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That in Times of Decadence Strict Conformity

is Better than Free Speculation


The present age has many tumults hid

Beneath its head; its restless temperament

Swarms with disorders. The society

Of ancient nations in these modern times

Is in confusion; sapless hangs life’s bough.

The glamour and the glitter of our days

Have made us strangers to our very selves,

And robbed our instrument of melody;

Filched from our heart its pristine fire, and dimmed

Within our breast the radiance and the flame

-There is no god but God-. Whene’er decay

Destroys the balanced temperament of life,

Then the Community may look to find

Stability in strict conformity.

Go thou thy fathers’ road, for therein lies

Tranquility; conformity connotes

The holding fast of the Community.

In time of Autumn, thou who lackest leaf

Alike and fruit, break never from the tree,

Hoping that Spring may come. Since thou hast lost

The sea, be prudent, lest a greater loss

Befall thee; the more carefully preserve

Thy own thin rivulet; for it may hap

Some mountain torrent shall replenish thee

And thou once more be tossed upon the breast

Of the redeeming tempest. If thy flesh

Is yet possessed of a discerning eye,

Take warning from the Israelitish case;

Consider well their variable fate,

Now hot, now cold; regard the obduracy,

The hardness of their spare and tenuous soul.

Sluggishly flows the blood within their veins,

Their furrowed brow sore smitten on the stones

Of porticoes a hundred. Though heaven’s grip

Hath pressed and squeezed their grape, the memory

Of Moses and of Aaron liveth yet;

And though their ardent song hath lost its flame,

Still palpitates the breath within their breast.

For when the fabric of their nationhood

Was rent asunder, still they laboured on

To keep the highroad of their forefathers.

O thou whose ancient concourse is dispersed,

Within whose breast the lamp of life is out,

Grave on thy heart the truth of Unity,

And in Conformity essay to mend

The ruin of thy fortune. In the time

Of decadence, to seek to exercise

The speculative judgement of the mind

Completes the people’s havoc finally;

Salvation lieth less in following

The blinkered pedant’s dictum, being found

In humble imitation of the past.

Caprice corrupted not thy fathers’ brain;

The labour of the pious was unsoiled

By interested motive; finer far

The thread of thought their meditation wove,

As closer to the Prophet’s way conformed

Their self-denial. Jaafar’s raptured view [78]

And Razi’s patient delving are no more; [79]

Departed is the glory that adorned

The Arab nation; narrow shrunk for us

The defile of the Faith, whose mysteries

Every impostor boasteth to possess.

Thou, who art stranger to the secret truths

Of Faith, if thou art wise, accord thyself

With one sound Law; for I have heard it said

By those who take and know the pulse of Life,

The contrariety severs Life’s veins.

The Muslim lives by following one Law;

The body of our Faith’s Community

Throbs vital to the Word of the Koran.

All earth we are; that is our conscient heart;

Hold firm to its protection, since it is

-The Cord of God-. Upon its sacred thread [80]

Gem-like be safely strung; or otherwise

Be scattered, as the dust upon the wind.


That the Maturity of Communal Life Derives

from Following the Divine Law


Seek thou no other meaning in the Law,

Nor look save light to find within the gem;

God was the jeweller who fashioned forth

This jewel, diamantine through and through.

Law is the only knowledge of the Truth,

Love the sole basis of the Prophet’s code;

The Individual through Law attains

A faith maturer, and more fair adorned.

The rule of Law secured an ordered life

To all the nation, which established rule

Condition is of its continuance.

Power is patent in its knowledge, this

The sign of Moses’ staff and potent hand; [81]

So I declare the secret of Islam

Is Law, in which all things begin and end.

Since thou art called to be a guardian

Of the Faith’s wisdom, I will tell to thee

A subtle truth of the perspicuous Law.

If any Muslim be engaged upon

A meritorious act, and causelessly

Therein be challenged, forthwith it becomes

His sacred duty to discharge the same;

Power is deemed the very spring of Life.

Upon the day of battle, if the foe

Supposing truce is imminent neglects

His army’s marshalling, and casually

Confronts his fortune, breaking down the wall

And citadel of his defence; until

His order is restored, to march against

His unarmed country is prohibited.

Knowest thou then the mystery of this

Divine commandment? Life not living is

Except we live in danger. Law requires

That when to war thou comest, thou shalt blaze

A fiery torch, and split the throat of rock.

