Once upon a time, three bulls lived in a forest: one white, one brown, and one black. They were brothers and lived together in harmony. In that forest also lived a tiger that had his eye on the bulls. But every time he attempted to attack one of them, the others came to his aid, and together they drove the tiger away.

The tiger decided that he needed to improve his strategy. So one day, when the black bull was away, the tiger approached the other two and whispered, “You know, the black bull is black, dirty, and evil. Why do you keep him with you? He is a disgrace to you both. You are beautiful and noble. If the black bull is no longer here, you will have all off this land to yourself. He takes away your food and adds no value to you.”

The two bulls listened to the tiger’s spiel and said, “After all, he is our brother. What can we do?”

“You need not do anything,” said the tiger. “I will do what needs to be done. Just turn your back, and don’t come to the aid of the black bull when he calls you.” They agreed.

The next day, they heard the black bull calling desperately for help. They listened to him in his anguish and continued to graze. Gradually, the cries for help ceased, and the two brothers avoided eye contact. The luscious green grass wiped away memories, and after a short while, it was as if the black bull never existed.

Then one day, the tiger came to the white bull when he was alone and said, “Are you happy with the advice I gave you? Did I not advise you well? Now here is some more advice: you are the real king of the forest. You are white and clean, beautiful and pure, wise and holy. You deserve to live in solitary splendor like a king. Why do you need the brown bull? He is an embarrassment to you.” The white bull asked skeptically, “Well, what should I do?”

“Nothing at all. Turn your back, and ignore his screams. I will take care of the rest.”

The next day, the white bull heard the dying screams of the brown bull and closed his ears as he went back to his grazing.

The white bull lived by himself for a few days, grazing where he wanted and drinking from the clean streams of the forest. One morning, the tiger came again. From the look in his eyes, the white bull knew that this visit was different, and suddenly his whole life flashed before his eyes. He recalled the time when the three brothers stood together, shoulder to shoulder, and recalled all the incidents since then. As the tiger sat before him, not in any hurry, knowing that the result was pre-determined, the white bull said to him,

“I do not die today. I died the day the black bull died.”

Hazrat Ali is supposed to have mentioned this old Arab legend and said to those who were with him when he had been stabbed, “I am not dying today. I died when Othman died.”

(Radhiallahu Anhum)