THIRTY-NINE -- [The Amir’s adventures in the Island of Confusion.]

When the period of six months passed, and the Amir didn’t get permission to depart, one night he saw Mihr Nigar in a dream.  He saw her in the same grief and agitation; weeping profusely, she said, “Sahib-qiran,
        The sons of Adam have strange ways, I find--
        Those who are far off are out of mind./1/
You left promising to return in eighteen days; since then eighteen years have passed!  Now I can no longer bear the pain of separation, I have no hope of being rescued from this grief.  For the Lord’s sake, please come quickly, don’t delay any longer!  Otherwise you won’t find me alive--believe me, you’ll be very sorry!”

When the Sahib-qiran awoke with a start from his dream and looked around, there was no Mihr Nigar or her house, no slightest trace of anything in his dream.  He was there in the Realm of Qaf as usual, sitting there powerless and oppressed.  He began to groan and lament and sigh deeply.  When Asman Pari’s eyes opened, she saw that the Amir was weeping and could not restrain himself; he was sobbing uncontrollably.  Getting up, she wiped the Amir’s tears with a handkerchief and asked, “Are you all right?  Why are you so distraught, why are you in this dreadful state and suffering so much grief and distress?”

The Amir said, “It’s nothing, I’m fine.  Weeping is a human trait.”  Although Asman Pari again and again asked the Amir the cause of his tears and distress, and asked why he was in such a sad and troubled condition, the Amir gave no answer; he kept absolutely quiet.  Till morning he sat, soaking handkerchief after handkerchief, weeping continually.

When the king emerged from his bedroom, the Amir went and made obeisance to him, he offered him the customary respectful greeting, and said, “The time of even this last promise is over.  Now please send your servant off, give him leave to go!”  The king at once seated the Amir on a throne and said to four Devs, “Take the Amir to the Realm of the World, and bring back a receipt with the Amir’s signature and seal on it.  Convey him carefully there.”  They lifted the throne to their shoulders and took to the air.

Asman Pari worked herself into a bad state just as she had the first time, she again suffered as before and worked herself into the same distraught condition.  And she said to Salasil Parizad, “Somehow or other go and influence the throne-bearing Devs, and give them my order that it will be well for them if they abandon the Amir in the Island of Confusion and return.  Let them carry out my order, so that he’ll be confused for two or three days and will be lost and bewildered in that forest.  Otherwise I’ll have their wives and children crushed to death in a wine-press, I’ll have each one of them killed most humiliatingly!”

Salasil, flying swiftly, caught up with the Amir and greeted him; outwardly he treated him with great affection and respect.  The Sahib-qiran commanded, “Salasil Parizad, your arrival bodes no good!  Don’t come near me, don’t show your face to me!”  He replied, “This slave has come to take leave of you; God knows when I’ll kiss your feet again.  If the stars favor me, I’ll someday again have the honor of attending upon you.”  The Amir said, “Well, you’ve seen me, and so goodbye.  Now please have the goodness to depart, and don’t take any further trouble!”

Salasil, as he was leaving, told those Devs the princess’s order, and persuaded them to abandon the Sahib-qiran.  For a whole day the Devs flew on.  When evening came, they descended, and carried out the princess’s order.  The Amir said, “Why have you set the throne down here?  This is a desert; its fearfulness depresses my spirits.”  They replied, “It’s night.  It’s not good to travel by night; we don’t like to fly in the dark.  Furthermore, we have to eat something, and we have to rest a bit too.  Now we’ll eat and drink and rest; in the morning we’ll go on.”

The Sahib-qiran commanded, “Don’t play the same tricks as the former Devs, don’t get up to the same mischief as they did!”  They replied, “How could we be capable of doing that?  Breaking faith is against our principles!”  The Amir fell silent.  The Devs put the Amir’s throne down right there, and themselves, with the excuse of going hunting, set out for Garden of Iram.

The Amir, as he had done before, sat all night on the throne, and stayed awake.  When morning came, and the Devs didn’t come, he realized that they had deceived him in the same way, and had set out for their own country.  He said to himself, “Oh Hamzah, the King of Qaf will not let you go to the Realm of the World, he will always play you false!  So set out by yourself--if God should in His graciousness lead you there, and let you see your home again, it wouldn’t be surprising.”

