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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fast Day 205 May 5, 2011 {Graduation From Medical School}

Graduation from Medical School

What blush brings the night that sits upon your cheek?
What henna of sympathetic care stains your hands?
Which precious fine damask imprints the sun
to use for your graduation robes
in that princely gathering of laureates?

What color brings the day for your crowning gele?
Who is the Master Dyer who adorns your hands
with patterns magisterial to heal
all of mankind’s maladies and ills,
in your university of devotion.

More Colours! Many, many colours!
And lots of notes!

(1) Graduation from Michigan State School of Osteopathic Medicine.

(2) gele - the flamboyant and colorful Nigerian ladies head garb.

(3) The Master Dyer is Allah, or God.
This poem came about when I came across different translations of the word صبغة
or “sibgha” in Chapter 2, Verse 138 of the Quran. I was very surprised at the various interpretations of the word:

We see the old Muslim commentators seeing a reference to Christianity, a reference to the Christian ritual of baptism, a connection which I had never heard of before. I suspect many have not. Indeed, St. John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, has a title  الصابغ
"saabigh", meaning “The Baptist”, but it also means “(one) who is dyeing things, a dyer”.
'Abid A worshipper [of God]. A term generally used for a devout person. The word frequently occurs in the Qur'an: e.g., Surah ii, 132 {sic} "The baptism (sibghah) of God! And who is better than God at baptizing? We are worshippers ('abidun) of God!"
The word sibghah is translated by Professor Palmer  "dye"and "dyeing", but Sale, following the Muslim commentators, Al-Baizawi, Jalalu 'd-din, and Husaini, who say it refers to the Christian rite, translates it "baptism".
Others say that it means fitrah or din, the religion of God, with an adaptation to which mankind are created. See Lane's Lexicon  [BAPTISM].
 Hughes, A Dictionary of Islam.

Modern translators handle it:

Yusuf Ali:
(Our religion is) the Baptism of God: And who can baptize better than God? And it is He Whom we worship.
Zohurul Hoque:
"The dye of Allah, and who is better than Allah in dye? And we are worshippers of Him."
T. J. Irving:
[Such is] God's design! Who is better than God for a design? We are serving Him.
T.U. Hilali-M. Khan:
[Our Sibghah (religion) is] the Sibghah (Religion) of Allâh (Islâm) and which Sibghah (religion) can be better than Allâh's? And we are His worshippers. [Tafsir Ibn Kathîr.]
M. Pickthall:
(We take our) colour from Allah, and who is better than Allah at colouring. We are His worshippers.
M.H. Shakir:
(Receive) the baptism of Allah, and who is better than Allah in baptising? and Him do we serve.

So we have connections across cultures that were – to me at least – unexpected and very interesting, and we have an ancient connection between colors and religion and faith.
That is where this graduation poem comes from.

The structure resembles the previous poem, but I could not get it out of my system, and I did not have much time to come up with this.


Ruth said...

Love the poem, and the idea of baptism with color!

Montag said...

Thanks. It seems to have been an ancient idea, at least the dipping in water as baptism or dyeing was.
There was an Ancient Metaphor, and he stoppeth one of three....

Tommy said...


Montag said...

Thanks, Tommy. I was stunned by it for a moment or so.

Anonymous said...

excellent poetry

Montag said...

Thank you, Mind.
I notice you use the collective "poetry". That is cool and kind.