The Wonder Lamp
In January 1969 when I was returning from an intensive tour in the Far East, I fell ill in Bombay, was taken to the hospital and confined to bed. The members of your National Assembly, yourselves and even your darling children showered me with so much love that despite all my efforts I remained speechless and unable to express the depth of my gratitude.
Then one day I thought of writing a story for your dearly loved children as an abiding testimony of my heartfelt thanks and appreciation. The Vision of a Wonder Lamp was written in a hospital room overlooking the Indian Ocean, the beautiful waves of which always reminded me of the many waves of your love, consideration and prayers which covered me and cured me.
Yours in the service of our beloved Guardian,
A. Q. Faizi
A lonely traveller reached the top of hills over-looking an endless space of land stretched towards the ever-surging sea. His silhouette against the deep blue sky was very graceful and charming. He gazed at the valleys, forests and mounds and found them barren and dead. Trees, bushes, herbs and grass which once ornamented the skirts of hills had been mercilessly swept away by the last winter gales. The bare trees stood on the slopes of valleys as relics of luxurious treasures lavishly strewn everywhere in the days gone, but now all seemed long forgotten, inaccessible and irretrievably lost. The lonely voyager sighed deeply and looking at all sides, whispered to himself, “The winter has been devastating, but the spring is not far off. If only my people could comprehend!”
Having uttered these words, he took his way towards the sea where he reached at a time when the endless daily struggle between the moon and the Mother Earth was at the highest tension. The moon, though pale and formless, was exerting a universe of power to pull the immense layers of water which covered the breast of Earth. On that particular day, the sea reflected the deep blue of heaven and rested beautifully all round the endless shores and looked like the prettiest blue gown with thousands of laces in constant rhythmic move hitting themselves against the rocks and sands with a roar which could reach the dome of heavens.
The struggle continued for hours but eventually the Mother Earth gave way and the moon started to pull with all its power. It pulled and pulled and the white beautiful laces began to go farther away, leaving the breast of the Mother Earth bare and exposed. The Earth beheld in grief and sorrow how the waves were running away and away. She no more could see the white foam and hear the roar of the giant waves. They diminished into ripples and looked like a vanquished army whose fighting soldiers were in captivity and were drawn to a foreign land in chains—no sound was heard from them. All in the silence of shame were heading far away away from the breast of Mother towards their unknown fate.
Thousands of birds like unto hungry urchins were waiting impatiently for the Mother Earth to open her breast and give them their daily food. These white-feathered birds soared up and up and up till such time as they appeared like the tails of children’s kites—white dots in the endless firmament floating to the music of the ever-roaring ocean. Then they would suddenly swoop down and down and touch the waves with their wings and make angry noises of hunger and impatience.
When the tremendous rush of waves subsided and they reached their unknown destiny in the far-off distance in the west, the birds came down on the breast of the Mother Earth and perched on crevices where delicious food had been provided for them. They jumped up and down and consumed their share of the daily provision. They chirped and chirped and praised and thanked and made happy and manifested joy and gratitude.
Hours passed and the Mother Earth could not sleep in peace and tranquillity being so bare and cold. Mother Earth was thinking of her children who had gone so far away from her bosom. She wanted them to come back to warm her body and to roll and roll on her bosom and fill the world with their roaring. She invited them to return and hit against the rocks and sands and make white foam as beautiful as the lace work of India and waves delicate as the lines on the ancient swords of Japan.
The evening star appeared and it stood very near to the moon. The evening star became very sad when he found that the moon had, by force, drawn away all the children of Earth and had held them in captivity. The moon asked the evening star as to the cause of its sadness, and said, “When I was a crescent, I held you in my heart. We looked like a ring in the heaven’s ear. When I grew in size, you went a bit further and still we both shed our two lines of light on the seas and made the sky and the oceans very beautiful for the lovers ... and now you keep so much aloof that we look like two who had never been friends.”
