Created/produced/written by Wequar Azeem

I realize that the small group sitting here represents the best Pakistan has to offer
as a typical sampling of the educated, upper middle class (from Pakistani standards), living in the west, who understand clearly what Secularism is, its pros and cons, and how it enforces equality of rights and obligations, distribution of opportunities, and rewards of hard work on a level playing field, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender and race. The objective of our collective exercise is to get every Pakistani to have the same clarity of concept and thus pick Secularism as their preferred choice. It goes without saying that it is a tall order. Once the whole nation is at least semi-educated, the concept will get auto-corrected by evaporation of prevalent ignorance and abundance of knowledge. However that might take many more generations. As the poet said
“Kon jeeta hae teri zulf ke sar honay tak”.
All of us participating in the discussion that follows my reading of these few pages, fully understand the concept of Secularism.  But we are not a typical sample of the poor rural population of Pakistan. There, the vast majority consists of illiterate, semi-literate automatons who live in the countryside and cannot think or decide for themselves; they simply follow orders, being the lowest base of the pyramid of social hierarchy. A product of many generations ruled by feudal system. They are the great majority of Pakistan’s unquestioning and completely docile order takers. How Secularism is perceived in the developed western countries is not in the purview of this discussion. For example, in USA, secularists tend to prefer and are bound by law of the land, that their legislators and politicians make decisions for secular rather than religious reasons. In this respect, policy decisions pertaining to topics like Abortion, Contraception, Embryonic Stem Cell research, Same-Sex marriage, and Sex Education are prominently focused upon by American secularist organizations such as the Center for Inquiry. What we intend to explore is whether Pakistanis back home can be primed and persuaded to think and formulate public policies on similar lines as Secularist Americans.
The purpose of this presentation is to elicit ideas, advice and suggestions from all of you, a great sample of Pakistan’s best although a tiny minority living in the West, on how to spread the true meanings of Secularism among  Pakistanis back home and to dispel the anti Secularism propaganda spread by vested interests. Those vested interests employ doctored history, misleading text books, faulty education, to strike the fear that Secularism will  hurt Islam and so on. Those vested interests hide behind religious platforms of madaris, pulpit of mosques, Islamist media and religious political parties, simply to perpetuate their own domination.
Later in this paper I will try to present how Secularism is currently viewed in Pakistan, why it is so described, and what needs to be done to rectify the problem.
Being a madarsa alumnus, class of ’57 of Madarsa Islamia in Chittagong, I am deficient in English diction and composition and may need to lapse into Urdu to convey my thoughts whenever I fail, which I often do, to find the right word in English. I seek your indulgence. So here goes my presentation.
Secularism Is
Secularism is broadly defined as the separation between Religion and State, such that the ideologies of religious groups do not feature in, or interfere with the functions of the government.  The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was originally formed with the intention of functioning as a purely secular State.
Secularism is premised on the belief that within a democracy, all citizens are, and must be treated as equal before both the law and parliament, with the same rights and obligations as one another. No religious or political affiliation, or lack thereof, is to be afforded any advantages or disadvantages. These aims of secularism are executed through establishing laws and policies of such a state, that provide equal protection for all citizens, regardless of the particular religion or philosophical beliefs of any particular citizen.
Secularism Is Not
Secularism is not the denouncement, disavowal, or devaluing of religion, or religious ideas.  It is not atheism, nor does it challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief, nor seeks to curtail or restrict religious freedoms.  Secularism not only recognizes the existence of (multiple) religion(s), it also hedges on the principle, that (each) religion has its own unique space, which must not overlap with the functions of government affairs.  In doing so, secularism does not endorse or promote any one religion, by refraining from assigning differing values to one over others.
The Dominant Perception of Secularism in Pakistan, among the Illiterate and Semi-literate Socioeconomic Classes (Godlessness, Atheism, Anti-Islam, pro-Indian Sentiment)
    The current sociopolitical environment, educational system, and (news) media industry portrays a very grim and wholly inaccurate picture of how the majority of Pakistan (i.e. mainly the illiterate and semi-literate socioeconomic portions of the population) perceive secularism.  Secularism is often confused with Godlessness, Atheism, anti-Islamic, and even as pro-Indian sentiment.  Many view the concept of secularism as a blatant rejection of religion (specifically Islam), under the mistaken belief that discouraging Islamic-privilege in government and law, is akin to outright blasphemy.
Roots of Misperception of Secularism  in Pakistan
