Adventures from Dastan of Ameer Hamza – Chapter 4




FOUR – The Amir comes to Mecca the Great, and Naushervan’s letter reaches him.

During this boyhood period, Hamzah acquired the first members of his loyal group of companions. He overpowered a military commander named Suhail of Yemen, who was collecting taxes from the Meccan bazaars on behalf of the King of Yemen, and converted him to Islam. Later, while traveling, on the road he met Tauq bin Haran, a brigand with a ferocious tiger whom he loosed on unwary travelers; Hamzah killed the tiger with his spear, and overcame and converted Tauq himself.

Hamzah met two other companions through a romantic tangle. He found a young man in the woods, dressed as a faqir and pining away for love of a princess. Hamzah undertook to win Princess Huma for the young man, Sultan Bakht of Maghrib. The princess’ brother, Nu’man bin Manzar Shah, challenged Hamzah to win her hand in a game of polo; but it was the princess herself, veiled and disguised, who played against him. She played a tricky game, but Hamzah defeated her, beat off an attack by her brother’s army, and converted them all to Islam. When news of his children’s conversion reached King Manzar Shah of Yemen, he attacked Hamzah, but was defeated in wrestling and himself converted as well. Sultan Bakht was to marry Princess Huma, but he refused to do so until Hamzah himself should marry.

In the meantime, Hisham bin Alqamah of Khaibar had indeed attacked and looted Ctesiphon, as Buzurchmihr had predicted eighteen years before, and carried off the royal crown and throne; Naushervan, forewarned, had prudently absented himself on a hunting trip. Hisham then moved on toward Mecca, but Hamzah intercepted him, fought and killed him, freed all his prisoners, and recovered the crown and throne.

Hamzah sent Muqbil to Naushervan with this reassuring news, and Naushervan delightedly sent off a warm letter and splendid robe of honor to Hamzah in Mecca. The scheming Bakhtak, however, suborned the messengers and substituted an insulting letter and an unworthy, ragged old robe.

On the way back to Mecca, Hamzah was attacked by a giant brigand named Adi Ma’dikarab, who operated from a fortress called Tang Ravahil. Hamzah defeated Adi in wrestling, converted him to Islam, and accepted him as a companion.

The sweet-tongued narrators relate that when the Amir arrived in Mecca, first he paid his holy visit to the Ka’bah and gave thanks for his victory. He made Adi repent of highway robbery, and made him swear to live righteously and observe the rituals of Islam. Afterwards he arranged to visit his father, he went to kiss the feet of his venerable father. When Khvajah Abdul Muttalib heard the news of Hamzah’s arrival, the inhabitants of Mecca congratulated him on the Amir’s return. Taking the nobles of the city with him, Khvajah Abdul Muttalib set out to welcome the Amir; along with all his relatives, the Khvajah went out to meet him.

On the road, father and son met. The Amir kissed his father’s feet. The Khvajah lifted the Amir’s head and pressed it to his breast, and scattered gold and silver for the beggars to pick up. The beggars and poor began to gather up the alms, and the nobles of the city began to bless the Amir: “May the Ultimate Victor make you always victorious, and always over vile foes triumphant and glorious!” When the Khvajah took the Amir into the house and seated himself in the audience hall, the nobles of the city came as well. The Amir presented Manzar Shah of Yemen, Nu’man bin Manzar Shah, Suhail of Yemen, Sultan Bakht of Maghrib, and Tauq bin Haran to the Khvajah; he introduced and praised each one of them. The Khvajah was very happy. He showed kindness to every one of them, and treated each one with honor and respect according to his rank.

One day the Amir heard it mentioned that Adi was the son of Adiyah Bano. The Amir was very happy: “He is my brother, by the mother’s milk we have shared!” That very day the Amir made Adi general of his armies, herald of his troops, and superintendent of his audience hall, his storehouse, and his drum-storehouse; he gave Adi a title and a robe of honor consisting of eighteen items. Amar, at the Amir’s command, requested Adi, “Whatever provisions you need for your meals, just give the order, so the chief of the kitchen can bring them from our store every day, or cook and send the dishes to your door every day.” Adi said, “This is my own house, after all–I’ll only ask for enough to keep body and soul together! All I want is to do my duty as a servant at the Amir’s door.” Amar said, “Please tell me the name and quantity of everything, so the chief of the kitchen can send it to you every day. Why speak in a roundabout way? Showing diffidence and hesitation before your gracious master is far from respectful!”

