We all know of H. Houdini, the late and famous ‘escape artist’. Amazing sort of bloke, by all accounts, able to perform the most outrageous and daring feats.
But as far as I am concerned, I will always cherish the memory of a little wizard that could at all times, in my humble opinion, ‘Out-Houdini Houdini’!—this was Ranji, the little mongoose.
“The purpose of Aikido is to remind us that we are always in a state of grace”. If any one person embodied that state of grace in recent times, it was Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), perhaps one of the greatest martial artists ever, and a great exponent of Japanese Zen philosophy in the 20th century. Aikido—or more correctly Aiki-do, “The Way of Peace”—is a distinct martial art and system of self-defence created by Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei (the Master) himself. The ‘Way of Peace’ is amazingly non-aggressive as a martial art and teaches that the best way to counter opposition/opponents is to turn the energy of their aggression against themselves. The art embodies not just a simple martial technique or style but a profound set of philosophical and ethical principles which relate directly to the laws of Nature i.e. achieving the ultimate goal of ‘naturalness’, of becoming the ‘natural/perfected being’; of obtaining release from all aspects of duality, in the finest Zen Buddhist tradition. But who, indeed, was the man, O-Sensei, the Master of the Age, who created this Way of Peace? What principles did this ‘warrior of peace’ espouse? And how did the Founder’s own actions, thoughts and movements embody the high standards of humanity that he set out for himself and others?
Taufiq Rafat was a pioneer, one of the ‘fathers’ of English poetry in Pakistan. He legitimized the writing of this unique and productive genre at a time when it was much reviled by a so-called ‘literary intelligentsia’ paying lip-service to Urdu literature and toeing the official line which proclaimed that all ‘good and loyal Pakistanis’ must, perforce, think and act and speak and write only in Urdu. Rather typical of our rulers’ Orwellian mindset/s.
With the passing away of Professor Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003) a vital ‘link’ has indeed been severed between the West and its Islamic ‘Other’, as so aptly pointed out by in his memorial article by Dr. Tariq Rahman (The News, Feb. 7th 2003)—or between Muslim civilization and its sane assessment in present Western conditions.
In any case, a number of articles, tributes, reports and ‘references’ etc, have been appearing quite regularly in our newspapers following Professor Schimmel’s demise, analyzing her life and work from all sorts of perspectives—her ‘pioneering’ studies of Mevlana Rumi, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast and other Islamic mystics; her work on Iqbal; her history of classical Urdu poetry; various dimensions of Islamic worship; of the languages and culture of Pakistan and elsewhere—the sheer scope, versatility and depth of her ‘genius’ as a scholar and researcher and bridge between East and West, and so-on. It is a pity that no one has said or written anything about Annemarie Schimmel, the Sufi.
As we passed through the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) it seemed as if centuries had rolled away. The countryside was enchanted with lush undergrowth rising to meet the dark, whispering pines.
A little further, we found ourselves in a silent glade where a stream bubbled out of the ground and meandered its shining course through the foliage. A half-timbered watermill dozed in the sunlight. Little brown-and-white ducks bobbed in the water. “Any minute now:, I thought, “The Wicked Witch will step out of her secret abode”, half expecting to see her come out of a woodland cottage, or to see all manners of demons and trolls and ogres lurking behind the trees, or to see a knight to canter up on his white charger, his pennants resplendent in these lost shades.