Journal : The Poet… watching history : Parts II – V

 

In Islamic Times… of barbaric bloodshed,

forced conversion, homosexual perversions

and extreme oppression

OR

In times of universal freedom

when would have to compete with the best

without state patronage or feudal privileges.

 

II          Abu ‘l-Hasan Mihyar Ibn Mirzawaih

 

” The travellers who have just set out,

and from whom you are now separated,

have left behind them hearts

which shall ever refuse

to admit of consolation

for their loss. “

 

Abu ‘l-Hasan Mihyar Ibn Mirzawaih, or simply Mihyar, a native of Dailam who gained great reputation as a poet. He had been a Zoroastrian, a ” fire-worshipper ”  as they were called, who later converted to Muslim ( Shia Islam ) faith.

 

In the aftermath of Arab victory over Persia in 7th Century, Zoroastrian places of worship were desecrated, fire temples were destroyed and mosques were built in their place. Many fire temples, with their four axial arch openings, were usually turned into mosques simply by setting a mihrab (prayer niche) on the place of the arch nearest to qibla (the direction of Mecca). Zoroastrian temples converted into mosques in such a manner could be found in Bukhara, as well as in and near Istakhr and other Persian cities. Urban cities, where Arab governors made their quarters, were most vulnerable to such religious persecution : the citizens were forced to conform or flee. Many libraries were burnt and much cultural heritage was lost.

Over time, persecution of Zoroastrians became more common and widespread, and the number of believers decreased significantly. Many converted, some superficially to escape the systematic abuse and discrimination by the law of the land. Others accepted Islam because their employment in industrial and artisan work would, according to Zoroastrian dogma, make them impure their work would involve defiling fire, which they held as sacred.

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These factors continued to contribute to increasing rates of conversion from Zoroastrianism to Islam. A Persian scholar commented,

“ Why so many had to die or suffer ?

” Because one side was determined to impose his religion upon the other… “

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The contempt for the Arabs that brought forth Islam on to the Persian populace was famously captured in the following verse from Firdausi’s Shahnameh, Iran’s national epic written around 1000 AD :

” Damn this world… damn this time… damn this fate…

That uncivilized Arabs have come to make me a Muslim.”

 

In the centuries that followed, Zoroastrians faced much religious discrimination and persecution, including forced conversions, harassment, as well as being identified as najis (polluted) and impure to Muslims, making them unfit to live alongside Muslims… therefore forcing them to evacuate from cities and face major sanctions in all spheres of life. Zoroastrians have been subject to public humiliation through dress regulations, to being labeled as najis and to exclusion in the fields of society, education and work.

 

It was around A. D. 1003-4, and Al-Kasim Ibn Burhan said to Mihyar : 

 

” Mihyar, by becoming a musalman

you have ( merely ) passed

from one corner of hell to another.”

 

” How so ? ” asked Mihyar. 

 

Al-Kasim replied :

” Because you were formerly a fire-worshipper

and now you revile the companions of our blessed Prophet

in your verses.”

 

The rebellion and critical assessment of his new found religion must have shown in Mihyar’s compositions.

He is often referred to as a ” bad Muslim ! “

Mihyar writes :

 

[ Once a Zoroastrian family converted to Islam, the children had to go to Muslim religion school and learn Arabic and the teachings of the Quran and these children lost their Zoroastrian identity. Those who had converted just for the convenience could not revert back to Zoroastrianism because the penalty for renouncing Islam was death.]

 

”          May a persisting rain-cloud,

whose waters bear the sand even into people’s dwellings,

refresh and reanimate with its contents the abode

which my mistress occupied at Rakmatain.

How can I renew my intercourse with Omm Malik,

now that the places in which we reside

are separated by ( the country of ) Zarud and its two mountains ?

My heart, though far from her,

sees her with the eye of desire and is happy;

but who will enable my eyes to see her in reality ?

