The Adventures of Amir Hamza

2007, Modern Library (World)


The Adventures of Amir Hamza or the Dastan-e Amir Hamza is a grand epic from the Islamic cultures of the Middle East and beyond. The narrative attracted legends of greater and lesser heroes and became a compendium of exploits of the fictional character Amir Hamza and his companions. For the first time Western readers have a complete text from the Urdu language which cultivated this essentially oral narrative to introduce enchanted kingdoms and extra-terrestrial realms.


Ishaan Tharoor in TIME

  • "It's hard to think of an epic more dazzlingly splendid….Farooqi has given world literature a gift….Non-Urdu-speaking readers can at last appreciate an epic on par with anything in the Western canon. And, with luck, the classical pantheon populated by indomitable Achilles, cunning Odysseus and righteous King Arthur will now be joined by a new beloved hero: mercurial, mighty Amir Hamza, astride his winged demon steed, soaring to the heavens."

William Dalrymple in THE NEW YORK TIMES

  • "Even in translation, The Adventures of Amir Hamza is a wonder and a revelation - a classic of epic literature in an interpretation so fluent that it is a pleasure to sit down and lose oneself in it. The story line itself is endlessly diverting and inventive, and the prose of the translation is beautifully rendered...For the modern reader, The Adventures of Amir Hamza has importance beyond mere aesthetic enjoyment...At this perilous moment in history, the Hamza epic, with its mixed Hindu and Muslim idiom, its tales of love and seduction, its anti-clericalism (mullahs are a running joke throughout the book), its stories of powerful and resourceful women, and its mocking of male misogyny, is a reminder of an Islamic world the West seems to have forgotten: one that is imaginative and heterodox and as far as can be from the puritanical Wahhabi Islam that the Saudis have succeeded in spreading throughout much of the modern Middle East.


  • This sensitive new translation by Musharraf Ali Farooqi is filled with lyrical resonance, reflecting the fluidity of the spoken word...The Adventures of Amir Hamza represents a marvelous dovetailing of fantasy, history and religion. This book demonstrates the ways that colorful storytelling can be an important part of both religious texts and adventure yarns, and the way a charismatic figure may become something very like public property, capturing the popular imagination and giving storytellers a vessel for their ideas...These stories offer a glimpse into the complexities of an older world, in which blood feuds, auguries, dreams and their intricate interpretations determine motive and actions. It's a literal yet magical world, meant to instruct through diversion and history, serving up Islamic esoterica and funny old bits of wisdom...A true marvel of literary and intellectual engineering, The Adventures of Amir Hamza marks the passage of oral narrative into print and synthesizes translation, varying editions and genres into one coherent work.

Amanda Sprochi in Library Journal

  • Slap on your scimitar and join the adventure! The Indo-Islamic Dastan-e Amir Hamza is a rip-roaring, bawdy, magical journey into the fantastic life and exploits of Amir Hamza, the paternal uncle of the prophet Muhammad...Farooqi's unexpurgated and unabridged English translation from the Urdu is masterful, incorporating the elements and rhythms of the oral tradition and maintaining the wit and verbal style of the original. Destined to become a classic!

Elizabeth Hand in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction—Feb 2008

  • "What a find it is! For classic reference points, imagine a more exotic, populous, Eastern variant on Le Morte d'Arthur or Orlando Furioso…one is continually seduced by Hamza's story. Farooqi's translation is both elegant and earthy…One is tempted to think that only a malevolent enchantress of great power could have kept The Adventures of Amir Hamza from a mainstream American audience for so long. But now, thanks to the powerful enchantments of Musharraf Ali Farooqi (and the support of Random House, publishers of the Modern Library), we can all sit, transfixed, as this most enthralling and ancient tale unfolds."

Jeff Simon in Buffalo News

  • "A spectacular and literally marvelous Islamic epic that ought to be almost as often spoken of as the Tales of the 1,001 Nights…By the time you're well into this world of battles, mythical creatures, beautiful royal daughters, tricksters, demons, deities, erotic encounters, slaughters and poems, you are aware, again, of the seemingly endless miracle of narrative in the world….unequivocally an amazing piece of publishing history."

Gary K. Wolfe in LOCUS Magazine

  • "Possibly one of the most important fantasy events of the year…the first readily available and coherent presentation of one of the major wellsprings of Islamic narrative...The Adventures of Amir Hamza turns out to be a terrific series of adventures that sometimes recall Don Quixote, sometimes The Arabian Nights , sometimes the great medieval romances….Farooqi's energetic and stylish translation…captures brilliantly the insouciant delights of the story teller's voice, and gives us a highly readable version of a major work of world literature that few of us even knew about. The Modern Library has done us a big favor.

Belinda Acosta in The Austin Chronicle—Dec 14, 2007

  • Students of world literature and Eastern languages will absolutely swoon if they are fortunate enough to receive this new translation of The Adventures of Amir Hamza...With prose as embroidered as the tales themselves, the book should be savored under the covers like a secret lover.

Alexander Varty in

  • Homeric in its scope and relentless in its pace, The Adventures of Amir Hamza is one of the world’s great fables, and it is presented here in muscular and ornate form. Admittedly, those who resist the geometric incantations of Islamic art and music will have an equally hard time with the Hyderabad-born linguist Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s translation. He is not interested in compiling a Coles Notes version of this story; instead, plot is piled upon plot and battle upon battle, many of the latter won by the supernatural strength and valour of the title character....Given recent geopolitical events, however, academics are already picking through Amir Hamza’s entrails for clues to the Pakistani national psyche, and good luck to them. Trying to make sense of the modern world through this ancient lens is like trying to tie George W. Bush’s world-view to the troll-haunted horror that is Beowulf.

Bret Anthony Johnston in The Millions Blog

  • Of all the books I've read this year, regardless of publication date, genre, or form, The Adventures of Amir Hamza is the best.