Khidr is the ‘unseen guide’ of the Sufis, and it is he who is believed to be the anonymous Guide to Moses in the Koran. This ‘Green One’ is often referred to as ‘the Jew’ and he has been equated in legend with such figures as St George and Elijah. This tale ̶ or report ̶ is characteristic of the supernormal functions attributed to Khidr, both in folklore and among the dervish teachers.
Once, while standing on the banks of the Oxus river, I saw a man fall in. Another man, in the clothes of a dervish, came running to help him, only to be dragged into the water himself. Suddenly I saw a third man, dressed in a robe of shimmering, luminous green, hurl himself into the river. But as he struck the surface, his form seemed to change; he was no longer a man, but a log. The other two men managed to cling to this, and together they worked it towards the bank.
Hardly able to believe what I was seeing, I followed at a distance, using the bushes that grew there as cover. The men drew themselves panting on the bank; the log floated away. I watched it until, out of sight of the others, it drifted to the side, and the green-robed man, soaked and sodden, dragged himself ashore. The water began to stream from him; before I reached him he was almost dry.
I threw myself on the ground in front of him, crying:
‘You must be the Presence Khidr, the Green One, Master of the Saints. Bless me, for I would attain.’ I was afraid to touch his robe, because it seemed to be of green fire.
He said: ‘You have seen too much. Understand that I come from another world and am, without their knowing it, protecting those who have service to perform. You may have been a disciple of Sayed Imdadullah, but you are not mature enough to know what we are doing for the sake of God.’
When I looked up, he was gone, and all I could hear was a rushing sound in the air.
After coming back from Khotan, I saw the same man. He was lying on a straw mattress in a rest-house near Peshawar. I said to myself: ‘If I was too raw the last time, this time I’ll be mature.’
I took hold of his robe, which was a very common one ̶ though under it I thought I saw something glow green.
‘You may be Khidr,’ I said to him, ‘but I have to know how an apparently ordinary man like you performs these wonders … and why. Explain your craft to me, so that I can practise it too.’
He laughed. ‘You’re impetuous, my friend! The last time you were too headstrong ̶ and now you’re still too headstrong. Go on, tell everyone you meet that you’ve seen Khidr Elias; they’ll put you in the madhouse, and the more you protest you’re right the more heavily they’ll chain you.’
Then he took out a small stone. I stared at it ̶ and found myself paralysed, turned to stone, until he had picked up his saddle-bags and walked away.
When I tell this story, people either laugh or, thinking me a storyteller, give me presents.
The Way of the Sufi
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