How pure, good God !

and yet how troubled is our mutual love !

how far is she from me every morning

and yet how near ! “

 

And, again : 

[ When persecution, suppression and oppression of dhimmis and najis reigned… ]

 

”          O for the night I passed

at Zat cl-Athel ( the tamarisk grove ), 

when her image came ( to visit me in a dream ) 

and rendered that night so short !

O, how dear that remembrance !

O, how dear ! The Fear ( of discovery ) 

treading in the foot-steps of love,

approached me in all its terrors;

May God not diminish the length of their road !

They had nearly gone astray,

in the darkness of the night,

but they were directed ( towards us ) 

by the brilliant lustre of my beloved’s teeth. “

 

And yet, again :

[ While departing from his land of birth, to far off Baghdad… ]

 

”          And my heart remained at the sand-hill,

in the reserved grounds of the tribe.

Turn, ( my friend ! ) towards those grounds

and say to my heart : “Fare well !”

Then pursue your journey

and relate a wondrous tale;

say, that a heart went away

and left the body standing up.

Say to neighbours who dwell at al-Ghada :

“How sweet would be the life

one leads at al-Ghada,

were it to endure !”

 

 *    *    *

 

 

III         Mansur al-Hallaj (c. 858 –  March 26, 922 AD)

– a Persian mystic, revolutionary writer

and pious teacher of Sufism …  most famous for his poetry.

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During one of these trances, he would utter :  Anā l-Ḥaqq … “I am The Truth,”

which was taken to mean that he was claiming to be God,

since al-Ḥaqq … “the Truth” … is one of the Ninety Nine Names of Allah.

In another controversial statement, al-Hallaj claimed :

“There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God.”

Similarly he would point to his cloak and say, Mā fī jubbatī illā l-Lāh …

“There is nothing in my cloak but God.”

These utterances led to a long trial, and his subsequent imprisonment for 11 years in a Baghdad prison. He was publicly executed on March 26, 922.

 

Al-Hallaj was born in Fars province of Persia to a cotton-carder.

(Hallaj means “cotton-carder” in Arabic).

 

His grandfather was a Zoroastrian.

His father lived a simple life,

and this form of lifestyle greatly interested the young Mansur.

He wrote :      

”  If you do not recognize God, at least recognise His sign…

   I am the creative truth —Ana al-Haqq

   because through the truth, I am eternal truth.”

 

Even beyond the Muslim faith,

Hallaj was concerned with the whole of humanity,

as he desired to communicate to them

“that strange, patient and shameful desire for God…”

This was the reason for his voyage beyond the Muslim world (shafa’a)… to India and China.

*    *    *         *    *    *

 

VI   Poet – Khwaja Mir Dard :  Delhi, India : 1750 AD : Post Aurangzeb Regime

[ Witness To Nadir Shah and Abdali Massacres In Delhi, and around ]

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” After being rescued by Nadir Shah in 1738, Ahmad Khan ( later known as Ahmad Shah Abdali ) consequently fell into his services.

” Nadir Shah was known to be a child molester and it was no surprise that he took 12-year old Ahmad Khan under his wing and the two had a very close physical relationship. He gave Ahmad Khan command over a group of Abdali tribesmen.  Nadir Shah had many servants but Ahmad Khan was favored above the rest because of his young, handsome features.

” All the servants of Nadir Shah wore pearl earrings, a feminine touch that he was very fond of. He gave Ahmad Khan the title “Dur e Durrani” (Pearl of Pearls) and which would later on lead Ahmad Khan into changing the Abdali tribe name to the Durrani tribe.

On 11th of March 1739, citizens of Delhi were plundered and slaughtered, some historians say that nearly 200,000 people were killed.

Nadir Shah on his return after plundering and slaughtering Delhites for 57 days, took with him the famous ‘Peacock throne’ built by Shahjahan and the legendary ‘Koh-i-noor’ along with 600 million rupees worth of jewellery, gold worth 10 million rupees and coins worth 6 million rupees. His total collection of booty was worth 700 million rupees and also took care to include in his train 100 elephants, 7000 craftsmen, 100 stone-cutters and 200 carpenters.

