Translated by: Subrata Kumar Das & Simon Rahman
After wandering around in the wrong direction day after day, finally he achieved an asylum. It was beyond expectation for Alberuni that such a great fortune awaited him. He had to take a lot of misery, woe, embarrassment and insults after leaving his birthplace Khorezom. It was only a single stomach, but at times it was tough to fulfil the demand of even one. He was an unknown and obscure foreigner and their was no proof that he was not a thief, fraud or criminal? Some people did not want to allow him to stay out of suspicion. Even if a place was managed, he had to hear words like these after one or two days: Now look for your own way son. Way? He had been continuously on the road, but as a human being, still he would need a place to secure himself.
Some people have questioned: Being a young man, why do you wander around like this? What’s your profession? What work can you perform?
Why don’t you settle down somewhere like a good person and do what you do best. Allah’s given you hands and legs to earn your livelihood. The Giver would be angry if you won’t work. But you never seem to work.
It was true. There had never been the need to work to earn the livelihood. So he had not mastered that. He was not from rich parentage; moreover, he had lost his parents in early age. Yet he did not have to be in trouble to manage his maintenance. He had been brought up in affluence from his early age through the benevolence of the Sultan of Kharizom. He got the chance to achieve good education and get drowned into learning. So he didn’t get to see this rougher side of the world.
But the greatest regret was that there was just about no chance for studying in this mobile and unstable life. Whereas the life-span of the human beings is momentary and finite. The time that goes by once, goes forever. There is no way to make amends for that loss. Alberuni had no end to his regret concerning the time he had lost.
Eventually, all the problems came to an end. The Sultan of Gurgan, Kabus Bin Washmogir would appreciate the value of knowledge. He had enthusiasm in plenty in this regard. He provided Alberuni with an asylum in his court with warmth.
The connection was bizarre. He had got no shelter anywhere that day. The wide-extended horizon was deserted. He had walked all day, yet there was no signs of any locality. His legs were not able anymore to walk out of hunger and fatigue. Along came the evening, all the surroundings got blur. In this dark road of the obscure land it was not safe to go ahead anymore. He remembered the events of the other day. It was not long ago. Just like this, also in that day he was searching for shelter after the evening. While walking, suddenly his mind was filled with hope as he saw a ray of light. Light stands for locality, and locality stands for food and a little shelter in the night. Generally, nobody rejected a guest in this odd time.
Being inspired, he walked ahead quickly towards the light. Nearing it, he saw there were people, but it was not a locality. A torch was burning in the middle and some people surrounding it were talking something. As he neared them, they roared up and within the blink of an eye Alberuni saw that he was captivated by them. He had no difficulty to understand that they were bandits. There were sharing the booty.
They downed him to the ground and searched him. There was no way for self-defence. This fact was as clear as the light of the torch that he did not have any little strength to prevent them. Yet he stayed down grabbing his highly precious bundle. His everything was inside this.
Even the bandits understood the fact. Though the man seems to be pretty ordinary by his clothing, there might be some precious treasure inside the bundle. They started to pull the bundle from him to clinch it, they kicked and boxed him, but Alberuni lay down as he was before.
Then one of them said: Wait, I’ll teach him a lesson. Saying this, he took the flaming torch and pressed it in his leg. And everyone burst out into laughter. Alberuni cried out in unbearable pain, yet he did not give up his bundle. The leader of the group of bandits was watching. He ran up and clinching the torch away he slapped that man and said: You can’t even snatch the bundle from this skinny man, is this how strong you are? You’ve disgraced the name of the group.
No matter how much Alberuni tried, eventually he had to give up the bundle. The leader started to open it himself. And the rest of the pack was looking curiously at it. The bundle was not tiny in size, and it was quite heavy in weight as well. Who knows how many things lay inside that. But when it was opened, everyone got baffled to see it. Couple of clothes and the rest were all books. Only these after all the expectations!
The leader burst out into loud laugh: What’s this, you did so much for these! Are you mad? What would we do with these books? You took so much suffering for these? And why are you shouldering all these? Of what use are these?
The burnt part of his leg was stinging. But surpassing all the stinging, his mind got filled with happiness. He got a ray of hope through the words of the leader that the books might not be snatched away. Alberuni said: These books may not have any value for you guys, these won’t come to any use for you. But for me, there’s nothing more precious than these in the entire world. So I say, don’t seize them away from me. Allah will bless you all.
