ELEVEN -- [The Amir sets out
for Sarandip to conquer Landhaur bin Sa’dan, Emperor of Hindustan.]
Overcoming all difficulties, Hamzah and Mihr Nigar took great risks
in order to see each other again. She managed to sneak into his camp
at night, and he into her palace. They talked, drank wine together,
pledged their love, and vowed to keep faith forever. She accepted
Islam. One night Hamzah was almost caught in her apartments, and
had to fight his way out with much bloodshed; he was wounded, and was in
despair at the fearful consequences of being recognized as the night intruder.
But he prayed for God’s help--pointing out that he had been engaged in
converting an infidel!--and Hazrat Abraham appeared to cure his wound.
In the meantime, Naushervan received a letter complaining about the ominously
great strength and arrogant behavior of *Landhaur bin Sa’dan, Emperor of
#Hindustan. The letter was from Landhaur’s uncle, who wished to steal
his throne. In the course of the letter Landhaur was revealed as
a descendant of the Prophet Seth, a gallant champion, and the rightful
Emperor by direct inheritance from his father. Naushervan promised
Hamzah that if he would conquer and kill Landhaur, he could have Mihr Nigar’s
hand in marriage. Hamzah eagerly agreed, and a formal ceremony of
betrothal was arranged in the palace.
When the Amir had seated himself on a
couch, and according to the royal custom had been formally given wedding-sherbet
to drink, congratulations and good wishes filled the air. Merriment
and joking began among Princess Mihr Nigar’s confidantes and girlfriends.
By the queen’s order, the dancing girls, etc., were given rewards suited
to their stations and talents. Queen Mihr Angez said, “Sahib-qiran,
Mihr Nigar is a trust I give to you, she is part of your own honor and
pride. When you return victorious and triumphant from Hindustan,
I will marry her to you: I will fill the skirt of your longing
with the flower of your desire.”
‘Amar, looking toward Buzurchmihr, said, “Oh,
wonderful, sir! What fairness and compassion, what tender concern!
We are off by the king’s command to risk our necks in Hindustan, and you
don’t give us even a glimpse of Mihr Nigar! If the Lord brings us
back alive, and with our mission achieved, we won’t know who you are marrying
to Hamzah, who you are tying around his neck! How do we know whether
the king’s daughter is fair or dark, thin or fat? Let’s have a look
now, so there won’t be any mischief later. We swear by our loyalty
to the king, until we see Mihr Nigar we absolutely refuse to take a step
outside this house!”
Queen Mihr Angez, laughing at this speech
of ‘Amar’s, said, “It’s not at all customary for the men to have a look!
When the women come for the engagement ceremonies, then they see the bride.”
‘Amar said, “Your Majesty speaks rightly, but in our camp what aunts and
great-aunts do we have, who could enter the ladies’ apartments and see
the princess? We have only you to care for us and show compassion
to us! We know you will look after our interests as is proper, and
will grant our petition.”
The queen said, “Oh well, she has already
become part of your own honor and pride, look at her whenever you want.”
She said to Buzurchmihr, “All right, Khvajah, bring the Amir behind the
curtain, let him have a look at Mihr Nigar, and take him back.” Buzurchmihr
brought the Amir behind the curtain. When the Amir saw Queen Mihr
Angez, he paid his respects to her and presented a formal offering.
The queen gave him her blessing. Mihr Nigar, seated with lowered
head by her mother’s side, with complete shyness and modesty, would not
raise her head at all. The Amir, seeing her, was enraptured; he could
hardly contain his joy.
When Queen Mihr Angez saw the Amir at close
hand, she was boundlessly happy and accepted him with her whole heart and
soul as her future son-in-law. Buzurchmihr said to Princess
Mihr Nigar, “The Amir faces a long and difficult journey. Please
give him some token of yours, so that he can always keep it with
him and can constantly think of you.” Mihr Nigar removed an emerald
ring from her finger and gave it to the Amir. The Amir put that ring
on his finger and, giving Mihr Nigar a ring from his own hand, said, “Please
keep this token of mine also, so that you won’t forget me, so that you’ll
think of me sometimes.”
‘Amar, with his hands folded, petitioned Queen
Mihr Angez, “If you will pardon the liberty, I too will make a submission,
I will convey my longing to your auspicious ear.” She said, “What
do you ask for, what is your desire?” He said, “Since the Amir will,
God willing, marry Princess Mihr Nigar, let this slave also without fail
marry the daughter of the princess’s nurse. So let me also be given
a token, and let the lady nurse give me the wedding-sherbet to drink.”
