THIRTEEN -- [‘Amar plays tricks on the Amir’s companions, but cannot fool the Amir himself.]

‘Amar had gone many miles along the road, when he sat down beneath a shady tree to rest.  A moment later, he saw a venerable personage standing to the right.  After kissing his feet, ‘Amar asked, “Who are you?”  He replied, “My name is Elias.  I’ve come to give you what I held in trust for you, I’ve brought this equipment for you.  Take this net and blanket.  No matter how heavy a burden you wrap up in the net,/1/ it will feel light to you.  And when you wrap the blanket around you, you will see everyone, and no one will see you.”  With these words, he vanished, and went off somewhere.

After some days, ‘Amar arrived near the Sahib-qiran’s camp.  At first he felt glad at heart:  “Praise be to God, I’ve found the army!”  Then he saw that everyone was dressed in black, and looked distraught with grief.  ‘Amar said to himself, “May the Lord send me news of Hamzah’s wellbeing, and show him to me safe and sound.”  Pretending to be a stranger, he asked someone, “Whose army is this, and why is the whole army in mourning?”

The man said, “This is the Sahib-qiran’s army, and it’s been camped here lately.  ‘Amar ‘Ayyar was a brother of the Amir’s, and the Amir loved him dearly.  But he climbed onto a pillar in the salty sea and died.  In mourning for him the Sahib-qiran wears black, because of him the whole army wears black; and the Sahib-qiran has abandoned himself to passionate grief.  Thus today is the #fortieth-day ceremony:  the prayer for the dead has been recited, and food is being distributed among the mendicants and the poor.”  ‘Amar said to himself, “Well, the Amir’s affection for me has stood the test.”

He spent the day among the mendicants who were being fed as part of ‘Amar’s funeral ceremonies.  At night, wrapping himself in the blanket, he barged into ‘Adi’s tent.  He saw that ‘Adi was sleeping soundly.  He climbed onto ‘Adi’s chest and sat there.  ‘Adi awoke and began asking, “Who are you, and where have you come from, and what do you have against me?”  ‘Amar said, “I am the Angel of Death.  Today they were sending ‘Amar’s soul to Heaven.  He refused to go.  He said to the warden of Heaven, ‘’Adi is my great friend.  I won’t go to Heaven without him, I won’t take one step on the road to Paradise without his company.’  They explained to him, ‘It will be a long time before he comes, he is not due for quite a while yet.’ But when he still refused to consent, I was ordered, ‘Go, seize ‘Adi’s soul too and bring it.’  Therefore I’ve come to seize your soul, I will take your life.”

‘Adi said, “I’m absolutely not his friend, I’m no comrade or intimate of his!  On the contrary:  I was always his mortal enemy, and always prayed for his death!  In fact I never could stand him, and we were never compatible at all.”  ‘Amar said, “If you give me something, I’ll let you go, and I’ll present what you’ve said before the High God.”  ‘Adi said, “Right there is a box of gold pieces--please take the box, and let go of my life!”  ‘Amar, taking the box, went and barged into Sultan Bakht’s tent, and presented the same speech to him as well.  Sultan Bakht too gave a box of gold pieces--he believed that he was saving his life, and freeing himself from the grasp of the Angel of Death.

In short, that night ‘Amar extracted gold pieces from all the officers in the same way, and collected the coins in his net.  After ‘Amar’s visits they all were feverish and trembling with fright:  fear destroyed their peace of mind for the whole night.  When morning came, first ‘Adi told the Amir about the night’s events.  The Amir believed that he had had a nightmare, and laughed very much on hearing his story, and enjoyed it extremely.  Sultan Bakht arrived and told his own tale.  And all the nobles presented themselves and told the Amir something very similar, they all described the events of the night.  The Amir commanded, “Take the tents down at once, have the army move on away from here.  It’s apparent that Satan has been causing disturbances here!  Otherwise, how could everyone have the same dream?  What if everyone should go mad, and the camp be possessed by devils?”

