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Monday, July 21, 2008

Who was Jamaluddin al-Afghani?

The following is part of an excerpt from chapter 5 of Ayesha Jalal's book. The Dawn Editors botched the credit. [thanks AJ]

Who was Jamaluddin al-Afghani? In some rare and insightful rhymed prose that anticipates later questions about his identity, he wrote:

The English people believe me a Russian [Rus]
The Muslims think me a Zoroastrian [Majus]
The Sunnis think me a Shi’i [Rafidi]
And the Shi’i think me an enemy of Ali [Nasibi]
Some of the friends of the four companions have believed me a Wahhabi.
Some, of the virtuous Imamites have imagined me a Babi.
The theists have imagined me a materialist.
And the pious a sinner bereft of piety.
The learned have considered me an unknowing ignoramus.
And the believers have thought me an unbelieving sinner.
Neither does the unbeliever call me to him.
Nor [does] the Muslim recognise me as his own.
Banished from the mosque and rejected by the temple.
I am perplexed as to whom I should depend on and whom I should fight.
The rejection of one requires affirmation of the other.
The affirmation of one makes the friends firm against its oppo site.
There is no way of escape for me to flee the grasp of one group.
There is no fixed abode for me to fight the other party.


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