We continue with the series of lectures given by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan a hundred years ago, during the Dutch Summer School of 1922. This cenentary was recently celebrated in the Universal Murad Hassil, and readers can find a video of the event here. The previous post in this series on the ‘Problem of the Day’ is here.
These people who are sentenced to imprisonment for so many years, what often is got out of it? Have they learned to refrain from doing their wrong-doing again? No. It has only blunted their fineness, their clearness of conscience, their delicate sensibility of looking at an error. Once they have realized themselves degraded before the eyes of humanity, they become more shameless. By a deep study of human nature one will find out that the tendency to make an error is not a crime. It is very often either ignorance or weakness, and this cannot be cured or corrected by sending them to prison or giving them a life sentence.
A prison is a home of misery. That will not teach mankind how to live better, how to be better. What is necessary is a school for criminals, not imprisonment. The only sentence which can be given is compulsory attendance at this school, where they are taught by sufficiently advanced people to see for themselves the suitable action and to find out where they have made a mistake. Where there was weakness, if there was weakness, then to train them and show them how to develop, and show them how they can get out of it; if it was through ignorance, then sufficient light should be put upon their minds so that they may realize for themselves that it was their error.
When the teachr of the school and those who attend the school both are convinced and satisfied with each other, then he is a free man again. Why all this misery? Who profits by it? Why all this expense that the state has to make without any benefit from it? What a difference if one can only find that there was a time in the civilization of the past when one wise man, gifted with divine light, who has keen sight into the matter, judged a case instantly, at first glance. And the case was finished in a moment’s time instead of going on for years and years, those in fault having all the time to pay for their faults. And then, for one particular acton there are ten people accused, they have the same kind of punishment.
There is a story that four criminals were brought before a wise king, accused of some fault. He looked at one and said, “He must be hanged.” He looked at another and said, “He must be exiled.” He looked at the third person and said, “He must be sentenced for the whole life.” And he looked at the fourth person and said, “I am sorry to think that you can do such a thing. Go away. Do not show yourself to me any more.” All these three went to their punishments, willingly or unwillingly, but this one, the last one, he went home and committed suicide from remorse. These words of the king were worse whan a life sentence, they cut him through.
We do not use in everyday life the same whip for the horse as we do for the donkey. The matter is not realized just now – individual temperament, recognition of individual character. The theory of the individual does not seem to exist. It is all a rigid law by which the whole humanity may be governed – whether it is the donkey or the horse or the mule. And what it takes away is the progress of humanity towards a higher ideal. It pulls man down to think that he is bound to the rigidity of thoughts and ideas. He cannot feel himself exalted. He feels himself bound to the earth, and there is no way of getting out of it.
This is, no doubt, the ways of the periods in the past for this purpose, and the methods of today are for today, but reform has a scope in every period. It is not necessary that during this period we should follow the methods of the past, but it is most necessary that we should recognize the faults of the age today, so that we can get above them. We must adopt new methods.
One of the best ways of dealing with crime is not to take the criminal as a criminal, but to take him as either ignorant or weak. Instead of hating him, instead of insulting him and looking on him with contempt, to feel that feeling of brotherhood, that he is a human being as we ourselves are and that we could have the same fault in us. Only if at this moment he happens to be in fault, it is our duty to lift him up, thinking that some day we may be in his place and he may lift us up. It is that feeling of brotherhood which will enlighten the generality, and not the feeling that by the power of a certain office or by a certain law that man can condemn another to imprisonment, and not really having known the cause inside, the cause which was behind his crime.
For a Sufi this is a question of very great importance, for he sees the cause behind the cause, and in this way several causes, one behind the other, until he traces in the particular Cause Whom he calls God, that leading Cause which leads every impulse and every activity, even of the sinners. After rising to the Sufi realization one dare not say one word, whatever he sees. He can only keep his lips closed and do all he can to smooth the condition, to make things better without uttering one word, without arguing, without accusing, without condemning anyone for his fault.
Verily, after all, God is working behind every purpose, every impulse.
To be continued…