The Jinn Darazgosh
The Jinn Darazgosh
A Fable Relating How the Curiosity of a Jinn Led to the Usual Unhappy Results and Brought About the Closure of the Heavens Upon His Race
IN THE DAYS when jinns were free to roam the skies, they often eavesdropped on the angels to find out if they planned to visit the Earth with Life or with Death, and upon their return to Earth, the jinns reported these conversations to the augurs. When the angels visited the Earth with Life, it rained and the crops were plentiful, and there was enough to eat for the birds, beasts and men; and when they visited it with Death, famines and plagues broke out; there were earthquakes and floods; and vultures and carrion-eaters, and insects which fed on corpses multiplied. The augurs foretold those events in their predictions, and the people revered and feared them for knowing what lay in the future.
Sarob, the augur, lived in a dark cave by a swamp in the land of Bilman. He was as old as the oldest tree in the land, and had become shriveled and bent with age. Night and day he remained busy in his reckoning and calculations, and in that he was helped by the jinn Darazgosh. Darazgosh had long, pointed ears, and wings that were like a bat’s, only much bigger. He had served Sarob for many hundreds of years and had grown old in his service.
One day Sarob said to Darazgosh: “Find out what is being said in the heavens and bring me the news!” Darazgosh unfolded his wings and flew all over the First Heaven which bounds the Earth, but he did not see or hear any angels. On the way back to Earth he decided to take some rest and lay down against a boulder on the Moon. Because he was tired, he fell asleep. He was awoken by the sound of voices nearby; peeking from behind the boulder, he saw a party of the bovine-faced angels of the First Heaven, sitting in a circle.
Their chief said to his companions: “Send the rain clouds to the land of Bilman to rain until the rivers flood! In one place the floods will make a fallow land fertile, and in another they will destroy a bird’s nest. Then God’s decree shall be fulfilled, for two lovers are destined to die many years hence, as an outcome of these events!”
Once the bovine-faced angels had departed, Darazgosh wondered how the fertilization of a fallow land and the destruction of a bird’s nest would bring about the deaths, and he felt curious about the lovers thus destined to die. Upon his return to Earth, he told Sarob only of the impending flood, and remained silent about the rest. The augur made his forecast, and the people accordingly made preparations.
Before long, clouds appeared in the skies of Bilman, and it began to rain heavily. After a few days the river rose, and its waters inundated the land. Darazgosh followed the course of flood waters and saw them enter the land of an old farmer who lived there alone in a hut. The land was as fallow as the old farmer’s palm, and Darazgosh realized it must be the land of which the angels had spoken. Before his eyes the flood washed away the hut, and the old farmer was left homeless.
Darazgosh again followed the course of the flood and saw its torrents wash away a tree in which a mynah had its nest. When the mynah returned in the evening, she found her nest destroyed with the tree. She made a circle in the air where the tree had once stood and then flew away towards the west. Darazgosh followed her and saw that she descended where the lands of two farmers met. The mynah passed a dropping there and then flew off and made herself another nest.
Darazgosh went away after witnessing those events, but every night he returned to watch what went on in those places, and to await the time when God’s decree would be fulfilled.
The old farmer had tried to cultivate his fallow land, but nothing ever grew on it. He borrowed money and lost his properties to the usurers. But he still had the possession of that land. After the floods had passed, he saw that its waters had left behind thick layers of rich and fertile soil. Then he pledged the land and borrowed money against it. He got very little, and he spent that money sowing. Soon, the seeds sprouted where nothing had grown in living memory. The old farmer harvested a rich crop that season. That year he sowed and reaped three crops. He worked as hard and had similar fortune the next year, and the year after next. Soon he became not only the master of his land, but of many other properties. But he became niggardly and flint-hearted with his newfound riches, and the poor and the needy were always turned away empty-handed from his door. Never a grain was given in charity from his granaries, and not once did his chests of gold and silver mitigate anyone’s suffering. When the news of his riches spread, matchmakers arrived in droves at his house. Although he had become old and hoary, the parents of the most beautiful girls in Bilman wished to have him for their son-in-law. The old farmer felt his lust awaken in him, but he feared his wealth would be appropriated by his in-laws. Therefore, he decided to take a foundling for his wife. The girl he married did not lack in beauty and was young enough to be his grandchild, but everyone praised him for showing kindness to an orphan.