“Why do you keep the waves away from their shores?” asked the evening star. “Send them back.”
No sooner these words were uttered than the waves were set free. They began running like victorious armies returning home. They looked like a white belt round the Earth. As they approached, one would hear the cries of joy more and more. They reached the breast of Mother at night. They slept there quietly. It took hours before they reached there, but it was very sweet when they were back home. They calmly and slowly covered the breast of the Mother Earth and roared and roared in a slow, sweet and steady tone. She slept in peace and wept no more.
It was there that our fellow traveller became a friend of the evening star. He then resumed his daily walk. He went from village to village and gave the people the glad news of the advent of the beautiful days of the Spring. Every evening he would wash himself in the pure translucent waters of rivers of ponds or lakes and wait for the appearance of the evening star to offer his prayers.
It was in the first part of the spring that a wonderful lamp appeared. It was a huge, gigantic lantern, aglow with all the hues of the rainbow and the warmth of the sunshine. The lamp was not static. It was not hanging. It was placed upon a very beautiful pedestal which enabled the lamp to rotate and shed its mysterious light to all sides. It was not merely rotating, it seemed as if the lamp was moving to a mysterious music—low, sweet and utterly out of this world. The traveller was struck dumb with surprise and thrilled to the quick of his bones. He could not take his eyes away from that Wonder Lamp. As it turned and its resuscitating rays were gradually spread, the light and heat penetrated every one of the living cells and the endless forest thrived with the zest of a new life. There flowed into every branch fresh sap and into every vein fresh blood. The dark soil was covered with turquoise carpets intercepted by multi-coloured flowers. The fresh leaves on the trees glowed and became transparent crystals of all sizes, shapes and colours. Gradually the almond, the peach and the apple trees were completely transformed into most ravishingly beautiful umbrellas on the cover of which blossoms had been painted—blossoms of white, rose and pink.
A small child stealthily came and with her beautiful large black eyes, wide open with surprise, stared at the wonder lamp. Not knowing what it was, she timidly approached, stretched her arms bedecked with rings and bracelets and opening her fingers in front of the light, she moved them, like people who warm themselves in the winter time standing near a furnace. In her childish ecstatic delight, she moved her arms, then her shoulders and then her whole body with so much grace and tenderness that even heaven enjoyed the scene and sent its soft music for the joy of the innocent.
The small girl tiptoed and beckoned the other children who came, clad in different colours and different dresses, some with bells on their ankles. They all started to go round the Wonder Lamp and danced and danced. Their merriment and mirth became as boundless as the space and as pure as the joys in heaven.
While they were overwhelmed by their unending innocent intoxication, they heard the sound of drums, bugles and the footsteps of soldiers. The children became pale like people who were having a feeling of an impending storm fraught with unending perils. They ran to one another and nestled close to each other. They then came to know that all the drums and bugles were played as a prelude to the coming of a Prince.
The Prince reached the spot and looked with the greatest amazement at the Wonder Lamp and exclaimed, “How beautiful! I have never seen one like it in seven climes.” He was still on his horse.
“Where is it made?” he asked his tutor. “As far as I know,” the tutor replied, “such things are usually made by the craftsmen of China.”
Fear stricken, the helpless children were hiding behind the hills, praying that no harm would ever fall their beloved lamp. With their wide-open eyes they were also staring at the Prince, his ludicrous vanity and the petty and false pride of his flattering retinue who had arrayed themselves in such a way so that each one would be in the sight of the Prince.
There was a death-like silence when the Prince alighted. To break the silence, one of the courtiers bowed to the ground and proposed, “Won’t Your Highness leave some valuable object on this lamp as the souvenir of your visit here?”
The Prince exclaimed in contentment and joy, as he was walking on the green grass, “How astonishingly alert!” Then as if haunted by a fresh thought he stopped, and addressing his treasurer commanded, “Bring me the famous piece of silk sent to me from China. It is even finer than air and more translucent than fresh water.”
