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Home Articles Articles Donkeys fit for Prophets, Saints, and Kings

Donkeys fit for Prophets, Saints, and Kings

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He is meek, he is humble, and this is demonstrated by his riding a donkey or a mule.

When Abraham took his son to the mountain to worship, he rode a donkey (Genesis 22:3). Moses put his wife and sons on a donkey and started back for Egypt (Exodus 4:19-21). In Judges, one judge said that he had 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys - they were the rulers of 30 towns during the time prior to the kingdom. When the elderly Prophet-King David knew that death was near, he had to name his successor.

"Summon to me the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada." When they came before the king, the king said to them, "Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel; then blow the trumpet, and say, 'Long live King Solomon!'"

Bible - 1 Kings 1:32-34

This is why, in later times, those who foretold the coming of a new King, a Messiah, to assume the throne of David, always had that King riding into Jerusalem on a donkey - as David did of old.

ON PALM SUNDAY the mob that thronged the streets of Jerusalem

cried "Hosanna to the son of David!" and "Hosanna! Save us!" as Jesus made his triumphal entry into the city riding a donkey. The urbane citydwellers of first-century Jerusalem, and their Roman overlords, might have been amused by this somewhat comical sight... but those among them who knew their history would not have missed the symbolism. When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He sent a very clear signal - He is King, but not of the worldly sort. He would not rule through domination, but only when invited by godly people.

HAATTIB BIN ABI BALTAA', the sage, was sent as head of a delegation with a letter from the Holy Prophet Muhammed s.a. to Maqawqis, the King of 

Letter to Maqawqis

Egypt and Head of the Coptic church, to invite him to Islam. Hattib was received well by the Copt, and treated with great respect. He asked many questions about the Holy Prophet s.a. to see if he fulfilled the signs of the coming of the Seal of the Prophets. He asked about his family and descent, and they confirmed that he was of the most noble line. He asked if they had experienced his Haqq, or Truth, and they confirmed that he always gave the Truth and was known as al-amin, or "The Trustworthy" by both those who loved him and his enemies. Maqawqis commented that such a man cannot then give a lie about God. He then asked what sort of people followed him. They replied that it was mostly the poor and oppressed. Maqawqis commented that the followers of Prophets were mostly poor to start with. He asked them what the Jews thought of him, they said that they were mostly his bitterest opponents. Maqawqis commented that they opposed him out of jealousy and envy as they were expecting their messiah to be from them. Maqawqis confirmed that the Holy Prophet was in the tradition of all the earlier prophets, and that whoever heard his message, should submit to him. Maqawqis pondered on this for many days, and on the letter sent to him by the Holy Prophet s.a.. Although he was in little doubt that Muhammed was the

Letter from Maqawqis

 expected Seal of the Prophet's he could not openly declare his belief in him, as his reply showed. When Haattib and the delegation returned to Medina, they recounted what had taken place, and read Maqawqis?s letter to him, the Holy Prophet s.a. simply replied: "He has not accepted Islam for fear of his rulership, but his rulership and authority will come to and end."

The gifts Maqawqis sent included two sisters who were hand-maidens of Maqawqis. The first named Mariyya Qibtiyah later married the Holy Prophet s.a. and was Mother of his son Ibrahim, and Sirrin, who married Hassan bin Thabit. There was also a thousand dinars of gold, twenty suites of clothing, and a curious white mule, called Dul-Dul, the like of which had never been seen before in the Arabian peninsula.

The Holy Prophet s.a. accepted these symbolic tokens from the Coptic leader Maqawqis, despite his refusal to openly declare his belief in Muhammed s.a. The early morning sky was still grey and the sun not yet risen, when the Holy Prophet rode Dul-Dul, his chosen mount, onto the field of battle at Badr, in full panoply, as he had done on the day of Uhud. Glorious victory was to be theirs, but when he became aware that some of the believers were falling back from the fight, he rode Dul- Dul across to his uncle, Abbas, who courageously called them back to fight on, and to victory. 

MUSLIM SAINTS and mystics use the symbolism of the donkey representing the ego to explain to the unenlightened how the awrad, or practices can be used to train the beast of burden to carry the murid to their spiritual stations.

Saint Nasruddin Hodja used humour throughout his life to teach with. There are only a few established facts about Nasreddin Hodja. He was born in a small village near Sivrihisar and later settled in Aksehir in Turkey, where he lies buried. The interesting date 386 was found on a gravestone. 

Mulla Nasrudin riding a donkey backwards

Considering the humour of riding his donkey backwards, the date was read backwards, i.e. 683. This date in the hijra calendar corresponds to the year 1284. Other documents also supports him dying in Aksehir in this year. The village of Hortu near the town of Sivrihisar is the birthplace of the Hodja, where a gravestone dated 1327, belongs to his daughter Fatima, and indicates that she lived for 43 years after his death. His grave has huge ornate wrought iron gates with a massive padlock on them. But if you intend to pay him a visit, you needn?t be discouraged by the locked gates. His mausoleum has no walls!

One day, one of Mullah Nasruddin's friend came over and wanted to borrow his donkey for a day or two. Mullah, knowing his friend, was not kindly inclined to the request, and came up with the excuse that someone had already borrowed his donkey. Just as Mullah uttered these words, his donkey started braying in his backyard. Hearing the sound, his friend gave him an accusing look, to which Mullah replied: "I refuse to have any further dealings with you since you take a donkey's word over mine."

Royal Donkeys!

Queen Victoria's love for donkeys apparently influenced their driving potential in England. She had a special preference for them in her later years and it is known that at this time she owned at least three. One of these, a brown

Queen Victoria in a donkey carriage

 donkey named 'Jacquot', she bought from a peasant whom she saw driving him in a cart when visiting Aix-les Bains in 1887 and she promptly decided that in future this should form her mode of transport.

Jacquot became a great favourite and travelled everywhere with Queen Victoria. This greatly astonished the inhabitants of Italy who felt, when she visited their country in 1895 and took her donkey with her, that it was an insufficiently impressive equipage for a Queen and Empress!

This carriage, however, continued to be her chosen conveyance for in addition to Jacquot she owned a white donkey which she took to both France, as well as to Dublin, the year before her death. Mostly, however, Queen Victoria used her donkeys for excursions in the grounds of her estates at Windsor, Balmoral and Osborne on the Isle of Wight but, unknown to the Queen, this caused two of her ladies-in-waiting to record in their diaries that the effort of keeping up, when walking alongside was extremely tiring.

Queen Victoria's liking for donkeys continued with her family for her son, King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales owned a giant white donkey stallion which was exhibited at Islington Show and there is a photograph in the royal archives of her granddaughter, the Princess Victoria, driving a donkey at Windsor accompanied by her sister, the Princess Maud.Royal interest in donkeys undoubtedly made its mark on society, for after Queen Victoria's death in 1901 the fashion for driving them increased and there is scarcely an album of family photographs compiled during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods that does not include several with donkeys harnessed to gigs, governess carts and small phaetons.

One well-known lady driver of donkeys was the banking heiress, Miss (later the Baroness) Angela Burdett-Coutts who, although she owned a large stud in north London which bred thoroughbred horses and hackneys, entered a smart pair of donkeys harnessed to a miniature waggonette at the 1865 Islington Show.

From singles, people soon became more adventurous, pairs and one or two tandems making their appearance. Four-in-hands too have been used from time to time and make a splendid sight.

Was Queen Victoria's inspiration with donkey's in her closing years just a royal whim, or did she appreciate their symbolism, and their link with the traditions of the Prophet's and Davidian Kings of Israel? As the most powerful ruler in the world, was she aware the history of the humble white donkey?

 

 

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