Five cases of exorcism

Facing each others’ shadows but not actually facing each other, seculars and Islamists were at daggers drawn, writes Youssef Rakha. Then came the Revolution



Once upon a time there was an ancient house and it was haunted by two families of ghosts, let us call them the Fundies and the Drunks; by the time this happens, all the inhabitants of the house are long dead; the house is in perpetual darkness. Each ghost family thinks it is alive and being haunted by the other family; each dreams of moving out to a warmer house. Scared of the dead, they are the dead; and they are kept apart by the lie that they are alive. The Drunks died much earlier; it is their attachment to physical and perishable things that makes them think they are alive, but they show fewer signs of vitality. The Fundies, a seamless block of the more recently deceased, draw their delusional breath from things supposedly eternal. They are aggressive and noisy, the Fundies; sometimes they even seem convincingly human, for ghosts. For the longest time the house stands immovable. Everyone is dead, but there remains in both families something perhaps truly eternal even as it remains physical and perishable and, for the longest time, completely hidden from view. That thing is shared by every member of every family; no one knows yet, but it can turn each back into a living human being. Perhaps no one has been quite so dead after all; perhaps death itself is reversible. One day the house begins to rock, softly, barely perceptibly at first. A shaft of sunlight penetrates to the centre and for the first time in their memory the Drunks, suddenly energetic in the light, feel the warmth on their skin. They cherish the blood pumping in their newly taut veins and, while their pupils dilate, realise that they have been dead. At this moment it dawns on them that, if they were dead, it cannot be that they were haunted by the Fundies, that the Fundies too may be alive by now, and that everyone has an equal claim to the house. While the house leaves the ground, the Fundies join the Drunks and, resuscitated likewise, they are unexpectedly peaceful and calm. Eventually the two families grow so friendly and secure in company that, by the time the house flies, no one is sacred of anyone.



The original meaning of exorcism is “binding by oath”; in this sense the former Egyptian regime was worse than a demon. No oath could bind it, and people were too aware of this to be affected by the intimidation and manipulation to which they were subjected. During the last few days before Mubarak’s stepping down, the Tahrir protesters were creative enough to stage a zar, the most popular form of exorcism in grassroots culture, to drive the stubborn, by then clearly blood-stained president from the country. In reality a zar is an African-rooted, indoor and female-only rite, in which a particular drum beat and collective circular movement, gaining in velocity as time passes, force a demon out of the body of a possessed woman, who will normally pass out at the end; but in the popular imagination the procedure is synonymous with irrational desperation, and for the protesters it was a theatrical expression of just that: Mubarak had proved so impervious to the demands of the unequivocal majority, so blind to reality, so steeped in fabricated consent, it took him longer than anyone to give in to the inevitable. By the time the zar took place, the mafia of the so called authorities had already tried everything (I think the events of 25 Jan-11 Feb establish beyond any doubt that the authorities were just that: a mafia; and it is well to remember that elements of that mafia continue to operate freely – to what end, no one knows for sure). Police, thugs, snipers on the one hand and, on the other, rumours, fear- and xenophobia-mongering as well as systematic misinformation: nothing could put an end to the revolution. Yet, like a mulish djinn of apostate ancestry (the worst kind), Mubarak continued to use the term “I will” to Thursday 10 Feb. But whether or not the zar had any part in it, that will of his was duly exorcised.



The Revolution goes beyond what just may be a sustainable rapprochement between secular and Islamist components of the unarmed constituency. It goes beyond the tendency to draw on spiritual references like the zar for moral sustenance under attack – and the indefinite and gruelling wait for Mubarak to see the light which sparked it. By Friday 28 Jan the government already had blood on its hands; and the security forces, after committing atrocious crimes against protesters and then abandoning their posts – who emptied the prisons? who attacked the police stations? who if not the police is ultimately responsible? – were no longer visible. One strong response to government cronies objecting to Mubarak stepping down on the grounds that it was not in “our culture” to humiliate elders and leaders was to point out that, in that same culture of ours, the spilling of blood does not go unpunished. (To this day neither Mubarak nor those under and around him have been forgiven; they are unlikely to ever be until they are brought to justice.) References to the martyrs – another grassroots religious concept – quickly became central to the protests – and the lineage of the Revolution as a whole; its patience stretched, the mafia in charge of Egypt – is it still in charge of Egypt? – had been exposed. By the second Friday of the Revolution, following the horrendous Battle of the Camel featuring NDP militias and the coldblooded murder of protesters by as yet unidentified (but very probably State Security) operatives on Wednesday 2 Feb, non-Islamist Muslims among the protesters were reclaiming a legacy that had for the longest time been appropriated by political Islam but that should in all fairness be shared by all Muslims, including secular Muslims as well as fundamentalists: the legacy of jihad, which means not blowing yourself up to bring down America but simply fighting the good fight where and when you are able to. We all undertook jihad during the Revolution, many Muslim Brothers and some Salafis were with us not in their capacity as Islamists but as Egyptians fighting the good fight. We all practised jihad in Tahrir, but none of us were jihadis.



Already underway is the debate about the second term of the constitution, which states that legislation should be derived from the Shari’a, that Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic its official language. (Apart from personal-affairs laws which restrict private lives and have arguably contributed to sexual violence and frustration, legislation is not actually derived from Shari’a and, barring the emergence of a theocracy, is not likely to be. In the light of this and the fact that Arabic is the first language of nearly every Egyptian, I am not sure what the second term actually means.) The seculars – writers, artists, intellectuals, activists and a few enlightened men of religion – are calling for its removal in the course of ongoing or later amendments; they see the Revolution as an opportunity to build a truly non-sectarian state, cutting off political from spiritual affairs once and for all and respecting the rights of a citizen like myself to profess no religion at all while remaining fully Egyptian. Many (including, paradoxically, the Coptic clergy) feel that Islam and the language of the Quran are an essential facet of national identity and that their inclusion in the country’s  document of self-definition is a necessary shield against loss of direction, cultural (and other) invasion, and moral erosion of every kind. As late as the 1990s Islamists were actively killing seculars and seculars condoning a government they knew to be corrupt and illegitimate from the liberal-democratic standpoint simply because it actively terrorised (thereby also strengthening) Islamists. It is a credit to the Egyptian people that, while this debate goes on, while both sides feel strongly about it, no clashes have occurred at any level. The majority seems rightly aware that the priority is to establish a representative, participatory political system; and many are willing to put off resolving this particular point of contention for now. I think it is fair to say that if the majority of Egyptians want an Islamic state (whatever that means), an Islamic state is what the majority of Egyptians should get; but it is also important to remember that the second term has been used to control the religious establishment and manipulate both Islamists and seculars far more often than to uphold religious, let alone national identity. The second term should not become yet another evil spirit to be cast out, at least not yet. The second term is an opportunity for democratic interaction, for binding by oath the infinitely more evil spirit of Islamist-secular hatred and suspicion, whose only beneficiary since the 1970s has been an abusive regime despoiling the country in perpetuity.



