XII. Our experiences in Kharezm and Deshti-Kipchak.
Toward the end of Shavval we left Khiva, and in five days we came to Kharezm, where I made the acquaintance of Dost Mohammed Khan and his brother Esh-Sultan/1/. I visited the graves of Sheikh Nedjmeddin Kubera, Sheikh Ali Rametin, Sheikh Khalweti Yan, Imam Mohammed Bari'i, Sahib Kuduri, Djar Ullah Ulama, Molla Husein Kharezmi (the expounder of the Koran), Seid Ata, and Hekim Ata.
When it was brought to my knowledge that the holy Sheikh Abdullatif had died in the city of Vezir, I could not rest until I had made a pilgrimage to his grave in company with a few friends. As this saint had been, moreover, my spiritual adviser in Sufism, I recited the whole Koran over his grave, to insure for him everlasting peace and bliss in Paradise. We also cooked a pilaf (a rice dish) and I prepared a Chronogram in commemoration of his death.
Having received letters of commendation to the Manghit chiefs, from Hadji Mohammed Sultan, Timur Sultan, and Mahmud Sultan, the three sons of Agatai Khan, I returned to Kharezm, where Sheikh Sadr Alem, the envoy of Borak Khan, had meanwhile also arrived. Our party consisted besides ourselves of the wife of Sheikh Husein of Kharezm (daughter of Makhdum Aazam), the Sheikh's son, and a few Moslems; we traveled in carriages. Most of the company wore clothes of sheepskin, and they wanted us to do the same; for, they said, the Manghit/2/ are worse even than the Ozbegs, and when they see strangers they invariably take them for Russians/3/, which is synonymous to saying, they attack them. Thus we were compelled to don the outlandish garb (sheepskin); for, as I said to encourage my people: "A wise man follows the ways of the world and makes no trouble of it."
Thus equipped, we started in the first days of Zilkaada. For more than a month we wandered about in the Deshti Kipchak/4/ (Kirghiz steppe). It was late in the autumn, and at that time of the year not a bird, not a wild ass (Onagre) can be seen, for there is not a vestige of verdure, not a drop of water, to be found. It was one interminable wilderness; one desert steppe.
At last we came to a place called Sham, and shortly after to Saraidjik/5/, where we met some Hadjis and three of the Moslems which had been discharged at Samarkand. These latter were quite naked, and at sight of us they cried: "Whither go ye? Astrakhan is taken by the Russians, Ahmed Tchaush has fought in battle with them, and our Aga has been plundered by the troops of Arslan Mirza. The way is blocked; be warned and go back." In vain I quoted the lines:
"We are but poor beggars, what harm can befall us?The rest of the company, especially the merchants, were not of my opinion; they proposed to delay a few days in Kharezm and await events, for: "Speed is from the devil and patience is from God."
For ten armed men can not rob one who has nothing."
The envoy and the other Moslems were of the same mind, and so I reluctantly retraced my steps to Kharezm. The envoy returned to Samarkand, but all the rest remained in Kharezm, and when Dost Mohammed Khan, the ruler of Khiva, enquired of me by which route I now proposed to travel, I replied, "I will go by the way of Meshhed in Khorasan to Irak Adjemi, and from there to Bagdad." Thereupon the Khan said: "Remain here with us. In the Spring the Manghits seek their pastures; possibly the Russians may also quit the land by that time; and remember, the way to Bagdad is long."
But I could not agree to this, and in support of my argument I quoted the proverb: "To the lover Bagdad is not far distant:; so at last the Khan had to give in. He agreed to my departure, gave me a beautiful horse, and to my companions he gave the carriage in which we had traveled up to here.
As regards our route, my first plan was to travel by the way of the Caspian Sea and Shirvan, but my companions did not like this, because the Musulman army which had lately broken up from Kaffa/6/ had become involved in a bloody war with Abdullah Khan, who would not permit any Turks to pass that way. Next we made inquiries about the roads of Circassia, past Demir-Kapu, but we heard that the Circassians had raised a revolt. There remained therefore only the way of Khorasan and Irak, and concerning these districts we learned that the Persian King was in perfect harmony with our glorious Padishah/7/, but that the Bey of Kizilbash (the Shiite officer) would probably prevent us from obtaining admittance to the Shah.
I thought to myself, "Where God does not slay, man's attempts are but futile"; moreover, "they who fear death should not venture on travels"; --so after duly consulting the horoscope/8/, and having made quite sure that there was no other way open to us, I decided to travel through Persia. The camels were hired and all was ready; I went to take leave of Dost Mohammed, the ruler of Khiva, who remarked casually that it was quite impossible for us to travel with firearms through the enemy's land. Thereupon we gave half of our arms to the Khan, and the other half to his younger brother Esh Sultan. We received a letter of commendation to Ali Sultan, a brother of Tin Sultan, and being well stocked with provisions and large skins for water, and trusting in God, we started on our journey to Kharezm in the beginning of the month Zilhidje.
