Chapter 12: The Amir’s ships are again storm-tossed, and those unlucky ones fall into the Whirlpool of Alexander, then emerge from the hurricane and arrive in the land of Sarandip.
TWELVE – The Amir’s ships are again storm-tossed, and those unlucky ones fall into the Whirlpool of Alexander, then emerge from the hurricane and arrive in the land of Sarandip.
The divers in the ocean of historiography, and those who have plunged into the sea of stories of the past, obtain the pearls of narrative in this manner: After the hurricane was over, for some days a favorable wind continually blew. The passengers on the ships were free from all care. The sailors kept trimming the sails, and steadily sailed the ship onward.
One day the ships’ lookouts began clamoring and shouting, “Friends, there’s an immense hurricane coming! That other hurricane was like a drop of water compared to this one! Let’s see which of us God saves! A further problem is that the Whirlpool of Alexander is very close by. If, God forbid, the ships are sucked in, they’ll circle round and round until they sink–we’ll all be dragged right down into the depths of the ocean!”
‘Amar lost control of his bladder, he was utterly overcome, he began weeping and wailing; he was almost dying of fear. Sometimes he said, “Uncle Elias, save me, I’ve already promised that when we reach Sarandip I’ll give you your offering!” Sometimes he screamed, “Hazrat Khvajah Khizr, tell your brother to help me, to save me from this disastrous whirlpool and this boundless hurricane! Let him pray to God for me. As soon as I reach dry land I’ll give what I’ve promised.”
The Amir, hearing the shouting and commotion, asked, “Now why is all this crying and lamenting going on? Why all this petitioning of Hazrat Elias and Hazrat Khizr?” The sailors said, “Hazrat, a boundless hurricane is at hand! If the Lord saves us from this hurricane, then He saves us; otherwise it seems impossible for us to escape with our lives.” Even as they were speaking, the hurricane enveloped them, and the sea was engulfed in turbulence, and in the wink of an eye the ships were sucked into the Whirlpool of Alexander; revolving, they began to circle around and around. Then all the travelers’ minds grew dizzy, and they were very much afraid.
When the Amir looked closely into the hurricane, in the midst of that whirlpool he saw a stone pillar standing, and its length and width were immeasurable. At its summit a tablet made of something like white stone had been fixed, and on it letters had been carved in relief. The inscription was in Arabic. Reading the inscription, he saw that these words were written on it: ‘At some time the Sahib-qiran’s ships will come this way, and they will be caught in this whirlpool. It is necessary for the Sahib-qiran himself to climb this pillar and beat the #Drum of Alexander which hangs atop it. Or he may have his deputy climb the pillar, so that the task can be accomplished at his hands. Surely the ships will escape from the whirlpool, and be saved from this disaster.’
The Amir said to ‘Amar, “Well, brother, I’ll climb this pillar, and say “In the name of God,” and beat the drum. If through my one life being lost, thousands of lives are saved, then why should I mind? I intend to save the lives of God’s servants, under any circumstances.” ‘Amar said, “It’s also written about your deputy, he too has been given permission to beat the drum! Since I am your deputy, I will climb the pillar and beat the Drum of Alexander.” And inwardly he told himself, “Climb that pillar, and just sit there peacefully! At least you’ll be safe from the ocean’s turmoil. When some ship passes by, get on it and be on your way somewhere or other. You have no wife or children; as a bachelor, on your own, you’ll always manage to survive somehow.”
Then, looking toward all the officers, ‘Amar said, “Friends, I am your sacrificial goat, so now open your purse-strings! If perhaps I survive, then I should be rewarded for my labor!” They all wrote out promissory notes. Those who would have given one dinar in cash promised hundreds, and those who would have given hundreds promised hundreds of thousands, and they handed the notes over to ‘Amar. ‘Amar took the notes, reciting this verse:
“In this bottomless ocean, in this booming storm
I have thrown my heart, God will bring it safely home.”
And, holding his breath, he leaped.
But as he neared the top of the pillar, and had to let out his breath, he fell with a loud noise, and went down. When he looked down, he saw a crocodile positioned with its mouth open, waiting for dinner. ‘Amar almost fainted: “Where did this monster come from? Have I escaped the other disaster, only to lose my life here?” When, pulling himself together, he poised his feet on the crocodile’s teeth and made a leap, he landed atop the pillar, he reached the summit of the pillar–he crowned all his previous deeds with this one. Everyone praised ‘Amar’s agility, and admired his courage and quickness.
‘Amar saw that in fact there was a drum, and on its drumhead the name of Alexander the Two-horned was written. ‘Amar said “In the name of God” and struck it with the drumstick. A very frightening sound came forth! The sound threw the ocean into turmoil for one hundred twenty-eight miles around. An extraordinary commotion ensued: all the sea creatures swam to the surface, and all the birds that lived on that pillar took fright and flew away. And with the wind created by their wings, the ships escaped from the whirlpool. But ‘Amar remained atop the pillar. Although at first he had longed in his heart for this, the loneliness dismayed him.
