A Boatman and a Scholar

Never know when it might come in useful

From Turkish Literature

Al-Ahmadiyya, February 1979 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 7)

A scholar hired a boatman for a trip across a river. As they were ferrying along, the scholar asked the boatman whether it was going to be rough.

The boatman said:

“How do I know? Don’t ask me nothing about it.”

The scholar corrected him:

“You should say, ‘Do not ask me anything about it.’ Have you not studied grammar?”

“No, never,”

said the boatman.

“In that case, half of your life has been wasted,”

said the scholar, rather pleased with his own pedantry.

At this humiliating remark, the boatman kept quiet and they travelled in silence for a long time. Then suddenly a terrible storm blew up and the boat started filling with water.

The boatman leaned over towards his companion and asked him:

“Have you ever learned to swim, Sir?”

“No, never,”

said the scholar, rather frightened.

“In that case, Sir, all your life is going to be wasted, for we are sinking.”