'Iqbal in Masjid-e-Qartaba'
In 1933, Iqbal visited Spain and also went to see the Mosque of Cordoba.
It was not an ordinary sightseeing trip by a tourist interested in
ancient monuments but a pilgrimage to an outstanding symbol of faith by a
faithful Believer and a warm-hearted poet. It was a pilgrimage of love
and loyalty by a celebrated Muslim to pay homage to the spiritual legacy
of Abdul Rahman el-Dakhil and his companions.
Iqbal was greatly moved by the magnificence and solemnity of the Mosque
and the deep emotional responses its awe-inspiring sight evoked in him
found expression in the immortal poem called Masjid-i-Qartaba (The Mosque
of Cordoba). Iqbal saw it as a cultural landmark of Islam and in its
architecture and engravings he saw a moving portrait of the Believer's
moral excellence and aesthetic refinement as well his high-mindedness,
sincerity, piety and devotion.
The Mosque reminded Iqbal of its builders and their keen appreciation of
artistic beauty, and of the noble ideas and appreciation, call and
message, they upheld in life and propagated in the world. Its tall,
stately minarets revived the memory of the spellbinding Azan that once
used to rise from them and which people heard every day at the beginning
and the end of the stresses of life. The Azan is a symbol of the unity
and solidarity of the Muslim Millet.
The call it gives and the message it conveys may, indeed, be described as
the National Anthem of Muslims and it is unique to their community. At
one time the soul of the universe trembled and the foundations of the
citadels of falsehood shook at the sound of it. It was the Islamic Azan
that announced the dawn of a new morning and dispelled the gloom that had
enveloped the world in the 6th Century A.D.
Iqbal recalls the Divine message and the celestial guidance the Azans
used to carry to the four corners of the world and the depth and
intensity of their significance. The more he ponders over it the more is
he convinced that the Millet which is endowed with this eternal call and
lives according to this everlasting message is, also, imperishable.
The beautiful yet
poignant scene, the historical monument, the splendid Mosque (whose
pulpit for centuries had remained deprived of sermons, courtyard and
arches of genuflexion and minarets of Azan) touched every chord of
his heart and reactivised the unhealed wounds. The ocean of his
feelings was stirred and waves if faith and awareness, ardor and
eagerness and music and melody, mingled with those of pain and
disappointment, grief and anguish, began to rise in it. It was in
these circumstances that the enthralling poem, Masjid-i-Qurtaba, was
conceived, part of which was written in Cordova itself and the rest
was completed during his stay in Spain.
The poem is a masterpiece
of poetic inspiration and artistic expression. For beauty of diction and
richness of emotion it is unsurpassed. In it Iqbal says that the
material world is not everlasting. It is transitory, and,
with it, all the wonders of art and architecture, historical
buildings and ancient
monuments, are heading towards ruin and destruction. But such
constructions are an exception that are touched by the messianic hand of
a man of God and a devoted Believer and shine with the radiance of his
Chain of days and
nights-artificer of all events
Chain of days and nights –fountain of life and of death!
Chain of days and nights=thread of two-colored silk
Of which the Being makes the robe of His Attributes!
Chain of days and nights-sigh of eternity’s music
Where He of all possibility sounds the height and depth!
Thee it puts to test and me it puts to test,
Day and night in procession, testers of all this world.
If thou art of less value and it I am of less value,
Find in death our reward and in dissolution our wage.
Of your day and night what other meaning but this-
One long current time, devoid of dawn and sunset?
All those masterpieces of Art, transitory and impermanent;
All in this world is of sand, all in this world is of sand!
Death the beginning and end, death to the visible and hidden;
New be the pattern or old,
its final halting-place is death.
Yet in this design of things, something unending endures,
Wrought by some man of God into perfection’s mould;
Some high mortal whose work shines with the light of love,
Love is the essence of life, death to which is forbidden.
Long current of Time, string and swift though it is,
Love itself is a tide, stemming all opposite waves;
In the almanac of Love, apart from the present time,
Other ages exist, ages which have no name.
Love is the breath of Gabriel, Love is the Prophet’s heart,
Love the envoy of God, Love the utterance of God;
Under the ecstasy of Love our moral clay is bright,
Love is an unripe wine, Love is a cup for the noble.
