It is believed that when you hear the word “love”, whichever person’s name or image comes to your mind, is the one you truly love. And I am referring to the ‘romantic’ kind of love here. But when we move out of the personal sphere, and think in light of a broader perspective, the names which come to almost every person’s mind are- “Romeo and Juliet”, “Layla Majnu”, “Heer Ranjha”, “Salim and Anarkali”, “Cleopatra and Mark Antony” etc. There are many, many lovers whose names we are familiar with, but surprisingly enough, we do not know their stories. We just know that they loved each other a lot, and more often than not, they could not be with each other, which led to the tragic end of their lives, and their stories.
As a die-hard romantic, and a preacher of love, I had this epiphany, that why not enlighten people out there, about the beautiful love stories that have been written, or lived, over centuries. And this was really self-enlightening, as I myself, had to research about the details of some of these stories.
Because there are many such stories, I have chosen a select few, whose story was not really known to most people I asked. And the first story I choose to write about here, is the story of “Laila Majnun”.
Laila Majnu are a legendary couple. They were ‘two bodies, one soul’. Their story is based on the life of a man called Qays ibn al-Mullawah and the woman, Laila al-Aamiriya. Qays lived in the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the Umayyad era, during the 7th century.
Laila al-Aamiriya, was born with a golden spoon in her mouth. She had been born into a very wealthy family, and was brought up in an almost Royal way. So naturally her parents wanted their ‘princess’ to be married to a man, no less than a prince.
Enter Qays, the man who fell in love with Laila when he first laid eyes on her, (at maktab, traditional school). Although he had a golden heart, and a treasure-chest full of love, he was nowhere near her monetary status. But has love ever followed rules? Or do lovers think of right and wrong before falling in love? The answer to both these questions is no. So naturally, Laila and Qays fall in love with each other “truly, madly, deeply”.
Qays was a poet, and he used to write and recite numerous poems, all dedicated to his lady-love. He used to mention her name in his poems, and used to write about just how much he loved and desired Laila. His friends, who knew about the affair, and others who knew about the poems, used to make fun of him. But the taunts, and mockery had no effect on him. He was truly in love with her, and he did not care about what the world would think about it.
Qays wanted to make Laila eternally his, by marrying her. He toyed with the idea of asking for her hand in marriage, from her father, for quite a while. Then eventually, he mustered up the courage, and went to her parents, and put forth his proposal.
But Qays was not the ‘knight in shining armour’, they had wanted. He was a poor man. Although he belonged to the same tribe as Laila, he did not belong to the same social class. So as was obvious, her father refused to give his precious daughter away to a poor, love-drunk lad. Because poetry would not have filled his daughter’s stomach. And moreover, their match would have been scandalous according to Arab traditions.
Luck was not on the lovers’ side. They were banned from seeing each other. And soon after that, Laila’s parents fixed her marriage to an older, wealthier man, from the neighboring village. And so, Laila went away to live in a big mansion, away from her Qays.
Qays was shattered by the turn of events, and he left his family, and his house, to go live by himself, in the wilderness. There he led a solitary and miserable life, full of suffering. With a heart full of pain, he continued writing poems for his beloved. At times, people spotted him reciting poetry to himself, or writing Laila’s name on the sand with a stick.
Qays’ parents gave up the hope of seeing their son again, but they used to keep food for him in the wilderness, in the hope of helping him as much as they could.
All those who saw Qays in this pitiful state, believed him to have been driven crazy in love. That is how he got the name of ‘Majnu’ or ‘Majnun Layla’ meaning “driven mad by Laila”.
Years later, Qays or Majnu as we shall call him now, got to know about his parents’ death. The old man who told him this had been sent by Laila, because she knew Majnu’s devotion towards his parents, and wanted him to know about the tragic event. On hearing the news, Majnu pledged to live in the wilderness till his death.. he was overcome with regret, and this second loss broke him completely.
Laila’s state was no better. She was broken in mind, heart and soul, on being separated from her Majnu. She moved to Iraq with her husband, and there she died of a broken heart.
Majnu’s friends tried to search for him, to give him the news of Laila’s death. But they could not find him anywhere. Eventually their search ended when they found Majnu, lying dead, next to Laila’s grave. He had cried and cried and given his life up for his love. On a rock near the grave, they found three verses of poetry carved, which he had dedicated to Laila, the last three verses he ever wrote.
Their love story had a tragic ending, but even today they live in the hearts of all those who know their struggle. Laila Majnu did not give up their lives in vain- they died for love, and that love has made them immortal in our hearts.