THIRTY-SIX -- The dastan of
the King of the ‘Ayyars of the Age, the renowned Khvajah ‘Amar, and Hurmuz
Eight years passed, and ‘Amar’s successes against the enemy continued.
When provisions ran low, he was always able to find another fort, penetrate
it by trickery, seize it somehow, and move his army there under cover of
night. Naushervan’s army could do no more than follow his tracks,
and settle in to besiege each new fort in turn.
But for fear of ‘Amar, in the infidels’ camp
people slept only by turns, in the daytime, and at night they all stayed
quite awake; they were very much on the alert for fear ‘Amar would launch
a surprise night-attack. One day, in the evening, Hurmuz, Faramarz
and Bakhtyarak, with their officers, were sitting drinking wine, when Katarah,
making his rounds as watchman, came by that way, and happened to pass near
Once, while moving from one fort to another, Mihr Nigar tired of her palanquin
and traveled for a time on horseback. Zhopin somehow managed to approach
her, seize her horse’s bridle, and protest his love. She refused
to listen, but he persisted. Finally she drew her dagger and wounded
him badly in the head, so that he was forced to run off.
‘Amar then disguised himself as a doctor, slipped into the enemy camp,
and visited the wounded Zhopin. In the guise of “treating” the patient,
he tied him down, deepened the wound with a razor, and rubbed lime and
ratsbane into it. Zhopin screamed with pain and fainted. ‘Amar
stole everything in the room and slipped away. Forays like this made
‘Amar a source of terror to the enemy army.
Bakhtyarak said to Katarah, “How about it,
Katarah--’Amar is an ‘ayyar, and you’re an ‘ayyar too! But he is
famous in every city and country. Just look at what ‘ayyaris he performs,
and how cleverly he gets himself out of trouble! And you aren’t even
capable of tying him up and bringing him here, or getting him into your
clutches through some trick!” Katarah was very much ashamed at heart,
he was thoroughly abashed at Bakhtyarak’s reproach. He said, “If
I don’t tie ‘Amar up and bring him here today, then I don’t deserve to
be called Katarah!”
With these words, he went to the fort and
walked all around its walls. He didn’t find a way anywhere to get
in; he couldn’t think of any strategem for gaining entrance to the fort.
But from one tower no voices came, and no human forms could be seen in
it. He realized that the guards in this tower were asleep, all the
watchmen and sentries were asleep. Flinging up his noose, he climbed
the tower. When he looked, in fact they were all sleeping like their
own sleeping fortune; they were drunken and heedless with the wine of slumber.
Katarah, cutting off all their heads, ascended to the Royal Tower.
At that time ‘Amar had gone to the ladies’
apartments, to have dinner with Mihr Nigar and help her pass the time.
Katarah went and lay down beneath ‘Amar’s bed; he silently pressed himself
against the footboard. ‘Amar, having eaten dinner, came back from
the ladies’ apartments; when he reached the Royal Tower, he lay down on
his bed, since it was late at night. The moment he lay down he went
to sleep, he fell into unconscious slumber.
When Katarah heard the sound of ‘Amar’s snoring,
he came out from under the bed. Joining together the sections of
his seven-part blowpipe, he put knockout powder in it, brought it near
‘Amar’s nostrils, and blew the knockout powder into ‘Amar’s nose; he managed
to do all this! Even as ‘Amar sneezed, he fell unconscious; he no
longer knew what was happening to him. He was helpless, and was caught
in the clutches of his enemy.
Katarah, wrapping four loops of his noose
around ‘Amar’s neck, tied his ankles together and carried him slung head-downwards;
he held ‘Amar completely in his power. Wrapping ‘Amar up in his ‘ayyari-cloak,
he found a way out through the same tower by which he had come in.
Climbing down from it, he swam across the moat. He was very happy
that ‘Amar had been entrapped by his ‘ayyari. Taking up the bundle,
he went and placed it before Hurmuz and Faramarz, and submitted, “Take
‘Amar, and at least praise me
Hurmuz, Faramarz, Zhopin and Bakhtyarak felt
an extraordinary kind of happiness; they were so overjoyed that they could
hardly keep control over themselves. They began flinging their crowns
in the air and crying “Bravo! Bravo!” They clutched Katarah
to their bosoms and praised him very much, and gave him a resplendent robe
of honor, and honored him beyond all bounds. Calling a blacksmith
at once, they had ‘Amar loaded down with iron fetters; his every limb was
confined by chains. And all night long, out of sheer happiness, no
one went to sleep.
As it happened, toward morning ‘Amar came
to his senses, and found himself bound in iron fetters. Seeing this
he said, “’There is no strength or power but in God!’/1/
What a bad dream I’m having, what a dire situation I’m imagining!”
Hurmuz said, “Oh son of a camel-driver, this is no dream--you’re awake!
