(E) Death in Baghdad (destiny)


The story explores some of the problems of escaping destiny and is pertinent to questions of free-will and determinism

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions. In a little while this servant came back, white and trembling “Master”, he blurted out, “Just now when I was in the market place I was jostled from behind by someone in the crowd and when I turned around I saw that it was Death that jostled me. He looked menacingly at me and made a threatening gesture; now, please, I beg you, lend me your horse and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there, Death will not find me.” The merchant willingly consented. The servant dug his spurs into the horse’s flanks and went away as fast as the horse could gallop. Then the merchant, still short of provisions, went himself down to the market place. He also saw Death standing in the crowd. Unlike his servant, however, he was not afraid and approached Death to admonish him. Wagging his finger, he demanded “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture, ”Death calmly replied, “It was merely a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad. You see, I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

* This title has nothing to do with any of the current (February 2003) political upheavals in the Middle-East. You may wish to change the title if you think that appropriate.