Let's do the math

by Volker Weber

A person was about to die, and before dying he wrote his will which went as follows...

"I have 17 camels, and I have 3 sons. Divide my camels in such a way, that my eldest son gets half of them, the second one gets 1/3rd of the total and my youngest son gets 1/9th of the total number of camels".

After his death when the relatives read his will they got extremely perplexed and said to each other that how can we divide 17 camels like this?!!, so after a long and hard thought they decided that there was only one man in Arabia who could help them, so they all came to the door of Imam Ali and put forward their dilemma.

Ali said, "Ok, I will divide the camels as per the man's will.. I will lend one of my camels to the total which makes it 18 (17 + 1 = 18), now lets divide as per his will".

The eldest gets 1/2 of 18 = 9
The second one gets 1/3 of 18 = 6
and the youngest gets 1/9 of 18 = 2

The total number of camels (9 + 6 + 2) = 17, Ali said then, "Now I will take my camel back".

Imam Ali? Yes, Imam Ali. There is not one building like this west of the Atlantic.


How is the dead man's will served?

The eldest son was willed 8.5 camels
The second was willed 5.6666 camels
The youngest was willed 1.888 camels

All the "temporary" camel provided was a vehicle for "rounding up". The man's will didn't say anything about "rounding up", so the children all got more than was willed to them. This isn't mathematical genius, it's a 1000 year old example of "fudging the numbers".


Jeff Chausse, 2004-08-20

Jeff, I disagree. There is theoretical math and then there is practical math. Practically, the sons were t an impasse, and Ali helped them out of it. It was not whether he was a mathmatical genius that matters, but that he was a wise and practical man.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2004-08-20

The Problem lies in the will of the old man.
1/3 plus 1/2 plus 1/9 sinply is not equal to 1. He just didn't tell what to do with the rest.

wolfgangf, 2004-08-20

you were not Arabs, eh? what do you know about camels?
One good camel is much better than three bad camels.

Robert Imam Basar, 2004-08-21

Clearly, the man's daughter got cheated out of the 0.944444 camel that was left to her.


Richard Schwartz, 2004-08-23

Anybody else who forgot the judgment of Solomon? :-)

Volker Weber, 2004-08-23

The main problem with a 0.94444~ camel is, that it's missing an inch, or two... :)


Karsten W. Rohrbach, 2004-08-23

Imam Ali (PBUH) was the most learned man of the age. He was a living encyclopedia of knowledge. The holy Prophet (PBUH&HF) said, "If I am the City of Knowledge, verily Ali is the Gate of it." He was the first person to have learned the Holy Qur'an by heart. He possessed a prodigious memory and he was a keen observer; he was a deep thinker; he had an enlightened mind and he carried a vast storehouse of knowledge He was a versatile genius and he exhibited extraordinary talents in all disciplines of knowledge. He was a master of philosophy and rhetoric. He was a distinguished poet. He was a great teacher and preacher. His knowledge extended to such disciplines as logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine and history.

Shubair Hyder, 2005-03-19

"Ali was so popular even among the non-Muslims that when he died, all the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians of Kufa, particularly their women and children who were personally looked after by Ali, lamented his death and wept as one does for one’s father. Mourning was observed even in Jerusalem and the Lord Bishop also could not restrain his tears."(Prof. M. G. Reynold’s Book on Islam, Chapter 3.)

Uzair Hyder, 2005-03-19

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