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Folktales

The five mares of Mohammed

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

The hot desert wind blew against the tent, driving the dust inside. Fatima walked softly in, carrying an earthenware jug full of cold water, and handed it to the Prophet. "Please, stop tormenting yourself, Mohammed," she said, "drink some water!"

"I will drink when the test is over, and the horses can drink, too. I cannot drink knowing they are thirsty," said the Prophet to his daughter.

"I do not understand this test, nor do I like it," said Fatima angrily. "Depriving the horses from drinking for three full days is cruel. I cannot believe you would do it, a man who loves animals better than himself!"

"I must. Allah commanded me -- would you have me disobey God? The spread of Islam depends greatly on the loyalty and strength of our horses. The best of these horses, said Allah, will be honored till the end of time... But it is the evening of the third day now, so let us go to the horses and conduct the test."

He took a horn that hung at the tentís entrance, and walked toward an enclosure where about a hundred horses were confined, a little distance from the water hole of the oasis. The horses looked reproachfully at their beloved master as he quickly opened the gate. Tormented by thirst, the horses galloped to the water hole, but before they could reach it, Mohammed raised the horn to his lips and sounded the call for war.

The horses ignored it. They were so thirsty that perhaps they couldnít even hear it, and went on galloping toward the water. But not all of them. Five mares stopped. Without hesitation, they turned around and returned to Mohammed, ready to do whatever was required of them.

The Prophet stroked their silky manes, tears in his eyes. He led them to the water and envisioned the glorious future as they drank. He knew that these mares would foal the finest of Arab horses, the only horses of pure blood, the horses that would help bring Islam to every corner of the Earth.


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