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A King learns from an Ant


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A King Learns from an Ant

Submitted by Professor Nazeer Ahmed


The king was distraught. He had lost a battle to his enemies. Many of his cohorts had fallen. His treasures were looted. Humbled on the battlefield, the once mighty king retreated into the forest and took refuge in a cave.

As he rested against a hard rock in the damp cold of the forest cave, the king noticed a little black ant as it struggled to carry a grain up a slope on a wall. The white of the grain stood out against the black silhouette of the ant as it struggled to balance the mass of the grain with its mouth and its front legs. The wall was wet and slippery and the first attempt of the ant was a failure. The grain slipped from its hold and fell on the ground.


Undaunted, the ant retraced its steps, picked up the grain and started again on the arduous journey up the slippery wall. This time the ant negotiated a little distance, perhaps an inch or two before it lost control of the grain which tumbled and fell down.


Back to the grain the ant went. It positioned itself at the correct angle and pushed the grain on the ground and then up the wall a third time. Fortune was not with the ant. The grain slipped and fell once more.


The process repeated itself seven times. Each time, the ant started its uphill task afresh, not discouraged by the failures of the past. The seventh time, it found its footing and successfully carried the grain on to its destination.

The king was inspired by the efforts of this little ant. “What is this ant trying to teach me?”, he asked himself. “If a little ant can labor so hard to carry a single grain to its destination, surely I can struggle with determination to regain my throne.”


The king resolved to regroup and continue his fight. He moved from hamlet to hamlet, village to village, town to town, arousing the people to join him in battle and defeat the usurpers. Soon, he had gathered together and trained a mighty force. He marched forth, and in a pitched battle defeated his enemies and reclaimed his throne.

Humankind was born into toil and struggle. The soul must never give up its struggle to find Divine Presence through signs in nature, in history and in its own essence. It is a struggle that is ceaseless, boundless, unending until the soul departs from this world and meets Him. Allah favors those who strive patiently and persevere. This is the inner meaning of Sabr.


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