The crows had a king from amongst themselves. He was kind and generous towards them. But, when the king died, the crows quarreled and differed with regard to who would be their king after him. They envied each other and feared that hostility would erupt amongst them. Thus, some of them suggested to the others ?Come let us use our independent opinions and gather the scholars and the virtuous among us. We shall call a meeting for consultation and deliberation to find one who is best suited to become our king.”
They gathered, deliberated and decided, ?We shall not be content with a family member of the late king. We fear that he will presume that the kingdom which he possesses is an inheritance from his father and relatives, thus he will severely chastise us. If, however, we take charge over the designation of the appointee, we shall have the upper hand and he will be obliged to us.”
One of them suggested ?If this is the case, then you must select someone from the pious and the religious; such a person will perhaps not be materialistic.”
The crows asked, ?How should we go about that?”
He said to them, ?Wander about and seek one who fits this description. When you are successful in finding him, present him with the leadership.”
There was an old falcon in their neighborhood. He was too feeble to hunt. His body had become weak and his feathers had shed as he was unable to find food. He heard the news about the crows? plan. He came out of his nest and headed to where they would pass, then began to praise and glorify God and made an ostentatious display of humbling himself and being pious.
The birds approached, hovering over his head. He did not show any interest, nor did he attack them. The crows perceived him to be pious and God fearing. They discussed amongst themselves, ?we have not seen such piety and abstinence in the community of birds. Let us approach the falcon and appoint him as our ruler.”
They came to him and informed him of what they had resolved. He shrunk from this, making a show of his resistance to their offer. They persisted until he accepted. Thus he became the Caliph amongst them and their ruler. He said to himself, ?You were on your guard from misfortune, but I see that it has indeed befallen upon you!”
When he had truly gained control of them and become strong by what they brought him of sustenance-(they did this as a reward for his acceptance and for becoming their leader), his body strengthened, his feathers grew back and his health returned. He began eating a number of crows everyday and pulled out their eyes and ate their brains throwing away the rest of their bodies. He lived amongst them for a time. When his death approached he relied upon his own kind and made him ruler over them. Indeed this one was even more severe than the previous one, and inflicted more misery upon them.
The crows said to each other, ?This is a calamity that we have brought upon ourselves. Indeed we have erred.” They repented after repentance was of no use. This became the cause of enmity and confrontation amongst themselves.
Contemplate, brother, this parable and be warned in what happened in the past.
(In this parable drawn from the Ikhwan us Safa the Imam (SA) draws a parallel to the tragedy that befalls the ruled when they, by their own collective opinion, appoint a ruler and disregard the will of Allah.)