The treasurer immediately brought a parcel and after bowing several times, offered it to the Prince who, in turn, opened it and held it up in the air. It was indeed an exquisite piece of art, rarely to be found in these days. Such craftsmanship belonged to the days when men and women had more time, patience, endurance and peace of mind ; therefore much of the God-given gifts found outlets and were manifested in such incomparable masterpieces. The Prince asked the help of his retinue and, with their assistance, the silk cloth was reverently laid on the lamp. It was an ethereal phenomenon to watch. But alas! It diminished the light of the lamp.
Now a group of bashful blossoming youth surrounded the lamp to bathe in its life-giving rays. The endless blue of the sky mixed and mingled with the shimmering green of grass while the leaves on fresh branches rustled and quivered in the pleasant mid-summer day breeze. Everything exhilarated with new life. Everything was adorable and God was manifested in all His majesty, beauty, glory, grandeur and love.
All of a sudden, the dancing circle of the youth stood still. They heard the galloping of horses as swift as lightening and as wild as the storms of the mid-winter nights. A Minister was approaching with all his pomp and glory. When they reached the spot, they breathed the fresh and perfumed air, gathered round the lamp and wondered at its beauty.
The Minister, holding his bejeweled belt, looked at the lamp again and again and said, “Is this the lamp the fame of which has gone far and wide?” One of the attendants, lest some one else would come in with a new thought, pushed everyone aside and drew himself nigh to the Minister, bowed to the ground and said “Yes, Your Excellency. This is that illustrious object of art, which I was the first one to report to you. Such lamps with so much lustre and even warmth are the work of the far-off Cathay.”
An old man, not clad in the garment of gold, shy and with open and unblinking eyes stepped forth and exclaimed, “Your Excellency. Such mysterious lamps are manufactured in heavens.” No sooner than he mentioned this than all roared with laughter, obviously not to contradict the man, but to flatter the minister. The Minister also laughed and said, “Listen to the voice of a prophet.”
The man stood firm on his ground and resolutely said, “I am not a prophet, but a follower of one.” Having uttered these words, he went on his way.
Someone who was feeling the silk on the lamp with his finger, suddenly jumped forward and said, “Why not throw something on this lamp as the souvenir of your visit here!” “Well said,” shouted the Minister, “Let me see. What do I have worthy of this wonderful object?” He murmured to himself while walking up and down and then called his private attendant. “Bring me that shawl which is made in ancient India. It is embroidered, and it is sacred and old.”
The shawl was brought and with the greatest care and reverence it was spread over the lamp. The young ones, in their pitiable plight heaving heavy sobs, burst into heart-breaking tears. They found their lamp still turning but with great difficulty. Its light was dimmer and its warmth had diminished a great deal. They could no more bathe in its rays and feel blissful and gay. That afternoon the forest reflected the sorrow-stricken spirits of the children. The children raised their hands in supplication that their lamp might again regain its original splendour and lustre. But alas! A profound slumber prevailed everywhere. The green foliage which were once a solace to one’s eyes withered and a death-like sorrow covered the small hearts of the deprived children.
Towards sunset, loud peals of soldiers’ laughter were heard which announced the coming of no less a person than the Grand Vazir as a prelude to the advent of the King.
The first step taken by the Chief Minister was to examine the two covers already spread on the lamp. Feeling certain that in the presence of the King he would never have a chance to contribute his share to this object of beauty and wonder, he immediately covered the lamp with a third piece of cloth which proved to be even heavier and thicker than the previous ones.
It did not take long before the King dismounted from his stallion. Then in a voice even louder than thunder he shouted, “Where is the renowned lamp?” “Under these mantles, Your Majesty!” said the Grand Vazir. “The top one is mine which indicates the extent of my heart-felt joy to welcome you here!” Then he lifted a part of the covers and the King could have a glimpse of the glory and splendour of the lamp. When his eyes fell on it he exclaimed, “Exquisite! Unique! The only one that I have ever beheld in my life ... Now tell me, where is it made?” “We heard from our erudite ancestors,” said one of the attendants, “that such lamps are made in China.”