The mynah, whose nest had been destroyed by the floods, had returned that day from the royal garden after eating a pomegranate, and there was a seed in her dropping which sprouted in the course of time and became a sapling. Within a few years it became a tree, and the two poor farmers between whose lands it stood were amazed to see it bear a fruit which only grew in the king’s garden. They had always lived like brothers and helped each other in times of need, but now they fought over the possession of the tree. Both of them claimed the spot where it grew as part of his land. They took their dispute before a judge when their quarrel grew. Their lands were measured and it was found that the tree grew exactly where their properties met, so that its trunk occupied both lands equally. When they expressed their ignorance as to who had planted the tree, the judge asked them if they had any children. One of the farmers had a son and the other a daughter, who were both of marriageable age. The judge decided that their children should be married, and the pomegranate tree should become their inheritance. By now the farmers had also begun to feel ashamed of their avaricious conduct, and they happily acquiesced in the judgment. Soon afterwards, their children were wed together.
Years passed, and Darazgosh, who had witnessed all, waited to see when God’s decree would be fulfilled.
The young wife of the old farmer was as generous as her husband was miserly and as compassionate as he was unkind. She helped the poor with all the means at her disposal and endured her husband’s abuse on that account. One day she became heavy with child, whereupon the farmer beat her mercilessly, and ordered the servants to turn her out of the house without giving any reason for his acts. Because she had lived a virtuous life and was known to the townspeople for her charity, they reviled the old farmer and took her case before a judge. When the old farmer was summoned and asked why he had turned his wife out of his house, he declared that the child his wife was carrying was not his. At those words everyone was greatly surprised, and they asked him what proof he had to support the allegation. The farmer replied that because of his infirmity he had not been able to come to her like a man since the day they were married, and therefore the child could not have been conceived from the seed of his loins. When the judge questioned his wife she admitted that the farmer spoke the truth, but she insisted that the child belonged to no other but him, as she had never been touched by another man. Then the farmer called her a harlot and a whore. The judge and the townspeople too, became convinced of her guilt. They took the farmer’s side against her and reckoned that the she must have taken a lover among the vagrants who came to her door for alms. The woman cried that she was innocent and begged for justice to be done, but she was banished from the town, and told never to show her face there again. They reminded her how ungratefully she had returned the farmer’s kindness in taking pity on her and marrying her, and they called her the vilest of names. As she was being led away, those whom she had helped, also spat on her face. She wandered for a few days outside the town without food or drink and then collapsed from weakness near the river. An old fisherman found her there and took her home. He and his wife had no children of their own. Moved by pity upon hearing her story, they took her into their house. There she gave birth to a boy and named him Lamad. The fisherman taught Lamad his trade, and after some time Lamad began going out to catch fish by himself. Later the woman received the news of the death of her husband, the old farmer. Then she told Lamad her entire story and made him pledge that he would one day clear her name, even though she may be dead.
The pomegranate tree provided a bountiful harvest to the families of the two farmers, and they made enough money from selling the fruit to last them the entire year. Their days of poverty were over, and they attributed this change in their fortune to the tree. When a daughter was born to the couple, they named her Rumman, after the beautiful fruit of the tree. But the pomegranate tree began to die on the day Rumman was born. Since that day nobody saw a single blossom flower on the tree’s branches, nor did it bear any fruit. Within a few months only a piece of dried wood was left where the tree had once stood laden with fruit, and it was cut down and used for firewood. The fortunes of the family took a turn for the worse. The following year their crops were eaten by locusts, the year after that their animals died in a disease, and the third year there was a drought. Their days of poverty returned, and as there was one more mouth to feed, there was even less food to go around. Everyone blamed Rumman’s birth for the dying of the pomegranate tree and for all the misfortunes that had ensued. They thought she was cursed, and the day Rumman was able to walk, they turned her out of the house to beg for her food. During the day Rumman begged in the streets and at night slept like an animal outside the door of her house, whose threshold she was forbidden to cross.