    The misperception of secularism in the context of Pakistan, can largely be attributed to the supporters of Islamization.  The beginnings of Islamization can be seen as far back as 1971, when East Pakistan and West Pakistan parted ways.  In the same decade, elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was seen bowing before pressure imposed by Islamic parties in Pakistan, which was evidenced through the ban of alcohol, gambling, and nightclubs in the early 1970s, as well as the government’s declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims.  But the overwhelming force of Islamization was felt with the military coup of 1977, led by General Zia-Ul-Haq (“Haq”).
    Islamization sought to present itself as a direct opposition of secularism, declaring it as the enemy of, rather than an alternative to the same.  In doing so, particularly during Haq’s 11 year reign, it influenced the young nation’s populace, to view secularism and any resulting separation of Church and State, as a direct attack on Islamic principles and way of life. Shariah law was brought into force and enacted in place of the common law in the arenas of family and marriage laws, evidentiary procedures, inheritance laws, banking laws, and criminal laws, amongst others.  This (d)evolved into a justice system that was heavily reliant on Islamic principles, and greatly rewarded those citizens that were proponents of the same.  Some key examples of this include establishment of a separate Shariat Court system, the Hudood Ordinance, the introduction of criminal offences of adultery, fornication, and blasphemy, and declaring interest-income to be illegal for being un-Islamic.  To further this aim, marshall law sought to control and restrict the free flow of information, opportunities, and ideas to the citizens of Pakistan, allowing only those that helped Haq to reinforce his narrowly-tailored, and utterly false definition of secularism.  School text books were altered to remove that which was perceived (by Haq’s unilateral interpretation and discretion) objectionable or repugnant to the principles of Islam, the ulama was given a boost of importance and involvement to comment and influence the matters of the State, and Islamic programming was given top priority on television airtime.
    But perhaps the most influential factor was the rise in the number and attendance of madarsas during this time.  This gave Haq the opportunity to shape not only young minds from the outset, but also the overall mind of the young nation when it was most impressionable, to shape and influence such nation’s (mis)perception of and attitude towards secularism.
What was Jinnah’s perception of secularism and which elements wanted to defeat it (Jinnah’s address to constituent assembly on August 11 1947- entire text available on google)
In his landmark speech before the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, founder of Pakistan and first Governor-General, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (“Jinnah”), touched upon various goals and visions for Pakistan, on the eve of its birth. He asserted that, “if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor… If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste, or creed, is first, second, and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.” At the outset, it is apparent that Jinnah is a proponent of total equality amongst the citizens of Pakistan, with no distinctions to be made on the basis of religion, colour, or creed – a fundamental tenement of secularism.
He goes on to state, “in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community … will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” In this part of the speech it becomes abundantly clear that Jinnah has a secular vision for Pakistan, and not only insists that religious affairs, groups, and beliefs must have no involvement in the business of the State, but also vehemently believes that separation of Church and State, if established earlier, would have become India’s biggest strength, rendering it invincible towards any nation attempting to conquer and divide it.
Finally, Jinnah says, “We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State… Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Here, he envisages a Pakistan, which possesses a government and legal and justice system that is blind to the religious proclivities of its citizens, and keeps all who pledge their allegiance to such State on a level playing field.  The word “secularism” may not have been uttered even once throughout his speech, but its principles resonate loudly throughout, and are undeniable.
Suggestions for Changing the Perception of Secularism among Pakistanis
    Changing the perception of secularism in Pakistan is a tall order that requires long-term planning and investment.  The two keys areas that will be instrumental in this, are the same areas used by Haq to spread Islamization in Pakistan, i.e. legislation and education.  Legislatures will have to take on the task of repealing those laws, which are (1) overly burdensome; (2) promote any type of inequality of rights, liabilities, opportunities, advantages and/or disadvantages amongst citizens; and (3) promote or demote the agenda of any religion over another, or lack thereof.  This starts with Constitutional amendments, that do away with any constitutional provisions that have been found to be contradicting other constitutional provisions, removing the ones which violate the principles of equality, fair play, and justice.  Justice cannot be blind, and citizens cannot be equal, unless the laws of the land are first blind.
    Finally, an educational system, that allows for a free flow and exchange of information, and mandates critical thinking is crucial.  An entire generation must go through and complete the requisite education under such a system, to cleanse the polluted political palate of Pakistan. Critical thinking is particularly important because it is key for any individual or citizen to make a meaningful and informed choice, whether with respect to religion, or otherwise.  And the choice to meaningfully believe and practice is at the heart of all religions, as well as secularism.