Law tries the power of the strong right arm;

Confronting thee with Alond’s massive height;

It bids thee pound into collyrium

That craggy mount, and with the ardent breath

Drawn from thy throat its flint to liquefy.

The lean and feeble sheep is scarce a prey

Worthy the tiger’s claw; or if the hawk

Consorts with sparrows, meaner-spirited

Than its poor victims it shall soon become.

The Lawgiver, to whom all fair and foul

Was fully known, this recipe of power

For thee prescribed. By toil thy nerves are steeled,

And thou art raised to eminence in the world;

Or be thou wounded, this will make thee strong,

Yea, and mature as a firm mountain-chain.

Full life’s religion is Muhammad’s faith,

His code the commentary on life’s law;

Be thou earth-lowly, it shall lift thee up

High as the heavens, and will fashion thee

Harmonious to God’s summons. The rough rock

Is polished to a mirror by this faith,

And this unrusts the steel’s corroding heart.

Now when the Prophet’s watchword passed from ken

His people held no more the secret key

To their continuance. That lusty sprout

Tall and firm-rooted (Muslim of the wastes

Mounted on camel, who in Batha’s vale [82]

Took his first steps) that by the desert warmth

Was nourished up, now fanned by Persia’s breeze

Is so diminished, that it hath become

Thin as a reed. He who was wont to slay

Tigers like sheep now winces at the ant

Trampled unwittingly; he who in joy,

-Allahu Akbar- crying, turned the rock

To running water, trembles at the note

Of amorous nightingales; he whose high will

Reckoned the mountain trifling as a straw

Commits himself entire to abject trust;

He whose firm blow once broke his foemen’s neck,

His heart is wounded by his own breast’s beat;

He whose bold tread a hundred tumults limned

Now cowers in retirement from the world;

He whose command none dared to disobey,

Before whose door great Alexander stood

A suppliant, and Darius begged his bread,

His ardour is attuned to mean content,

His boast the proffered bowl of mendicants.

Shaikh Ahmad, Saiyid lofty as the spheres, [83]

From whose keen brain the sun’s self borrowed light

(The roses that bedeck his holy grave

-No other god but God- breathe from his dust)

Thus spoke to a disciple: “O thou life

Of thy dear father, it behoves us all

That we beware of Persia’s fantasies;

Though Persia’s thoughts the heavens have surpassed

They equally transgress the boundaries

Set by the Prophet’s Faith.” Brother, give ear

To his sage counsel, and attentively

Receive the rede of a protagonist

Of our Community; take these wise words

To fortify thy heart; conform thyself

With Arab ways, to be a Muslim true.



[78] Jaafar (765), numit al-Sadiq („cel de încredere”) este un purtător și narator al tradiției profetice.

[79] Razi (1209), un faimos polimat, este cunoscut pentru o mare-carte de comentarii ale Sfântului Coran.

[80] Imrān, 98: Spune: voi, oameni ai Cărţii! De ce tăgăduiţi semnele lui Allah? Allah este Martor în ceea ce făptuiţi.

[81] invocă două semne miraculoase pogorâte lui Moise; 20 20-23: el îl aruncă şi iată-l un şarpe mișcător. Allah spuse: Apucă-l! să nu-ţi fie teamă, îl vom întoarce la înfăţişarea sa dintâi. Să îți duci mâna la piept, ți se va arăta albă, fără imperfecțiuni. Acesta este un alt semn! Pentru a îți arăta din semnele Noastre cele mari.


[82] Batha este numele albiei unui râu al Meccăi.

[83] se referă la Shaikh Ahmad Rifa’i (1182), un mistic renumit, sfânt și predicator.


Stray thoughts Reflections



Individuals and nations die; but their children, i.e. ideas, never die.



An English gentleman once told me he hated the Jews, because they believed themselves to be the Chosen People of God – a belief which implies and perhaps justifies contempt of other nations. He did not remember that the phrase White Man’s Burden concealed the same Jewish belief in a different garb.



Goethe picked up an ordinary legend and filled it with the whole existence of the nineteenth century – nay, the entire experience of the human race. This transformation of an ordinary legend into a systematic expression of man’s ultimate ideal is nothing short of Divine workmanship. It is as good as the creation of a beautiful universe out of the chaos of formless matter.



