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The Old Man and the Fig Tree

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 18.02.2006:

One day, Caliph Harun went out riding. In the fields he saw a very old fellah planting a fig tree. Surprised to see a man who was planting a tree for fruit from which he could hardly hope to eat, he approached the man. “Inshalla,” the old man said, “if I might not taste the fruit of this tree, my sons might do, just as I have eaten the fruit of the trees planted by my father.” The Caliph asked how old he was and the greybeard replied: “One hundred and seven.” “Well, if you do really live to eat fruit from this tree, be sure and let me know.”

Several years passed and the Caliph forgot the whole affair. One day he got the message that an old fellah wanted to see him and give him a basket of figs. Harun was astonished to find the same fellah who was planting a fig tree years ago. He received the gift most graciously and treated the old man like a king. For each fig he gave him a golden dinar, and then sent him away. The Caliph’s son Mamum asked his father why he treated this simple peasant so well. Harun explained his son that because Allah had obviously honoured this man, he was bound to do the same.

When the old fellah returned to his village, he told everybody his amazing story. Hearing this, his neighbour’s wife became very jealous and sent her husband to the Caliph’s palace to do the same. But instead of getting golden dinars, he was pelted by his own fruit.

From: “Sahteen: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating”, published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, part of the Culture and Palestine series issued by the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows, Bethlehem, 1999. To order the book, send a mail to

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