The traditional teaching stories of the Sufi’s are often intriguing. One of my favourites is known as Dividing Camels. I originally came across it in Idries Shah’s book Thinkers of the East.
There was once a Sufi who wanted to make sure that his disciples would, after his death, find the right teacher of the Way for them.
He therefore, after the obligatory bequests laid down by law, left his disciples seventeen camels, with this order:
‘You will divide the camels among the three of you in the following proportions: the oldest shall have half, the middle in age one-third, and the youngest shall have one-ninth.’
As soon as he was dead and the will was read, the disciples were at first amazed at such an inefficient disposition of their Master’s assets. Some said, ‘Let us own the camels communally,’ other sought advice and then said, ‘We have been told to make the nearest possible division,’ others were told by a judge to sell the camels and divide the money; and yet others held that the will was null and void because its provisions could not be executed.
Then they fell to thinking that there might be some hidden wisdom in the Master’s bequest, so they made inquiries as to who could solve insoluble problems.
Everyone they tried failed, until they arrived at the door of the son-in-law of the Prophet, Hazrat Ali. He said:
‘This is your solution. I will add one camel to the number. Out of the eighteen camels you will give half–nine camels–to the oldest disciple. The second shall have a third of the total, which is six camels. the last disciple may have one-ninth, which is two camels. That makes seventeen. One–my camel–is left over to be returned to me.’
This was how the disciples found the teacher for them