بخش 28

کتاب: ملت عشق / فصل 28

بخش 28

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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متن انگلیسی فصل

Hasan the Beggar

KONYA, OCTOBER 17, 1244

Bristling with irritation, I sat under the maple tree. I continued to be angry at Rumi for his flamboyant speech on suffering—a subject he clearly knew little about. The shadow of the minaret inched its way across the street. Half dozing, half eyeing the passersby, I was about to fall asleep when I caught sight of a dervish I had never seen before. Dressed in black rags, holding a large staff in his hand, with no facial hair and a tiny silver earring in one ear, he looked so different that I couldn’t help fixing my gaze upon him.

As his eyes scanned left and right, it didn’t take the dervish long to notice me. Instead of ignoring my presence, the way people who saw me for the first time always did, he put his right hand on his heart and greeted me as if we were two old friends. I was so stunned I looked around just to make sure he wasn’t greeting someone else. But there was only me and the maple tree. Dazed, confused, I nonetheless put my hand on my heart and greeted him back.

Slowly the dervish walked toward me. I lowered my gaze, expecting him to leave a copper coin in my bowl or hand me a piece of bread. But instead he knelt down to my eye level.

“Selamun aleykum, beggar,” he said.

“Aleykum selam, dervish,” I responded. My voice sounded hoarse and strange to me. It had been such a long time since I’d felt the need to speak to anyone that I had almost forgotten what my voice sounded like.

He introduced himself as Shams of Tabriz and asked my name.

I laughed. “What does a man like me need a name for?”

“Everybody has a name,” he objected. “God has countless names. Of those, only ninety-nine are known to us. If God has so many names, how can a human being who is the very reflection of Him go around without a name?” I didn’t know how to respond to that and so didn’t even try. Instead I conceded, “I had a wife and a mother once. They used to call me Hasan.”

“Hasan it is, then.” The dervish nodded. Then, to my surprise, he gave me a silver mirror. “Keep it,” he said. “A good man in Baghdad gave it to me, but you need it more than I do. It will remind you that you bear God within you.” Before I found the chance to say anything in return, a commotion broke out in the background. The first thing that came to my mind was that a pickpocket had been caught in the mosque. But when the shouts grew louder and fiercer, I knew that it had to be something bigger. No pickpocket would create such an uproar.

We found out soon enough. A woman, a known prostitute, had been found in the mosque dressed up as a man. A group of people were shoving her out, chanting, “Lash the deceiver! Lash the whore!” In this state the angry mob reached the street. I caught sight of the young woman in men’s clothing. Her face was pale as death and her almond eyes terrified. I had seen many lynchings before. It never ceased to amaze me how dramatically people changed when they joined a mob. Ordinary men with no history of violence—artisans, vendors, or peddlers—turned aggressive to the point of murder when they banded together. Lynchings were common and ended with the corpses put on display to deter others.

“Poor woman,” I muttered to Shams of Tabriz, but when I turned to him for a response, there was no one standing there.

I caught sight of the dervish darting toward the mob, like a flaming arrow shot straight up into the sky. I jumped to my feet and rushed to catch up with him.

When he reached the head of the procession, Shams raised his staff like a flag and yelled at the top of his voice, “Stop it, people! Halt!”

Baffled, and suddenly silent, the men stared at him in wonder.

“You should all be ashamed of yourselves!” Shams of Tabriz shouted as he struck the ground with his staff. “Thirty men against one woman. Is that fair?”

“She doesn’t deserve fairness,” said a square-faced, burly man with a lazy eye, who seemed to have proclaimed himself the leader of this impromptu group. I recognized him instantly. He was a security guard named Baybars, a man all the beggars in town knew well for his cruelty and rapacity.

“This woman here dressed up as a man and sneaked into the mosque to deceive good Muslims,” Baybars said.

“Are you telling me you want to punish a person for going into a mosque? Is that a crime?” Shams of Tabriz asked, his voice dripping with scorn.

The question created a momentary lull. Apparently nobody had thought of it that way.

“She is a whore!” yelled another man, who looked so enraged that his face had turned a dark scarlet color. “She has no place in a holy mosque!”

That seemed enough to inflame the group again. “Whore! Whore!” a few people at the back chanted in unison. “Let’s get the whore!”

As if that were an order, a young lad leaped forward and grabbed the woman’s turban, yanking it forcefully. The turban came loose, and the woman’s long blond hair, bright as sunflowers, fell down in graceful waves. We all held our breath, astonished by her youth and beauty.

Shams must have recognized the mixed feelings in the air, for he reproached them without skipping a beat: “You have to make up your minds, brothers. Do you really despise this woman, or do you in fact desire her?” With that, the dervish caught the harlot’s hand and pulled her toward him, away from the young lad and the mob. She hid behind him, like a little girl hiding behind her mother’s skirts.

“You are making a big mistake,” the leader of the group said, raising his voice above the murmur of the crowd. “You are a stranger in this town and don’t know our ways. Stay out of this matter.” Someone else chimed in. “What kind of a dervish are you anyway? Don’t you have anything better to do than to defend the interests of a whore?”

Shams of Tabriz was quiet for a moment, as if considering the questions. He displayed no temper, remaining invariably tranquil. Then he said, “But how did you notice her in the first place? You go to a mosque but pay more attention to the people around you than to God? If you were the good believers you claim to be, you would not have noticed this woman even if she were naked. Now, go back to the sermon and do a better job this time.” An awkward silence descended on the entire street. Leaves skittered along the sidewalk, and for a moment they were the only things that moved.

“Come on, you lot! Off you go, back to the sermon.” Shams of Tabriz waved his staff, shooing the men away like flies.

They did not all turn and walk away, but they did take a few steps back, swaying unsteadily, puzzled as to what to do next. A few of them were looking in the direction of the mosque as if considering returning. It was exactly then that the harlot mustered the courage to get out from behind the dervish. Fast as a rabbit, she took to her heels, her long hair flying every which way while she scurried into the closest side street.

Only two men attempted to chase her. But Shams of Tabriz blocked their path, swinging his staff under their feet with such suddenness and force that they tumbled over and fell down. A few passersby laughed at the sight, and so did I.

Embarrassed and stupefied, the two men managed to get to their feet again, but by that time the harlot had long vanished and the dervish was walking away, his work here done.

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