The Portrait that Saved a Man's Life

Once in the olden days there was a Wali, or governor, who was sent by the central government to govern various districts in Persia. Wherever he was appointed, his first act was to investigate the head¬man and to kill him. He came once to Kermanshah. He investigated their headman and killed him. He came to Teheran, examined their headman and killed him. At last he came to Isphahan.

As soon as the headman learned of the appointment of the new governor he became desperately ill. That night he had a fever. When he came home his son asked him, What is the matter with you, Father? I hope you are well.

He answered, I am your guest. O father. The governor who killed the headman of so many districts has been appointed here. Soon he will send for me and condemn me to death.

O Father, his son said, act as though you were ill and stay at home, and I will go and answer to the governor for you.

Now can that be? Shall I stay alive at home and let the governor examine you and kill you?

Rest assured that I will not be killed.

May Allah protect you!

After a few days the governor sent for the headman. The other officials said, The headman is ill in bed at home.

That makes no difference. Let him come, said the governor.

As agreed before, the son got ready and went in place of his father. He went up to the governor"s audience chamber. The governor asked him, Who are you?

He answered, I am the son of the headman whom you sent for.

Why didn"t your father come himself?

He is ill and I am his son, so I came instead of him.

Isn"t there anyone bigger than you to be sent?

Why, yes, there is bigger than I.

At a sign from the son a mule was brought into the room.

The governor said, What"s that?

The son said, He is bigger than I.

The governor said, Is there no one with a beard?

Why, yes, there is one with a beard.

At a sign from the son a billy goat was brought into the room.

The governor said, Is there no one with a turban?

Why, yes, there is.

At a sign from the son an ox was led into the room with a white turban wound around its horns just as in the old saying «an ox in a turban».

The governor said, Good, my son. I don"t want anything special from your father. Give him my greetings. But I know that there are wonderful artists in Isphahan. The people are very artistic. I just wanted to see him and have him draw my picture.

The son understood the trick but he answered, Certainly. Why not? The governor served him with a sweet drink and coffee and let him go, saying, Go, in the protection of Allah.

The son told his father all about the morning"s interview and said, The governor wants you to draw his picture. He has heard that Isphahanis are good artists and he wants his portrait done.

The father said, My Son, do you know how he will manage to have you killed? He is blind in one eye and he is going to catch you with his blind eye.


If you draw him with one eye he is going to take exception to it
and kill you because Allah didn"t create him blind in one eye; by accident he became blind in one eye. If you draw him with two eyes he will say that he doesn"t have two good eyes, and, since your draw¬ing is false, he will kill you.

Yes, O Father, said the son. I know his trick, and I know how to get around it.

The son drew a picture of the governor out hunting on his horse and aiming at a gazelle in the distance, so one eye was squinted up as he took aim. Then the son said to his father, If the governor asks me why I drew him one-eyed I"ll say he isn"t one-eyed, he is simply taking aim, and everyone closes one eye when taking aim. If he asks me why I drew him with two good eyes, I"ll say that the squinting eye is blind. In this picture he is neither one-eyed nor two-eyed.

When the governor saw the picture he understood at once that he had no excuse to kill the son. He released him and said, You are free. Go, under the protection of Allah.

So all Isphahanis are known everywhere from that day to this as people who can"t be tricked or fooled.