Stories & Tales
Abul Hassan

Abul Hassan lived in Baghdad at the time of the Caliph Haroun ar-Rashid. His father was a wealthy man, and when he died, Abul Hassan inherited his great wealth. He divided it into two equal sums: the first he put away and the second he spent on his entertainment. He soon found himself surrounded by people who pretended to like him and pretended to enjoy his company.

In a very short time, he had spent half his fortune on the people around him. Then one day he pretended to have no money left, and to his amazement, his “friends” all left him!

His mother could see how upset he was and told her how his “friends” had deserted him when they thought he had no money. She said to him, “All you can do now is to learn a lesson from this, and to learn to be a better judge of people.”

Abul Hassan resolved to meet new people, share their company for just one day so that they don’t get to know much about him, and after that to never even acknowledge them in the street.
For a whole year, he followed this plan.

One evening Abul Hassan was standing at a bridge when he saw the Caliph Haroun ar- Rashid. The Caliph had disguised himself as a merchant from Mosul, and with him was his servant. Abul Hassan greeted him as he walked by, and invited him to his house to share his dinner. He also made it clear that the invitation was for one meal only.
The Caliph was puzzled by this offer and asked Abul Hassan why he had decided in advance on such conditions. He was even more surprised to hear the explanation, as he and his servant walked home with Abul Hassan.

The evening meal was wonderful and the food abundant. Haroun ar-Rashid was impressed by Abul Hassan’s generosity. He said,”Is there anything you wish for, Abul Hassan?”
“I wish I could be a Caliph for just one day, and punish those five nasty people who live in my neighborhood. They meddle in things that don’t concern them, and no one is free of their intrusions.”

The Caliph laughed at this wish but decided to make it come true. When Abul Hassan was not looking, the Caliph slipped some sleeping potion into his cup of tea, and as soon as Abul Hassan finished his cup, he fell asleep. Immediately, the Caliph ordered his servant to carry Abul Hassan to the palace, dress him in the Caliph’s own clothes and put him on the Caliph’s bed. He then ordered all his servants and everyone in the palace to treat Abul Hassan as they would the real Caliph and to obey all his requests.

When the morning dawned and Abul Hassan awoke, he was amazed to find himself in a palace, in a fine bed made of gold, and surrounded by servants saying: “Good morning, oh Prince of the Faithful.”

Abul Hassan was sure he was dreaming, but the people around him assured that he was awake and that he was the Caliph!

Later that morning, Jaafar, the Wazir*, presented himself to the Throne and said: “All the counselors are present, oh Prince of the Faithful.” Abul Hassan was amazed by his surroundings and in a daze of disbelief. The Caliph Haroun ar-Rashid, secretly looking from a window above was delighted as he watched the proceedings.

The first order Abul Hassan gave was for the police to go after the five “friends” and make an example of them to others who might take advantage of people.
Then he ordered that the sum of 1000 dinars be offered to his mother.

Soon afterwards, Abul Hassan went into another room in the Palace. There, the court musicians played the ‘oud and sang the most beautiful songs to him. Again he wondered if he was awake or in a dream.

When nighttime fell over the Palace, Abul Hassan called for a cup of jasmine tea. A servant brought it to his bedside again with a few drops of sleeping potion. Just like the first time, Abul Hassan fell asleep as soon as finished the cup, and the palace servants carried him back to his own bed in his own house in his own neighborhood in Baghdad. What a shock he felt when he awoke the next morning to find himself back in his modest dwelling. His mother came running when she he heard him shout, “Am I not the Prince of the Faithful, Haroun ar- Rashid?”

“Have you lost your mind, my son? You are Abul Hassan.”
“No, no! I am the Price of the Faithful!” he insisted.

His mother tried to distract him and make him come back to his senses. She told him how the police had punished the five men who had taken advantage of his generosity. She showed her son the bag that contained the 1000 dinars the Caliph had sent to her the day before.

“I sent you this money!” he cried. “I sent the police to punish the men! I am the Caliph!”

Still his mother tried to convince him that he could not be the Caliph, that he was a humble man from a humble neighborhood, yet he refused to listen. The neighbors heard him call out,” I am the Caliph! I am the Caliph!” and decided that he had lost his mind. They found a village on the outskirts of Baghdad where they sent him to recover his senses.

Many months later, a subdued Abul Hassan went for a walk and stood on the same bridge he had stopped at that fateful night, and lo and behold! He encountered the Caliph again. Haroun ar- Rashid waved to him and greeted him in a friendly manner but Abul Hassan was not pleased. After much cajoling and an apology for the trouble he was put through, Abul Hassan returned the greeting and invited Haroun ar-Rashid to his home for supper.

When it was time to sleep, the Caliph slipped a sleeping potion in his hosts’ tea, and ordered his servant to carry Abul Hassan to the Palace again. When Abul Hassan awoke the next morning, he thought he must be dreaming! The musicians were playing music, the singers were singing and the dancers were dancing around him.

He said to Jaafar, the Wazir, “Who am I?” Jaafar replied, “You are the Caliph, Haroun ar-Rashid.”

Abul Hassan said to a servant, “Bite my ear. If I am awake, I will feel the pain. If I am sleeping I will wake up.”
The servant did as he was told and Abul Hassan screamed out in pain. “Now I know that I am awake. I also know that I am the Caliph Haroun ar-Rashid. I am the Prince of the Faithful! This is my Palace with its entire splendor. I am not Abul Hassan!”


Haroun ar-Rashid was watching from behind a curtain and could not contain his laughter anymore. Abul Hassan heard the noise, pulled the curtain back and saw the Caliph laughing wholeheartedly. He instantly recognized the man and realized what had happened and bowed to the Caliph. Haroun took his arm, helped him stand up, embraced him tightly and the two became best of friends.