The Story of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi and the Gifted Thieves

The Story of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi and the Gifted Thieves

(Rahmatullah Alaihe)

One night Sultan Mahmood went walking among his

subjects after taking off his royal clothes and putting on

ordinary clothes. He came upon a group of thieves who

were consulting amongst themselves. On seeing him, they

asked him, “Who are you?” The king (Sultan) replied: “I am also

one like yourselves”. They understood that to mean that he was

also a thief like themselves and allowed him to join their

company. They, then, continued the conversation amongst

themselves. It was decided that each one of them would explain

his specialty/skill that he possessed so that at the time of need,

a task could be put before accordingly.


One of the thieves said:

“Friends, I have a special gift in my ears, that whenever a dog

barks, I fully understand what he says.”


The second one said:

“I have a special gift in my eyes, that whatever I see in the

darkness of night, I am able to recognize it in the light of day.”


The third one said:

“I have this specialty in my arms that through the strength that

lies in my arms, I can make a hole in the strongest wall, to enter

a house.”

The fourth one said:


“I have a special gift in my nose that by smelling the sand on

the ground I am able to ascertain whether there is any treasure

buried underneath it or not.” It is just like in the case of

Majnoon, who without being told, merely by smelling the

ground, got to know where Layla was buried.


The fifth one said:

“I have such strength in my hands that no matter how high a

building is, I can climb along its walls with my rope ladder and

easily enter into it.”


Thereafter they all asked the king, “O Man, what special gift do

you possess which we can make use of in our thieving

activities?” The king replied,

“I have this specialty in my beard that when criminals are

handed over to their executioner, I merely shake my beard and

they are immediately set free”.

In other words, if as a show of mercy I shake my beard, the

criminals found guilty of murder, are set free. On hearing this,

the thieves said:


“O you are our leader, on the day of difficulty; you will be our

only means of salvation.”

In other words, if we are arrested, then through your blessings

we will be saved. Now we do not have to fear, because the rest

of us had the special gifts that would help us in our thieving

exploits, but none of us had the means of granting safety from

punishment. This specialty lies only with you. Now we need

not have any fear of punishment. Now we can get on with our



They all went in the direction of the palace of Shah

Mahmood with the king in their midst. Along the way, a dog

barked and the one who understood the dog’s language

translated: “The king is also in your midst”. Although they

heard it, no one paid any attention to this information, as their

greed was uppermost in their minds. One of them smelled the

ground and explained that this is the Royal Palace. There is a

treasure in this place. The other one threw a rope ladder against

the wall. The other one made a hole in the wall and they all

entered to rob. Afterwards, they divided the loot amongst

themselves and hastily each one of them went to hide his share

of the spoils. The king noted each one’s description and found

out where each of them resided. He left them and secretly reentered

the Royal Palace.


The following day the king related the entire story to his

courtiers. Thereafter he sent the policemen to arrest them and to

inform them of their death sentence. When they were brought

before the court with hands bound together, they were all

trembling in fear before the king’s throne. However, the thief

who had this special gift of recognizing anybody during the

day whom he had seen during the darkness, was quite at ease.

In him, together with the signs of fear there were also signs of

hope. In other words, although he was struck by awe while

standing before the king and although fearing the king’s wrath

and revenge, he also had the hope, that the king would be true

to his word, that when in mercy he shakes his beard, criminals

will be set free. Furthermore, he also had the hope of setting

free all his companions because the king will surely not turn

away from all those whom he knew and recognized.


This person’s face was changing from yellow to red, as

within himself the feelings of fear and hope alternated. Sultan

Mahmood, in kingly dignity, passed judgment that they all

should be handed over to the executioner to be hung on the

gallows. As the king himself was witness to their crime, there

was no need for any other witnesses. As soon as the king

announced his judgment, this person appealed in great

humility: “Sire, with your permission, may I say something?”

The king permitted him to speak and he said, “O Master, each

one of us had exhibited his special gift which helped in this

crime. Now, it is time that the kingly specialty should be

exhibited according to the promise. I have all the while

recognized you. Remember you promised that in your beard

there is this specialty, that if you cause it to move in mercy, the

criminal will be saved from punishment. Hence, O king, shake

your beard, so that through the blessings of your grace, all of us

may be saved from punishment. Our specialties have brought

us to the gallows. Now it is only your special gift that is left

which can save us from being punished. Now is the time for the

exhibition of your specialty. Kindly shake your beard. Because

of fear, our lives have reached right up to our mouths. Please

save us by the special gift that lies in your beard. ”


Sultan Mahmood smiled at the plea and became filled with

mercy and grace as he heard this pitiful admission of guilt. He

said, “Each one of you have exhibited his special quality to such

an extent that it has brought you to the brim of destruction,

except in the case of this one. He recognized me as the Sultan.

He saw me in the darkness of the night and recognized me as

the Sultan. Hence, for his having recognized me, I set all of you

free. I feel ashamed at those eyes which recognized me not to

shake my beard and thereby exhibit my special quality”.




  1. 1. When a person is committing a sin, the True King of

kings is with him, and is fully aware of all that he does.