I do not remember which of the many arrivals at Tahrir this was. We waited a very long time on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge. Arms raised, identity cards in hand, we were searched and given a loud hero’s welcome. It did not even register then, but those who checked our identities, those who apologised as they felt our pockets while others, clapping, chanted essawra bte-k-bar, “the Revolution is growing”, came in all shapes and sizes. Some had what were evidently religious beards, different kinds denoting different affiliations (Azharite, Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi). Others had pony tails or fros, or neat, military-like crew cuts. The most “westernised” worked hand in hand with the most “fundamentalist” and you did not even notice. That time a little old man who as I later found out had a communist background told us a story; he had been camping out in Tahrir for a week and last night he had had a dream. The Prophet Muhammad appeared to him, he said, in the company of unidentified Companions. There were injured protesters in the vicinity, one of whom was in his death throes, and the Prophet – bathed in light – placed his hand on the dying young man’s forehead and smiled. As is almost always the case in a dream of this kind, regarded by Muslims as the closest thing in this lifetime to an actual encounter with their Messenger, the dreamer could not see the Prophet’s face, but he watched, awe-struck, as the young man’s health visibly improved and heard the Prophet’s voice advising him and other protesters not to give up. “Victory is near,” the Prophet said, before the little old communist woke up with a smile of hope and gratitude imprinted on his face: the same smile he presented us with while we shuffled towards the statue of Omar Makram, near the Qasr Al-Nil entry point. “You look like progressive young men and I can tell you I never used to pray,” he said. “I never thought the Prophet would ever visit me in my sleep. Maybe I was not even a believer,” he muttered, eventually raising his voice with such conviction it was all I could do not to break down in tears: “Rest assured, however. We will win this battle. The Prophet Muhammad told me so.”

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سفر مَرَاثِي إِرْمِيَا

الأصحَاحُ الأَوَّلُ

1كَيْفَ جَلَسَتْ وَحْدَهَا الْمَدِينَةُ الْكَثِيرَةُ الشَّعْبِ! كَيْفَ صَارَتْ كَأَرْمَلَةٍ الْعَظِيمَةُ فِي الأُمَمِ. السَّيِّدَةُ في الْبُلْدَانِ صَارَتْ تَحْتَ الْجِزْيَةِ! 2تَبْكِي في اللَّيْلِ بُكَاءً، وَدُمُوعُهَا علَى خَدَّيْهَا. لَيْسَ لَهَا مُعَزّ مِنْ كُلِّ مُحِبِّيهَا. كُلُّ أَصْحَابِهَا غَدَرُوا بِهَا، صَارُوا لهَا أَعْدَاءً. 3قَد سُبِيَتْ يَهُوذَا مِنَ الْمَذَلَّةِ وَمِنْ كَثْرَةِ الْعُبُودِيَّةِ. هِيَ تَسْكُنُ بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ. لاَ تَجِدُ رَاحَةً. قَدْ أَدْرَكَهَا كُلُّ طَارِدِيهَا بَيْنَ الضِّيقَاتِ. 4طُرُقُ صِهْيَوْنَ نَائِحَةٌ لِعَدَمِ الآتِينَ إِلَى الْعِيدِ. كُلُّ أَبْوَابِهَا خَرِبَةٌ. كَهَنَتُهَا يَتَنَهَّدُونَ. عَذَارَاهَا مُذَلَّلَةٌ وَهِيَ فِي مَرَارَةٍ. 5صَارَ مُضَايِقُوهَا رَأْسًا. نَجَحَ أَعْدَاؤُهَا لأَنَّ الرَّبَّ قَدْ أَذَلَّهَا لأَجْلِ كَثْرَةِ ذُنُوبِهَا. ذَهَبَ أَوْلاَدُهَا إِلَى السَّبْيِ قُدَّامَ الْعَدُوِّ. 6وَقَدْ خَرَجَ مِنْ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ كُلُّ بَهَائِهَا. صَارَتْ رُؤَسَاؤُهَا كَأَيَائِلَ لاَ تَجِدُ مَرْعًى، فَيَسِيرُونَ بِلاَ قُوَّةٍ أَمَامَ الطَّارِدِ. 7قَدْ ذَكَرَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ فِي أَيَّامِ مَذَلَّتِهَا وَتَطَوُّحِهَا كُلَّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِهَا الَّتِي كَانَتْ فِي أَيَّامِ الْقِدَمِ. عِنْدَ سُقُوطِ شَعْبِهَا بِيَدِ الْعَدُوِّ وَلَيْسَ مَنْ يُسَاعِدُهَا. رَأَتْهَا الأَعْدَاءُ. ضَحِكُوا عَلَى هَلاَكِهَا. 8قَدْ أَخْطَأَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ خَطِيَّةً، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ صَارَتْ رَجِسَةً. كُلُّ مُكَرِّمِيهَا يَحْتَقِرُونَهَا لأَنَّهُمْ رَأَوْا عَوْرَتَهَا، وَهِيَ أَيْضًا تَتَنَهَّدُ وَتَرْجعُ إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ. 9نَجَاسَتُهَا فِي أَذْيَالِهَا. لَمْ تَذْكُرْ آخِرَتَهَا وَقَدِ انْحَطَّتِ انْحِطَاطًا عَجِيبًا. لَيْسَ لَهَا مُعَزّ. «انْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ إِلَى مَذَلَّتِي لأَنَّ الْعَدُوَّ قَدْ تَعَظَّمَ». 10بَسَطَ الْعَدُوُّ يَدَهُ عَلَى كُلِّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِهَا، فَإِنَّهَا رَأَتِ الأُمَمَ دَخَلُوا مَقْدِسَهَا، الَّذِينَ أَمَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ يَدْخُلُوا فِي جَمَاعَتِكَ. 11كُلُّ شَعْبِهَا يَتَنَهَّدُونَ، يَطْلُبُونَ خُبْزًا. دَفَعُوا مُشْتَهَيَاتِهِمْ لِلأَكْلِ لأَجْلِ رَدِّ النَّفْسِ. «انْظُرْ يَارَبُّ وَتَطَلَّعْ لأَنِّي قَدْ صِرْتُ مُحْتَقَرَةً».

