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There was once a great teacher of Islam called Junayd who lived in the city of Baghdad. He had many students who came to learn from him. Junayd showed affection and love to everyone, but there was one student whom he seemed to prefer above all others. No one could quite understand why, and as a result they all became very jealous. Finally they decided to ask Junayd why he preferred this particular student. “He is just like all the rest of us, as far as we can see,” they complained, “…there isn’t anything special about him, so why do you treat him as if there were?”

Junaid tried to explain. “He is wiser and more disciplined than you are – he is well mannered, ever obedient to Allah, and he understands much more than others do. One day you will find this out for yourselves.”

No one was satisfied with this reply. They really could not understand what Junayd was talking about. But since they respected their teacher they just kept silent about it.

Junayd, meanwhile, realised that they had not quite understood, and so he decided to show them the truth.

The very next day he called them all, and said to them, “I want you each to take a chicken and go to a place where no one can see you. Then slaughter it and bring it back to me. I want to have a special meal prepared for you. Remember to be absolutely sure that no one sees you do it.”

Each student took a chicken and slaughtered it in a place where he thought nobody could see him, and before long they were all back again. One by one, they showed Junayd their slaughtered chickens but from the back of the room came the sound of chirping and the fluttering of wings. There stood the favourite student holding a very live chicken! He was looking bewildered which made everyone laugh all the more louder. “What’s the matter, brother”, shouted one of them, “Don’t you know how to obey your teacher’s instructions?” “What a fool!” laughed another.

Junayd called him forward in a stern voice. “Well?”, he asked, “Why didn ‘t you slaughter the bird as I instructed?”

“Dear teacher! You said to slaughter the chicken in a place where no one could see”, apologised the student, “…but since Allah sees everything that I do, that was impossible. How can I hide anything from Him? That is why I could not kill the bird.”

Junayd nodded his head and turned to the others, “There, now do you see now why he is wiser? Compare his understanding with yours, and you’ll see why I prefer him.”

The disciples shuffled their feet and hung their heads low. In humble voices they apologised to their teacher and inwardly asked Allah for forgiveness for their lack of understanding and their jealousy .