(A Book Review of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet)
The New Year constantly evokes in us that feeling of beginning things anew, a clean slate for a fresh start. While some are listing down their set of goals to be accomplished for this year and making resolutions (that’s not always resolve enough or rectified even before the month of January ends), this line of introspection set in me a mood of reflection in turn making me long for an inspirational read, and so once again I come upon the affecting words of Khalil Gibran in his most celebrated work, The Prophet.
Though a slim volume, I hold The Prophet as one of those books made more meaningful by numerous rereading. I first encountered Gibran’s work when I read about it on a foreign magazine having a feature about a certain celebrity who counts this as one of her favourite books (perhaps it was Julia Roberts?). Then in an act of opportune timing I borrowed it from a friend (a former classmate the previous school year during high school) who chose it for her book report since we have the same teacher for our English subject. My first reading of the book got me aware that the book is generally about some of life’s important facets and phases, yet my young mind can’t understand at first what the author’s words convey. It was in college that I at least nearly grasp what it speaks of, yet what impressed me the most on that second reading was the lyricism and beauty of its meaningful albeit simple lines.
The Prophet, published in 1923 and translated in more than twenty languages, begins with the tale of Al-Mustafa, the titular prophet, who is about to sail back to the land of his birth after his sojourn at the city of Orphalese for twelve years. He ponders over the years of knowledge he gained while residing in the city and the difficulty at the approaching hour of his departure. Before boarding his ship he is stalled by the citizens who are also saddened by his parting, and so they urged him to speak to them for one last time.
What follows is a compendium of wisdom divided into parts at which various people ask for individually that span the topics of love, marriage, children, giving, work, eating and drinking, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death. Through the character Al-Mustafa, Gibran reveals a philosophy, spirituality and a vision that will give a further outlook on life bringing the reader on another side to the questions one asks every day.
Though years it may have been since I last read The Prophet I still find it beautiful, thought-provoking and moving. Indeed the book has strong religious implications, yet at the heart of it remains its power, its universal appeal: the desire to explore the human spirit. Midway into the book I decided to take it in small measures to allow myself a bit of contemplation, thus making me question and confront myself, to take stock what and where do my priorities in this life lie. Aside from the added insights from this third reading I also am rewarded for the proper perspective by which to look at the year to which I am grateful I’ve been given with.
Through its ethereal language and celestial beauty, Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet has a way of speaking and reaching people at different stages in their life; that the more you read it the more you come to understand the words. It is a perceptive book wherein life is delved deep and explored in its possibilities, celebrated and glorified in all its nuances. Here, life is passionately in love with life that the aches wrought by death diminish with the soul flourishing in all its sublime beauty.