Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Darkness

harem-of-the-ottoman

The old man stopped talking and smiled at me.

Now, have you understood Diyaa Udeen?

Yes I have.’ I bowed my head and answered.

Sin is submission to the desires and the way to wisdom; while virtue is the realization of sin.

Life is an experiment of the Grand Alchemist; while death is a door that opens to a new life.

Truth is God and wisdom is the devil. God tells the truth, the Devil shows the way to understand the truth.

         ______________________________________________

           Hodaya was dancing and I was watching. Hodaya was dancing and the whole world was dancing with her. Hodaya was the Mecca and the world was the multitude of pilgrims orbiting around her. Hodaya was the sun and world was the planets paying homage to her bright and burning splendor.

            Hodaya was the crown-less queen of Jerusalem; the mistress who ruled over the city’s dark dungeons. Her realm was the realm of darkness and sin. She was the grand priestess of the temple of broken hearts.

            Hodaya – the witch and the sorceress.

            Hodaya – the kind and the terrible.

            The lyre was making love to the duduk; and the skin drums were beating to the rhythm of passion. I picked up the crystal flask and watched the amber wine closely. I could see Hodaya dancing in each droplet, sticking to the thin delicate neck of the flask.

            Her green eyes flashed at me; and her luscious red lips smiled a seductive smile. The eyebrows arched like samurai swords; and inflicted a thousand cuts upon my heart.

            Hodaya was the flame and I was the foolish moth, circling around her.

            Hodaya was the butterfly of desire and I was the child, hopelessly running after her.

            Night came and along slipped Hodaya in my arms. I rode her, like an eagle rides over the valleys and the mountains; my arms spread in ecstasy. She rode me, like an Arabian mare rides the wind; her red flaming hair tracing flames over the night sky. We rode each other and completed each other. Our union was the union of the purple night and the golden sunny day; the marriage of the light of the heavens and the darkness of the hell.

            After we made wild passionate love, Hodaya slept and I watched her. My eyes were fixed on her sad beauty. I watched her slightly flaring eyelids and the ruby pin gleaming in her left nostril. She was the Madonna sleeping with the stars. But then the shadows shifted and something changed.

            I touched Hodaya’s warm belly and felt the blistering heat rising from the flames of hell. I caressed her brilliant red Medusa head and felt the poisonous slithering of a thousand serpents. Startled, I got up and stood in front of the open window.

            The city was a magnificent and glittering spectacle during the day but when the night came, it transformed into a magic land of a thousand lamps. It was a marvelous jewel, nestled within the somewhat forgiving fringes of the harsh desert. But deep within the body of this jewel, pulsated a dark heart, filled to the brim with sin and seduction.

            There were Nasrani nymphs; beautiful and tempting; with bodies of marble and tresses of gold; capable of breaking hearts with their jewel-blue glittering eyes.

            There were ebony tigresses smuggled in from the Horn of Africa; elegant and graceful; and black thunder clouds adorning their proud heads.

            There were fair boys from Greece and dusky hermaphrodites from Persia; delicate and inviting; with thick drooping eyelashes and sidelong glances.

            And then there was Hodaya – the queen who ruled over the wretched and the sinful.

_________________________________________________________

            I am Diyaa Udeen, a merchant of myrrh and frankincense from the Dhofar region in Southern Arabia. By the grace of God, all merciful and powerful, I have five hundred camels in my caravan. He has blessed me with riches beyond the imagination of mortal men. But He has also cursed me with a wandering soul.

I have travelled the world I have seen and all the strange things that it carries.

            I have been to India – the land where the poisonous black serpents make love beneath the rain drenched mango trees; and the women seduce weary travelers with their kohl black eyes.

            I have been to Cwenland – the land of ice and frozen lakes, where the forest spirits dance to the tune of the silent harps; and the priests weave magic with their whispering cries, clenching beating hearts in their iron fists.

            I have been to Tibet – the land of giants and the mute monks, where the waterfalls sing to the glory of God; and the lonely stone monasteries beckon the weary, as high as the crow flies.

            I have been to Africa and I have been to Samarqand. I have been to China and I have been to Bukhara. But my heart belonged to Jerusalem. My heart belonged to Jerusalem and Hodaya.

_________________________________________

What bothers you my love?’ Hodaya placed her hand gently on my shoulder. Her touch was a burning coal.

I remained silent and kept on looking across Jerusalem of the night.

Come back to bed my love. Come to bed and I will warm your coldness with my body.’ She was kind to me.

It is not warmth that I seek Hodaya.’ I looked back and watched her naked marble body, bathed in pale gold by the lamp burning in the corner. ‘I seek answers.

Answers?’ She laughed and the silver bells tinkled in the Grand Temple of Solomon. ‘Here lies all the answers, a man may seek.’ She pulled my hand and made me touch her warm moistness.

No!’ I abruptly pull my hand back. ‘This is not what I seek right now.

Tell me then what you seek.’ Hodaya smiled.

I looked deep into her eyes:

Tell me what is sin and what is virtue.

Tell me what is life and what is death.

And tell me what is truth and what is wisdom.

It was like I had thrown a stone in the green pool of Hodaya’s eyes. The water rippled.

I am the queen of sin, but I cannot tell you what is virtue.

I am the manifestation of life, but I cannot tell you what is death.

