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Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Mathematical Brilliance: Dividing Inheritance

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Mathematical BrillianceImam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) was endowed with a quick, sharp, incisive, mathematical mind. Here are a few interesting stories in which Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) mathematical brilliance revealed itself.

What is a wife's share?

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) was once interrupted while he was delivering a sermon from the pulpit by someone who asked him how to distribute the inheritance of someone who had died leaving a wife, his parents and two daughters. Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) instantly answered:

"The wife's share becomes one ninth."


This answer is in fact the result of a long analysis with a number of steps. Ordinarily, we have to decide on the original share of each of these heirs, in the following way:

The wife takes one eighth, in view of the presence of an inheriting child. [Noble Qur'an, 4:12]

The deceased's father and mother take one sixth each. [Noble Qur'an, 4:11]

The two daughters take two thirds of the inheritance. [Noble Qur'an, 4:11]

So the total will be:
1/8 + 1/6 + 1/6 + 2/3 = 3/24 + 4/24 + 4/24 + 16/24 = 27/24

This means the share becomes less than 1/8 in view of the increase of the total of the shares which are so fixed and prescribed. So the one eighth, the original share due to the wife out of twenty-four total shares, has become three shares out of a total of twenty-seven, which is one ninth.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) mind went through this complex mathematical process in a second!

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Mathematical Brilliance: Whole Number and Not A Fraction

One Day a Jewish person came to Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as), thinking that since Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb thinks he is too smart, I will ask him such a tough question that he won't be able to answer it and I will have the chance to embarrass him in front of all the Arabs.

Jewish person asked "Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb, tell me a number, that if we divide it by any number from 1-10 the answer will always come in the form of a whole number and not as a fraction."

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) looked back at him and said, "Take the number of days in a year and multiply it with the number of days in a week and you will have your answer."

The Jewish person got astonished but as he was a polytheist (Mushrik), he still didn't believe Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as). He calculated the answer Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) gave him.

To his amazement he came across the following results:

Whole Number and Not A FractionThe number of Days in a Year = 360 (in Arab)

The Number of Days in a Week = 7

The product of the two numbers = 2520


2520 1 = 2520
2520 2 = 1260
2520 3 = 840
2520 4 = 630
2520 5 = 504
2520 6 = 420
2520 7 = 360
2520 8 = 315
2520 9 = 280
2520 10= 252

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Mathematical Brilliance: Dividing 17 Camels

Dividing 17 CamelsA person was about to die, and before dying he wrote his Will which went as follows:

"I have 17 Camels, and I have three sons. Divide my Camels in such a way that my eldest son gets half of them, the second one gets 1/3rd of the total and my youngest son gets 1/9th of the total number of Camels."

After his death when the relatives read his will they got extremely perplexed and said to each other that how can we divide 17 camels like this.

So after a long hard thought they decided that there was only one man in Arabia who could help them: "Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as)."

So they all came to the door of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) and put forward their problem.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) said, "Ok, I will divide the camels as per the man's will."

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) said, "I will lend one of my camels to the total which makes it 18 (17+1=18), now lets divide as per his will."

The eldest son gets 1/2 of 18 = 9
The second one gets 1/3 of 18 = 6
The youngest gets 1/9 of 18 = 2
Now the total number of camels = 17 (9+6+2=17)

Then Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) said, "Now I will take my Camel back."

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Mathematical Brilliance: Five Loaves of Bread

Five Loaves of BreadZarr Bin Hobeish relates this story: Two travelers sat together on the way to their destination to have a meal. One had five loaves of bread. The other had three. A third traveler was passing by and at the request of the two joined in the meal.

The travelers cut each of the loaf of bread in three equal parts. Each of the travelers ate eight broken pieces of the loaf.

At the time of leaving the third traveler took out eight dirhams and gave to the first two men who had offered him the meal, and went away. On receiving the money the two travelers started quarrelling as to who should have how much of the money.

The five loaf man demanded five dirhams. The three loaf man insisted on dividing the money in two equal parts.

The dispute was brought to Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) (the Caliph of the time in Arabia) to be decided.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) requested the three loaf man to accept three dirhams, because five-loaf-man has been more than fair to you. The three loaf man refused and said that he would take only four dirhams. At this Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) replied, "You can have only one dirham." You had eight loaves between yourselves. Each loaf was broken in three parts. Therefore, you had 24 equal parts. Your three loaves made nine parts out of which you have eaten eight portions, leaving just one to the third traveler. Your friend had five loaves which divided into three made fifteen pieces. He ate eight pieces and gave seven pieces to the guest. As such the guest shared one part from your loaves and seven from those of your friend. So you should get one dirham and your friend should receive seven dirhams.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Brilliant Judgement: A Camel Shared by Three

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb's (as) Brilliant JudgementThree men shared a Camel equally. One of them tied his forelegs and went away for some work. In the meantime, the other two returned to their place of stay and untied one of the foreleg and they also went away together. The Camel in their absence, walked with one untied leg off the place where the first man had tied him and fell in a well and wounded himself by the fall. The two men returned again, saw the Camel fallen in the well, got him out somehow or other, and butchered him and sold the meat for collecting some money in view of a little compensation for the loss.

When the first partner returned, he saw the skin of the Camel. On enquiry, the two other partners told him what had happened. He took an objection to it, and rather complained against their untying the Camel which resulted in the heavy loss to him.

He then took the case to Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as), who ordered for payment of 1/3 of the actual price of the Camel to him. When the cash which was collected by selling the meat of the camel was counted it was one third of the cost price of the Camel.

This amount was paid in full to the first partner of the Camel and the other two went away empty handed.

While they were about to leave, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) told them that as they had not taken proper care for the safety of the Camel and the safeguard of their shares, whereas their first partner had by tying his two legs, hence it is their loss.

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Islamic Moral Stories is designed by Akramulla Syed Last Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2011