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The Prophet (book)

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The Prophet
First edition cover
AuthorKahlil Gibran
Cover artistKahlil Gibran
SubjectLife and the human condition
GenreProse poetry
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
Media typeBook
Followed byThe Garden of the Prophet 
TextThe Prophet at Wikisource

The Prophet is a book of 26 prose poetry fables written in English by the Lebanese-American poet and writer Kahlil Gibran.[1] It was originally published in 1923 by Alfred A. Knopf. It is Gibran's best known work. The Prophet has been translated into over 100 languages, making it one of the most translated books in history,[2] as well as one of the best selling books of all time. It has never been out of print.[3]


The prophet Al Mustafa has lived in the city of Orphalese for 12 years and is about to board a ship which will carry him home. He is stopped by a group of people, with whom he discusses topics such as life and the human condition. The book is divided into chapters dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.


The Prophet has been translated into more than 100 languages, making it one of the most translated books in history.[2] By 2012, it had sold more than nine million copies in its American edition alone since its original publication in 1923.[1]

Of an ambitious first printing of 2,000 in 1923, Knopf sold 1,159 copies. The demand for The Prophet doubled the following year—and doubled again the year after that. It was translated into French by Madeline Mason-Manheim in 1926. By the time of Gibran's death in 1931, it had also been translated into German. Annual sales reached 12,000 in 1935, 111,000 in 1961 and 240,000 in 1965.[4] The book sold its one millionth copy in 1957.[5] At one point, The Prophet sold more than 5,000 copies a week worldwide.[4]


Born a Maronite, Gibran was influenced not only by his own religion but also by the Bahá’í Faith, Islam, and the mysticism of the Sufis. His knowledge of Lebanon's bloody history, with its destructive factional struggles, strengthened his belief in the fundamental unity of religions, something which his parents exemplified by welcoming people of various religions in their home.[6]: p55  Connections and parallels have also been made to William Blake's work,[7] as well as the theological ideas of Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson such as reincarnation and the Over-soul. Themes of influence in his work were Arabic art, European Classicism (particularly Leonardo da Vinci) and Romanticism (Blake and Auguste Rodin), the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and more modern symbolism and surrealism.[8]

Gibran’s strong connections to the Baháʼí faith started around 1912. One of Gibran's acquaintances, Juliet Thompson, recalled that he met 'Abdu'l-Bahá when that Bahai leader journeyed to the West.[9][10] Gibran, who had arranged to draw his portrait, was unable to sleep the night before meeting him.[6]: p253  Gibran later told Thompson that in 'Abdu'l-Bahá he had "seen the Unseen, and been filled."[6]: p126 [11] Gibran began work on The Prophet in 1912, when "he got the first motif, for his Island God," whose "Promethean exile shall be an Island one" rather than a mountain one.[6]: p165  In 1928,[12] at the screening of a film about `Abdu'l-Bahá, Gibran proclaimed in tears the exalted station the leader held, and left the event weeping still.[10]

Royalties and copyright control[edit]

The book entered the public domain in the United States on January 1, 2019.[13] It was already in the public domain in the European Union,[14] Canada,[15] Russia,[16] South Africa,[17] and Australia.[18]

Gibran instructed that, on his death, the royalties and copyrights to his materials be owned by his hometown, Bsharri, Lebanon.[4] The Gibran National Committee (GNC) in Bsharri manages the Gibran Museum. Founded in 1935, the GNC is a non-profit corporation holding the exclusive rights to manage Gibran's copyright in his literary and artistic works.[19]

The Garden of the Prophet[edit]

Gibran followed The Prophet with The Garden of the Prophet, which was published posthumously in 1933.[20] The Garden of the Prophet narrates Al Mustafa's discussions with nine disciples following Al Mustafa's return after an intervening absence.


