• Books: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Endless War: Hidden Functions of the "war on terror" by David Keen, Capital Vol. 1, Tin Drum by Günter Grass, What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad, Spies, Soldiers and Statesmen by Hazem Kandil, La Condition Humaine by André Malraux, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Richness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould, Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Noli me Tangere by José Rizal, Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, ذهنية التحريم لصادق جلال العظم, Karl Marx by Francis Wheen, وليمة لأعشاب البحر لحيدر حيدر, Candide by Voltaire, النزعات المادية في الفلسفة العربية الإسلامية لحسين مروة, Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich ..
  • Films: Alexanderplatz by Rainer Fassbinder, Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, films by P. P. Passolini, Persepolis, Midnight Express, 1984, Papillion, Gangs of New York, Sophie Scholl, Life of Brian, Ivan the Terrble, Battleship Potemkine ...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The Gulistān (Rose-Garden) of Saʿdī of Shiraz. The book was written in 1258.

The most recent translator of the Gulistān says:

'Saʿdi’s Gulistan must be one of the most widely read books ever produced. Almost from the time it was written it was the first book studied by school children throughout the entire Persian-speaking and -reading world—from Constantinople to Bengal and from Central Asia to East Africa.'

"The story of the Qāḍī of Hamadān appears in the chapter of the Gulistān on “Love and Youth.” For those readers unfamiliar with the story, I will present it here in summary, mainly in my own words, but also sometimes in Saʿdī’s— very much, one might say, in the manner that the story might have been narrated to largely illiterate audiences down the centuries in various social settings. The story goes thus (any phrase in full quotation marks, or for which I provide a Persian transliteration is a direct quotation from Saʿdī; also, any direct speech in single quotation marks is a paraphrase of direct speech in Saʿdī).

The Qadi of Hamadān fell madly in love with a blacksmith’s boy “as tall as a cypress.” The boy rebuffed his advances in the street with insults and stones. The Qadi’s friends and retainers learned what had happened and, concerned for the reputation of the honourable judge and of his high office, urged him to “roll up the carpet of inflamed desire." The Qadi agreed that their advice was correct and “in the interest of welfare in the situation [maṣlaḥat-i ḥāl],” but said he simply could not help himself—“the horse-shoe of his heart was in there” and there was nothing to be done about it: “You can’t wash the black of an African.” Anyway, the short of it is that the boy eventually relented and the Qāḍī finally managed to spend a night alone with him, which he passed, in Saʿdī’s puckish rhyming phrase, sharāb dar sar va shabāb dar bar, “with wine in his head, and the youth in his arm.” Of this blissful moment, Saʿdī interpolates:

Perhaps this night the cockerel will not crow upon its hour: 
The lovers are not done with embraces and kisses!

Alas for the Qāḍī, someone informed the muḥtasib (the official responsible for the regulation of market transactions, and for public morality) of these goings-on and word was swiftly passed to the King of the “wrong-doing [munkar] taking place.” King could not believe his ears that such could be true of someone whom “I know to be one of the most distinguished personages of the age”; and suspecting that the Qāḍī was being slandered, went personally to the Qāḍī’s bedchamber to ascertain the truth for his royal self. The scene that presented itself there is vividly portrayed by Saʿdī in one of his most memorable lines of rhyming prose: “a candle standing, a witness- of-Divine-Beauty singing, wine spilled, goblets broken, and the Qāḍī in a drunken dream oblivious to the world of being [shamʿ īstādah va shāhid ni- shastah va may rīkhtah va qadaḥ shikastah va qāżī dar khwāb-i mastī bī- khabar az mulk-i hastī].”  

Very gently (as Saʿdī expressly tells us), the King roused the Qāḍī from his stupor. Awake, the Qāḍī immediately grasped the peril of the situation and exclaimed: “From which direction did the sun rise?” “From the east,” answered the King. “God be praised!” cried the Qāḍī, “for then, in accordance with the Hadith: The doors of repentance are not locked upon my servants until the sun rises in the West. I seek your forgiveness, O God, and I repent to you!” 
‘Hang on a minute!’ said the King, ‘Now that you know you’re done for, it’s too late for you to repent! Have you forgotten that the Qur’ān says: But their faith after they beheld our punishment availed them naught?’ ( This is is the verse in the Qur’ān that follows on from God’s words. And when they saw Our punishment they said, ‘We believe in God, alone, and reject that in which we used to associate.’ But their faith after they beheld our punishment availed them naught: this is the way of God which is established for his bondsmen).”  The Qāḍī clasped the hem of the King’s gown and pleaded for mercy. “No!” said the King, “it is impossible in reason and is against the sharīʿah [muḥāl-i ʿaql-ast va khilāf-i sharʿ ] (in another recension: “impossible in reason, and against that which has been transmited [muḥāl-i ʿaql-ast va khilāf-i naql]”) for you to be released from the grip of my punishment on the basis of your knowledge and eloquence. Rather, I deem it in the interest of welfare [maṣlaḥat] that I have you thrown off the walls of my fortress so that others are admonished [naṣīhat pazīrand] and learn a lesson [ʿibrat gīrand] thereby.” 

‘Sovereign of the World!’ said the Qāḍī, ‘but, in that case, there are many people in your kingdom who have committed the same offence as I. Perhaps you could take one of them and throw him off  the fortress walls: I would most certainly learn my lesson from observing his fate!’ Upon this, the King could not help himself and burst out laughing. ‘All right,’ he said, ‘release this fellow!’ Some of the courtiers protested the decision, but to them the King said:

You all carry your own faults:
Do not accuse the faults of others! 

[That was in the 13th century!]

Source: Ahmed Shahab, What is Islam?, Princeton 2016

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