Tuesday, June 7, 2022

How (Islamic) Mysticism Shaped Kahlil Gibran's Universal Philosophy

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 7 June 2022 All Three Greatest Modern Mystics of the Last Century, Tagore, Iqbal and Gibran, Were Heavily Influenced By Islamic Mysticism ---- There's hardly an educated person who hasn't heard the name of Lebanese-American Kahlil Gibran. Even if you've not read through his masterpiece The Prophet, Bible of the counterculture, I'm sure, you must have flipped through its pages, cursorily going through a few passages that could move you the way Misri Qira'at (Egyptian way of Quranic recitation) can bring tears even to the eyes of a non-believer through its euphonic cadences. Though brought up as a Maronite Christian, Kahlil was syncretic in his approach to religion and believed in the unity of all three Abrahamic faiths, nay, of all religions. It's rather interesting to note that all three greatest modern mystics of the last century, Tagore, Iqbal and Gibran, were heavily influenced by Islamic mysticism. While Tagore, a fringe Hindu as he belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, Iqbal was initially a latitudinarian, who unfortunately became a rabid Muslim towards the fag-end of his life, Kahlil almost expunged his religious denomination and identity after the age of 30. It's said of him that he took love from Hafiz, empathy from Rumi, wisdom from Attar, observation from Sanai, discernment from Khaqani, piety from Nizami, spiritual indifference and playful flippancy from Omar Khayyam, candour from Anwari and language of silence from Bedil. In other words, Kahlil's existence enshrined and entombed the exquisiteness of mysticism. At this juncture when almost every day, we're fighting over petty religious issues and unsuccessfully finding modern science, Genetics (!) and Space technology in our Holy but utterly irrelevant Books, it's time to delve into Khalil's The Prophet, The Madman, Broken Wings, Spirits Rebellious, Sand and Foam, The Procession, among others. No pontification, but when I see people of all faiths pray (sorry, most of them beg) like an ineluctable daily chore and as a hardwired and indoctrinated practice since childhood, I remember Gibran's pithy words on prayers: Your life itself is a prayer; which's a paraphrasal permutation of Rumi's ' Your nobility is your prayer.' When Khalil says, ' What's prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether, ' I thank myself for never having prayed in my whole life, rather I always strove to expand myself into the vastness of the cosmos. I remember, when my Arabic-Persian professor and mentor, Dr Zaifa Ashraf was preparing to bid au revoir to the world at Marsden Cancer Hospital, London, she was reading Gibran's ' Thoughts and Meditations '(1960). A lifelong apatheist, she feebly smiled, held my hand and told me, ' it's my prayer ' and she closed her eyes forever. When Kahlil thinks a la Sanai and says, “You are my brother, and I love you. I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit, " you go beyond the awful limitations of religions and feel the Synchronicity of Mankind (to use C G Jung's phrase from his '“Universal Patterns of Collective Unconscious”. Can we ever forget this gem of a thought that ensued from Kahlil's magical quill on the page of life and spirituality, "Is not religion all deeds and all reflection, and that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?" At this juncture, when religion, violence, god, rancour, nation, ill-will and all trifling ideas have swept the underdeveloped humans off their feet, Kahlil's books are the greatest and profoundest scriptures that talk of love, humanity, compassion and submission and NEVER claim in an exasperatingly megalomaniac way that I'M THE WAY and WORSHIP ONLY ME AND NO OTHER GOD/S. What rubbish! Humans have forgotten the language of love, reason and silence. We all collectively need to read Kahlil's mystical outpourings to become humane and empathise with our fellow humans. ---- 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: https://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/islamic-mysticism-kahlil-gibran-philosophy/d/127188 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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