The title is a question: “what then is to be done, oh people of the East?” He notes that the East is the world of great religions and civilizations whereas the West has become materialistic and anti spiritual. The latter threatens the East by being destructive, not just exploitative.
Iqbal’s pragmatic advise to the people of the East is
that they have to unite and have faith in themselves. Knowledge and strength
are useless unless combined, as knowledge without strength is tantamount to
mere cunning and magic, while strength without knowledge is ignorance and
madness. Iqbal urges the peoples of the East to shake off their inferiority
complex and assert themselves, deriving strength from the fact that their
ancestors were once the best in civilization, wisdom and knowledge.
At the invitation of King Nādir Shāh, and accompanied by Sayyid Sulaymān Nadwī and Sir Ross Masood (Ras Mus‘ūd), Iqbal visited Kabul in 1933. His mission was to advise the afghan Government on a program of educational reform. Kabul and other places of historical significance like Ghazni and Qandahar left impressions which he expresses in this short mathnawī. The title translates The Traveller.