Tuesday, October 2, 2007

One Thousand And One Nights

In this last 10 days of Ramadhan, there is increased recitation of surah al-Qadr all over our mosques - reminding us of the great impending gift of this 'Night of Power'.

"We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God's Permission,
on every errand"
Peace! ... This until the rise of Morn!" ... al-Qadr 97:1-5

Been thinking about this "one thousand months" that was referred to in this verse and was reminded of the hadith that was asked by the companion comparing the deeds of the people of old and the people of this generation. Subhan-Allah! Indeed, we are truly blessed to be the Ummah of the Prophet (saw)!

But, my "wayward" mind was also reminded of something else. I searched my library and found the "gem" that I was looking for: "The Arabian Nights" or what is more commonly known in Arabic as "Alf Laylah wa Laylah" translated to mean "One Thousand and One Nights". Here I have in my hands, a rare copy in Singapore of the 'complete and unabridged' version of the book - all 837 pages of it, literally translated by Sir Richard F Burton - who himself is a colourful character. What follows is a selected quote from the Introduction:

"Who told the stories first, or in what tongue, we cannot surely say... The stories are the thing, no matter whence they sprang nor when... Whatever their origin in time and space, the tales themselves promise to be timeless and free of all frontiers. For they form, let it be said boldly, the world's greatest single treasure house of fiction, and their riches are for all men. So long as there are ears to hear, Shahrazad will be heard.

The spell of the Nights has possessed the imagination of mankind, and one need not read far in them to find the reason. The world which they describe is, like Cabell's world of Poictesme, one in which anything is more than likely to happen; in which almost everything does happen. The most delightful, most atrocious, most ludicrous things. It is a world of magic and reality, of sweet day-dreams and shivering awakenings, of delicate poetry and brutal horse-play. It is a world in which all the senses feast riotously, upon sights and sounds and perfumes; upon fruits and flowers and jewels; upon wines and stuffs and sweets; and upon yielding flesh, both male and female, whose beauty is incomparable. It is a world of heroic amorous encounters, in which men are as potent as that Indian prince of whom Theophrastus spoke, and women as generous as that Queen of Aragon whose amiable decision has been imperishably, if somewhat astonishingly, recorded by Montaigne.

Romance lurks behind every shuttered window; every veiled glance begets an intrigue; and in every servant's hand nestles a scented note granting a speedy rendezvous. It is a world in which any bypath, and often the broad highway, leads straight to unexpected, unpredictable adventure; in which fate plays battledore-and-shuttlecock with men and women of high and low estate; in which no aspiration is so mad as to be unrealizable, and no day proof of what the next day may be. A world in which apes may rival men, and a butcher win the hand of a king's daughter; a world in which palaces are made of diamonds, and thrones cut from single rubies.

It is a world in which all the distressingly ineluctable rules of daily living are gloriously suspended; from which individual responsibility is delightfuly absent. It is the world of a legendary Damascus, a legendary Cairo, and a legendary Constantinople; the world in which a legendary Harun al-Rashid walks the streets of a legendary Baghdad. In short, it is the world of eternal fairy-tale: and there is no resisting its enchantment."

Sublime... I am in for a long magic-carpet ride :)

1 comment:

Little Miss Pinky said...

and for a moment i thought you were going to share something about the magical last 10 days of ramadan... or did you???