The Stolen Kiss & the Stir It Caused
October 31, 2008 2 Comments
Last week, while browsing one of the forums I visit from time to time, I came across a link to the Alternative Entertainment blog, run by a brother in the UK by the nickname of Abu Eesa. He recently wrote a post titled She Was Asleep. I Kissed Her. She Awoke in which he presented a poem written by an Iraqi imam and judge from the early generations of Islam named ‘Abdul-Wahhâb bin ‘Alî al-Mâlikî (d. 422H). The poem’s caused quite a stir and has drawn various reactions from many on several forums (his own blog’s comment section included).
I thought I’d share it with those of you who visit my blog, albeit retranslated—no offense to the brother, but I felt his translation was a bit embellished (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Being that I haven’t posted anything in a while, I thought this might be good to share with everyone.
Here’s the poem in the original Arabic (you might find slight differences between this version and the one brother Abu Eesa posted to his blog; I got this version from an online version of Imam Ibn Kathîr’s al-Bidâyah wan-Nihâyah; don’t mind the asterisks, they’re just to break up the lines):
ونائمة قبِّلتها فتنبّهتْ *** فقالت: تعالوا واطلبوا اللصَّ بالحدِّ
فقلت لها إنّي فديتك غاصب *** وما حكموْا في غاصب بسوى الردِّ
خذيها وكفّي عن أثيم طلابة *** وإن أنتِ لم ترضي فألفاً على العدّ
فقالت: قصاص يشهد العقل أنه *** على كبد الجاني ألذُّ من الشهد
فباتت يميني وهي هميان خصرها *** وباتت يساري وهي واسطة العقد
فقالت: ألم تخبر بأنك زاهد *** فقلت بلى ما زلت أزهد في الزهد
And the (re)translation:
While she slept, I kissed her. She came to, *** then said, “Come! Demand the punishment from the thief.”
So I said to her, “Surely, I offer myself to you as an extorter *** and they did not pass a judgement on the extorter other than the return.
So take it and overlook a misdeed from an offender. *** And if you are not pleased, then a thousand over the count.”
So she said, “Retaliation. Reason testifies that it, *** to the heart of the perpetrator, is tastier than honey.”
So my right spent the night as her waist’s belt *** and my left spent the night as the necklace’s highlight.
So she said, “Was I not informed that you were abstemious?” *** So I said, “Of course! I have not ceased abstaining from abstinence.”
Abu Eesa, may Allah reward him, has provided a bit of an explanation for the poem, particularly with regards to the poem’s jurisprudential aspect. You can find it in the link provided above. It’s got some interesting tidbits regarding the distinction between the different types of stealing and the rulings pertaining to them, particularly with regards to extortion (ghasb, which Abu Eesa translates as usurping).
For those of you who aren’t really quite sure of what’s going on in the poem, here’s a bit of an explanation (you’ll find much of this, and then some, also mentioned in Abu Eesa’s post): The narrator of the poem kisses a woman while she sleeps. She regains consciousness as a result of the kiss and then calls out to an (assumed) imaginary group of people to take this “thief” and punish him for “stealing”. Rather than admit to being a thief, he plea bargains the charge down to being an extorter (ghâsib). Extortion’s punishment, as the narrator explains the Muslim jurists have ruled, is merely to return what was extorted from the victim; in this case, the kiss. The narrator tells the woman to take back what he took from her and offers to give back more if she’s not satisfied. The woman wittily replies that the suggested punishment, in this case, is much sweeter for the perpetrator than the original “crime” itself. The two end up spending the night together in an embrace, with his right hand around her waist and his left around her neck. The woman jokingly asks the man if she was wrong about what she was “informed” of regarding the man; that he was abstemious (i.e., a zâhid). Likewise, he jokingly replies that he hasn’t stopped abstaining from abstinence (zuhd).
Here’s some little tidbits from the poem, which I felt were of worthy of mentioning:
Although the woman called the man a thief, rather than using the word sâriq (سارق), she called him a liss (لِصّ). The verb lassa (لَصَّ) means to do something stealthily or secretly; it can also mean to rob or steal something (you could say it’s like she was just calling him a sneaky guy for kissing her while she was sleeping and not expecting it).
