The one good hour

There was once a hard-hearted moneylender who always charged his debtors usurious interest. To collect a debt from a poor farmer, he went one day to the farmer’s village and told him roughly:

“The time has come to pay me. Give me the money I lent you, plus all the interest”.

The sum was so large, when the unfair interest was added, that the farmer could not possibly pay it. “Reduce the interest,” he said. “It is unjust and far too much. Reduce it to a normal charge and then I can repay you”.

To this argument the moneylender turned a deaf ear. Compassion and pity were things that had no place in his avaricious life. “I see you will not pay me,” he told the farmer. “You force me then, to attach all your cattle and your grain. This I shall do at once”.

Outraged the farmer shouted: “Take your luggage and leave my compound this very minute! You have a heart of stone”.

In the small villages, such as the one the farmer lived in, there were no coolies to carry the moneylender’s luggage, and the farmer had no wish to try to find someone who would be willing to carry it. Far too proud to carry it himself, the moneylender stood looking at the ground and wondering what to do.

As it happened, a Sufi was sitting nearby in meditation. But he had heard all that had gone on, and now spoke to the purse-proud moneylender.

“Sir”, he said humbly, “I will be glad to carry your luggage for you. But it would please me, if you would agree to one condition. This condition is that either you will talk to me in praise of the Lord or you will listen to me, as I speak of love and devotion to the Lord”.

To this the moneylender agreed at once; for it would be easy enough to listen to the Sufi and would require no effort on his part. The Sufi thereupon picked up the luggage and, as they walked to the moneylender’s village and house, he spoke all the way of the Lord and His goodness.

Putting down the luggage at the moneylender’s house, the Sufi said: “I would like to tell you something of importance, and that is, that within a few days’ time you are destined to die. I can see that you have not done a single good deed throughout your life, except for the single hour just past, which you spent in the company of a friend of God and listening to his spiritual discourse”.

“Now listen carefully,” the Sufi continued. “When you die, the angels of death will come to you and ask if you wish to enjoy the fruit of this one good hour at once, or later on. Tell them that you wish to enjoy it at once, and ask them to take you to the Sufi to whose spiritual discourse you listened for one hour. Thereafter keep silent and simply watch what takes place”.

A few days later the moneylender died, the angels took him to the Lord of Judgement and the record of his good and bad deeds was examined. The one and only good deed was the hour during which he had listened to the Sufi. When the angels asked if he would like to enjoy the fruit of this good deed at once or later on, the moneylender, remembering the Sufi’s advice, said: “I would like to enjoy the fruit at once. Please take me to the Sufi with whom I spent the one good hour”.

Accordingly the angels brought him to the Sufi, who was meditating on the goodness of Allah. Feeling immensely grateful for what had happened the moneylender told the Sufi: “Please accept my thanks for all your kindness. But I know that this time with you will soon come to an end and I am afraid of the angels of death who are waiting for me outside”.

The Sufi heard him, but continued to meditate on the Lord and said nothing. Thereafter, both the Sufi and the moneylender sat for a long time in intense bliss until at last the fruit of the one good hour came to an end. When that came about, the angels of death called to the moneylender to leave the Sufi and come to them. But he did not move, for the Sufi was meditating on the Lord and as long as the meditation continued the angels could not come near. Discomfited, the angels went back to the Lord of Judgement and told him what had happened.

In solemn tones the Lord of Judgement spoke: “Give up the moneylender as lost to us, for neither you nor I can now approach him. The spiritual discourse and meditation of a Sufi are so powerful that none of us can overcome it”.