Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

Rassa Shastra
Chapter 13
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


There is a story told of Sa'adi, that chivalrous and most ideal of poets, that he loved a girl very dearly, and admired and valued her so greatly that he prized her more than all else in his life, so that there was nothing that he would not do for her sake. One day coming to see her, he found her, though he could scarcely believe his eyes, in the arms of another; but going away quietly again, he took his stand at the gateway of her house. When the other man saw Sa'adi standing there, he thought, "Surely now, filled with jealousy, he is waiting to kill me". But Sa'adi, as he saw him approach, called: "Friend, be at peace. I am waiting to give you a word of sense; that as I have seen and gone away quietly, so do you, if you should see her in the arms of another. For that is the way in which the wise love."


Gairat, or chivalry, so often takes the form of jealousy that the one is usually confounded with the other. This same male tendency lies at the root of duelling, a custom not foreign to any part of the world, which down the ages has been the cause of every kind of conflict and upheaval. The honour of one may be the honour of another, or of ten, or a hundred others; and thus a woman's honour may be upheld as that of a king.


Man has always held woman as most sacred in life, as more precious to him and as appealing more to him than the rest of life. If she be his mother, he sees her as his source and creator, his only sustainer and protection; in heartbreak and disappointment, and in the very depths of despair comes the thought of the mother, who was his first friend before anyone was attracted to him, and his first guardian and teacher. If she be his sister, he thinks more of her than of himself, for her position in life is more delicate than his; she is the honour of his family, and he considers that he shares the responsibility of his parents for her. None of this goodness is artificial; it is of the very essence of humanity, springing from the nature of things. To a father the responsibility of a daughter seems greater than that of a son; her dishonour or unhappiness strikes at him most keenly. And in that closest relationship of life, a word against his wife destroys his happiness and peace; he would accept any degradation to shield her; and this equally if he be attached to a woman worthy of ideal, or to a prostitute, to one who has lost all sense of self-respect. In each relationship her honour is his own honour.


This male tendency is seen taking selfish and brutal forms in the social life of the community. For instance, when the consciousness of the responsibility that the birth of a daughter places upon the family, has induced such a custom as the killing of female children at birth, -- a custom found in many different countries at different times; as now, in Western civilisation, even among the well-to-do or wealthy, parents restrict their families, and take means to prevent the birth of any child, male or female, through dread of responsibility. Or again, the natural dependence of woman is often greatly increased by man; for so strong is the feeling that a man's responsibilities in life are greater than hers, -since he bears hers as well as his own, - that woman is deprived in order that he may the better have every advantage that offers. In order that he may be better fitted for his fight in the world, her natural disabilities are added to and increased.


One sees in the West that girls often receive less opportunities for education than their brothers; that daughters inherit a less portion than sons; that the work of women is paid at a lower rate than that of men. And in the East, this male tendency is responsible for such customs as the seclusion of women. Thus everywhere, East or West, even if unexpressed, there exists this tendency to regard the position of a woman as the honour and care of a man, and as consequently less dependent upon her own efforts than upon his.


It is the thought of individual freedom that is attacking the old ideals, and destroying also this ideal of Gairat, or chivalry; for in spite of the selfish, even brutal forms that it may take, it is an ideal; and he who follows it possesses a religion. In the West, man is found accepting greater advantages of life without accepting corresponding responsibilities. The Hindu, with a less strong thought of individual liberty, still preserves many ancient ideals; and no student of Hindu life can deny that these are as sacred to him as his worship of gods and goddesses, and are part of his dharma, or religion. If the Hindu once calls a woman sister, or daughter, or mother, he regards her as such all his life, through the sacred bond of his promise; and feels in honour bound to protect and sustain her, though she may not be related to him in any way.




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