Transcript of Dr. Shoeb Amin’s talk on April 9th, 2017

Nasik Elahi, Imtiaz Bokhari, Fayyaz Sheikh, Noor Salik, Mushtaq Ahmad, Ajaz Uddin, Ramesh & Kanta Ubriani and Jamila Amin.
Speaker: Shoeb Amin
After a brief presentation describing my recent visit to Najaf & Karbala I started what I hope was first of many Sunni-Shia intra-faith discussions. Factors that may have been in place long before the events of Ghadir e Khum and those following the Prophet’s death, like tribal rivalries (Ali, Abu Bakr, Umar &Uthman were all from different sub tribes of Quraysh tribe ) and jealousies; events happening after Ayesha was accidentally left in the desert returning from an expedition( Ali advised the Prophet to divorce Ayesha on the prophet’s solicitation of Ali’s advice) and Fatema’s eventual marriage to Ali after proposals from Abu Bakr and Umar were turned down.  Then the actual events of Ghadir e Khum and the Saqifah were presented, two of the most important event that were the beginning of the Shia-Sunni split.  The materials I used were derived from Reza Aslan’s “No god but God”, Barnaby Rogerson’s “Heirs of the Prophet”, some other books I have read in the past and the articles from the following links.
The above is the Shia view of the events of Ghadir e Khum
This is another Shia source and it claims to have the complete speech at Ghadir e Khum with a long list of references at the end , some of them by authors respected even by Sunnis. The problem is the whole speech is a composite of many parts, each presented by a different source; no one authority has the whole speech and it is not clear who is the author of which part.
This 40 page article lays out the Sunni view of Ghadir e Khum. One may read all the pages or just the following to get the gist of it: pages 4,8,9,18,19,and 37.
Of course there are many more sources a reader can consult and then make their own decisions as to what transpired that day.
Then the events following the death of the Prophet and the declaration of Abu Bakr as the Khalifa at Saquifah was presented. For that I used the above quoted two books and the following link besides many other accounts I have read.
At the very outset of my talk I said that my intention was not to decide which one is the “real” Islam but to inform one side what the other believes in and why; hopefully that may lead to a better understanding of the other’s position and perhaps even some respect. 
I understand that Shias would have wanted Ali to be the first successor to the Prophet – or even the second or third – but what happened 1400 years ago cannot be reversed and holding that grudge against present day Sunnis is non productive. By the same token, because of the split those events created, a different theology and different religious practices developed in Shi’ism over time and most of those also cannot be reversed. So calling Shias by the many pejorative terms is equally non-productive.
Muslims go to churches and synagogues telling their congregants how we all have the same prophets, how we are all people of the Book and how we are tolerant of other religions ( lakum deenakum walaya deen is oft quoted in those interfaith dialogues). Why can’t we extend the same acceptance to each other and the same respect to each other? We are more similar than we are to Christians and Jews with whom we proudly have interfaith dialogues. The only other alternative is the continuation of blaming, hating, fighting and killing each other for the next 1400 years.

Omar Khayyam

Lecture by Mirza I. Ashraf

Omar Khayyam
(A Muslim Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher, and Poet)

Of knowledge, naught remained I did not know,
Of secrets, scarcely any, high or low;
All day and night for three score and twelve years,
I pondered, just to learn that naught I know.

