When I Laughed, They Said: A Poem by Imam al-Shafi’i, Translated by Dina Al-Mahdy

ضحكت فقالوا ألا تحتشم
بكيت فقالوا ألا تبتسم
بسمت فقالوا يرائي بها
عبست فقالوا بدا ما كتم
صمت فقالوا كليل اللسان
نطقت فقالوا كثير الكلم
حلمت فقالوا صنيع الجبان
ولو كان مقتدرًا لانتقم
بسلت فقالوا لطيشٍ به
وما كان مجترئًا لو حكم
يقولون شذ إذا قلت لا
وإمعة حين وافقتهم
فأيقنت أني مهما أرد
رضى الناس لابد من أن أذم
قصيدة الإمام الشافعي—

When I laughed, they said “Can’t you ever be modest?”
When I cried, they said “Don’t you ever smile?”
When I smiled, they said “You’re showing off.”
When I frowned, they said “You started showing your true colors”.
When I kept silent, they said “You have a feeble tongue.”
When I spoke, they said “You are too talkative.”
When I was tolerant, they called it cowardice.
And said “Had you been brave, you would have taken a revenge.”
When I showed up some courage, they said it is reckless,
And that I wouldn’t have behaved so if I were poised.
When I said NO, they thought I’m odd.
When I agreed with them, they called me a blind follower.
So it became certain, that no matter how hard I try,
Pleasing people will bring me nothing but pillory.
Poem by Imam Shafi’i, Translated into English by Dina Al-Mahdy

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