Nadir Shah’s invasion did irreparable damage to the Mughal empire. Mughal provinces across the Indus seceded to the Persians. Later on, inspired by the antics of Nadir Shah, his successor Ahmad Shah Abdali too invaded India several times between 1748 and 1767 and plundered Delhi.

He forced himself upon those areas, moving in like a parasite would, and deplete the regions.  His invasions brought forth waves of chaos and havoc.   The people of Ghazni and Kabul—and later on Herat as well as other regions—desperately fought back as they did during the invasions of Changiz Khan. For those people, there was no difference between the atrocities committed by Changiz Khan and those committed by Ahmad Shah about six centuries later.

Ahmad Shah murdered innocent women and children, destroyed families and homes, and stole everything in sight because he had no honor. Human life meant nothing to him as he left piles of dead bodies in his wake. In a civilized society, a criminal like Ahmad Shah would have been punished for his crimes.  Instead, the Pashtuns bestow a twisted tribute to him, celebrating his inhumanness and taking pride in his barbaric, animal behavior. People became destitutes, were killed, and unnecessarily suffered greatly because of his greed and cruel behavior. And these actions are respected and admired by many Pashtuns today.

His raids would last for days with unending turmoil; nobody was left with clothes to wear or food to eat; many died from inflicted wounds or even by committing suicide, while others suffered in the harsh climates because they had lost their homes. Their livelihood, their grains, their possessions were taken by the looters and sold back to them at exorbitant prices.

Aside from monetary possession, he was also fond of possessing women. In 1756 – 57 Ahmad Shah sacked Delhi during his fourth invasion of India and burgled every corner of the city. He arranged marriages for himself and his son, Timor, into the Imperial Mughal family. Ahmad Shah had many wives to begin with but he just couldn’t resist adding the princess from the Imperial family into his collection.  Despite her being royalty, he treated her the same way he treated his other wives and his daughters.

He had no respect for anybody and the only way he received respect was through leading looting sprees for his tribesman, encouraging them to steal as much as they could from India and taking any woman they desired. His gang of barbarians would dig up people’s houses to find hidden treasures, leaving the residents homeless and in despair. Torture and beating were common practices to extort booty which consisted of jewels, diamonds, ornaments, etc.

Leaving Timor behind as in – charge, Abdali left India and returned to Kandahar. On his way back, he couldn’t resist attacking the Golden Temple in Amristar and filled its sarovar (sacred pool) with the blood of slaughtered cows and people. The Golden Temple is to the Sikhs what Mecca is to the Muslims; so his transgressions were of great in proportion. He knew that cows were considered sacred by the Sikhs but he disregarded their beliefs and their values.

On January 6, 1761, the Marathas lost to Ahmad Shah in the great battle of Panipat.  It was a tortuous time for the inhabitants of the region. The plunder and the savage slaughtering began once more. Ahmad Shah’s tribes went home to home, breaking down doors, capturing those inside and burning them alive or cutting off their heads. There was bloodshed and destruction everywhere and nothing and no one was spared. Men of esteem disintegrated into being nothing overnight, noblemen were left destitute, wives and children made captive or killed.

In a later raid, Ahmad Shah inflicted a severe defeat upon the Sikhs but had to immediately head westward back to Kandahar to quell a rising insurrection.  Meanwhile, the Sikhs rose again in power and Ahmad Shah was forced to abandon his hopes of retaining his command over Punjab.

During those 25 years, Ahmad Shah weakened India and its Raj and local government. He ventured into India numerous times and each time, he returned with gold, camels, women, etc.  He left a great number of people dead, destroyed cities and lives and families. All of this seemed like fun to him and adventure to his people.

