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TO THE HOLY PROPHET

Salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam

On the night of 3 April 1936, while I was staying in Dar al-Iqbal, Bhopal for rest and treatment] I saw in a dream  Sayyid Ahmad Khan (on whom be God’s mercy). He advised me to place before the Holy Prophet the state of my health. 

O you who are helper of helpless people like us,
 free this nation from the fear of death.2 

You burnt down ancient idols3
 and renewed the old universe. 

In this world where men and genii are engaged
 you are the 'morning prayer' and the 'call to prayer'. 

Lah ilah
is the essence of ardour and ecstasy,
 it sheds light in the dark night of doubts.  

We did not make gods of cows and asses,
 nor did we bow our heads before soothsayers;  

we did not prostrate ourselves before ancient gods,
 nor did we walk in adoration round the palaces of kings and nobles ;4 

this is all the result of your benevolence, our thought has been nourished by your kindness. 

Our remembrance of you is the source of delight and rapture,
 and keeps the nation jealous of its honour even in poverty. 

You are the goal of every wayfarer,
  the ideal that everyone aspires to attain. 

We are a defunct musical instrument
 whose chords do not respond to the plectrum any longer. 

I have wandered through lands, Arab and non-Arab,
 Bu Lahab is everywhere, Mustafa nowhere.5 

The so-called enlightened Muslim
 has no lamp to illumine the darkness of his heart.  

Even in his youth he is soft like silk,
 the desires in his heart are short-lived. 

He is a slave, son of a slave, son of a slave,
 who dare not think of freedom; the school has drained him of love for religion ;6 

all I can say about him is that he existed at one time;
 forgetful of himself and enamoured of the West, he begs bread of barley from the hands of the Franks. 


This hungry man bartered away his soul for a piece of bread
 and caused us great grief thereby. 

He picks up grain from the ground like domestic birds
 and is unaware of the blue expanse of space. 

The teacher, lacking intellectual equipment and insight,
 did not inform him of his real stature. 

The fire of the Franks has melted him:
 this hell has totally transformed him. He is a believer and yet unaware of the secret of Death. His heart does not believe in the truth that None is supreme except Allah. 

As his heart has died in his breast,
 He does not think of anything except food and sleep. For one piece of bread, he bears the sting of yes and no, for a day’s meal he begs favours from a hundred persons. 

He buys false gods from the Frank,
 though he is a believer, his mind is an idol-temple. Say: Get up at my order and quicken,7 revive in his heart the cry: Allah is He, 

We are all under the spell of Western culture,
 and are martyrs at the altar of the Franks. 

From that nation whose cup is now broken,
 produce a single man who is God-intoxjcated,8 

so that the Muslim should learn to see himself again
 and look upon himself as the cream of the whole world.” O rider, rein in your horse for a moment; I cannot easily find words to express my mind. 

Should I give expression to my desire or not?
 


Love is not restrained by etiquette;
 

Love says: O grieved one, open your lips;
 etiquette says: Open your eyes and keep your mouth shut. 

The whole universe revolves round you.
 

I entreat a look of mercy from you.
 

You are my dhikr and fikr,

my knowledge and gnosis;
 

you are my boat, river and storm. 

Not even a lean, frail and weak deer
 could anybody tie to my saddle-strap. 

My shelter is the sanctuary of your street:
 

I turn towards you with a hopeful heart.
 

No longer am I able to nourish song in the breast
 and open a hundred buds with a single breath.  

My song has broken in my throat;
 the flame no longer comes out of my breast. 

My words have lost their fervour
 and I have ceased to enjoy my morning recitation of the Qur’an.9 

How could songs remain confined within my breast-
 songs that could hardly be contained in the mind. 

They need a limitless expanse–
 the whole breadth of nine heavens. Ah! the pain that afflicts my body and soul, a look from your eyes is my remedy. 

These medicines no longer agree with this weak soul of mine:
 their bitter taste and smell are unbearable. 

My condition cannot be improved by these medicines:
 at the very sight of them I cry like a child. I deceive myself by sugar-coating them, the physicians laugh at me in their sleeves.10 

I seek relief through you as did Busairi,11
 

and pray that old days may come back again.
 

Your kindness to sinners is great:
 it is forgiving like a mother’s love. 

I am battling against the worshippers of darkness,
 replenish my lamp with oil.12 

Your existence lends lustre to the world,
 do not deny my soul a reflection from it. 

“You know that value of the body is due to soul,
 and the value of the soul is due to the reflection of the Beloved!“ 

I have no hope from other-than-God,
 make of me either a sword or a key. 

I am quick in understanding the significance of religion; the seed of action, however, has never sprouted out of my dust. 

Sharpen my axe all the more,
 for I have a task greater than that of Farhad.13 

I am a believer and I do not deny myself;
 test me on the touchstone, you will not find me false metal. 

Although the field of my life has remained barren,
 yet I possess a tiny thing called “heart”. 

I keep it hidden from the eye of the people,
 for it bears the marks of your horse’s hoof. 

For a slave who does not seek material means
 life without you is as good as death. 

