Shawqi on Moral Pedagogy

In a previous post, I introduced Shawqi‘s poem on education, and presented a translation of the first 10 lines. Below is a translation of another portion of the poem (lines 37-43, 46-49). This section highlights the importance of imparting proper education to the youth (male and female), since they will be tomorrow’s citizens. He observes that such education cannot be effectively imparted if the teachers themselves are morally impoverished, and also that parents have an important role in their children’s moral development. Once again, the translation is in quickly-composed pentametric blank verse (giving priority to meter over rhyme), with each hemistich of the Arabic corresponding to one line in English.


On fairness bring up well the country’s youth,
That they be vaults of ethics in their prime.
Yea, the teacher nurtures upright natures,
And he it is who raises virtuous souls.
Who straightens out each logic that’s askew,
And leads its thinker on to reason pure.
When the teacher himself shows not justice
Then justice ‘mongst the youth shall be weak-souled.
When acumen the teacher himself lacks,
Then those he nurtures cross-eyed shall perceive
When fancy is the source of his advice,
Or pride, you may as well call it deceit.
When a people’s wound is in their morals,
Then give them their last rites, and wail for them.
When women-folk are raised illiterate,
Their suckled babes grow ignorant and dull.
The orphan is not he whose parents ceased
The toils of life, left him in abjectness,
But he then found a substitute for them:
The world and time their wisdom teaching him.
The orphan is the one whose parents are
Alive and yet repulse him and neglect.

– Suheil Laher

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Photo credit: Muhammed Bahcecik, https://pixabay.com/en/student-hafiz-cami-islam-religion-1922565/

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