NINETEEN -- The pigeon’s letter
arrives in Ctesiphon, and plans are made to kill Muqbil, etc., and ‘Amar
When Hamzah and his party reached Egypt, they were escorted into
the city by the admiring populace and treated as honored guests.
The *King of Egypt showed them lavish hospitality--but put knockout drugs
in their wine. When they awoke, they found themselves in a dungeon,
loaded with chains and under constant guard. The King of Egypt sent
a letter to Naushervan through a carrier-pigeon, asking permission to kill
the prisoners. While awaiting a reply, he charged the chief of his
‘ayyars, *Sarhang the Egyptian, to keep the strictest watch over Hamzah
and his companions.
When the pigeon, leaving Egypt behind, flew off,
it arrived before night had fallen at the pigeon-roost of Naushervan the
Just, and stopped there. The pigeon-handler, seeing the new arrival,
released the other pigeons, lifted the net, scattered grain, and splashed
the pigeon with water, for it had been without food and water, tired and
worn out, for a whole day. The new pigeon entered the net ahead of
all the others and settled there. The pigeon-handler pulled the net
shut, went inside it, and confidently picked up the new bird. He
noticed that there was a letter around its neck. Taking the letter,
he gave the pigeon grain and water and left it in the net.
He took the letter before Bakhtak and said,
“I’ve just caught a pigeon. This letter was tied around its neck--I
found it in a little bag. So I’ve brought it before Your Excellency;
I gave the pigeon grain in the net and came to you.” When Bakhtak
opened the letter and read it, his morose face became all smiles, and his
heart expanded in ecstasy. That very instant he presented himself
before the king and happily congratulated him, and gave him the letter.
Naushervan too, when he read the letter, almost burst the buttons of his
robe with happiness.
Bakhtak petitioned, “Now Your Majesty should
most quickly write, in answer to this, a warrant authorizing the killing
of Hamzah, and Your Majesty should bestow it on me, and should not consult
with anybody else about the matter. For this servant has an Egyptian
pigeon: if the letter is tied to its neck and it’s released in the
morning, by evening it will have carried the letter to the addressee.”
Naushervan said, “In such a difficult matter it is most necessary to have
Buzurchmihr’s advice, for I wish to act on my father’s injunction in all
That gallows-bait replied, “As you command.
But Buzurchmihr is a Muslim--he will always take the Muslims’ side.
Mighty ones like Hamzah will hardly fall into your clutches repeatedly;
you will not have a chance like this again.” The king said, “This
consultation will test Buzurchmihr’s faith also: his religion will
With these words, he summoned Buzurchmihr, and gave him the letter to read.
When Buzurchmihr read the letter, he felt
that the bird of his senses was about to take wing: what a dreadful
disaster! At length, pulling himself together, he said, “May the
Lord make this auspicious for you--that you have no part in all this, and
yet a great trouble has been removed! But just now it’s not proper
for you to write ordering that Hamzah be killed. I say this because
if the news quickly reaches Landhaur and Bahram and Muqbil, then before
the pigeon arrives, there won’t be even a bird or beast--not to speak of
a human being--left alive in Ctesiphon. And afterwards, God knows
what will become of Egypt! First please allow for these people in
your plans, then afterwards order that Hamzah be killed.”
Bakhtak replied, “That’s no great matter--it
doesn’t need a miracle of intelligence to deal with those people!
Tomorrow when they present themselves in court, let Your Majesty arrange
a feast of meat and wine and, by putting a knockout drug in the wine, make
those three pass out on the floor. Afterwards, you should write the
letter commanding the King of Egypt to kill Hamzah, then tie it around
the pigeon’s neck and send it off. You should use the pigeon which
is in your humble servant’s possession. When Hamzah’s head arrives,
then you can confidently kill Landhaur, etc., and wipe out a daily threat
of mischief and disruption in your country.”
Naushervan was very pleased by this idea,
and expressed the greatest admiration for Bakhtak’s wisdom. Since
Bakhtak knew that Buzurchmihr worshiped the Lord, he neither went himself
to his house that night nor, with the king’s permission, allowed Buzurchmihr
to go to his own house.
When morning came, the time for court arrived.
Landhaur and Bahram and Muqbil presented themselves at court as usual,
and sat in their various places according to their respective ranks.
The king behaved very graciously toward them and, as had been decided the
night before, arranged a joyous gathering. Wine mixed with knockout
drugs began to circulate, Portuguese and French wines began to be poured.
Although Buzurchmihr, behind the others’ backs, winked at Bahram
and Muqbil and Landhaur, none of them understood, none of them paid attention
to his signal.
Muqbil, having drunk two cups, realized something
of the truth and, on the pretext of a headache, rose and left the gathering,
and went straight along by the shortest route to Buzurchmihr’s house; arriving
there, he lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor. Landhaur
and Bahram, having drunk four or five cups, lost consciousness and fell
from their chairs and couches. The king had leg-irons put on their
feet, iron collars on their necks, chains around their waists, and spiked
balls under their arms to torture them; he had them both sent to a dungeon.
