Post-classical history

§ The Model of a Loyal Servant

On that same day,61 a servant that used to belong to my uncle ‘Izz al-Dawla Nasr (may God have mercy upon him), called Sham’un, was struck by a wicked spear-thrust that he took protecting my other uncle Sultan (may God have mercy upon him). It happened that my uncle Sultan later sent him as a messenger to the king Ridwan,62 son of Tutush, in Aleppo.

When Sham’un had come before him, the king said to his own servants, ‘All servants and subjects63 should be as loyal as this man was to his master.’

And he then said to Sham’un, ‘Tell them your story about what you did with your master back in the days of my father.’64

Instead, Sham’un told him,65 ‘My lord, the other day I went into battle alongside my master, and a horseman attacked him [54] with his spear. So I jumped between him and my master to redeem my master with my own life, and the horseman speared me instead. He cut two of my ribs, and these two ribs – by your grace – I keep with me in a little box.’

At this, King Ridwan said to him, ‘By God, I will not respond until you send someone to bring this box and the ribs.’ So Sham’un rose and sent for someone to bring forth the box, and there were indeed two rib-bones inside it.

Ridwan was astonished by this and said to his companions, ‘This is how you should be acting in my service.’

As for the story that the king had asked Sham’un about from the days of his father Tutush, it happened like this: my grandfather, Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali66 (may God have mercy upon him), sent his son, my uncle ‘Izz al-Dawla Nasr (may God have mercy upon him), into the service of Tutush, who was then encamped in the outskirts of Aleppo. But Tutush arrested Nasr and confined him, entrusting him to a special guard. No one could enter to see him except for his mamluk – this same Sham’un – and even then the special guard stood around the tent.

So my uncle wrote to my father (may God have mercy upon them both), ‘Send a group of my companions (whom he named) with a horse for me to ride to such-and-such a place on the night of such-and-such (which he specified).’

And when that night came, Sham’un entered the tent and took off his clothes. Then his master put them on and went out into the night, right in front of the special guards: they did not even suspect him. He continued on to meet his companions, mounted up and rode off. Meanwhile, Sham’un slept in his master’s bed.

Now, Sham’un’s normal routine was to bring my uncle water early each morning so that he could perform the ablutions, for my uncle was (may God have mercy upon him) one of those ascetics who spent their nights reciting the Book of God (may He be exalted). But when the guards woke the next morning and did not see Sham’un go in to his master as usual, they went into the tent and found Sham’un, my uncle having escaped. They reported this to Tutush, who ordered Sham’un to be brought into his presence. When Sham’un was brought before him, the king asked him, ‘So how did you do it?’

‘I gave my master my clothes,’ he replied. ‘He put them on and fled, while I slept in his bed.’

‘But weren’t you afraid I would cut off your head?’ the king asked.

‘My lord,’ he responded, ‘if you had cut off my head and my lord escaped to return to his home, then I would have been happy. For he only bought me and raised me so that I might redeem him with my own life.’

So Tutush (may God have mercy upon him) said to his chamberlain, ‘Give to this servant the horse of his master, as well as his [55] beasts of burden, tents and all his baggage, then let him go to follow his master.’ And he did not blame Sham’un or harbour any ill-will for what he did in the service of his master. That is what the king Ridwan was referring to when he told him, ‘Tell my companions what you did with your master back in the days of my father.’

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