12«أَمَا إِلَيْكُمْ يَا جَمِيعَ عَابِرِي الطَّرِيقِ؟ تَطَلَّعُوا وَانْظُرُوا إِنْ كَانَ حُزْنٌ مِثْلُ حُزْنِي الَّذِي صُنِعَ بِي، الَّذِي أَذَلَّنِي بِهِ الرَّبُّ يَوْمَ حُمُوِّ غَضَبِهِ؟ 13مِنَ الْعَلاَءِ أَرْسَلَ نَارًا إِلَى عِظَامِي فَسَرَتْ فِيهَا. بَسَطَ شَبَكَةً لِرِجْلَيَّ. رَدَّنِي إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ. جَعَلَنِي خَرِبَةً. الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ مَغْمُومَةً. 14شَدَّ نِيرَ ذُنُوبِي بِيَدِهِ، ضُفِرَتْ، صَعِدَتْ عَلَى عُنُقِي. نَزَعَ قُوَّتِي. دَفَعَنِي السَّيِّدُ إِلَى أَيْدٍ لاَ أَسْتَطِيعُ الْقِيَامَ مِنْهَا. 15رَذَلَ السَّيِّدُ كُلَّ مُقْتَدِرِيَّ فِي وَسَطِي. دَعَا عَلَيَّ جَمَاعَةً لِحَطْمِ شُبَّانِي. دَاسَ السَّيِّدُ الْعَذْرَاءَ بِنْتَ يَهُوذَا مِعْصَرَةً. 16عَلَى هذِهِ أَنَا بَاكِيَةٌ. عَيْنِي، عَيْنِي تَسْكُبُ مِيَاهًا لأَنَّهُ قَدِ ابْتَعَدَ عَنِّي الْمُعَزِّي، رَادُّ نَفْسِي. صَارَ بَنِيَّ هَالِكِينَ لأَنَّهُ قَدْ تَجَبَّرَ الْعَدُوُّ».

17بَسَطَتْ صِهْيَوْنُ يَدَيْهَا. لاَ مُعَزِّيَ لَهَا. أَمَرَ الرَّبُّ عَلَى يَعْقُوبَ أَنْ يَكُونَ مُضَايِقُوهُ حَوَالَيْهِ. صَارَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ نَجِسَةً بَيْنَهُمْ. 18«بَارٌّ هُوَ الرَّبُّ لأَنِّي قَدْ عَصَيْتُ أَمْرَهُ. اسْمَعُوا يَا جَمِيعَ الشُّعُوبِ وَانْظُرُوا إِلَى حُزْنِي. عَذَارَايَ وَشُبَّانِي ذَهَبُوا إِلَى السَّبْيِ. 19نَادَيْتُ مُحِبِّيَّ. هُمْ خَدَعُونِي. كَهَنَتِي وَشُيُوخِي فِي الْمَدِينَةِ مَاتُوا، إِذْ طَلَبُوا لِذَوَاتِهِمْ طَعَامًا لِيَرُدُّوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ. 20انْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ، فَإِنِّي فِي ضِيق! أَحْشَائِي غَلَتْ. ارْتَدَّ قَلْبِي فِي بَاطِنِي لأَنِّي قَدْ عَصَيْتُ مُتَمَرِّدَةً. فِي الْخَارِجِ يَثْكُلُ السَّيْفُ، وَفِي الْبَيْتِ مِثْلُ الْمَوْتِ. 21سَمِعُوا أَنِّي تَنَهَّدْتُ. لاَ مُعَزِّيَ لِي. كُلُّ أَعْدَائِي سَمِعُوا بِبَلِيَّتِي. فَرِحُوا لأَنَّكَ فَعَلْتَ. تَأْتِي بِالْيَوْمِ الَّذِي نَادَيْتَ بِهِ فَيَصِيرُونَ مِثْلِي. 22لِيَأْتِ كُلُّ شَرِّهِمْ أَمَامَكَ. وَافْعَلْ بِهِمْ كَمَا فَعَلْتَ بِي مِنْ أَجْلِ كُلِّ ذُنُوبِي، لأَنَّ تَنَهُّدَاتِي كَثِيرَةٌ وَقَلْبِي مَغْشِيٌّ عَلَيْهِ».

