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VIEWPOINTJustice Khosa And Khalil Gibran's Pearls Of Wisdom
by TARIQ BUTT

We should be thankful to Justice Asif Saeed Khosa for reminding us of Khalil Gibran's pearls of wisdom and their relevance in today's Pakistan. Many people, mostly sympathetic to the present government, are not willing to stomach what the illustrious Supreme Court judge has recalled, expressing his anguish over the sorry plight the homeland is faced with. They claim that it is unbecoming of a judge to pass such remarks because he is required to just stick to what the Constitution and law say. Justice Khosa has committed no crime for which he is being castigated. He has just held the mirror aloft so that we see our faces in it and evaluate what our mighty rulers, their blind followers, and Pakistanis at large are doing. He has simply tried to shake our conscience so as we rectify the fast downslide to the level where it has become extremely difficult to retrieve whatever has been left after perpetrating so many excesses on the homeland. It is no justice to make fun of his philosophic note, rather what is required is serious introspection by all and sundry especially the rulers and the leaders of this hapless nation.
Who was Khalil Gibran (January 6, 1883–April 10, 1931) that moved the respected and reputed judge? He was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer. He was born in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon. As a young man he migrated with his family to the US where he studied art and began his literary career. He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book, The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, and became extremely popular in the 1960s counterculture. Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.
Gibran was born to a Maronite Catholic family in the historical town of Bsharri in northern Lebanon. His mother Kamila, daughter of a priest, was thirty when he was born. His father Khalil was her third husband. As a result of his family's poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him the Bible as well as the Arabic and Syriac languages. His father initially worked in an apothecary but, with gambling debts he was unable to pay, he went to work for a local Ottoman-appointed administrator. Around 1891, extensive complaints by angry subjects led to the administrator being removed and his staff being investigated. Gibran's father was imprisoned for embezzlement and his family's property was confiscated by the authorities. Kamila decided to follow her Justice Khosa And Khalil Gibran's Pearls Of Wisdombrother to the US. Although Gibran's father was released in 1894, Kamila remained resolved and left for New York on June 25, 1895, taking along Khalil, his younger sisters Mariana and Sultana, and his elder half-brother Peter.
The Gibrans settled in Boston's South End, at the time the second largest Syrian/Lebanese-American community in the US. Due to a mistake at school, he was registered as Kahlil Gibran. His mother began working as a seamstress peddler, selling lace and linens that she carried from door to door. Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. School officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learn English. Gibran also enrolled in an art school at a nearby settlement house. Through his teachers there, he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. A publisher used some of Gibran's drawings for book covers in 1898. Gibran's mother, along with his elder brother Peter, wanted him to absorb more of his own heritage rather than just the Western aesthetic culture he was attracted to. So at the age of fifteen, Gibran returned to his homeland to study at a Maronite-run preparatory school and higher-education institute in Beirut, called Al-Hikma. He started a student literary magazine with a classmate and was elected "college poet". He stayed there for several years before returning to Boston in 1902, coming through Ellis Island on May 10. Two weeks before he got back, his sister Sultana died of tuberculosis at the age of 14. The next year, Peter died of the same disease and his mother died of cancer. His sister Marianna supported Gibran and herself by working at a dressmaker's shop. Gibran held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston. During this exhibition, Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran's life. Though publicly discreet, their correspondence reveals an exalted intimacy.
Haskell influenced not only Gibran's personal life, but also his career. She introduced him to Charlotte Teller, a journalist, and Emilie Michel, a French teacher, who accepted to pose for him as a model and became close friends. In 1908, Gibran went to study art in Paris for two years. There he met his art study partner and lifelong friend Yousef Howayek. Most of Gibran's early writings were in Arabic, most of his work published after 1918 was in English. His first book for the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf, in 1918, was The Madman, a slim volume of aphorisms and parables written in biblical cadence somewhere between poetry and prose. Gibran also took part in the New York Pen League, also known as the "immigrant poets" , alongside important Lebanese-American authors such as Ameen Rihani, Elia Abu Madi and Mikhail Naimy, a close friend and distinguished master of Arabic literature, whose descendants Gibran declared to be his own children, and whose nephew, Samir, is a godson of Gibran's.
Much of Gibran's writings deal with Christianity, especially on the topic of spiritual love. But his mysticism is a convergence of several different influences: Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Hinduism and theosophy. He wrote: "You are my brother and I love you. I love you when you prostrate yourself in your mosque, and kneel in your church and pray in your synagogue. You and I are sons of one faith – the Spirit." His poetry is notable for its use of formal language, as well as insights on topics of life using spiritual terms. Among other things, Justice Khosa wrote in his note that he was reminded of the unforgettable words of Khalil Gibran that paint a picture which unfortunately appears quite familiar: Pity the Nation.
Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion. Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful. Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream. Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among it ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block. Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again. Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation. Justice Khosa added with reference to the present context: Pity the nation that achieves nationhood in the name of a religion but pays little heed to truth, righteousness and accountability which are the essence of every religion. Pity the nation that proclaims democracy as its polity but restricts it to queuing up for casting of ballots only and discourages democratic values. Pity the nation that measures honour with success and respect with authority, that despises sublime and cherishes mundane, that treats a criminal as a hero and considers civility as weakness and that deems a sage a fool and venerates the wicked. Pity the nation that adopts a Constitution but allows political interests to outweigh constitutional diktat. Pity the nation that demands justice for all but is agitated when justice hurts its political loyalty. Pity the nation whose servants treat their solemn oaths as nothing more than a formality before entering upon an office. Pity the nation that elects a leader as a redeemer but expects him to bend every law to favour his benefactors. Pity the nation whose leaders seek martyrdom through disobeying the law than giving sacrifices for the glory of law and who see no shame in crime.
Pity the nation that is led by those who laugh at the law little realizing that the law shall have the last laugh. Pity the nation that launches a movement for rule of law but cries foul when the law is applied against its bigwig, that reads judicial verdicts through political glasses and that permits skills of advocacy to be practiced more vigorously outside the courtroom than inside. Pity the nation that punishes its weak and poor but is shy of bringing its high and mighty to book. Pity the nation that clamours for equality before law but has selective justice close to its heart. Pity the nation that thinks from its heart and not from its head. Indeed, pity the nation that does not discern villainy from nobility.

 
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