Queen Mihr Angez said, “Oh, wonderful!
Nurse, do you hear what ‘Amar is saying? That’s quite a proposal
of his!” The nurse submitted, “May God grant the princess prosperity!
It is thanks to her grace that I have heard this proposal.
How could my daughter possibly leave the princess? Whatever the princess
may please to command, my daughter will do.” Mihr Nigar made a sign
to the nurse, and the nurse accepted the proposal.
Queen Mihr Angez said to Fitnah Bano, “You
too must give a token of yours to ‘Amar.” She gave him a perfume-box
worth some hundreds of tumans. Queen Mihr Angez said, “Fitnah Bano,
you must take something from ‘Amar as well.” ‘Amar said, “I have
something right here.” With these words, he pulled from his pocket
one date and two walnuts, and put them in Fitnah Bano’s hand, and said,
“Take the very best care of these, and keep them with you.” All those
present went into fits of laughter at this trick of ‘Amar’s. Finally
the Amir took his leave.
. . .
. . . .
The Amir arrived in his camp, and in lordly
style mounted and set out toward the river. Many officers and noble
courtiers who were favorably inclined toward the Amir accompanied him,
in order according to their rank. Escorting him to the city walls,
they asked leave to depart. The Amir confided them all to the Lord’s
protection, and set out from there at once. After some days he arrived
with his army like a wave of victory at #Basra. Reaching the shore,
he saw that thirty ships were standing ready, as the king had ordered,
waiting for the Amir’s arrival. The Amir, with his thirty thousand
soldiers, boarded those ships, and prepared to set sail on his expedition
‘Amar, getting off the ship, said, “This slave
is afraid of Jinns and magic and water, and cannot possibly set out for
Hindustan! He will go to Mecca and will beg the True Victor for your
victory, he will pray to the Answerer of Prayers.” The Amir realized,
“He absolutely won’t go with me, he will use any kind of ruse to avoid
it.” He said, “All right, ‘Amar, I am not the one to make you miserable
either. But just wait a little, while I write a letter to my father.”
‘Amar believed it: “In fact he really will write a letter, he will
send me off from right here.”
Boarding a small boat, ‘Amar went to the Amir.
The Amir, having written a letter, confided it to ‘Amar’s care, and said,
“Come, brother, let us embrace. God knows when we’ll meet again,
when we’ll find relief from the pain of separation!” Tears gathered
in ‘Amar’s eyes, and some of them fell. The Amir, embracing ‘Amar,
said, “My friend, even in the worst dangers you never left me--at a time
like this, how can my heart consent to be separated from you?
Whatever will be will be
We have set sail out to sea.”/1/
He ordered the captain, “All right, weigh
anchor!” It was no sooner said than done: the anchor was hoisted
that very moment. When they had gone far from shore, the Amir released
‘Amar began feverishly running back and forth
on the ship and muttering, “I fulfilled all the duties of friendship toward
this Arab, and then he became my mortal enemy!” After they had gone
a little further, an island about thirty yards wide came into view.
‘Amar, seeing this island, said to himself, “I’ll jump onto it and go home.”
But what ‘Amar had taken for an island was a fish which had swum to the
surface of the water to bask in the sun. When ‘Amar jumped onto it,
the impact of his feet caused the fish to dive! ‘Amar began to drown;
he was stupefied with shock.
Seeing this state of affairs, the Sahib-qiran
enjoined the sailors, “Look out, don’t let ‘Amar drown! Look out,
don’t let him go down a second time! Whoever pulls him out will get
a reward.” The sailors, throwing chains and ropes, hauled ‘Amar into
the ship, brought him into the Amir’s presence, and sat him down.
It is truly said, ‘Only he who has been caught in a calamity values security.’/2/
When ‘Amar was pulled out of the sea, he sat silently, like a wet chicken,
in one corner of the ship.
. . .
. . .
Stopping on an island, the travelers encountered the Leather-strap-legs.
These creatures appeared to be crippled old men with useless legs.
They hailed the travelers as rescuers, and promised them much money for
carrying them home. But once seated on the travelers’ backs, they
wound their legs tightly around their waists and couldn’t be dislodged.
They began to ride the men as horses, kicking and beating them mercilessly.
After some days, a small wisp of cloud appeared
in the heavens. Within minutes it spread over the whole sky.
The wind began to blow strongly, and assumed the form of a hurricane.
