Children’s Own Page: Two Strange Rivals

Salah-ud-Din Ayubi and King Richard; Umar and Abu Bakr

by Muhammad Yaqub Khan

The Light (Pakistan), 1st/8th January 1937 Issue (Vol. 16, Nos. 1 and 2, p. 14)

وَ لِکُلٍّ وِّجۡہَۃٌ ہُوَ مُوَلِّیۡہَا فَاسۡتَبِقُوا الۡخَیۡرٰتِ ؕ

“And everyone hath a direction (goal) towards which he turneth his face. Try ye to excel each other in doing good” (Al-Quran, 2:148).

Dear Children,

In my last, I told you something of the chivalry of Islam. I told you how the great Muslim King and Conqueror, Salah-ud-Din the Great, personally tended his adversary, Richard, in the guise of a physician and succeeded in healing him. On another occasion, it so happened that just at the time when the armies of Islam and Christianity were ranged against one another and the battle was at its hottest, the mare of Richard was wounded and it dropped dead. Thereon Salah-ud-Din sent him one of his own best steeds as a present, for the Islamic code of chivalry forbade to fight a foe at a disadvantage. This greatly impressed the English King and ever after, it is recorded in English history, he would recount with pride, as surrounded by his knights he would sit at his table, his encounters with the heroes of Islam. English bards sang the praises of the chivalry of Salah-ud-Din the Great.

Today, let me tell you the story of how early Muslims vied with one another in self-sacrifice and service of fellowmen. The verse at the top tells Muslims what their motto should be. Every people have a motto, a goal, in the light of which they regulate their daily lives. They compete with one another in the realization of the goal. What is a Muslim to compete for? A Muslim must compete with another in the race of doing good. And wonderful was the way indeed, in which this spirit of the Quranic teachings was imbibed by the early Muslims.

There lived a very aged and decrepit woman in the suburbs of Medina, the capital of Islam. She had nobody to look after her. The misery of her lonely and helpless life was heightened by the fact that she had also lost her eyesight. Umar heard about the wretched plight of this woman and made it a point to call on her and do personal service to her. Early one morning he went to her cottage, but on arriving there he found that everything necessary had been done. The house had been swept, the water pitchers filled, and food served. Thus, disappointed he said goodbye to the blind woman, promising to return the following morning to do these little jobs for her. The woman blessed him. The following morning Umar went earlier than before but disappointment was once more in store for him. Somebody had again anticipated him in this labour of love.

“Who is it,”

he asked the woman,

“who comes so early and sweeps your door and provides all your needs?”

“O brother,”

said the woman,

“how can I tell? I am blind and don’t know who this invisible benefactor of mine is. He comes very early in the morning while I am yet in bed and does all this for me and then quietly slips away.”


said Umar to himself,

“I must find out this man, even if I were to keep a vigil the whole night.”

And next morning he hastened to the old woman’s cottage while it was yet dark and awaited the appearance of this mysterious visitor who had deprived him of any service to the old woman. And lo! the mysterious man loomed in the morning dusk in the distance, coming with hasty steps towards the cottage.

“At last I have got him,”

said Umar to himself, eagerly looking forward to who he might turn out to be.


he shouted, as his eyes fell on the familiar venerable aristocratic old face.

“Hallo, Abu Bakr! Is it you? I had been myself suspecting that it must be you.”

And then he related to him how he had been visiting the cottage and being disappointed had resolved to find the man out.

“God be blessed,”

said Abu Bakr, and after looking to the needs of the old woman, the two friends turned back to Medina.

This, dear children, was what made Islam great and glorious. If you want that glory to come back you must revive that true Islam which meant life — practical daily life — lived in doing the will of the Lord and service to fellowman. Islam is a name not for any texts or rites and rituals; it is a name for high and lofty and noble morals lived in daily life.