Adi said, “All right, brother, tell the chief of the kitchen that in the morning, I eat twenty-one camels for breakfast. At midday, I eat kabobs made from twenty-one deer and twenty-one fat-tailed sheep, washed down with twenty-one bottles of wine. In the evening, the curried meat of twenty-one camels and a like number of deer and fat-tailed sheep and buffalo is served to me–and with both meals, twenty-one maunds of flour made into bread. Although this doesn’t really fill me up as it should, at least it quiets the pangs of hunger.” When the Amir heard this, he ordered: “Every morning let the chief of the kitchen send twice this amount of food to Adi’s kitchen, and never hesitate or fall short in this.” Accordingly, the rations were arranged, and the food went every single day.

After some days, the Amir heard that Naushervan’s emissaries had come, bearing a robe of honor and a letter. Khvajah Abdul Muttalib and Amir Hamzah, with the chief men of the city, went out to welcome the emissaries, treated them with proper honor and respect, and brought them first to their own home. Then they appointed magnificent mansions, furnished and decorated with carpets, glazing, glass ornaments, etc., for their residence, and after a little while sent them many trays of sweets. In the evening they had many kinds of food cooked and sent to their lodgings.

When Amir Hamzah saw the robe of honor and read the letter, he felt uneasy, upset, and disturbed at heart. The Khvajah asked the reason for the Amir’s unhappiness, and said, “My child, kings are like that! Sometimes when you bow down to them they frown, and sometimes when you insult them they are pleased and bestow robes of honor. There’s no reason to feel disturbed, there’s no cause for grief or unhappiness.”
The next day when Nature, the chiefest of cooks, took the freshly baked hot cake of the sun out of the oven of the sky, and spread the glowing tablecloth of the sun’s reflected light on the carpet of the earth, Khvajah Abdul Muttalib gave a feast for Naushervan’s emissaries, and had all the nobles and dignitaries of the city come to the feast as well. After the eating and drinking were over, the emissaries gave the Khvajah the letter addressed to him. When the Amir read it, he regretted his own self-sacrificing devotion and loyalty to Naushervan, and all the guests were astonished–for the name the emissaries used was strange, and left them all confused. That is, in the name Bahman Hazan, the dot over the ze had been taken as over the he, so the word read as kharan [asses], and by the copyist’s mistake the tashdid on the kaf of sakkan was missing, so it read as a Kaf-e Farsi, sagan [dogs]. Both emissaries became famous in Mecca under their new names, they were known far and near by those names.

When Amar heard what was in the letter, he became even angrier than the Amir. When the dining-cloth was spread, in full public view he brought two covered dishes, tied shut with ties, and set them before the two emissaries, and prepared to tell them both what he thought of them. But Hamzah forbade him, and stopped him from doing this mischief. But Amar said, “This feast is given for you both by me,” and he had the dishes placed before them with great formality and attentiveness: “In these is food fit for you gentlemen.” Saying this, and lifting the napkin and opening the ties, he placed a dish full of grass before Bahman of the Asses, and a dish full of bones of the dead he placed before Bahman of the Dogs.

All those present said to Amar in astonishment, “What kind of behavior is this, what kind of impertinent and inappropriate mischief is this?” Amar said, “What food is more suitable for asses and dogs than this? This food is always given to animals! So since it fell to me to give them a feast, I didn’t neglect my duty.” Both emissaries inwardly gnashed their teeth at Amar for what had occurred, but prudently said not a word.
When the dinner was over and everyone had eaten his fill, Amar ordered two trays containing robes of honor, and put them before the two emissaries. He lifted off the tray-cover from one, picked up a gold-decorated pack-saddle, and put it on Bahman of the Asses’ back; from the other he pulled out a gold-embroidered dog-blanket and covered Bahman of the Dogs. Then they couldn’t bear it any more–they both fell on Amar, daggers drawn, determined to attack him. Tauq bin Haran took the daggers out of their hands, and tenderized their hands and feet with blows. At once both emissaries took to their heels and fled; they entirely lost their heads.

The Amir wrote a petition to the king and sent it off in the hands of his servant. Its message was this: “For the service and sacrifice this humble one has afforded, through Your Majesty’s grace this lowly servant was well rewarded; for the faithfulness with which this lowly one served, the honors you gave him were well deserved. An honorable letter ought to have been bestowed, not a wrathful one made to fall on us!” He sent the petition and the king’s letter and the robe off with Mahtar Aqiq, and whatever word he wanted to send, he sent it orally with him.