Some years passed and Darazgosh, who witnessed all, waited still to see when God’s decree would be fulfilled.
Lamad and his mother continued to live in the hut after the fisherman and his wife died. Lamad went out to fish every morning, and in the evening sold his catch in the town. One day he saw Rumman begging for food, and remembering how his mother was once forsaken by everyone, he gave her a fish. And the same thing happened the next day, and the day after next. Slowly, friendship grew between them, and then love. When Darazgosh saw them together he wondered if those were the two lovers through whose deaths God’s decree would be fulfilled.
Years passed and Lamad’s mother died. That year there was such a drought that even the river dried. A famine soon followed, and people were forced to sell their children for food. One day Lamad heard that Rumman’s family had handed her to the slave merchant. He wished never to be separated from her sight, and only one way was left for him. Therefore, he offered himself free in slavery to the one who would buy Rumman. Realizing that Rumman’s buyer would thus acquire two young and strong slaves, the slave-merchant raised her price. A royal courtier heard of this strange pair, and bought them as a gift for the king. Rumman was chosen for the king’s harem, and Lamad was selected to work in the royal stables. The two of them were to enter the royal service at the beginning of the new year, and there was no chance of their seeing each other afterwards. It was something neither of them had foreseen. They shed bitter tears at this cruel turn of fate and resolved to kill themselves by their own hand on the day their separation became permanent. Rumman procured a deadly poison and Lamad a dagger. Darazgosh, who had witnessed all, knew how the decree of God would be fulfilled.
On the last night of every year, the King of Bilman sent for Sarob the augur, to divine the fortunes of the kingdom for the year that was to follow. As usual, Sarob was summoned to the palace to cast the horoscope, and he said to Darazgosh: “Find out what is being said in the heavens and bring me the news!” Darazgosh unfolded his wings and flew off. Returning after some time, he said: “The angels in the heavens say that the fortunes of the kingdom are set to change this day!” Sarob made his calculations, but the numbers and signs were incoherent, and he could not verify what Darazgosh had told him. His mind was troubled because such a thing had never happened, and he again sent for Darazgosh and said to him: “Find out once more what is being said in the heavens and bring me the news!” Darazgosh again returned, and said: “The angels in the heavens say that the fortune of the kingdom is tied to the two slaves gifted to the king by a courtier.” Again Sarob tried to confirm the intelligence and again he found that the truth eluded him. He was apprehensive, but he trusted the jinn. Therefore, when he went before the king, he repeated what he had been told by Darazgosh. The king summoned both Rumman and Lamad before him and demanded to know their stories.
Lamad was the first to speak, and he said: “If my story proves such a one, O King, that shall be an example to men, I pray you to set free the girl who stands before you!” And the king said: “It shall be done!”
Then Lamad began his story and told the king how the flood waters had enriched a fallow land and made the old farmer rich, how he married his mother and how he turned her out one day when she was expecting, and how she was forsaken by the entire town and left to die. He told him how a fisherman and his wife had sheltered her in the hut where he was born, how he pledged to clear his mother’s name, how he fell in love with Rumman, why he decided to be sold into slavery and then to kill himself, and how he found no peace knowing that his pledge to his mother would remain unfulfilled.
Everyone saw that the king was greatly moved. Lamad had hardly finished his story when the king cried: “Indeed this story shall be a lesson to all men!”
The moment Rumman was set free, she stepped forward, and said: “If you find, O King, that my story would be a lesson to men, I pray you to set free this boy who sold his freedom for my love!” And the king said: “It shall be done!”
