The Book “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran is among the most decorated poets whose works have been significant to society. The Prophet remains one of the Kahlil’s greatest writings that uses religious fiction to address general issues in society. The book has been quoted on several occasions, including weddings and situations where spiritual guidance is required (Arslane 17). The book provides wisdom in various areas, including religion, emotions, property, work issues, and freedom. This essay will analyze the life and fiction of Kahlil Gibran. It will employ the following three literary analyses that focus on the principal male character, principal female character, and theme to gain a more thorough understanding of his most celebrated book, The Prophet.
Biography of the Author
Born in Lebanon in 1883, Gibran Kahlil Gibran did not receive formal education during his early childhood but greatly relied on religious guidance from a priest. He inherited Christianity from his family, although he grew up in an Arab setting where Islam dominated (Altabaa et al.). This setting taught him to exercise religious tolerance. However, his father had an expensive habit of gambling, where he spent most of his money, making the family financially unstable (Altabaa et al.). As a result, his mother decided to migrate to the United States to find a meaningful way that she could fend for her children.
In the US, Kahlil started schooling but later returned to Lebanon for his secondary education. At 19, he lost his mother and two siblings to a tuberculosis outbreak. Kahlil started his career as a visual artist after meeting Mary Haskell, who devoted herself to helping him financially (Altabaa et al. 104). He later started writing poems and short stories in Arabic. His major works include The Madman in 1918, which was his first writing in English, and later published The Prophet in 1923, which was known as his most notable work (Altabaa et al. 110). Other works include The Forerunner in 1920 and Jesus, the Son of Man in 1928. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 48 in 1931.
Kahlil begins his story with a fable of a man, Almustafa, who had been waiting for 12 years for a ship to take him to his native home. It is now time for him to leave the island, Orphalese, where he lived, but he realizes he has developed an emotional attachment with the villagers (Kahlil 2). As he waits for the ship to arrive, the villagers run to him, seeking advice on vital aspects of life that will guide them in his absence. The prophet responds with spiritual wisdom guiding them on several issues, including love and marriage, work, sorrow and pain, property, freedom, prayer, and self-awareness. This is a fiction story likened to Kahlil’s personal life.
The Principal Male Character
The principal male character in The Prophet is Almustafa, who has lived peacefully with the island’s residents to that he had been exiled. However, he is a fictitious character that Kahlil uses to propagate his spiritual views (Mimoune). His friendly relations with the people have made them grow fond of him that they are begging him not to leave. For instance, on the topic of love, Almustafa urges the people to love each other unconditionally without expecting something in return. He says, “When love beckons to you, follow himThough his ways are hard and steep” (Kahlil 7). This statement demonstrates that while love may sometimes be challenging to maintain, it is the only choice for a meaningful life. On the issue of marriage, he advises couples to love each other and be close but not too close. He says, “And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not each other’s shadow” (Kahlil 9). By stating this, Mustafa urges couples to give each other the freedom to grow their abilities.
This statement may have been influenced by Kahlil’s society, which believed married women had limited roles of staying at home and caring for the children. The subject of children was another significant issue that Kahlil uses Mustafa to advise people about. As a child, the challenges he experienced shaped how he advised people about children (Syahid). Kahlil did not have a close relationship with his father because of his temper and undesirable behavior that impacted the family negatively (Syahid). He would not have achieved his goals if he had followed his father’s influence. Mustafa says, “you may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may strive to be like them, but seek not make them like you” (Kahlil 10). This guidance allows parents to give their children the freedom to pursue their goals.
Female Principal Character
Although Kahlil does not directly invoke a female character in the book, some of the teachings Mustafa tells the people are inspired by Kahlil’s relationship with his mother. His mother played a significant role in influencing the religious intelligence that guided him at a younger age (Al Tuma et al.). On several occasions, Kahlil has quoted his mother on how she inspired him to pursue his dreams. One of Kahlil’s mother’s qualities that impacted him is love and ambition. This virtue is reflected in Mustafa’s teachings on love and children. He urges parents to let their children pursue their dreams (Al Tuma et al.). For instance, he says, “You may give them your love but not your thoughts” (Kahlil 10). This demonstrates the desire to succeed that his mother had for her children.
Unlike his father, who never cared for his family, Kahlil’s mother sacrificed her life for the success of her children. For instance, she had to move to migrate to the United States for her children to acquire a quality education. This motherly love is reflected in the book when Mustafa teaches the people the subject of work. He says, “It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy even if your beloved were to eat the fruit” (Kahlil 15). This sentiment demonstrates the selflessness of many heroines who struggle for others to succeed.
The central theme depicted in this book is religion and spirituality. Kahlil aims to provide spiritual guidance to enable people to lead positive lives. Most of the topics that Mustafa addresses to the people concern the general aspects of life that people tend to have conflicting beliefs. For instance, he talks about the subject of clothes with the notion that people need to dress decently to conceal their privacy. He says, “Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean” (Kahlil 21). Kahlil’s spirituality is influenced by his childhood life, where he spent most of the time with the priest learning about religion and God. Although his beliefs do not subscribe to a particular religion, they tend to be general on the teachings of God and leading a positive life.
In conclusion, The Prophet’s book is a religious fiction story reflecting Kahlil’s personal beliefs that he acquired in his childhood. Kahlil airs his spiritual views using the principal male character in this story, Mustafa. Having been greatly inspired by his mother, some of the views reflect his mother’s selflessness and unconditional love that she dedicated to her children’s success, thus making her the principal female character in the story. The book’s prominent theme is religion which Kahlil uses to guide on important subjects in life.
Al Tuma, Qayssar Abed Kadhim, Amir Moqaddam Mottaqi, and Seyed Hosein Seyedi. “The impact of women in the literary life of Gibran Khalil Gibran.” Linguistics and Culture Review 5.S3 (2021): 1150-1160.
Altabaa, Homam, and Adham Hamawiya. “The Life and Works of Kahlil Gibran: A Critical Review.” Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature 13.1 (2019): 103-118.
Arslane, Ghazouane. “Modernity and Prophetic Speech: The Ethical as the Impossible in the Post-Religious Vision of Kahlil Gibran.” Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 46.2 (2020): 11-35.
Kahlil, Gibran. The Prophet. Alfred A. Knopf, 1923, pp. 2-25.
Mimoune, Zeyneb. Utopian Dream and Dystopian Reality: An Analysis of Gibran Khalil’s The Prophet. Diss. University of Mohamed Boudiaf, 2021.
Syahid, Jundullah M. An Analysis of Figurative Language used in the Poems on Love, on Marriage, and on Children written by Kahlil Gibran in His Book” The Prophet”. Diss. University of Muhammadiyah Malang, 2018.