This ‘mathnawâ ’ first published in 1936, registered the Poet’s reaction to Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia. The question, “So What Be Done, O Nations of the East?” Though addressed (as is obvious form the question), to the Nations of the East, is directed more specifically to the Muslim Nations, who represented, at the time, the nadir of political decadence and disintegration. “By its very phrasing the question evokes in the mind a background of long discussion and debate, of discontent with present conditions, of a continuing search for a way out, culminating in an urgent, insistent, impatient demand for action.” This poem makes positive suggestions for the regeneration of the downtrodden Eastern Nations most of them living under the domination of Western powers. It has been described as the “surat ul-ikhl«Ä of the Qur’«n in Pahlawi” (i.e. a quintessence of the core of Rëmâ’s Mathnwâ-i-Ma‘nawâ).
The Object of the Poem
In lines addressed to the reader, Iqbal describes the object of the poem. He says
(From the Dominion of Love, I raise an army fresh, for there is danger of Intellect’s mutiny in the sanctuary this reality the world seems not to comprehend-frenzy is a raiment which befits the Intellect. Imagine not the Intellect no final reckoning has-the glance of a Man Devout is Doomsday for the Intellect.)
Thus the Poet is here a spokesman of Love in an over intellectualised world. Once again inspired by Rëmâ, he sets out to “proclaim the meaning of religion and politics,” Rëmâ, as a teacher of Love and passion and man of true and living faith is, for Iqbal, the counterweight against loveless Reason and disbelief.
The Kingdom of Good and the Kingdom of Evil
A contrast between “Àikmat-i-Kalâmâ” (the Philosophy or Rule of Moses) and “Hikmat -i-Fir‘awni). The former is described thus
When Prophethood proclaims and issues the commands of God it then rejects the orders of the reigning Emperor, an ancient temple is King’s palace in the Prophet’s eye�his self-honour takes no orders from what is not�God; to have Power is the start of Love and Ecstasy, to be Beloved the final goal of Love and Ecstasy!
Pharaoh’s wisdom “consists of nothing but narrow nationalist ideas which are opposed to the world-wide prophetic message.”
I have disclosed the wisdom of the Noble Men of God, now Know something of the cleverness of Evil Men: cheating and craftiness, which means that they nurture the body by destroying the soul; their cleverness is free from bounds set by Religion’s Law, they are distant, fallen, from the place of passion’s quest; such Men have desires-fleeting, wavering-in their heart, it is as if they were born dead form their mother’s wombs.
“There is no god but God”
The ‘Kalimah,’ “There is no God but God”, has profound philosophical implications in Iqbal’s thought. It signifies both negation (l«) and affirmation (ill« ) and it is by means of the development of the Self takes place. To achieve perfection, both l« and ill« are necessary. It is to be pointed out that great mystic Poets such as San«’â, ‘AÇÇ«r, and Rūmī, have also used this contrast pair.
‘Faqr’: Iqbal has devoted one long section of the ‘mathnawâ,’ Pas Chi B«yad Kard Ay Aqw«m-â-Sharq? To elucidating the concept of ‘faqr’ or spiritual poverty. ‘Faqr’ is a necessary attribute of the Perfect Man and means, for Iqbal, “freedom from everything besides God”. ‘Faqr’ is opposed to beggary, for a ‘faqâr’ asks for nothing. ‘Faqr’ is also opposed to ascetic poverty which has no practical consequences. A ‘faqâr’ is a man who possesses great power- in fact he is the true possessor of sovereignty since he has conquered the world of Space and Time.
Iqbal sometimes refers to his Perfect Man as ‘Mard-i-Hurr’ -the Free Man who is subject to no authority save that of God. He lives a life of hard ship and danger, a life which wish every Man to lead.