The emissaries presented themselves to attend upon the king, and with much weeping and lamenting told the whole story of their humiliation, and uttered many lies and calumnies. Naushervan, when he heard this, became extremely angry; addressing Buzurchmihr, he said, “The Arabs are thoroughly refractory, they are very discourteous! From the emissaries’ reports, it seems that they are planning a rebellion.” Buzurchmihr said, “Your Majesty, in courtesy and humanity, in perfect idealism, generosity, respect, and understanding of men, no one like Hamzah has been born in the world; there is no other man of such intelligence, perception, wisdom, and knowledge. If the emissaries’ words are true, and not suspect because of their evil dispositions, then we will see, and time will tell.”

This conversation was just taking place, when Muqbil appeared bearing the Amir’s petition, and the robe of honor and letter which had come to the Amir from Naushervan. The king, having looked at the contents of the Amir’s petition, and the style of his own letter, and that unworthy robe which the king would not have given even to his own latrine-sweeper, began to rage at Bakhtak: “Oh you petty creature, what wickedness you’ve done, what baseness and mischief you’ve perpetrated!” Instantly he fined him a thousand tumans of bright gold, and banished him from the court for a number of days.

And he wrote a letter of apology to the Amir with his own hand: “The letter and robe which you received were basely changed and sent by Bakhtak. Dutiful good behavior demands that you not permit dust to settle on the mirror of your heart toward us, and that you remove the turbidness of your heart. With this intent this letter and robe are being sent with Khvajah Buzurg Ummid, the virtuous son of Khvajah Buzurchmihr, so that Bakhtak should have no chance to act basely, or to manage any mischief. And you too come back with Khvajah Buzurg Ummid and present yourself before me, and present me the throne and crown with your own hands.” Giving the letter and a royal robe of honor even more valuable than the former one to Khvajah Buzurchmihr, he commanded, “Send this by the hand of Buzurg Ummid to Amir Hamzah. And look, take care: let there be no negligence, and no meddling by anyone else!”

Khvajah Buzurchmihr went home and, at an auspicious hour, made a magic banner in the shape of a serpent, such that when the wind blew through its mouth into its stomach, the cry “Ya Sahib-qiran!” came from its stomach three times without a break, and reached the ear of every friend and foe; and all the soldiers’ noses were overpowered by its perfume, musk and ambergris were put to shame by its perfume; and when it came before the eyes of the enemy, fear of the Amir’s army stole over them. Together with this banner he also sent the pavilion of Hazrat Daniel for Hamzah’s use. Having added four hundred forty-four pieces of weaponry in the art of ’ayyari for Amar, he confided them all to Buzurg Ummid’s care and commanded, “Take these to Amar from me.” Teaching Buzurg Ummid the way to put on the garments, he said, “Put them on Amar with your own hands in just the same way.” After explaining this, he sent Buzurg Ummid off with a brigade of soldiers, having instructed him all about the ups and downs of the road, the stages and stopping-places.

When Khvajah Buzurg Ummid was eight miles from Mecca, he halted. As fate would have it, that day Amar passed that way on a tour of inspection. Buzurg Ummid recognized him by his appearance: “Undoubtedly this is Amar!” Calling him over, he embraced him and said, “You and I are brothers, we are seekers of each other’s love. In the name of God, get down here and stay a while! My revered father has bestowed some gifts. For you he has sent an ayyari outfit; take off your Arab dress, so that I can put it on you and tell you its method.” Amar took off his clothing. Buzurg Ummid gave the clothing into his men’s custody, kept Amar naked for a whole hour, and said, “Never again become naked out of foolish covetousness! Now you must continue to wear this dress of nakedness–accept the will of God, and stay naked like a child!”

Then Amar became distraught: he began to weep and plead violently, “Give my clothes back to me, don’t keep me naked among so many men! I’ll be grateful and bless you forever. I renounce your robe and gifts–I’ll set out for home!” Buzurg Ummid laughed and said, “Oh Father of the Runners of the World, you’ll make many people naked and anxious, and take off the clothes of many! Therefore I’ve made you naked, so you’ll remember this time in the future.” Amar said, “I am Your Excellency’s pupil.”

