Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
IN a town not far from the capital there lived, years ago, a young man noted for his learning. He had completed his studies at the great University of El Azhar at Cairo, and was a master in all the seven sciences and an owner of the seven tongues, a beautiful caligraphist, a poet so accomplished that his verse were said by his friends to deserve to be affixed to the
gates of the Ka’aba at Mecca, 1 and a scholar so erudite that none grudged him the right to wear the wide formal and much respected shape of turban called "mûkleh." But, despite these advantages, he could not get on in the world, having no influential relative to push him forward. Nothing discouraged, however, he resolved, being ambitious, to gain the notice and approbation of the Sultan himself, and, as a result, position and wealth, for he was poor although of stately presence.
He therefore wrote a magnificent poem in praise of the great Khan and mighty Khakan, the Commander of the Faithful, our Sovereign Lord the Sultan Fulân, 2 ibn-es-Sultan Fulân, Sultan of the Arabians, the Persians, and the Rûm, whose fame and influence extended over the seven continents and across the seven seas. When the ode was finished he forwarded it to the potentate, having sold nearly everything he possessed in order to gain the favour of the various officials through whose hands the document would. have to pass before it could be laid at the foot of the couch whereon reposed the Sovereign of the Age.
Great were the hopes this young man founded on his verses, but yet greater was his disgust when the "sheykh el Hara," (or headman of the street in which he lived) one day sent for him and called upon him to sign a receipt for fifty dinârs out of the Imperial treasury, and when he had done so, coolly told him that forty dinârs had gone to pay the fees of various officials between the throne and himself,
that he himself must keep five for his own fee, and three on some other pretext, leaving the poet a balance of two only. Thoroughly disgusted with his want of success, but being of a persevering character, our hero wrote a second ode yet more beautiful than the former, and then started on foot for Stambûl, resolved not to trust to intermediaries, but to lay his work himself at the feet of the well-spring of all earthly bounty. He reached the capital on a Thursday evening and took a lodging at a khan. The next morning, having been to the bath, he arranged his turban and robes in such a manner as to make a good impression, and then took up a position near the entrance of the mosque in which the Padishah was wont to perform his public devotions week after week. As soon as the Sultan appeared the poet rushed forward, and, falling at the Sovereign's feet, presented his poem. The paper was graciously received by the monarch, who immediately afterwards passed into the mosque. The poet awaited his return and when the Sultan came out and saw him standing, he graciously commanded him to follow him to the palace. On reaching it the Sultan read the poem, and, being pleased with it, went to his private money-chest, and, taking out ten dinârs gave them to the young man. Noticing the look of disappointment on the latter's face, and being himself in a very good humour, the Padishah told him to say why he was not pleased and to speak frankly without fear or reserve. On receiving such encouragement, the poet fell at his Sovereign's feet, told him of his aspirations, his disappointments,
and how he had spent the whole of his property in striving to achieve success and attain a high position. "My son," said the benevolent ruler, when the poet had stopped speaking, "be content with what I now give you. For you to receive more at present would only be a cause of trouble to you, for it would be sure to excite the attention, and rouse the envy and hatred, of your neighbours. I will, however, add to it something of greater worth than all the talents and learning which you already possess. I will tell you what is the secret of success in life. It is expressed in the one Arabic word "Heylim." 1 " Make 'Heylim' your rule of life and you will be sure to attain eminence." With these words the scholar was dismissed. Walking home, he pondered on his Sovereign's strange advice. Suddenly a bright idea struck him. Meeting a well-dressed Greek priest in the lonely road, he accosted him. "O Nazarene, son of a dog, change clothes with me." The priest objected at first, but finally yielded to the Moslem's threats, and was glad to be allowed to go his way unharmed, as a Mohammedan ’âlim or savant, whilst the poet, as a Greek priest, returned to Istanbûl took a room in a quiet khan, and remained in retirement till his hair was grown so long as to enable him to pass for a priest of the Orthodox Church.
