In lasting memory of those who are giving their lives to remove their Sultans.
From the city of love, Paris, where my mind feels free, in light of what is happening in Syria; I would like to share a stirring works “Sultan”; the recitation of these verses has always sent shivers down my spine. When I see ravenous ‘state dogs’ tearing apart freedoms of expressions, I feel my prime civic duty is to condemn it at the top of my voice. Those who maintain ‘Silence like a Lamb’ are appeasing the tyrant. Originally written under the title of ‘O my lord the Sultan! My cloak has been torn by your ravenous dogs…’ on Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:16 AM EDT, I am reproducing this article as a token of small remembrance of all those fallen innocent civilians who are fighting the last battle to remove their bloodthirsty Sultans one on the run is Assad. There is no cause nobler than fight for freedom and liberty. ‘Give us freedom or give us death’ is the clarion call of the Syrians and all the freedom seekers of the world.
I feel Nizar Qabbani is one of the leading voices of freedom ever espoused in the Middle East. Nizar Qabbani’s poetry epitomizes freedom and expression of love in its most expressive form. Qabbani’s 1990 magnum opus ”Abu Jahl (the father of ignorance) buys Fleet Street” became a characteristic mention reflecting the bankruptcy of Arab writing. This was actually a humorous attack camouflaged as a plea to an unnamed traditional Arab sovereign.
O long lived one, We vow never to seek a share of your rule. O long lived one, We vow never even as to look at your throne, O long lived one, Go on lashing, as many of the people as you wish And killing as many of your subjects as you wish, And @!$%# as many of your slave girls as you wish,
We only have one wish: Spare us the words, and spare us the letters. The “Sultan”a poem by Qabbani defines the present day’Sultans’ of Pakistan. ‘Sultan’ is an example of political verse that denotes tyrannical, corrupt rulers who suppress freedom of opinions. His poetry was given new life as many singers like Abdel Halim Hafez, and Um Kolthoom turned the frozen beauty of his poetry to ‘living lyrics’–the clarion call being that national and social liberation was meaningless without sexual liberation.
If I were promised safety, if I could meet the Sultan I would say to him: O my lord the Sultan! my cloak has been torn by your ravenous dogs, your spies are following me all the time. Their eyes their noses their feet are chasing me like destiny, like fate They interrogate my wife and write down all the names of my friends.
O Sultan! Because I dare to approach your deaf walls, because I tried to reveal my sadness and tribulation, I was beaten with my shoes
Nizar Qabbani’s dichotomy of character is mind-boggling, an enemy of ‘tyranny’ but a great friend of despots. His writings against the decadent Arab imaginary ‘Sultan’ are classics and are comparable to our situation; our ‘Sultans’ are no less tyrants. Qabbani’s poems included a strong strain of anti-authoritarianism. One couplet in particular —
“O Sultan, my master, if my clothes are ripped and torn it is because your dogs with claws are allowed to tear me” — As a true realist, renders a very effective portrayal of despots’ defeat at the Israeli hands by writing on the Sultan’s guards: O my lord the Sultan! you have lost the war twice because half our people has no tongue. Who fiercely face student demonstrations, And turn into ostriches when facing the enemy. He presents a conniving image of despotic rulers:
Walking behind the prophet’s coffin, Holding their blooded daggers under their mourning cloaks.’ O Sultan! Because I dare to approach your deaf walls, because I tried to reveal my sadness and tribulation, I was beaten with my shoes
The following is sometimes quoted by Arabs as a kind of cynical shorthand for their annoyance with life under totalitarianism. It is believed that the targets of his poetry are the Sultans of Nejd!! Nizar yearned for freedom from the yokes of his tyrants, his demands for expression of liberty are couched in his erotically charged poetry. Conservative despots wish that Nizar work should be on Arab version of ”Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Nizar, as an intellectual student of history of political thought, settled on a fundamental break between realism and idealism. Pragmatism is the theme of his philosophical thoughts. In contrast to Plato and Aristotle, the ideal society was not the aim of his poetry. In fact, Nizar Qabbani accepted the exercise of brute power, where necessary, and rewards patron-clientalism etc. to preserve the status quo. In 1995 the poet of adore caused a new upheaval by declaring the demise of the Arabs as a nation:
A horrifying chain of degenerations; Swiftly soaked us into the age of senility, Nizar Qabbani, quoted by Fouad Ajami in his famous book ‘The Dream Palace of the Arabs,’ painted a picture of an Arab world that is so faced with grave societal dysfunctions that he could no longer write:
‘I don’t write because I can’t say something that equals the sorrow of this Arab nation. I can’t open any of the countless dungeons in this large prison. The poet is made of flesh and blood. You can’t make him speak when he loses his appetite for words. You can’t ask him to entertain and enthrall when there is nothing in the Arab world that entertains or enthralls. When we were secondary schoolchildren, our history teacher used to call the Ottoman Empire [Europe’s] ‘sick man.’ What is the history teacher to call these mini-empires of the Arab world being devoured by disease? What are we to call these mini-empires with broken doors and shattered windows and blown-away roofs? What can the writer say and write in this large Arab hospital?’ How can we explain the discouraging state of Middle Eastern Arab societies? Is it the fault of Western imperialism or the existence of Israel, as often claimed?
We need our unwavering resolve to question and condemn the ills of lunatics and fringe killers who have taken upon themselves to make this earth a heaven by making it hell for everyone. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind, the most important creation of providence being subject to dynamite is a work of an evil Lucifer, let’s not mix it, any mind that plots to maim and kill has not evolved, it has remained stuck in medieval hatreds of the past.
Freedom of minds and skill of intellect to ‘think the unthinkable’ is how humanity has progressed; when minds are incarcerated nothing endures.
It is totally wrong to quote Baghdad and Cordoba as models of successful Islamic societies if the conditions of those model societies are today abhorred by the main body of Islam, the tolerance required just does not exist, taking history out of context is the biggest injustice that Muslims commit. A clerical state would not be ever able to address the complex problems of governance the world poses today, the separation of state from institutions of clergy is a must for any society to develop. Poverty as a part of the Islamic society is not by design but by efforts, over reliance of ‘will of Allah’ and lack of freedom leads to poverty of a nation, mental as well as physical. It is an paradox that when curtain of dogma was descending within the Islamic lands killing free thinking it was slowly and steadily rising in Italy and northern Europe.
A society is judged not by its standards of the richest but by the way the under privileged and the poorest live. The world cannot remain hostage to medievalists, this modern fight has to be seen in its intellectual, historical and geographical context. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind, the most important creation of providence being subject to dynamite is a work of an evil Lucifer, let’s not mix it, any mind that plots to maim and kill has not evolved, it has remained stuck in medieval hatreds of the past.