Because of Abunawas’ wits, king Harun often trapped him by giving impossible task. One of the impossible task was Teaching a Bull to Read. He wanted to know whether Abunawas was still really smart by asking him for teaching a bull. (also read : Abunawas and Six Speaking Donkeys)
“Abu, you have to go to the palace right now because the king calls you.,” said one of the guard to Abunawas.
Abunawas could not reject the king’s call so he followed the guards to the palace. When they got in front of the king’s room, other guards accompanied him to see the king in the room. After sitting there for a while he asked, “Excuse me Your Majesty, what should I do for you?”
“I want for your help, Abu. Everybody knows that you are a very smart man. Therefore, I think you can help me to teach my bull to read. If you can help me, I will give you reward. However, you cannot, I’ll punish you!”
Abunawas had no choice. He had to do what the king said. That’s why he accepted the appeal for help of the king and took the bull home. As he arrived home, he tied the bull at the palm tree behind his house.
In the next morning he went to the back yard with a rattan stick. He hit the animal again and again. The bull struggled to get loose again and again, but it couldn’t since it was tied. He kept hitting it while saying, “You, the king or me!”
He did it every morning. more and more people knew what he did, and finally the news reached to the king. King Harun was angry to hear it. He sent a guard to call Abunawas. When he came to the palace, the king admonished him.
“Abu, why don’t you give a report on your duty to me?” asked the king.
“I’m so sorry, Your Majesty. I was so busy teaching the bull to read that I forgot to give report. Every morning and afternoon I teach it to read,” answered Abunawas.
“Are you successful” asked the king.
“Nothing, Your Majesty.”
“Meanwhile I heard that you hit the bull every morning and afternoon. I ask you to teach it, not to hit. Why did you do that?” the king asked.
Abunawas kept silent.
Abunawas lifted his head and said, “I am sorry, Your Majesty. The bull is an animal. No matter how well I teach it, it won’t be able to read. I said, ‘You, the King, or me’ because I want to make the bull understand. somebody must be wrong. It may be the bull, ‘you’, the King, or me myself,” answered Abunawas.
“What do you mean by ‘somebody must be wrong’?” asked the King again.
“If the bull cannot read, one possibility is the bull is wrong. It is too foolish! The second possibility is the King is wrong. He knows that animal cannot read, but he orders me to teach it to read. The third possibility, I am wrong because I cannot teach an animal to read, The judge must decide on these three possibilities,” answered Abunawas.
The King was silent. He realized that his order was really impossible to do. Abunawas had shown it in his own unique way.
“Why did you hit the bull? You can say the three words without hitting it,” asked the king. Now he spoke more calmly.
“I think every judge will not dare to say that the king is wrong. Therefore, I hit the bull with the hope that it will die soon. When it dies, there will be no more problem for me. I don’t have to teach it to read and you cannot punish me,” Abunawas answered politely.
“You are right, Abu . i take my order back. As reward, you can have the bull. You can sell it, keep it, or slaughter it, but don’t hit it,” said the king.