Then Rumman began her story, and told the king how one day a pomegranate tree had grown on the land where two farmers lived, how her parents came to be married and how their fortunes were changed by the tree, how the tree began to die on the day she was born, how she was blamed for the tree’s death and other misfortunes which followed, and turned out of her house. She told the king how she had fallen in love with Lamad, how her family sold her into slavery and how Lamad sacrificed his freedom for her love, and why she had resolved to kill herself before fate separated them permanently.
Before Rumman could finish her story, the king was in tears, and he cried: “Indeed your story is such a one which would be a lesson to all men!”
Both Lamad and Rumman were now free, and they threw themselves at the king’s feet to express their gratitude, but he raised them, and said: “Now I would tell you a story that would be a lesson as well to all who may take heed!” And he began: “Many years ago there was a thief who heard of a farmer’s immense riches and one night gained entrance into his house. He saw the farmer sleeping with his young wife and was struck by the woman’s beauty. Finding her irresistible, he took his pleasure with her while she slept and left the house without stealing anything because she was beginning to show signs of waking up. He had not gone far when he was seen and set upon. The thief’s livery and his tools were on his person, and he would have been hanged if he were caught. Fleeing his pursuers, he happened upon a pomegranate tree in an open field, and he buried his belongings in its root. He escaped his pursuers and went into hiding. After some months he came out of concealment, and went to dig out his things and renew his trade. Finding the tree gone, he recalled having struck its root, and realized then that it must have died and been cut down for wood. At night in that open field he was unable to find the place where it had stood. The countryside had been ravaged by famine and he left for the seat of the kingdom where he could carry on his trade more profitably. He was the first to enter the city early the next morning and found a crowd of people waiting at the gates. The previous night the King of Bilman had died. According to custom, the people had gathered at the city gates to declare as their sovereign the first man who would enter them. Thus the thief became the King of Bilman. He saw this change in his fortunes as a sign of God’s favor, and repenting his past he ruled with justice as king, thinking that he had been forgiven his past crimes. But the greatest evil he had done in his life remained hidden from him until the two, who had suffered most from it, one day told him their stories!”
Everyone listened to the story in wonder and silence. The king paused for a moment, and said: “What has been done I cannot undo, but I must stop it here with my last act as the king!” And with these words he placed his crown on Lamad’s head and declared Lamad and Rumman the King and Queen of Bilman.
When Sarob returned to the cave, he again consulted his horoscope. He found the mist of incoherence parted and discovered that, through Darazgosh’s falsehood, Lamad and Rumman had escaped their destined deaths. Sarob said to him: “You had lied to me about the two slaves! But tell me how you knew what you knew!” And Darazgosh replied: “I had witnessed the thief breaking into the farmer’s house and burying the things in the tree’s root!” Then Sarob said: “A jinn who tells a lie to his master must be burned to death, but I forgive you for all the years that you have faithfully served me! But I cannot retain you in my service, for you have deceived me once and may do so again! Therefore, I am setting you free! Fly away. Never come back! But remember that you have forestalled God’s decree, and the matter will not end here!”
Darazgosh flew away from Sarob’s cave, and wandered about the Earth for many days. Then one day he again flew to the First Heaven to listen to the angels. But the moment he entered, he found himself surrounded by the bovine-faced angels who had been waiting for him in ambush, with fire whips in their hands. That day Darazgosh proved quicker of wing and escaped with just a burn mark on his back. On subsequent visits he found the heavens vigilantly guarded and decided never to venture there again.
Today there are no augurs to tell the future. Ever since Darazgosh had averted God’s decree, the entry of jinns into the heavens was banned, and if they are found trespassing, the bovine-faced angels chase them away with fire-whips. It is that light which one sees sometimes at night; it flashes past the sky for a moment and is gone.
Copyright © Musharraf Ali Farooqi, 2011
For further reading, see the author’s essay Mischief Makers in Lapham Quarterly’s Blog.