It was during the times when Hazrat Ali (A.S.) was the caliph of the Muslim Ummah. One day accompanied by his slave Qamber, he went to the cloth bazaar in Kufa. They stopped at one shop, and Ali (A.S.) requested to see some clothes. The shopkeeper recognized him and said “Oh Ameer-al- Mu’mineen! (Master of the faithful) I have and can offer you what you want.”
On noticing that he had already been recognized, Hazrat Ali (A.S.) withdrew from that shop without any deal.
Both then proceeded and stopped at another shop run by a young man. From him Hazrat Ali (A.S.) purchased two clothes, one costing three dirham and the other two. He gave the more expensive one of three dirhams to Qamber and retained the cheaper one of lower quality for himself. On seeing this, Qamber objected saying that the better quality cloth would befit him better since Ali (A.S.) was going on the pulpit to deliver Khutbas (sermons). To this Ali (A.S.) argued that the better grade cloth should be worn by Qamber who was younger and was more desirous of attractions. Besides, Ali (A.S.) added, that he had heard the Prophet recommending to them to clothe and feed their slaves the same way as they did for themselves.
From this story, three things are noteworthy:
1. That those in high posts in government should be careful not to take advantage of their positions in matters of personal interests. At if Hazrat Ali (A.S.) by withdrawing from that first shopkeeper wanted to convey to him that the one who desired to purchase cloth was not the Caliph of the country but Ali bin Abi Talib in his personal capacity. The shopkeeper addressed him as Amir-al-Mu’mineen hence he went away without making a deal.
2. The Islamic Shariah has prescribed special and equitable rights for slaves who must receive consideration as human beings. Hence Hazrat Ali (A.S.) was putting this teaching into practice and setting an invaluable example.
3. That Islam has given consideration within limits to the natural desire of younger people to make themselves attractive. In giving better cloth to Qambar, Hazrat Ali (A.S.) wanted to make him feel happy.
Were men of high positions in public institutions today to serve the interests of the people only without misusing their positions for personal gains, people would enjoy better prosperity and peace in the world.