Prophet Mohammed was walking one day through the streets of Mecca when a beggar sitting by the roadside clutched the Prophet’s robe and begged for alms.
The Prophet stopped to look at the beggar. The beggar was undoubtedly a miserable specimen of manhood. His unkempt hair and beard were as ragged and dirty as his clothes. Over his shoulders, he had a torn blanket, and his grimy hands clutched a begging bowl. And there, he squatted on the roadside, moaning pathetically to attract the attention of passers-by.
The Prophet asked him. ‘Are you so incapable of work that you must beg for a livelihood?”
“Master,” the beggar replied in a cringing voice. “All I have in the world is this old blanket and earthenware bowl, and who would employ such as me?”
The Prophet held out his hand. “If all you possess is that blanket and bowl, give them to me.”
The beggar was so surprised at this demand he handed over the blanket and bowl without a murmur. The Prophet turned to the people standing around and asked them to buy the beggar’s cloak and bowl. Although these miserable objects were valueless because the Prophet offered them for sale, they fetched a reasonable price.
The beggar eyed the money in the Prophet’s hand and groaned even more pathetically as he whimpered. “Master, how can I live without my blanket and bowl? I shall certainly starve to death or perish from the cold.”
“Get to your feet,” the Prophet ordered. “Take this money and, by all means, buy another blanket and eating plate. But above all, you will purchase a good axe and earn a living as a wood-cutter. You will find the work hard at first, but remember, through hard toil, you can find an honourable way of life.”
The beggar hung his head in shame and would have thanked the Prophet, but the Prophet said, “Go, and do as I bid. You may come and thank me when you have regained your manhood.”
Several months passed, and then one morning, the Prophet was confronted by a man, who knelt at his feet saying, “Master, I was the beggar, but am now a wood-cutter. Through hard work, I have become a man again. So now I have come to offer you my humble thanks.”
Then the Prophet recognized that this was the decrepit old beggar. “Rise, my son,” he said. You have earned your right to live as other men. It should be noted that when people not crippled or stricken with the disease lose courage and turn to beggary for sustenance, they forfeit their self-respect.
Go now, my son, and remember that honest work is a blessing.”