I, Too, Have Complaints
I am the younger brother
You might not have heard of
Thirsty for answers to complaints of my own
The wine of wisdom you offered is fruity
It is tasty, yet bitter
It has awakened me
And led me to look deep into the window of my mind
There, unanswered questions abound
Thirsty for answers only He can feed
Tell me, isn’t to question is how we learn and grow?
But to question His actions, I am told not to dare
He is all knowing, they say
He is merciful, yet the poor suffer from the burden of disease
Where is His mercy for the thousands dying from Ebola
But to doubt his mercy, I am told not to dare
Doubt is the seed of unfaithfulness, they say
I am thirsty for answers to complaints of my own
They concern neither the lack of power, nor the blessings of wealth
But courage; I lack
To present Him the complaints I have inside
He owes me no explanation, I have been told
After all, I, a “little speck of dust,” am just a servant at His mercy
I am a young man
Intoxicated with the desire to learn more
Tell me, where forth came your fearless approach to question
Like that, tomorrow
I, too, shall have courage to complain and get answers that are mine
It is very true that a reader may, once in a while, come across an author that makes him challenge his own set of believes. I think Complaint and Answer, and this course in general, has pushed me towards seeking a more sophisticated understanding of my faith and what it means to identify myself as a Muslim. Upon reading Iqbal’s poem, my immediate reaction was that I would like to challenge myself to write one, too to reflect on what I got from his well written piece as well as bring forth, even if implicitly, some of the questions that I have been trying to answer myself as I continue on a journey of self-discovery.
Before going far into the analysis of what I wrote, let me elaborate briefly on why I found it appropriate to do a poem and submit a recitation of it. First and foremost, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and try something I was not too comfortable with. Writing and reciting a poem was important for two reasons. On one hand, I wanted to take advantage of the strong tradition of recitation within Islam. The Quran is primarily recited in prayers as a means of reaching a state that transcends the realm of the material world; it is seen as a way to directly communicate with God. Secondly, my goal was to communicate with my audience in my own voice to emphasize the personal touch to the message I am delivering.
I find Iqbal’s Complaint and Answer to be rich with great, but often conflicting ideas. And for this reason, I mention in the opening stanza that the wine of wisdom he offers is “tasty, yet bitter.” It is not clear to what extent prayers and other rituals are important in the manifestation of faith in Islam. In some occasions he laments Muslims for abandoning prayers and fasting, “very heavy on your spirits weights the charge of morning prayer…Ramadan is too oppressive for your tempers free to bear” (45). At the same time, he downplays the value of these rituals in the expression of faith when he says, “Infidels who live like Muslims surely merit Faith’s reward” (48). In other words, why even bother about prayers? They are not what rewards are based on. How could one reconcile this point of tension? To do so would require a careful reading of Iqbal. These seemingly contradictory stances are intended to show that there is no clear cut answer, and what most people need is to be comfortable in contextualizing things, developing a sensibility that allows one to her own individual judgment. Sadly, “When it comes to delicacy, that is far beyond their reach.” (40)
After the first stanza, I spent the rest of the poem developing some of the complaints and questions of my own. Prior to moving to the United States, I lived in an area where people were at times very zealous when it came to religion. Well-meaning sheiks were often quick to brand other people as heretics for “associating partners” with God. It was also widely thought that men of faith neither question God’s action, nor have doubt in religious matters. They attempted to teach religion in a very limited way placing emphasis on the extremely ugly, the horrors of hell, and the very beautiful, the benevolence of the Almighty God. I am most interested in learning about the sources of evil, of pain, of disease, of inequality—if only I had the courage to ask questions and make my complaints known.