Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Ibrahim Chaudhry Response Paper 4

Love the foe

-Sa’adi

This poem is significant because it depicts several key insights, each of which we shall analyse. The first of these is Sa’adi’s way of measuring loss and gain in this world. He suggests that “none has earned, till he has loved” which dismisses notions of material gain as happiness. Sa’adi establishes that such “manly fame” may give momentary satisfaction but true fulfillment begins within and the route to internal fulfillment is love which additionally emphasizes the importance of love. 

Secondly, Sa’adi’s realistic portrayal of love is significant. Often, love is viewed as this idea that is free of flaw however Sa’adi suggests otherwise. We are made to believe that love is an idea that does grant deliverance but is simultaneously the equivalent of test “by the flame.”

Additionally, he does not wish to undermine the importance of the love and does so by adding:

Love, that burned my heart, my soul

Doth caress

Which essentially means that while one may hurt reaching out for love, it is essential for the aforementioned internal fulfilment. Consequently, the pain and burning is worth it for love.

The Beloved

-Hafez

This poem outlines the impact of love on the lovers in a unique way that only Hafez can. He starts by saying that love is a concept that transcends ones rationality:

Mortals never won to view thee,

Yet a thousand lovers woo thee;

Despite knowing that loss is an inevitability yet one pursues the beloved; such is the power of love. This concept is elaborated further by the illustration of the control love has on the practices of the lover. Hafez suggests that love extends “on convent walls or on tavern floors the same” which allows us to see that one becomes so consumed by love that it disallows the person to distinguish between extremes like mosques and taverns. 

Additionally, this repetitive mention of places of worship such as: 

Where the turban’d anchorite 

Chanteth Allah day and night,

Is suggestive of the fact that there are parallels between love of God and the beloved. It is from this that we are able to see why so many Persian poets talk of god as the beloved.

Solitude

-Jami

Here we see the failure of love and its ramifications illustrated by Jami in a very personal manner which allows us to see it in a light we aren’t allowed to quite frequently.

It is apt to establish that love operates like infatuation and from that we derive that the failure of love too is an infatuation. Noticeably, even when the beloved lets down the lover s/he still harbors great affection for the beloved. For instance even in the aftermath Jami notes “where,er I go thy image never fails.” 

Additionally, the poet notes that “my life I freely give” which shows exactly how heavy the burden ones heart bears owing to the failure of his/her love. Similarly, even when alive without the beloved the poet “seem[s] to stray alone” “tho midst crowds.” This effectively illustrates the necessity of love in keeping man connected to the world and hence the failed lover soars “unfrequented worlds.” In reality love is the oil that keeps the soul running; without love the soul is merely a fish, out of water, struggling to breathe.

Memorisation and Calligraphy

Memorisation of poetry has been an intriguing experience. It allowed me to see the variations in rhyme that different poets incorporate in their poetry. For instance Saadi is identifiable rather easily owing to the extensive rhyming in his poetry[1] which also makes him a favorite of many musicians such as Pouyan Ranaei and Shirin Mohammad.[2]

Additionally, the power of poetry is often undermined but the memorization of poetry allowed me to see the immense power a few carefully orchestrated words can have. In other courses such as Premodern India I noticed the great Mughal Emperor Zahir-Ud-Din Babur in his Baburnama too used Persian poetry as an asset.[3]Consequently, indulgence in this art of Persian poetry enabled me to be connected in a distant manner to great poets like Hafiz and leaders like Babur and even Barrack Obama who quoted Sa’adi.[4]

Secondly, calligraphy was also a significant experience for me. It became a manner for me to assess myself and my emotional condition. I say that owing to Sulzberg’s point that calligraphy reflects one’s inner sentiment.[5] Subsequently, if I, let’s say, distracted the quality of my calligraphy suffered as well. 

Additionally, calligraphy on the blackboard with my peers strengthened this notion because everyone’s calligraphy differed based on emotions and thoughts each carried. Moreover, in the exercise allowed me to work with a chalk which allowed me to see the significance of a pen as an instrument. Differences between chalk and pen illustrated why calligraphers are so specific about their pens and defend it by quoting the Prophets statement that “God first created the qalam (pen)”[6]

Goethe’s admiration of Hafez

Goethe as an artist envisioned, like most artists, his art being understood universally. This, he tried to manifest through the conception of Weltlitratur(World Literature) which served as Goethe’s medium to realize his aforementioned vision. That is where Hafez comes in. Hafez is not a mere Persian poet; he is a culture in himself. He speaks of the exact nature of love:

Love seemed a simple game

When I encountered it it…but then

The difficulties came!

He speaks of mans relationship with god more astutely than so many others:

Don’t hide from Him you seek, Hafez;

You cannot hope to find

The One you’re longing for until

You leave the world behind.

And so on. The immense range of topics Hafez covers make him an all-encompassing guide. Consequently, this allows the writings of Hafez to serve as the manifestation of Weltliteratur and hence the cause of Goethes fascination. 

Goethe looks up to Hafez the way that he does because Hafez perfected the conception that Goethe himself coined: Weltlitratur.[7] Thus, Goethe humbles himself, despite his high stature, and calls Hafez “master” [8]because Hafez centuries before Goethe perfected world literature.


[1] Jafar Mahallati, November 4, 2019.

[2] Youtube, (2019, November 6, 2019)  “Bani Adam” , Ranaei family ensemble بنی آدم” گروه خانواده رعنایی” retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu3UEyvp24c

[3] Zaheer-ud-Din Babir, The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, trans Wheeler Thackston (New York: Modern Library, 2002), 89

[4] Wikipedia contributors, “Bani Adam,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bani_Adam&oldid=924141901 (accessed November 7, 2019).

[5] Sulzberg, Jean. The Inner Journey: Views from the Islamic Tradition, 78-79. Morning Light Press.

[6] Ibid

[7] De vires, Caroline.  Hafez and the West-Eastern Divan (West-östlicher Divan) of Goethe: Dialogues among Languages, Cultures, Religions, and Time. Islamic Azad University, 2015.

[8] Was alle wollen weißt du schon,
Und hast es woll verstanden:
Denn Sehnsucht hält, von Staub zu Thron, Uns all’ in strengen Banden.

Verzeihe, Meister, wie du weißt
Daß ich mich oft vermesse,
Wenn sie das Auge nach sich reißt
Die wandelnde Zypresse.” 

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