Saturday, May 28, 2022

Why the World Needs Sheikh Saadi's Moral Wisdom All The More

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 28 May 2022 Once someone asked the great British philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell, what should he read that can encapsulate the wisdom of all ages, Russell said, ' All books written by the Persian great Sheikh Saadi and the plays of the Bard of Avon. That'll be enough to be enlightened, but don't read the scripture of any religion. That will surely nullify the impact of what you gained from Saadi and Shakespeare.' Very sage advice. It's worthwhile to mention that Sir Bertrand Russell was a lifelong sceptic who wrote a famous booklet, ' Why I'm not a Christian.' Well, that's irrelevant. What's relevant is Russell's lavish encomiums on Saadi and Shakespeare and their immortal works. While the anglicised world, esp, India, has heard a lot about the Bard of Avon (though I seriously doubt how many have read his complete works), Sheikh Saadi is relatively unknown to most of us. Did you know, Persian poet Saadi, wrote a poem eight centuries ago that later became a motto on the entrance of the United Nations building? Saadi, eloquently manifested: The sons of Adam are limbs of each other, Having been created of one essence. When the calamity of time affects one limb The other limbs cannot remain at rest. If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human. Writing in Persian: Bani Aadam Aazaye Yek Digarand Ke Dar Aafarinesh Ze Yek Gooharand Cho Ozvi Be Dard Aavarad Roozegaar Degar Ozvhaa Raa Namaanad Gharaar To Kaz Mehnate Digaraan Bi Ghami Nashaayad Ke Naamat Nahand Aadami Recently, American political scientist and one of the greatest living minds Noam Chomsky mentioned Saadi's Universal poetry and transcendental wisdom in his lecture at an Ivy League University. Read his immortal works ' Gulistan' and 'Bostan' (pronounced 'Bustan' ) and you'll realize why we need his nous in these times of unprecedented hatred and rancour. Just ponder over his words, “One who understands the silent language of suffering/ Will relate to every human being." This is empathy! Humans need empathy much more than mere sympathy. Empathy is a divine attribute. Elsewhere Saadi writes, “Win not the battle outside but the battle inside." Contextualise it in Islam's much-maligned Jihad, which must be understood metaphorically and not literally. Jihad is prevailing over inner strife/battle (Har Saans Jihad Hai) and not waging a war against the perceived infidels. When he says, 'Tears have no religion' you realize the cosmopolitan nature of pain and suffering and also concur with him that misfortune spares none. So, when one individual sheds tears, the whole of mankind sheds tears. Didn't Buddha say, ' Men have shed more tears than all the water lying in the great oceans?' The most sublime facets of Saadi's wisdom are the universality of pain and the cosmopolitanism of humanity, regardless of man-made boundaries and faiths. Years ago, my Persian teacher wrote the immortal words of Saadi in my diary which I still carry: A man of virtue, judgement, and prudence speaks not until there's silence. And whenever I'm down in the dumps, I remember Saadi's famous quote: 'The rose and the thorn, and sorrow and gladness are linked together.' Or, ' Wars and battles are obstacles to human evolution.' Saadi was one of the first poets and thinkers to dwell upon the idea of human evolution (Istaf'aar in Persian). Mankind can learn from him in these turbulent times of differences and divisions in religion(s) by contemplating over this statement: 'God will not judge you by your sect, skin and smartness. But by the sanctity and sacredness of your heart.' A coeval of the great Jalaluddin Rumi, Saadi somewhere got eclipsed by Rumi's dazzling brilliance. But a deep analysis of the oeuvre of both the greats will marginally tilt the scale in favour of Saadi. Unlike Rumi, who was a mystic par excellence, Saadi was a practical moralist. Mind you, the world needs moralists, not mystics, at least in these hard times. Saadi was aware of the inherent goodness of humans and that's why he could say emphatically: Even if you're not religious, be good to your fellow humans. Humanity needs patience, patience of an angler or the proverbial Quranic patience (Sabre-Ayyub) at the moment and we mustn't feel scared to take a revolutionary step or decision as Saadi said succinctly, " Have patience: All things are difficult before they become easy.” Because of his peripatetic life; he travelled extensively; Saadi could accumulate the wisdom of the world. Travel to unravel was his motto. He came to India and spent some time at today's Ahmednagar and Aurangabad in Maharashtra, but there's not much information available on his sojourns through Deccan, India, except for a passing reference in Henry Miers Eliot and John Dowson's ' The History of India, as Told by its Own Historians.' Humankind must imbibe Saadi's great wisdom for the survival of humanity. ---- An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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