الأصحَاحُ الثَّانِي

1كَيْفَ غَطَّى السَّيِّدُ بِغَضَبِهِ ابْنَةَ صِهْيَوْنَ بِالظَّلاَمِ! أَلْقَى مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَخْرَ إِسْرَائِيلَ، وَلَمْ يَذْكُرْ مَوْطِئَ قَدَمَيْهِ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِهِ. 2ابْتَلَعَ السَّيِّدُ وَلَمْ يَشْفِقْ كُلَّ مَسَاكِنِ يَعْقُوبَ. نَقَضَ بِسَخَطِهِ حُصُونَ بِنْتِ يَهُوذَا. أَوْصَلَهَا إِلَى الأَرْضِ. نَجَّسَ الْمَمْلَكَةَ وَرُؤَسَاءَهَا. 3عَضَبَ بِحُمُوِّ غَضَبِهِ كُلَّ قَرْنٍ لإِسْرَائِيلَ. رَدَّ إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ يَمِينَهُ أَمَامَ الْعَدُوِّ، وَاشْتَعَلَ فِي يَعْقُوبَ مِثْلَ نَارٍ مُلْتَهِبَةٍ تَأْكُلُ مَا حَوَالَيْهَا. 4مَدَّ قَوْسَهُ كَعَدُوٍّ. نَصَبَ يَمِينَهُ كَمُبْغِضٍ وَقَتَلَ كُلَّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِ الْعَيْنِ فِي خِبَاءِ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ. سَكَبَ كَنَارٍ غَيْظَهُ. 5صَارَ السَّيِّدُ كَعَدُوٍّ. ابْتَلَعَ إِسْرَائِيلَ. ابْتَلَعَ كُلَّ قُصُورِهِ. أَهْلَكَ حُصُونَهُ، وَأَكْثَرَ فِي بِنْتِ يَهُوذَا النَّوْحَ وَالْحُزْنَ. 6وَنَزَعَ كَمَا مِنْ جَنَّةٍ مَظَلَّتَهُ. أَهْلَكَ مُجْتَمَعَهُ. أَنْسَى الرَّبُّ فِي صِهْيَوْنَ الْمَوْسِمَ وَالسَّبْتَ، وَرَذَلَ بِسَخَطِ غَضَبِهِ الْمَلِكَ وَالْكَاهِنَ. 7كَرِهَ السَّيِّدُ مَذْبَحَهُ. رَذَلَ مَقْدِسَهُ. حَصَرَ فِي يَدِ الْعَدُوِّ أَسْوَارَ قُصُورِهَا. أَطْلَقُوا الصَّوْتَ فِي بَيْتِ الرَّبِّ كَمَا فِي يَوْمِ الْمَوْسِمِ. 8قَصَدَ الرَّبُّ أَنْ يُهْلِكَ سُورَ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ. مَدَّ الْمِطْمَارَ. لَمْ يَرْدُدْ يَدَهُ عَنِ الإِهْلاَكِ، وَجَعَلَ الْمِتْرَسَةَ وَالسُّورَ يَنُوحَانِ. قَدْ حَزِنَا مَعًا. 9تَاخَتْ فِي الأَرْضِ أَبْوَابُهَا. أَهْلَكَ وَحَطَّمَ عَوَارِضَهَا. مَلِكُهَا وَرُؤَسَاؤُهَا بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ. لاَ شَرِيعَةَ. أَنْبِيَاؤُهَا أَيْضًا لاَ يَجِدُونَ رُؤْيَا مِنْ قِبَلِ الرَّبِّ. 10شُيُوخُ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ يَجْلِسُونَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ سَاكِتِينَ. يَرْفَعُونَ التُّرَابَ عَلَى رُؤُوسِهِمْ. يَتَنَطَّقُونَ بِالْمُسُوحِ. تَحْنِي عَذَارَى أُورُشَلِيمَ رُؤُوسَهُنَّ إِلَى الأَرْضِ. 11كَلَّتْ مِنَ الدُّمُوعِ عَيْنَايَ. غَلَتْ أَحْشَائِي. انْسَكَبَتْ عَلَى الأَرْضِ كَبِدِي عَلَى سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي، لأَجْلِ غَشَيَانِ الأَطْفَالِ وَالرُّضَّعِ فِي سَاحَاتِ الْقَرْيَةِ. 12يَقُولُونَ لأُمَّهَاتِهِمْ: «أَيْنَ الْحِنْطَةُ وَالْخَمْرُ؟» إِذْ يُغْشَى عَلَيْهِمْ كَجَرِيحٍ فِي سَاحَاتِ الْمَدِينَةِ، إِذْ تُسْكَبُ نَفْسُهُمْ فِي أَحْضَانِ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ. 13بِمَاذَا أُنْذِرُكِ؟ بِمَاذَا أُحَذِّرُكِ؟ بِمَاذَا أُشَبِّهُكِ يَا ابْنَةَ أُورُشَلِيمَ؟ بِمَاذَا أُقَايِسُكِ فَأُعَزِّيكِ أَيَّتُهَا الْعَذْرَاءُ بِنْتَ صِهْيَوْنَ؟ لأَنَّ سَحْقَكِ عَظِيمٌ كَالْبَحْرِ. مَنْ يَشْفِيكِ؟ 14أَنْبِيَاؤُكِ رَأَوْا لَكِ كَذِبًا وَبَاطِلاً، وَلَمْ يُعْلِنُوا إِثْمَكِ لِيَرُدُّوا سَبْيَكِ، بَلْ رَأَوْا لَكِ وَحْيًا كَاذِبًا وَطَوَائِحَ. 15يُصَفِّقُ عَلَيْكِ بِالأَيَادِي كُلُّ عَابِرِي الطَّرِيقِ. يَصْفِرُونَ وَيَنْغُضُونَ رُؤُوسَهُمْ عَلَى بِنْتِ أُورُشَلِيمَ قَائِلِينَ: «أَهذِهِ هِيَ الْمَدِينَةُ الَّتِي يَقُولُونَ إِنَّهَا كَمَالُ الْجَمَالِ، بَهْجَةُ كُلِّ الأَرْضِ؟» 16يَفْتَحُ عَلَيْكِ أَفْوَاهَهُمْ كُلُّ أَعْدَائِكِ. يَصْفِرُونَ وَيَحْرِقُونَ الأَسْنَانَ. يَقُولُونَ: «قَدْ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا. حَقًّا إِنَّ هذَا الْيَوْمَ الَّذِي رَجَوْنَاهُ. قَدْ وَجَدْنَاهُ! قَدْ رَأَيْنَاهُ». 17فَعَلَ الرَّبُّ مَا قَصَدَ. تَمَّمَ قَوْلَهُ الَّذِي أَوْعَدَ بِهِ مُنْذُ أَيَّامِ الْقِدَمِ. قَدْ هَدَمَ وَلَمْ يَشْفِقْ وَأَشْمَتَ بِكِ الْعَدُوَّ. نَصَبَ قَرْنَ أَعْدَائِكِ. 18صَرَخَ قَلْبُهُمْ إِلَى السَّيِّدِ. يَا سُورَ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ اسْكُبِي الدَّمْعَ كَنَهْرٍ نَهَارًا وَلَيْلاً. لاَ تُعْطِي ذَاتَكِ رَاحَةً. لاَ تَكُفَّ حَدَقَةُ عَيْنِكِ. 19قُومِي اهْتِفِي فِي اللَّيْلِ فِي أَوَّلِ الْهُزُعِ. اسْكُبِي كَمِيَاهٍ قَلْبَكِ قُبَالَةَ وَجْهِ السَّيِّدِ. ارْفَعِي إِلَيْهِ يَدَيْكِ لأَجْلِ نَفْسِ أَطْفَالِكِ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ الْجُوعِ فِي رَأْسِ كُلِّ شَارِعٍ.

20«اُنْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ وَتَطَلَّعْ بِمَنْ فَعَلْتَ هكَذَا؟ أَتَأْكُلُ النِّسَاءُ ثَمَرَهُنَّ، أَطْفَالَ الْحَضَانَةِ؟ أَيُقْتَلُ فِي مَقْدِسِ السَّيِّدِ الْكَاهِنُ وَالنَّبِيُّ؟ 21اضْطَجَعَتْ عَلَى الأَرْضِ فِي الشَّوَارِعِ الصِّبْيَانُ وَالشُّيُوخُ. عَذَارَايَ وَشُبَّانِي سَقَطُوا بِالسَّيْفِ. قَدْ قَتَلْتَ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِكَ. ذَبَحْتَ وَلَمْ تَشْفِقْ. 22قَدْ دَعَوْتَ كَمَا فِي يَوْمِ مَوْسِمٍ مَخَاوِفِي حَوَالَيَّ، فَلَمْ يَكُنْ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِ الرَّبِّ نَاجٍ وَلاَ بَاق. اَلَّذِينَ حَضَنْتُهُمْ وَرَبَّيْتُهُمْ أَفْنَاهُمْ عَدُوِّي».

