Hajib bin Zura'rah - Hajib's Bow
Arabian Knights - Volume 1

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Somewhere in the vast deserts of Arabia where the tribe of Mudar lived the free and difficult life of wandering nomads. One year, their lives became more difficult than free. The seasonal rains didn't fall, the desert didn't become green with grass, and the cattle had nothing to graze upon. As a result, both the people of Mudar and their cattle grew thin and hollow-eyed from hunger.

The next year brought more droughts. The year after that, still no rain fell and more lean years followed one upon another. Seven long years of unabated hunger and misery rolled by with no end in sight. During those years, Hajib bin Zura'rah watched his people suffer until finally, he could take no more.

Hajib gathered together his kinsmen, Banu Zura'rah, and addressed them thus, “I have decided to approach the (Persian) king and ask his permission for our people to live on the outskirts of his kingdom, so that we may make what living we can there.”

The gathered people reacted to Hajib's declaration with shock and disbelief. The very idea of breaking off from the rest of the tribe of Mudar and going their own way appalled Hajib's kinsmen. Most of Banu Zura'rah couldn't even imagine life without the security and support of the rest of the tribe.

What would they do if they ran out of food? There would be no one there to keep them from starvation. What would they do if they were attacked? No one would stand and fight with them. What if some terrible calamity befell them? There would be no one nearby to save them. They could all just wander into the desert and quietly perish there. It was madness!

Hajib spoke patiently to his wary kinsmen, addressing their concerns and pointing out that any and all calamities had already befallen them. They were already starving, they were constantly warring with neighboring tribes over the area's scant resources, and there was no calamity worse than the endless drought they suffered from. Finally, Hajib declared impatiently that he would rather perish on the way to a better life than stay and do nothing while he and his family slowly starved to death.

In the end, his audience's hungry bellies carried the day. They did, however, still have one reservation, “Your idea is good, but we fear the Bakr bin Wa'il tribe's reaction when we pass through their territory. Especially after what has happened between our tribes over the years. There's no avoiding them, we will have to resupply from their wells.”

Hajib replied confidently, “There is no person, high or low, of that tribe that does not owe me a favor...except for Ibn Al-Taweela Al-Taymee.” Hajib paused briefly and then waved his hand dismissively, “I will speak with him and we will come to an agreement.”

Comforted by Hajib’s show of confidence, Banu Zura’rah packed their meager possessions, gathered what remained of their gaunt cattle, and set out. They knew that they were travelling towards the land of a king who would probably turn them away, regardless of their empty bellies. But what alternative did they really have? None really, so they put their lives in Hajib’s hands and bravely followed him into the desert towards a land they had never seen before.

Along the way, Banu Zura'rah were happy to see ample evidence of Hajib's vaunted good relationships with the various tribes they passed. Everywhere they went they were made welcome, and when it was time to go, they were sent on their way with fresh water and ample provisions.

Eventually, they came across the lands of the Bakr tribe where they were greeted cordially. The weary travelers were allowed to refill their water skins and were fed and feasted generously whenever they stopped to rest. As their journey progressed, Hajib's people grew more and more optimistic about their future.

Then one dark night, they arrived at Quswan where Ibn Al-Taweela Al-Taymee and his people lived. Hajib and his clan set up their tents not far from the home of Ibn Al-Taweela and they quietly settled down for a night of rest. Early the next day, Hajib took a platter and poured what food he had onto it, which consisted mostly of dried dates. He then called out in a loud and cheerful voice inviting everyone to join him for a meal.

Ibn Al-Taweela was going about his business when he heard someone calling out an invitation for everyone to come and partake of his food. He hurried to investigate and saw that it was Hajib bin Zura'rah who spoke. Ibn Al-Taweela hesitated briefly before saying to his people, “Accept the invitation. He is a leader of his people.”

Eagerly, the members of both tribes sat down together and enjoyed the simple food Hajib had provided. Ibn Al-Taweela tactfully gave Hajib gifts of grain from his stores and cattle from his herds. In turn, Hajib used the gifts he received to feed his numerous guests.

After a few days spent peaceably with Ibn Al-Taweela and his clan, Hajib deemed it time for his own people to move on. As generous and welcoming as Ibn Al-Taweela and his tribe had proven, it was nevertheless unthinkable to burden them much longer with so many extra mouths to feed. So Hajib gratefully thanked his hosts for their hospitality and firmly announced that it was time to go.

Ibn Al-Taweela tried to persuade Hajib and his people to stay a little longer but eventually he realized that Hajib was determined to press on and could not be dissuaded. He then offered to travel with Hajib and his clan in order to see them safely to Kisra's kingdom but Hajib politely refused his host’s kind offer. Hajib confidently told Ibn Al-Taweela that there was no one he feared between his people and the kingdom that was their destination.