Buzurg Ummid sent for the gifts from the storeroom. First he put on Amar a pair of drawers without a codpiece; the moment he pulled them up, Amar’s private parts were exposed. Amar said, “My dear father, you are marvelously generous–you haven’t even provided a hand’s breadth of codpiece in the drawers!” Buzurg Ummid pulled out an afat-band; Amar saw that there was a small velvet bag also: roses and sprigs had been embroidered on it with seven colors of silk, and a ruby button had been fixed on its cord, so that it was most expensive and priceless. Buzurg Ummid, having put Amar’s private parts in this and wrapped it up like a loincloth, said, “This is called an afat-band, have even your elders seen or heard of such garments?” And he told its benefits: “First, while running and leaping around no injury will be done to the testicles, and second, when swimming in water there will be no need to loosen the drawstring of the drawers.” Amar said, “May God bless your worthy father, for if he has sent a robe for me, he has also robed my private parts!”

Buzurg Ummid put two robes on Amar, one of silk and one of fine light linen, and told him their benefits, and said, “The soft one is for bodily comfort, and the other is for moderation of the wind.” He put on him a green vest embroidered in gold; and a gold-embroidered turban, on which was a parrot made of emerald with its stomach full of musk and ambergris for the delight of the nose; and a gold turban-ornament with a plume, and a jewelled aigrette. He put over his forehead an umbrella made of the skin of a Chinese deer, to keep out the heat of the sun. He attached to Amar’s waist a sling wrapped with seven colors of silk and worked with various kinds of gold embroidery; and nooses and snares for trickery, in every loop of which were clusters of emeralds and rubies, which outshone the full light of the sun with their brilliance; and five daggers with jewel-studded hand-grips, and forty-four small cymbals.

He taught him twelve musical tones, twenty-eight ways to improvise, six high-pitched notes, twenty-four melodies, and six ways of wearing a false beard and of putting on socks to hide footprints. He placed at his waist a glass flask full of naphtha and tied it very tightly; and a bit of prepared medicinal silk-cotton that had been soaked in wine and then dried, so that if it was soaked in water, the water would become wine, would give the effect of rose-red wine. He gave him a small box of wax-and-oil for disguises; a perfume-vessel, extremely elaborately worked and full of the essence of mischief; a little box full of a sovereign antidote; a wonderfully attractive fly-whisk made from a peacock’s tail-feathers; a water-skin full of water; a finely-tempered sword that flashed lightning all around it; a round shield equal to the disk of the sun; a quiver; a curved bow which put the rainbow to shame; Khurasani and Isfahani hunting-knives, incomparable, unrivalled, peerless.

He gave him an ayyari-cloak, long and wide, reticulated like a fish-net from head to foot, so that no one wrapped in it would be suffocated, or anxious, or in danger of death; a pair of slippers for the feet, softer, lighter, and more delicate than cotton, fitted with double broadcloth tassels; two shells plaited in silk to be tied to the shoes, such that even after running thousands of miles, the feet would not grow tired or refuse to move. In this way Amar was fitted out from head to foot with four hundred forty-four novel weapons of ayyari designed by Buzurchmihr, and his body was adorned and equipped with every sort of the most choice, sophisticated, valuable, and jewel-adorned weapons.

Amar took leave of Buzurg Ummid, and in this dress went and waited upon the Amir. He told his whole story in detail, and said, “Naushervan has sent, in answer to your letter, by the hand of Khvajah Buzurchmihr’s son–whose name is Khvajah Buzurg Ummid and who is camped four miles outside the city–a letter of apology and a resplendent robe of honor. Khvajah Buzurchmihr has also sent a banner in the shape of a serpent, and the pavilion of Daniel, as a gift for you. And he has bestowed on me a set of clothing, together with four hundred forty-four pieces of ayyari weaponry that I am wearing and have on my body right now, and his noble son put all the items on me and told me the properties of each item!”

When the Amir heard this good news he was very happy; with his companions and soldiers and all his horsemen, most ceremoniously, he rode outside the city to welcome Khvajah Buzurg Ummid. Buzurg Ummid treated the Amir with respectful honor, caused him to read Naushervan’s letter of apology, and presented the robe of honor which Naushervan had sent him. When the Amir read the royal letter, he was joyful, and at that very moment put on some of the garments of the robe of honor. After this Buzurg Ummid presented to the Amir the banner in the shape of a serpent, and the pavilion of Daniel, and said most respectfully, “My father has sent you his blessing, and has sent you this gift; and in truth this gift, a wonder of the age and a marvel of the world, is suitable only for you.” The Amir was thoroughly delighted and grateful to the Khvajah for this, and entrusted the banner to Tauq bin Haran and the pavilion to Adi. Buzurg Ummid with his victorious-appearing army went toward the city. When they arrived there, the Amir introduced him to Khvajah Abdul Muttalib and the nobles of the city, and for many days arranged festive gatherings for Buzurg Ummid.



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