THIRTY-SEVEN -- [‘Amar poses as a faqir, and conquers a new fort.

Please hear about the fort-dwellers.  When food for no more than three days remained, they all went with ‘Adi to inform ‘Amar, and reported to him the shortage of supplies.  ‘Amar said, “Now we ought to seize some other fort; we ought to arrange to live somewhere else.”  Sayad/1/ said, “Five days’ journey from here is a fort which people call Salasil Fort; they say it is very pleasant and secure.  The name of its king is Salasil Shah; he is a great and mighty king.  If you wish, then conquer it, seize it for a residence.”  ‘Amar said, “All right, you look after the fort, and I’ll go.  You keep watch over things here, and I’ll think about it; I’ll devise some way to seize that fort.”

With these words, he removed his royal dress, put on ‘ayyari costume, and left the fort.  He made himself ready; and running faster than lightning, in one day and night he reached Salasil Fort.  With courage and daring, he arrived all alone.  He saw that in fact the fort was very secure.  He began to think how he could seize it, and by what scheme he could enter it.  After a time, what did he see but a young man fourteen or fifteen years of age coming out of the fort, wearing royal dress, mounted on a horse, and with a falcon seated on his wrist.  Accompanying him were one hundred twenty-five horsemen and a like number of foot-soldiers, in addition to huntsmen, bird-catchers, falcon-trainers, arms-bearers, heralds, standard-bearers, guardsmen, servants, and messengers; all these attendants were peerless in service and skill.

‘Amar rose, and followed along behind the retinue; he moved with the greatest attentiveness, observing every small detail.  And he shrewdly deduced, “Surely this is the great prince of this fort, since all this royal pomp accompanies him.”  When he saw that the retinue had gone four miles from the fort, he drew the vertical mark of liberation on his forehead, placed a quilted faqir’s cap on his head, put a faqir’s rosaries, beads, and thread around his neck, wrapped a cloth about his body, slung a knotty staff with five or six branches on it over his shoulder, adjusted his kerchief, and took a small staff, a rashiidah, a kushtaa, and a cleaver in his hand./2/

Going before the prince, he raised the cry, “Love is God!  The faqir is God!/3/ Today I’ve seen the faces of God’s people so early in the morning!  It seems that the stars have shown me some favor.  Will you not look kindly upon faqirs--oh bountiful lord, will you not give something to the Lord’s people?”  The prince was very pleased to see the faqir; reining in his horse, he asked, “Venerable sir, which way are you going, and where are you coming from?”  ‘Amar answered, “From neither earth nor heaven, but from some other realm--like a camel’s fart!/4/  A faqir’s home is cosmic space, which has no name or number.  Faqirs have no settled abode, they are here today and there tomorrow.  How can I tell you the faqirs’ homeland, my son?  Do they have any address that I could give you?”

The prince replied, “Venerable sir, what you’ve said is very true, your words are absolutely proper and correct.  But still, once a man comes into the world he surely needs some place or another to be known by--every man needs a couple of yards of ground to stretch out on at night!”  The false faqir replied, “Faqirs are always homeless wanderers, how could the poor creatures ever have a dwelling?  But outwardly this wretch’s heap of rubble is in Baghdad, that city which is like Paradise.”  The prince asked, “What is your noble name?”  He replied, “My polluted name, given to me by my spiritual mentor, is Shaida’i *Qalandar; but in fact this faqir is Sauda’i Qalandar.”/5/

The prince was delighted with the false faqir’s conversation, and said, “Venerable sir, I beg that you will come and honor my house for a while, that you will be pleased to show kindness to yourself for a week or two.  And it might please you to see something of this land as well.  The country is worth seeing, please enjoy its charm.”  The false faqir said, “What’s the harm, my son?  Faqirs make their camps wherever they find people; if they like a place, they halt there for a while.  You have asked me my name and dwelling, my son, but you haven’t told this faqir your own name.”  He replied, “My name is Bahman, I am the son of Salasil Shah; I am honored by his kindness.”  The false faqir said, “My son, go and enjoy your hunting trip.  This faqir will wait for you on the hillock before the fort; this faqir will do whatever you order.”

Bahman, taking the faqir with him, turned back.  Entering the fort, he established the faqir in his own palace, and gave him sumptuous quarters to live in.  He showed him every kind of courtesy, and provided him with all the comforts.  After sitting with him for fully three hours, Bahman said to the reverend sir, “I’m going away for a short while.  Please don’t be at all disturbed, I’ll be back very soon.  If you want anything to drink or smoke, my servants are in attendance, please tell them; ask the servants for anything you need.”  The faqir replied, “All right, my son, very good, go ahead, but please don’t be long in returning.  But why do you need to go?  Can it be told to a faqir, or not?  If there’s no harm, tell me about it; let me know what you intend.”

