It happened once upon a time that Mullah Nasruddin was appointed to sit as the judge in his village. On the first day that he held court, a man appeared before him, and asked, “Mullah, what is the law? If the animal of one man kills the animal of another man, is the owner of the first animal required to pay for the loss?”
Nasruddin looked carefully at the man, and thought for a minute. He knew the man – he was a neighbour, and in the Mullah’s opinion, a very shifty, dishonest person. “Well,” said the Mullah, “that depends. What are the details?”
The man covered his face in what appeared to be an attempt to show deep feeling. “A dog has killed a sheep,” he said sombrely.
“Yes?” said the Mullah. “Whose dog and whose sheep?”
“Alas, Mullah, alas. My dog and your sheep.”
“Well,” said the Mullah, “according to Holy Scripture, animals are a lower level of creation, without moral responsibility. Therefore, the weight of their actions falls upon the shoulders of their human owner.”
“So, the owner of the dog must pay for the sheep,” said the man.
“According to religious law, yes.”
“Thank you, Mullah. Oh, and did I say it was my dog and your sheep? Forgive me, it was a mistake. I meant, YOUR dog and MY sheep.”
Nasruddin sat back and stroked his beard. “This seems to be a much more complicated case than I thought,” he said. He hauled a thick volume from a bookshelf. “I reserve judgement until next month.”