Monthly Archives: March 2019

On the Importance of Listening

Published / by Jehangir

Besides acquiring fame/notoriety as a journalist, comrade-in-arms, traveller, hunter and la dolce vita aficionado, Ernest Hemingway was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Even though his larger-than-life personality combined with a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize in Literature* made him impossible to ignore, yet Hemingway felt compelled to admonish:

‘When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.’

Islam has rules of etiquette and a moral code involving every aspect of life as defined by Shaykh Abdul-Fattaah Abu Ghuddah in his comprehensive book on Islamic Manners. The learned scholar refers to the importance of learning how to listen by quoting Ibrahim bin Al-Junaid :

‘learn the art of listening as you learn the art of speaking. Listening well means maintaining eye contact, allowing the speaker to finish the speech, and restraining yourself from interrupting his speech.’

The honourable Tabi‘i** Ata Ibn Abi Rabah, the first Imam of Mecca related:

‘A young man would tell me something that I may have heard before he was born. Nevertheless, I would listen to him as if I had never heard it before.’

The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama says:

‘When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.’

This post was inspired by a quote I came across on the internet that neatly summarises all of the above thoughts:

Are you really listening, or just waiting to talk?
Trust your intellect, open your mind.
Don’t prefabricate your responses.
Don’t try to showcase your wit.
Listen and respond in the moment.
You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll learn.

*’The Old Man and the Sea’ (1953), which is one of my favourite books and films (starring Spencer Tracy).
** The Tabi‘un ( ‘followers’ or ‘successors’) were the second generation of muslims who gained knowledge directly from the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet [PBUH]).

The Ides of March

Published / by Jehangir

In Ancient Rome the fifteenth of March was a momentous date as on that day in 44 BC Julius Caesar, having ignored a warning to ‘beware the Ides of March’, was assassinated by a group of conspirators. Interestingly the Romans did not number days from the first to the last day of a month but instead counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (nine days before the Ides), the Ides (the middle of each month), and the Kalends (the first day of the following month, and the origin of the word calendar).

Happily, in Kashmir the fifteenth of March has a far pleasanter connotation as the day marks the advent of spring.

As per Kashmiri tradition a year is divided into six seasons of two months each starting from the fifteenth day of the modern calendar:

Sonth (Spring) / March 15 to May 14

Grishm (Summer)/ May 16 to July 14

Wahrat (Monsoon)/ July 15 to September 14

Harud (Autumn)/ September 15 to November 14

Wandh (Winter)/ November 15 to January 14

Shishur (Frost)/ January 15 to March 14

W. R. Lawrence in his encyclopaedic 1895 book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ also informs us of the rural calendar which has twelve seasons.

According to Lawrence : ‘It is useful to remember these names, as the Kashmiris are somewhat hazy as to months, and months of agriculturists are usually one month in advance of the official months. It is said that the agriculturist calendar was introduced by Sultan Shamas Din, and the Kashmiri cultivators always talk of Vahek, Zeth, Shrawan, Bhodur, Ashud, Kartik, Mangor, and Tsitr, their equivalents for the Indian Bisakh, Jeth, Sawan, Bhadron, Asuj, Katik, Magar, and Chet.’

Indian / Kashmiri
Chaitra / Tsithur
Baisakh / Vahekh
Jeth / Zeth
Ashad / Har
Shravan / Shravun
Bhadon / Badrupeth
Aashwin / Ashid
Kartik / Kartikh
Margshirsh / Monjhor
Posh / Poh
Magh / Mag
Phalgun / Phagun

While autumn remains my favourite time of the year, spring always brings renewed hope for fresh beginnings.

nothing fails, or shall perish,
until we be born again,
until all that lay plundered
be restored with the tread
of the springtime we buried

~ Pablo Neruda

Or, the TL;DR version from Neruda himself:

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming