THREE -- The dastan of how the Amir and Muqbil and ‘Amar were given looks of empowerment by the Friends of God.
      ‘Amar, Hamzah and Muqbil were raised together.  In their infancy, the greedy ‘Amar even stole extra milk from the nurse’s breast.    He grew into a surpassingly dextrous and mischievous thief.  When the boys were sent to school, ‘Amar played ruthlessly humiliating tricks on their pious old schoolmaster.
        After one particularly flagrant offense, ‘Amar ran off--taking Hamzah, Muqbil, and several other boys with him.  They camped on Mount Abul Qubais, and threw stones at their pursuers, who included their fellow students Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan.  After this episode, ‘Amar ran away alone.  But Hamzah wept bitterly, despite his father’s remonstrations, and refused to eat until ‘Amar was found and brought back.
        When the boys grew a little older, they had their first encounter with the *Friends of God.
The noble riders upon the fingers of previous scribes urge the steeds of their well-paced pens into the field of narration in this way:  One day the Amir, with Muqbil and ‘Amar, was seated on the verandah of his mansion, he was sitting there with friends and companions, when he saw a large number of people going past him in one direction.  Seeing this, he told ‘Amar, “Go and inquire where these people are going, find out quickly and inform me.”  ‘Amar came back and told him, “Some merchants have come with horses, a number of caravans have arrived from abroad.  People are going to see the horses, they’ll look to their heart’s content and then return.  If Your Excellency should wish, you can make an excursion, have a look, and come back.”  The moment he heard the word “horse,” the Amir set out in that direction.  He was so eager that he went on foot, taking with him his friends and companions.

When he reached the place, he saw that in truth there were a number of the very finest horses, of every kind:  Turkish, Tazi, Arab, Najdi, Indian, Kaib,/1/ etc., horses were tied here and there.  And in that caravan one horse, loaded with chains, with a muzzle over his mouth, with blinders on his eyes, with huge big chains instead of front-ropes and heel-ropes, was tied beneath a canopy; he stood there like a tiger.  ‘Amar went and struck up an acquaintance with his owner, and asked, “Why have you tied this horse with chains, what fault has he committed?”  The owner replied, “This horse is extremely violent, he has the five classic defects./2/  Not to speak of mounting him--no one can even go near him!  We feed and water him only through a rope-basket, he eats grain and drinks water with great difficulty.”

‘Amar replied, “This is all just on your say-so!  How foolish to think that no one can ride him--why, you’ve made him out to be an ogre!  After all, if someone should mount him, what would you have to lose, and how would you reward the rider?”  The owner said, “I don’t see any such person here; I’ve already had ample experience with these people.  If someone should mount him, and ride him for five or ten paces, I’ll give that person the horse, without cost or charges--a property worth thousands!”  ‘Amar, hearing this, made the owner swear a firm oath, and shook hands on the bargain; he called some merchants who camped there to witness the agreement.  And he came to the Amir and reported the agreement, and tempted him to mount the horse.

The Amir approached the horse, and had a saddle put on him and the chains and blinders taken off; he had the horse brought into a field.  When the Amir tried to mount, and seized his mane, the moment the horse was freed he began to show his true temper.  He danced as though leaping on glowing coals, and marked time to a rhythm of his own.  The Amir made one bound, and seated himself on the horse’s back.  The horse tried to bite the Amir’s ankles, and began to run and rear up; he lashed out at the Amir with his forelegs, then with his hind legs.  The Amir struck so forceful a blow to the horse’s head that the horse could not bear it, he was drenched in sweat; laying his ears back like a goat, he stood stupefied.  First the Amir put him to a walk, then a gallop, then an ambling gait; then he raced him at full speed.  When the Amir pressed with his thighs, the horse began running like the wind.  His mouth was so hard that although the Amir sawed on the reins, the horse wouldn’t stop.  He ran all-out for a hundred miles.  Finally the Amir, using his full strength, broke the horse’s back, he showed him the fruits of his mischief and bad behavior.  The horse died.

The Amir, on foot, turned back toward his home.  He was not in the habit of walking, he never went around on foot.  His feet grew blistered; it was impossible for him to reach his home.  When he tried to take a step, his feet wouldn’t move.  Tired out, he sat down under a tree.  In a little while, what did he see but a veiled horseman coming, leading a riderless horse, a piebald equipped with an elegantly decorated saddle.  When the veiled elder came near, he greeted the Amir with “Peace be upon you,” and said, “Oh Hamzah, this horse has been the mount of the *Prophet *Isaac, peace be upon him.  The horse’s name is *Black Constellation, and he runs as swiftly and lightly as the spring breeze.  At the Lord’s command, I’ve brought him for you to ride, and as the Lord has ordered I’ve come to give you a look of empowerment./3/  No champion will overcome you; if God wills, your ascendant fortune, in the competition among fortunes, will never be brought low.  Everyone will be under your hand, and all will obey you.  Remove this heap of stone before you, and dig in the earth beneath it.  There you will find a chest of the Prophets’ armor, and every kind of weapon, of the very best quality, beyond measure and beyond limit.  Arm yourself with them, and test their mettle when the time comes.”