Bahman said, “Around this time it’s my habit to drink three or four cups of wine.  You know that it’s unhealthy to break habits.  It would be disrespectful to drink in your presence, so I am going; I will drink the wine quickly and return.”  The false faqir replied, “My son, order the wine and drink it right here.  This faqir too will raise one or two cups, and lift his spirits with rose-red wine.  In whatever condition he is, a man ought always to remember his Lord in his heart, and never fail to think of Him.  Wine is like milk to faqirs:  they drink it occasionally, and refresh their spirits.”  Bahman, sending for a flagon of wine, drank a number of cups; he gave two or three cups to the faqir as well.  The faqir too grew intoxicated; having drunk the wine, he was full of cheer.

When the false faqir grew elevated, he pulled out the Lute of David from Zanbil and began to play and sing.  It is said that ‘Amar’s singing used to bring the dead back to life.  The listeners grew rapt, they were utterly delighted; each one had words of praise on his lips.  By chance Mansur, Salasil Shah’s ‘ayyar, together with two other ‘ayyars, passed that way.  Saluting the prince, Mansur asked, “Where does this faqir come from?  Who is he, and from which country has he arrived?”  Bahman told him the whole story in detail.  Mansur asked, “What’s his name, and what’s his purpose in staying here?”  Bahman replied, “He is called Shaida’i Qalandar.”

Mansur ran and threw himself on ‘Amar, and said to the ‘ayyars who were with him, “Bind his arms, seize this darvesh!”  The ‘ayyars at once carried out their chief’s order, they made haste to capture him.  The false faqir said to Bahman, “Well, my son, you invite faqirs into your house, and this is the way you treat them!  What wonderful hospitality toward travelers!  Is this justice?”  Bahman, growing angry at Mansur, said, “What harm has this faqir done to you, that you’ve bound his hands, and treated him so violently?”

Mansur petitioned, “Your Excellency, this is a poor faqir who has made hundreds--no, thousands--of rich men as poor as faqirs!  He has treacherously deceived hundreds of thousands of men, and killed them!  If you have heard the name of ‘Amar ‘Ayyar, this is he.  He has driven Naushervan, the King of Kings of the Seven Realms, almost mad.”  In short, they took him to Salasil Shah and said, “Here is ‘Amar ‘Ayyar.”  Salasil Shah said, “All right, bring him before me, send for him quickly.”

When ‘Amar came before him, he commanded, “’Amar, I’ve heard that you sing very well; everyone is delighted by your singing.  Sing for me too, let me also hear your songs--for I’ve been seeking you for a long time, and now I have you in my power!”  ‘Amar said, “My hands are bound.  How can I play the lute, and how can I sing for you?”  Salasil Shah had his hands freed.  ‘Amar played the lute and sang a song that left them all dazed with joy.  Salasil Shah was very happy, and said to Mansur, “There’s no need to bind his hands.  Keep him in prison, in your custody.  Tomorrow when I send for him again, then bring him before me.  But take heed--don’t torment him too much.”  Mansur took ‘Amar and shut him up in a cell.

‘Amar thought, “Oh God, that I’m imprisoned here!  What calamities must the army of Islam be suffering, what hardships must have befallen them!”  He was absorbed in these thoughts when, after two watches of the night had passed, Mansur came, opened the door, and brought ‘Amar out.  He fell at ‘Amar’s feet and said, “Please forgive me, I didn’t recognize you, I didn’t properly know you!  But ever since the day when Hazrat Abraham appeared to me in a dream and made me a Muslim and said, ‘’Amar will come here, you will have the honor of meeting him; it will be your duty to help him, it will be proper for you to obey him’--ever since then I’ve been searching for you!  If I treated you so disrespectfully, and caused you pain, it was only in order to explore the situation thoroughly before taking any action.  What if you weren’t really ‘Amar, and I took you for ‘Amar and told you the secret of my heart?  Now I am your servant; whatever you command, I will do.”