“And He is with you wherever you are.” (Qur’an)


When a person commits any disobedience to Allah Ta’ala, he is

actually committing treachery against Him. Anyone who fails

in his duty to Allah Ta’ala or in the rights that are due to men is

like a thief committing theft of Allah Ta’ala’s treasures. For this

reason, one should always bear in mind that the Master is the

witness, watching all time, and is aware of all that we do. If we

commit any disobedience or inequity, it means that in His very

presence, His treasury is being looted and robbed.


Think for a moment! Whom are you robbing? That King

and Master tells you “I am watching what you do. I am with

you. My laws have been revealed to you. Today you are

breaking that law. Today, in this world I will hide your fault,

hoping that perhaps you will come upon the right path. But if

you do not come to your senses, then tomorrow on the Day of

Judgment when you will be brought before Me, with hands

bound together, then who will be able to save you from My

anger and revenge?”


  1. Allah Ta’ala will punish sinners in the Hereafter, although,

He may overlook them in this world. We see that at the time

the thieves were looting the Royal treasury, the Sultan

witnessed the entire incident. He was with them and

allowed them to proceed without punishing them.

However, in the end, he had them arrested. If, at all times,

this thought is uppermost in our minds that Allah Ta’ala

sees all our deeds, then, there will surely be fear in the heart

when committing sins.

On the Day of Judgment, no special quality will be of any

benefit. All those deeds which contravene the laws of Allah

Ta’ala will on the Day of Judgment be bound around man’s

neck; even though, in this world, they were considered as

special qualities. The thieves mentioned those special gifts and

qualities as if they were qualities of virtue, but in reality, those

very qualities were the cause of their destruction:

“Each one of them exhibited their special quality,

But all their qualities only caused their misfortune to



  1. Any special quality that does not bring a person closer to

his Creator, does not connect the heart with Allah Ta’ala,

and which is not a medium towards the remembrance of

Allah Ta’ala is no quality of virtue. In fact, it is a curse and a

misfortune. All the powers and attributes of man that are

used in rebellion against Allah Ta’ala and towards

disobedience and negligence, will one day cause him to be

brought before Allah Ta’ala as a criminal.

All those nations that have made great progress and

through scientific inventions have made this world

subservient to them, but turn away from Allah Ta’ala,

passing their lives in disobedience, will realize on the Day

of Judgment, whether that specialty of scientific progress

had been the cause of receiving Allah Ta’ala’s grace or His


“Blessed be to you the subjugation of the sun and moon, But if

there is no light in the heart there is no light anywhere”


  1. No special quality will be of benefit except that which

allows one to recognize Allah Ta’ala. Just like the person

who having seen the Sultan, recognized him and through

this special quality, he not only saved himself but was also

able to intercede on behalf of his companions. As for his

other companions, their special quality became a means of

their destruction.


“Only the sight of the fortunate one was of any use who

recognized the Sultan during the darkness of night.”

The lesson derived is that this world is like a place of

darkness. In the darkness of this world, every servant of Allah

Ta’ala who follows the Divine Laws of Shari‘at and through its

blessings recognizes Allah Ta’ala, will be provided with

salvation against the punishment of hell-fire on the Day of

Judgment. This recognition will also be a means towards

intercession on behalf of other criminals from among the

sinners of the people of faith. However, there should not be any

pride and over confidence in this recognition. In fact, one

should alternate between fear and hope and in utmost humility

beg for this intercession. Then Allah Ta’ala will accept this

intercession from whomsoever He wishes according to His

Mercy. For those whom He will not accept this intercession, He

will in perfect justice exhibit His overwhelming vengeance.

Hence, fortunate indeed is the person who, in this

world, created within himself the knowledge of recognizing

Allah Ta’ala. The Aarifeen (those who have recognized Allah

Ta’ala) who through their spiritual efforts and exercises

recognize Allah Ta’ala with their souls, will tomorrow on the

Day of Judgment see Allah Ta’ala and attain salvation.

Furthermore, their intercession on behalf of other sinners will

also be accepted. However, the disbelievers and criminals will

through their special qualities be admitted into hell-fire. On

that Day these poor starving ones (pious ones) with pale faces,

patched and coarse clothing, who today are being ridiculed and

jeered at, will feast their eyes upon the countenance of Allah

Ta’ala. On that Day, the criminals will envy them:

“Would that we had lived like them in the world and acquired

their qualities. Would that we had recognized Allah Ta’ala



  1. This story also illustrates the high position these righteous

and saintly ones have as far as their humanity is concerned.

What a pity it is that nations and people, just like those

thieves, spend their short span of worldly lives looking upon

means of delight and comfort as special gifts of

accomplishment, and look upon material progress as being

actual progress. Whereas on the other hand, they have

adopted uncouth habits like urinating while standing and

cleansing themselves with toilet paper after defecating. They

also consider it normal to take a bath sitting in a tub and

allow the water, which has become dirtied through being in

contact with the anus to be drawn into their mouth and nose.

They consider these actions as the norms of society. Can

such people ever be considered cultured and progressive?

What a pity! The beloved Islamic norms are being cast aside

and such despicable ways are being adopted.



“O Allah Ta’ala, let just rulers be appointed to rule over us,

who will introduce Thy Laws, and punish those who neglect

salaat, consume alcohol, gamble, commit adultery, steal, etc.

Let them punish those women who refuse to observe the rules

of pardah. Let him order the closure of cinema houses,

prostitution quarters and liquor houses”. Ameen.


Ma’aarif- e -Mathnawi