/1/ Dost Mohammed Khan, or simply Dost, who was then the ruler of Kharezm, and his brother Esh-/syktabm were both sons of Budjuga Khan. Their rival to the throne was Hadjim Khan, who conquered both in turn and put them to death.
/2/ The tribe of the Manghit, now belonging to the settled population of Khiwa, seems at that time still to have led a nomadic life, inhabiting the steppe between the Aral and the Caspian sea, now the home of the Kirghizes.
/3/ The Nomads of Central Asia feared the Russians, for three years before that time (1554), Czar Ivan Wassilyewich had conquered Astrakhan.
/4/ By Deshti-Kipchak = the steppe of the Kipchaks, oriental writers understand the steppe situated between Kharezm and the Volga territory. Ibn Batuta likewise accomplished the distance between Kharezm (now Urghendj) and Saraidjik in 30 days.
/5/ Saraidjik, small place on the bank of the Ural, about one hour's distance from the Caspian Sea. Jenkinson in 1558 found the place still intact, but Pallas in the past century found only extensive ruins to indicate the place.
/6/ Ancient Theodosia, in the Crimea.
/7/ At that time the King of Persia was Thamasp Shah, and it so happened that he was on friendly terms with Sultan Suleiman, for about this time a gorgeous embassy was sent by the ruler of the Ottoman empire to Kazvin, as recorded by Rauzat es-Safa in the VIIIth Book.
/8/ Istikhare = Horoscope, is consulted by opening the Koran at hazard and the passage at which it opens gives the answer. Another way is by the throwing of dice, or by seizing the rosary (Tesbih) at hazard, when the even or uneven number of the beads decides the question.
XIII. Our fate In Khorasan.
By divine grace we got safely across the Oxus/9/ and encamped on the opposite shore, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our party. While there, the wife of Sheikh Husein sent me a message to say that she had a dream in which she had seen her father, the holy Makhdum Aazam, who had come from Vezir to Kharezm in company with another holy sage. Arrived in the town, he had thus addressed the people, who welcomed him joyfully: "Mir Sidi Ali has read the Koran over my grave in Vezir, and he has supplicated for my patronage. I have therefore come to help him and to lead him safely through Khorasan." This message filled me with joy. I struck camp next morning, and the day following we arrived in Dorum/10/; we passed through, unmolested by Mahmud Sultan, and proceeded to Bagwai/11/, which place we also passed, without being hindered by Pulad Sultan, and came to Nesa/12/.
Here I found Ali Sultan, former Governor of Merw, and brother of Tin Sultan, to whom I offered my letter of commendation from Esh Sultan, and was allowed free passage, for everybody in these parts is devoted to his Majesty our Padishah. Thus we came to Bawerd (Abiwerd)/13/ and Tus, where I visited the graves of Imam Mohammed Hanifi and of the poet Firdusi; and on the first of Muharram of the year 964 I reached Meshhed-i-Khorasan, where I immediately made a pilgrimage to the grave of Imam Ali Musa Riza, the prince of Khorasan.
When at sea, during the great storm some time ago, I had vowed to give a Tumen to the Imam; now I fulfilled my vow, and paid a Tumen to Mutawali (the overseer of the Mosque and Mausoleum); and I also paid a Tumen to the Seid. In Meshhed I found Ibrahim Mirza, the son of Behram Mirza, who occupied the throne there; also Suleiman Mirza the son of the Shah, and his Vekil (representative) called Kokche Khalipha, who entertained me at a banquet.
In the course of our conversation, these gentlemen naturally wished to draw me into an argument upon the succession and sanctity of the Khaliphs Ali, Ebubekr, Omar, and Osman; but I acted upon the principle that silence is the best answer to give a fool, and I was silent. They pressed me, however, and I told them the story of Khodja Nasreddin, who was once asked to read the Koran in the Mosque, to which he had replied, "This is not the place." "And now," I said, "I have not come hither to argue with you, and I refuse to be questioned." It was with great difficulty that I at last rid myself of them./14/
One of the guests, unfortunately, was a miscreant, of the name of Ghazi Bey; he gave vent to his wrath in these words: "It is not seemly to send such people as these to the Shah. How do we know that they may not kill the men we give them as an escort, and then take flight? Very possibly they belong to the Ottomans that were sent to Borak Khan, or perhaps they are the bearers of a secret correspondence, and it might be advisable to search them."
The Mirza (Ibrahim) approved of this plan, and the next morning 200 men in armor (kurdji) surrounded the kervanserai and took us prisoners. As the proverb says, "Those who cannot be caught by fair means, will be by foul play."