الأصحَاحُ الثَّالِثُ

1أَنَا هُوَ الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي رأَى مَذَلَّةً بِقَضِيبِ سَخَطِهِ. 2قَادَنِي وَسَيَّرَنِي فِي الظَّلاَمِ وَلاَ نُورَ. 3حَقًّا إِنَّهُ يَعُودُ وَيَرُدُّ عَلَيَّ يَدَهُ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 4أَبْلَى لَحْمِي وَجِلْدِي. كَسَّرَ عِظَامِي. 5بَنَى عَلَيَّ وَأَحَاطَنِي بِعَلْقَمٍ وَمَشَقَّةٍ. 6أَسْكَنَنِي فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ كَمَوْتَى الْقِدَمِ. 7سَيَّجَ عَلَيَّ فَلاَ أَسْتَطِيعُ الْخُرُوجَ. ثَقَّلَ سِلْسِلَتِي. 8أَيْضًا حِينَ أَصْرُخُ وَأَسْتَغِيثُ يَصُدُّ صَلاَتِي. 9سَيَّجَ طُرُقِي بِحِجَارَةٍ مَنْحُوتَةٍ. قَلَبَ سُبُلِي. 10هُوَ لِي دُبٌّ كَامِنٌ، أَسَدٌ فِي مَخَابِىءَ. 11مَيَّلَ طُرُقِي وَمَزَّقَنِي. جَعَلَنِي خَرَابًا. 12مَدَّ قَوْسَهُ وَنَصَبَنِي كَغَرَضٍ لِلسَّهْمِ. 13أَدْخَلَ فِي كُلْيَتَيَّ نِبَالَ جُعْبَتِهِ. 14صِرْتُ ضُحْكَةً لِكُلِّ شَعْبِي، وَأُغْنِيَةً لَهُمُ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 15أَشْبَعَنِي مَرَائِرَ وَأَرْوَانِي أَفْسَنْتِينًا، 16وَجَرَشَ بِالْحَصَى أَسْنَانِي. كَبَسَنِي بِالرَّمَادِ. 17وَقَدْ أَبْعَدْتَ عَنِ السَّلاَمِ نَفْسِي. نَسِيتُ الْخَيْرَ. 18وَقُلْتُ: «بَادَتْ ثِقَتِي وَرَجَائِي مِنَ الرَّبِّ». 19ذِكْرُ مَذَلَّتِي وَتَيَهَانِي أَفْسَنْتِينٌ وَعَلْقَمٌ. 20ذِكْرًا تَذْكُرُ نَفْسِي وَتَنْحَنِي فِيَّ.

21أُرَدِّدُ هذَا فِي قَلْبِي، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ أَرْجُو: 22إِنَّهُ مِنْ إِحْسَانَاتِ الرَّبِّ أَنَّنَا لَمْ نَفْنَ، لأَنَّ مَرَاحِمَهُ لاَ تَزُولُ. 23هِيَ جَدِيدَةٌ فِي كُلِّ صَبَاحٍ. كَثِيرَةٌ أَمَانَتُكَ. 24نَصِيبِي هُوَ الرَّبُّ، قَالَتْ نَفْسِي، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ أَرْجُوهُ. 25طَيِّبٌ هُوَ الرَّبُّ لِلَّذِينَ يَتَرَجَّوْنَهُ، لِلنَّفْسِ الَّتِي تَطْلُبُهُ. 26جَيِّدٌ أَنْ يَنْتَظِرَ الإِنْسَانُ وَيَتَوَقَّعَ بِسُكُوتٍ خَلاَصَ الرَّبِّ. 27جَيِّدٌ لِلرَّجُلِ أَنْ يَحْمِلَ النِّيرَ فِي صِبَاهُ. 28يَجْلِسُ وَحْدَهُ وَيَسْكُتُ، لأَنَّهُ قَدْ وَضَعَهُ عَلَيْهِ. 29يَجْعَلُ فِي التُّرَابِ فَمَهُ لَعَلَّهُ يُوجَدُ رَجَاءٌ. 30يُعْطِي خَدَّهُ لِضَارِبِهِ. يَشْبَعُ عَارًا. 31لأَنَّ السَّيِّدَ لاَ يَرْفُضُ إِلَى الأَبَدِ. 32فَإِنَّهُ وَلَوْ أَحْزَنَ يَرْحَمُ حَسَبَ كَثْرَةِ مَرَاحِمِهِ. 33لأَنَّهُ لاَ يُذِلُّ مِنْ قَلْبِهِ، وَلاَ يُحْزِنُ بَنِي الإِنْسَانِ. 34أَنْ يَدُوسَ أَحَدٌ تَحْتَ رِجْلَيْهِ كُلَّ أَسْرَى الأَرْضِ، 35أَنْ يُحَرِّفَ حَقَّ الرَّجُلِ أَمَامَ وَجْهِ الْعَلِيِّ، 36أَنْ يَقْلِبَ الإِنْسَانَ فِي دَعْوَاهُ. السَّيِّدُ لاَ يَرَى! 37مَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَقُولُ فَيَكُونَ وَالرَّبُّ لَمْ يَأْمُرْ؟ 38مِنْ فَمِ الْعَلِيِّ أَلاَ تَخْرُجُ الشُّرُورُ وَالْخَيْرُ؟

