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Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Milk Maid

The Milk Maid

One night, Caliph Umar as usual went in disguise with his companion
Ibn Abbas to see the condition of the people. They strolled from one
quarter to another. At last they came to a colony where poor people
lived.
While passing by a small house, the Caliph heard a whispering talk
within. The mother was telling her daughter that the amount of milk
fetched by her for sale that day was very little. She told her that
when she was young, and used to sell milk, she always mixed water
with milk, and that led to considerable profit. She advised her
daughter to do the same.

The girl said, "You adulterated milk, when you were not a Muslim.
Now that we are Muslims, we cannot adulterate milk." The mother said
that Islam did not stand in the way of adulteration of milk. The
daughter said, "Have you forgotten the Caliph's order? He wants that
the milk should not be adulterated." The mother said, "But the
Caliph has forgotten us. We are so poor, what else should we do but
adulterate milk in order win bread?" The daughter said "Such a bread
would not be lawful, and as a Muslim I would not do anything which
is against the orders of the Caliph, and whereby other Muslims are
deceived."

The mother said, "But there is neither the Caliph nor any of his
officers here to see what we do. Daughter you are still a child. Go
to bed now and tomorrow I will myself mix the milk with water for
you." The girl refused to fall in with the plan of her mother. She
said, "Caliph may or may not be here, but his order must be obeyed.
My conscience is my Caliph. You may escape the notice of the Caliph
and his officers, but how can we escape the notice of Allah and our
own conscience." Thereupon the mother remained quiet. The lamp was
extinguished and the mother and the daughter went to sleep.

The next day, Caliph Umar sent a man to purchase milk from the girl.
The milk was unadulterated. The girl kept her resolve. CaliphUmar
turned to his companion and said, "The girl has kept her resolve in
spite of the exhortation of her mother. She deserves a reward. What
reward should I give her? She should be paid some money," said Ibn
Abbas. Caliph Umar said, "Such a girl would become a great mother.
Her integrity is not to be weighed with few coins; it is to be
measured in the scale of national values. I shall offer her the
highest award in my gift, and which shall also be in the highest
interest of the nation."

The Caliph summoned the daughter and the mother to his court. The
mother trembled as she stood before the mighty ruler. But the girl
faced the Caliph boldly and with great equanimity. She was
beautiful, and there was an impressive dignity about her. Then
before the gathering, Caliph Umar related how he had overheard the
mother and the daughter, and how in spite of the exhortations of the
mother the daughter had kept her resolve.

Someone suggested that the mother should be taken to task. The
Caliph said that ordinarily he would have punished the mother, but
he had forgiven her for the sake of her daughter. Turning to the
girl the great Caliph said, "Islam needs daughters like you and as a
Caliph of Islam it devolves on me to reward you by owning you as a
daughter." The Caliph called his sons, and addressing them
said, "Here is a gem of a girl who would make a great mother. I
desire that one of you should take this girl as wife. I know of no
better bride than this girl of sterling character. In matters of
wedlock, it should be the character and not the stature in life that
should count."

Abdullah and Abdur Rahman the elder sons of the Caliph were already
married. Asim the third son was yet unmarried, and he offered to
marry the girl. Thereupon with the consent of the milkmaid and her
mother Asim was married to the girl, and milkmaid became the
daughter-in-law of the Caliph.

From this union was born a daughter Umm Asim, who became in due
course the mother of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. Umar bin AbdulAziz was
elected as Caliph and served for a short period during 717 - 720.

While other Caliphs of the Ummayad dynasty reveled in luxury, Umar
bin Abdul Aziz as a Caliph set up standards for austerity and
simplicity following in the footsteps of Caliph Umar, the second
Caliph of Islam. It is said that if ever there was a noble Caliph
after the first four Rightly guided Caliphs,such a man was Umar bin
Abdul Aziz. And he inherited the noble qualities of the milkmaid who
married the Caliph's son, and those of Caliph Umar Farooq who had
the eye to discern the nobler qualities of sterling character in a
poor girl.

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