With this thought, he set out from there.  When he grew tired, he sat down under a tree and rested for an hour or two.  Afterwards he again stood up and went on, lamenting the King of Qaf’s treachery and his own sufferings.  In short, he walked the whole day.  As evening approached, he saw the same river, the same field, the same wilderness and desert where the Devs had abandoned him and broken faith with him.  The Amir was very much surprised:  “I toiled and traveled the whole day--and then in the evening I arrive exactly where I set out from in the morning!  It’s an extraordinary happening, a display of the power of God.”  Having no choice, he spent the night in that place.

In the morning he again rose and set out.  Although he went off in a different direction, in the evening he again arrived at that same place where the Devs had abandoned him.  In short, for three days the same thing happened.  On the fourth day he set out in the fourth direction, and traveled till midday; he endured the fatigue of walking and wandering along.  When the area began to grow hot, the fierceness of the sun made him feel faint; his suffering made him very low in spirits.

In one direction he saw some leafy trees.  He went that way, thinking to sit down in their shade and rest a little while.  When he looked, he saw an eight-sided marble platform.  The air felt cool, and pausing there for even a moment gave a great sense of comfort.  The Amir went and sat on the platform.  Hardly any time had passed, when noise and commotion could be heard in the forest, and a strange shape appeared:  a Dev as tall as a tower was advancing, strutting like a peacock, with a cypress-tree staff in his hand, so terrifying that the sight of him would turn a man’s blood to water.

Coming to confront the Amir, the Dev said, “Oh son of Adam, what breeze has blown you in here, who has let you into this terrible wilderness?  Now there’s no way you’ll escape from me alive, there’s no chance you could get out of my clutches!”  With these words, he launched a blow with his cypress-tree staff at the Amir, and showed the Amir the strength of his attack.  The Sahib-qiran, rising, cut the staff in two with the Scorpion of Solomon.  The Amir struck a blow at the Dev’s side, but it left not even a mark on his body, and the Dev ran away.

In a little while the Dev returned, carrying a serpent in his hand, and called out, “Oh son of Adam, beware, I’m attacking you--be on your guard!  With these words, he threw the serpent at the Amir.  The Amir, cutting the serpent in two with his sword, again struck a blow at the Dev’s side, and this time also no wound appeared on that wretch’s body.  The sword glanced off from his body the way a mallet glances off a gong--how could it possibly pierce his hide?  The Dev again ran off.

When he came back the third time, the Amir put his whole strength into a sword-blow.  This time too the sword did not cut him--it had no effect on him, he didn’t even feel it.  Then the Amir wept and lamented before the Presence of God, he shed many tears.  Suddenly from one side Hazrat Khizr appeared.  The effect of his help was manifest:  reciting the Great Name, he killed that Dev and went back where he had come from; having destroyed his enemy, he went back to his own place.

The Amir was very much pleased by the killing of that Dev; he was freed from such a great peril.  Sitting down with complete tranquility on the platform, he lost himself in enjoyment of the river and the wilderness, he forgot all the troubles of his heart.  Suddenly the cool air lulled the Amir to sleep where he sat, its comforting touch banished all his grief and sorrow.  The Amir saw Mihr Nigar in a dream:  she was standing there weeping, half dead with the grief of separation.  The Amir, in the depths of sleep, gave a long helpless groan and abruptly awoke.  When he looked around, there was that same limitless wilderness, and the river full of high waves as though in a storm.  He said to himself, “I wonder if God will ever bring me to the World, and if I’ll ever manage to see Mihr Nigar.”

Eventually, it occurred to him that he ought to place his whole trust in God and go down the river, for after all he must find some means for getting out of the wilderness.  With this thought, he tore some branches off the trees and made a raft, climbed onto it, and sat down.  When he reached the middle of the river, a great storm came and drove the raft back to the bank.  The narrator says that the Amir again launched the raft into the river; again a storm came and drove the raft back to the bank.  The narrator says that the Amir launched the raft seventy-two times, but whenever it reached the middle of the river, either a tumult arose or a storm came, and the raft was driven back to the bank.  For a week the Amir labored hard, but the raft always ended up lodged on the bank; it would never under any circumstances float in the river.

The Amir got out on the riverbank and, after offering his prayer, prayed with the greatest submission and humility to the Pilot of the Ship of Reality.  He praised the true Solver of Problems with his whole heart and soul:  “Lord of the Worlds, save me from this calamity, cause the raft of this perplexed and troubled one to reach a safe harbor.”

It happened that, in this state, the Amir’s eyes closed and he fell asleep.  He saw that a venerable elder dressed in green was standing there and saying, “Oh son, I am the Prophet Noah, and I know the secret of this river.  My spear is in this river, and thus the water doesn’t allow anyone to cross it.  Anything that enters the river, the water prevents from moving.  Go into the middle of the river, recite this Name, and the spear will come into your hand; the grace of this Name will save you from the tumult.”  The Amir was overjoyed, and kissed Hazrat Noah’s feet in his dream.