The next day ‘Amar played this same trick on the Amir too, he tried the same sort of craftiness even on him.  The Amir said, “It’s an extraordinary thing--the voice can be heard, but the owner of the voice can’t be seen; what wickedness is this?”  When the Amir groped about with his hand, he seemed to touch a body.  Thinking it to be a Jinn, the Amir seized it with one hand, and with the other hand prepared to strike a blow and pulverize it.  ‘Amar said, “Beware, oh Arab, don’t strike a blow!  You’ll injure me, your blow will cause me pain!”  And quickly he threw aside the blanket from over his head.

The Amir recognized his voice, and embraced him, and with the greatest happiness pressed him to his breast.  ‘Amar recounted all that had happened, and told his whole story.  He gave the Amir the Drum of Alexander, with all its accessories, etc.  And showing the Amir the bread-bun, the water-flask,  the blanket, and the net, he kept them in his own possession and said, “Hazrats Khizr and Elias gave these to me.  Nobody else has a share in them, they’re mine!”

.    .    .    .    .    .    .

‘Amar now stayed with the Amir and the army.  But one day he went out by himself to walk in the wilderness. 
‘Amar saw that the time for prayer had come.  Renewing his ablutions in the water of the fountain, he duly performed the prayer.  And he began weeping with great sobs. Considering this blessed place to be a site  where prayers were granted, he began to petition the Creator.  Suddenly, in the midst of his weeping and sobbing, ‘Amar dozed off.  He saw a number of venerable elders with radiant faces standing beside him and looking benevolently  toward him.  One elder, of tall stature, giving him a robe, said, “Put this on, it is called the Robe of the Devs.  Wearing it, you will be protected from all evil influences and calamities, and no afflictions sent by devils or wickedness wrought by Jinns will affect you.  And in the Robe is #Zanbil. If you put everything in the world into Zanbil it will all disappear, and in addition to what you have put in, you can find and pull out anything you want from it.  And when you place your hand on it and say, ‘Grandfather Adam, may I look like such-and-such,’ it will make you look just the way you wish; this is its miraculous power.  And you will speak and understand anybody’s language that you wish.  My name is Adam.”  ‘Amar made obeisance, and bent his head to kiss Adam’s feet.

The second elder, giving him a cup, said, “Memorize the Great Name which is written on this cup.  It will be very useful to you and will give the most thoroughly satisfying benefits.  My name is Isaac the Prophet of God.”  The third Prophet gave his name as David, and, giving ‘Amar a two-stringed #Lute, said, “When you play this and sing, even a virtuoso will not be able to compare with you.  Even if the hearer knows nothing of the music, still your voice will pierce his heart, he will love and adore you.”  The fourth elder, giving his name as Salih the Prophet, passed his hand along ‘Amar’s back and said, “No one will excel you in running, and not even a swift horse will be able to match you.  You will go more swiftly than even the wind, and will never tire.”/2/

While Hazrat Salih was saying this, a throne descended from the heavens to the earth; on it an elder was seated.  At the sight of his face, ‘Amar’s eyes were dazzled;  he was overcome with awe.  All four Prophets made obeisance to this elder, and showed the greatest reverence.  ‘Amar asked them, “Who is this venerable person?”  They said, “This is the Last Prophet, *Muhammad the Messenger of God, God’s peace and blessing be upon him and his family.”  With hands respectfully folded ‘Amar bowed deeply, and began by petitioning, “Oh Hazrat, each of the Prophets has bestowed a rare gift on me.  My prayer to you is that until I ask for death three times, the Angel of Death should not seize my soul, and I should not die.”  The Hazrat, God’s peace and blessing be on him, said, “If God wills, it will be just as you have said.”  With this, ‘Amar’s eyes opened.  When he looked, everything that the Prophets had given him in his dreaming state was lying beside him, all the goods were piled before him.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
‘Amar set out from there, and on the road, by way of precaution, he put his hand on Zanbil and said, “Oh Grandfather Adam, may I become tall of stature, and may my complexion become even blacker than tar-oil!  And until I ask for it myself, may my height not lessen, may my stature and body and face be unique among the men of this world.”  ‘Amar saw that at once his height increased.  When he looked in a mirror, he himself was frightened by his face.  He said to himself, “What if this face remains with me, what if this stature and complexion remain?”  Putting his hand on Zanbil, he invoked its miraculous power:  “May my real face return, and my shape become as it was before!”  Immediately he returned to his real shape.

