Monday, May 09, 2005

an Islamic warrior

Naked, that love gallops off to the plains;

I know him by his proud hand on the reins.

He tells himself, "Once free of form's embrace,

I will love, love in love with love's own face."

#140: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Having run out of inspiration, I started with nothing this morning but nothing yielded nothing. I continued with synonyms: empty, blank, bare, naked. On my fifth attempt I was successful.

I see Rumi here envisaging a mighty Muslim warrior, dressed in nothing but the covering that nature gave him, close to the powerful instinctive force of a fierce Arabian horse. He seeks the plains, the land of nothingness, the land without features, a land like a blank piece of paper ready to write on.

I suspect that my response is heavily influenced by my recent reading of a book by Eknath Easwaran originally published in 1984 as A Man To Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan but now appearing at Amazon as Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, a Man to Match His Mountains and similarly at Nilgiri Press (Easwaran's own publishing house). It should be a topical book today, more than twenty years later. The latter link provides excerpts from which I can draw these quotations (Badshah Khan being the kingly title of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan):
"The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures.’ Belief in God is to love one's fellow men."
- Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

"There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet all the time he was in Mecca."
- Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

I can see Badshah Khan as the mighty warrior of love or victory through nonviolence and I can see that he saw Mohammed like that. I cannot see Mo like that myself. It doesn't matter who or what Mo(hammed) was, I guess, it matters how you see him. It matters what bits of yourself you project in him. I project violence, Khan projected nonviolence. However, Mo's words are with us through the Koran and these are difficult to reconcile with nonviolence.
Qur'an (Yusuf Ali)
2:191. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
2:216. Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.
8:38-39. Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.
9:5. But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

And this is only a small selection. The Koran is riddled with this kind of language. I can only guess that Badshah Khan had not seriously read or studied the Koran but had known his religion mainly through the prayer rituals and some of the more palatable sayings and quotations. Especially since sep11, there has been an intense spotlight on the Koran and all of these violent passages have been highlighted and trundled out. The traditions or ahadith (the stories about Mo) are even worse, providing tales of cruelty and also of great hilarity (hence my appellation of "Mo", the clown).

Within the fortress of Islam, within the garden walls, there grow human beings with broad propensities. A Badshah Khan and a Rumi can grow, but so can an Osama bin Laden and an Ayatollah Khomeini who could be famously quoted for:
"The author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Qu'ran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I ask all Muslims to execute them wherever they find them."

This is so clearly derived from Koranic passages like 2:191 and 9:5 that it is impossible to ignore the connection.

I love Rumi's (and Easwaran's) gentle writings but I cannot love the hate-filled passages that occur incessantly in the Koran. Ironically, I believe it is a work of love to point that out. What good can come of whitewash or pretense?


Post a Comment

<< Home