Omar Khayyam Nishapuri (1048-1131), was the most brilliant mathematician, astronomer, and author of important philosophical works of his time. He was a free thinker and a skeptic, but at the same time a poet of Sufi path to wisdom. His unique intellectual genius is the relationship of his poetry with his philosophy, and a relationship of his philosophy with mathematics and astronomy. Generally, his importance in Islamic intellectual tradition is due to his poetry of the Rubaiyyat (quatrains), in which he challenged religious doctrines, alluding to the hypocrisy of the clergies. Casting doubt on almost every aspect of religious belief, he appears to have professed a type of humanism. Because of his rational arguing the secret of creation and human fate, some thinkers in the West refer him as the “Eastern Voltaire.”
With Earth’s first clay They did the Last Man knead,
And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
And the First Morning of Creation Wrote
What the last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

Khayyam believed that man’s presence in this world, entry and exist is predetermined, a condition he bemoans throughout his poetry.
Born into a family of tent-makers in Nishapur, then a Seljuq capital in Khorasan, what is today’s Iran, Khayyam after studying Qur’an and Islamic jurisprudence, achieved proficiency in the sciences of algebra, geometry and astronomy. Throughout his life, he taught algebra and geometry during the day, and in the evening attended the court of the Seljuq Sultan Malik Shah as an adviser. He intelligently makes a whimsical reference to his knowledge of science and his family profession of a tent maker in his quatrain.
Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science,
Has fallen in grief’s furnace and been suddenly burned,
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life,
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!
After the death of the Sultan, having lost the favor of an adviser, he set out on Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. When he returned to Nishapur, he was appointed as a court astrologer, a rank much lower to his level of knowledge. He was a quiet, humble, reserved person who wished to remain intellectually inconspicuous, as is evident from one of his quatrain:
The secrets which my book of love has bred,
Cannot be told for fear of loss of head;
Since none is fit to learn, or cares to know,
‘Tis better all my thoughts remain unsaid.
He wrote remarkable fourteen treatises identified to date, on the subjects of poetry, philosophy, and mathematics. Since his poetry presents philosophical wisdom, he being initially a man of science and general philosophy has not received the attention he deserved in the scientific field. However, recently his seven-philosophical works have been published.
Omar Khayyam was an important member of the panel that reformed the Persian Jalali calendar which remained in use in Iran and Afghanistan from 11th to 20th centuries. The Jalali calendar, similar to Hindu calendar is based on actual solar transit and is considered more accurate than the Gregorian calendar. Khayyam by adding one day after every four years in the month of February, as a leap year, fixed the Gregorian calendar as we have today.

Omar Khayyam, in his life was very famous as a great mathematician and astronomer. Before Khayyam, Muhammad al-Khwarizmi (780-850) had invented Algebra and most importantly a set of numerical calculations and instructions known by his own name as Alkhwarizm—Latinized Algorithm—which if carried out systematically produces a desired result. Algorithms are critical to software design, modern science, and engineering, enabling computers and smart electronics to sort through masses of digital data and text. Khayyam was familiar with al-Khwarizmi’s great achievement, and in the year 1070 he wrote, Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, which was later adopted in Europe. In particular, he derived general methods for solving cubic equations of higher order.

(a) Theory of Parallels: Khayyam wrote Explanations of the Difficulties in the Postulates in Euclid’s Elements, which contains several sections on the parallel postulate on Euclidean definition of ratios, Anthyphairetic ratio (modern continued fraction) and on the multiplication ratios. He made the first attempt at formulating a non-Euclidean postulate as an alternative to the parallel postulate.
(b) Geometric Algebra: In solving cubic equation, Khayyam’s celebrated approach and method in geometric-algebra presents the philosophical view of mathematics. His approach can be considered the first systematic study and the first exact method of solving cubic equation.
(c) Binomial Theorem and Extraction of Roots: This particular remark of Khayyam and certain proposition found in his Algebra book have made some historians of mathematics believe that Khayyam had indeed a binomial theorem up to any power, which is based on his ability to extract roots.
(d) Khayyam-Saccheri Quadrilateral: Khayyam, considering the three cases—right, obtuse and acute—that the summit angles of a Saccheri quadrilateral can take and after proving a number of theorems about them, he correctly refuted the obtuse and acute cases based on his postulate and hence derived the classic postulate of Euclid.

