Poetry (Week 9)

In this week, week 9, we discussed the representation of Islamic themes in poetry.  In the readings, we focused on ghazals, a poetic style popular in the Islamic context.  Ghazals consist of rhymed couplets with a refrain, known as the radif, each set to the same meter.  Also common is the qafiyah, where the last syllable before the radif also rhymes, and the takhallus, where the poet in the last couplet inserts his own name.  The content of these poems is always love, and in general the love for the lover, or the beloved, can be interpreted as the love for God.

The poem that I chose to recite is the first verse of Saadi’s Golestan.

The translation by M. Aryanpoor is below:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!

Notice that this poem is neither a ghazal, nor a love poem for God.  However, it is about love for humans.  We are humans, connected together by our humanity.  This sense of unity, and sameness, is reflected in another major theme of the course: Islam vs. islam.  The difference is that islam means “submission to God”, while Islam is the name of the religion practiced by Muslims.  Islam with a lowercase “i” is not limited to just Muslims; it is also applied to and extends to Jews, Christians, etc.  The point is that in the eye of God, as long as we believe in Him, then it is irrelevant what we call ourselves.  Similarly, although there might be distinct differences between us, such as ethnicity, gender, age, etc., the important fact is that we are really the same, and thus we should help each other.

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