Sunday 13 March 2016

Contextual Notes to 'Conversazione'

[1] The Romans quaffed celebratory wine prepared from rose and violet petals and honey.a  Thirteenth century apothecaries sold crystalised violets, roses and lilies to be steeped in sweet hot water as a laxative. Violet flavoured candies were sold in decorated tins in Paris since the nineteenth century and also dusted on pastries as sugar crystals.b 

[2] I love no meat but Ortolans, and no women but you. Tho indeed that's no proper comparison but for fatt Dutchesses; For to love you is as if one should wish to Eat Angels, or drink Cherubim-Broath.

Alexander Pope. To Teresa & Martha Blount, 13th September 1717. The Correspondence of Alexander Pope: i. Edited by George Sherburn. 5 Vols, (Oxford University Press, 1956).

[3] Proclus (412 – 485), one of the last of the Neoplatonist philosophers and commentator on Plato writes ‘…the heliotrope follows in its movement the movement of the sun and the selenotrope the movement of the moon, forming a procession within the limits of their power, behind the torches of the universe? For, in truth, each thing prays according to the rank it occupies in nature, and sings the praise of the leader of the divine series to which it belongs, a spiritual or rational or physical or sensuous praise; for the heliotrope moves to the extent that it is free to move, and in its rotation, if we could hear the sound of the air buffeted by its movement, we should be aware that it is a hymn to its king, such as it is within the power of a plant to sing.’ 
                 ‘On earth suns and moons can be seen in an earthly state and in the heavens all the plants, stones, animals in a heavenly state, living spiritually.’
            ‘…the lotus manifests its affinity and sympathy with the sun. Before the appearance of the sun’s rays, its blossom is closed; it opens slowly at sunrise, unfolds as the sun rises to the zenith, and folds again and closes as the sun descends. What difference is there between the human manner of praising the sun by moving the mouth and lips, and that of the lotus which unfolds its petals? They are its lips and this is its natural hymn.’

It is written in The Holy Quran that the seven heavens, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the beasts, the birds with their wings outspread in rows and many among humankind glorify God, all knowing their individual mode of praise and glorification:c

The seven heavens and the Earth and those that are therein extol His glory; and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with His praise; but you understand not their praising.  Yet He is Forbearing and Most Forgiving.
The Holy Quran. Bani Israel [Children of Israel]: 44.

I would comment that when first built the mosque of the Prophet ﷺ had no minbar [pulpit] from which to address the congregation. He would speak while leaning against a palm tree trunk in the wall next to the qibla near where he prayed. Eventually he began to use a minbar, as we will explain in its proper place. As he moved over towards it to make his address from it and passed by that tree trunk, it moaned like a love-lorne camel because it had always heard his speeches delivered near itself. And so the Prophet ﷺ returned to it and hugged it until it settled down, just like a baby, and became quiet. Details of this will be given hereafter through various lines, from Sahl b. Sa'd al-Sa’idi, Jabir, 'Abd Allāh b. Umar, 'Abd Allāh b. 'Abbās, Anas b. Mālik and Umm Salama, God be pleased with them.
          What more appropriate than the comment made by al-Hasan al-Basri after relating this story, from Anas b. Mālik, "O Muslims! A piece of wood so pining for the Messenger of God ﷺ! Do not men hoping to meet him have even more right to yearn for him?"

Ismail Ibn Kathīr. Al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya: Al-Sīra Al-Nabawiyya [The Beginning & the End: The Life of the Prophet Muḥammad: ii]. 4 vols, (Garnet Publishing Ltd, 1998).  205. 
[4] "Are you there, Little Daughter?" they called, "Twii! Twii! Are you there?" "Yes, robins", she whispered, "I am here".  "Do come back, Little Daughter", they pleaded, "the … [whole] world is so sad without you … Do come back, Little Daughter, … the tall trees have lost all their leaves, so hard have they wept.  The birds sing no more.  No one knows where the daisies have vanished, and [even the] Great Sun is so sad that he rises later every morning and leaves us earlier every night.  Sometimes he hides his face for days behind the clouds and if you do not return, Little Daughter, he may never come again".  "Chut! I will come", whispered Little Daughter, "but I will come as a flower as tiny as a drop, and as white as the snow so that Queen Winter cannot see me".  And Snow-Drop grew out of the snow but everyone knew it was Great Sun’s Little Daughter.  They whispered it to each other when Winter was not about.  And new leaves grew on the branches again, and very shyly the birds sang again, and Great Sun smiled again as never before, and he woke earlier every morning and went to sleep later every night for his little daughter was found and all the big big world was happy once again.
 Noor Inayat Khan.  Twenty Jataka Tales.  (1939). 

© Rehan Qayoom / Poets and Dreamers, 2015.
a See the Apicius.  
b See Stephanie LaCava. An Extraordinary Theory of Objects.  (HarperCollins, 2012).
c The Holy Quran. Al-Hajj [The Pilgrimage]: 19, Al-Nur [The Light]: 42.