Therefore, when he died in 1773, his descendants began fighting over the throne. The British took this moment of weakness to step in and create more division. Abdali’s sons were busy fighting against and killing each other, and the British aided the brothers in slaying their enemies, which gradually weakened the state, before taking over.

It is because of Ahmad Shah and his gang of marauders, who crushed the indigenous people of the regions—the Marathas and the Mughuls—that the entire subcontinent of India including today’s Afghanistan was colonized by the British during 19th Century and well into the 20th.

*    *    * 

Thus Wrote Dard …

 

O Thou, who serve !

Have you ever quenched

A heart thirsty for drink ?

Come, thrust the mouth of flask

To my lips, till surfeit…

 

*    *    *

 

There’s not a moment’s relief

To this being rushed of life

In haste are we fated

To try our tasks assigned.

 

Who so ever I approched

Had his own woes to tell

Before I could give voice

To the wrenching pain

In my own heart.

 

O Dard, you’ve not yet seen

The ways and razing might

Of this world about us

Which fells the blood

Of every parched soul

On these particles of dust.

 

*    *    *        *    *    *

 

We hear echoes of the same human reaction that led to the rise of Sufism, which is a general term for Muslim mysticism and was originally a response to the increasing worldly power of Islamic leaders, as the religion spread during the 8th Century, and their corresponding shift in focus towards materialistic and political concerns and all the violent, life demeaning and debauch trappings it brought in its wake.

 

*    *    *         *    *    *

 

 

Men without count

Have gazed in wonder

At this world before us.

But none having passed on

Ever came to look back on it.

 

The breeze carries my dust

From one door to another :

O Tear Laden Eye

What’s happened ?

Why linger…

And hold yourself so ?

 

They, oblivious of their self

Really know the ways

Of world.

He indeed is awake

Who sleeps

With eyes bunged.

 

Noah’s flood submerged the earth.

I, a shame of man

Have wrecked the heavens too.

 

Oh, may the little bird

In love with the rose

Be safe… I fear the cruel

Sharp-tongued beauty

Is in the grove today !

 

Whom do you frighten, O Preacher

With your story of Day of Doom ?

I have washed clean with tears

The scroll of my deeds.

 

In this speech will blossom too

Many smiles and much laughter.

For I have sown the seed of verse

On this soil today.

 

The temper of the world…

Has not grown in moderation

Though I did absorb in me

The heat and cold of times.

 

*    *    *        *    *    *

 

 

 

V  Poet – Mir Taqi Mir :  India : 1760 AD : Post Aurangzeb Regime

[ Witness To Abdali and Nadir Shah Massacres In Delhi, and around ]

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Why ask Mir of his faith or belief ?

Long since he abjured

Islam and its key.

He now holds the mark

Sacred on his brow

Communes with infidels

And kneels in the temple !

 

*    *    *

 

Aurangzeb’s solemn observation recorded in his own Court’s bulletin that “In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a temple” and therefore, presentation of a stone railing to Keshava Rai temple by Dara was “totally unbecoming of a Musalman” casts serious doubts about a few instances of religious toleration and temple grants attributed to him. Only two years before his long awaited death, he had ordered (1st January 1705) to “demolish the temple of Pandharpur and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the temple … It was done”.

 

*    *    *

 

Should Mir wail so loud, weep

How will his companions

Continue to rest in sleep ?

 

I am the crying one

Who now passes on…

For whom every year

The clouds shall weep

Sob and moan…

 

O Advisor, it is my job to cry

My need to wail all the time !

How long will you, my friend

Keep my visage washed ?

 

My heart has let out a wail

– Long, loud and deep,

Which will relegate

Even the caravan bells

Beyond apperception !

 

You, let out profane abuses

For others, my rivals, but

Address them to me

And you will see

You will have it …

 

Hold, O Mir, wipe the tears

How long will you thread

These pearl beads

With thought and word

And make it whole !

 

*    *    *          *    *    *

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