Saturday, March 14, 2009

Editorial: The Beggar King

I steal from Athanasius:

Once upon a time there was a good and kind king who had a great kingdom with many cities. In one distant city, some people took advantage of the freedom the king gave them and started doing evil. They profited by their evil and began to fear that the king would interfere and throw them in jail. Eventually these rebels seethed with hatred for the king. They convinced the city that everyone would be better off without the king, and the city declared its independence from the kingdom.

But soon, with everyone doing whatever they wanted, disorder reigned in the city. There was violence, hatred, lying, oppression, murder, rape, slavery, and fear. The king thought; What should I do? If I take my army and conquer the city by force, the people will fight against me, and I'll have to kill so many of them, and the rest will only submit through fear or intimidation, which will make them hate me and all I stand for even more. How does that help them—to be either dead or imprisoned or secretly seething with rage? But if I leave them alone, they'll destroy each other, and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they're causing and experiencing.

So the king did something very surprising. He took off his robes and dressed in the rags of a homeless wanderer. Incognito, he entered the city and began living in a vacant lot near a garbage dump. He took up a trade—fixing broken pottery and furniture. Whenever people came to him, his kindness and goodness and fairness and respect were so striking that they would linger just to be in his presence. They would tell him their fears and questions, and ask his advice. He told them that the rebels had fooled them, and that the true king had a better way to live, which he exemplified and taught.

One by one, then two by two, and then by the hundreds, people began to have confidence in him and live in his way. Their influence spread to others, and the movement grew and grew until the whole city regretted its rebellion and wanted to return to the kingdom again. But, ashamed of their horrible mistake, they were afraid to approach the king, believing he would certainly destroy them for their rebellion.

But the king-in-disguise told them the good news: he was himself the king, and he loved them. He held nothing against them, and he welcomed them back into his kingdom, having accomplished by a gentle, subtle presence what never could have been accomplished through brute force.

Qur'an: Daybreak

By the Daybreak, by the Ten Nights, by the even and the odd, by the passing night - is this oath strong enough for a rational person?

Have you Prophet considered how your Lord dealth with the people of Ad, of Iram, the city of lofty pillars, whose like has never been made in any land, and the Thamud who hewed into the rocks of the valley, and the might and powerful Pharaoh? All of them committed excesses in their lands, and spread corruption there: your Lord is always watchful.

The nature of man is that, when his Lord tries him through nonour and blessings, he says, 'My Lord has honoured me' but when He tries him through the restriction of his provision, he says, 'My Lord has humiliated me.' No indeed! You people do not honour orphans, you do not urge one another to feed the poor, you consume inheritance greedily, and you love weath with a passion. No indeed! When the earth is pounded to dust, pounded and pounded, when your Lord comes with the angles, rank upon rank, when Hell is that Day brought near - on that Day man will make heed, but what good will that be to him then? He will say, Would that I had provided for this life to come! On that Day, no one will punish as he punishes, and no one will bind as He binds. But you, soul at peace: return to your Lord well pleased and well pleasing; go in among My servants; and into my Garden.

Qur'an: The City

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy,

I swear by this city - and you [Prophet] are an inhabitant of this city - I swear by parent and offspring, that We have created man for toil and trial.* Does he think that no one will have power over him? I have squandered great wealth, he says. Does he think no one observes him? Did We not give him eyes, a tongue, lips, and point out to him the two clear ways of good and evil? Yet he has not attempted the steep path. What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunager an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion. Those who do this will be on the right-hand side, but those who disbelieve in Our revelations will be on the left-hand side, and the Fire will close in on them.

*really? not paradise and obedience? I wonder how far this goes. Beyond that, this sura is beautiful in its own right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Love Poem: Don't Flee

Don't Flee

In love's slaughterhouse
only the pure
are ever at risk.

The arrogant and devious
are never pure or desired.

If you heart is pure,
then never flee
the butcher's knife.

Whoever won't be killed
is already dead meat.


Love Poem: His Living Proof

His Living Proof

The eternal mysteries,
following wisdom's lead,
brought forth
the human form
as their living proof.

As long as the drop
hadn't emerged from the sea,
the ocean
didn't notice
the depths of its splendor.

-Mirza 'Abd al-Qadir Bidil