The Caliph Haroon-ur-Rashid was known and respected for his justice and wisdom. At night, he would disguise himself as a common man and go through the streets of Baghdad. He would mingle with the common people in order to gain first-hand knowledge of their difficulties and problems.
One day, when he was holding court, two men were brought before him. One of them was well-dressed and appeared to be a well-to-do, respectable citizen, while the other seemed to be a beggar, because he was in rags. These two men were holding between them a beautiful white horse. The Qazi approached the Caliph and said to him: "O Leader of the Faithful! I've brought before you a dispute which I could not settle. It is a difficult case, but I am certain that with your knowledge and wisdom, you will pronounce a just decision.
"What is the dispute?" asked the Caliph.
"These two men here are fighting over this horse. Each one of them claims and swears that this horse is his."
"Step forward," the Caliph ordered the well-dressed man, "and let's hear what you've to say."
The man said to the Caliph: "O Leader of the Faithful! I beg to believe me that whatever I say in your presence shall be the truth. This morning, when I was riding to the city, I saw this beggar limping along ahead of me, on hearing the sound of my horse's hoofs, he turned round and motioned to me to stop. I pulled the reins of my horse. He begged me to give him a ride upto the city gate. He was lame. I felt sorry for him. So I pulled him up behind me on the horse. When we reached the city gate, I stopped and turned round to help him get down. He refused to dismount. I was puzzled, and gently told him to get down because we had reached the city gate. He said: "Why should I get down? I gave you a ride and now you want to rob me of my horse?"
Then the beggar limped forward and said: "O Leader of the Faithful! You are the helper and guardian of the poor. You are a wise and just Caliph. Have pity on me and save me from the cruelty and injustice of this rich man. I can swear that this horse belongs to me. You must be thinking like everybody else in this court, how a beggar like me can afford to buy and keep such a fine horse. It is because of this horse that I am in rags. Whatever money I had, I spent on this horse. This morning, as I was coming to the city on my horse, I noticed this man walking along the road. When I came close to him, he stopped me and requested to lend him my horse, for he was in a great hurry to reach the city. Of course, I could not lend my horse to a complete stranger. Could I? Instead, I let him ride my horse, while I sat behind him. As we reached the city gate, he asked me to get down and leave the horse to him. 'Such a fine horse should not belong to a beggar,' he said. 'Now, be off and don't you mention it to any one. And even if you do, nobody is going to believe you. Now, Sir I beg you to save me from this robber and restore to me what is my own."
"I think this case is not very difficult to decide," said the Caliph to the Qazi. "I shall decide it in a minute. Tell these men to place their hands on the horse, one by one. Let the beggar do it first."
When the beggar touched the horse, it winced as if it did not like the touch of his hand. But at the touch of the rich man's hand, the horse snorted and neighed with pleasure.
"This horse belongs to him," pronounced the Caliph, "Give the horse to its master." Then the Caliph turned to the beggar and said: "You are a liar and a wicked man. You tried to rob an honest and respectable citizen. You deserve severe punishment, but I shall be merciful and forgive you this time, if you, beg forgiveness of this gentleman here."
The rich man readily forgave the beggar and, feeling sorry for him, took out his purse and gave him a handful of gold coins. This noble action of the rich man pleased everybody in the court.