THE WISDOM OF THE PHARAOHS
 

I have unfolded the wisdom of the people of faith,

 

now learn the wisdom of the people of malice.1

 

The wisdom of the people of malice is deceit and artifice;

 

what are deceit and artifice ?-they destroy the

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soul and build the body.

 

This is wisdom that has freed itself from faith’s bonds

 

and has strayed far away from the station of Love.2

 

The school follows in his (Pharaoh’s) ways

 

so that the servant learns to think in line with the master’s desires.3

 

The religious leader of the millat, in a charming way,

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reinterprets religion to his (Pharaoh’s) liking.

 

The unity of the people is sundered through his machinations;

 

nothing can withstand him except Moses’ Staff.4

 

Woe to a people that, prey to others’ stratagems,

 

destroy themselves and build up others.

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They gain knowledge of science and art,

 

but remain unaware of their own self-identity.5

 

They erase the Lord’s impress from their signet,6

 

aspirations arise in their heart only to die away.

 

They are not blessed with a progeny imbued with a sense of honour,7

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their children have souls in their bodies like corpses in graves.

 

Their old people lack modesty,

 

the young are busy decking themselves out like women-folk.

 

The desires that spring from their hearts are unstable,

 

they are born dead from the wombs of their mothers.

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Their daughters are caught in the snares of their curling locks,

 

bold-eyed, fond of display and carping;

 

well-dressed, with exquisite make-up, coquettish;

 

their eyebrows like two unsheathed swords;

 

their white silvery forearms pleasing to the eyes;

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their bosoms showing like fish in water.8

 

A nation whose ashes are devoid of any live spark,

 

whose morn is darker than its eve.

 

It is always in search of material goods,

 

its only preoccupation is anxiety for livelihood and fear of death.9

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Its rich are miserly, pleasure-loving,

 

intent upon seeking the shell, and neglectful of the kernel.10

 

The might of its ruler is the object of its adoration,

 

in loss of faith and belief lies its gain.

 

It never looks beyond its today11

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and never creates a tomorrow for itself.12

 

It has the annals of its ancestors under its arms,13

 

but, alas! it only discourses on them without acting on them.

 

Its creed is to offer loyalty to others,

 

to build temples with the material of the mosque.

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Alas! for a nation which has cut itself adrift from God,

 

which is dead, but does not know that it is dead.

 

 


1.         People of malice, as distinguished from the people of faith, who pass their days totally divorced from the spiritual reality of life and are therefore involved only in material welfare, regard moral values absolutely irrelevant. The result is total moral anarchy in social life.

Iqbal employs this contrast in several contexts. In one place, he expresses this difference by the world of soul and the world of body) as in the following verse (Bal-i Jibril, p. 49: Eng. transl. by Kiernan, Poems from Iqbal)

[World of soul ?-the world of fire, ecstasy and loving,
world of body ?-the world of gain through fraud and cunning blight.]

2.         Station of love (maqam-i shauq) is loyalty to the spiritual values of life. 3. Maktab, school. Cf. the following verse (Darb-i Kalim, p. 85):

[This educational system (devised by) the Christians
is a conspiracy against religion and loving kindness]

and (ibid., p. 83)

[Nature bestowed on you eyes of an eagle,
but slavery has put in them sight of a bat.]

4.         Moses’ Staff is a reference to events in the life-history of Moses, where his staff helped him overcome the crises, first in combating the deceit of the magicians and then in crossing the river when pursued by Pharaoh and his hosts. See the Qur’an, xx. 17; xxvii. 13 ; xxviii. 31. The other miracle of Moses, White Hand, shone white for the beholders. See the Qur’an, vii. 104. These two miracles of Moses, Staff and White Hand, seem to represent the two complementary forces of qahiri (might) and Dilbari (love, mercy). Moses’ Staff, in Iqbal, therefore, stands for power, might, without acquiring which the people of the exploited societies cannot hope to meet successfully the challenge of the West, both political and economic.

5.         In another context, Iqbal says (Darb-i Kalim, p. 78)

[Science gives wealth, power and satisfaction,
only one does not find oneself through it.]

6.         Lord’s impress, naqsh-i Haqq, God’s image. It stands for voluntary submission to God’s Will (Javid Namah, p. 152):

[If you possess God’s image, the world is your prey;
your will becomes identical with destiny.
The present age throws a challenge to you, imprint
God’s image on this infidel’s tablet.]

7.         Ghayyur, jealous of one’s honour, tradition and culture.

8.         Cf. the following verses of Iqbal (Rumuz, p. 175; Eng. tr. by Arberry, p. 64):

[Now take the slender figure, bosomless,
Close-cosseted, a riot in her glance,
Her thoughts resplendent with the Western light;
In outward guise a woman, inwardly
No woman she; she hath destroyed the bonds
That hold our pure Community secure;
Her sacred charms are all unloosed and spilled;
Hold-eyed her freedom is, provocative.
And wholly ignorant of modesty.]

9.         In another context Iqbal says (Darb-i Kalim, p. 82):

[The modern age is your Angel of Death,
it snatches away your soul by giving you fear of livelihood]

and (Javid Namah, p. 234):

[He whose sole equipment was Allah,
for him love of wealth and fear of death are sources of mischief.]

10.        Kernel and shell. The distinction of what is visible, what appears to the eye, the apparent, the external and what is real, the hidden, the essence, is very much relevant in moral evaluation of one’s behaviour. Rumi has discussed this problem in hundred different contexts in which he tries to bring home to the people the value of the kernel in contrast to the shell, the intention behind one’s action rather than the action as it appears to our eyes. Rumi, for instance, says:

[I have taken over the Qur’an’s kernel,
and threw away the bones before the dogs.]

11.        Cf. the following verse (Darb-i Kalim, p. 108):

[Though not unbelief, yet ‘tis almost unbelief,
that man of truth be caught in the snare of the present and the existent.]

12.        Iqbal thinks that a true leader is one who produces dissatisfaction among the people about the present and urges them on to a brighter and better future (Darb-i Kalim, p. 46):

[He is the true leader of your times
who creates dissatisfaction against the present and existent.]

A new “tomorrow” stands for a future that is morally higher (Payam-i M’ashriq, p. 232)

[What aught to be and is not present-that shall come to pass.]

13.        People study attentively the books of ancient thinkers, write commentaries on them and make them subject of learned discourses but fail to live fruitfully and creatively.

 [EXPLANATORY NOTE]