The greatest warrior

Here is a story told by the Persian poet Rumi. The hero in the story is Ali ibn Abi Talib, a cousin of Mahomet, who became a leader of the newly formed Islamic faith. With the founding of a new faith, many surrounding tribes were threatened by this new and growing faith community and the Muslims had to fight many battles just to survive amongst their neighbours.

Ali was a brave and committed warrior, renowned for his virtue and prowess. Once in the heat of battle a pagan warrior crossed swords with Ali, this warrior knew that he would gain much fame and renown if he could defeat Ali. The encounter was brief, with deft footwork and a cunning thrust Ali tripped the warrior so that he sprawled on his back. Then Ali sprang into position to deliver a fatal sword thrust. Whereupon the fallen warrior spat in Aliís face. At this Ali froze then he threw away his sword and stepped back, leaving the warrior unharmed. The fallen warrior felt the disgrace of defeat and begged Ali to finish the fight and kill him. Ali refused. The warrior was insistent but Ali would not kill him. Then the warrior begged Ali to tell him why he acted thus. Ali replied that as long as he fought for God and his people he was justified in his actions; but when the warrior spat at him, this made him angry. Ali explained that this personal anger had corrupted his motivation and he could not continue the fight; as he was no longer fighting just for God and his faith, but he was also fighting from personal anger.

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