Once upon a time there lived a kind hearted king named Salem who had a son eminent for his wisdom, piety and strength. The Prince was idealized in the whole region; kings and queens of the adjoining countries desired him to be married with their daughters.
When the Prince reached at the age of twenty-five, the ideal age to be married for a bachelor in that country, the king asked his son to look for a life partner. Though, the king willed his son to be wedded with the daughter of his friend, Shams Uddin, another king of the neighboring country, yet he wanted not to impose his own pronouncement on his son.
To the astonishment of the king, one day the Prince said, “Father! I have a question to the girls who may be interested in getting married with me, and whoever is able to give a satisfactory answer to it will be selected as your daughter-in-law.” The king, at first was really astounded to listen his son’s strange proposal to select a wife but soon approved as he had confidence in the wisdom of his son. So, it was publicized not only in their own country but also in the bordering countries that if the question of the Prince were answered satisfactorily, whoever the answering girl might be would be the spouse of the Prince. Almost all the girls in the country were excited to endeavor their luck to be the life companion of the well liked Prince.
A week later on Sunday, all the spinsters, from the daughters of the kings to the daughters of the poor people, who craved to marry the Prince assembled in the palace of the king to try their fate and intelligence. When the Prince appeared to ask the question, most of the girls even forgot to breath seeing the arresting look of the Prince. The Prince pronounced loudly but in a well-mannered way, “Respected lords and ladies, I want my wife to be truthful, wise and god-fearing, and I have a question to find out the one who has all these qualities. What matters me is the inner status of the girl not the outer, so whoever answers my question would be selected as my wife. Now may I have your kind attention to my question please?” Thus, the Prince cleared his throat and said, “Who is the most beautiful as well as the most sinful person in the world and where do we see him or her?” He repeated the question several times so that everyone in the court might listen and understand it well. Then he said, “you have a week to come up with your answers and we will listen the answers right here in front of all the people the next Sunday. Thank you for coming by.” With this the crowd of girls disbanded.
It is said that all the young girls of the country rushed towards the public libraries to read books. All the bookshops even the wheelbarrows of the street hawkers where books could be found were ransacked to find out wisdom of the dead or dying ones. Anything that had been bound or had the remotest resemblance with a book was purchased and gone through thoroughly. People arranged special study rooms and tutors for their daughters to read or to be taught books of philosophy, literature, history and so on to find out a suitable answer to the question of the Prince. Girls read books with such concentration as if they were to appear in CSS exam the very other day.
On that appointed Sunday, the king had to deploy three hundred special armed guards to ensure discipline in the court as the number of girls rushing towards the court portrayed as if there were a big Mina-bazar fair in the court. When everyone including the royal family was settled to listen the answers, the girls were given chance one by one to publicly share their answers so loud that the people sitting and surrounded could listen them clearly. The very first girl who stood up to share her answer was the daughter of the king, the friend of the Prince’s father. She said, “I think the most beautiful person was Hazrat Yousaf who with his beauty cut the fingers of the women of Syria off and the most sinful person was Pharaoh who claimed himself to be God.” Everyone was impressed by such an eloquent answer but the Prince remained unmoved. Another lady stood up and said, “Your highness! In my opinion Hellen of Troy was the most beautiful person in the world and she herself was the most sinful person because due to her the glory of Troy was destroyed.” The Prince smiled but remained silent. Someone said, “Lady Una and Archimago” another said, “Desdemona and Iago” and so on. When all the bookish wisdom of the ladies ended the Prince stood up and said, “Ladies and gentlemen all those who are sharing stories of the past are not likely to be right because the person is supposed to be alive and a real human being not a fictitious one as Archimago or a person long dead.” There fell a complete silence of dismay as nobody had the answer. The Prince waited for a while and when found the mob of girls silent he turned to leave signaling the guards to send them back respectfully. People were about to leave when they heard a feeble voice almost trembling somewhere from the threshold of the court as the court was jam packed with girls. “Your highness I think I can suggest an answer.” Said the voice.
The Prince turned to look who she was and for the surprise of all, found that she was the daughter of the poor farmer in the nearby village. She was given way through the crowd of beautiful girls and when she reached almost at the center of the court and was audible to all, she cleared her throat and spoke, “My lord! I think it is mirror you are talking about.” “What!!” Exclaimed all except the Prince. “Would you like to elaborate a bit if you don’t mind?” Demanded the Prince. “Yes your highness, when I look in the mirror I see my own reflection in it and I find myself the most beautiful and the most sinful person in the world as no one ever knows better the sins of mine than I myself know them. The distance between truth and lie is only four inches… I mean, the distance between our eyes and ears. Whatever is received through our eyes is truth and whatever is received through our ears is likely to be a lie. Of others’ sin I have just heard and possibly be untrue because I have not seen them sinning but in my case I myself am the eye witness of all my sins. Secondly, your highness…” She continued, “…I also have the misconception of myself being the most beautiful person in the world if it were not so I would never be satisfied with the face I possess and would never spend hours standing in front of mirror and I hope everyone sitting here thinks and does the same. In short, it is I who am the most beautiful as well as the most sinful person for me in the world and I can see myself only in the mirror. I wish I could have the vision to see the sinner in the mirror and expiate rather than feel proud by seeing the beautiful girl in it.” When she finished her long speech, some drops of tear rolled down her beautiful cheeks without her being aware. Everyone in the court had tears in their eyes as they all stood up to applaud her but nobody could judge whether the tears in their eyes were due to the pleasure of the girl’s winning the Prince or they were crying remembering their own sins. Then the Prince silently moved forward bent on his knees took her hands in his own hands and lowering his eyes said with a great respect, “My princess will you marry me please?” “Yes my lord!” said she wiping her tears off her cheeks with her sleeves, and there came the roar of applause louder than before….