At this moment a pedestrian clad in simple garments appeared on the stage and raised his hand to take permission to talk. He was our lonely traveller.
“Draw nigh,” said the King very kindly, being attracted by the youthful appearance of the man and truthfulness of his attitude. His eyes flashed with fever of love and sincerity. He bowed in great respect, stood very straight with his eyes fixed on the King’s face. Then he said, “This lamp is made in heavens and brought down here by the angels of God. This is a part of the universal law of Creation.” “Hear! Hear! A prophet speaks!” said the King. “No, Your Majesty,” retorted the wayfarer, “only a humble believer in Him. May I continue?”
The Grand Vazir, who was listening with the utmost of aversion, interrupted and pleaded, “Your Majesty, the night is drawing near!” The King answered with great kindness, “I know, I know, but let him continue. I want to listen to him.”
“Such a lamp,” continued the disciple, “is brought to the earth almost every one thousand years.”
“Every one thousand years!” exclaimed the King.
“Yes, Your Majesty. The same rule prevails in the movement of the stars in the boundless firmament. Every one of them has a definite time to appear, a period of duration and a fixed time to set. There is perfect order in the whole of this universe. This cannot be an exception.”
The King smiled with joy and contentment and told him to continue.
“This lamp is ignited by invisible hands and reinforced from sources beyond our comprehension. It burns with such power and intensity that should the whole world unite together and pour on it the waters of the seven oceans, it will never be extinguished. Rather than being put off, it adds to its many rays of light.”
The Grand Vazir, who was very ugly, in face, was burning with the fire of jealousy. In order to destroy the castles of the young man’s hopes and aspirations he approached and started to talk. The following words were uttered, but each one like unto flames of hell which burned and destroyed. “Where are you coming from?”
“From yonder. I go from village to village.”
“Do you teach the same things to our people?”
“I carry water and supply it to whoever is thirsty. “Who are behind this hill waiting for you?”
“No one. I am alone.”
“You lie! You have formed crowds of irresponsible mobs to overthrow the throne of our kingdom ...”
The King was agitated and interrupted the interrogation of the Grand Vazir by saying, “But he seems very honest and loyal to us.”
The Grand Vazir “Yes, Your Majesty, in words, sweet words ...”
The young man—“May I continue?” The crowd of courtiers—“Yes.”
The King—“By all means.”
The young man turned his large, black and very attractive eyes to all sides. They all seemed hypnotized. He resumed his elucidation, “As to myself, I am a lonely wayfarer in these dales and valleys, far from the tumult of insurgent maddening life. My heart is parched and thirsty, but I carry the water of life in my hands. To you I am abjectly poor and miserable, but I stand on the inexhaustible treasures of our Creator. Lotus flowers I possess many, but ponds and lakes refuse to receive them. Thousands of songs are warbling on may lips, but the lyres of hearts are broken and harps of souls have no chords. Beware! Beware! Wild blazing fires of desire and passion are raging. Souls are abandoned, forlorn, forsaken and famished. Hearts are burnt and bruised with lust and greed. This unbroken, inflexible monotony of the pursuit of passion drags man from his throne to the abyss of animal life.
“This lamp burns and purifies the hearts of men. It is the same lamp in all ages, but comes under different names and in different spots of the earth. Sometimes it is called ‘Krishna’ ..., sometimes ‘Buddha’ ... ‘Zoroaster’ ... ‘Moses’ ...”
The Grand Vazir interrupted with great rage and fury and said, “Names that we have never heard, never known and never recognized.”
“Let him continue,” shouted the King.
“We are not worshippers of names. I am just telling you these names so that every one will be grateful to their zest and contributions to man’s life. Had it not been for people such as Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, we would never be prepared for this great day of God.”