The light of day grew darker than the longest night of the year; you couldn’t
see your hand in front of your face. The strong wind grew fiercer,
the water in the ocean rose up to the great ocean of the sky, every wave
was higher than Noah’s flood./4/
Seeing how the slaps of the waves struck the ships’ faces, the passengers
grew downhearted; despairing of this life as frail as a bubble, they began
to weep tears of sorrow. The shore they sought had not come within
their grasp: their voyage had brought them within the grasp of death.
The Amir said, “Don’t be so agitated and buffeted about! Look to
the mercy of the True Protector:
The travelers were helpless, and begged ‘Amar to find a way out.
‘Amar finally tricked his own rider into drinking too much wine, and stabbed
him to death as he lay in a stupor./3/
Then, after extorting suitable bribes of gold pieces from Hamzah and the
others, ‘Amar killed their riders with stones from his sling. The
travelers continued their voyage.
Behind all weeping laughter finds rebirth
The one who takes a long view is fortunate on earth.”/5/
‘Amar was as though drowned in the ocean
of obliteration. Weeping, he began to say, “Oh Captain of the Ship
of Oneness, this fleet of Muslims is in Your hands: if You bring
it to the shore, then it will reach the shore.” Sometimes he said,
“Oh Hazrat *Elias, if you will bring this vessel which is caught in the
whirlpool to shore, and rescue us from this calamity, then although I am
a useless drop of water with no strength, in your name I will throw a fivepenny
packet of sugar into the river!/6/
And you also will have a good deed to your credit, and in addition your
brother Hazrat Khizr will be pleased with you--for he has taken me under
his protection, yet I’m trapped in this whirlpool of disaster!”
And sometimes he said to the Amir, “Hamzah,
this is all your doing and your mischief! If we die here, we will
come to a bad end: not a grave, not a shroud, not a funeral
procession, not a coffin--and all this is your doing! For this
very reason I never set foot in the water, and I was never willing
to enjoy the fruits of this disaster. Although the knowledge was
rippling on the waters of your heart, and sparkled clearly in your heart,
that I, like a flood, run miles away from a river, and that I, like a shore,
always stay off to one side! In my whole life I never even
dipped my foot into a pool, and when bathing I never poured water
over my head! You forcibly brought the vessel of my heart out to
sea, and sank it: in the midst of the ocean you’ve caused me to lose
both worlds!” The hearers, who had been distraught, sunk in
the ocean-depths of sorrow, opened like flowers at the breath of ‘Amar’s
speech and burst out laughing.
Finally, after many trials and tribulations,
three days later, like tears in the sad eyes of those drowning in the ocean
of love, the hurricane blew itself out. The darkness put on a robe
of light, the brightness of the heavens displayed itself. The buffeting
of the waves ceased, the high billows of the ocean were brought low, the
rippling of the ocean-waves became like the phantom waves in a mirage:
not the least bit of noise or frenzy remained in the sea. They all
rejoiced and began saying to each other, “We had washed our hands of life,
we were all but dead, we were done for; but the Creator restored us to
life afresh.” Someone said, “We had virtually drowned, but the True
Captain brought our vessel to shore.”
‘Amar said, “My friend, it was my prayer that
lifted you drowning ones up, and pulled you out of that whirlpool of disaster!
What vows did I not offer, what pious promises did I not make in my heart!
Indeed, all of you give me something, so I can make offerings, and
have prayers said over them in the name of venerable elders.”
Everyone gave ‘Amar some #dinars, and some people promised to contribute
later. ‘Amar said, “Uncle Elias, when I reach Sarandip, then I’ll
buy sugar and offer you your packet! In this salty ocean where can
I get sugar to offer you?” Everyone laughed at his pleasantry, and
enjoyed it very much.
is a single line of Persian verse, very famous.
is a Persian proverb. For a passage using it in almost the same situation
see Sa’di’s Gulistan, Book I, Story 7. Edward Rehatsek, trans.,
Gulistan of Sa’di (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1965), pp.
adventure is almost the same as one of Sindbad’s during his Fifth Voyage.
See N. J. Dawood, trans., Tales from the Thousand and One Nights
(London: Penguin Books, 1973), pp. 146-149.
Muslims know this story in
much the same form that Christians and Jews know it. It is mentioned
in the /4/Quran
(7:59-64 and elsewhere).
verse is in Persian.
South Asian Muslim practice, offerings are normally made not to someone,
but to the poor, etc., in that person’s name, so that the religious merit
will accrue to that person. Sweet things are often included in such
offerings, especially offerings made in the name of someone absent.
Sweetening the river with sugar is presumably an act of general charity
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