Book Reviews

Gibran's Philosophic Profundities

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: A Study of Philosophic Profundities by P.V. Laxmiprasad,
First Published in 2021 by Authorspress, Delhi, India, ISBN: 978-93-90891504, Pp100 Price 495/

Years ago I used to read the works of Kahlil Gibran repeatedly with enormous enthusiasm just because his works often pull me down to the ground realities whenever I feel let down by trusted kith and kin or whenever I feel elated with ephemeral success and inflated ego.

Dr. P. V. Laxmiprasad gave me an opportunity to relish Gibran’s words of wisdom again through his book, “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: A Study of Philosophic Profundities”. No doubt Dr. P. V. Laxmiprasad is an ardent lover of literature and a man of balanced views on matters of life. The book comprises four sections: 1. Introduction to the Poet – Kahlil Gibran 2. Timeless Beauties in The Prophet: Critical Appreciation 3. Characters and Settings in The Prophet and 4. Conclusion. Kahlil Gibran is a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist. Sometimes many hail him as a philosopher, but he does not consider himself to be so. Born a Maronite Christian, Gibran was influenced not only by his own religion but also by the Bahá’í Faith, Islam, and the mysticism of the Sufis. Seriously disturbed by Lebanon's bloody history marred by its destructive factional struggles, he anchored his belief in the fundamental unity of religions, something which he learnt from his parents who exemplified this belief by treating people of various religions with utmost hospitality at home. They set for Gibran an example of tolerance by "refusing to perpetuate religious prejudice and bigotry in their daily lives.”

Most of Gibran's early writings had been in Arabic but most of his work published after 1918 including The Prophet (1923) was in English. The Prophet is a fable about the prophet Al-Mustafa, “the chosen and beloved,” who has lived in the city of Orphalese for over 12 years and is about to board a ship which will carry him to the land of his birth. When the ship arrives, the people of Orphalese come to bid him farewell, and a seeress called Almitra entreats him to provide answers to all those questions his followers ask seeking his advice about the whole spectrum of life’s issues before his departure. Al-Mustafa obliges, and his answers constitute the texts of the twenty-six chapters. The last chapter offers Al-Mustafa’s farewell speech. The whole book is thus in a doubt-clearing mode and amounts to a confidence-building measure as to how to weather crises in the mundane life. The Prophet is thus divided into 26 chapters or poetic essays that deal with love, marriage, giving, work, joy and sorrow, buying and selling, laws, freedom, reason and passion, self-knowledge, talking, pleasure, death and so much more. It doesn’t really matter what your religious background is when you are reading this. What it shows is that, despite religion, we all have a lot in common and there are basic human truths that we should all aspire to.

As Dr. Laxmiprasad points out, undoubtedly the most prominent universal theme of The Prophet is its persistent faith in love in its relationship to life and to most human activities that are dealt with. Each chapter is, in a sense, complete in itself and presents Gibran’s views on some aspects of life or other problems of universal interest. Kahlil Gibran, says Laxmiprasad, is “one of the writers who broke with the old and rigid conventions of Arabic poetry and literary prose” and also “he is among the great figures in the twentieth-century revival of Arabic literature” (page 25). He further observes, “Gibran believes in the prophet’s role as a dispenser of social wisdom; this is shown by other interlocutors in the text who treat, talk about, and interact with, Al-Mustafa as a prophetic person. He acts as an orator who wants to teach people moral, wise, and humanistic lessons.” People of Orphalese try to get the words of experiential wisdom from the Prophet “so that they can pass his words as a teacher from one generation to another” (page 26). Gibran's genius comes out in the simplicity of his writing. Al-Mustafa speaks of each of the themes in sober, sonorous aphorisms. Gibran illustrated The Prophet with his own drawings, thereby enriching the text.

Dr. Laxmiprasad says. “I have touched upon the philosophic profundities from the selected collection The Prophet which are time’s timeless beauties and universal messengers.” He explicates each of the poetic essays saying that “the whole text was actually pillared by literary devices that consisted of allegories having a deeper and more sensible meaning behind the lines.” By way illustrating this, in Chapter 3 on Marriage, one can quote the most evident allegory in the last line: ‘And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow’. This line may be identified as the summary of the entire chapter on marriage. Instead of generating the traditional idea that married couples would combine as one or act as one, the chapter on marriage suggests that marriage should be spacious, in a sense that married couples should be able to develop and grow by themselves as well. This chapter aims to tell the truth on how marriage is not to be stereotyped and should be thought about in a sense of deeper meaning. The truth is that marriage should be more of an understanding of the combination of the intellect of two people and trying to find a point of intersection in order to make it fruitful. Gibran further says, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.”

In his Preface to the book, Dr. Laxmiprasad sums up the significant aspects of The Prophet: “Kahlil Gibran deals with universal themes in profound philosophy. Moral overtones are the salient features of his poetry. He infused life into the social and political life of the citizens. Kahlil Gibran focused on the basic issues of life governing man. Poems are both concrete and abstract. The unseen universe dominates the seen world. The hidden beauties of life have been explored in these poems. The twin worlds present a kaleidoscopic view of life. … Though The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran was first published a century ago, anyone can find something that’s of relevance to them today.” Dr. Laxmiprasad is wise and farsighted in having brought out this book at a time when the whole world is rife with religious hatred, growing intolerance and diminishing humanity. He falls in line with Gibran when the latter says in Chapter 26 on Religion that one need not go in search of God and adds: “Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children. And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain. You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.”


More by :  Dr. D. Gnanasekaran

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Views: 435      Comments: 2

Comment The review is very impressive and catchy. Kahlil Gibran is a great poet. Laxmiprasad has evaluated The Prophet in a highly enriching style. Gnanasekaran sir reviewed the book really so well.

27-Aug-2023 06:25 AM

Comment The review is very impressive

Renu Dhotre
26-Aug-2023 21:14 PM

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