This captivity is a punishment for your deeds. You held your head
very high, you caused grief to thousands of men--look what retribution
you’re receiving now! Now you’ll never be rescued from our hands.”
‘Amar replied, “You know I’m a pious person,
under divine protection. I’ve been trained in mystical knowledge
by Hazrat ‘Ali the Chosen. I’m not in the habit of being confined:
no one has the strength to keep me imprisoned! But you have sown
thorns in your own fortune, you have lost all your comfort and luxury.
When I get out of here, if I don’t punish every one of you, then I don’t
deserve the name ‘Amar, and I’ve disgraced the name of ‘ayyari!”
Hurmuz said, “Even now you hope to live, and
to be freed! Who can free you, now that you’re our prisoner?”
‘Amar replied, “My Lord is merciful, His holy Essence is forgiving and
munificent. I won’t remain in prison like this. I’m not afraid
of you people at all. Go ahead and do as much as you can--don’t do
me any favors!” Hurmuz was very much enraged at ‘Amar’s speech.
Giving ‘Amar at once into the executioner’s custody, he commanded, “Take
him away and cut off his head--relieve his body of the burden of his head
with your harsh sword!”
The narrator writes that the executioner,
taking ‘Amar, sat him down on a platform of heaped sand. Drawing
his sword, the executioner came up close to ‘Amar’s head. ‘Amar saw
that no hope of rescue remained, that in a few moments his soul would leave
his body for the realm of Nothingness. He began to remember God and
the Prophet. Silently he said, “Oh Hazrat Khizr, help me! Rescue
me from this hopeless situation! If I escape alive, then somehow
or other I’ll go to the riverbank and offer a fivepenny portion of gruel
in your name,/2/
and say the Fatihah/3/
Bakhtyarak, when he saw ‘Amar’s lips moving,
said to Hurmuz, “Please order the executioner to kill him without any delay
at all--he should finish him off quickly, and turn the morning of his life
into night. Otherwise, before long he’ll escape! If ‘Amar gets
free, he’ll bring down a great calamity on us. Look, he’s reciting
incantations! His spells are very potent--after saying them, he can’t
be harmed in any way.” Hurmuz gave the executioner a second order.
The executioner told ‘Amar, “If you want to
eat or drink anything, do so. In a few minutes you will die:
the Angel of Death is coming to seize your soul.” ‘Amar said, “Instead
of eating, I’ve swallowed many bitter pills, and I’ve tasted all the world’s
pleasures. I don’t crave anything more. Do your work quickly, and
don’t say anything further.” The executioner, receiving a third order,
went up to ‘Amar, and raised his hand to strike.
‘Amar, who was kneeling, looked at the executioner
and told him, “My friend, strike with a sharp sword, so that one blow will
separate my head from my body, and my soul will not be left writhing in
torment. The cutting edge of your sword is broken--you can’t possibly
kill me!” The executioner began to examine his sword. ‘Amar,
finding his chance, braced both hands against the ground and launched a
kick so forcefully against the executioner’s breast, and the kick was so
effective, that the sword fell from the executioner’s hand, and he himself
began writhing like a ground-tumbler pigeon; he was injured by the blow,
and could not get up.
Suddenly voices rose on every side:
“He got him!” Hurmuz thought that the executioner had killed ‘Amar,
that Death had reduced him to nonexistence. Bakhtyarak told him,
“No, Your Excellency--’Amar struck down the executioner, the executioner
was overthrown by him.” Hurmuz said, “In truth, this ‘ayyar is a
terror! He’s so tricky and full of gall--even when he’s dying, he
takes someone with him. Look what he’s done to the executioner!”
Hurmuz sent a second executioner. That executioner, drawing his sword,
came forward to kill ‘Amar, and raised his sword for the stroke.
Then ‘Amar’s eyes filled with tears, and he
despaired of his life; his face turned pale with utter hopelessness--when
just then a young ‘ayyar, wearing ‘ayyari costume, entered the court, respectfully
made obeisance to Hurmuz, and said, “I am an ‘ayyar of the Great Khan Sultan
Salsal bin Zal Shamamah the Magician, King of Turkestan; I am chief of
all his ‘ayyars. Naushervan has sent me to announce that the King
of Turkestan, with the armies of Turkestan and #Khavar, is coming to your
aid; he will soon make his appearance and join you.” Hurmuz and Faramarz
were very much delighted, all sorrow was banished from their hearts.
Having said this, the young ‘ayyar looked
toward ‘Amar and asked, “Who is this who is sitting with his head bowed
beneath the sword, who has abandoned all hope of life?” Hurmuz replied,
“’Amar ‘Ayyar, whom you must have heard of--it’s he himself! His
deeds left us all helpless and distracted, we were extremely worried and
anxious. Last night Katarah of Kabul, the chief of our ‘ayyars, seized
and bound him and brought him here. Through Katarah’s ‘ayyari and
trickery, after all this time ‘Amar has fallen into our clutches!
