This is one of the many Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, (saw)), that really sticks out in my mind. It has a beautiful message behind it, and it probably is exactly how Muhammad (saw) said it originally, because it probably stood out in the narrator's mind, too. And the Hadith collector's mind.

The point is fairly self explanatory. But I have a little time on my hands. A lot of the early muslims would put their trust totally in Allah. This is a commendable view, that 'God will give me my food and my shelter and my clothing, I needn't worry about a thing. If He gives me nothing, I can't complain'. But these were all in danger of losing their camels. (The camel is both literal, specific, and metaphorical, general). So to prevent the Muslims' camels, and hence their livelihoods, from running away, Muhammad (saw) narrated this Hadith.

Apparently this Hadith also has a Russian counterpart, a variation on the theme of God helps those who help themselves - Pray to God, and keep rowing to shore (thanks to Serpentine for this information).

There is also a Jewish fable that carries the same message.

There was a great flood in a region, and everybody's houses and property were being washed away. Most people were walking away, then swimming and rowing away.

Except for Moishe. He sat calmly in his living room. As someone swam past, they shouted for Moishe to join them. Moishe said "No, I have no need to run, G-D will save me".

The water crept up, and Moishe had to go upstairs. As he was sitting in his bedroom, someone rowed past the window and shouted to Moishe "Come, I have space in my boat". Moishe said "No, I have no need to leave, G-D will save me".

The water kept on rising. Moishe climbed out onto his roof. As he was on the verge of drowning, a rescue helicopter came past and shouted down to him to climb up the ladder. Moishe shouted back "No, I have no need to leave, G-D will save me".

The flood rose and rose and Moishe drowned. He had been a good Jew, so he went to Heaven.

When he got there, he had his welcome meeting with G-D, so he asked G-D "Look here, I had so much faith in you, what happened". G-D's reply was "Moishe, what more do you want me to do! I sent people along to encourage you, I sent along a boat and even a helicopter!!!".

OK, so it's a silly story. But it illustrates two points.

Firstly, G-D helps those who help themselves - or, as the node title says, "Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel". G-D (or Allah, they're the same thing in my opinion) will help you, but don't expect to do nothing.

Secondly, it's a response to those people (eg those who follow Christian Science) who don't believe in medical intervention, and that if G-D wants to heal you, he would. This can be used to rebut this. G-D wants to save you. But his method of operation is giving certain people the knowledge, intelligence and manual dexterity to be able to train as doctors. So we should use them.

This thread reminded me of a story I heard, which apparently really happened. It's not exactly the same message, but close enough.

It is about a Roman Catholic priest in Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies, during the Second World War. The Japanese had invaded, and were advancing upon the village he was ministering, but he refused to leave. Whenever other westerners fleeing the advancing army, passed through the village, they would warn him. "The Japanese are coming, and they are rounding up and executing people like you. You have to leave!"

But he would always reply. "I can't leave these people now, when they need me most. If God wants me to die I will die, if he wills I live, I will live."

As the weeks went on, the sound of gunfire and explosions became louder in the distance. Then one night, when the village was asleep, the priest was woken by a knocking on his door.

He got up and answered it. It was a man in a black uniform, the priest could not tell what kind. Even though it was dark he could see the man clearly. The man spoke.

"What are you doing here? The Japanese have camped outside this village. In the morning they are going to take you away and execute you! Why haven't you left?"

The priest could not reply. It was as if he was frozen on the spot. The man continued.

"This is what you must do. At the break of dawn, you must get out of bed, put on your clothes, and leave your house silently. Follow the road out of the village, until you come to a path leaving it to your left. Then get down on your knees, and crawl along the path, without raising your head or looking left or right. You will come to a chair with an object on it. Kiss this object, then turn around and crawl back the way you came, again without looking at anything. When you reach the end of the path, get up and run back here as fast as you can, and go back to bed."

The man left, and the priest returned to his bed. He was terrified and could not sleep. At first light he got up and put his clothes on, and then left his house. He walked down the road out of the village. The morning air was cool on his face. When he reached the path, he recognised that he was nearing the Japanese camp. The priest followed the man's instructions, got on his knees, and crawled along the path. Soon he heard voices shouting. He did not know if they were shouting at him or at one another, or something else. They got louder, unbearably loud, and more and more started laughing, all around him. By now the priest was too terrified to look up. Then he reached the chair.

There was a smooth metal object on it. Without stopping to think, he kissed it. It felt cold on his lips. Everything went silent. The priest turned around, and crawled back the way he came, again without looking around. Once he reached the end of the path, he got up and ran, without looking back. When he reached his home, he got back in bed without changing his clothes or even taking off his shoes. He just lay there, terrified.

The sun rose in the sky. A few hours had passed when there was a banging on the door. Before the priest could answer it, some Japanese soldiers broke through arrested him and took him to their camp.

As they entered the camp, the priest saw crowds of soldiers as he was led down the same path he had taken in the morning. They were talking to each other and looking at him. He recognised the same voices he had heard earlier in the morning. He reached the end of the path. There was a captain at the end of the path and, on a chair next to him, an execution sword.

"So you are the one who kissed my sword!" bellowed the captain. "What on earth possessed you to do that?"

The priest stood silent, white with fear.

"Because you have done that, and only because of that, you will live."

It is said that the man who came to the priest in the night was an angel.

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