“And now listen, those that have ears, to a tale of Solomon the King. Yes, Solomon, the mightiest and wisest ruler of the earth that ever was or shall be. Wealthy beyond measure was Solomon, and with such wisdom as only Allah may bestow.
“And lo, he commanded the wind, and both men and Jinn, birds and animals. All were servants unto him. Yet he lost favor in the sight of God, for neither wealth nor power nor wisdom brought him enlightenment.
“One day, while King Solomon was walking alone in the royal garden, he came upon Azrael, the Angel of Death, who was pacing back and forth with a most worried expression. Solomon knew well the face of the Deadly Servant, for with the sight given unto him he had seen Death often, hovering over battles, or in the tents of the ill and wounded. When Solomon asked what troubled him, the Angel sighed, saying that he had on his list of those destined for the next world two scribes of Solomon, the brothers Elihoreph and Alijah.
“Now Solomon was grieved at the thought of losing his scribes, for he had known them since childhood and loved them like brothers. So he ordered the Jinn to carry Elihoreph and Aljah to the fabled city of Luz, the only place on earth where Death has no power. Instantly the Jinn did as he commanded, but the two scribes died at the very moment they reached the gates of that city.
“The next day Azrael appeared before Solomon. The Angel of Death was greatly pleased and said, ‘I thank thee, O King, for speeding thy servants to the place appointed. The fate destined for them was to die at the gates of that far city, but I had no idea how they were to travel so great a distance.’
“Now the King wept exceedingly, torn between sorrow and wrath at the death of his friends and the inescapable doom of men. And Azrael wondered greatly at this. ‘Why do you weep, O Lord of the World?’
‘For the long friends of my youth who are with me no more,’ said the King. ‘Have you no pity for those whose life you end?’
‘Pity?’ exclaimed Azrael scornfully. ‘You weep for the loss of their companionship. Your true sorrow is for yourself, and your wrath is truly self-pity. Alas, it has darkened your wisdom. Death is the most sublime gift of God, distilling from this life of fleeting joys and many sorrows that single drop which is the soul. Of such wine, O King, is poured the Sea of Light. Praise Allah that I, who am to you the Angel of Death, am in truth the Angel of Mercy.’“