THE MOSLEM CHAMPION AND THE CHRISTIAN DAMSEL.
The Commander of the Faithful, Omar bin al-Khattáb (whom Allah accept!), once levied for holy war an army of Moslems, to encounter the foe before Damascus, and they laid close siege to one of the Christians' strongholds. Now there were amongst the Moslems two men, brothers, whom Allah had gifted with fire and bold daring against the enemy; so that the commander of the besieged fortress said to his chiefs and braves, "Were but yonder two Moslems ta'en or slain, I would warrant you against the rest of their strain." Wherefore they left not to set for them all manner of toils and snares and ceased not to manoeuvre and lie in wait and ambush for them, till they took one of them prisoner and slew the other, who died a martyr. They carried the captive to the Captain of the fort, who looked at him and said, "Verily, to kill this man were indeed a pity; but his return to the Moslem would be a calamity."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the enemy carried their Moslem captive before the Captain of the fort, the Christian looked at him and said, "Verily to kill this man were a pity indeed; but his return to the Moslem would be a calamity. Oh that he might be brought to embrace the Nazarene Faith and be to us an aid and an arm!" Quoth one of his Patrician Knights, "O Emir, I will tempt him to abjure his faith, and on this wise: we know that the Arabs are much addicted to women, and I have a daughter, a perfect beauty, whom when he sees, he will be seduced by her." Quoth the Captain, "I give him into thy charge." So he carried him to his place and clad his daughter in raiment, such as added to her beauty and loveliness. Then he brought the Moslem into the room and set before him food and made the fair girl stand in his presence, as she were a handmaid obedient to her lord and awaiting his orders that she might do his bidding. When the Moslem saw the evil sent down upon him, he commended himself to Allah Almighty and closing his eyes, applied himself to worship and to reciting the Koran. Now he had a pleasant voice and a piercing wit; and the Nazarene damsel presently loved him with passionate love and pined for him with extreme repine. This lasted seven days, at the end of which she said to herself, "Would to Heaven he would admit me into the Faith of Al-Islam!" And the tongue of her case recited these couplets,
"Wilt turn thy face from heart that's all thine own, * This heart thy ransom and this soul thy wone?
I'm ready home and kin to quit for aye, * And every Faith for that of sword [FN#485] disown:
I testify that Allah hath no mate: * This proof is stablished and this truth is known.
Haply shall deign He union grant with one * Averse, and hearten heart love-overthrown;
For ofttimes door erst shut, is opened wide, * And after evil case all good is shown."
At last her patience failed her and her breast was straitened and she threw herself on the ground before him, saying, "I conjure thee by thy Faith, that thou give ear to my words!" Asked he, "What are they?" and she answered, "Expound unto me Al-Islam." So he expounded to her the tenets of the Faith, and she became a Moslemah, after which she was circumcised [FN#486] and he taught her to pray. Then said she to him, "O my brother, I did but embrace Al-Islam for thy sake and to win thy favours." Quoth he, "The law of Al-Islam forbiddeth sexual commerce save after a marriage before two legal witnesses, and a dowry and a guardian are also requisite. Now I know not where to find witnesses or friend or parapherne; but, an thou can contrive to bring us out of this place, I may hope to make the land of Al-Islam, and pledge myself to thee that none other than thou in all Al-Islam shall be wife to me." Answered she, "I will manage that"; and, calling her father and mother, said to them, "Indeed this Moslem's heart is softened and he longeth to enter the faith, so I will grant him that which he desireth of my person; but he saith: 'It befitteth me not to do this in a town where my brother was slain. Could I but get outside it my heart would be solaced and I would do that which is wanted of me.' Now there is no harm in letting me go forth with him to another town, and I will be a surety to you both and to the Emir for that which ye wish of him." Therefore her father went to their Captain and told him this, whereat he joyed with exceeding joy and bade him carry them forth to a village that she named. So they went out and made the village where they abode the rest of their day, and when night fell, they got ready for the march and went their way, even as saith the poet,
"'The time of parting,' cry they, 'draweth nigh': * 'How oft this parting-threat?' I but reply:
I've naught to do but cross the wild and wold * And, mile by mile, o'er fountless wastes to fly,
If the beloved seek another land * Sons of the road, whereso they wend, wend I.
I make desire direct me to their side, * The guide to show me where the way doth lie."
