Can You Swim?

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Highlights Values: Humility Views: 1150

In ancient times, when the Ottoman Empire reigned, the sole means to traverse the Bosporus were modest rowboats. For a passage from one side to the other, you'd share a boat with fellow travelers and pay the boatman for passage.

One day, a learned scholar embarked on one of these boats to cross the straits. Midway through, he inquired of the boatman, "Are you acquainted with geography?"

The boatman humbly replied in the negative.

The scholar retorted, "A third of your life wasted."

Later, he questioned, "How well do you grasp mathematics?" The boatman confessed to basic knowledge.

The scholar admonished, "Two-thirds of your life lost."

Again, the scholar inquired, "Have you explored history?" The boatman, with sorrowful eyes, confessed his lack of historical education.

The scholar's censure continued, "Your entire life squandered."

Simultaneously, the wind surged, sending the boat into frenzied sways. The boatman asked the scholar, "Can you swim?"

The scholar conceded his inability.

The boatman's reply was poignant, "Then your entire life is lost."

Lessons from the Story:

Humility and Perspective: The tale illustrates the importance of humility and perspective. While the scholar had knowledge, he lacked essential practical skills. It's a reminder that knowledge alone does not make one wise; humility and recognizing others' strengths are equally important.

Value of Practical Knowledge: The story underscores the significance of practical knowledge. While the scholar's erudition was admirable, the boatman's expertise in navigating the waters proved vital during the tumultuous journey. Practical skills often hold more immediate value than theoretical knowledge.

Respect for Others: The scholar's initial scorn for the boatman's lack of education was turned on its head when faced with the practical challenge of surviving in the water. The narrative teaches the lesson of treating everyone with respect, regardless of their education or occupation, as circumstances can shift and render different skills essential.

This story serves as a poignant reminder that a well-rounded life requires not only intellectual knowledge but also practical skills, humility, and respect for others.


The Prophet ﷺ said: Indeed, Allah has revealed to me that you all should humble yourselves so that no one wrongs another or boasts over another. Sunan Abi Dawud 4895

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Highlights  Values: Humility
Views: 1150

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