  • 1973 – The Profit; Albran's Serial, a parody published in 1973 by Price/Stern/Sloan, California, as written by the fictional Kehlog Albran (pseudonym for authors Martin A. Cohen and Sheldon Shacket). It reached fourth printing in 1981.[21]
  • 1974 – The Prophet by Khalil Gibran: A Musical Interpretation featuring Richard Harris. Music composed by Arif Mardin, Atlantic Records
  • 1981 – On Children, a song by Sweet Honey in the Rock on their album Good News. Sets to music the words of Chapter 4 of The Prophet, also called On Children.[22]
  • 2002 – Electronic and new-age music composer Gandalf and narrator Thomas Klock created an audiobook CD with German version – Der Prophet – layered with music.
  • 2009 – The Prophet: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Khalil Gibran, an album by Australian oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros, Winner of Limelight Award for Best World Music Achievement 2010, Nominated for an Australian Recording Industry Award (ARIA) for Best World Music Album 2010.
  • 2010 – The Propheteer, a book of political satire reimagining The Prophet as George W. Bush lecturing his cronies on the White House lawn while waiting for his chopper bound for Texas. ISBN 978-1-4502-6057-2
  • 2014 – Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, an animated feature film version of the book, with Salma Hayek as producer and as the voice of the character Karima. Each chapter had an individual director, with The Lion King's Roger Allers overseeing the project.[23]
  • 2020 – The film An American Prophecy, directed by Aaron Dworkin and produced by Robin Schwartz, includes recitations from the book by front-line healthcare workers, who introduce each section with reflections on their experience battling the COVID-19 pandemic.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Acocella, Joan. "Prophet Motive". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
  2. ^ a b Kalem, Glen (2018-06-26). "The Prophet Translated". The Kahlil Gibran Collective. www.kahlilgibran.com. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  3. ^ Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet: Why is it so loved?, BBC News, 12 May 2012, retrieved 12 May 2012
  4. ^ a b c "Books: The Prophet's Profits". TIME. 1965-08-13. Archived from the original on May 14, 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
  5. ^ Donald Adams (September 29, 1957). "Speaking of Books". New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Bushrui, Suheil B.; Jenkins, Joe (1998). Kahlil Gibran, Man and Poet: a New Biography. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1851682676.
  7. ^ Gibran Kahlil Gibran & William Blake:Poets of Peace and Redemption, by Edmond El Chidiac, 15 August 2008, lebanonism.com
  8. ^ Curriculum Guide For the Film, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, by Journeys in Film, 2015
  9. ^ Cole, Juan. "Chronology of his Life". Juan Cole's Khalil Gibran Page – Writings, Paintings, Hotlinks, New Translations. Professor Juan R.I. Cole. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Thompson, Juliet (1978). "Juliet Remembers Gibran as told to Marzieh Gail". World Order. Vol. 12, no. 4. pp. 29–31.
  11. ^ Christopher G. White (30 July 2012). "Discovering Imageless Truths: The Baháʼí pilgrimage of Juliet Thompson, Artist". In Leigh E. Schmidt; Sally M. Promey (eds.). American Religious Liberalism. Indiana University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-253-00218-1.
  12. ^ "View Bahai (sic) film". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. 3 Mar 1928. p. 3. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  13. ^ Hirtle, Peter B. "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Retrieved 25 March 2010. As a work published 1923–63 with renewed notice and copyright, it remains protected for 95 years from its publication date
  14. ^ Copyright Duration Directive The rights of authors are protected within their lifetime and for seventy years after their death
  15. ^ Canadian copyright protection extends to 50 years from the end of the calendar year of the author's death.
  16. ^ Russian law stipulates likewise
  17. ^ South African copyright law protects literary works for the author's life plus fifty years; see the Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978, as amended Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Australian copyrights extend to life plus 70 years, since 2005. The law is not retroactive; it excludes works published in the lifetime of authors who died in 1956 or earlier
  19. ^ "Gibran National Committee". Archived from the original on 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  20. ^ Elliot, Dorothy (December 2, 1933). "Kahil Gibran's New Philisophy Written in Book". Green Bay Press-Gazette. p. 7. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  21. ^ Siddharthan, Rahul (2002). The Profit, the book. Retrieved from http://rsidd.online.fr/profit/origin.html.
  22. ^ Audio recording at https://thebirdsings.com/OLD/songs/on-children.html
  23. ^ Ethan Minovitz, Ethan (24 February 2012). "Hayek, Allers To Animate The Prophet". Big Cartoon News. Archived from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  24. ^ "IMDB database record". Retrieved 27 August 2021.


  • 1973. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; Published by Alfred A Knopf, Inc.; A Borzoi (hardcover) Book, ASIN: B004S0ZKJO

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Hajj, Maya El (2019-04-01). "Aporias in Literary Translation: A Case Study of The Prophet and Its Translations". Theory and Practice in Language Studies. 9 (4): 396–404. doi:10.17507/tpls.0904.06. ISSN 1799-2591.