the king the art of kemia. This was what the king had actually wanted and for what he had sacrificed his kingdom.
He watched everything carefully and that same night he ran away. The next day the poor water carrier was left wringing his hands in disappointment: "The wretched thing. He was a great fraud, cheat and completely dishonest. You can never trust anybody's words."
Arriving at the palace, the king again took over the affairs of state. Once again he sent four sentries to bring the saqqa to him. When he arrived, the king told him: "0 saqqa, I have heard that you know kemia?"
The saqqa answered: "If I knew kemia, would I be roaming around in this condition?"
But how could he, who had pressed the old man's legs for five or six months, keep quiet. He asked: "Do you recognise me?" The old man said: "I recognised you very well."
The king asked: "Then, what is this that you are saying?"
The old man answered: "Kemia is learnt by pressing the legs (of another) not by being a king. To know kemia, it is necessary for one to become a water-carrier."
The couplet following, is my own:
"It is heartfelt desire that you serve the poor and indignant,
Never will you find true virtue in the Royal Treasury;
Intelligence only comes after passing through ordeals,
And henna only brings out colour after being thoroughly grounded by stone.”
The saqqa had indeed said something very true and meaningful. What one acquires through humbleness, meekness and humility is never acquired through pride and arrogance.
This was on of my father's stories. There are many other stories which he told me concerning the result of hard work, hardship, honesty etc. may Allah reward him well.
Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said:
"Whosoever humbles himself for Allah, Allah will elevate him in rank."
Now in the case of this story, there was most definitely a humbling of the self, but not for Allah's sake. It was done for a special purpose. But still humbleness and the pressing of the saqqa's legs taught the king the art of alchemy.