There was once a poor man who was very much in debt. Now there was a King in that country who ardently desired to see the Prophet Khizr,1 and he said: "If any one will show him to me I will give him whatever he wants." The poor man came to the King and said: "Give me a thousand tumans and I'll show you the Prophet Khizr."
The King issued orders and they gave him a thousand tumans, and the King took a written agreement from him that if he failed to show him the Prophet he should have his head cut off. After that the man went home, and all his creditors came to him and he paid them their claims, and he himself sat down to have a good time of it.
When the appointed period of forty days had passed, he said to his wife: "Wife, they are going to execute me to-day." "Why?" asked his wife. And he explained to her: "I made such and such an arrangement with the King, and now what harm will it be if I, a single individual, die? You at any rate will live on in comfort."
1 Ordinary Muhammadans usually think that the Prophet Khizr is the same person as Elijah in the Bible. But more learned ones say he wasn't a prophet at all, but only a wise and saintly man who was Wazir to a great conqueror who lived in the time of Abraham. He is said to have drunk of the Water of Life, so that he will live till the Day of Judgement. He often appears to good Muhammadans when they are in difficulties, and he generally wears green clothes. The word for "green" in Arabic is nearly the same as his name. (See Lane's Modern Egyptians.)
Then he went to the King's hall of audience, and the King asked: "Have you brought Khizr?" "No, I haven't," said he. "O King, did you really imagine I could call up Khizr? I was in debt and at my wits' end, and I renounced my life; now I am come here on my own feet and of my own free will for you to cut off my head." "O Wazirs," said the King, "say what we ought to do to him."
One of them said: "It would serve him right if you cut up his flesh with scissors." Now it chanced that an aged man came in, and when he heard this speech of the Wazir he said in the Arabic language: "Every man speaks according to his own intelligence."
Then a second Wazir said: "It would be only right that you should put him in a baker's oven and let him be burnt up," and again the aged man made the same remark.
Then a third of them rose and said: "He deserves to be cut up into little pieces with a razor," and again the same Arabic words fell from the lips of the old man.
Yet another Wazir rose and said: "O King, it would be well that you give him a village and some money along with it." "Now what do you say, old man?" asked the King.
"I say," said the old man," that your first Wazir is by origin a tailor, for he talks of scissors; and the second was formerly a baker, for he speaks of ovens; and the third a barber, with his talk of a razor; as regards the fourth, from generation to generation he and his family have been Wazirs. For in truth it was out of desperation that this man put his head in jeopardy, for he could not face his wife for shame. And now, behold, he has shown you Khizr!" With these words the speaker suddenly vanished, and the debtor said: "This was assuredly the Prophet Khizr and no other." The King made every effort to find the Prophet, but without success, and he said: "Alas! Why did I not catch him by the sleeve?"
Then he presented a village and some money to the poor man, who went off about his business, and the King drove out the three Wazirs and kept only the fourth, who had counselled mercy and generosity.