Importance of Obedience to the ‘Sharâ‘at’
In a section of the ‘mathnawī’, Iqbal explains the importance of the ‘Sharâ‘at’. Professor Schimmel rightly observes that Iqbal “thought an ardent advocate of the infinite possibilities often Qur’an was strictly convinced that the legal in junctions once laid down in the Book were not to be changed, and that these rules were of eternal validity.” To the Muslim community, Iqbal says:
(Tough due to Separation, mortal anguish you endure, seek not a Union with Him but His Pleasure seek to win; Mustafa has given the tidings of what pleases God, besides this, there is nothing else within Religion’s Laws.)
These words seem to invite the comment that they sound like an “echo of the classical orthodox definition that love of God is essentially obedience.” Iqbal seems to have put much stress on obedience to the ‘Sharâ‘at’ in the last years of his life. In 1937, he said, “According to my creed, and perhaps according to the creed of every Muslim, it is the cause of prosperity to remain inside the limits of the Sharī‘at’ and is unhappiness to ranssgress them.” His view is based on the belief that
(The Law of God originates with in the depths of Life,)
On Politics and Islam
Iqbal mourns over the disunity of the peoples of India where the old lack wisdom and the young are unfamiliar with the ways of Love. Iqbal was concerned with the fate to India till the very end of his life�a fact often overlooked by those who think that Iqbal’s devotion to Islam made him indifferent to the plight of his country.
In a section, entitled “Siy«sat-i-H«zira”. Iqbal condemns what passes under the name of “democracy” but in fact is a “veil on the face of kingship” and imperialism. In another section he deplores the dissensions so noticeable among the Arabs and tells the desert-dwellers with profound regret that they “do not know the worth of your desert.” It is to be pointed out that for Iqbal the Arabian desert is the symbol of strength and courage, the battlefield where unfeeling and unyielding servants of God are trained.
Condemnation of Secularism
In his address to the Eastern Nations, Iqbal tells them what they must do to preserve their entity against the advancing tide of Western imperialism. The Poet puts the blame for all evils of the door of Secularism, which characterizes the Western culture. Europe propagating its materialistic philosophy, says Iqbal, is “lying wounded with its own sword.” The days of the East can be illumined again only if it realizes the essential unity of body and mind, of Man’s religious and temporal life, and so-with the weight behind it of a lifetime of passionate philosophising-comes the exhortation.
(O you who think soul form the body is separate, this secular culture’s magic charms transcend).
Importance of the ‘Mathnawâ ’
Pas Che B«yad Kard Ai Aqw«m-i-Sharq? Which ends with a moving address to the Prophet of Islam, is generally considered to be the acme of Iqbal’s political thinking.
Iqbal was always interested in the welfare of Afghanistan whose strong and sturdy inhabitants, sandwiched between two mighty empires, still maintained their independence. He dedicated Pay«m-i-Mashriq to an Afghan King, and the story is well-known of how he offered monetary help�consisting of almost all the money he possessed�to General N«dir Sh«h who later became the king of Afghanistan. In September 1933, King Nadir Shah invited him on the introduction of some educational reforms. Mus«fir is a record of Iqbal’s visit to Afghanistan. It is a ‘mathnawâ ’ in eleven cantos.
The Perfect King
In the first canto Iqbal praises N«dir Sh«h (who incidentally, was assassinated soon after the delegation left the country). N«dir Sh«h, Iqbal says, was a King possessing the habits of a ‘dervish’ thus combining the two great attributes of the Perfect man & power and ‘faqr’ & (spiritual poverty). He had been a Man of Action and also a Iqbal’s ideal of Manhood.
Definition of Religion
In his address to the inhabitants of the frontier areas, Iqbal defines Religion in terms of Selfhood and the principle of ‘TawÁâd’. The awakening and integration of the individual and the collective ego is essential for advancement in the spiritual or the temporal sphere. Iqbal preached his familiar message with renewed vigour
The Perfect Man & Destroyer and Creator
Iqbal describes his Perfect Man as both destroyer and creator–he destroys old evils and creates new ideals. He is the heir of the prophets–demolishing an old world to build a new one. Very often the idol-breaking Perfect Man is symbolized by Abraham–the builder of the champion of God’s Oneness against the polytheistic customs of his father ÿzar. Time and again in his poetry, Iqbal tells the Muslim that he must be like Abraham. In Mus«fir, Iqbal likens the Self to the Ka‘bah the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, and says.
