TWELVE -- The Amir’s ships
are again storm-tossed, and those unlucky ones fall into the Whirlpool
of Alexander, then emerge from the hurricane and arrive in the land of
The divers in the ocean of historiography,
and those who have plunged into the sea of stories of the past, obtain
the pearls of narrative in this manner: After the hurricane was over,
for some days a favorable wind continually blew. The passengers on
the ships were free from all care. The sailors kept trimming the
sails, and steadily sailed the ship onward.
One day the ships’ lookouts began clamoring
and shouting, “Friends, there’s an immense hurricane coming! That
other hurricane was like a drop of water compared to this one! Let’s
see which of us God saves! A further problem is that the Whirlpool
of *Alexander is very close by. If, God forbid, the ships are sucked
in, they’ll circle round and round until they sink--we’ll all be dragged
right down into the depths of the ocean!”
‘Amar lost control of his bladder, he was
utterly overcome, he began weeping and wailing; he was almost dying of
fear. Sometimes he said, “Uncle Elias, save me, I’ve already promised
that when we reach Sarandip I’ll give you your offering!” Sometimes
he screamed, “Hazrat Khvajah Khizr, tell your brother to help me, to save
me from this disastrous whirlpool and this boundless hurricane! Let
him pray to God for me. As soon as I reach dry land I’ll give what
The Amir, hearing the shouting and commotion,
asked, “Now why is all this crying and lamenting going on? Why all
this petitioning of Hazrat Elias and Hazrat Khizr?” The sailors said,
“Hazrat, a boundless hurricane is at hand! If the Lord saves us from
this hurricane, then He saves us; otherwise it seems impossible for us
to escape with our lives.” Even as they were speaking, the hurricane
enveloped them, and the sea was engulfed in turbulence, and in the wink
of an eye the ships were sucked into the Whirlpool of Alexander; revolving,
they began to circle around and around. Then all the travelers’ minds
grew dizzy, and they were very much afraid.
When the Amir looked closely into the hurricane,
in the midst of that whirlpool he saw a stone pillar standing, and its
length and width were immeasurable. At its summit a tablet made of
something like white stone had been fixed, and on it letters had been carved
in relief. The inscription was in Arabic. Reading the inscription,
he saw that these words were written on it: ‘At some time the Sahib-qiran’s
ships will come this way, and they will be caught in this whirlpool.
It is necessary for the Sahib-qiran himself to climb this pillar and beat
the #Drum of Alexander which hangs atop it. Or he may have his deputy
climb the pillar, so that the task can be accomplished at his hands.
Surely the ships will escape from the whirlpool, and be saved from this
The Amir said to ‘Amar, “Well, brother, I’ll
climb this pillar, and say “In the name of God,” and beat the drum.
If through my one life being lost, thousands of lives are saved, then why
should I mind? I intend to save the lives of God’s servants, under
any circumstances.” ‘Amar said, “It’s also written about your deputy,
he too has been given permission to beat the drum! Since I am your
deputy, I will climb the pillar and beat the Drum of Alexander.”
And inwardly he told himself, “Climb that pillar, and just sit there peacefully!
At least you’ll be safe from the ocean’s turmoil. When some ship
passes by, get on it and be on your way somewhere or other. You have
no wife or children; as a bachelor, on your own, you’ll always manage to
Then, looking toward all the officers, ‘Amar
said, “Friends, I am your sacrificial goat,/1/
so now open your purse-strings! If perhaps I survive, then I should
be rewarded for my labor!” They all wrote out promissory notes.
Those who would have given one dinar in cash promised hundreds, and those
who would have given hundreds promised hundreds of thousands, and they
handed the notes over to ‘Amar. ‘Amar took the notes, reciting this
“In this bottomless ocean, in this booming storm
I have thrown my heart, God will bring it safely home.”/2/
And, holding his breath, he leaped.
But as he neared the top of the pillar, and
had to let out his breath, he fell with a loud noise, and went down.
When he looked down, he saw a crocodile positioned with its mouth open,
waiting for dinner. ‘Amar almost fainted: “Where did this monster
come from? Have I escaped the other disaster, only to lose my life
here?” When, pulling himself together, he poised his feet on the
crocodile’s teeth and made a leap, he landed atop the pillar, he reached
the summit of the pillar--he crowned all his previous deeds with this one.
Everyone praised ‘Amar’s agility, and admired his courage and quickness.
‘Amar saw that in fact there was a drum, and
on its drumhead the name of Alexander the Two-horned/3/
was written. ‘Amar said “In the name of God” and struck it with the
drumstick. A very frightening sound came forth! The sound threw
the ocean into turmoil for one hundred twenty-eight miles around.
An extraordinary commotion ensued: all the sea creatures swam to
the surface, and all the birds that lived on that pillar took fright and
flew away. And with the wind created by their wings, the ships escaped
from the whirlpool. But ‘Amar remained atop the pillar. Although
at first he had longed in his heart for this, the loneliness dismayed him.
After some days, the ships’ anchors were lowered
at the island of #Sarandip, and the Sahib-qiran, with his army, disembarked
on dry land.
For his part, ‘Amar, distressed by the solitude
and the sun, was breaking down, and offering prayers to the True Lord,
and weeping--when suddenly he heard a voice say, “Peace be upon you.”