You blessed a Kurd with fluency in the Arabic tongue,14
 

call your slave into your presence-
 a slave who bears like the tulip a mark on his heart, which his friends are unaware of, a slave who weeps like a reed, his soul almost burnt through constant songs. 


I am like a half-burnt piece of wood in the desert ,15
 the caravan has passed on,

and I am still burning.
 

In this vast world
 perhaps another caravan one day appear. 

O my lament! Ah me! Ah me!

1. Iqbal refers in his letters to one of his correspondents to this dream and informs him that it will be included as an appendix to the new Mathnavi, Pas Chih Bayad Kard. See Sh. Ataullah, Ed., Iqbal Namah, I, 414.

2
.         “Fear of death.” Iqbal feels that this is the basic malady which destroys the moral strength of man; it is found when men are oriented towards this world and are unmindful of the next world. To be truly creative, one must cultivate indifference to death which in any case is inevitable (Pas Chih Bayad Kard, p. 17):[Every moment (he is) in search of material goods,
(his) only preoccupation: anxiety for livelihood and fear of death.]
In another place (Javid Namah, p. 234), he says:[He whose source of strength was only God,
has fallen prey to love of money and fear of death.]


3
.          “Ancient idols” old social and economic order, old loyalties to others than God.

4.         (II. 945-48). It was due to the revolutionary teaching of the Prophet that man was freed from bondage to other-than God. Asrar-o Rumuz, chapter on “Purpose of Muhammad’s Mission was to Found Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood among All Mankind” (pp. 119.21):[Throughout the world worshipped tyrant man,

despised. neglected, insignificant;
Caesar and Chosroe, highwaymen enthroned,
fettered and chained their subjects, hand and foot.
His birth was mortal to the ancient world,
death to the temples of idolatry.]

5.         Mustafa, the Chosen One, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam). Bu Lahab, lit. the father of flame, title given by the Qur’an to one of the Prophet’s uncles, who opposed his mission tooth and nail and, therefore, stands as a symbol of untruth and falsehood in Muslim literature, opposed to truth: Iqbal often employs this contrast (Bang-i Dara, p. 249):[There has been a constant strife since eternity,

between Mustafa’s Light and Bu Lahab’s fire.]

6.         For Iqbal’s criticism of modern educational system, see Darb-i Kalim, pp. 77-85.

7.         “Arise, qum, qum bi-idhni,” arise by my permission and “qum bi-idhn Allah.” arise by the order of God, are two expressions said to be uttered by a sufi of Multan. It is related that he came upon the body of a dead man and said : qum bi-idhn Allah (Arise in the name of God). The dead body, however, showed no sign of life. He then, in a state of Jadhb, jalal (ecstasy, might) uttered: qum bi-idhni (Arise by my permission). It is said that the man be-came alive.Darb-i Kalim, p. 64[Don’t be grieved that your mind is confused;
it is due to Frankish spell: arise by the order of God.]

8.         Iqbal has repeated this idea in several of his books, especially written in the latter part of his life. See Darb-i Kalim, pp. 40 56, etc. On p. 40, be says that world needs a true guide whose eyes can revolutionise the world of thought. In the Javid Namah, pp. 244-45, he advises the new generation to do its best in seeking the right type of dervish who can help people in transforming the pattern of their life and the mode of their thought.

9.         (Il. 1007-12). These lines refer to the malady from which Iqbal was suffering during the last days of his life. His vocal chord was badly affected as a result of which he could not sneak and hence was unable to recite the Qur’an in a loud melodious voice as he used to do.

10.        (II. 1020-24). These lines refer to Iqbal’s utter helplessness and disgust at continued illness and the use of bitter dozes of medicine which is Iqbal put it, are a challenge to man’s fine tastes.

11.        Busairi, an Arab poet whose poem in praise of the Prophet is very famous and is known as Qasidah Burdah. It is related that the poet had an attack of paralysis during which be wrote this poem. He is said to have recovered miraculously. See Sh. Ataullah, Ed.. op. cit., I, 88, 94.

12.        “Lovers of night” (worshippers of darkness) refers to people who stand for untruth, falsehood, kufr. “To fight the worshippers of night it is necessary to dispel darkness through light. But the light from his (i.e. Iqbal’s) lamp is very dim due to lack of oil. “Oil” stands for material as well as spiritual resources.

13.        Farhad, the famous lover of Shirin, the queen of Persia. The queen asked him to dig a canal out of the mountains so that she could get fresh water. Farhad succeeded in executing this very difficult job. Here emphasis is on the superhuman task that Farhad performed.

14.        It is related that a Kurd had great love for the Prophet One day be felt grieved at being unacquainted with Arabic, the language of his beloved. How could he claim, he thought, to love the Prophet when he could not speak to him in his own language? Next day he was miraculously granted know-ledge of Arabic.

15.        When a caravan stays at some place for the night, people light fire. Burning wood thus symbolises the presence of a caravan. Next day when the caravan moves away, the burning wood reminds other people coming after-wards that some caravan had camped there.