The King Learns the Secret of Happiness from a Child
Submitted by Professor Nazeer Ahmed
There lived a king in the distant past in a land far away. His dominions were large and his kingdom was prosperous. But happiness eluded the king. His palaces, maids, servants, heaps of gold and silver did not bring him happiness. Indeed, he felt suffocated by them.
The distraught king sought help. He ordered his vizier to find for him the secret of happiness. “You have one month to bring me the secret of happiness”, said the king to the vizier. “If you do not, you will lose your job.”
The vizier took up the king’s command as his first priority. His job was on the line. He sent emissaries to the scholars in the land asking them if they knew the secret of happiness. He promised them a reward if they provided an answer that satisfied the king.
Alas! The emissaries returned empty handed.
Then, the vizier searched the all the books he could find and here too he drew a blank.
Days went by. As the month drew to a close, the vizier was extremely concerned that he would fail in his search and lose his job. His face shriveled and his forehead developed furrows of worry.
The vizier had a seven year old daughter upon whom Allah had bestowed wisdom. She was insightful as she was playful. She noticed the concern on her father’s face and approached him lovingly.
“Father, you look sad. What is the matter?” asked the child.
The vizier told the little girl his predicament. “I have asked all the ulema of the kingdom. But no one seems to have the answer to the king’s question. If I do not give him a satisfactory answer by tomorrow, he will relieve me of my position as a vizier.”
The girl thought for a moment. Then she said, “Father, take me to the king and I will give him the answer.”
The vizier paused for a moment. How can this little child of mine give an answer that the most learned men in the kingdom had failed to give? But it was the eleventh hour and he had nothing to lose in taking his daughter along to see the king. He consented.
“Father, please take me to the audience hall before the king arrives. And tie me to one of the pillars in the audience hall with a long rope.”
The following day the vizier and his daughter went to the place. As they had agreed, the vizier tied up his little daughter to a marble pillar in the audience hall with a long rope.
The king arrived with his entourage and was seated on the throne. As soon as the courtiers were seated, the Vizier’s daughter started to cry.
“Untie me, O noble king”, said the girl, sobbing, “I cannot breathe with this rope around me.”
The king was startled at the presence of a child in the audience hall and her crying. He was a compassionate man. He ordered that the child be immediately untied.
The little girl ran up to the king’s throne, bowed and said, “Thank you, O noble king, for releasing me from the ropes that were suffocating me.”
The king was happy that the girl was smiling. “You are now free to go home, my child”, said the king compassionately.
Instead of turning around and going back home, the little girl faced the king and said, “O noble king, you are free to go home too”.
The king was taken aback. “I am already home”, said the king. “I am the king. I am free to go any time I want”.
“My king, you are not free”, said the girl. “The palace, the maids, the servants and heaps of gold and silver have shackled you just as the rope had shackled me to the pillar. Unchain yourself from your belongings. Let them go and you will find your happiness. “
The king reflected for a moment on the wisdom of these words. A shaft of the morning sun entered the majestic hall from the high window and suffused the hall with its shimmering light. It was as if an angel had appeared in the palace and illuminated it with the light of wisdom. The king smiled, rose up, placed his hand of affection on the child’s head and sent her home with a necklace of the choicest pearls.
From that day on, the king changed his ways. He donned simple white clothes, like any other man in his kingdom. He ordered that all the pomp and ceremony in the palace be discontinued and be replaced with silent contemplation, prayer, charity and good deeds.
The king had found the secret of happiness.