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A vizier had served his master for some thirty years and was known and admired for his loyalty, truthfulness and devotion to God. His honesty, however, had made him many enemies in the court, who spread stories of his duplicity and perfidy.

They worked on the Sultan day in and day out until he too came to distrust the innocent vizier and finally ordered the man who had served him so well to be put to death.

In his realm, those condemned to death were tied up and thrown into the pen where the sultan kept his fiercest hunting dogs. The dogs would promptly tear the victim to pieces.

Before being thrown to the dogs, however, the vizier asked for one last request. “I would like ten days’ respite,” he said, “so that I can pay my debts, collect any money due to me, return items people have put in my care, and share out my goods among my family and my children and appoint a guardian for them.”

After receiving a guarantee that the vizier would not try to escape, the sultan granted his request.

The vizier hurried home, collected one hundred gold pieces, then paid a visit to the huntsman who looked after the sultan’s dogs. He offered this man one hundred gold pieces and said, “Let me look after the dogs for ten days.” The huntsman agreed.

For the next ten days the vizier cared for the beasts with great attention, grooming them well and feeding them handsomely. By the end of the ten days, they were eating out of his hand.

On the eleventh day the vizier was called before the sultan, the charges were repeated, and the sultan watched as the vizier was tied up and thrown to the dogs. Yet when the beats saw him, they ran up to him with wagging tails. They nibbled affectionately at his shoulders and began playing with him.

The sultan and other witnesses were amazed, and the sultan asked the vizier why the dogs had spared his life. The vizier replied, “I have looked after these dogs for ten days. The sultan has seen the result himself. I have looked after you for thirty years, and what is the result? I am condemned to death on the strength of accusations brought by my enemies.”

The sultan blushed with shame. He not only pardoned the vizier but gave him a fine set of clothes and handed over to him the men who slandered his reputation. The noble vizier set them free and continued to treat them with kindness.

The Subtle Ruse: The Book of Arabic Wisdom and Guile, 13th Century.