other, till the heap became even with the rampart. One soldier was
at last made to climb over the wall. As soon as the soldier reached
the wall, he began to laugh and got down. Musa made two more
soldiers climb the wall. They too laughed and got down. When this
was repeated by the next soldier who had climbed, Musa was overawed and turned back.
It is amazing that it struck none of these ignorant ones to pull down the
soldier when he started laughing in order to extract the necessary information from him.
Another story is that of diamonds in a cave, which is not accessible
to men. Therefore, they throw fresh meat into it; the meat sticks to the
diamonds. The many vultures and tercels who are attracted to the cave
on account of the meat thrown into it bring out the piece of flesh from
the cave. It is the habit of birds to shake off the bits of earth and other
impurities from their food before eating it. People then gather up the
diamonds. Hence its name hajar al-'uqab.
There is no limit to such fantastic tales. It has been said about
hajar al-'uqab that it is a cure for many diseases, and the falcon collects
diamonds in its nest on account of this reason. When it fears for the
safety of its offspring and the nest, it throws them down.
The same thing is believed about the beaver. Its hunters catch it only
for emasculating it and then leave it free. Its testes are the castoreum. If
a hunter wishes to catch it again, the beaver rolls on the ground and displays its testicles so that it may go free. But those who relate these
stories should know that it is hunted as much for the sake of its fur, skin,
and flesh, as it is caught for its testicles. It is God Who prospers.
Its Persian name would show it to possess the power of boring holes.
It possesses cutting power like iron, and in scraping and polishing is the
adjuvant of the diamond; in fact, at times it functions for the latter. It is
for this reason that we have mentioned it after the diamond, for if it did
not possess this virtue, it would have had no value, although it is found
frequently. Thus it is used in cutting, filing, and polishing stones. The
Samarqand sand serves as its substitute. Files are made from the latter.
It files away iron and affects it. Al-Kindi writes:
Sambadhaj (emery) is a stone found in the littoral areas of India. It
is like the grass that grows in the sea. It can be easily ground. Ruby
and all other stones can be rubbed with it, as it is hard and rubs them
Al-Kindi, while describing it to be hard, also shows it to be facilely grindable. This is rather inappropriate, as both these characteristics are the