We were each of us put in [[the]] charge of one of the guards; I was taken to the apartment of the Kokche Khalipha, with my two attendants. My horses were given into another man's charge, and my other effects were entrusted to Mutawali's keeping. They made us undress, and as it was winter we suffered much from the cold. The next day the Mirza took from me all my official papers, and sundry letters which I had received from different princes, and had them all put into a bag and sealed.
When my companions saw this they trembled for their lives, but I comforted them with the sayings, "He who falls through no mistake of his will not shed tears," and "Since fate has not forgotten to bring thee into this world, it will not forget to take thee out of it," and further, "Patience is the key to the final goal."
So we calmly resigned ourselves to our fate. A little later on all were put in chains except myself; but I was strictly guarded by five men. This action of the Mirza troubled me not a little, and although I tried to make light of it, my heart was very heavy. I wrote a Ghazel to comfort myself, and with the inspiring thoughts suggested by it fresh in mind, I fell asleep; and being in a semi-conscious state, a divine inspiration in the form of a Murabba/15/ was vouchsafed to me, which I sent to Mutawali. This composition caused great excitement among the nobility of the place. About the same time one of the attendants of the Imam declared (whether it was true or feigned I cannot say) that in his dream he had seen the Khaliph Ali, who had charged him to go and set Mir Sidi Ali free. The news of this dream spread rapidly through the town and stirred up the people, whose sympathies were now all turned in my favour.
Mutawali and Seid went to the Mirza and said: "This man came on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of the Imam. He is under a vow, and desires to go to the Shah. As the Shah is on friendly terms with the Padishah of Turkey, it is not right that we should in any way trouble this pilgrim now in the Ashura days. If the man be a traitor, it is sure to come to light, for as the Koran says, 'A traitor is known by his countenance,' and there need be no further question of suspicion." These words of the wise man and of Seid did not lose their effect upon the Mirza. From my side I pointed out to him the unreliableness of the information upon which he had acted, and in order further to enlist his sympathies in my favour I sent him three poems; after which, partly for fear of the Shah, and partly regretting his rash deed, he gave us our liberty on the tenth of Ashura.
He loaded me with presents and gave another banquet in my honor. He also restored to us our horses and our clothes; but many of my other possessions I never recovered. Four valuable books were taken, and the whole of my correspondence was conveyed by his armour-bearer/16/, Ali Bey, and a Yassaul to the Shah in a sealed bag, the transport being effected on a barrow about the middle of Muharram of the said year. Traveling in the same caravan with us was one of the wives of the Shah and one of the wives of Behram Mirza, who were both returning from a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Imam. I made their acquaintance, and they treated us kindly. By my advice my companions comported themselves with due courtesy and modesty toward the retinue of these ladies, mindful of the saying: "The peace of two worlds depends on two things only, courtesy to friends and flattery to foes."
Arrived in Nishabur, I visited the graves of Imamzade Mohammed Mahruk, and of Sheikh Attar (Ferideddin). Here I also met with Aga Kemal, the Vekil of Khorasan; who, however, did not interfere with us. In Sebzevar we met with a little hostility; but acting on the principle that "Barking dogs bite not," we soon got free from these firebrands and continued on our way.
/9/ This passage is of special geographical interest. As our author came from Kharezm on the left shore of the Oxus and crossed the river on his way to Khorasan, he refers here undoubtedly to the old course of this river, mentioned by Abulgazi. As the Oxus in its course downstream from Tchardjui reveals several old riverbeds, the direction here indicated by Sidi Ali must be one of the two courses which ran either from Hezaresp or from Khanka in a south-westerly direction into the Caspian Sea. Most likely it was the latter branch, as it was at that time the more important of the two, and according to Abulgazi, culture had reached a considerable height along its shores.
/10/ This is Derum, frequently mentioned by Abulgazi as situated on the old road from Kharezm to Khorasan.
/11/ Bagwai, on the same road, but is now no longer marked on the map.
/12/ Nesa, frequently mentioned in the middle ages, situated in the North of Persia. Its ruins have been visited by many modern travellers in the neighbourhood of Ashkabad.
/13/ Abiwerd is more correct; it is the modern Kahka, a station on the Trans-Caspian line.
/14/ Curious enough, the same custom still prevails in Persia, for when I visited this land three hundred years later, disguised as an Osmanli, I had much to suffer from the indiscretion of the Shiite fanatics. By night and by day, on the march and at rest, it was always this same vexed question of the succession which had to be discussed.
/15/ Murabba = Quatrain, a poem consisting of four-lined verses.
/16/ In the text kapchadji-bashi may mean chief keeper of the purse, from kapcha = purse, or chief armour-bearer, from kopcha = armour.
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