The son of ÿzar has built the Ka‘bah with his glance he has turned clay into elixir; you must build Selfhood with in your body turning your own dust-handful into elixir.
Iqbal never wearied of affirming the value of longing and desire. He was the prophet of a new world–a world which could not be created without the heat of passion, so he says.
Desire is the treasure of the king and nobleman; desire is the world-revealing cup of the mendicant.
Afghans Symbols of Islam Rejuvenated
Iqbal describes his visit to Kabul and his meeting with N«dir Sh«h whom he likens to the Caliph ‘Umar who was known for his valour and justice. Form Iqbal’s lines, we can perceive his reasons for liking the Afghans and their country �they are vigorous and virile people, and become almost a pilgrimage from which Poet derivers spiritual sustenance.
Longing for freedom
Iqbal’s deep longing for political freedom finds utterance when he visits the tomb of Babar, founder of the Mughul Empire in India, and says
What good fortune that your dust received a haven here in this land which is free from the Frankish magic spells; Kabul is better than Delhi a thousand, thousand times, “for that old woman is the bride of a thousand grooms”.
Homage to San«’â
Iqbal pays homage to Hakim San«’â the great mystical Poet. San«’â was one of the mystics about whom Iqbal changed his opinion during the course of his life. In 1916, he had regarded San«’â as a typical exponent of “the highest happiness of bankruptcy which Islam declared as ignoble”. Yet, in Mus«fir, Iqbal finds some affinity between San«’â’s ideas and his own.
(He drew back the veil from the visage of Faith, my fancy revealed the believer’s destiny. We have both Learnt from the wisdom of the Qur‘an he spoke of God and I of the Men of God.)
Iqbal’s change of opinion about San«’â is probably linked with his change of opinion about Rëmâ, Rëmâ had assimilated the literary tradition of San«’â and was deeply indebted to him. Iqbal asks the Spirit of San«’â for guidance and the Spirit tells him how to create a New Man “in the colour and character of a tulip; in his heart the ‘L« il«h’ ” in other words–a Man possessed of Love living up to the principle of “TawÁâd”.
Prayer for the Revivification of Islam
When Iqbal visits the tomb of MuÁmëd of Ghazni–a symbol of the idol destroying power of Islam, in Muslim spiritually and poetry–he hears the voice of a mad man mourning over the vanished glories of the great city and of the world of Islam. This is the cry of Iqbal’s own heart and he prays for the resurrection of that spirit which had once made the Muslims spiritually and politically exalted.
Devotion to the Prophet of Islam
Iqbal’s deep devotion to the Prophet of Islam is embodied in one of his “finest Persian hymns” inspired by his visit to the building where the Prophet’s clock had been kept. Seeing the cloak Iqbal is reminded of the apocryphal hadith “ I have two cloaks”–an allusion to spiritual poverty and the Holy War.
Stress on the Importance of the Qur’an
In his message to the young King Ê«hir Sh«h, Iqbal advises him regarding the ways of wise government. He tells him to associate with men of vision, to work honestly and resolutely and above all to live by the spirit of the Qur’an which being “God’s own word… contains infinite new possibilities.”
There are still a hundred worlds hidden in the Qur’«n. in its verses, once at leas, let your Self aglow.
Musafir records Iqbal’s love for a land where the glory of Mahmëd of Ghazni and the spirituality of San«’â are still living. He hopes that the two characteristics– the valour and the might symbolized by an emperor who served Islam, and the vision and spiritual power symbolized by a mystic– will enable them to attain their rightfull place in the world in the spiritual as well as the temporal sphere.