M-I SHARQ? (1936)


This, the last of Iqbal’s Persian mathnawī poems, was published in 1936, two years before his death. His health had declined abruptly in early 1934, and for the remaining years of his life Iqbal suffered almost continually from serious illness. This he bore with great fortitude, and there was no weakening in heart or pen. Pas chi bāyad kard? Contains the most detailed expositions by Iqbal of his practical philosophy in regard to socio-political questions and the problems of the eastern world arising from the ascendancy of western civilization.

Iqbal held that the east is the world of the great religions and civilizations, whereas the west has produced the modern pseudo-civilization, materialistic and anti-spiritual. Which threatens the eastern way with destruction, beings exploitative rather than creative. For Islam and eastern spirituality in general it is unthinkable that the spiritual and material aspects of existence could be divorced one from another. In Europe, which was now torn by the conflicts that were to lead to World War II, the consequences of the separation of religion and polities, and the dominance of nationalism and secularism and materialism were being clearly exposed. Yet because of the material progress made by industrialized Europe, its civilization had hypnotized the peoples of the east. Who has come to believe European-style nationalism and secularism to be indispensable means to achieving power and greatness. The Muslims had begun to forsake Islam as the basis for their existence: hence Iqbal in Pas chi bāyad kard? Urges them to return to it. In time of great moral and political upheaval, the maintenance of the religious faith and practice of the individual and of the community is a matter of life and death.

Pas chi bayad kard?  has the following sections:

  1. An introduction in which Jalāl ad-Din Rūmi suggests to Iqbal that he, as one who understands the diplomacy and designs of the west, should explain to easterners the meanings of religion and politics. In order to free them of their ideological and political subjugation they must learn to free them of their ideological and political subjugation they must learn to see the ideas of the Farang, (or Europeans) for what they really are.
  2. An address to the sun, whose beauty is described: and six poems discussing various aspects of religion: the opposing philosophies of Moses the Prophet and Pharaoh, the unity of God, spiritual and material poverty, the freedom of the true believer, and the wisdom enshrined in the sharī‘at (the Islamic laws).
  3. A discussion of scio-political questions: the disunity of India: politics in the contemporary world: A few words to the Arab people, reminding them of their past greatness as followers of the Prophet and explaining their present weakness and disunity as being due to the westerners.
  4. This forms the climax of the whole mathnawī and, bearing the same title, contains Iqbal’s answers to the question he had posed: ‘What then is to be done. O Peoples of the East? The West, according to Iqbal, has caused great suffering in the world, and Europe has been wounded by its own sword of nationalism and secularism, which it had made in order to destroy others. While true science can give us faith in the existence of God, Western science tends to have the opposite effect. The Farang, says Iqbal, has no standards of good and evil, for he regards man merely as a material being, and existence as devoid of any ultimate purpose. If the intellect is subjected to the heart then it may take a man to the Truth, but if uncurbed then it will be subjected to Shayṭān (the Devil). The Italian invasion of Abyssinia, says Iqbal, should be a warning to the East: the Europeans and the League of Nations stood by and watched while the wolves devoured the lamb.
  5. Iqbal’s practical advice to the people of the East is that they must unite, abandoning all distinctions of race or nationality, and have faith in themselves. Knowledge and strength are useless unless combined, for knowledge without strength is mere cunning and magic. While strength without knowledge is ignorance and madness. The poet goes on to urge the peoples of the East to rid themselves of their collective inferiority complex, and to assert themselves, remembering that from the earliest times the East was the cradle of civilization, wisdom and knowledge. So far international politics is concerned they should have nothing to do with the League of Nations but instead establish a League of Eastern Nations; for since it was the Westerners who had inflicted the wounds, it would be folly to seek the needed remedy from the same source. Western nations had once exacted tribute form the East; in later times they continued to rule the East, this time in the guise of traders. If they really understood the diplomacy of the West, the Easterners would prefer their own rags to the Westerners’ silken finery. Rather than succumbing to economic slavery they should boycott the manufactures of Western industrialized nations, who were buying raw materials cheaply from the East and selling their manufactured produce back to them at high prices. ‘Alas’, says Iqbal, ‘for that sea whose waves have become stagnant, and which buys its own pearls from divers!’ In the last poem Iqbal requests the Prophet for his blessing.

MUSFIR (1934)

In October 1933 Iqbal visited Afghanistan as a guest of King Nādir Shāh. The poet had been invited along with Sayyid Sulaymān Nadwī and Sir Ross Masood (Rās Mas‘ūd) to visit Kabul and to advise the Afghan Government on a programme of educational reforms for his country. Having completed this assignment Iqbal travelled in Afghanistan, visiting places of historical interest such as Ghazni and Qandahar. On his return to Lahore he published his impressions in a short mathnawī poem entitled Musāfir, which appeared in 1934, and is usually printed in a single volume with the poem pas chi bāyad kard?

Musāfir is divided into the following parts: Tribute to Nādir Shāh, describing various aspects of his character and policies; Address to the Peoples of the Frontier, in which Iqbal describes the Dīn (religion) of Islam and implores the frontiersmen to seek guidance from the Qur’ān and Hadith (traditions of the Prophet); Arrival in Kabul, and audience with the late King Nādir Shāh; visit to the tomb of Emperor Babar, the founder of Mughal rule in India; Journey to Ghazni, and visits to the tombs of the Sufi poet Sanā’ī and of Sultan Maḥmūd; Prayer in the ruins of Ghazni, in which the poet, after expressing his sorrow at the Muslims’ decline, requests God to endow them with the same faith, and noble desires and aspirations which their ancestors once possessed, and to enable them to strengthen and glorify the East; Journeys to Qandahar, where Iqbal visited the Robe of the Prophet Muhammad : a ghazal, on seeing the Prophet’s Robe; Visit to the tomb of Aḥmad Shāh Durrāni ; and finally an Address to the new Afghan King Ẓāhir Shāh.

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