39لِمَاذَا يَشْتَكِي الإِنْسَانُ الْحَيُّ، الرَّجُلُ مِنْ قِصَاصِ خَطَايَاهُ؟ 40لِنَفْحَصْ طُرُقَنَا وَنَمْتَحِنْهَا وَنَرْجعْ إِلَى الرَّبِّ. 41لِنَرْفَعْ قُلُوبَنَا وَأَيْدِيَنَا إِلَى اللهِ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ: 42«نَحْنُ أَذْنَبْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا. أَنْتَ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ. 43الْتَحَفْتَ بِالْغَضَبِ وَطَرَدْتَنَا. قَتَلْتَ وَلَمْ تَشْفِقْ. 44الْتَحَفْتَ بِالسَّحَابِ حَتَّى لاَ تَنْفُذَ الصَّلاَةُ. 45جَعَلْتَنَا وَسَخًا وَكَرْهًا فِي وَسَطِ الشُّعُوبِ. 46فَتَحَ كُلُّ أَعْدَائِنَا أَفْوَاهَهُمْ عَلَيْنَا. 47صَارَ عَلَيْنَا خَوْفٌ وَرُعْبٌ، هَلاَكٌ وَسَحْقٌ». 48سَكَبَتْ عَيْنَايَ يَنَابِيعَ مَاءٍ عَلَى سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي. 49عَيْنِي تَسْكُبُ وَلاَ تَكُفُّ بِلاَ انْقِطَاعٍ 50حَتَّى يُشْرِفَ وَيَنْظُرَ الرَّبُّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ. 51عَيْنِي تُؤَثِّرُ فِي نَفْسِي لأَجْلِ كُلِّ بَنَاتِ مَدِينَتِي. 52قَدِ اصْطَادَتْنِي أَعْدَائِي كَعُصْفُورٍ بِلاَ سَبَبٍ. 53قَرَضُوا فِي الْجُبِّ حَيَاتِي وَأَلْقَوْا عَلَيَّ حِجَارَةً. 54طَفَتِ الْمِيَاهُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي. قُلْتُ: «قَدْ قُرِضْتُ!».

55دَعَوْتُ بِاسْمِكَ يَا رَبُّ مِنَ الْجُبِّ الأَسْفَلِ. 56لِصَوْتِي سَمِعْتَ: «لاَ تَسْتُرْ أُذُنَكَ عَنْ زَفْرَتِي، عَنْ صِيَاحِي». 57دَنَوْتَ يَوْمَ دَعَوْتُكَ. قُلْتَ: «لاَ تَخَفْ!». 58خَاصَمْتَ يَا سَيِّدُ خُصُومَاتِ نَفْسِي. فَكَكْتَ حَيَاتِي. 59رَأَيْتَ يَا رَبُّ ظُلْمِي. أَقِمْ دَعْوَايَ. 60رَأَيْتَ كُلَّ نَقْمَتِهِمْ، كُلَّ أَفْكَارِهِمْ عَلَيَّ. 61سَمِعْتَ تَعْيِيرَهُمْ يَا رَبُّ، كُلَّ أَفْكَارِهِمْ عَلَيَّ. 62كَلاَمُ مُقَاوِمِيَّ وَمُؤَامَرَتُهُمْ عَلَيَّ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 63اُنْظُرْ إِلَى جُلُوسِهِمْ وَوُقُوفِهِمْ، أَنَا أُغْنِيَتُهُمْ!

64رُدَّ لَهُمْ جَزَاءً يَا رَبُّ حَسَبَ عَمَلِ أَيَادِيهِمْ. 65أَعْطِهِمْ غِشَاوَةَ قَلْبٍ، لَعْنَتَكَ لَهُمْ. 66اِتْبَعْ بِالْغَضَبِ وَأَهْلِكْهُمْ مِنْ تَحْتِ سَمَاوَاتِ الرَّبِّ.

الأصحَاحُ الرَّابعُ

1كَيْفَ اكْدَرَّ الذَّهَبُ، تَغَيَّرَ الإِبْرِيزُ الْجَيِّدُ! انْهَالَتْ حِجَارَةُ الْقُدْسِ فِي رَأْسِ كُلِّ شَارِعٍ. 2بَنُو صِهْيَوْنَ الْكُرَمَاءُ الْمَوْزُونُونَ بِالذَّهَبِ النَّقِيِّ، كَيْفَ حُسِبُوا أَبَارِيقَ خَزَفٍ عَمَلَ يَدَيْ فَخَّارِيٍّ! 3بَنَاتُ آوَى أَيْضًا أَخْرَجَتْ أَطْبَاءَهَا، أَرْضَعَتْ أَجْرَاءَهَا. أَمَّا بِنْتُ شَعْبِي فَجَافِيَةٌ كَالنَّعَامِ فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ. 4لَصِقَ لِسَانُ الرَّاضِعِ بِحَنَكِهِ مِنَ الْعَطَشِ. اَلأَطْفَالُ يَسْأَلُونَ خُبْزًا وَلَيْسَ مَنْ يَكْسِرُهُ لَهُمْ. 5اَلَّذِينَ كَانُوا يَأْكُلُونَ الْمَآكِلَ الْفَاخِرَةَ قَدْ هَلِكُوا فِي الشَّوَارِعِ. الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يَتَرَبَّوْنَ عَلَى الْقِرْمِزِ احْتَضَنُوا الْمَزَابِلَ. 6وَقَدْ صَارَ عِقَابُ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي أَعْظَمَ مِنْ قِصَاصِ خَطِيَّةِ سَدُومَ الَّتِي انْقَلَبَتْ كَأَنَّهُ فِي لَحْظَةٍ، وَلَمْ تُلْقَ عَلَيْهَا أَيَادٍ. 7كَانَ نُذُرُهَا أَنْقَى مِنَ الثَّلْجِ وَأَكْثَرَ بَيَاضًا مِنَ اللَّبَنِ، وَأَجْسَامُهُمْ أَشَدَّ حُمْرَةً مِنَ الْمَرْجَانِ. جَرَزُهُمْ كَالْيَاقُوتِ الأَزْرَقِ. 8صَارَتْ صُورَتُهُمْ أَشَدَّ ظَلاَمًا مِنَ السَّوَادِ. لَمْ يُعْرَفُوا فِي الشَّوَارِعِ. لَصِقَ جِلْدُهُمْ بِعَظْمِهِمْ. صَارَ يَابِسًا كَالْخَشَبِ. 9كَانَتْ قَتْلَى السَّيْفِ خَيْرًا مِنْ قَتْلَى الْجُوعِ. لأَنَّ هؤُلاَءِ يَذُوبُونَ مَطْعُونِينَ لِعَدَمِ أَثْمَارِ الْحَقْلِ. 10أَيَادِي النِّسَاءِ الْحَنَائِنِ طَبَخَتْ أَوْلاَدَهُنَّ. صَارُوا طَعَامًا لَهُنَّ فِي سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي. 11أَتَمَّ الرَّبُّ غَيْظَهُ. سَكَبَ حُمُوَّ غَضَبِهِ وَأَشْعَلَ نَارًا فِي صِهْيَوْنَ فَأَكَلَتْ أُسُسَهَا. 12لَمْ تُصَدِّقْ مُلُوكُ الأَرْضِ وَكُلُّ سُكَّانِ الْمَسْكُونَةِ أَنَّ الْعَدُوَّ وَالْمُبْغِضَ يَدْخُلاَنِ أَبْوَابَ أُورُشَلِيمَ.