The Amir at once removed the stone, and found so much strength in his arms and legs that it couldn’t be conceived; he had never imagined having even a fourth part of this strength.  He tested this immense strength while digging in the earth.  In the chest he found the cloak of Hazrat Ishmael, the helmet of Hazrat Hud, the chain-mail of Hazrat *David, the gauntlets of Hazrat Joseph, the anklets of Hazrat Salih,/4/  the belt and dagger of Rustam, #Samsam and #Qamqam which had belonged to *Asif Barkhiya, the shield of *Gurshasp, the mace of Sam bin Nariman,/5/ the dagger of *Suhrab, and the spear of Hazrat *Noah the Prophet, peace be upon him.  Taking them out, he examined them, and adorned his body with those weapons and garments.  Saying “In the name of God,” he mounted Black Constellation, and the veiled elder disappeared from view.  They write that the veiled elder was Hazrat *Gabriel, peace be upon him, that it was he himself who at that time aided and assisted the Amir.  And God knows the truth best./6/  The Amir set out toward Mecca, he headed for his home.

Now please hear about ‘Amar, who for twenty miles had followed the Amir, halting and stumbling.  He didn’t give up his loyalty, he never stopped pursuing the Amir.  When the soles of his feet had been pierced so full of acacia thorns that they looked like wasps’ nests, he could go no further.  He lost consciousness, and fell beneath a tree.  Through the Lord’s power Hazrat *Khizr, peace be upon him, drew near where ‘Amar lay, and began to comfort and reassure him.  He lifted ‘Amar up from the ground, gave him a look of empowerment, and commanded, “’Amar, rise.  At the Lord’s command I have given you a look of empowerment.  No one will be able to overtake you.”  With these words, he disappeared from view, the Lord knows where he went!  ‘Amar got up and made a bound, by way of experiment; he tested what the Hazrat had told him.  He realized,  “In truth I can run faster than the wind--even the steed of Thought could never manage to overtake me!”  Prostrating himself in gratitude, he set off in search of the Amir, he went on in the direction in which the Amir had gone.

He had hardly taken more than a few steps when the Amir came into view before him.  Both of them expressed their pleasure and relief, and described the difficulties they had encountered on the road.  ‘Amar, seeing the armor and horse, was astonished, and said to the Amir, “Oh Arab, what have you done to the merchant’s horse?  And tell me the truth:  who did you kill to seize this horse and equipment?”  The Amir replied, “Killing other people is your style!  What foolish things are you saying?  At the Lord’s command, I’ve been given a look of empowerment by Hazrat Gabriel, I’ve been entrusted with the armor of the Prophets, peace be upon them!  This horse, named Black Constellation, has been the mount of Hazrat Isaac, and the rest of the Prophets’ armor the Generous Provider has bestowed on me.”

‘Amar replied, “I’ll only believe you, and only know that you’re telling the truth, when your horse outruns me, and I end up even a small bit behind in the race.”  The Amir said to himself, “What is he jabbering about, this jester has gone mad!  Can a man ever run as fast as such a horse, how can a man possibly have the strength to outrun him?”  The Amir then said aloud, “All right, come on, show your paces against my horse.”  ‘Amar said, “First please agree to a couple of wagers, and make me feel reassured.”  The Amir said, “Whatever you wish, I will agree to wager.”  ‘Amar said, “If I outrun this horse, I will take ten camels from you; and if this horse outruns me, then my father will graze your father’s camels for one year, with no wages or reward.”

The Amir agreed, and took up his horse’s reins.  ‘Amar too positioned himself alongside.  They went for twenty miles.  ‘Amar and the horse ran neck-in-neck, they were shoulder to shoulder.  They both amazed the spring breeze with their swiftness.  The Amir, when he saw ‘Amar’s speed, was astonished, he was stupefied by ‘Amar’s cleverness.  ‘Amar submitted, “Oh Amir, I too have been given a look of empowerment by Hazrat Khizr, peace be upon him, I’ve been favored by a great Prophet.”

