Here is background info on my story.—Aaron
The custom of invoking Mushkil Gusha is practiced in Iran especially among traditional Muslim women. The tale is told each week on Friday eve, the beginning of the Muslim holy day. (Muslims measure their days from sunset to sunset, so “Friday eve” would come before Friday morning—just as “Christmas Eve” comes before Christmas Day.) Along with telling the story goes the sharing of a special snack food with the poor. Sometimes called aajeel and sometimes nokhod kishmish, it is a mixture of things like roasted chickpeas, raisins, dried dates, dried figs, nuts, and seeds.
The name Mushkil Gusha is Persian for “Remover of Difficulties.” But exactly who and what is he? If you ask Iranians, you get differing answers. Some say he is Ali, the prophet Muhammad’s cousin, son-in-law, and true successor—as he is considered by the Shiites, whose sect of Islam predominates in Iran. But one Iranian woman told me simply, “It is God, isn’t it?”
Others say Mushkil Gusha is the prophet Khidr, the “Green One,” the patron saint of the Muslim holy men called dervishes. (Khidr is the Arabic name. In Iran he is called Khezr, and in Turkey, Hizir.) Khidr is portrayed in many Muslim tales as the bearer of fortune—a role he shares with the prophet Elijah, about whom many of the same stories are told by the Jews. Since the tale of Mushkil Gusha seems clearly in the Khidr/Elijah genre, I have made that identification in my version with an appearance by Khidr himself.
This tale was retold chiefly from “The Story of Mushkil Gusha” in Persian Tales, collected and translated by D.L.R. and E.O.Lorimer, Macmillan, London, 1919. This was supplemented by my personal email correspondence with Kave Eshgi of Bristol, England, whose grandmother told him the tale every Friday eve as he grew up in the Iranian city of Kerman. Still another version is “The Tale of Mushkil Gusha” in World Tales, collected by Idries Shah, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1979, which first introduced me to the story.