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The king that went to the island

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When my servants question you about Me, tell them that I am very close to them. I answer the prayer of every suppliant when he calls Me; therefore, they should respond to Me and put their trust in Me, so that they may be rightly guided. (Quran 2:186]

By the time you are reading this piece, the Muslim world be at the threshold of the third and final leg of the month of Ramadan. One critical lesson that we still have to learn is how to walk with the Almighty during this month and beyond. To walk with Him entails the adoption of a number of qualities or habits the impacts of which should be evident in our daily life. One of these qualities is the constant awareness of His presence; the necessity to be in constant preparation for the hereafter even when we are situated at the highest pedestals of luxuries and prosperity which this world is capable of beguiling us with. I found the following story, which was forwarded to me by a brother, highly germane to these two issues.

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There was a country long time ago where the people would change a king every year. The person who would be king had to agree to a contract that he would be sent to an island after his tenure on the throne. One day, after having dispatched the king who had just spent one year, the people discovered a ship that had just sunk. They saw a young man who survived by holding on to a floating piece of wood. As they needed a new king, they picked up the young man and took him to their country. They requested him to be a king for a year. First he refused but later he agreed to be a king. People told him about all the rules and regulations and that he would be sent to an island after one year.

After three days of being a king, the new king asked the ministers if they could show him the island where all the other kings were sent. They agreed and took him to the island. The island was covered with thick jungles; it was full of vicious animals.
The king probed the forest further to see how it was and discovered the dead bodies of all the past kings. He understood that as soon as they were left in the island, the animals came and killed them. The king then went back to the country and requested the people to provide him with hundred strong workers. He was provided with hundred workers and he took them to the island and told them to remove all the deadly animals and to cut down all the trees. He would visit the island every month to see how the work is progressing. In the first month, all the animals were removed and many trees were cut down. In the second month, the whole island was cleaned out. The king then told the workers to plant gardens in various parts of the island. He also took with himself useful animals like chickens, ducks, birds, goats, cows etc. In the third month, he ordered the workers to build big houses and docking stations for ships. Over the months, the island turned into a beautiful place. The young king would wear simple clothes and spend very little from his earnings. He sent all the earnings to the island for storage.

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After having spent nine months on the throne the king called the people and told them that “I know that I have to go the island after one year, but I would like to go there right now.” But the people did not agree. They insisted that he would have to wait for another three months to complete the year.

Eventually the king completed the mandatory one year on the throne. The people came together to dress him up and put him on an elephant to take him around the country to say goodbye to all. The people were however surprised that the king was unusually happy to leave the kingdom. They asked him: “those who came before you usually cry at this moment, why are you laughing?” He replied: “Don’t you know what the wise people say? They say that when you came to this world as a baby, you were crying and everyone was smiling. Live such a life that when you are dying, you will be smiling and everyone around you will be crying. I have lived that life. While all the other kings were lost in the luxuries of the kingdom, I always thought about the future and planned for it. I turned the deadly island into a beautiful abode for me where I can stay peacefully.”

Brethren, the morals in this story are axiomatic in the simplicity of their messages: the perpetuity of the proximity of Almighty to us all and the necessity to prepare for the life after death; that we should not get lost and be entrapped by the beautiful things of this world all of which are, when properly understood, transitory and deceitful.
Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,University of Ibadan,Ibadan, Nigeria

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