Once upon a time, there was a merchant in Baghdad. There came a year when trade was stagnant. The next year was the same, there was no rain and so there were no goods for people to buy. Many people went out of business and he feared he would too.
“What am I still doing in this town?” he said to himself, “Isn’t there a better to place for me to earn more money?”
He started inquiring, sending letters to his acquaintances and clients in other countries. One day, a letter arrived from someone in Basra that said:
“What are you still doing there? Sell all your possessions and come here. This place is full of goods. We shall prepare a shop for you where you can start your business. Take my word for it.”
Our merchant was a trader of gold, silver, pearls, rubies and red coral. He had a camel driver who travelled with him. He sold his house and his shop. He filled the camels’ load with his merchandise, his clothes and his food supplies. They set out on the road and entered the desert.
After a week’s journey in the scorching heat of summer, walking at night and resting during the day, they reached a shelter in the middle of nowhere. They unloaded their goods and went in as guests.
As Arabs were famous for their generosity, they cooked for them and gave them a place to stay the night. However, the next morning, the merchant woke up with a terrible headache and could not get out of his bed. He was sunstroke.
On the day after, he said to the camel driver:
“You must continue the journey on your own. Once you reach Basra, go to Mr.——-.in ……., give him the merchandise and tell him that I’ll be on my way soon.” And so, the camel driver obeyed his master and went off.
Half a month had passed with the merchant still sick in bed until he started to feel a little better.
Two days later, he set out on the road again.
At Basra, he reached his friend’s shop who greeted him saying:
– “Welcome! Come in! What took you so long?”
– “The camel driver told you that I was ill and that I would come as soon as I get well, right?”
– “How is that? What camel driver? No one ever came. The last time I heard from you was through that letter of yours saying you were coming.”
– “What? Are you saying he took away my fortune? Am I now a penniless man?”, cried the merchant.
– “You have been robbed, my friend.”, said the man.
Not only had the merchant’s merchandise been taken away, but also the money from selling his house and his shop that he had invested in gold and diamond to trade at half-price since trade was stagnant in Bagdad. Everything he owned was on the load of those two camels. He accepted his fate bitterly.
He couldn’t stay any longer at his friend’s house, a guest should not become a burden to his hosts with a long stay.
He would have to work as a carrier or help in construction.
Three days later, he left his friend’s house and went to a farther place looking for work. Sometimes he would clean shops, other times he worked on a construction site, and others in a doughnut shop.
One day, a man passed him by strutting like a rooster in a hen’s house. He was wearing a luxurious suit, his rings were sparkling on his fingers, a gold chain was hanging down from his chest and a servant was walking in front of him making way for his master.
As the merchant paid more attention to the man, he was astonished to realize it was his carrier. He went running to him and shouted:
– “Where are you going to? Where is my merchandise?”
The servant started pushing him away.
– “Get away from my master.”, he said defensively.
– “Ask this poor man what he wants.”, said the carrier condescendingly.
The merchant burst out in anger; he took hold of the carrier’s clothes and started a fight. A crowd formed around them. Most people were on the rich guy’s side.
– “What is this penniless man, wrapped in a bag doing bothering me?” said the carrier disgustedly.
– “Go to the judge and settle the matter! Sir, why are you letting this filthy man dishonour you in front of all these people? Let the judge give him the punishment he deserves.”, said one man from the crowd.
Moments later, they went in to the judge’s office.
– “What is the matter?” asked the judge.
– “Sir, I am merchant from Bagdad, I brought my merchandise and rented this carrier who is here in front of you. However, I got ill on the road and told him to continue ahead and give the merchandise to Mr.——–. As you can see, this man betrayed me and took all my merchandise.”, pleaded the merchant.
– “What do you have to say in response?”, said the judge to the carrier.
– “How much injustice there is in this world! I have never seen this man before in my life!”; said the carrier.
– “My son, do you have any evidence of what you are accusing this man of?” asked the judge.
– “No, sir. The incident happened in the middle of nowhere. Unless a Bedouin in the mountains witnessed what happened.” said the merchant in disappointment.
– “Then what are you coming here for? Are you mocking me?” exclaimed the judge; “I shall put you in prison immediately!”. The poor merchant was thrown away in prison.
– “We are sorry, sir. You can leave now. We have to listen to every complaint as you know. Anyway, you are free to go.”, said the judge apologetically to the carrier.
As the carrier was leaving the courthouse, the judge yelled:
– “Carrier! Carrier!” and the man immediately turned around.
– “Take hold of him!”, ordered the judge.
The merchant was taken out of prison and was given back his merchandise. The carrier’s suit was sold and he was given a bag to wear.
The judge sentenced him to prison for a whole year, chained, so that he would learn not to abuse others’ trust.