In Tawdîh al-Ahkâm min Bulūgh al-Marâm, by Shaikh ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdir-Rahman al-Bassâm, sariqah or sirqah (سرقة i.e., what the sâriq does) is defined linguistically as “the taking of something in secrecy and strategically” and legally as “the taking of money valued by others from a safe place, valued like it, and it has no doubt regarding it in terms of disappearance.” Thus, it states that the punishment for stealing (sariqah) is not applied to the plunderer (muntahib – منتهب), the embezzeler (mukhtalis – مختلس), the hoodwink (khâ’in – خائن), nor the one who denies a deposit (jâhid wadî’ah – جاحد وديعة) and similar to it from the trusts, because they are not included in the mentioned definition.”
Linguistically, extortion (ghasb – غصب) is to take something away from someone or to seize it unlawfully by force or intimidation. The verb ghasaba (غَصَبَ) can mean to force, compel, coerce someone to do something, and with specific respect to a woman, it can mean to abduct or carry her off somewhere, or even to rape, ravish or violate her in some fashion. Islam Q&A has a couple verdicts regarding ghasb worth checking out. Here’s the first: Rulings on seizing things wrongfully (Arabic & English) and the here’s the second: Why is the hand cut off in the case of stealing but not in the case of (daylight) robbery or seizing by force? (Arabic & English).
Zuhd (زهد), commonly translated as either abstinence or asceticism. Both words carry certain connotations in English which don’t really apply to the meaning of zuhd, at least in its true Islamic legal definition. Zuhd is commonly understood by many to be asceticism, i.e., the practice of extreme abstinence (e.g., what some Sūfîs often practice). Legally, however, true zuhd is to abstain from excesses in life. It is taking what is needed and leaving aside whatever is surplus. In the West, abstinence is commonly understood to mean “refraining from indulging an appetite or desire, especially alcohol or sexual intercourse” (source).
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the poem has created quite a stir. It has been posted to several forums. Each thread I’ve found for it has had numerous views and numerous replies posted with readers’ reactions (the forum thread I originally found the link to Abu Eesa’s post got over 200 replies and close to 6000 views!). These reactions range from shock and confusion from those who perceived some sort of indecency and inappropriateness in the poem to admiration and marvel from those who loved the wit and romanticism of its words; you can count me among the latter (although not quite at the level that some have shown), which I’m sure my friends will find somewhat amusing since they know I’m not much of a guy for romance—some are even adamant (jokingly of course) that I’m emotionless and cold-hearted.
Those who have found contention with the poem have raised points about the intent behind posting such things. Some cite the perceived inappropriateness of the poem’s subject matter as the main reason behind their objections. I’m sure if you run a search on whatever your favourite search engine is, you’ll find some of the discussions that have taken place as a result of this poem.
Personally, I think it was a good idea to post the poem; may Allah reward the brother for doing so. It gives a glimse at the type of things our predecessors and imams of the past used to write about. It wasn’t always just straight forward books on creed, dogma, beliefs, jurisprudence, hadîth compilations, exegesis (of both Qur’an and Hadîth), etc. Islamic literature isn’t just confined to these topics. It also includes subjects like history, medicine, and poetry, among other things. Poetry was an art many of our scholars, both past and present, indulged in. Many of our great imams were not only masters of many of the more recognized Islamic sciences (like creed, jurisprudence, Hadîth, exegesis, etc.), they were masters of the Arabic language and poetry. Imams ash-Shâfi’î, Ibn al-Qayyim, and more recently Shaikhs Muqbil bin Hâdî (may Allah have mercy on him) and Shaikh ‘Alî Hasan al-Halabî, come to my mind almost immediately when I think of scholars who showed a love for and a skill in writing poetry. Abu Eesa’s also got a nice small mention of Imam al-Asma’î, one of the great poets from the Predecessors, in his most recent post on lovers.
Many often either forget or are ignorant of this fact, which is kind of sad when you think about it. Arabic poetry is a wonderful read (especially when written by knowledeable scholars who have great skill in the language) and a great tool at learning proficiency in Arabic.