In his will, he wrote expressed orders that his valuable property should be divided as follows:
He bestowed 1/2 of his property to his eldest son, 1/3 of his property to his second son and 1/9 of his property to his youngest son.
The sons were in a predicament wondering how to divide seventeen camels into one-half, one-third and one-ninth parts. They decided to visit another merchant, a very successful business man to ask for his interpretation on their dilemma. The man looked at the will and said that he was sure the father meant camel meat instead of the camels themselves. He suggested them to slaughter the camels and divide the meat among themselves. They were not satisfied by his answer.
They continue to ponder and then they decided to visit yet another of their father’s friend. The young man, also a merchant, suggested them to sale the camels and to share among themselves the sum of money from the sale. The three sons were not content with his answer either and decided to leave.
Feeling that they were running out of options, they decided to visit an old holy wise man said to live outside of the city walls, to ask for his insight and advice.
The old sage patiently heard the story with half of his eyes closed. After they finished, the old man finally spoke:
“I am on old man; I only have one possession which is my own camel. Even needing it for my daily activities, I will gladly give it to the three of you. “
“Add my camel to yours and now how many camels do you have?”
“Eighteen camels,” they all said.
“Good,” the Wise Man said.
He looked at the eldest son and said, “Your share is half the total camels – half of eighteen works out to be nine – so take your nine camels and go.”
Then he looked at the second son, “Your share is one third the total camels – one third of eighteen works out to be six – so take your six camels.”
Finally he looked at the youngest son, “Your share is one ninth the total camels – one ninth of eighteen works out to be two – so take your two camels.”