A Wise Young Muslim Boy
This is a true story. It took place in Baghdad, during the time of Tabaeen (the generation of Muslims after the Sahabah). An envoy of the ruler of Rome arrived there with three challenges for the Muslims. The Khalifa gathered all the scholars of the city to where the envoy stood on a high platform to address them.
“I have come with three questions. If you answer them, I will leave you with a great amount of wealth, which I have brought from the king of Rome”, the envoy declared. The questions were: “What was there before Allah?” “In which direction does Allah face?” “What is Allah engaged in at this moment?”
The assembly of great scholars remained silent. Then a young boy arose and sought the Khalifa’s permission to give the answers. His request was granted, and the Roman addressed him with the first question: “What was there before Allah?”
“Do you know how to count?” asked the boy. When the man affirmed that he could, the boy asked him to count down from ten. The Roman began counting: “Ten, nine, and eight…,” till he reached ‘one’ and then stopped.
“But what comes before one?” the boy asked.
“There is nothing before one- that is it!” the man exclaimed.
“Well then.” Observed the boy,” if there is nothing before the arithmetic ‘one’ ‘then how do you expect that there would be anything before the ‘One’, Who is the Absolute Truth, the All Eternal, the Everlasting-the First, the Last, The Manifest, the Hidden?”
Bewildered, the Roman asked: “Then tell me, in which direction is Allah facing?”
“Bring a candle and light it”, said the boy, “and tell me, in which direction the flame is facing.”
“But the flame is just light-it spreads in all four directions: North, South, East and West. It does not face in any one direction”, protested the man.
The boy replied: “Then if this physical light spreads in all four directions such that you cannot tell me, which way it faces then what do you expect of Allah, the Light of the Heavens and the Earth? Light upon Light, Allah faces in all directions at all times.”
The Roman was stupefied. He did not expect to be overcome by a mere boy. He still had one question left, but before he could speak, the boy made a request:” Wait! You are the one who is asking the questions, and I am the one giving the answers to these challenges. T is only fair that you should come down to where I a standing, and that I should go up to where you are right now, in order that the answers can be heard as clearly as the questions.”
This seemed reasonable to the Roman, so he switched places with the boy. The man repeated his final challenge: “Tell me, what Allah is doing at this moment?”
The boy, who now stood upon the high platform, proudly answered: “At this moment, when Allah found upon this high platform a liar and a mocker of Islam, He caused him to descend and brought him low. As for the one, who believed in the Oneness of Allah, He raised him up and established the Truth’ Every day He is (engaged) in some affairs (such as giving honour or disgrace to some…)!’ (AR-Rahman 55:29)”
Defeated, the Roman returned to his home. The boy then grew up to become a famous scholar of Islam-Abu Hanifah.
(Adapted from “Manaqib Abi Hanifah” by Imam Muwaffaq Ibn Ahmad al-makki)