The statue of Khayyam in Persian Scholars Pavilion,
United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria

4. ASTRONOMER: Like most of Muslim mathematicians of the medieval Islamic period, Khayyam was also an astronomer. Invited by sultan Malik Shah he helped build an Observatory. Before Khayyam, ibn al-Haytham (900-1040), author of the Book of Optics, wrote about empirical science, optics, light, and the skies to create perhaps the most scientific and accurate view of the physical universe until Copernicus and Galileo. But it was Al-Biruni (973-1048) who had proved four centuries before Galileo that the earth is round, rotates on its axis and moves around the sun. Al-Biruni showed through a diagram how lunar eclipses occur.

5. HELIOCENTRIC THEORY: Khayyam demonstrated that the earth rotates on its axis by presenting to his contemporaries a model of the stars in his planetarium. Edward Fitzgerald’s anachronistic rendering of Khayyam’s poetry, in which the first lines are mistranslated with a heliocentric image of the Sun fling “the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight,” depicts that Khayyam believed in heliocentrism.
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Statue of Omar Khayyam at his home town Nishapur

Khayyam’s philosophical treatises were written in the Peripatetic tradition when philosophy in general and rationalism in particular was under attack in twelfth century in the world of Islam. He, therefore, had to defend himself against the charge of being a philosopher.
“A philosopher I am,” my enemies falsely say,
But God knows I am not what they say;
While in this sorrow-laden nook, I reside
Need to know who I am, and why Here stay.
In his work On Being and Necessity, Khayyam defining philosophy along the Peripatetic line argues that there are three real issues to be discussed in philosophy—which are standard Aristotelian questions— ‘is it?’ ‘what is it?’ and ‘why is it?’
For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line
And “Up-and-down” by Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but—Wine.
For Khayyam, these questions have a wider range of philosophical implication as the subject of philosophy is essentially the response to three questions: “whether something is,” “what it is,” and “why it is what it is.”
Omar Khayyam frequently mentions Avicenna as his master. He taught for decades the philosophy of Avicenna, especially The Book of Healing, in his hometown of Nishapur, till his death. He is the most important thinker to have continued Avicennian philosophy, and at the same time the last solitary philosopher to have raised his voice during the period of philosophical suppression in the Islamic world. When one examines all of Khayyam’s philosophical treatises together, one finds him as essentially Avicennian or Aristotelian philosopher with particular acumen in the mathematical and natural order, on the one hand, and mysticism, on the other. His whole work is based on the Necessary Being, the One, who is Reality who in religious language is called “God.” He believed that all that exists, exists by virtue of the One Necessary Being.
Khayyam’s philosophy of mathematics draws attention to three basic mathematical ideas. The first is “mathematical order,” that the Divine origin of all existence not only emanates the being, by virtue of which all things gain reality, but it is also the source of order that is inseparable from the very act of existence. To speak of a being is also to speak of order, which the science of mathematics studies in turn as do certain other disciplines. The second is a “mathematic-philosophical” question with which Khayyam was concerned is the significance of postulates in geometry and the necessity for the mathematician to rely upon philosophy in order to prove the postulates and principles of his own science. He associated motion with the world of matter and wanted to keep it away from the purely intelligible and immaterial world of geometry. Third important issue for Khayyam is the “difference between natural body and mathematical body.” The natural body is in the category of substance with which the natural science deals and it stands for itself, while the mathematical body is of the category of accident which is the concern of mathematics that does not subsist by itself in the external world.
Though Khayyam, the philosopher could also be understood through his Rubaiyyat, but in Fitzgerald’s translation the quatrains convey, at least superficially, hedonistic, fatalistic, and this worldly philosophy combined with much skepticism about religious teaching. He is to be best understood through his philosophical works in the light of intellectual and social conditions of his time. The philosopher-scientist Khayyam was not the same Khayyam who is the author of the quatrains. Khayyam in his time as well as today, is famously known as Hakim meaning a philosopher-sage, and a spiritual-pragmatist. In fact, his Rubaiyyat are to be viewed as a philosophical commentary on the human condition.
For Khayyam, there are two discourses, each of which pertains to one dimension of human existence: philosophical and poetic. Philosophically, Khayyam was the last Aristotelian in the world of Muslim thinkers. He defended rationalism against the rise of orthodoxy and made an attempt to revive the spirit of rationalism which had remained prevalent in the first four centuries in the Islamic world. Poetically, he represents a voice of protest against what he regards to be fundamentally unjust world. People, even today, find in him a voice they love to hear, and many centuries after he had died his Rubaiyyat in original Persian language and translations in many other languages, are being seen a venue for those who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations as Omar Khayyam had.

