It is the wonderful season of the pomegranate. The fruit that bound the Greek goddess Persephone to the Underworld, even though her mother Demeter had at last located her. I can’t remember where I found this story, but in Afghanistan, the pomegranate, anar, is often called the fruit of heaven.
Once there was a young girl who heard of the Fruit of Heaven and wanted it. She yearned to hold the hard red ball in her hand and test its roundness. Her teeth craved the crimson seeds that were said to sprout enlightenment. She longed to taste the sweet, astringent juice that would purge hatred and envy. At last, she decided to seek out a certain dervish named Sabar.
She found him in his garden, not far from a small, thorny, leafless tree. Sabar sat cross-legged on a rock in the tree’s one patch of shade, smiling to himself under his shaggy beard.
“Excuse me,” said the girl. “How can I find the Fruit of Heaven so that I can attain knowledge of God and all perfect and prosperous truths?”
The dervish shrugged and peered at her through half-closed eyes. “You would be best advised to study with me and that will take many years. But if you won’t, you will have to travel resolutely and at times restlessly around the world.”
He picked a scab of dirt from between his toes, smiled and shut his eyes again. The girl frowned, cracked her knuckles and shifted anxiously from foot to foot. There had to be an easier way to find the Fruit of Heaven. The quest for truth might be hard, but at least it ought to be entertaining and gratifying and to this girl that meant quick.
She thanked Sabar and left him to seek another dervish called Arif the Wise One.
Arif told her the same thing and again, she refused to study. She went on and next she found Hakim the Sage.
“You must be patient,” said Hakim. “You must think clearly and observe carefully and those skills take many years to learn.”
The girl sighed, thanked him and went next door to visit Mujzub the Mad. Mujzub the Mad waggled his finger at her, whirled and twirled on his toes, and when she made her request, he laughed. He was rolling on the floor with laughter, tears streaming down his face, when the girl retreated.
Then she found Alim the Scientist, but he gave her the same answer as Hakim, Arif and Sabar. She began to suspect these crazy dervishes had no idea what they were talking about and didn’t really know the whereabouts of the Fruit of Heaven anyway. Although she felt discouraged, still the girl was convinced there must be an easy solution. And, of course, the more the fruit eluded her, the more she wanted it.
So she continued. Round and round the world she traveled, resolutely and at times restlessly. She hardly noticed how long she’d been searching, until one day, she came to a garden and there stood the Tree of Heaven, golden and shimmering, quaking and quivering with the weight of justice, the burden of answers. And from its branches hung the bright, red, gleaming Fruit of Heaven.
The girl, who was by now a grown woman, stared dumbfounded and dazzled. She was even more astonished to see, beneath the tree, holding a hoe and a bucket of water, old Sabar, the first dervish.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were the custodian of the Fruit of Heaven? she demanded. “Why didn’t you say the tree was right here all along.”
“You would not have believed it. The tree was invisible to you,” Sabar said flicking the dirt from between his toes. “Besides, it produces fruit only once every thirty years and thirty days. You are blessed that Allah guided you back here now.”