God and the Poetic Quest: The Human Mind’s Limitations does not Obscure the Real

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By Tabish Khursheed

Despite theological explanations, philosophical suggestions and scientific revelations, the nature of life on planet earth continues to be mysterious so much so that every effort to embrace and comprehend it culminates in intellectual surrender. With little ideological exceptions nullifying existence of God and promoting Godless life, most people believe that life is intertwined and knitted with some cosmic force (God) which directs its course and implicitly plays an indispensable part behind its veil. However, it is a stark reality that each one of us houses an expressed/unexpressed and simmering question about the Divine justice and its management of earthly life which, at times, appears antagonistic or contrary to the sense of justice that we have understood and carried with us in the context of this world.
It is so because we, as mortal creatures, are extremely impatient to get into something which perhaps does not lie in our limited domain of mind and for which we are not sufficiently qualified. We have a questioning attitude and an insatiable urge to be answered, convinced and made certain about things directly or indirectly associated with our existence. Across literatures various poets have registered their grievances before God and asked him to come up with answers for what they feel discriminatory dealing with human beings and unjust deliverance of justice to them. As William Shakespeare in one of his sonnets writes:

“And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d”

The sonnet reflects Shakespeare’s disappointment who confronts a world where the destitute are fated to permanent despair. Honesty, sincerity and faith are ignored and honour disrespectfully misappropriated and misplaced. Having thrown into the ill fated being, Shakespeare seems to be so disgusted that he aspires for death to eliminate his earthly survival once for all. The ultimate death or what he calls «restful death» not only appears a saviour to him but a fascinating escape route to relieve himself from mental and emotional tortures world delivers against human beings. The unfortunate mistreatment and dishonour worthy life receives here disillusions not only Shakespeare but other English, Urdu and Kashmiri poets equally. The famous English poet Gerard Manly Hopkins waxes eloquent in his poem:

“Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?”

Hopkins fails to understand why the wheel of Divine justice turns against the faithful and why apparent triumph goes into the bag of sinners whose characters are examples of fraud, deceit and disloyalty to God. Being a priest and highly religious, he oriented his complaint directly and hits out at God and wants him to respond with some satisfying answer to the question about Divine based discriminatory judgment and deliverance of justice. His poem, apart from having complaining nature, is a typical reflection of helplessness of man’s mind and soul to comprehend life in all its worldly shades and cosmic dimensions. Despite raising questions about Divine nature of treatment and justice with humanity, Hopkins maintains a strong trust and faith in God that explicitly reflects in the title of the poem “Thou art indeed just Lord”. Hopkin’s voice represents all those people who have the capacity to critically think, question and meditate over the worldly existence but remain hardcore and firmly positioned in world of faith and trust upon God. He seems to stand out as a person who has surrendered his critical abilities and prioritized faith in God’s mercy above all questions and complaints one keeps on confronting with.

“Khuda Shikwa-e-Arbab-e-Wafa Bhi Sun Le,
Khugar-e-Hamd Se Thoda Sa Gila Bhi Sun Le”.

This is what appears at the beginning of Allama Iqbal’s “Shikwa”, which is also written in a complaining tone raising multitude of questions regarding God and his response to faithful Muslims. After expressing how Muslims have served Islam ,laid blood for its expansion and worked for its establishment, Allama feels an absence of due reward released in the favour of Muslims by God and his indifference towards them. He adds:

“Phir Bhi Hum Se Yeh Gila Hai Ke Wafadar Nahin
Hum Wafadar Nahin, Tu Bhi To Dildar Nahin!”

If «Shikwa” is read after divorcing it from “Jawab-e-Shikwa”, the poem is a powerful argument and God’s regulating world and treatment vis a vis Muslims. No different is our budding Kashmiri poetess Nighat Sahiba from the poets referred to above when it comes to questioning and seeking answers. In her aesthetically appealing and thematically sensitive poetry she comes up with same idea expressing how world is left alone in abject despondency by indifferent Divine force. She writes::

“Wan Dour Rozith kyazih Thowuth khaar zameenas / Asmaan Lagay santeh Wan doh Taar Zameenas”.

She invokes «Asmaan” or divine power to shun this cruel indifference to the plight of the planet earth and gives attention to unattended and the desolate earthly life hungering for some balm and spring in its autumnal existence. Reading all these poets and brooding over this complex riddle based life one comes to the realization that the world carries an active question about the nature of life which fails our comprehension and confirms the limitations human mind works in and around. All endeavors to understand life and Divine nature of justice in all its hues, so far, have proved nothing more than fruitless exercise of mind leaving scope for more confusion and uncertainty. We are left lip tied and made to believe that our human rationality or world mind is physical thereby too unqualified to run after Metaphysical questions. At the same time, it seems that life is growing up to learn that we are perhaps “thrown into being” by some spirit which invisibly remote-controls us and enforces unsought life upon us. One finally lands into a state where one is found consciously or unconsciously intellectually bowed, humbled and in a mode of surrender before some cosmic power whether we call that God or by any other glorified name. However, for the answers of our questions we as mortal and helpless human beings still wait for “Godot” even if it means to die in waiting. Some Kashmiri poet writes:

“Su yaar yeetan ya matah yeetan,
Bah zoo dim intizaras manz”.

—The author is a freelance columnist hailing from Anantnag. He can be reached at: tabishkhursheed86134@gmail.com