Alamgir and the Mimic
[taken from http://deoband.org/2009/11/history/anecdotes/alamgir-and-the-mimic/]
By Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi
Translated by Shaykh Yusuf Laher
When Alamgir (may Allah have mercy on him)1 became king, a function was held in which important people in the kingdom were granted gifts. A mimic also came to ask for something2. Due to Alamgir being an ‘Alim [and thus having knowledge of the laws of Shari'ah], there was no fund from which he could grant the mimic a gift. On the other hand, it was against royal etiquette to deny the mimic a gift, so he tried to evade him in a subtle way.
He said to the mimic: “A gift is presented on an achievement. Your achievement will be to present yourself in such a disguise that you are not recognised.” Thus the mimic kept on changing disguises and presenting himself, but the king never failed to recognise him. He told him that “The day you fool me, you will be worthy of receiving a reward.”
Incidentally, the king had to travel to Decca. The mimic lengthened his beard, adopted the appearance of the pious and went to stay in a village along the way [to Decca]. In a short time he became famous [as a pious person].
Alamgir’s practice was that wherever he travelled, he would make it a point to meet the pious en-route. When he reached this village, he heard of ‘the pious person’ residing here, and sent his minister to ask the pious person a few questions on Tasawwuf. The mimic gave all sensible answers to the questions. In those times the mimics would intentionally acquire every science (to assist them in their mimicry).
When the minister returned, he was full of praises for the mimic. The king now went himself to meet the mimic. They had a lengthy discussion and the king concluded that ‘Shah Sahib’ is a perfect saint. As he departed, the king presented one thousand ashrafis (gold coins) as a gift to the mimic. The mimic rejected the gift saying: “you consider me to be like yourself, a dog of this world!” This reaction increased the faith of Alamgir in this ‘pious person’.
[Mawlana Thanwi says]: undoubtedly, independence is a remarkable quality. Thereafter Alamgir returned to his entourage. Meanwhile, the mimic follows him and says: “Give my reward, may Allah protect you.” The king exclaims: Oh, it is you! Alamgir now presents him with a meagre reward and says to him: “Why did you not accept the gift I first presented which was much more than what I have now given you and I would never have demanded it back?” [He would not have demanded it back after coming to know that he is actually the mimic.] He answered: “Sir, if I had accepted that gift, the mimicry would not have been correct, because it was the mimicry of the dervishes. To accept it was contrary to the status of a dervish!”
Taken from “Stories and Anecdotes Related by Mawlana Thanawi”, a compilation of stories and anecdotes related by Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (may Allah have mercy on him) in his lectures, majalis, etc. Extracted and compiled by Mawlana Qari Abu ‘l-Hasan A’azimi.
1. Alamgir was a learned and pious king from the Mogul rulers of India. ↩
2. A mimic would disguise himself and if the person he presented himself to did not recognise him, he would be entitled to receive a gift in lieu of the successful disguise. If the person saw through the disguise, he (the mimic) would not receive anything. ↩