A Story From: Iran
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs.
THE KING OF PERSIA was troubled. His people cried out for hunger and the land had been parched for too long. Enemies pounded at their borders and bandits attacked their travelers. The king longed for a visit from the Wizard Khizr, a magical figure known to mysteriously appear at times of trouble to give comfort and guidance. “If ever there was a time for the Wizard Khizr to appear, this is it!” exclaimed the king.
Desperate, the king announced a proclamation. Anyone who could show him the Wizard Khizr would be richly rewarded with one thousand tumãns.
Now in the kingdom there lived a poor man who was beset by troubles of his own. He was very much in debt and worried that his family could never climb its way out of a life of hunger and poverty. When he heard the king’s announcement of the king, he came straightway to the palace.
“I will show you the Wizard Khizr,” declared the poor man, “though it may take some time.”
“How long?” said the king.
“Forty days,” said he, “but to complete the task I will need the thousand tumãns in advance.”
“Very well,” says the king. “Of course you realize that if you fail to show me the Wizard Khizr in forty days, you will lose your head.”
“I understand,” said the poor man. And so an agreement was drawn and signed. The king issued orders to release the money and the court attendants handed over the thousand tumãns.
The man returned home with a mixed heart. He paid back all his creditors and gave his wife the balance for the family. Then he settled down as best he could for what remained of the forty days.
On the morning of the fortieth day, he said to his wife, “My dear, today is the day I will be executed.”
“Alas!” she cried. “It must be so.”
At the palace, the poor man was greeted with much fanfare and was quickly ushered to the king. “Now,” boomed the king to the man who stands before him in his great hall, “I have waited long enough. The forty days expires today. Where is Khizr?”
“He is not here,” said the unhappy man. “O King, did you really imagine I could call up the Wizard Khizr? I was in debt and at my wits’ end, and I renounced my life. Now I have come here on my own feet and of my own free will for you to cut off my head.”
“What?!” cried the king. Taken aback, he summoned his four viziers for advice. As they seated themselves around the King, an old man entered the chambers at the back of the great hall.
The first vizier announced, “It would serve him right if you cut up his flesh with scissors.” The second vizier proclaimed, “It would be only right that you should put him in a baker’s oven and let him be burnt to death.”
Then the third of them rose and declared, “He deserves to be cut up into little pieces with a razor.”
The fourth vizier said, “O King, this man has played fairly. He came back as he said he would, knowing he faced the end of his life. How many others would do the same? I would be inclined to set him up with some money so that he could start his life anew.”
The king frowned and turns to his viziers. “Very different advice. How am I supposed to figure this out?” Then he noticed the old man at the back of the chambers. “You, in the back,” he said, “what do you say?”
“I might say,” said the old man, standing, “that your first vizier was by origin a tailor, for all his talk of scissors; and the second was formerly a baker, for he speaks of ovens; and the third a barber, with all his talk of razors. As far as the fourth, only he speaks as one who comes from a long line of viziers. For in truth it was out of desperation that this man put his head in jeopardy and he returned to your court of his own volition, knowing his fate. Rather than punishing him, your fourth vizier suggested that you help him to rebuild a useful life.” The old man rose and spread his robe. “And now, behold, you have seen Khizr!” The speaker vanished and all those in court gasped, “That was the Wizard Khizr, without a doubt!”
Immediately, the king ordered his attendants to search the grounds to find Khizr, but he had already vanished. “I can’t believe the Wizard Khizr disappeared before I could ask his help!” groaned the king. “Why didn’t I catch him by the sleeve while he was still here?”
With the poor man still standing, awaiting his fate, the king decided that the very least he could do was to abide by whatever advice, however fleeting, he had received from the Wizard Khizr. So the king presented the flabbergasted poor man with a village and some money – stunned by the unexpected turn of events, he quickly rushed home to his family.
Then the king drove out the three viziers, keeping only the fourth. Thanks to the good counsel of the fourth vizier, before long the fortunes of the kingdom were reversed. For many years thereafter, the vizier’s advice helped the king to rule the land wisely and well.
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Retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2006. All rights reserved.
tumãn- former Persian coin equivalent to about one dollar.
Some Muslim scholars think that the Khizr is a prophet who is the same character as Elijah in the Bible. Others say he wasn't a prophet at all, but only a wise and saintly man who was wazir (vizier) to a great conqueror who lived in the time of Abraham. Khizr was known to wear green clothes, and the word for "green" in Arabic is nearly the same as his name.