Once upon a time, there was a gardener who worked for a sultan. One winter day, he found a large peach, the size of an orange, hanging from the peach tree. He was amazed at the sight because it was not the season for peaches to grow.
As the sultan was strolling around the garden, the gardener came to him and said:
“Your Majesty, come look at this marvelous creation!”
The sultan went with him to look at that unusual peach and then said:
“Take good care of it. Once it ripens, bring it to me.”
The gardener brought a pillow and a rug, laid them down under the tree and began to guard the peach.
Day and night, his eyes were glued to the peach. Even his lunch and dinner were brought to him there.
Then One day, an eagle landed on the tree, broke its branches, and smashed the peach.
The gardener ran quickly to the sultan and told him what had happened. The sultan went to see the broken tree. He looked at the eagle and said:
“As you sow, so shall you reap.”
“You reap what you sow.”
The gardener was astonished at the words of the sultan:
“How can an eagle reap what it sows?” he wondered, laughing at the sultan. “Will God punish it as He does a human being? What kind of sultan says such a thing?”
A while later, as he was working in the garden, he suddenly heard a noise. When he went to see what it was, he found an enormo us snake, the size of a tree log, swallowing that eagle. The eagle was helplessly flapping its wings trying to escape the grip of the snake, but the snake kept swallowing it bit by bit and finally gulped it down. Then, the snake stealthily slid down the tree to the ground and went away.
The gardener was astounded and ran quickly to the sultan to tell him what he had seen.
The sultan looked toward the snake and said:
“As you sow, so shall you reap.”
“You reap what you sow.”
“What is wrong with him?” muttered the gardener to himself. “Shall the snake be punished for what it did as well? All that snakes do is hunt and swallow their prey! Will it be punished for feeding itself?” The gardener began to think poorly of the sultan.
A few days passed, allowing the gardener to forget the matter.
One day, while he was plowing the earth, the plow suddenly struck something that felt like flesh. The gardener turned up the ground and found that the plow had struck that snake’s nest. The blow had cut off the snake’s head.
The gardener put the decapitated head in a box and took it to the sultan.
“Who killed it?” exclaimed the sultan.
“Your Majesty, this is the snake that killed the eagle. While I was plowing the earth, I hit its head and cut it off.” answered the gardener.
“As you sow, so shall you reap.” replied the sultan.
“You reap what you sow.” replied the sultan.
“Shall I also reap what I sow?” the gardener thought. “For killing a snake? The enemy of human beings? This sultan must have gone senile. How can such a man be the ruler of a country? Things are sure to go well for his people.“ he muttered sarcastically.
The gardener kept reminiscing about the incident for days, laughing whenever he remembered the sultan’s words.
As time passed, he started to forget the matter.
One day, the sultan’s wife decided to go out strolling in the garden with her daughters and servants. The sultan’s valet came to alert the gardeners of the women’s arrival so that they could all leave.
However, our fellow was working in an enclosed and faraway place in the garden. He heard nothing of the valet’s warning, and the other gardeners forgot about him.
While he was working, he started to hear women talking, playing, laughing and singing. He realized that the sultan’s women were there.
The gardener didn’t know where to hide or where to run. Suddenly the garden was full of women left and right. Wherever he turned, he found them running around. He saw a tall tree, climbed it and hid among its branches.
As it so happened, there was a pool right under the tree he was hiding in. The girls started rushing towards that pool, getting ready to swim. They started to take off their clothes and plunge into the water. Each one followed the other, diving, playing in the water, yelling and laughing.
Suddenly, one of the girls saw the man’s shadow in the water. She lifted her head and saw the gardener holding onto the branch and watching the spectacle as if he were sitting in the first row of a theater.
As soon as the girl started yelling, the others jumped out of the water scared. They covered themselves with their safsaris and ran away. The guards, hearing the screams, came running:
“What is it, my lady?” asked the guard.
“Look at this shameless man hiding in the tree and watching us from above!” cried the woman.
They brought him down, beat him up and led him to prison.
At night, the sultan’s wife told him what had happened.
The next morning, he went to the court.
The verdict came at once for the gardener to be hanged. They dressed him in a qashabiya, shaved his head and led him to prison.
As is the custom, the man sentenced to hanging was asked what he wished for.
“I wish to talk to the sultan.” said the gardener.
They took him to the sultan to whom he said:
“Your Majesty, you have sentenced me to the gallows.”
“Yes.” answered the sultan.
“I have been wronged!” exclaimed the gardener. He told the sultan exactly what had happened.
“The verdict has been given.” answered the sultan coldly.
“As you sow, so you shall reap.” declared the gardener.
“You reap what you sow,” declared the gardener.
“What are you talking about?” asked the sultan.
“You said the eagle who broke the peach tree shall reap what it had sown and so it was eaten by the snake. You said that I shall reap what I had sown for killing the snake. Now, for ordering to kill me unjustly, you shall also reap what you sow. You are indeed a sultan in this life. However, there is a greater sultan who rules us both, and God shall judge us both justly.”
Angrily, the sultan commanded, “Take him out of my sight!”