‘Amar’s spirits revived.  Then he began to gloat:  “I can assume whatever form I want!  What extraordinary tricks I will pull off on certain occasions!”  Then again changing his appearance, he arrived among the army of Islam, and began to play the two-stringed lute and sing.  All those who heard the sound abandoned their own pursuits and gathered around ‘Amar.  People told the Sahib-qiran, “An Indian man of such-and-such appearance has come into the camp, and is playing the two-stringed lute so beautifully that the listeners’ senses are ravished.”

The Sahib-qiran sent for him, and summoned him into his presence.  He saw that the man indeed had an extraordinary-looking face, the like of which he hadn’t seen before even in his dreams.  When he heard the man sing and play, his ears pricked up.  The Amir, with the nobles, became so absorbed that they all forgot themselves entirely, they were as if spellbound.  When ‘Amar had finished his performance, the Amir asked him, “Oh fellow, where do you come from, and what is your name?”  ‘Amar said, “They call me Mahmud Black-body, and I live right here in Sarandip.  The king of Hindustan knows me well, and rewards me pretty generously.  But he doesn’t give me as much as I want:  enough to become free of care, and not to stretch out a begging hand before any nobleman.”

The Sahib-qiran commanded, “Take him into our treasury.  Have him given as many rupees, gold pieces, and jewels as he can carry.”  Sultan Bakht took ‘Amar into the Amir’s treasury, and told him to pick out his reward.  ‘Amar pulled out, one by one, all the boxes there were in the treasury.  Sultan Bakht said, “This is a load which will fill hundreds of wagons!  Only take out as much as you can lift.  As the Amir has ordered, take as much wealth and property as you can tie up in your bag and carry home.  Why are you being so covetous?  You are disordering the boxes in the treasury for no reason.”

‘Amar said, “On the contrary, Hazrat, I am doing just as you ask.  Or do I have wagons and carts to load it on, or will I somehow send for porters?”  Sultan Bakht, thinking that he might be mentally deranged, kept quiet, and paid no attention to his doings.  Other officials and servants attached to the treasury also looked on; they simply stood by in silence.  ‘Amar, spreading out the net, piled all those boxes onto it, strapped them up with a rope, lifted them to his shoulder, and prepared to set out toward the mountains.  The beholders were petrified with amazement.

Sultan Bakht stopped him and said, “Please just wait a little, let us inform our master, let this state of affairs come to his ear also.”  ‘Amar, taking the boxes down from his shoulder, sat down.  Sultan Bakht went and told the whole story to the Amir:  “Oh Sahib-qiran, we don’t know if he is a Jinn, or a Ghoul of the wilderness,/3/ or some magician, or some earth-born plague, or some heaven-sent disaster!  He tied all the boxes in the treasury up in a net and lifted them to his shoulder, and he walked so lightly that he didn’t even stagger, and his shoulder didn’t tremble!  Your humble servant stopped him, saying, ‘Let me just go and inform my lord, then I will return and see you off.’”

The Sahib-qiran concluded as soon as he heard all this, “Surely it’s ‘Amar:  he has learned some new conjuring trick, and it’s certainly his deception.”  Betaking himself there, the Amir said, “Well now, brother, you are certainly showing us marvels, and polishing your performance on us!”  ‘Amar burst out laughing.  The Amir embraced him.  ‘Amar told the whole story.

/1/ This net seems to duplicate the function of the shawl given to ‘Amar by Khizr at the end of the previous chapter.
/2/ This is ‘Amar’s second gift of fast running.  The same gift was bestowed on him by Khizr in Chapter 3.
/3/ The “Ghoul of the wilderness” [;Guul-e biyaabaanii] is notorious for misguiding travelers with his brightly shining eyes, then disappearing.

== on to Chapter 14 ==

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