He awoke from his deep sleep.  His nose was full of the scent of musk and ambergris; through the Prophet’s grace his heart’s desire was fulfilled.  Saying “In the name of God,” he again mounted the raft and prepared to travel down the river.  He went along reciting the Name that Hazrat Noah had taught him; he kept that Name constantly on his lips.  When he reached the middle of the river, at first the water boiled up as though a great storm were coming.  Afterwards, a smallish box rose up from the bottom of the river and approached the raft; the waves of the river brought it near the raft.

The Amir lifted the box and placed it on the raft; he did not hesitate to pick it up.  Opening it, he saw a spear made of crocodile-horn, coiled up like a snake-plant./2/  He looked at it most carefully; then, taking it out of the box, he cut away the ties around the coils.  It grew straight like the Milky Way, and became tall and lofty like a spear.  The Amir was overjoyed, and began poling the raft along with the spear.  Whenever he felt hungry, he took out the bread-bun Hazrat Khizr had given him and ate from it; he found relief from the pangs of hunger.  When the time for prayer came, he tied up the raft on the shore and offered his prayer; he prayed to the High Lord that his desires might be fulfilled.  And again mounting the raft, he set out; he never paused to rest or sleep.  In short, in this way he traveled for fully twenty days.

On the twenty-first day, he reached an attractive, pleasant territory; he found it extremely delightful.  The Amir got down from the raft, and set foot on dry land.  He couldn’t have gone more than three or four miles, when seven wolves appeared, extremely large and powerful; among them was a white wolf, the largest of all.  Their fur hung down to the ground.  They say that these were called the Seven Wolves of Solomon, and they ate whatever they found in that territory.  Hazrat Solomon had raised those seven wolves and left them there, and ordered them to live there.

The wolves saw the Sahib-qiran and surrounded him from all sides; they all gathered round and besieged him.  The Sahib-qiran, placing his back against a tree, drew the Scorpion of Solomon from its scabbard, and killed each wolf as it advanced.  When the Amir had killed all seven wolves, and freed himself from this danger, he found himself very happy.  He skinned them with his dagger, and said to himself, “Hamzah, you have a long and hard journey before you.  These skins will serve your turn in many places; you will get much advantage from this leather.”  Putting the skins around his neck like a deerskin, he went on.

He traveled for the whole day; at night he lay down on a block of stone in a rocky cave.  When morning came, he offered his prayer and went on.  It was the hot season; in the afternoon, the Amir was distressed by the heat of the sun.  He pressed on, looking for shade.  He chanced to see the walls of an enclosed garden, and his heart was somewhat comforted.  When he approached, he saw that the gate of the garden was shut.  He began to consider how he could get inside, in what way he could manage to enter.  The Amir severed the lock with his dagger, opened the door, and went into the garden; by this means he entered without alarm or danger.

He saw that the garden was extremely well laid out.  Various kinds of trees bore fragrant flowers and fruit.  Water was flowing in a channel, and the spring breeze blew playfully.  Houses had been built of gold and silver; each house had been adorned in every possible way, and was wonderfully comfortable.  The Amir went into one of the houses.  He saw a throne of emerald, with a very sumptuous cushion on it.  The Amir went and sat on it, as if this garden, the envy of Paradise, had been built just for him, and had fallen to his share alone.  He thought, “These houses were built by Hazrat Solomon, for the race of Jinns.  Since their time, whoever enters the houses uses them as he wishes.”  The Amir sat down at his ease on a throne.

After a time, *Ra’d the Two-headed Dev arrived, roaring.  There was as much clamor and commotion as if instruments of thousands of types were being blown.  All this noise fell on the Amir’s ear, and he felt inwardly very fearful.  The Amir came out of the house to find out what kind of disaster was making such a Doomsday-like tumult.  He saw that a two-headed Dev was making a noise like thunder, and saying to everyone, “Whoever has opened the gate of my garden without my permission--if I see him I’ll squash him and swallow him!  I’ll eat him raw, muscle and skin and all!”  The Amir said in challenge, “You huge, boastful bully, what nonsense you’re jabbering!  As though you could stand against me!  You don’t know that I’m the Earthquake of Qaf, the Younger Solomon, the killer of Ahriman and the foul ‘Ifrit!  When killing Devs, I never get enough!”

