THE WOMAN WHOSE HANDS WERE CUT OFF FOR THAT SHE GAVE ALMS TO THE POOR

A certain King once made proclamation to the people of his realm, saying, 'If any of you give alms of aught, I will assuredly cut off his hand;' wherefore all the people abstained from alms-giving, and none could give to any.

One day a beggar accosted a certain woman (and indeed hunger was sore upon him) and said to her, 'Give me an alms.' 'How can I give thee aught,' answered she, 'when the King cutteth off the hands of all who give alms?' But he said, 'I conjure thee by God the Most High, give me an alms.' So, when he adjured her by God, she had compassion on him and gave him two cakes of bread. The King heard of this; so he called her before him and cut off her hands, after which she returned to her house.

A while after, the King said to his mother, 'I have a mind to take a wife; so do thou marry me to a fair woman.' Quoth she, 'There is among our female slaves one who is unsurpassed in beauty; but she hath a grievous blemish.' 'What is that?' asked the King; and his mother answered, 'She hath had both her hands cut off.' Said he, 'Let me see her.' So she brought her to him, and he was ravished by her and married her and went in to her; and she brought him a son.

Now this was the woman, who had her hands cut off for alms-giving; and when she became queen, her fellow-wives envied her and wrote to the King [who was then absent] that she was unchaste; so he wrote to his mother, bidding her carry the woman into the desert and leave her there. The old queen obeyed his commandment and abandoned the woman and her son in the desert; whereupon she fell to weeping and wailing exceeding sore for that which had befallen her. As she went along, with the child at her neck, she came to a river and knelt down to drink, being overcome with excess of thirst, for fatigue and grief; but, as she bent her head, the child fell into the water.

Then she sat weeping sore for her child, and as she wept, there came up two men, who said to her, 'What makes thee weep?' Quoth she, 'I had a child at my neck, and he hath fallen into the water.' 'Wilt thou that we bring him out to thee?' asked they, and she answered, 'Yes.' So they prayed to God the Most High, and the child came forth of the water to her, safe and sound. Quoth they, 'Wilt thou that God restore thee thy hands as they were?' 'Yes,' replied she: whereupon they prayed to God, blessed and exalted be He! and her hands were restored to her, goodlier than before. Then said they, 'Knowst thou who we are?' 'God [only] is all-knowing,' answered she; and they said, 'We are thy two cakes of bread, that thou gavest in alms to the beggar and which were the cause of the cutting off of thy hands. So praise thou God the Most High, for that He hath restored thee thy hands and thy child.' So she praised God the Most High and glorified Him.




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