What lies inside these books? Questioned the bandit leader. Alberuni answered: There’re a few books on astronomy written by ancient pundits. And the books that I’ve written concerning those are also there.
Oh, then you are a scholar, you write books? But astronomy – what the hell is that?
Alberuni explained: We prove the facts like, in which order the planets and stars move around, what relation they have between them etc.
The leader tweaked his eyebrows and said: Alright, you guys are too audacious as I see. Everything’s happening through the orders of God, and that’s the bottom line. To want to learn more than this is not good. You are an ordinary human being, how can you understand what, why and in which order God does His works? Everyone should stay in a limit where he belongs. Mayhem happens if someone goes beyond that. Don’t you know the story of Namrud? He was trying to surpass God. What was the result of that?
Alberuni shut his mouth without answering. These people could not be reasoned. Moreover, if they got angry because of the debate, then the little hope of getting the books back might be gone. So it was better to be silent.
Without waiting for the answer, the bandit leader continued with his own philosophy of life: Yes, stay where you belong to, don’t step ahead of your right, that’s the basic word. You see, we’ve been robbing all our life. This profession has been bestowed by Allah upon us. That’s why we don’t bother about farming or business. We’re just maintaining the orders that Allah has given us and living an honest life. Yes, everyone should stay where he belongs to.
Then the bandit leader stopped. But seeing Alberuni not answering his words he again says: Hmm, don’t you like my words? Okay, let me ask you something, you’re a scholar, as you told me, have you learned everything about this world that God has created for human beings.
Alberuni answered: No.
How much do you know about it?
Do you realize that?
Of course I do.
Hmm, then without caring about that, why are you searching in the blank which is out of your reach?
Alberuni entered the debate subconsciously. He said: To know this world, one has to know the stars and planets as well. Many good and bad facts are happening in this world by the influence of these.
That’s your wrong idea. Allah is controlling everything from His royal throne. There is no way to avoid His order. Tell me, has anyone got any power except Allah? Who can do what to whom?
Alberuni controlled himself. He remembered, he decided that it would not be safe to get into a debate in this case. He said in a voice of appealing: My books, those are not of any use of yours –
Yes, these are of no use for us. But by writing these books, you guys are making people believe wrong facts, taking people away from the path of God. This is not good.
One of the bandits said: Boss, should I burn these satanic books then? Being frightened, Alberuni cried out in a voice of distress: No, no, no. Seeing his facial expression, some mercy seemed to have risen in the leader’s mind. He said: Let it go, no need to burn them. Allah will do His own justice. Only He knows the order of His working. What do we know about it!
For this little, his precious books were spared from fire that day. Also got spared the summaries that he collected by exploring many books and the essays that he composed independently.
From then on he dreads about these bandits in every step. Not for his life, but for these precious wealth which are more adored to him than his life. Remembering that fact he thought he should not go ahead anymore. There is a bushy tree in a little distance. He spend the night under that tree.
This is nothing new. He had to take a bed of grass under the sky like this for many times after leaving his country. And starvation – no shortage of that experience as well.
In the next morning his sleep broke with the chirping of the birds. He saw opening his eyes, where he had come! In the darkness of last night, it seemed that he was still within the prairie. But now he saw that he was on the edge of the prairie. Couple of houses could be seen at a little distant. There was a locality ahead, it might be the sign of it. He was feeling a wolf in the stomach. Now he got some strength. He might get food to eat and asylum to stay going over there. And he also might know from there how far Gurgan is from there. He was walking for the last ten days to reach Gurgan. Whomever he asks, the reply came: It’s very near. But what near, there is no end of the road. Who knows, here also he might have to hear – Gurgan? It’s very near. Just go ahead. Is there no end of this going ahead? What can be done, when he must go ahead. But he had to rest for two days before leaving this place. The weight of this bundle was not too light, the legs were also asking for rest as well.
He was going to stand up with the bundle, in this time suddenly the problem came back into his mind about which he was thinking last night while lying here. He had fallen asleep while thinking because of the fatigue of roaming. But as now he recalled that again, he could not get up. Opening the bundle, he brought out the pen and paper and sat down to solve the problem.