Growing even more fearful, ‘Amar looked all around, and was dumbfounded,
and said in amazement, “Besides myself, there’s no one else here to greet
me and care about me! The *Angel of Death must be arriving to seize
my soul, he must have come to take my life. Alas, a thousand times
alas! What a bad place death has found me in! I’m not destined
to have proper funeral rites, or a shroud wrapped around me; I won’t even
be buried in the earth!”
In the meantime Hazrat Khizr made himself
visible. ‘Amar saw that a radiant form, robed in green, was standing
there, with a veil that concealed his noble countenance. Saluting
him most respectfully, ‘Amar asked, “What is Hazrat’s auspicious name,
and how does it happen that he has betaken himself to this place?”
Hazrat Khizr said, “I am Khizr, and I have come to deliver you; if God
Most High so wills, I will most quickly free you.” ‘Amar kissed his
feet, and prostrated himself in gratitude to God.
But the ‘ayyar was a slave to his stomach,
he didn’t stand on ceremony. He said, “Oh Hazrat, I’m powerfully
hungry, I hope for your beneficence!” Hazrat Khizr bestowed a #bread-bun
on him and said, “Eat this; I’ll give you water to drink as well, and I’ll
release you from this prison of calamity and grief.” When ‘Amar saw
that bread-bun, he was disgusted and dismayed: “How can this bread-bun
satisfy me?” Gripped by the pangs of hunger, he began muttering,
“Oh Hazrat, although you are a Prophet of God, and I cannot be of your
rank, nevertheless I too am a friend of God’s!/4/
You are joking with me at such a bad time, when I despair of my life!
When a man is full of food, that’s when he thinks of joking--otherwise
he doesn’t even like to talk.”
Hazrat Khizr said, “Where’s the joke?
You complained of hunger, I gave you a bread-bun, and I promised to give
you water to drink as well.” ‘Amar said, “Hazrat, this is a case
of ‘What good is a cumin seed in a camel’s mouth.’ What use is this
bread-bun to me, it won’t fill up even one of my intestines! You’ve
graciously presented me with a little holy crumb!” Hazrat Khizr said,
“My good man, first have a bit of faith and eat it, see if you can even
finish it! Or do you intend to go on jabbering meaninglessly?”
When ‘Amar ate from that bread-bun, even after he was full the bread-bun
remained whole, just as it had been.
Khvajah Khizr pulled out a #water-flask two
and a half hand-breadths long, and gave him water from it to drink, and
said, “You were so impatient before, and now why is the bread-bun still
there?” ‘Amar saw that although he had drunk his fill, the water-flask
was still full to the lip. Expressing his gratitude, he said slily,
“Hazrat, hunger and thirst are constant companions. You will go away,
and what reason would you have to come again? If I’m hungry and thirsty
then, whom can I appeal to? If this bread-bun and water-flask were
bestowed on me, I’d never worry about food as long as I lived; I’d be most
Hazrat Khizr accepted ‘Amar’s plea, and gave
‘Amar the water-flask and bread-bun. And he said, “Oh ‘Amar, this
bread-bun and water-flask will ease your path through the most grievous
troubles, and serve your turn in many places. And you must give the
Drum of Alexander, with its accessories, to Hamzah--and be warned, don’t
take anything from among them!” ‘Amar said, “Hazrat, how will I carry
this burden, and how will I lift its weight?” Hazrat Khizr, giving
him a shawl, said, “Wrap them in this, you won’t feel any burden at all.”
‘Amar said to himself, “This shawl too is quite a good thing: it
will come in handy sometime, and will be comfortable in the cold weather.”
Wrapping all the accessories, and the Drum
of Alexander, in the shawl, he put the bundle on his head. Placing
his feet on the feet of Hazrat Khizr, and closing his eyes, he began reciting
the secret #Great Name which Hazrat Khizr had taught him. In the
twinkling of an eye he traveled from one place to another. Hazrat
Khizr said, “’Amar, just open your eyes, and behold the power of God:
think where you were before, and where, in the space of a breath, you have
arrived; think what difficulties you were trapped in before, and where
you are standing now.” ‘Amar opened his eyes and found himself standing
on dry land; he prostrated himself in gratitude before the True Lord.
He set out toward the mountains, in search of the Amir.
Now please hear about the Sahib-qiran.
When he reached the harbor of Sarandip, and disembarked safe and sound
with his army onto dry land, he made, with perfect open-handedness and
great liberality, the offerings that had been promised during the hurricane
to Hazrats Khizr and Elias. And he ordered, “We will camp here for
two months, and do nothing but express our grief and sorrow, and mourn
for ‘Amar, and give many charitable gifts in his name. You all know
that he was as dear to me as my own life, and I cherished him as the dearest
among all my companions. He never stinted in his loyalty to me, even
to the point of giving up his own life for me. All the officers,
with the soldiers, put on black clothing in mourning for ‘Amar, and abandoned
themselves to loud weeping and wailing and passionate grief.
sacrifice goats to commemorate Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own
son. The phrase used here, [bal bakraa], also suggests a Hindu sacrifice
[bali]; in Bengal goats are sacrificed to the goddess Durga.
verse is in Persian, but incorporates a famous short prayer in Arabic.
the Two-horned [sikandar ;zuu))l-qarnain] is a title sometimes used to
refer to Alexander the Great. Its origin is unclear, and everything
about it is subject to scholarly dispute.
says [mai;N bhii valii allaah kaa huu;N]. He thus suggests--but does
not quite claim--that he is a Friend of God [valii-ullaah], a title suited
only to certain venerable religious figures.
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