The next morning, Hajib and Banu Zura'rah gathered their belongings, packed away the provisions their hosts had prepared for them, and once again set out on their journey. It wasn't long before they entered Kisra's kingdom whereupon they petitioned the king for an audience and were eventually granted one.

Hajib stood regally before Kisra and eloquently told him of the hunger and deprivation his people had suffered from for so many years. Then Hajib asked the king to allow him and his people to live on the outskirts of the Persian kingdom, to make what living there that they could.

Kisra listened with displeasure to what Hajib had to say then he disdainfully replied, “You, the Arabs, are troublemakers. If I gave your people permission to live on the outskirts of my kingdom, you would cause trouble and raid my people.”

Hajib pondered the king's stinging words as he carefully kept a neutral look on his face. Finally, he said in a steady voice, “I promise that my people will not cause any trouble.”

“What guarantee do I have that you will keep this promise?” Kisra challenged him.

“I will give you my bow as a guarantee that I will keep my promise,” Hajib replied with proud dignity. Hajib then sent a member of his tribe to retrieve his most prized bow. The man left quickly and returned carefully carrying his leader's bow.

When Kisra's wealthy, well-fed courtiers saw the simple bow, they all burst into peals of mocking laughter and exclaimed, “With this stick you guarantee your promise to the king?!”

In stark contrast to his courtiers, Kisra sat quietly and looked at the bow. Hajib had given up his independence so he could lead his kinsmen on a journey across many lands, come to a foreign kingdom, humbled himself by asking for this boon from a king who insulted him, and then offered to guarantee the good behavior of all of his people by surrendering his bow, thereby divesting himself of his status as a warrior. And he had done all of this because he could not stand idly by while his people suffered.

Kisra could not think of another man who would sacrifice his very identity for the good of his people and he felt terribly abashed by his court’s reaction. In cutting tones, Kisra spoke to his tittering courtiers, “He would not have surrendered his bow for just anything!!”

The courtiers grew silent and their laughter died instantly when they saw their king's displeasure. Satisfied by the effect of his words, Kisra had one of his attendants take possession of the bow and he gave his permission for Hajib and his kinsmen to live in the countryside along the outskirts of the Persian kingdom.

History records that Hajib's kinsmen, Banu Zura'rah, lived for quite some time on the borders of Kisra's kingdom. Eventually, Hajib grew old and, after living a full life, he passed away. Around the same time, the drought afflicting the lands of the tribe of Mudar finally broke. The cooling rains were falling again, healing the parched land and filling the once-empty wells with pure, fresh water. With both these events in mind, Hajib's kinsmen decided it was time for them to return to their ancestral lands.

Once all their preparations were complete, Hajib's son, Utarid bin Hajib, went to see Kisra in order to reclaim his father's bow. As Utarid stood before Kisra and asked for the return of the bow, Kisra looked at him meditatively and said, “You are not the one who left it with me.”

“It is true, O' King,” Utarid replied calmly, “I am not he.”

“What happened to the one who left the bow with me?” Kisra demanded impatiently.

“He died,” Utarid said bluntly. Then he added proudly, “And he was my father and he kept his promise to you, O' King, when he guaranteed that our people would not cause your people any trouble.”

For a moment, Kisra gazed sadly at the young man who was so like his dead father, both in face and manner. Then he roused himself from his reverie and ordered his attendants to turn over the sturdy bow to Hajib's son. He also gave the youth several rich gifts and wished him and his people well on their long journey home. Utarid politely accepted Kisra's gifts and, with a respectful nod, took his leave.

Some months later, having traveled many long and weary roads, Banu Zura'rah finally arrived back in the deserts, hills and mountains where their people had lived for so many centuries. At long last, they were home, and there they would stay for many centuries to come.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Hajib bin Zura'rah: حاجب بن زرارة
    • Ibn Al-Taweela Al-Taymee: ابن الطويلة التيمي
    • Kisra (aka Khosrau II aka Khosrow II aka Chosroes II aka Xosrov II): كسرى.
    • Utarid bin Hajib: عطارد بن حاجب

  1. Ibrahim, M., Al-Mowla, M., Al-Bajawi, A. (2011 AD, 1432 H). قصص العرب [Stories of the Arabs]. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Assrya. Volume 1. Page 9-10.
  2. Langer, William L. (1980 AD). An Encyclopedia of World History. 5th Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company Boston. Page 140.
  3. Wikipedia contributors. "Khosrau II". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 28 April 2011. Accessed 1 May 2011.

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