Even in this condition he’s taken the life of an executioner, he kicked
him so hard! Now we’ve sent a second executioner, to deal him a sword-blow,
and send him to the realm of Nothingness.”
The young ‘ayyar said, “As though it would
be difficult to kill him! He has no weapon, and no hope of saving
his life. At the Great Khan’s command I have killed many proud champions
so fearsome that even looking at their faces would send a man into panic,
so mighty that thousands of men couldn’t stand against one of them.
If you command me, I’ll send his head flying with a single blow, I’ll show
you the action of my finely-honed sword and powerful arm.” Hurmuz
said, “Very good.” He called the executioner back, and sent the young
The young ‘ayyar, approaching ‘Amar, said
to him, “Bow your head and bring your neck before me.” ‘Amar replied,
“I’m sitting here with my head bowed! Come near me, and wield your
sword.” The young ‘ayyar replied, “I’m not so crazy as to come near
you! I too would be tricked like that executioner. If you used
and launched a kick at me too, what could I do against you, how could I
deal with you?” ‘Amar said to himself, “This one seems very
sharp and clever, this young ‘ayyar seems like a real mischief-maker.
He’ll surely kill me!” ‘Amar grew tearful, his eyes filled with tears;
and he despaired of his life.
The young ‘ayyar said in the Greek language,
“Oh Khvajah, don’t be tearful, don’t be sorrowful at heart. I am
the ‘ayyar of the Veiled One Dressed in Orange; I’ve come to rescue you,
I’ve used a thousand tricks and wiles to get to you. First spread
out your legs so I can cut the shackles on your feet, and free you from
this distress. Then I’ll seat you on my back and get out of here,
with some trickery and courage I’ll at once take you away from this place.”
When ‘Amar heard these words, he felt life
and hope returning; really it was as if he had been restored to life again.
He spread out his legs, and gave thanks for this kindness. The young
‘ayyar struck such a blow with his sword that he sent the fetters flying
off from both ‘Amar’s feet with a single stroke. Then, seating ‘Amar
on his back, he ran off so swiftly that no one could follow his trail.
Tumult broke out in the courtyard; people
came running from all directions, drawing their swords. Many foot-soldiers
and horsemen rushed to seize him. The young ‘ayyar drew his sword
from the scabbard. Any infidel he struck with it never raised his
head again. ‘Amar, who was seated on his back, began to pull off
everyone’s turban, and kick out with his feet. At length the young
‘ayyar fought his way out with ‘Amar from the infidel camp, and nobody
was even able to get close to him.
Finally he reached the forest. Letting
‘Amar down from his back, he told him, “Well, goodbye. Now you go
to your fort, and I’ll go to my home, I’ll take my leave now.” ‘Amar
said, “Please wait a minute--let me go with you, let me accompany you.”
The young ‘ayyar replied, “I’m not such a fool as to stand here, or stay
near you now for even a moment! If you seized and bound me and asked
me the Veiled One’s name, how could I answer you, how could I get rid of
you?” With these words he set out toward the wilderness, and took
leave of ‘Amar from a distance.
‘Amar entered his fort, relieved from anxiety.
He saw that everyone, great and small, was weeping and praying, “Oh God,
let us see ‘Amar alive, let him return to us healthy and well!” When
their gaze fell on ‘Amar, they prostrated themselves in gratitude, and
each one fulfilled the vows he had made for ‘Amar’s safety. Mihr
Nigar had made herself distraught with worry about ‘Amar. When she
heard the news of ‘Amar’s arrival, it was as though life had been restored
to a dead person, she was as happy as if she had won sovereignty over the
Seven Realms. Sending for ‘Amar, she embraced him and began to weep,
and at once, out of gratitude for his safety, gave a number of trays full
of jewels to the poor and needy. And she spent a week in joyful festivities,
full of merriment and mirth.
Hurmuz asked Bakhtyarak, “Who was that who
carried off ‘Amar, who played such a trick on us?” Bakhtyarak said,
“’Amar was telling the truth: the Lord’s special servants cannot
be killed, and cannot be imprisoned by anyone. Help constantly comes
for them from the heavens; surely the Creator of all the world sends them
aid. No one can torment them or gain any power over them at all.”
Hurmuz remained silent.
Arabic expression, [laa;haul v))al quvvat], is commonly used in Urdu to
float a bowl of the finest halvah down the river for the poor to find was
a common Indo-Muslim custom during Shab-e Barat. Gruel [daliyaa]
is a poor substitute indeed, and the amount ‘Amar promises is extremely
minute. A cowrie [ko;Rii] was a tiny shell used as the smallest unit
of money; twenty cowries equalled a penny.
Fatihah is the brief opening chapter (1:1-5) of the Qur’an.
peacock-trick [mor chaal] consists of walking on the hands.
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