OF THE BABY NAME LAYLA
While the story of Layla and Quys is true, and one of the most popular in the Islamic world, its endurance was bolstered by the many legends spun from it in poems, epics and song over the centuries. The most famously rendered story comes to us from the 12th century Persian poet Nizami Ganiavi during the Seljuq Empire and was called “The Story of Layla and Majnun” (Majnun meaning The Madman). Quys and Layla meet as young schoolmates and fatefully fall in love. In the poem, he declares "Does not 'Layl' mean 'night' in Arabic? And dark as the night was the color of her hair." So strong (yet innocent) is this attraction that it eventually brings scandal within their community. Layla’s tribe seeks to protect her honor and keep Quys away. This sends the boy into a melancholy state, thus becoming Majnun: “A madman he became – but at the same time, a poet – the harp of his love and of his pain.” He eventually flees into the wilderness despite his father’s attempt at a pilgrimage to Mecca in hopes that God will free his poor son. Majnun cries: “none of my days shall I ever be free of this pain. Let me love, oh my God, for love’s sake, and make my love a hundred times as great as it was and is!” He continues to wander and chant his love poems to Layla, and people come to listen. These lovely words find their way back to Layla who was still living “between the water of her tears and the fire of her love.” Soon, after rejecting many suitors, Layla’s father forces her to marry another but she continues to carry a torch for Majnun. An old man helps the two fateful lovers exchange letters and finally meet, but they must go their separate ways at dawn. The poet asks: “How long then do you want to deceive yourself? You yourself are your own prisoner. Break your cage, break free from yourself, free from humanity; learn what you thought was real is not so in reality…Burn but your own treasure, like a candle – then the world…will become your slave.” Upon the death of Layla’s husband, she openly mourns her love for Majnun before dying herself. Grief-stricken, Majnun repeatedly visits Layla’s tomb and finally succumbs to death, too. He is buried beside his only true love. Quite the love story, indeed!