Love is the legist of Harem, Love is the commander of hosts,
Love is the son of travel, countless its habitations;
Love is the plectrum that plucks songs from the chords of life,
Love is the brightness of life, Love is the fire of life.
After this long prologue
Iqbal turns to the Mosque and addresses these words to it: “O Mosque of
Cordova! For thy existence and thy glory thou art indebted to love, to
the tender passion that is immortal. In this way, thou, too, art
“Philosophy, art and poetry,
or any other form of literary or artistic activity, is shallow and
insincere if it is not fed with the blood of the heart. It is no more
that an empty structure of word and sound, paint and oil, or brick and
stone, possessing neither life nor beauty nor freshness. Works of art,
of whatever excellence they may be, cannoth endure without the
intensity of inner passion, depth of love and profundity of
earnestness. When a drop of love’s warm blood falls upon a piece of
marble it turns it into a bearing heart and if even a man’s heart is
destitute of love it is a slab of stone.
“O magnificent Mosque! In
love and eagerness we both are alike. There is a mystical affinity
between you and me. Man, in his creation is a handful of dust but his
heart is the envy of the ninth heaven. The human heart is also lit up
with the luster of Divinity and the joy of Presence. Angels, indeed are
famous for unending genuflexion but the warmth and delight of human
prostration has not been granted to them.Referring to his Indian and
Brahmin origin, Iqbal says, “Look at the fervour and earnestness of
this Indian infidel! He was born and brought up in the house of
infidelity but his lips and heart are constantly engaged in prayer and
invocation, benediction and salutation. On meeting you in this strange
land, he has become a picture of intentness and devotion. There obtains
a complete uniformity and understanding between your soul and mine!”
Oh shrine of Cordova, thou
owes; existence to love.
Deathless in all its being, stranger to Past and Present.
Color or brick and stone, speech or music or song,
Only the heart’s warm blood feeds the craftsman/s design;
One drop of heart’s blood lends marble a heating heart,
Out of the heart’s blood flow out warmth, music and mirth.
Thine the soul-quickening air, mine the soul-quickening verse,
From thee the pervasion of men’s hearts, from me the opening of men’s
Inferior to the Heaven of Heavens, by no means the human breast is,
Handful of dust though it be, hemmed in the azure sky.
What if prostration be the lot of the heavenly host?
Warmth and depth of prostration they do not ever feel.
I’ a heathen of Ind, behold my fervour and my ardour,
Salat! And Durood fill my soul, Salat ad Darood
are on my lips!
Fervently sounds my voice, ardently sounds my lute,
Allah Hu, like a song, thrilling through every vein!
On beholding this marvel of
architecture, Iqbal is reminded of the real Muslim, the true Believer,
whom only Islam can produce and, with it, the mighty Ummat also
emerges on the surface of his mind from which the splendour of the
In Iqbal’s view the Mosque
of Cordova, in the totality of its appearance and effectiveness, is a
material manifestation of the Momin. In its beauty and
elegance, height and width, gracefulness and solidity, fineness and
strength it is his exact replica. Its imposing pillars remind Iqbal of
the oases of Arabia and in its balconies and latticed windows he sees
the gleams of Heavenly effulgence. He regards its towering minarets to
be the descending points of Divine mercy and the halting places of the
angels. Overcome with the emotion, he cries out: “The Muslim is
imperishable, he shall not die, because he is the bearer of the
message of Abraham and Moses and of all the Divine Apostles.”
Iqbal asserts that the Mosque of
Cordova is a true symbol of the beliefs, thoughts and aspirations of
the Muslim Millet, and just as the Muslim
Millet is free from all the narrow and unnatural concepts of race
and nationality it, too, represents marvelous synthesis of Arab and
Persian cultures and typifies a remarkable supra-national fraternity.
The Muslim is above territorial limitations. and his world is
boundless. The beauty and warmth of his message is all-prevading.
The Tigris and the Euphrates of Iraq, the Ganges and the Jumna of
Indiam the Danube of Europe and the Nile of Egypt are but a wave in
his shore-less sear.
His achievements are unequalled in history.
It was the Muslim Millet that gave the command to the outworn
ages to depart and ushered in the modern world. Members of the Islamic
Millet are the torch-bearers of compassion and fellow-feeling and
true specimens of faith and fraternization.