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WHEN leaders listen to the opinions of their people, they save themselves a lot of trouble, as they can directly understand the conditions of the people. This is the reason why the assemblies of monarchs were open to the public. Due to this, there was no favoritism, influence, or any of the manifestations of hypocrisy and fraud that we mostly see but not in all modern assemblies of kings and sultans.
In this regard, I recall the story of a sultan who heard about a slave girl being sold at a price that exceeds the market value by 100 times.
The sultan ordered the girl to be brought before him in order to see what was special about her.
When she stood before him, he did not see anything visible that would distinguish her from the other girls.
The sultan then asked why she was priced 100 times higher than the market price.
The girl replied, “Because I am distinguished by intelligence, your honor.”
Her words aroused the curiosity of the sultan, and he said, “I will ask you several questions. If you answer them, I will set you free. If you do not answer, I will kill you.”
The girl agreed.
The sultan asked, “What is the most beautiful dress, the most delicious scent, the most delicious food, the softest bed, and the most beautiful country?”
The slave girl turned to those in the audience and said, “Bring me some personal effects and a horse, for I am leaving this palace as a free person.”
She then answered the sultan’s questions, “The most beautiful dress is the shirt of the poor person, the only one that he finds suitable for both summer and winter.
The best scent is the scent of the mother, even if she is a blacksmith.
As for the most delicious food, it is the one that is eaten out of hunger. The hungry consider even dry bread as delicious.
Regarding the softest bed, it is the one you sleep on and your mind is at peace. An oppressor feels like he is sleeping on a bed made of thorns and spikes when in reality he would be sleeping on a bed made of gold.”
She then walked towards the door, and the sultan called her and said, “You did not answer my last question!”
She turned and said, “As for the most beautiful country, it is the country of freedom that is governed by justice, wisdom, patience, and firmness when the situation requires it.”
The girl rode out of the palace as a free woman.
It is true that the slave woman freed herself, but she also alerted the sultan as to what his people could suffer when she put him before the truth. She worked on communicating the information to all those in the sultan’s assembly, ensuring to transmit facts as they are. This is due to the fact that good advisors are the one who speak frankly to the rulers, and do not falsify or deceive, or work for personal interest at the expense of the state. In the modern era, there are many hypocrites who embellish things for leaders that are not true.
In this regard, Abdul Rahman bin Khaldun said, “When one takes up leadership alone and the rest are too lazy to strive for better leadership, this leads to a transition from the glory of arrogance to the humiliation of submissiveness.”
He went on to say, “The state, kingship, and urbanization (society) are the preserving elements for the existence of the whole. It has been decided in the sciences of wisdom that one cannot be separated from the other. The state is not urbanization, and urbanization is the state. For what is in human nature of aggression that calls for scruples. Because the primary task of the sultan, in his view, is to protect society and work to enhance its stability.”
In this way, it is possible to look at the conditions of any society. If it is sound, it means that the state is strong. If corruption, nepotism and favoritism are widespread in it, then it becomes corrupt, and then the state begins on the road to collapse.
We have seen several Arab examples. When the state lacked prudence, sagacity and justice, it ended up in ruins.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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