I always found it difficult to believe what I could not see. One day, in the prime of my youth, I was out hunting when I came upon a fakeer reading the Koran. He was sitting on a little bedstead in front of a cave in a lonely place on the mountain. He had an old patched coat thrown over his shoulders.

I asked him what he was reading, and he said he was reading about Paradise. “Can you show me a glimpse of Paradise?” I asked.

“That is a very difficult, and perhaps, a dangerous thing,” he said. I promised to provide him with food for the rest of his life if he would pray to Allah to grant my request.

The fakeer spent many years on that mountain. I kept my promise to feed him, but any time I asked him about Paradise, he said, “Not yet! Not yet!” At last he became very ill, and I went to see him. He told me to come to his funeral. “After I have been buried and everyone else has left,” he said, “lay your hand upon my grave. But do not do it, I beg you!” I ignored his warnings. I had waited long enough for my glimpse of Paradise.

When I put my hand upon the grave, the earth opened, and a flight of rough steps led me down. At the bottom, I found the fakeer sitting where he always sat, on his rickety bedstead. He stood and led me along a passage. Then he stopped and drew aside a heavy curtain. I looked into the light of Paradise!

Can I tell you what I saw? No! Because by the time I had gone back up the steps, I had forgotten everything. The sun was rising, and I was standing in a different time. Seven hundred years had passed!

King Who Wants to Glimpse Paradise in The King Who Would See Paradise, Orange Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.

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