And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the prisoner and the lady abode in the village the rest of their day and, when night fell, made ready for the march and went upon their way; and travelled all night without stay or delay. The young Moslem, mounting a swift blood-horse and taking up the maiden behind him, ceased not devouring the ground till it was bright morning, when he turned aside with her from the highway and, alighting, they made the Wuzu-ablution and prayed the dawn-prayer. Now as they were thus engaged behold, they heard the clank of swords and clink of bridles and men's voices and tramp of horse; whereupon he said to her, "Ho, such an one, the Nazarenes are after us! What shall we do?: the horse is so jaded and broken down that he cannot stir another step." Exclaimed she, "Woe to thee! art thou then afraid and affrighted?" "Yes," answered he; and she said, "What didst thou tell me of the power of thy Lord and His readiness to succour those who succour seek? Come, let us humble ourselves before Him and beseech Him: haply He shall grant us His succour and endue us with His grace, extolled and exalted be He!" Quoth he, "By Allah, thou sayest well!" So they began humbling themselves and supplicating Almighty Allah and he recited these couplets,
"Indeed I hourly need thy choicest aid, * And should, though crown were placed upon my head:
Thou art my chiefest want, and if my hand * Won what it wisheth, all my wants were sped.
Thou hast not anything withholdest Thou; * Like pouring rain Thy grace is showered:
I'm shut therefrom by sins of me, yet Thou, * O Clement, deignest pardon-light to shed.
O Care-Dispeller, deign dispel my grief! * None can, save Thou, dispel a grief so dread."
Whilst he was praying and she was saying, "Amen," and the thunder of horse-tramp nearing them, lo! the brave heard the voice of his dead brother, the martyr, speaking and saying, "O my brother, fear not, nor grieve! for the host whose approach thou hearest is the host of Allah and His Angels, whom He hath sent to serve as witnesses to your marriage. Of a truth Allah hath made His Angels glorify you and He bestoweth on you the meed of the meritorious and the martyrs; and He hath rolled up the earth for you as it were a rug so that, by morning, you will be in the mountains of Al-Medinah. And thou, when thou foregatherest with Omar bin al-Khattab (of whom Allah accept!) give him my salutation and say to him: 'Allah abundantly requite thee for Al-Islam, because thou hast counselled faithfully and hast striven diligently.'" Thereupon the Angels lifted up their voices in salutation to him and his bride, saying, "Verily, Almighty Allah appointed her in marriage to thee two thousand years before the creation of your father Adam (with whom be peace evermore!)." Then joy and gladness and peace and happiness came upon the twain; confidence was confirmed and established was the guidance of the pious pair. So when dawn appeared, they prayed the accustomed prayer and fared forward. Now it was the wont of Omar, son of Al-Khattab (Allah accept him!), to rise for morning-prayer in the darkness before dawn and at times he would stand in the prayer-niche with two men behind him, and begin reciting the Chapter entitled "Cattle" [FN#487] or that entitled "Women," [FN#488] whereupon the sleeper awoke and he who was making his Wuzu-ablution accomplished it and he who was afar came to prayer; nor had he made an end of the first bow, ere the mosque was full of folk; then he would pray his second bow quickly, repeating a short chapter. But, on that morning he hurried over both first and second inclinations, repeating in each a short chapter; then, after the concluding salutation, turning to his companions, he said to them, "Come, let us fare forth to meet the bride and bridegroom"; at which they wondered, not understanding his words. But he went out and they followed him, till they came to the gate of the city, where they met the young Moslem who, when the day broke and the standards of Al-Medinah appeared to him, had pushed forward for the gate closely followed by his bride. There he was met by Omar who bade make a marriage feast; and the Moslems came and ate. Then the young Moslem went in unto his bride and Almighty Allah vouchsafed him children,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Omar (on whom be peace!) bade make a marriage-feast; and the Moslems came and ate. Then the young Moslem went in unto his bride and Almighty Allah vouchsafed him children, who fought in the Lord's way and preserved genealogies, for they gloried therein. And how excellent is what is said on such theme,
"I saw thee weep before the gates and 'plain, * Whilst only curious wight reply would deign:
Hath eye bewitcht thee, or hath evil lot * 'Twixt thee and door of friend set bar of bane?
Wake up this day, O wretch, persist in prayer, * Repent as wont repent departed men.
Haply shall wash thy sins Forgiveness-showers; * And on thine erring head some ruth shall rain:
And prisoner shall escape despite his bonds; * And slave from thraldom freedom shall attain."
And they ceased not to be in all solace and delight of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies. And a tale is told by Sídi Ibrahim bin Al-Khawwás [FN#489](on whom be the mercy of Allah!) concerning himself and