'Aqeel, 'Ali's Guest
From: Anecdotes of the Pious Ones, # 38, v. 1

'Aqeel came to Imam 'Ali's (as) house in Kufa when he was the caliph of the time. Imam 'Ali (as) asked his older son, Imam Hassan ibn-e 'Ali to give a gift to his uncle. Imam Hassan (as) gave one of his outfits to his uncle.

The next night, Imam 'Ali (as), and 'Aqeel were sitting at the roof of the Daar ul 'Imara (governor's office). It was dinner time. 'Aqeel was expecting a fancy dinner since he was in the caliph's company. Opposite to his expectation, the dinner was very simple. Surprised, he asked: "Is this all the dinner?"

'Ali (as) said: "Isn't this enough of a blessing from Allah (swt)? I praise Allah for all these blessings."

'Aqeel said: "Perhaps I shall present my request and be excused to leave. I am heavily indebted. Give an order so that my debt be paid off. You can also help me as much as you can afford."

"How much do you owe?"

"Hundred thousand Dirham."

"Oh, that is quite a bit! I am sorry my brother, that I don't have it all, so that I could pay them now. But wait till I get paid, then I shall give you some. Had I not the responsibility of my own family, I would pay you all of my next months pay."

"What?! Should I wait till the next month's pay? But the public treasury is in your hand, and you are telling me to wait until next month so that you could pay me from your own pay check?! You can pay me whatever amount you would want out of the public treasury. Why do you want me to wait? Moreover, how much is your pay? I don't think it could pay off all my loan."

"I am not surprised by your suggestion. Whether there is money in the public treasury or not is not mine or your concern. I and you are one like the thousand other Muslims. Granted that you are my brother, and I should help you from my own income. But not from public treasure."

The discussion continued, and 'Aqeel was insisting that he should be paid off from the public treasure, so that he could leave content.

The bazaar of Kufa was apparent from the place they were sitting. One could see safes of the merchants from there. Upon 'Aqeel's insistence, Imam 'Ali (as) told him: "If you continue to insist, I will offer you a suggestion. If you act on it, you can have more than you want."

"What should I do?"

"You see those safes. As soon as there is nobody in the market, just sneak down there, and break the safes, and take as much money as you like."

"Who those safes belong to?"

"To the merchant. They put all their cash in them."

"What? Do you tell me to break the safes and take the money of those poor people who have worked so hard, put their money in there with reliance upon Allah (swt)?"

Then how do you suggest to me that I should open the door of public treasure to you? Who does this money belong to? This also belongs to a people who are resting in their homes not worrying about their trust. Now, I have a different suggestion. If you will act upon it."

"What do you suggest?"

"If you will, let us both take our swords and go the ancient city of Heera, where some very wealthy business people live. We will attack one of them, and gain a huge sum of money."

"My dear brother! I have not come to steal. All I am asking for is some money from the public treasure. Just give me some, so that I could pay my debts."

"It is better if we steal the money of one person rather than the money of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. How is it that stealing from one individual is considered stealing, while stealing from the public treasure is not theft? Do you think that stealing has to be done with violence, and force? The most criminal theft is the one that you are offering to me." [1]

[1] Bihar al Anwar, v 9 Print of Tabriz p. 613