Permission to use "The Dog at the Well" in this curriculum granted by Marilyn McFarlane, author of Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions (Sibyl Publications, 1996).
One day Muhammad told his friends and followers a story about a thirsty man, a well, and a dog. This was the story:
A man left his home to take a long journey. It was a hot day, and he had not walked far before his head began to ache and his mouth felt dry. The sun blazed overhead, the fields he passed were brown and withered, and no water could be seen.
"I'm so thirsty. I must find water," he muttered. "Surely I will soon come to a well."
Just as he had the thought, he saw a well by the side of the road. Thankfully, he hurried to it, almost tasting the sweetness of the cool water that lay in its depths. But when he peered into the well, he saw no water. The well was dry. Disheartened, and even more thirsty now, he continued along the scorching road, hoping to find another well. Sure enough, before long he saw one. "At last, water!" he whispered, looking into the well. But it too was dry.
There wasn't a drop of moisture in the land. With a parched throat and feeling weak, the man walked on. "I can't go much further without water," he thought. And then he saw a well. Almost afraid to hope, he looked over the edge. Far below, in the darkness, water sparkled.
"Allah be praised!" the man said. He looked around for a rope and bucket to lower into the well so he could bring up the life-giving water. There was no rope, no bucket. How could he reach the water he needed so badly?
Only one way remained. If the water would not come up to him, he would have to go down to it. He scrambled over the top and carefully, bracing himself against the sides with his arms and feet, descended into the well. Deeper and deeper he went, until at last he touched the cool, wet water. Cupping his hands, he scooped the water and drank and drank. He murmured, "Praise Allah for the liquid of life."
Feeling much better, the man began the long, difficult climb up out of the well. At last he reached the top and stood again on the road under the hot sun. He was starting to walk away when he heard a sound—a soft, sad whine. He looked down and saw a dog, sniffing at the ground. The dog looked miserable. His eyes were glazed, and he was panting with thirst. He came up to the man and licked the edge of his robe, which was wet from the trip down the well.
"This poor animal is as thirsty as I was," the man thought. "He'll die in this heat if he doesn't get water."
The dog looked up at the man and wagged his tail, grateful for the bit of moisture.
The man made his decision. "Wait here," he said. "I will bring you some water."
Into the well he went. Again he descended down, down, all the way to the bottom where the cool liquid lay. When he got there, the man braced himself against the walls of the well and took off his soft leather boots. He dipped one boot and then the other into the water and filled them. He clamped the tops of the boots between his teeth and began to climb up again.
This time the trip to the top was much harder. The heavy, water-filled boots pulled on his mouth, and his teeth hurt. Once the slick, wet leather slipped, and he almost dropped the boots, but he tightened his grip and held on. Slowly he kept climbing until he reached the top.
When he was on the ground again, he knelt and opened the boots so the dog could drink. The dog drank all the water in both boots, his tail wagging happily.
The man smiled. "Now neither of us will die of thirst," he said. He pulled on his damp boots, patted the dog again, and continued on his way.
Allah was pleased by this kind act. He was so pleased that all the man's past sins were forgiven, and years later, when the kind man died, his soul was taken to heaven.
The blessed prophet Muhammad concluded his story by saying, "You too will be rewarded for being good to all living creatures."