Having attained this object he called on the Sheykh el Islâm and desired a private interview which was granted. "Three nights ago," said the impostor, "I had a dream which greatly troubled
me. It has been repeated on the two succeeding nights. I dreamt that a venerable man, who had such and such features, and wore such and such a garb," (here he gave a description which would remind learned Moslems of the traditional appearance of the Founder of Islâm), "appeared to me and declaring that he had been sent to teach me the true religion, made me repeat the following prayer after him several times till I knew it by heart. When I could do this, he told me to come to you, repeat what he had taught me, and ask for further instruction." He then, to the Sheykh's great surprise, repeated the "Fatha" or first chapter of the Koran with great unction. The Sheykh el Islâm cross-questioned his visitor shrewdly but failed to disconcert him. It appeared he was in truth a Christian priest to whom Mohammed himself had taught the first rudiments of Islâm, a most interesting convert. The highest religious official in the Moslem world, therefore, vouchsafed him the desired instruction, and received him into his house. Next day he informed his host that he had again dreamed that he was visited by the venerable person, and that the latter had taught him a second set of texts, which he was to ask the Sheykh to expound to him. He then repeated the second sûra of the Koran, entitled "The Cow," and containing 286 verses, without making a mistake in a single vowel-point or accent. The Sheykh was astonished beyond measure, and not a little flattered at the thought that the Prophet should have singled him out to be the religious instructor
of so miraculous a disciple. What would his enemies say when it became known that his authority was not only upheld by the Khalìfeh, but by Mohammed himself?
During the next night the pseudo-Christian was taught, as he stated, the third sûra, and on the following morning he repeated it correctly to his host who then expounded it. Next night the fourth sûra was revealed, and so on, till the Sheykh could no longer abstain from inviting the learned of his acquaintance to come and witness the marvel. They came, saw, heard, questioned and cross-questioned, but found more than their match, and retired greatly mystified, if not convinced. In the meantime the case of conversion was spoken of openly throughout Stambûl. The Christians dared not gainsay the exultant Moslems who boasted of the wonderful conversion of a great Christian theologian which had been effected by the Prophet himself assisted by the Sheykh el Islâm. The fame of the latter went up by bounds. His "fetwahs" or legal decisions were humbly accepted. Gifts came to him from all sides, and being a generous man, he shared them with his pupil.
The supposed Christian, however, retained his clerical habit, asserting that the Prophet had bidden him not to lay it aside nor be admitted into the pale of El Islâm by circumcision till his instruction was complete. In due time news respecting the extraordinary case reached the Commander of the Faithful, who, being a wise man, first inquired about the time when this remarkable Nazarene first applied
to the Sheykh el Islâm for instruction. His suspicions roused, he commanded that the supposed Christian should be brought to him privately. The Sultan knew him at a glance, in spite of his disguise and long hair, and sternly inquired what was meant by this mummery. "O Ruler of the Age!" replied the scamp, falling at his feet, "Your Majesty advised me to 'heylim' and I, obeying the precept, have found it profitable." He then told his story, which greatly amused the Sultan, who sent word to the Sheykh el Islâm that he himself would be responsible for the further progress of the interesting convert, who would remain in the palace as his guest. After this, having commanded the palace barber to attend the rogue, and dressed him in clothes befitting a true believer, he made him one of his private secretaries, and by degrees advanced him to higher posts in the Government. Ever since that time the plain rule "Heylim," or in other words, "kiss a dog on his mouth till you have got what you want from him," 1 has been well observed in the East.
148:1 This, from internal evidence, I judge to be a Christian fable.--ED.
148:2 Fulân=" So and so "; cf. Span. Don Fulano.--ED.
150:1 The English expressions "flatter, insinuate, ingratiate yourself, and dissimulate " hardly express the full significance of this one word.
153:1 Bûss el kelb ala fummo hatta takdi gharadak minno; in the dâraji (common) Arabic of Palestine.--ED.