The Puritan theology of Milton cannot appeal to the imagination of our age. Very few people read him. Voltaire is quite true in saying that Milton’s popularity will go on increasing because nobody reads him. There is, however, one thing in Milton. No poet has been more serious about his task than he. His style – a gigantic architecture consecrated to false deities – will always stand untouched by the palsied hand of time



The soul of Oscar Wilde is more Persian than English.



The spendthrift is nature’s own child. She does not like the accumulation of large masses of wealth in the hands of few individuals. When the maker of a family succeeds in amassing a fortune, it often happens that in the third or even in the second generation a spendthrift appears and scatters the whole wealth. But for this agent of nature the circulation of wealth would be clogged. What is true of individuals is also true of nations. When a nation, by industry or otherwise, amasses and hoards up wealth – thus clogging the wheel of the world’s industry, the working of which depends on the continual circulation of money – robber nations appear on the scene and set the imprisoned wealth at liberty. Warren Hastings, Clive and Mahmud are the representative types of such nations which are unconscious agents of nature in the advancement of world’s industry. The robbery of Warren Hastings finds its true explanation in the history of the European currencies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.



The memory of man is generally bad except for the offences he receives from his fellow-men.



There are no amusements in Muslim countries – no theatres, no music-halls, no concerts, and better so. The desire for amusement once satisfied soon becomes insatiable. The experience of European countries clearly proves this deplorable fact. The absence of amusement in Muslim countries indicates neither poverty nor austerity nor bluntness of the sense for enjoyment; it reveals that the people of these countries find ample amusement and enjoyment in the quiet circles of their homes. The European critic ought not to be so hasty in his denunciation of the Muslim home. I admit that indifference to outdoor amusement is not a necessary consequence of domestic happiness; nor does love of amusement necessarily mean domestic unhappiness.



The fate of the world has been principally decided by minorities. The history of Europe bears ample testimony to the truth of this proposition. It seems to me that there is a psychological reason why minorities should have been a powerful factor in the history of mankind. Character is the invisible force which determines the destinies of nations, and an intense character is not possible in a majority. It is a force; the more it is distributed; the weaker it becomes.



There are some people who are sceptical and yet of a religious turn of mind. The French Orientalist Renan reveals the essentially religious character of his mind in spite of his scepticism. We must be careful in forming our opinion about the character of men from their habits of thought.



“There is my uncle’s son walking along the edge of a precipice. Shall I go and, from behind, push him down the rocky valley to die without a dawn? Considering his treatment I am perfectly justified in doing so; but it is mean and unmanly to do such a thing.”

So says the Arab poet in the Hamasa. This passage may be taken as a typical specimen of Arab poetry. No poetry is so direct, so straightforward and so manly in spirit. The Arab is intensely attached to reality; brilliancy of colour does not attract him. The poet Mutanabbi, however, may be regarded as an exception; but he is an Arab poet by language only; in spirit he is thoroughly Persian.



Wonder, says Platon, is the mother of all science. Bedil (Mirza Abdul Qadir) looks at the emotion of wonder from a different standpoint. Says he:

نزاکت هاست در آغوش ميناخانه حيرت

مژه برهم مزن تا نشکنی رنگ تماشا را

To Plato wonder is valuable because it leads to our questioning of nature; to Bedil it has a value of its own irrespective of its intellectual consequences. It is impossible to express the idea more beautifully than Bedil.



In so far as the evolution of religious ideas is concerned there are principally three stages in the development of a community:

(1) The attitude of scepticism towards traditional religion – a revolt against dogma.

(2) But the need of religion as a social force of great value is at last felt; and then begins the second stage – and attempt to reconcile religion with reason.

(3) This attempts leads necessarily to difference of opinion which may have awful consequences for the very existence of a community. Difference of opinion, if not honest (and unfortunately it is generally not honest), must lead to utter disintegration. The Musalmans of India are now in the third stage; or, perhaps, partly in the second, partly in the third. This period in the life of our community appears to me to be extremely critical; but I am glad that there are forces of a different nature at work which have a tendency to preserve the solidarity of the community – though their influence, I fear, will be only temporary.



History is only an interpretation of human motives; and, since we are liable to misinterpret the motives of our contemporaries and even of our intimate friends and associates in daily life, it must be far more difficult rightly to interpret the motives of those who lived centuries before us. The record of history, therefore, should be accepted with great caution.



The working power of an idea depends on the force of the personality in which it embodies itself. Muhammad, Buddha and Jesus Christ are the great embodiments of the idea of equality – yet Islam is the only force in the world which is still working in the direction of equality.

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