13مِنْ أَجْلِ خَطَايَا أَنْبِيَائِهَا، وَآثَامِ كَهَنَتِهَا السَّافِكِينَ فِي وَسَطِهَا دَمَ الصِّدِّيقِينَ، 14تَاهُوا كَعُمْيٍ فِي الشَّوَارِعِ، وَتَلَطَّخُوا بِالدَّمِ حَتَّى لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ أَحَدٌ أَنْ يَمَسَّ مَلاَبِسَهُمْ. 15«حِيدُوا! نَجِسٌ!» يُنَادُونَ إِلَيْهِمْ. «حِيدُوا! حِيدُوا لاَ تَمَسُّوا!». إِذْ هَرَبُوا تَاهُوا أَيْضًا. قَالُوا بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ: «إِنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعُودُونَ يَسْكُنُونَ». 16وَجْهُ الرَّبِّ قَسَمَهُمْ. لاَ يَعُودُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهِمْ. لَمْ يَرْفَعُوا وُجُوهَ الْكَهَنَةِ، وَلَمْ يَتَرَأ َّ فُوا عَلَى الشُّيُوخِ. 17أَمَّا نَحْنُ فَقَدْ كَلَّتْ أَعْيُنُنَا مِنَ النَّظَرِ إِلَى عَوْنِنَا الْبَاطِلِ. فِي بُرْجِنَا انْتَظَرْنَا أُمَّةً لاَ تُخَلِّصُ. 18نَصَبُوا فِخَاخًا لِخَطَوَاتِنَا حَتَّى لاَ نَمْشِيَ فِي سَاحَاتِنَا. قَرُبَتْ نِهَايَتُنَا. كَمُلَتْ أَيَّامُنَا لأَنَّ نِهَايَتَنَا قَدْ أَتَتْ. 19صَارَ طَارِدُونَا أَخَفَّ مِنْ نُسُورِ السَّمَاءِ. عَلَى الْجِبَالِ جَدُّوا فِي أَثَرِنَا. فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ كَمَنُوا لَنَا. 20نَفَسُ أُنُوفِنَا، مَسِيحُ الرَّبِّ، أُخِذَ فِي حُفَرِهِمِ. الَّذِي قُلْنَا عَنْهُ: « فِي ظِلِّهِ نَعِيشُ بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ».

21اِطْرَبِي وَافْرَحِي يَا بِنْتَ أَدُومَ، يَا سَاكِنَةَ عَوْصٍ. عَلَيْكِ أَيْضًا تَمُرُّ الْكَأْسُ. تَسْكَرِينَ وَتَتَعَرَّينَ.

22قَدْ تَمَّ إِثْمُكِ يَا بِنْتَ صِهْيَوْنَ. لاَ يَعُودُ يَسْبِيكِ. سَيُعَاقِبُ إِثْمَكِ يَا بِنْتَ أَدُومَ وَيُعْلِنُ خَطَايَاكِ.

الأصحَاحُ الْخَامِسُ

1اُذْكُرْ يَا رَبُّ مَاذَا صَارَ لَنَا. أَشْرِفْ وَانْظُرْ إِلَى عَارِنَا. 2قَدْ صَارَ مِيرَاثُنَا لِلْغُرَبَاءِ. بُيُوتُنَا لِلأَجَانِبِ. 3صِرْنَا أَيْتَامًا بِلاَ أَبٍ. أُمَّهَاتُنَا كَأَرَامِلَ. 4شَرِبْنَا مَاءَنَا بِالْفِضَّةِ. حَطَبُنَا بِالثَّمَنِ يَأْتِي. 5عَلَى أَعْنَاقِنَا نُضْطَهَدُ. نَتْعَبُ وَلاَ رَاحَةَ لَنَا. 6أَعْطَيْنَا الْيَدَ لِلْمِصْرِيِّينَ وَالأَشُّورِيِّينَ لِنَشْبَعَ خُبْزًا. 7آبَاؤُنَا أَخْطَأُوا وَلَيْسُوا بِمَوْجُودِينَ، وَنَحْنُ نَحْمِلُ آثَامَهُمْ. 8عَبِيدٌ حَكَمُوا عَلَيْنَا. لَيْسَ مَنْ يُخَلِّصُ مِنْ أَيْدِيهِمْ. 9بِأَنْفُسِنَا نَأْتِي بِخُبْزِنَا مِنْ جَرَى سَيْفِ الْبَرِّيَّةِ. 10جُلُودُنَا اسْوَدَّتْ كَتَنُّورٍ مِنْ جَرَى نِيرَانِ الْجُوعِ. 11أَذَلُّوا النِّسَاءَ فِي صِهْيَوْنَ، الْعَذَارَى فِي مُدُنِ يَهُوذَا. 12الرُّؤَسَاءُ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ يُعَلَّقُونَ، وَلَمْ تُعْتَبَرْ وُجُوهُ الشُّيُوخِ. 13أَخَذُوا الشُّبَّانَ لِلطَّحْنِ، وَالصِّبْيَانَ عَثَرُوا تَحْتَ الْحَطَبِ. 14كَفَّتِ الشُّيُوخُ عَنِ الْبَابِ، وَالشُّبَّانُ عَنْ غِنَائِهِمْ. 15مَضَى فَرَحُ قَلْبِنَا. صَارَ رَقْصُنَا نَوْحًا. 16سَقَطَ إِكْلِيلُ رَأْسِنَا. وَيْلٌ لَنَا لأَنَّنَا قَدْ أَخْطَأْنَا. 17مِنْ أَجْلِ هذَا حَزِنَ قَلْبُنَا. مِنْ أَجْلِ هذِهِ أَظْلَمَتْ عُيُونُنَا. 18مِنْ أَجْلِ جَبَلِ صِهْيَوْنَ الْخَرِبِ. الثَّعَالِبُ مَاشِيَةٌ فِيهِ. 19أَنْتَ يَا رَبُّ إِلَى الأَبَدِ تَجْلِسُ. كُرْسِيُّكَ إِلَى دَوْرٍ فَدَوْرٍ. 20لِمَاذَا تَنْسَانَا إِلَى الأَبَدِ وَتَتْرُكُنَا طُولَ الأَيَّامِ؟ 21اُرْدُدْنَا يَا رَبُّ إِلَيْكَ فَنَرْتَدَّ. جَدِّدْ أَيَّامَنَا كَالْقَدِيمِ. 22هَلْ كُلَّ الرَّفْضِ رَفَضْتَنَا؟ هَلْ غَضِبْتَ عَلَيْنَا جِدًّا؟