‘Amar embraced him and said, “This fort must somehow be taken.  We must devise some clever scheme so that the army of Islam can come and stay here in peace for a while, to be comfortable and set their hearts at rest.”  Mansur replied, “In the name of God!  Please arise and seize Salasil Shah at once--take command over the fort, assume control of it.”  ‘Amar, putting on ‘ayyari costume, went with Mansur into Salasil Shah’s bedroom.  Rendering the king unconscious, he placed him in Mansur’s custody and ordered him, “Keep him confined and under your own guard.  Be warned, don’t let him escape!”

And himself taking on the appearance of the king, ‘Amar lay down in his curtained bed and went to sleep, as though he were the king himself.  When morning came, he said to Bahman, “Oh son, Hazrat Abraham has appeared to me in a dream and made me a Muslim.  You accept Islam too, and renounce the creed of the infidels; enter the community of the faithful!”  That wretched gallows-bait did not agree to this.  ‘Amar had him hanged. 
Afterwards, in private, he sent for Salasil Shah and told him, “It will be best for you if you become a Muslim.”  Seeing ‘Amar’s appearance, Salasil Shah was stupefied, the color fled from his face in fear:  “A man who looks just like me is sitting on the throne, and waits me to be faithless to my faith!  Perhaps he wants to take over my kingdom!”  He said to ‘Amar, “Who are you, pray tell?  Give me a full account of yourself!  Why are you sitting on my throne, and who permitted you to enter here?”  ‘Amar said, “You won’t be told anything further.  Now without delay confess your faith in the oneness of the One God who has no partner, and save your life.”  He stammered out some meaningless words.  ‘Amar at once caused him too to mount the scaffold.

Making Mansur his viceroy, ‘Amar placed him on the throne, and caused everyone, small and great, to offer him formal gifts.  And ‘Amar ordered, “Whoever refuses to obey Mansur Shah will die at my hand, he will be punished for his offense.”  No one offered him anything but obedience, everyone gave the reins of command into his hand.  When ‘Amar had completed all his arrangements, and laid his enemies very low, he said to Mansur, “Govern here, and remain in command of this fort.  I will bring the army of Islam, and escort them all here, and then I’ll rest content.  And while I’m gone, you buy food, etc., in such-and-such an amount, and stock up the fort with it.”

‘Amar left on his errand.  Mansur, as ‘Amar had ordered, bought food, etc., and filled up the fort with it; he did what ‘Amar had said.  ‘Amar, returning to his old fort, informed all the officers of the capture of the new fort, and gave everyone the good news that this great deed had been accomplished.  Arranging for conveyances, he left the old fort at midnight, together with the army and the princess, etc., and set out for Salasil Fort; he arranged for everyone to be in comfort.  After covering a five days’ journey in two nights and days, he entered Salasil Fort.  Everyone was comfortable and content.  Arranging the new fort like the old one, ‘Amar sat tranquil and at his ease; having become commander of the fort, he lived in great state and grandeur.

Meanwhile, on the third day the ‘ayyars brought Hurmuz and Faramarz the news, and informed them that ‘Amar had left that fort and had escorted the army of Islam, together with Princess Mihr Nigar, into Salasil Fort.  Hurmuz, hearing this news, made a sour face; he was very much vexed by this event.  Calling a scribe, he dictated a letter to Naushervan giving a full account of his own situation, and ‘Amar’s entry into Salasil Fort, and ‘Amar’s successful maneuvers on all fronts.  He sent it off in the hands of a messenger, and instructed him to deliver it quickly.

/1/  Sayad [.sayaad] is a highly capable ‘ayyar who has left the service of one of Naushervan’s vassal kings and allied himself with ‘Amar.
/2/ The full description is:  [alif aazaadii kaa peshaanii par khi;Nchaa sozanii kaa taaj-e faqiiraanah sar par rakhaa mankaa ;Thankaa sailii gale me;N ;Daalii lant baa;Ndh paanch chhah shaa;x kii chu;Rii kaandhe par rakh ruumaal sa;Nbhaalaa chu;Rii rashiidah kushtaa bu;Gdaa haath me;N le].  The items ‘Amar carried in his hands are hard to determine.
/3/ These phrases have a mystical flavor and are grammatically ambiguous--the second might merely mean “God’s faqir.”  Such phrases were used as a form of address to the public and other faqirs.
/4/ A camel’s fart [goz-e shutur] is used idiomatically for something of trifling value.
/5/ There is a mild pun.  Shaida’i [shaidaa))ii] means “Mad with love,” while the slightly pejorative Sauda’i [saudaa))ii] means simply “Mad.”  Both can be used for lovers, and thus for lovers of God as well.

== on to Chapter 38 ==

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