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Tale of Al Fozail e Iyeaz

Fozail the highwayman and how he repented. At the beginning of his career, Fozail-e Iyaz is said to have been the leader of highway robbers. He pitched his tent in the heart of the desert between Merv and Bavard. He had many companions who were all thieves and highwaymen. Night and day they robbed and pillaged, and always brought the proceeds to Fozail since he was the chief among them. He would divide the loot among the bandits, keeping for himself what he fancied.

One night a caravan was passing, and in the midst of the caravan a man was chanting the Koran. The following verse reached Fozail’s ears: “Is it not time that the hearts of those who believe should be humbled to the remembrance of God?”.

It was as though an arrow pierced his soul, as though that verse had come out to challenge Fozail and say, “O Fozail, how long will you waylay travellers? The time has come when we shall waylay you!”

Fozail fell from the wall, crying, “It is high time indeed, and past high time!”

Bewildered and shamefaced, he fled headlong to a ruin. There a party of travelers was encamped. They said, “Let us go!” One of them interjected, “We cannot go. Fozail is on the road.”

“Good tidings!” Fozail cried. “He has repented.” With that he set out and all day went on his way weeping, satisfying his adversaries. Finally there remained only a Jew in Bavard. He sought quittance of him, but the Jew would not be reconciled.

“Today we can make light of these Muslims,”

He chuckled to his fellows.

“If you want me to grant you quittance,” he told Fozail, “clear this heap.”

He pointed to a mount of sand, to remove which would tax all the strength of a man over a long period. The hapless Fozail shoveled away the sand little by little, but how should the task ever be completed? Then one morning, when Fozail was utterly exhausted, a wind sprang up and blew the heap clean away. When the Jew saw what had happened he was amazed.

“I have sworn,” he told Fozail, “that until you give me money I will not grant you quittance. Now put your hand under this rug and take up a fistful of gold and give it to me. My oath will then be fulfilled, and I will give you quittance.”

Fozail entered the Jew’s house. Now the Jew had put some earth under the rug. Fozail thrust his hand under, and brought forth a fistful of dinars which he gave to the Jew.

“Offer me Islam!” cried the latter.

Fozail offered him Islam, and the Jew became a Muslim.

“Do you know why I have become a Muslim?” he then said. “It is because until today I was not certain which the true religion was. Today it has become clear to me that Islam is the true religion; for I have read in the Torah that if any man repents sincerely and then places his hand on earth, the earth turns to gold. I had put earth under the rug to test you. When you laid your hand on the earth and it turned to gold, I knew for sure that your repentance was a reality and that your religion is true.”

Askar Mahboobi