[Book Review] ‘Spirits Rebellious’ by Kahlil Gibran

[Book Review] ‘Spirits Rebellious’ by Kahlil Gibran

Many a times I ponder over the thoughts of one of my favorite writer Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931). He was a Lebanese poet, philosopher, artist, and writer, a genius of his age. His writing was revolutionary for his time.

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[Book Review] ‘Spirits Rebellious’ by Kahlil Gibran

Many a times I ponder over the thoughts of one of my favorite writer Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931). He was a Lebanese poet, philosopher, artist, and writer, a genius of his age. His writing was revolutionary for his time.

Lately I came across a compilation of some of his best works and I started with the one named Spirits Rebellious. This book was first published in Arabic language during the early twentieth century. It aroused considerable agitation among the ruling class.

The book was burned publicly in Lebanon and Gibran was forced for an exile. The time this book was published saw Lebanon in virtual slavery under the oppressive Turkish rulers.

To the modern day, the ideas in the books declares freedom, liberation, justice for all and talks about humility in humanity.

Spirits Rebellious is compilation of three stories, independent of each other and announces Gibran’s rebellious though process. I will list a brief on these three stories one by one:

Madame Rose Hanie

This is a story of a woman named Rose Hanie, married to Rashid Bey Namaan, a wealthy person. Rashid provides every materialistic thing possible to Hanie but lacks pure love and attention which Hanie longs for.

Hanie realizes this and leaves all the riches behind to embrace true love even if it is wrapped in utter poverty.

Gibran meets first Rashid and then Hanie to know their part of the story. The reader feels a paradigm shift when they first hear Rashid and then Hanie. At the end, facing the fields and prairies, Gibran finally concludes:

“Everything lives on earth according to the law of nature, and from that law emerges the glory and joy of liberty; but man is denied this fortune, because he sets for the God-given soul a limited and earthly law of his own.

He made for himself strict rules. Man built a narrow and painful prison in which he secluded his affections and desires. He dug out a deep grave in which he buried his heart and its purpose.

If an individual, through the dictates of his soul, declares his withdrawal from society and violates the law, his fellowmen will say he is a rebel worthy of exile, or an infamous creature worthy only of execution.

Will man remain a slave of self-confinement until the end of the world? Or will he be freed by the passing of time and live in the Spirit for the Spirit? Will man insist upon staring downward and backward at the earth? Or will he turn his eyes toward the sun so he will not see the shadow of his body amongst the skulls and thorns?”

The Cry Of The Graves

Gibran has produced a two dimensional approach to events at one end enlisting an unending story of injustice under suppression and riches and at the other end portraying the inability of the suppressed to take off their fear and live life with honor, humility, and freedom.

Gibran discussed the three instances where without pondering for a moment the Emir lay down what so called justice. The people present in his courtroom meekly accept the injustice in the name of justice.

Next day Gibran visits the field where the corpses lay. His heart fills with sorrow and his judgment with guilt when he is confronted with the reality. He came across a woman who buries the young man who was beheaded as he saved her from the Emir’s officer. Death was his reward for saving a woman’s honor.

Next came a man who covered the naked body of a woman who was stoned and put before the death. The young man was her childhood love, with whom she was accused of adultery when he came to meet her after her marriage with another man.

The young man was left behind while she was presented to the Emir and his injustice. And at last came a woman who was wife to the man who was hanged for stealing food to ease the hunger of his starving children.

Gibran brought forward his opinion towards the injustice rewarded to these poor destitute souls. His justification found the Emir guiltier then these destitute souls. At the end Gibran looked at the horizon and speak his heart in these lines: The sun disappeared behind the horizon as if tiring of the world’s troubles and loathing the people’s submission.

At that moment in the evening began to weave a delicate veil from the sinews of silence and spread it upon Nature’s body.

I stretched my hand toward the graves, pointing at their symbols, lifted my eyes toward heaven and cried out, “Oh, Bravery, this is your sword, buried now in the earth! Oh, Love, these are your flowers, scorched by fire! Oh, Lord Jesus, this is Thy cross, submerged in the obscurity of the night!”

Khalil The Heretic

Gibran in his third section writes about a monk called Khalil (Moobarak), who was expelled for a monastery for speaking truth and preaching monk of their responsibility and reasons. In the dead of the winter night, Khalil is rescued by Rachel (the widow of Samaan Ramy) and her daughter Miriam. They provide him shelter in their house.

The word about him reaches to Sheik Abbas, a prince of a solitary village in North Lebanon. Sheik Abbas is further pressurized by Father Elias to arrest Khalil. Khalil is made to appear before the court where he addresses the public who follows him to the courtroom. His sermons make people realize their destiny and their collective power through which they can strive for better lives.

Leaving behind the orders of Sheik Abbas they bring back Khalil to Rachel’s house. The story ends on a better note where Sheik Abbas dies leaving all peasants out of his debts. The beginning of spring brings joy in life of all the people.

I would like to quote the most beautiful phrase from Gibran here:

“A human hand drove me into desperation and a human hand rescued me; how severe man is, and how merciful man is!”

His writing style is unique and the portrayal of every detail is crisp and to the point. His ideas presented through these three stories are revolutionary and dig deep into the human relationship and the essence of life.

Links: Wikipedia


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