Foundation, NJ U. S. A
the Message Continues ... 5/99
Newsletter for November 2009
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Iqbal: Between East and West
by Sayyid Ali Khamanei
Excerpted from: Iqbal, the Poet Philosopher of Islamic Resurgence
(Translated from the Persian by Mahliqa Qara'i)
The poetry of
Iqbal, the major part of which is in Persian, needs wider
circulation. Out of the fifteen thousand couplets composed by
him nine thousand are in the Persian language. This shows that
his works in Urdu are fewer than those in Persian. Rather it can
be said that the best and the finest part of his poetry is in
our language, and, therefore, we are obliged to devote best of
our energies to understand it. For the first time when I read
Iqbal's poetry I felt that many of his verses could be
understood only with the help of detailed explanatory notes and
comments, and regretfully I could find such commentaries
nowhere. It is essential to compile such annotated editions.
Even the Persian speaking people are in need of such
commentaries in order to fully grasp the ideas and themes dealt
with by Iqbal. Today the major part of Iqbal's teaching directly
concerns us, and some part of it is also relevant to the world
that has not gone our way so far and has to understand it in the
same manner as we did.
Our people have translated into action his doctrine of the selfhood (khudi). They have invigorated it and have brought it into action in the world of actuality. Now our people do not have to be asked to recover their selfhood. Today we are perfectly aware of being on our feet. We are proud of our culture and our cultural heritage, and are confident that we can develop it further on the basis of our ideology and thought. Of course for a long time we were made to depend upon others regarding the material aspect of our life, but we are trying to get rid of these foreign fetters gradually and this process is going on. The Muslim peoples are anyhow in need of comprehending the meaning of selfhood; especially the eminent Muslims, whether they are politically active or culturally creative, need to embrace Iqbal's message. They have to realize that Islam in itself, in its essence and in its nature, possesses the richest potentialities of conducting the affairs of the individual lives and human societies, and does not need to look towards others. We do not advocate for summarily dismissing other cultures and close our doors to them. We should assimilate them, but in the manner as a living body absorbs the elements that are essential for its life, and not like a dead and unconscious body which is injected by others whatever they desire to inject into it. We have the capacity of assimilating from other cultures whatever is relevant to us. As Iqbal has said repeatedly, we can learn the modern science and philosophy from the West, but the ardour and zest for life can never be borrowed from others:
Wisdom we have learnt from the teachings of the Western thinkers.
Ardour for life we have acquired in the company of men of insight.
It means that the Western society and culture is wanting in ardor and fervor, and Iqbal was quicker than any other person in perceiving this phenomenon. He could anticipate the dangers inherent in the Western civilization and its materialistic culture, and warned the people in advance that it was devoid of the spiritual elements essential for human welfare. Fortunately, today the consciousness of selfhood and Islamic identity is abounding in our country among the people. Our policy based on the principle of "Neither the East nor the West" is in conformity with what Iqbal advised and wished to be pursued. Our policy of self-reliance is identical with Iqbal's views. We, in our love for the Prophet (S), in our commitment to the Quran, in our emphasis on learning the Quran, and in our conviction that the Quran and Islam are to be made the basis of all the revolutions and movements, are exactly following the path that was shown to us by Iqbal. At that time, nobody was attentive enough to pay heed to Iqbal's counsel. In those days there were not many people who could understand Iqbal's message and his language. Iqbal's books are replete with complaints and remonstrances‑remonstrances as to why people do not understand his message and look towards the West for guidance. In his introduction to Rumuz‑e bikhudi also he remonstrates with the Islamic Ummah.
Thou Overt appointed to be the seal of all nations;
Thou Overt destined to be the end of all the beginnings;
Thine `ulama' were made equal to prophets;
Thy martyred comrades could breathe life into the hearts.
Why art thine eyes enchanted by the beauty of the church?
Why host thou fallen away from the path of the Holy Ka'bah?
Believe me. The dust of thy street rises to form heavenly spheres;
O thy visage attracts the eyes of the entire world.
Why art thou rising and falling restlessly life a wave?
What is that spectacle thou art going to behold?
Learn the secret of lining passionately on your own from the moth;
Build thy nest amidst the tongues of flames
Kindle the fire of lone from within thy soul;
Restore thy bond with the spirit of al‑Mustafa.
I have left the company of the church‑Boers,
To see to it that the veil is raised from thy face.
O my comrade, thou art bewitched by the charm of others
And singing odes to praise golden locks and rosy cheeks.
Here, by the epithet hamnawa (comrade) Iqbal means to refer to his contemporaries and those who were of late introduced to the Western culture and were intoxicated with the Western value‑system, He compares their attitude with that of his own:
He rubs his forehead at the foot of the Saqi,
He is lost in the story of the Magi's children,
While I bleed, struck by the crescent of thine eyebrows,
Happy that my blood is soaked in the dust of thy street.
My art has been over and above eulogizing worldly lords;
My head never bowed before imperial courts.
He reminds the Muslim Ummah that it has never been his custom to sing praises, but he eulogized her so passionately because of his deep love for Islam:
Poetry bestowed upon me ability to make a mirror out of words,
And it has freed me from asking Alexander's favor.
I hate to be burdened by the favors of others
My lips are pursed and hands shut like a bud in the garden.
After giving free vent to his feeling of disdain and indifference to the worldly attainments, Iqbal, who never humbled himself by prostrating before anybody, kneels down on his knees in front of the Muslim Ummah, and begs them to realize their own worth and pay heed to the words of the Quran:
At thy door my soul is bleeding to beg a small favour of thee,
In return it offers thee all her ardour and pathos.
A river comes down trickling from the blue sky,
Its water is distilled through my burning heart,
And I direct its course through channels thinner than rivulets,
To make it steadily flow and water thine orchard.
This was just a brief account and a short glimpse of our dear Iqbal's personality, who was undoubtedly a bright star on the horizon of the East. We hope that we‑ shall acknowledge our indebtedness to him and would be able to recompense for the delay made by our people in recognizing Iqbal's worth during the span of last forty, fifty years. I request the researchers, poets, orators, writers, publishers, the government organizations, the Ministry of Culture and Advanced Learning, the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, each of them, to do their best to reintroduce and revive the spirit of Iqbal in the manner befitting his memory. I propose that his poetry and his writings be reproduced and compiled in the form of books, and his poetical works like Asrar‑e khudi (The Secrets of the Self), Rumuz‑e bikhudi (The Mysteries of Selflessness), Gulshan‑e raz (Garden of Mystery), Jawid nameh (Pilgrimage to Eternity), etc. be reprinted and each of them published separately. This work has been done in Pakistan to some extent, but the people of Pakistan cannot be fully benefited from those ideas as today the Persian language is not in currency there as in the past. I wish this gap also to be filled. It is further hoped that our Pakistani brothers present in this meeting as well as the writers of the Indian subcontinent realize their responsibility and rise to the occasion to resist the vicious policies of the past governments regarding the Persian language, which possesses great treasures of Islamic culture and in which the major part of Islamic culture is preserved. They should give currency to this language in the Subcontinent where there are great numbers of Muslims; especially in Pakistan this work needs to be done with a sense of urgency.
In our own country also the publication of Iqbal's books should be carried out on a large scale and the artists should illustrate Iqbal's works with suitable paintings, the musicians should sing his poems set in popular tunes in order to render them effectively and bring to the tongues of the young and the old. I hope that God Almighty will enable us to repay the debt that the Muslim Ummah owes to him.
Wa al‑salam `alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
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