But as he sat down, he got drowned in his work without thinking about anything. The birds that sang out with the touch of the light of the dawn in the boughs of the trees, went away in search of food. The sun shown up in the eastern sky, its ray started to get more and more scorching. The sunshine dried the dew-drops from the edges of the grass, the earth got warm in its sizzling kiss. The day went by. But Alberuni has no concern about that. He was doing the mathematical calculations one after one. As if all the earthly problems had become invalid to him except one. And he had no escape till he solved the problem.
His concentration was distorted with the sound of the hooves of horses. Getting conscious, he saw that three horsemen were standing in front of him. First he thought of them as bandits, there was no time to think otherwise. He grabbed the bundle of books in his bosom. In between they had got down from the horses. They were talking among themselves: He must be a thief. Some thieving is going on in the city for a few days. It must be their act. Search out the bundle. There must be stolen properties inside.
But Alberuni did not want to give up his bundle. As a result, their suspicion was stretched. They snatched away the bundle by force. Because of the tugging, the books got dispersed. In a voice of disappointment they said: These are not stolen properties, these are merely books.
One of them said: Whatever, there’s no doubt that this man’s a thief. Who knows from whom he’s stolen these books. In these days, books have a good value in markets. And our Sultan’s mad about books.
Another said: But I think he’s a secret agent. Didn’t you see, he was writing something when we arrived. There it is, the paper.
Picking up the paper, they examined it scrupulously and said: That’s it, all of it is written in signs, nothing can be understood. He can’t but be a secret agent.
They brought him to the Sultan. The Sultan of Gurgan, Kabus Bin Washmogir. Alberuni understood that he had reached his destination. But it was beyond his imagination that he would have to arrive here captivated as a thief or a secret agent. But there is respect for the scholars in the court of the Sultan of Gurgan. This is the only hope. He started for Gurgan only after being aware of this fact. Now it has to be seen what lies in his destiny.
The Sultan questioned: Your name?
The pedestrian answered: Abu Raihan Alberuni.
What! What! What name did you say? The Sultan got startled.
Abu Raihan Alberuni.
Getting settled a bit, the Sultan questioned again: You don’t seem to be a man from here. Where do you belong?
My country? It’s Khorezom.
Khorezom? The Sultan got up almost out of excitement: There’s a famous scholar named Alberuni in the royal court of Khorezom –
Alberuni got a bit assured seeing the facial expressions of the Sultan. He understood that his fame had reached this place also. He smiled and said: Don’t know about the fame, but I was among the scholars in the royal court of Khorezom. And there’s no second Abu Raihan Alberuni in the royal court of Khorezom.
The Sultan came down from his throne. He ordered: Free him, unclose his captivity. And finally he grabbed his both hands and said: Forgive me. We’ve made a mistake unknowingly. But why are you in such a condition?
I was coming to you in search of asylum. Answered Alberuni.
This is a matter of great fortune for me. Please be seated.
The ancient scholar of the royal court Abul Mansur objected and said: My lord, have you believed all he has said?
Believe? Why, don’t you believe? The Sultan asked out of amazement.
Impossible. Abu Raihan Alberuni is an aged and ancient person. This man is merely immature. Undoubtedly he is a fraud.
Listening to this, the Sultan felt some doubt in his mind. In a puzzled glance he looked at Alberuni’s face. He thought: It might be!
Smiling a bit, Alberuni asked Abul Mansur: Have you ever seen him with your own eyes?
No, I haven’t seen him myself.
Then how can you say that he’s an aged person?
Abul Mansur answered: One can say it with ease without having seen him. Except being an aged and ancient person, one cannot acquire so much knowledge. All right, can you show any evidence about your being the real Alberuni?
Tweaking his eyebrows, Alberuni asked Sultan: I’ve come to you. I want to know from you, do I need to prove myself in this case?
The Sultan stood unanswered. Reading his mind Alberuni said: I am a refugee to you, so I must clear the suspicion of your mind. You open these books of mine. There are the seals of the royal library of Khorezom on these. Except that, there are my own books too.
The Sultan started to take a look at the books. His eyes got brightened while looking.
Yet Abul Mansur did not give up, in a voice of sarcasm he said: This is no evidence at all.
You just stop. The Sultan halted him and said: This is enough evidence for me. No one can hide talent and fire. They just get revealed out of their own power. Abu Raihan Alberuni, this is my great fortune that you’ll increase the dignity of my court. But right now you’re exhausted and weary. Take some rest….