Preference for sensual pleasures and glorification of love
Omar Khayyam’s one thousand Rubaiyyat, which are based on a poetry of a series of quatrains, sparkling with witty epigrammatic observances of life, is filled with exquisite oriental imagery. Although scores of other European scholars had prepared their version of Khayyam’s quatrains, it was Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), an Irish poet, who adapted and lovingly translated in 1895 the best of his Rubaiyyat weaving them in a single, magical poem. His quatrains became so popular that from 1895 to 1900 were published 25 times. Khayyam, who was basically a man of science, rebelled against the bigotry and fanaticism around him and sought escape in the pleasures of poetry and philosophy. His Epicurean audacity of thought and speech caused him to be regarded askance in his own time and country.

Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murm’d – “While you live,
Drink! – for, once dead, you never shall return.”

Ah, fill the Cup:- what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn Tomorrow, and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them it today be sweet!

How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute?
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter Fruit.

But Khayyam was too honest of heart as well as of mind. Having failed (however mistakenly) of finding any Providence but Destiny, and world but this, he set about making the most of it; preferring rather to soothe the soul through the senses into acquiescence with things as he saw them, than to perplex it with vain disquietude after what they might be. It has been seen, however, that his worldly ambition was exorbitant; and he very likely takes a humorous or perverse pleasure in exalting the gratification of sense above that of the intellect, in which he must have taken great delight, although it failed to answer the Questions in which he, in common with all men, was most vitally interested. His quatrains are full of witty thoughts with dual meanings.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted—Open then the door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
“And once departed, may return no more.”

Khayyam’s poetry is filled with a live-for-today philosophy, a preference for sensual pleasures and glorification of love that have made his Rubaiyyat delightful reading for many generations of admirers. He uses the concept of “wine and intoxication” throughout his poetry in three distinct ways: the intoxicant wine, the mystical wine, and the wine of love. The esoteric use of wine and drinking in Persian Sufi literature, refers to the state of ecstasy in which one is intoxicated with Divine love. But Khayyam was not a mystic in traditional sense. He uses wine in the profound sense of Sophia or wisdom that provides a sage with philosophical wisdom, allowing one to come to terms with temporality of life and to live in the here and now.

Those imprisoned by the intellect’s need to decipher
Humbled; knowing being from non-being, they proffer
Seek ignorance and drink the juice of the grape
Those fools acting as wise, scoffer.

Khayyam, the mathematician-astronomer, fails to find any purpose for human existence within an orderly and complex universe.

Yesterday this day’s madness did prepare;
Tomorrow’s silence, triumph, or despair:
Drink! For you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! For you know not why you go, nor where

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of wine, a Book of Verse—and You
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise anew.

Many readers of Khayyam consider that Khayyam is the timeless Sufi voice. Sufis believe that within mankind there is an element, activated by love, which provides the means of attaining to true reality, called mystical meaning. Khayyam relates this concept beautifully:

When the Original Cause determined my being
I was given the first lesson of love.
It was then that the fragment of my heart was made
The Key to the Treasury of Pearls of mystical meaning.

In his poetry, Khayyam uses the imagery of bowl (kuza) and clay for man. He believed that man is made from the “dust and to dust he shall return.”
For in the Market-place, one Dusk Day,
I watch’d the potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all obliterated Tongue
It murmur’d — “Gently, Brother, gently, I pray.”

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”