Kahlil Gibran: Life, Quotes & Legacy

Gibran Khalil Gibran, also referred to in English as Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer, poet, and visual artist who is widely considered a philosopher despite himself rejecting the title.

He is known for his mystical Arabic and English works, earning fame following the 1923 publication of ‘The Prophet.’ His work is noted for its spiritual themes and poetic prose, and he has inspired artists, writers, and thinkers around the world.

Who Was Kahlil Gibran?

Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran was born on January 6, 1883, in the small town of Bsharri in present-day Lebanon. His parents were Maronite Catholic peasants who had emigrated from Syria. When Gibran was a child, his family moved to Boston so that his older sister could receive medical treatment.

Gibran was educated in Boston’s public schools and then attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1898, Gibran returned to Lebanon with his family. He spent the next few years traveling between Lebanon and Egypt before returning to the United States in 1902. Gibran’s early writings were in Arabic, but he later began writing in English.

From 1908 to 1910 Gibran studied art in Paris. He returned to the United States in 1910 and settled in New York City, where he became part of a community of artists and writers.

In 1918, Gibran published ‘The Madman,’ a book of prose poems that were both religious and erotic in nature. The book was not well-received, and Gibran withdrew from the public eye for several years. In 1920, he published ‘The Forerunner,’ a collection of essays that was better received than his previous work.

In 1923, Gibran published ‘The Prophet,’ a book of 26 poetic essays. The book was an instant success, and Gibran became an international celebrity. He continued to write and publish until his death in 1931.


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Gibran Visual art

Kahlil Gibran
Source: The Borzoi 1920

Gibran was also a visual artist, and many of his drawings and paintings were inspired by his writings. Gibran was inspired to pursue a career in painting after working few weeks with Marcel-Béronneau at the Académie Julian in Paris. Oil paint was Gibran’s preferred method of expression between 1908 and 1914, although he also produced works in pencil, ink, watercolor, and gouache before and after this period.

Kahlil Gibran created more than 700 visual artworks, including the Temple of Art portrait series. He is particularly known for his drawings of women, which have been described as sensual and erotic.

Kahlil Gibran visual art
The Ages of Women, 1910 (Museo Soumaya)
Kahlil Gibran visual art
Rose Sleeves, 1911 (Telfair Museums)

His works may be seen at the Gibran Museum in the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha; the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia; Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; the Harvard Art Museums and many others.

What Was Kahlil Gibran’s Philosophy?

Kahlil Gibran’s work is marked by a deep interest in spirituality and mysticism. His writing is often poetic and lyrical, and he is known for his use of allegory and metaphor.

In ‘The Prophet,’ Gibran articulates a philosophy of love, life, death, religion, and politics that has been described as humanistic and mystical. Gibran believed that all humans are united by a common bond and that we can find God within ourselves. He also believed in the power of art to transform lives and bring about social change.

Gibran’s work has been compared to that of other mystical writers such as Rumi and Meister Eckhart. His work has also been influencing by theosophy, Sufism, and Eastern religions.

What are some of Gibran’s most famous quotes?

About Parenting:

“Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For thir souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

About Life:

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

About love:

If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don’t, they never were.”

About Death:

“Then Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.

    And he said:

    You would know the secret of death.

    But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

    The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

    If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

    For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

    In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

    And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

    Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

    Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

    Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

    Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

    For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

Kahlil Gibran’s Legacy

Gibran’s work continues to be popular around the world. ‘The Prophet’ has been translated into more than 100 languages and has sold millions of copies. Gibran’s work has inspired artists, writers, and thinkers across the globe.

After his death, Kahlil Gibran rose to become the third-best-selling poet in history, behind William Shakespeare and Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu.

Kahlil Gibran is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His work has helped to shape our understanding of love, religion, and wisdom. His words continue to inspire people around the world.

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