Now please hear a little about Khvajah ‘Abdul Muttalib.  When the merchant’s horse ran off bearing the Amir, and ‘Amar set off after the Amir in anxious pursuit, this news reached Khvajah ‘Abdul Muttalib in full detail.  The Khvajah grew anxious and, with the nobles of Mecca, came out of the city.  He saw before him the Amir equipped with royal weapons, wearing a helmet, chain mail, and armor, elegantly turned out, mounted on Black Constellation.  The signs of victory and greatness shown from his auspicious forehead.  And ‘Amar was advancing beside him, holding on to his saddle-cords.  Their faces showed signs of cheerfulness and satisfaction.  When the Khvajah saw this, his unhappiness and anxiety at the Amir’s absence were banished, his face grew flushed with joy, and he prostrated himself in gratitude.  The Amir, seeing the Khvajah, dismounted from his horse, made obeisance, and kissed the Khvajah’s feet.  The Khvajah embraced the Amir, and his eyes filled with tears; most joyously he took the Amir and went home.  And he gave a great deal in charity for the Amir’s sake; he filled the hopeful bowls of faqirs and the needy.  Then he asked about the horse and armor.  The Amir told him everything in detail.  The Khvajah was extremely delighted, and began to offer thanks to the True Giver.

It’s proper to hear about Muqbil the Faithful, we ought to observe the faithfulness of that loyal well-wisher.  When he learned that the Amir and ‘Amar had been given looks of empowerment by Gabriel and Khizr, peace be upon them, that through the grace of the Lord both had been chosen for such an honor, he said to himself, “How can I live with them, since they’ve been singled out for such an honor?  Both of them have high resolve and high courage--how can I get along with them?  It’s better for me to go and enter Naushervan’s service, and live for a while at his court.  If the Lord wills, I might be chosen for some post of honor there, and my prospects might improve, my sleeping fortune might awaken.  There everyone is treated with the same respect, in the royal service all are equal.”  With this kind of stew boiling in his mind, he left the city, and set out toward Ctesiphon. 

He had gone about eight or ten miles, when he felt tired and sat down under a tree.  He began saying to himself, “A life like this is worse than death, it’s better to die than to be shamed like this!  I have no provisions for the road, and no horse--how difficult and humiliating it all is!”  With this thought he climbed the tree, tied one end of his cummerbund-sash to a branch, made a noose with the other end and placed it around his neck, leaped, and dangled there, thrashing his arms and legs.  The bird of his soul was about to take flight from the cage of his body, in another breath or two he would have passed beyond this transitory world, when the Lion of God, the One Addressed by God,/7/ the King who destroyed Khaibar,/8/ the Second of the Five Pure Ones,/9/ Hazrat *’Ali, arrived and gave a call.  Muqbil fell to the ground.

The Hazrat lifted him up, bestowed on him five arrows and a bow, and said,  “I have bestowed on you the art of archery, I have made you peerless and unequalled in this art.  The greatest masters in the world will be proud to be your pupils, in this art the most dextrous archers of the age will not be able to compare with you.”  Muqbil petitioned, “If anyone should ask me who has given me a look of empowerment, what should I tell him, what answer should I give to everyone?”  The Hazrat replied,  “Say you are under the protection of the Lion of God, the Victorious, you are in the service of that very family.”

Muqbil, taking the five arrows and the bow, joyously set out toward Mecca.  For their part, the Amir and ‘Amar, not seeing Muqbil, had grown anxious, and ‘Amar had set out in search of Muqbil.  He had scarcely set foot outside the city, when he saw Muqbil coming toward him.  Most happily he ran and embraced Muqbil, and took him to the Amir.  Muqbil presented himself in the Amir’s service, showed his arrows and bow, and told all about how he had been given a look of empowerment.  The Amir was very happy, and they all lived contentedly together.

/1/ “Tazi” normally means Arab; “Najdi” means coming from Najd, in Saudi Arabia; “Kaib” may possibly refer to a “Cape” Waler.
/2/ The five classic defects--literally, the five defects according to religious orthodoxy [panj ‘aib-e shar ‘ii], a description used for humorous effect--are:  to be irritable, swaybacked, limping, hard-mouthed, or night-blind.
/3/ The phrase translated “to give you a look of empowerment” is the Persianized [na:zar kardah karnaa], which literally means “to make (someone) looked-at.”  A common Sufi concept, it rests on the belief that a person of high spiritual authority can cast an intent and concentrated look at someone junior, in order to endow him with special powers and increase his mystical insight.
/4/ Hazrats Ishmael [isma((iil], Hud [;huud], Joseph [yuusuf], and Salih [.saali;h] are all among the earlier Prophets mentioned in the Qur’an.
/5/ Sam bin Nariman [saam bin nariimaan] is a Persian epic hero, Rustam’s grandfather.
/6/ This Arabic phrase, [vallaah ((alim bil-;savaab], is conventionally used to express uncertainty or skepticism.
/7/ This epithet refers to a Qur’anic verse (76:1) supposed by Shi’ite Muslims to be especially addressed to ‘Ali.  The literal meaning of the epithet is “the Lord of ‘Has there come...’” [.saa;hib-e hal ataa].
/8/ This epithet ascribes victory in the early battle of Khaibar (628CE/7AH) to ‘Ali’s prowess.
/9/ The five are Muhammad, ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husain.

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