And the only truth I know is money. Wisdom is not my domain.

Hodaya said with a sad smile.

But I do know someone who can give you the answers. Go out the western gate and outside the walls of the city, you will find him.

Find who?’ I asked her, curiosity and hope lighting my dark heart.

The wise one. Go now before the sun kisses the eastern horizon. The wise one grants audience only while darkness rules the land. His kingdom is the kingdom of darkness.’ Hodaya brought me my woolen robe.

_____________________________________________

            The night was bitter cold and my head was echoing with the residue of all the wine I had drunk. Coldness seeped into my bones and chilled my soul. I did not know where I was. Everything was lost in a swirling fog and obscured in the moving shadows.

            The ancient and dried up date-palm trees looked like giants robed in black; and the bushes appeared to be old crones, crouching low on the ground. My feet did not make any noise, the falls cushioned by the cold sand. There was a yellow full moon somewhere, but her sad beauty was hidden in the mysterious dark-grey folds of the foggy night.

            I was outside the City of Jerusalem. The high walls were behind me somewhere. I looked back. There they were – rising above the fog and kissing the night sky.

‘Where am I?’ I asked myself. ‘Where do I find him?’

            Suddenly the shadows cast by the fog shifted and I saw a light in the near distance. I started walking towards it. There was an old gnarled tree and there was somebody sitting under the tree. I moved closer. It was a figure huddled close to fire, a ragged robe wrapped tightly around the knees. I stood there, quietly watching the mysterious figure.

Come closer Diyaa Udeen.’ The figure raised his head and called in a deep voice.

How in the name of……..!’ I was caught by surprise. ‘How do you know my name?

I know everything.’ He was an old man with dark shining eyes.

I know the footprints of each one of your camels; and I know how many bags of saffron you sold in Jerusalem.

I know the essence of each one of your desires; and I know how many regrets you carry in your tired heart.

I know the burden of guilt you carry along; and I know how many sins add up to it each passing day.

But how do you know all that?’ I was amazed.

That is immaterial. Ask me what you came here to ask and I will give you all the answers.’ He raised his bony hand.

I have three questions.’ I said while moving close to the heat of the smoldering coals.

What is sin and what is virtue?

What is life and what is death?

And what is truth and what is wisdom?

_______________________________________

All was quiet except the whispers of the swirling fog. The old man sat quietly. Then he slowly raised his head and started scratching the ash covering the smoldering coals. They crackled and came to life. The red glow gleamed like a river of blood in the old man’s eyes.

In the beginning, there was no time. All was static and nothingness.

 In the beginning, God was busy thinking.

Then He raised his finger and said “Be!” and everything came into being.

Everything was and still there was nothing. So God made the man and the woman.

“What have you made, O’ Lord?” The Devil asked.

“The subjects of my experiment; ’tis what I have made.” The Grand Alchemist answered with a satisfied smile.

“They will live and they will die.

They will breathe and they will cry.

They will live and they will learn.

They will die and they will burn.”

“But will they learn the purpose of thy experiment?” The Devil asked.

“The purpose is my domain. Theirs’ is to obey.”

The Devil wept on the helplessness of man. He wept and wept some more until God took mercy.

“What is it that thou desire, O’ servant of mine?”

“Give me an instrument so I may teach those who wish to learn the purpose.” The Devil begged.

So God created sin and gave it to the Devil.

“Let sin be the instrument to learn, for those who may dare to think.”

The old man stopped talking and smiled at me.

Now, have you understood Diyaa Udeen?

Yes I have.’ I bowed my head and answered.

Sin is submission to the desires and the way to wisdom; while virtue is the realization of sin.

Life is an experiment of the Grand Alchemist; while death is a door that opens to a new life.

Truth is God and wisdom is the devil. God tells the truth, the Devil shows the way to understand the truth.

That is the truth.’ The old man nodded.

But I thought…..’ I hesitatingly stated. ‘I thought the Devil was my enemy. I thought he defied God.

The old man raised his head and his laughter echoed un-muffled by the fog.

Everything that God has created, has a single purpose. Light has a purpose and so does darkness. Every path leads to Him. Blind obedience is the path of light and reserved for the weak and the fools. Thinking is the path of the dark and reserved for the strong and the wise. Nobody is thy enemy and nobody is thy friend. Everybody is a milestone on the road to understanding.

And how do you know this all O’ wise one?’ I asked the old man.

Before he could answer, a gong sounded from the walls of the City. I looked back. The fog was lifting and the sun was about to rise.

I know it all because I wept for you, you fool!’ The old man laughed again.

            I turned towards him but there was nobody under the tree. The kingdom of wise darkness had ended.

2 thoughts on “Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Darkness

  1. خوبصورت تحریر۔۔مگر میری راَئے میں ادب اگر ‘باادب’ ہوتو تحریر وقتی نہیں دائمی تقوش چھو|ڑتی ہے۔ بے باکی انگریزی ادب کا خاصہ سہی مگر ہم پڑھنے والے تو اسی معاشرے کا حصّہ ہیں ۔ اُمید کرتی ہوں میری رائے پر غور کرین گے۔ ہم آپ سے اس سے کئی زیادہ بہتر اورپراثر تحریروں کی اُمید رکھتے ہیں ۔

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