Ra’d the Two-headed replied, “Oh human, you’ve come into my garden after destroying the garden of Qaf!  I’ve heard that you’ve killed thousands, and sent them to the realm of Nothingness.  Now, even if you have a hundred thousand feet, you’ll never be able to take a step away from here--now you’ll never be able to save yourself from my clutches!”  With these words, he struck a blow at the Amir’s head with an iron staff that was in his hands, and showed his prowess.  The Amir snatched that staff out of his hand, and showed his cleverness and dexterity.  Ra’d the Two-headed saw that the human was very powerful, and in fact was fully as aggressive and courageous as he had heard.  He ran pell-mell, head over heels away from the Amir; he didn’t have the strength to confront him or the power to stand against him.

The Amir chased him, and flung himself into the pursuit.  Ra’d saw that this human could even run faster than he himself could, and was determined to overtake him.  Along the way there was a well.  Ra’d, in a burst of panic, threw himself into it; at that moment he couldn’t think of anything else.  The Sahib-qiran sat down on the curb of the well, thinking, “He’s bound to come out sometime!  How long can he stay in there?”  The Amir sat there for fully nine hours, but Ra’d didn’t come out.  Then the Amir felt restless:  just sitting there and sitting there, he grew bored.  In this mood he fell asleep, he abandoned himself to sleep.

Suddenly ‘Amar appeared to him in a dream and said, “Hamzah, if you keep sitting here till Doomsday and troubling yourself like this, he’ll never come out of the well--not until you go away.  So for this situation I’ll tell you a plan, and teach you a clever tactic.  That large pond near the well--channel its water so it runs into the well, so that the well fills up with water.  The ruffian will panic and come out.”  After this dream, the Amir’s eyes opened.  Carving out a channel with his dagger, he filled up the well with water from the pond.  Then Ra’d, in a panic, came out of the well and sought to run away, to escape from the Amir and save his life.  The Amir ran after him and struck such a sword-blow to his side that he was split in half like a cucumber, and entered the fires of Hell.

Hardly any time had passed, when an elderly female Dev, skinny as a straw, appeared, sobbing bitterly, distraught with grief.  She said, “Oh son of Adam, you’ve killed my son for nothing--and he was only three hundred years old, he hadn’t even lost his milk-teeth yet!  You didn’t reflect that he might have a guardian!  Now behold--I, his mother, have come to avenge him!  *Shararah Jadu is my name; where can you go to escape the flame of my wrath?  Now there’s no way you can escape with your life from my hands!”  With these words, she began to work magic.  When the Amir recited the Magic-nullifying Name, Shararah Jadu forgot her magic.  The Amir, advancing, struck a sword-blow that split her into two halves, and gave that bitch too a residence in Hell.

After bathing, the Amir offered a brief prayer of thanksgiving, since God had graciously saved him from the hands of two such bloodthirsty creatures.  And he thought, “A long and difficult journey lies before me.  Today I should rest right here, I should give my body some repose.”  He spent the night right there.  In the morning he set out.  On the thirteenth day, blisters appeared on the Amir’s feet.  Having no choice, he sat down helplessly where he was; the swelling and blisters on his feet prevented him from going on.  He thought, “Well, ‘Delhi is still far off,’/3/ and I’m tired, and my feet are blistered.  I wonder if God will bring me to the Realm of the World, and show me my own country.”

Hardly any time at all had passed, when a cloud of dust appeared in the distance.  When the dust settled to the ground, he saw a musk-black horse, equipped with saddle and bridle, approaching; it moved so elegantly that watching its gait was a real pleasure.  Coming near the Amir, the horse paused.  The Amir said to himself, “God has sent this mount to me from the Unseen, He has taken pity on my wretched condition.”  He rose and mounted, and gave thanks to the Great Lord with his whole heart and soul.  No sooner had he climbed on its back, than the horse leaped into the air like Buraq,/4/ it took to the air like a Pari.  Although the Amir tried to restrain it, it wouldn’t stop.  For three days and nights it went on;  it never paused for breath or halted even for a moment.

/1/ The verse is in Persian.
/2/ Hamzah has already been given the spear of Noah by Gabriel; see Chapter 3.
/3/ This famous Urdu proverb, equally well-known in its Persian form, conveys something like ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.’  It is said to be a remark made by the Sufi saint Nizam ud-din Auliya, accurately predicting that Sultan Ghiyas ud-din Tughluq would never return from his expedition to the South.
/4/ Buraq was, according to Islamic tradition, the horse-like creature ridden by the Prophet during his night journey to Jerusalem and his ascent into Heaven.

== on to Chapter 40 ==

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