On Crime and Punishment (The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran)

Edited to highlight the parts that spoke to me when I posted this.

It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.

Why do we do the things we do? When left to our own devices, do we work for what is Good or what is Wrong?

Like the ocean is your god-self;
It remains for ever undefiled.
And like the ether it lifts but the winged. Even like the sun is your god-self;
It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
But your god-self dwells not alone in your being.
Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.
And of the man in you would I now speak.
For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.

Sometimes people wander into your life, for the apparent purpose of bugging you to death.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

Could we have done something to prevent mischeif? Did we act for the greater good? When a wrong is done to you, and action is not taken, the wrong will happen again and again. And then, you responsibility in the repeated wrong is undeniable.

And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:
The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,
And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed.
The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,
And still more often the condemned is the burden bearer for the guiltless and unblamed.
You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;
For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together.
And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

If any of you would bring to judgment the unfaithful wife,
Let him also weigh the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements.
And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended.
And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;
And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.
And you judges who would be just,
What judgment pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit?
What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?
And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

Decisions, decisions!

And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?
Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?
Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.
Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.
And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?
Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,
And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

How low do we stoop in seeking justice? Do we retaliate in kind, or do we do as we wish to be done to us? When do lock up the perpetrator and throw away the key? Because no crime can realistically go unpunished.


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3 Responses to On Crime and Punishment (The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran)

  1. Silentear says:

    “And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
    So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”

    This post has a wonderful grasp of what the unity of mankind should entail and encompass. We are supposedly so “advanced” in this day and age, particularly here in the “industrialised world”, yet the environment is so “dog eat dog” and individualistic.

    As human beings and as communities – peace, well being and prosperity, can only be measured, in my opinion, in relation to the poorest and most vulnerable individuals in our societies.

    May God give us all, the mercy and blessing to be able to help each other towards God conciousness, inshallah.

  2. Huzel Fandi says:

    Will you please tell us, under what impression do you most often qoute Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’? coz you just pasted his text and didnt utter a single word? i think we the reader, have a right to know why you want to make us read this? i just want to confirm whether this has a greater impact on you rather than a fantastic eloquent piece of literature?

  3. Silentear, I love your take on this piece. Dog eat dog and individualistic is exactly how we have become. Human-kind has rather regressed itself, unfortunately.
    Huzel Fandi, Most often? This was only the second post re Gibran. And please wait…let me think…hmmmm…no, actually I did not hold a gun to your head and “make you read this.” But, since you wish to know why I posted it, its merely because I found it to a “fantastic eloquent piece of literature”, and wanted to keep a copy for myself. Is that all right?

    Since you requested, I shall go back and edit my post to point out those passage which spoke out to me…

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