There was once a very wealthy king in the Banu Israaeel who was blessed with a long life and many children. However, the problem he was facing was that whenever any of his children grew up, they would leave the kingdom, adopt ascetism, and spend the rest of their lives in the mountains (devoting themselves to the worship of Allah Ta‘ala), leaving no one to succeed him. Without exception, all his sons adopted this practice.

When the king reached old age, he was blessed with another son. He summoned his people and addressed them saying, “I have been blessed with a son in old age and you are aware of my compassion (and concern) for you. However, I fear that he will also follow in the footsteps of his brothers (i.e. he will leave the kingdom, opting for a life of ascetism and worship of Allah Ta‘ala). And I fear that you will be ruined if none of my children are ruling over you.”

He then instructed them to take this boy and entice him to the luxuries and pleasures of this world in hope that if he developed a deep-rooted love for it, he would not think about sacrificing all these luxuries and opting for a life of simplicity and worship. The people obeyed the king and built a huge compound for the prince which was approximately 64km2.

After some time, when the prince was once riding his conveyance and he came to the huge wall of the compound, he became curious about what was behind the wall. He thus asked his people to allow him to go beyond it, aspiring to meet people and increase his knowledge. When the king was informed of his son’s desire, he became concerned that he may follow in the footsteps of his brothers, and therefore ordered his people to distract him with all types of futility and entertainment.

(For some time, the prince forgot about the wall, but) the next year, when he was riding in the compound once again and came to the wall, he insisted to go beyond the wall. The king granted permission on this occasion. The prince was seated on a cart, a crown made of gold and emeralds was placed on his head, and an entourage began to move with him.

As he was travelling, he came across a person who was afflicted with some difficulty. (This was the first time that the prince had ever seen a person in a problem and) he thus asked what had happened to this person. The people around him explained that this person was experiencing some difficulty. The prince (was shocked and) asked whether difficulties only affect a certain class of people or is any person at risk of being afflicted by it. They replied by telling him that difficulties were such that it could befall anyone. The prince further asked, “(Can it befall) me as well despite the royalty I enjoy?” They replied in the affirmative. (The reality of this worldly life began dawning on this young soul, and) he thus exclaimed, “Woe be to this worldly life of yours! This life is full of grief (and pain)!” Saying this, the prince returned to the palace dejected and grief-stricken.

When this incident was related to the king, he instructed that every form of enjoyment and pleasure should be presented to his son in hope that this condition of grief (regarding the reality of this life) will be removed from his heart.

After a period of time the prince again insisted to go beyond the wall. Once again he was brought out in a very glamourous manner. This time he came across a man who had reached such an old age that saliva was drooling from his mouth. The young prince (was astonished and) enquired whether this condition only affects some people or it can befall anyone. The people explained to him that this could happen to any person. He once again exclaimed “Woe be to this worldly life of yours! This is a life which is not perfect (and free of problems and difficulties) for anyone!”

The king was informed of what transpired and he again instructed that every form of worldly luxury and amusement be brought in front of his son, (hoping that this will make him forget about the events beyond the wall and the reality of this temporary life).

(The distraction worked for some time. However,) after another year, the prince yet again went out exploring beyond the wall. This time, while moving, he passed by a bier which was being carried by a group of men. When he enquired about it, he was told that this is a person who has died. (The prince had been hidden from the realities of this world to such an extent that he did not understand the concept of death.) So, he requested that the deceased be brought to him and asked the people to make him sit up and speak. When he was informed that the deceased was unable to sit up and to speak, he asked what was going to be done with the body. He was told that they were on their way to bury this person.

The prince enquired “What will happen after that?” The people explained to the young boy about life after death; that one day we will stand in front of the Rabb of the worlds and be rewarded for our good deeds or punished for our evil deeds. He asked (in astonishment), “Do you (really) have a world besides this in which you will be recompensed (for your actions)?” They replied in the affirmative. (In a state of shock,) the prince jumped off his horse and began rubbing his face in the sand saying, “This (i.e. death and resurrection) was about to come onto me and I was not even aware of it! Behold! (The reality is that) there is a Rabb Who grants (bounties to His servants), resurrects them (after death) and He recompenses (them for their deeds).” He then addressed the people saying, “This is the last time we meet. From today onwards, you will not have any control over me.”

They told the prince that they will not leave him until they take him back to the king. They thus returned to the palace while the prince was bleeding. The king asked his son why he was in such a state of anguish?” The prince replied, “My worry is due to (the thought of) that day in which the young and old will be recompensed for their good and evil actions.” He then donned a set of (simple) clothing and made a resolution to leave the palace that very night. Hence, in the middle of that very night, he left the palace whilst supplicating to Allah Ta‘ala.

After narrating this incident, the great Taabi‘ee, Bakr bin ‘Abdillah Muzani (rahimahullah) mentioned, “This was (the condition of) a person who was committing a sin unknowingly but detached himself from it (once he came to know the reality). So, what (can be said) about the one who sins whilst knowing what (punishment) he is taking upon himself, yet neither is he distressed or bothered (by it), nor does he make taubah.” (Kitaabut Tawwaabeen pg. 35)


1. The luxuries of this material world are such that they can very easily distract a person and make him forget his true purpose in life and the Aakhirah. He becomes so engrossed in this world, that he becomes unmindful of its reality and of the fact that one day he will leave this world and stand before Allah Ta‘ala to answer for his actions. The king was fully aware of the outcome of the distractions and entertainments of this world and thus used that as a tactic to distract his son.

2. The prescription for inordinate love and attachment to the material world is to constantly remember death, which puts an end to all these pleasures, as taught to us by Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). In this incident as well, it was death which had finally caused the prince to realize the deception in which he had been kept, and to give up all the luxuries and comforts of the royal life which he was enjoying.

3. A fortunate person takes lesson from the happenings around him. Be it a natural disaster, the death of a family member or a friend at a young age, or anything else – these should serve as reminders and ‘wake-up calls’ to us. The prince took lesson from the conditions and happenings around him, and this is what led him to opt for a life of simplicity and obedience to Allah Ta‘ala. Similarly, we also desperately need to reflect on the realities of this temporary life and to introspect our own lives.