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تسعة عشر بيتاً من التائية الكبرى

ولا غروَ أن سُدْتُ الألَى سبقوا ، أو قدْ *** تمسَّكتُ ، من طهَ ، بأوثقِ عُروةِ

عليها مجازيُّ سلامي ، فإنَّما *** حقيقتُهُ منِّي إلَّيّ تحيَّتي

وأطيبُ ما فيها وجدتُ بِمبتدا *** غرامي ، وقدْ أبدَى بِهَا كلَّ نذرةِ

ظهوري ، وقدْ أخفيتُ حاليَ مُنشداً *** بها ، طرباً ، والحالُ غيرُ خفيَّةِ

بدتْ ، فرأيتُ الحزمَ في نقضِ توبتي، *** وقامَ بها عندَ النُّهى عُذرُ مِحنتي

فَمنها أماني منْ ضَنى جسدي بِها، *** أمانيُّ آمالٍ سَخَتْ ، ثمَّ شحَّتِ

وفيها تلافي الجسمِ ، بالُّسقمِ صحَّةِ *** له ، وتلافُ الَّنفسِ نفسُ الفتوَّةِ

ومَوتي بِها ، وَجداً ، حياةٌ هنيئةٌ، *** وإنْ لم أمُتْ في الحبِّ عِشتُ بغُصّةِ

فيا مُهجتي ذوبي جَوىً وصبابةً، *** ويا لوعَتي كوني ، كذاكَ ، مُذيبتي

ويا نارَ أحشائي أقيمي ، مِنَ الجوَى، *** حَنايَا ضُلوعي ، فهيَ غيرُ قويمةِ

ويا حُسنَ صبري ، في رِضى من أُحبُّها، *** تجمَّل ، وكن للدَّهرِ بي غيرَ مُشمِتِ

ويا جَلَدي ، في جنبِ طاعةِ حُبِّها، *** تحمَّل ، عَداَكَ الكَلُّ ، كُلَّ عظيمةِ

ويا جسَدي المُضنَى تسَلَّ عن الشِّفَا، *** ويا كبِدي ، مَنْ لي بأنْ تتَفتَّتي

ويا سقَمي لا تُبْقِ لي رَمقاً ، فقدْ *** أبيتُ ، لبُقيا العِزِّ ، ذُلَّ البقيَّةِ

ويا صحَّتي ، ما كانَ من صُحبتي انْقضى، *** ووصلُك في الأحشاءِ ميتاً كهجرَةِ

ويا كُلَّ ما أبقَى الضَّنى منِّي ارتحِلْ، *** فما لَكَ مأوىً في عظامٍ رميمةِ

ويا ما عسَى منِّي أُناجي ، توهُّماً *** بياءِ النّدا ، أُونِستُ منكَ بوحشةِ

وكلُّ الَّذي ترضاهُ ، والموتُ دونَهُ، *** بهِ أنا راضٍ ، والصَّبابةُ أرضَتِ

ونفسيَ لمْ تجزَعْ باتلافهَا أسىً، *** ولو جَزِعَتْ كانت بغيري تأسَّتِ

وفي كُلِّ حيٍّ كلُّ حيٍّ كَميِّتٍ *** بها ، عندَهُ قتْلُ الهوى خيرُ مَوْتَهِ

Ibn al-Farid’s father moved from his native town, Hama in Syria, to Cairowhere he Umar was born. Some sources say that his father was a respected farid (an advocate for women’s causes) and others say that his profession was the allocation of shares (furūḍ) in cases of inheritance. Whichever is the case, Ibn al-Farid’s father was a knowledgeable scholar and gave his son a good foundation in belles lettres.

When he was a young man Ibn al-Farid would go on extended spiritual retreats among the oases, specifically the Oasis of the Wretches (Wadi al-Mustad’afin), outside of Cairo, but he eventually felt that he was not making deep enough spiritual progress. He abandoned his spiritual wanderings and enteredlaw school studying in the shafi’i school of law.

One day Ibn al-Farid saw a greengrocer performing the ritual Muslim ablutions outside the door of the law school, but the man was doing them out of the prescribed order. When Ibn al-Farid tried to correct him, the greengrocer looked at him and said, “Umar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will be enlightened only in the Hijaz, in Mecca…”

Umar Ibn al-Farid was stunned by this statement, seeing that this simple greengrocer was no ordinary man. But he argued that he couldn’t possibly make the trip to Mecca right away. Then the man gave Ibn al-Farid a vision, in that very moment, of Mecca. Ibn al-Farid was so transfixed by this experience that he left immediately for Mecca and, in his own words, “Then as I entered it, enlightenment came to me wave after wave and never left.”

Shaykh Umar Ibn al-Farid stayed in Mecca for fifteen years, but eventually returned to Cairo because he heard the same greengrocer calling him back to attend his funeral. Upon return, he found the greengrocer on the point of death and they wished each other farewell.

Upon Ibn al-Farid’s return to Cairo, he was treated as a Saint. He would hold teaching sessions with judges, viziers and other leaders of the city. While walking down the street, people would come up to him and crowd around him, seeking spiritual blessings (barakah) and try to kiss his hand (he would respond by shaking their hand). Ibn al-Farid became a scholar of Muslim law, a teacher of the hadith (the traditions surrounding the sayings and life of the prophet Muhammad), and a teacher of poetry.

Unlike many other respected poets of the day such as Ibn Sana al-Mulk, Ibn Unayn, Baha al-Din Zuhayr and Ibn Matruh, Ibn al-Farid refused the patronage of wealthy governmental figures which would have required him to produce poetry for propaganda, preferring the relatively humble life of a teacher that allowed him to compose his poetry of enlightenment unhampered. One time al-Malik al-Kamil, who was the Ayubbid sultan at that time, liked sone of his odes so much that he sent the poet an exorbitant amount of money and offered to build a shrine for him. Ibn al-Farid denied both the money and the offer of the shrine, choosing to trust in God to supply for his needs. His position as a teacher at the Azharmosque allowed him to provide for his family, which included three children.

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