Then the king wrote in answer to the King
of Egypt, “In truth you have done us a great service by imprisoning Hamzah.
It is necessary that the moment you receive this letter, you cut off his
head and sent it to us, and finish off this affair as soon as possible.”
Having written the letter, he gave it to Bakhtak: “Put our seal at the
top of it, tie it around the pigeon’s neck, and tomorrow morning send it
off. And be warned--let no one learn of this secret!” Having
given this order, the king dismissed the court, and entered the bedchamber
of the harem. Buzurchmihr, taking his leave, went to his own house.
Arriving there, he saw that Muqbil was lying
unconscious and unmoving, like a dead man. Giving him an antidote
to the knockout drug, he brought him to his senses, recounted the whole
story, and told him of the entire affair. Muqbil began rending his
clothes and wailing, and was ready to give up the ghost. Buzurchmihr
said, “This is not the time for wailing and breast-beating, this is the
time for strategy! At such a time, to let strategy slip from your
hands is highly improper. I have a female camel who can cover two
hundred forty miles without stopping. Mount her and rush off:
on the road, catch the pigeon wherever you can and kill it, for only if
it’s killed will things be all right. This is the soundest and most
prudent strategy.” Muqbil instantly mounted the camel and went off.
Buzurchmihr discovered by geomancy that this
task could not be carried out without ‘Amar, this difficulty could not
be resolved without ‘Amar. He grew even more worried: “’Amar
is not here! And where can I find any trace of him?” In the
meantime Buzurg Ummid, Buzurchmihr’s eldest son, came in from outside.
Seeing the Khvajah worried, he asked, “Is Your Excellency well? Why
are you worried?” The Khvajah said, “Well, just throw the divining-dice
yourself, and tell me why I’m worried, and what important matters are confronting
me!” Throwing the divining-dice, Buzurg Ummid said, “You are waiting
for some missing person, and your agitation is because of him; he will
arrive by evening, and will definitely meet with you.”
When Buzurchmihr put the faces of the divining-dice
together and examined them, he joyfully said to a slave, “Go and see who
is standing at the door, and what his height and stature and appearance
are like.” The slave came back and said, “A person of tall stature,
with a white beard, is standing there, and says, ‘Convey my greeting to
the Khvajah, and please just ask him to come here.’” Buzurchmihr,
hearing this, ran barefoot and brought ‘Amar into the house. Telling
him the whole story, he began to weep and said, “Khvajah ‘Amar, if you
kill this pigeon on its way, then things will be all right, and everything
will end well. Otherwise, our goose is cooked!”
‘Amar too began to weep, and said, “Khvajah,
how can I run three thousand miles in one day? I don’t have wings
and feathers like a pigeon, to fly along through the air!” Buzurchmihr
said, “Oh ‘Amar, I have seen in your fortune that three times in your life
you’ll run as no one ever has run or will run. The first time, you’ll
cover three thousand miles in one day along with this pigeon. The
second time, when enemies tie the Amir between the torture-stakes, you
will run thirty-three thousand miles in twelve days to rally the champions
The third time, in the Wilderness of Alexander you will cover twenty-one
thousand miles in seven days for the sake of Hamzah’s son, and will never
tire at all.”/3/
‘Amar said, “Khvajah, you’ve told me very
dismal news, and have read me a really fine fortune! It appears that
my whole life will be spent running, and my time will pass in racing around
and bearing messages!” The Khvajah said, “Be happy. As wages
for it you will receive unimaginable treasures, such as no one has ever
even dreamed of--indeed, such as not even the greatest kings have ever
heard of. So get ready to leave at once! This is not the occasion
for negligence and indolence, it’s not the moment for taking your time.
I have mounted Muqbil on a female camel and sent him too; you’ll meet him
on the way. I feel sure you’ll catch up to him quickly.”
‘Amar, taking leave of the Khvajah, came to
Tal Shad Kam. He said to the officers of Hindustan and China, “For
the present it’s not a good idea for you all to remain here. Naushervan,
seeing you leaderless, might do you some injury. Go and camp in the
Beneficent Forest, and hope for the Lord’s grace. Wait and see what
comes to light from the realm of the Unseen, what means of remedy God reveals.”
is a kind of covert Muslim, taking the Muslims’ side but always giving
prudential reasons for his stand.
prophecy is not fulfilled. When the occasion arises, ‘Amar rallies
the champions by sending them letters, not by running around to each one.
See Chapter 56.
such event is described in the present text. But ‘Amar is still alive
after Hamzah’s death, and so are some of Hamzah’s sons, so there is room
for it to occur in some other version of the story.
== on to Chapter