After some days, the ships’ anchors were lowered at the island of #Sarandip, and the Sahib-qiran, with his army, disembarked on dry land.
For his part, ‘Amar, distressed by the solitude and the sun, was breaking down, and offering prayers to the True Lord, and weeping–when suddenly he heard a voice say, “Peace be upon you.” Growing even more fearful, ‘Amar looked all around, and was dumbfounded, and said in amazement, “Besides myself, there’s no one else here to greet me and care about me! The Angel of Death must be arriving to seize my soul, he must have come to take my life. Alas, a thousand times alas! What a bad place death has found me in! I’m not destined to have proper funeral rites, or a shroud wrapped around me; I won’t even be buried in the earth!”
In the meantime Hazrat Khizr made himself visible. ‘Amar saw that a radiant form, robed in green, was standing there, with a veil that concealed his noble countenance. Saluting him most respectfully, ‘Amar asked, “What is Hazrat’s auspicious name, and how does it happen that he has betaken himself to this place?” Hazrat Khizr said, “I am Khizr, and I have come to deliver you; if God Most High so wills, I will most quickly free you.” ‘Amar kissed his feet, and prostrated himself in gratitude to God.
But the ‘ayyar was a slave to his stomach, he didn’t stand on ceremony. He said, “Oh Hazrat, I’m powerfully hungry, I hope for your beneficence!” Hazrat Khizr bestowed a #bread-bun on him and said, “Eat this; I’ll give you water to drink as well, and I’ll release you from this prison of calamity and grief.” When ‘Amar saw that bread-bun, he was disgusted and dismayed: “How can this bread-bun satisfy me?” Gripped by the pangs of hunger, he began muttering, “Oh Hazrat, although you are a Prophet of God, and I cannot be of your rank, nevertheless I too am a friend of God’s! You are joking with me at such a bad time, when I despair of my life! When a man is full of food, that’s when he thinks of joking–otherwise he doesn’t even like to talk.”
Hazrat Khizr said, “Where’s the joke? You complained of hunger, I gave you a bread-bun, and I promised to give you water to drink as well.” ‘Amar said, “Hazrat, this is a case of ‘What good is a cumin seed in a camel’s mouth.’ What use is this bread-bun to me, it won’t fill up even one of my intestines! You’ve graciously presented me with a little holy crumb!” Hazrat Khizr said, “My good man, first have a bit of faith and eat it, see if you can even finish it! Or do you intend to go on jabbering meaninglessly?” When ‘Amar ate from that bread-bun, even after he was full the bread-bun remained whole, just as it had been.
Khvajah Khizr pulled out a #water-flask two and a half hand-breadths long, and gave him water from it to drink, and said, “You were so impatient before, and now why is the bread-bun still there?” ‘Amar saw that although he had drunk his fill, the water-flask was still full to the lip. Expressing his gratitude, he said slily, “Hazrat, hunger and thirst are constant companions. You will go away, and what reason would you have to come again? If I’m hungry and thirsty then, whom can I appeal to? If this bread-bun and water-flask were bestowed on me, I’d never worry about food as long as I lived; I’d be most extremely grateful.”
Hazrat Khizr accepted ‘Amar’s plea, and gave ‘Amar the water-flask and bread-bun. And he said, “Oh ‘Amar, this bread-bun and water-flask will ease your path through the most grievous troubles, and serve your turn in many places. And you must give the Drum of Alexander, with its accessories, to Hamzah–and be warned, don’t take anything from among them!” ‘Amar said, “Hazrat, how will I carry this burden, and how will I lift its weight?” Hazrat Khizr, giving him a shawl, said, “Wrap them in this, you won’t feel any burden at all.” ‘Amar said to himself, “This shawl too is quite a good thing: it will come in handy sometime, and will be comfortable in the cold weather.”
Wrapping all the accessories, and the Drum of Alexander, in the shawl, he put the bundle on his head. Placing his feet on the feet of Hazrat Khizr, and closing his eyes, he began reciting the secret #Great Name which Hazrat Khizr had taught him. In the twinkling of an eye he traveled from one place to another. Hazrat Khizr said, “’Amar, just open your eyes, and behold the power of God: think where you were before, and where, in the space of a breath, you have arrived; think what difficulties you were trapped in before, and where you are standing now.” ‘Amar opened his eyes and found himself standing on dry land; he prostrated himself in gratitude before the True Lord. He set out toward the mountains, in search of the Amir.
Now please hear about the Sahib-qiran. When he reached the harbor of Sarandip, and disembarked safe and sound with his army onto dry land, he made, with perfect open-handedness and great liberality, the offerings that had been promised during the hurricane to Hazrats Khizr and Elias. And he ordered, “We will camp here for two months, and do nothing but express our grief and sorrow, and mourn for ‘Amar, and give many charitable gifts in his name. You all know that he was as dear to me as my own life, and I cherished him as the dearest among all my companions. He never stinted in his loyalty to me, even to the point of giving up his own life for me. All the officers, with the soldiers, put on black clothing in mourning for ‘Amar, and abandoned themselves to loud weeping and wailing and passionate grief.