“You see, Your Majesty,” very strongly protested the Grand Vazir, “He is putting the name of our Prophet along with the names of those who are profane, untrue and as yet unrecognized by us.”
“But he mentioned them with reverence,” said the King, and addressing the young man he ordered him to continue.
“As I said, they are the same, essentially the Same ... of the same magnitude, aim, ideal and Mission ...”
“Do you preach the same principles to the people of the towns and villages?” asked the Grand Vazir, in manifest anger.
“The sun shines the same in the kings’ mansions and in the peasants’ cottages,” answered the man, “therefore, the Message of God is the same everywhere.”
A. young man from amongst the courtiers approached the King and pleaded with him, “Allow me to accompany him.”
“Why?” asked the King.
The young man drew his sword and exclaimed, “Up till now I believed that the highest honour was to kill, now I comprehend that I am wrong. We must give life. His message brings life ...”
The Grand Vazir pointed to the young man with derision and scorn and said, “Therefore you must take off all your gold and silver attires and become a beggar like him.”
The soldier began to disarm himself and he felt so exhilarated and happy that he cried, “I feel as light as air and I will soar with him through the firmaments.”
The Grand Vazir became inwardly very joyous, because he found a pretext to rouse the anger of the King and bring down the final blow on the man he loathed so intensely. He very cunningly and softly approached the King and whispered, “Up till now I kept the country in peace and perfect order. But this man in front of your own eyes snatched one of your own and very loyal followers. I know their sole aim is to overthrow the throne and create confusion, therefore from now on, I will not be responsible.”
As the dusk approached and the darkness grew deeper and deeper, the children, who had been already cramped with fear and felt chilled and desolate at heart, scattered and the ripple of their joyful laughter was no more echoed in the hills and valleys.
The King was bewildered and the Grand Vazir in the utmost of wrath. At the spur of one fleeting moment he could snatch from the King the fateful decree against the young man. As the King was speedily mounting his, steed, he ordered, “Cover the Lamp and kill the young man with his companion.”
A mantle, as heavy as armour, carrying the initials of the Imperial Household, was immediately placed on the Lamp. In the cruel darkness which had enveloped everywhere just like the flash of lightening, a sword swept across the sky, not once, but twice and two innocent young men dropped down dead.
Dear children, wherever you are, by sunset look towards the spot where the sun disappears and you will always find a very brilliant star. This star was there at the moment when the youthful disciple and his companion offered their innocent, pure and precious blood at the altar of truth in which their hearts firmly believed. This evening star watched the dreadful bloodshed and wept the whole night. He saw that their blood commingled and streamed forth, meandered through the forests and reached deep, deep into the roots of all trees. In memory of that fateful event, the evening star appears every sunset, before all other heavenly bodies. It appears early to remind us of the lovely story of the Wonder Lamp and the two audacious devotees.
Every spring at that spot, hundreds of children assemble to make bouquets of roses which are like the drops of the blood of those two beloved heroes.
Centuries passed. One of the most gigantic tempests swept the whole earth. Millions of houses were destroyed. Thousands of temples were dilapidated and perished. Hundreds of exalted abodes, castles and mansions were razed to dust. The whole surface of the planet was altered.
When the tempest reached the Wonder Lamp, the heavy mantles were taken far, far away into the corners of oblivion and were lost. The Lamp began to move again; this time with more light, more vigour and more warmth. New buildings were raised and temples were constructed and the whole world was bathed in the spring rains and purged from the dirty soils of dissentious hatreds and prejudices. The large planet shrank and knit together and men became so close to one another that henceforth they considered themselves members of one household. The forests, the meadows, the prairies, all were dressed in their green attires, decorated with the multi-coloured flowers to welcome the scattered children who were returning home. They were of all races, colours, creeds and climes and hand in hand went round and round the Wonder Lamp. They danced and danced. Heaven and Earth accompanied the chanting of the innocent when they raised their tender voices to mention the most great Name of God, the Creator of the whole universe.
Sumer Printing Press,
New Delhi [India]