The Problem of Eight Breads

The Problem of Eight Breads


Two persons while travelling on a road sat under the shade of a tree for lunch. One of them took out of his big five breads and the other took out three breads out of his bag and put them near the five breads of his companion making the total number of the breads to eight. They had not yet started eating when a third person happened to pass by them.

Invited by the first two, the third man also sat with them and shared their lunch and while departing after meal,  he gave them eight Dirhams against the share of the food he had taken with them.

After he had gone, the first two travellers started quarrelling about their portions in the eight Dirhams. One of them who had five breads claimed to have five Dirhams reasoning

that it was his due, but his companion who had three breads did not agree to such a division also reasoning that the stranger who had shared their food had not given them the eight Dirhams to them to share proportionately according to the number of breads they had. Moreover, he argued that the share of the stranger was equa1 to each of their own. Therefore, he claimed that what the stranger had given them had to be divided equally. Finally they decided to approach Hazrat Ali (A) for a decision between the two. Having heard the case Hazrat Ali (A) first advised them for a compromise and when they did not agree, particularly the one who had three breads, he solved the problem as under:


He said to the one who had three breads and had taken the case to him with the claim that half of the eight Dirhams, i.e., Four Dirhams was his due share:

“If you want a righteous decision in the case you should have only one Dirham which is your due actually. When requested to explain he enlightened him as follows:

He asked him; “Had you not had only three breads and your companion five of them ?” When he replied in the affirmative he said; “The total of the breads you both had i.e., eight divided into three bits comes to twenty four. And as you say the stranger shared your food equally he should have eaten eight bits, i.e., only one of the nine bits of your breads, seven of them eaten from other’s, that is why you should have only one Dirham for only one bit of the eight bits of breads which the stranger ate.

Feeling uneasy at the above decision of Hazrat Ali (A) the claimant who had taken the case to him agreed to the compromise he had advised for and to the offer of three Dirhams made by his companion. (Zakhaerul Uqba, p. 84, also Kafi)


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