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Arts & Culture Literature

I, Saracen

This poem was written when the writer was 21-years-old. It represents a kind of broad normative Muslim perspective of history. In that sense, it’s not so much personal as representing a collective consciousness.

I, Saracen
On the western front frowned the eagle
mighty Caesar in imperial regalia regal,
in the east prowled minions of Xerxes
fierce lions swift as desert breeze.

Out of the shimmering sands I rode
suddenly Colossus-like the world I strode
giving from my raiment fair
an Alhamra here, a Taj there

In me flowed an eastern weather
I swerved and moved like a bird in feather,
I was Khaldun, Khayyam and Ghalib
not mere seraph but from Adams own rib

Cordoba and Cathay are all mine
mine are sahara, tundra and pine
mine, Kubla’s dome of pleasure
mine, Rumi’s secret sufic treasure

The Bedouin, the Brahmin, the Confucian, they heard
the powerful rhythm, the azaan that averred
the tauhid of Allah, the glory of Islam,
pale quaked the Cross, the Shinto, and even Ram

Ghazni at Somnath and Samarkand flowered
Avicenna and Averroes all ignorance murdered
Haroon’s Nights illuminated darkened lives
women-kind awakened as empresses, poets and wives.

Badr was sobbing, Panipat weeping
the universe gaped as I lay sleeping,
kaleidoscopic chaos seemed far to me
I slumped, I sank, I fell free
free of strife, inebriated with bliss
complacency seduced me with slumberous kiss
victim to the venomous charms of sloth
on my internal fountains died all froth
as placid, blue azure I slept;
yet ever the Islamic cosmos wept.

Then O God, a nightmare vision I saw
a leprosy white Crusader garbed for war
see, his red teeth and purple eyes
O, see, within me pale hope dies

Now who will find me Khaibar or Alamgir?
succour me friendly sultan or saintly pir
the Crusader slowly moves his cloudy hand
with it he brandishes an atomic wand

On his heaving shoulder sits a hungry eagle
it starts, it flutters its wings regal
the Crusader melts, sheds his amorphous wear
yet appears again as a Russian bear!

In my dream voices loud and clear
echo with hoary throats and sere
of Communism and Capitalism, Capitalism and Communism
lesser voices chant: Negroism, Hinduism, Arabism

Thundering ‘isms crash about me
I gasp, I wake, I see
around me fragments of Suez fall
Muhammad Mustapha I hear you call

Prophet in the desert, before Allah falling
I hear you in the muezzins calling
I vow again to revive within me your song
to sing it forever, sweet and long.

The task so immense, its breadth its length
so great, I sip of history for strength
then scimitars cast aside, quills unsheathed
Muslim true never surrendered while he breathed

Out, out damned spots of blind imitation
sham, servile servings of other nations
exit, eclectic intellect of alien droppings,
time-patience to grow own mental wings

Out, out ICS blackened, pseudo-Englishmen
their traits, their chota-pegs, their Victorian pen
I, iconoclast, rejuvenated, I smasher of the obsequious
saliva-fallen; I reject the kala-sahib infamous

Then computers and the minaret,
the maulvi and the flats-to-let,
the Boeing coaxed in air, with soft bismillah
external strength, throbbing internal Allah

Beware Marx and his spiritually sick sentences
beware Freud, his phallic male’s repentances
but open to me Marxist economics, Freudian theories
international answers to personal queries

Then, one day my head high again, I will rise
pure Muslim, Marxist-Malinowski-Mawdoodi wise,
one day I will no longer sweat–fear to dream,
then, then I will possess the key to ‘alif lam mim’.

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