A man died far from his home, and in the portion of his will which he had available for bequest, he left in these words:
“Let the community where the land is situated take what they wish for themselvs, and let them give that which they wish to Arif the Humble.”
Now Arif was a young man at the time, who had far less apparent authority than anyone in the community. Therefore the elders took possession of whatever they wanted from the land which had been left, and they allocated to Arif a few trifles only, which nobody else wanted.
Many years later Arif, grown to strength and wisdom went to the community to claim his patrimony. “These are the objects which we have allocated to you in accordance with the Will,” said the elders. They did not feel that they had usurped anything, for they had been told to take what they wished.
But, in the middle of the discussion, an unknown man of grave countenance and compelling presence appeared among them. He said: “The meaning of the Will was that you should give to Arif that which you wished for yourselves, for he can make the best use of it.”
In the moment of illumination which this statement gave them, the elders were able to see the true meaning of the phrase, “Let them give that which they wish to Arif.”
“Know,” continued the apparition, “that the testator died unable to protect his property, which would, in case of his making Arif his legatee in an obvious sens, have been usurped by this Community. At the very least, it would have caused dissension.
“So he entrusted it to you, knowing that if you thought that it was your own property you would take care of it. Hence he made a wise provision for the preservation and transmission of this treasure. The time has now come for it to be returned to its rightful use.”
Thus it was that the property was handed back; the elders were able to see the truth.
This Sufi spiritual story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. It is a delightful book full of Sufi spiritual stories.