The Story of Little Zayd
Why Did the Mangoes Spoil?
Haydar Ali Madani
At home, after a long day at school, Little Zayd put his bag on the table and rushed to Mum in the kitchen. ‘Mum!’ he cried, ‘didn’t I tell you?’
‘Catch your breath first and drink something,’ she retorted, ‘then you can complain!’ Mum leaned in with a smile and wiped the dirt off Little Zayd’s forehead before going to the fridge. ‘Now tell me why my Little Zayd is upset with his mum?’ she asked, handing him a cold glass of fresh orange juice.
‘I said that I didn’t want paratha and omelette for lunch. I wanted to take chips and juice because that’s what Shahid brings, but you put a paratha in my lunch box again.’
Hearing Shahid’s name, Mum felt uneasy. Shahid was Little Zayd’s new friend, and he hadn’t stopped talking about him since they first met. ‘Shahid brought chips for lunch today, Shahid has a new drawing book, Shahid’s uncles gave him a phone,’ he would say. At first, Mum did not pay much attention to it, but after hearing Little Zayd asking for whatever Shahid has, she felt that it was time to tell Grandma.
After Dhuhr, while Little Zayd was napping, Mum went over to Grandma’s room and told her about the whole situation.
Little Zayd woke up and made wudu before heading to the masjid for Asr prayer. Returning home, he found Grandma sitting on a chair in the reception room with baskets of mangoes around her. Little Zayd’s eyes widened with excitement, ‘Yes! Someone has sent mangoes to our house!’ he cried.
‘Your uncle sent them from the village,’ Grandma explained, ‘come here and sit with me.’ As he approached, Grandma took his hand and sat him next to herself. ‘How is your friend Shahid?’ she asked gently.
‘He’s fine. Do you know that I’ve swapped places and sit next to Shahid now?’
‘Do you agree that every word and habit of every friend of yours is good?’ Grandma asked.
‘It is true that everyone has different habits, some of them are good, and some of them are bad, but what difference does it make to me? What do I learn from them? Have you ever seen me being disrespectful?’ Little Zayd declared.
‘You are a very good child,’ Grandma assured him, ‘however, you have been making many requests for some days now, and this is worrying me. Remember that a person gradually becomes like the people he keeps company with, and he doesn’t even realise it.’ Turning to Little Zayd’s mother, she said, ‘Dear, hand me two good mangos from that basket please, and also a rotten one from the basket on your right.’
‘Wrap these three mangoes in newspaper and put them in your cupboard,’ said Grandma, handing over the mangoes to Little Zayd, ‘bring them to me when I ask for them.’ So, Little Zayd took the three mangoes and went to his bedroom, not sure what to expect.
Two days later, after his lesson with the Quran teacher, Little Zayd went to Grandma, who was sitting on the prayer mat in the reception room, reciting tasbih. As soon as she saw him, she said, ‘Little Zayd! Bring the mangoes which I gave to you.’
Little Zayd returned from his room with the mangoes wrapped in a newspaper and placed them in front of Grandma.
‘Open the paper, Little Zayd,’ she said. Little Zayd opened the paper. ‘Grandma!’ he shrieked, ‘the two good mangoes have spoiled.’
‘Yes, Little Zayd,’ Grandma explained, ‘because they were with the rotten mango for a few days, they have become like it. This happens to people too. We gradually begin to adopt the habits of our friends. The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘A man is on the religion of his friend,’ (Abu-Dawood, vol. 4, p. 341, Hadith 4833). This means that a person begins to adopt the habits, characteristics, and traits of his friends, (Sharh Al-Teebi alal Mishkat, vol. 9, p. 240, under Hadith 5019). If you want to make someone your friend, make sure it’s someone who can teach you good actions and good things.’
After seeing what happened to the mangoes and hearing the hadith of the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, Little Zayd realised his mistake. ‘Okay, Grandma,’ he said, ‘I will only make friends with good children from now on.’
Grandma was delighted. ‘Well done, Little Zayd!’ she cheered, ‘now let’s enjoy these mangoes together.’