Brainstorm of an Ishmaelite


French to English

The Oak and the Reed

Fables, Jean de la Fontaine,
« Le chêne et le roseau »
Livre I, fable 22

The Oak once said to the Reed:
“You’ve good cause to blame nature:
a wren to you is a heavy burden,
the slightest breeze that peradventure
wrinkles the face of the water
obliges you to lower your head,
whereas my brow, like the Caucasus,
not quite satisfied to block the rays of the sun,
resists the efforts of the storm.
All’s Boreas to you, all seems Zephyrus to me.
Moreover, if you were born in the shelter of my foliage
which covers the neighbourhood,
you wouldn’t have to suffer so much.
I would protect you from the storm.
But more often you are born
on the dank shores of the Kingdom of the Wind.
Nature seems to me quite unjust to you.”
“Your compassion,” answered the shrub,
“Is good-natured, but don’t worry.
The winds are less redoubtable to me than you.
I bend, but don’t break.
So far, you’ve resisted their dreadful blows
without arching your back,
but the end remains to see.” As he spoke these words,
From the end of the horizon rushed furiously
the most awful child
the North ever bore in its flanks.
The tree stands firm, the reed bends.
The wind redoubles its efforts
so well it uproots
the one whose head neighboured heaven
and whose feet touched the dominion of the dead.

Arabic to English


Qur’an, Chapter 31

In the name of God, the Gracious and Compassionate

I. Believers and Deniers

1 A L M.
2 These are verses of the wise scripture,
3 a guide and mercy to the righteous
4 who pray and tithe and are sure of the hereafter.
5 They follow the guidance of their Lord and they will prosper.

6 Some people purchase fustian
to ignorantly divert others from the path of God
and make it a mockery.
A humiliating torment awaits them.

7 When our verses are recited to him
he turns away proudly as if he didn’t hear them,
as if there was deafness in his ears.
Therefore announce to him an agonizing torment.

8 As for the believers who do good,
they shall have gardens of bliss
9 forever to remain.
God’s promise is true.
It is Almighty and Wise.

II. Heaven and Earth

10 It created the heavens without pillars you see
and cast anchors upon the earth lest it drift with you
and spread all kinds of animals therein.
We sent down water from heaven
and made all kinds of bountiful couples to flourish therein.
This is God’s creation.
Show me what those besides have created.
The wrongdoers are plainly wrong!

III. Ten Keys of Wisdom

12 We gave Luqman wisdom: “Be grateful to the Lord.
Whoever is grateful is grateful for his own sake.
Whoever denies, truly God is Wealthy and Praised.”

13 Luqman advised his son:
“My son, serve no god beside God.
Truly, idolatry is a grave injustice.”

14 We commend Man his parents.
His mother bore him in faintness upon faintness
and the years of his weaning are twain.
So be grateful to me and your parents.
To me is the journey’s end.

15 If they argue with you to serve another god you ignore
do not heed them, but deal with them politely in this world
and follow his path who turns to Me.
You shall return to Me and I shall inform you of your actions.

16 “My son, be it the weight of a mustard seed
in a rock, in the heavens or the earth
the Lord shall produce it.
Truly, the Lord is Subtle and Informed.

17 “My son, be steadfast in prayer,
enjoin goodness, forbid evil
and be patient with whatever befalls you.
Truly, these things require determination.

18 Do not turn your cheek to people
or walk about the land exulting.
God loves not a conceited braggart.
19 Walk humbly and lower your voice.
The most irritating sound is the braying of asses.”

II. Heaven and Earth

20 Don’t you see that God subdued for you what is in heaven and earth
and bestowed upon you favours manifest and hidden?
Yet there are people who argue about God
without knowledge or guidance or an illuminating scripture.
21 When they are told: “Follow what God has revealed,”
they say: “We follow the way of our fathers.”
Even if the Devil calls them to an infernal torment?

I. Believers and Deniers

22 Whoever surrenders his face to God and is righteous
has grasped the firmest handle.
With God is the conclusion of affairs.

23 As for the deniers, don’t let their denial grieve you.
They shall return to us and we shall inform them of their actions.
Truly, God knows what is in the heart.
24 We let them enjoy themselves a little
and then we shall drive them into a severe torment.

II. Heaven and Earth

25 If you ask them who created the heavens and the earth
they shall say: “God.”
Say: “Praise God!” but most of them are ignorant.
26 To God belongs what is in heaven and earth.
Truly, God is Wealthy and Praised.

27 If all the trees on earth were pens
and the sea was ink, with seven more seas,
the words of God would not be exhausted.
Truly, God is Almighty and Wise.

28 Your creation and resurrection are as a single soul.
Truly, God is Hearing and Seeing.

29 Don’t you see that God turns night into day and day into night?
It subdued the sun and the moon.
Each follows its course to a specified term.
Truly, God is aware of what you do.
30 For God is the truth
and what they call upon besides it is false.
God is the Highest, the Greatest.

31 Don’t you see the ships glide on the sea by the grace of God
so it may show you its signs?
There indeed is a sign for every patient and grateful one.
32 When a wave looms over them like a canopy
they pray to God with sincere devotion.
But when it delivers them to shore, some of them wax indifferent.
None but an ungrateful traitor denies our signs.

III. Five Keys of the Unseen

33 People, beware of your Lord
and fear a Day when no father shall avail his son,
and no son shall avail his father.
God’s promise is true,
so don’t let the life of this world deceive you
nor the Deceiver deceive you concerning God.

34 The Lord has knowledge of the Hour.
He sends down rain
and knows what is in the womb.
No soul knows what it shall earn the morrow
or where it shall die.
Truly, God is Omniscient and Aware.