The Story of Layla and Majnun
Sheik Nizami
Islam
5:15 h
Majnun Layla (Arabic: مجنون ليلى‎ Majnūn Laylā, 'Layla's Mad Lover'; Persian: لیلی و مجنون‎ Leyli o Majnun) is an old story of Arabic origin, about the 7th-century Najdi Bedouin poet Qays ibn al-Mullawah and his ladylove Layla bint Mahdi (or Layla al-Aamiriya). "The Layla-Majnun theme passed from Arabic to Persian, Turkish, and Indian languages", most famously through the narrative poem composed in 584/1188 by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, as the third part of his Khamsa. It is a popular poem praising their love story. Lord Byron called it "the Romeo and Juliet of the East."
The Story of Layla and Majnun
by
Sheik Nizami

Translated from the Persian and Edited by
Dr. R. Gelpke

I
How the Story Began

Once there lived among the Bedouin in Arabia a great lord, a Sayyid, who ruled over the Banu Amir. No other country flourished like his and Zephyr carried the sweet scent of his glory to the farthest horizons. Success and merit made him a Sultan of the Arabs and his wealth equalled that of Korah.

He had a kind heart for the poor and for them his purse was always open. To strangers he was a generous host and in all his enterprises he succeeded as if good luck were part of him, as the tone is part of the fruit or so it appeared to be.

Yet, though respected like a caliph, to himself he seemed like a candle, slowly consuming itself without ever spreading quite enough light. The heart of this great man was eaten by one secret sorrow; he, who otherwise possessed everything he desired, had no son.

He had remained childless. What did glory, power and wealth mean to him, if one day they would slip from his hands, without an heir to receive them? Was the com fated to wither, did the branch have to die? If the cypress tree fell, where would the pheasant build his nest? Where would he find happiness? Where shade and refuge?

He only is truly alive, who in his son’s memory survives his own death.

Thus the noble man brooded and, the older he grew, the greater became his desire. Yet for many years his alms and prayers were in vain. The full moon which he so eagerly awaited never rose in his sky and the jasmin seed which he sowed would not germinate.

Still the Sayyid was not content to bow to his fate. For the sake of one wish yet unfulfilled he thought but little of everything else that heaven had granted him. That is how humans are made! If prayers remain unanswered, do we ever reflect that it may be for our good? We feel sure that we know our needs, yet the future is veiled from our eyes. The thread of our fate ends outside the visible world and what today we mistake for a padlock, keeping us out, we may tomorrow find to be the key that lets us in.

Much, of course, can happen in the meantime. Our hero desired the jewel he did not possess, as the oyster nourishes its pearl, so he prayed and clamoured until in the end God fulfilled his wish.

He was given a boy, who looked like the smile of a pomegranate, like a rose whose petals have opened overnight, like a diamond which transforms the darkness of the world into sheer light.

Delighted, the happy father opened wide the door of his treasury. Everyone was to share his happiness and the great event was celebrated with shouts of joy and words of blessing.

The child was committed to the care of a nurse, so that under her watchful eye he should grow big and strong. So he did, and every drop of milk he drank was turned in his body into a token of faithfulness, every bite he ate became in his heart a morsel of tenderness. Each line of indigo, drawn on his face to protect him against the Evil Eye, worked magic in his soul.

All this, however, remained a secret, hidden from every eye.

Two weeks after his birth the child already looked like the moon after fourteen days and his parents gave him the name of Qays.

A year went by and the boy’s beauty grew to perfection. As a ray of light penetrates the water, so the jewel of love shone through the veil of his body.