The poor man and KHIZR

Once upon a time there was a king whose reign was beset by trouble and who longed and prayed for a vision of Khizr. Now Khizr was a wise and saintly man who had drunk of the Water of Life, which meant that he would live on and on to the Day of Judgment. When the people of the land were in trouble they would call upon Khizr and he would often appear to them, all dressed in green, to comfort and guide them. The king thought that if only he could see Khizr there might be an end to his difficulties. He therefore proclaimed that if any one of his subjects could show him Khizr he would reward him with anything for which he cared to ask.

Now, among the king’s subjects was a poor man who had fallen badly into debt and could see no way out of it. He grieved for his wife and family and feared that they would have to go hungry. When he heard of the king’s offer, he went to the palace and said: ‘Your majesty, give me but one thousand tumans and I will show you Khizr’.

The king gave orders that the man should be paid the money, but made the condition that if after forty days he had failed in his undertaking he would be executed. The poor man readily agreed to his arrangement and returned home with the money. He paid all his debts, gave his wife what she needed and then, saying no more, settled down to see what fate would bring.

When the forty days had passed he explained to his wife how he had come by the money which had retrieved their fortunes, and broke the news to her that he was shortly to lose his head. ‘But,’ he added, ‘I am content. My debts are paid, my family are provided for. What does it matter if now if now I am put to death?’ He thereupon took his leave of his sorrowing wife and presented himself at the palace to fulfil his side of the bargain.

‘Well,’ said the king upon seeing the poor man once again, ‘the forty days have expired. Am I going to see Khizr?’
‘Your majesty,’ said the man. ‘Could you really have believed that I, a poor, ordinary man could summon up Khizr? I was in debt, my family was destitute, I did not know where to turn. Your thousand tumans have paid my debts and saved my family. I have now come to fulfil my side of the bargain. I know I must be executed’.

This was a situation, which the king had never before encountered and he was uncertain as to how he should proceed. He therefore called his four viziers to him to take counsel of them. As the viziers grouped themselves around the king an aged man also entered the audience chamber and stood quietly watching the proceedings.

‘Viziers,’ said the king, ‘counsel me as to what I should do with this man’.

The first vizier stepped forward and said: ‘If his flesh were cut into strips with a tailor’s scissors it would be no more than he deserves’. Then the second vizier spoke up: ‘I would put him in a baker’s oven and let him cook until there was nothing left of him. That is what I would do with the rascal’. The third vizier added: ‘I would take a razor and cut him into little pieces. Even that would be to good for him’. But the fourth vizier said: ‘Your majesty, the man has played fairly. I would be inclined to set him up with some money and property so that he might start his life anew’.

The king listened to them all and then espied the aged man standing in the background. ‘Come along old man,’ he called, ‘and let me hear too what you have to say’.
‘What I have to say is this,’ said the old man, ‘it is clear that your first vizier was a tailor, for his mind runs to scissors. The second vizier was evidently a baker, for he thinks of ovens. As for the third, he must surely have been a barber, with his talk of razors. The fourth, however, is not bent on punishment but on helping to rebuild a useful life; he obviously comes from a long line of viziers. The poor man was in despair when he came to you and he was willing to lose his head to save his wife and family. And now see, he has brought you a vision of Khizr’.

And so saying, the speaker entirely vanished, for it was in truth a vision of Khizr that the king had seen.

The king thereupon took the advice of the fourth vizier, who had pleaded for mercy and charity, and bestowed upon the poor man a house and some money with which to set himself up again. As for the other three viziers, he drove them from his counsel and his palace forever.