I tell thee a significant point known only to the people of ecstasy1:


for nations, negation expresses power, affirmation expresses beauty.


Negation and affirmation together signify control of the universe:


they are the keys to the doors of the universe.


Both are the destiny of this world of Becoming.


Movement is born out of negation, stationariness, out of affirmation.


Unless the secret of negation is grasped,


the bonds of the other-than-God cannot be broken.


The beginning of every work in the world is with the word of negation:2


it is the first stage of the man of God.


A nation which burns itself in its heat for a moment


recreates itself out of its own ashes.


To say No to the other-than-God is Life :


the universe is ever renewed by its tumult.


Not every person is affected by its madness ;3


not every haystack is fit to catch its fire.


When this ecstasy affects the heart of a living person,


he makes sluggards4 sitting on the roadside5 to move on swiftly.


Dost thou wish the servant to fight the master6 (for his rights)?


Then sow the seed of No in his handful of dust.


Whoever has this burning ardour in his heart


is more awe-inspiring than the Doomsday.


No is a succession of violent blows;


it is the rumbling of thunder, not the piping tune of a flute;


its blow changes every being into non-being,


So that thou comest out of the whirlpool of Existence.7


I relate to thee the history of the Arabs


that thou mayest know its good and bad aspects.8


Their strokes broke Lat and Manat9 into pieces;


confined within dimensions, they yet lived free of all bonds.


Every old garment was torn off by them;


Chosroes and Caesars10 met their doom at their hands.


At times deserts were overrun by their thunder showers;


at other times seas were churned by their storms.


The whole world, no more than a straw, was set afire by them:


it was all a manifestation of No.


They were constantly astir until out of this old world


they brought forth a new one11 into existence.


The invitation to the truth (the -call to prayer) is


the result of their early rising ;12


whatever exists is the outcome of their sowing (of seed).


The lamp of the tulip that has been lit up


was brought from the banks of their river13


They erased from the tablet of their heart the


impress of the other-than-God;


hundreds of new worlds therefore came into


being at their hands.


You will similarly see that in the period of Western dominance14


capital and labour have come to blows.


As the heart of Russia was sorely afflicted, the word


No came out of the depths of her being.15


She has upset the old order


and applied a sharp scalpel to the veins of the world.


I have closely observed her position which is:


no kings, no church, no deity.16


Her thought has remained tied to the wind-storm of negation,


and has not marched towards the affirmative “but”.


Maybe a day will come when through force of ecstasy


She may extricate herself from this whirlwind.


Life does not rest at the station of Negation,


the universe moves on towards “but”.


Negation and affirmation both are necessary for the nations:


Negation without affirmation is their death.17


How can Khalil (friend) be ripe in love


unless negation guides him towards affirmation?18


O you who indulge in debate in your closet,


raise the cry of negation before a Nimrod.19


What you see around you is not worth two grains of barley,


be acquainted with the might of there is no deity.


He who has the sword of negation in his hands


is the ruler of all the universe.


1.         People of ecstasy, mardan-i hal, persons who pass through different states in their spiritual experiences. This phrase stands here for people engaged in dynamic activity in contrast to mardan- i hal, people who only talk and do nothing.

Power and beauty, jalal and jamal, see note 11 to verse 169 above.

2.         Cf. the verse (Darb-i Kalim, p. 60):

[In the universe, negation is the beginning, affirmation the end.]

3.         Literally, Not every collar is torn by its madness. In Oriental poetry, a-mad person, in a fit of madness, often tears his clothes, especially the collar.

4.         Sluggards, rah-nashin, wayside beggars, sitting and doing nothing.

5.         Rah-naward, he who is on the way, going somewhere, indicating movement, progress towards the goal.

6.         Iqbal coined the word khwajgi to express the idea behind “capitalism”. It was first used in Rumuz-i Bekhudi, published in 1918 (Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 120):

[(The Prophet’s teachings) Raised the dignity of a labourer,
Removed capitalist tyranny from the overlords.]

Then in a poem entitled “Khidr-i Rah” (included in Bang-i Dara, p. 298), recited by Iqbal in 1922, he used the same phrase

[Capitalism has cast many a charming idol
Race, nationalism, church, state, civilisation, colour.]

in another context, he says (Javid Namah, p. 89)

[What is the Qur’an ?-sentence of death for the capitalist
succour for the destitute labourer.]

7.         The point Iqbal wishes to emphasise here is that one who follows Tauhid in spirit feels everything besides himself and God as of no value and hence insignificant and unreal.

Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 163

[On the head of this falsehood, garmented as truth,
strike with the words: there is naught but God.]

ibid., p. 114

[Man of God is naught before his Master,
but stands firm against falsehood.]

Bal-i Jibril, p. 132 (translation by Kiernan)

[Round his servant’s firm faith God’s great compasses turn
all this universe else shadow, illusion and myth.]

We must, however, guard here against one misconception. Iqbal’s normal position is that the world of matter is real and not illusory.

Asrar -o Rumuz, p. 165

[Don’t call this determined world as mean].

The characterising of the universe as bath, illusion, myth, in the text here is psychological and not ontological.

8.         Literally, so that thou mayest know what is ripe and unripe in (the history of) the Arabs.

9.         Lat and Manat are the names of two idols, among many, which the Arabs worshipped. See the Qur’an, liii. 19-20. Here they stand for objects and persons other than God, to whom people pay homage.

10.        Chosroe was the title of Persian monarchs; Caesar, of Roman emperors. Qaisar and Kisra are symbols of imperialism. Addressing the Russians, Iqbal says ( Javid Namah, pp. 88-89):

[Like us Muslims you have broken
the bone of-imperial rule in this world.
Who gave the black man White Hand?
Who gave-the tidings of “no Caesar, no Chosroe”?]

11.        New World. Iqbal says of the Ideal Man:

Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 49

[His genius abounds with life and desires manifestation
he will bring another world into existence.]

Javid Namah, p. 73

[When one world grows old,
the Qur’an gives him another world.]

Iqbal gives in Javid Namah (pp. 74-83) an outline of the New World which, according to him, is in accordance with the basic principles of Islam and is most relevant to the situation as it obtains today.

12.        Rising early in the morning. It stands for intense devotion to God. Sowing of seed is to prepare the field for cultivation. The first line signifies that the ideal man is in constant touch with God from Whom be gets inspiration, as a result of which he tries to establish the rule of God’s laws on this earth.

13.        Iqbal refers to the tremendous creative work done by the Arabs in the fields of science and art. All that is visible in this world, of civilisation, of knowledge, art and skill, is the result of their creative activity. It was they who sowed the seed and we in the present age are witnessing and enjoying the fruit of their labours. Modern sciences and arts are a continuation of what the Arabs achieved in their days.

14.        Daur-i Farang, period of European domination, both political and intellectual. Iqbal seems to imply that the class struggle, strife between capital and labour, is the result -of this age which is secular in nature, divorced from religious background.

15.        Depth of being. The word used by Iqbal, damir, signifies conscience, heart, and hence inner recesses of mind. This is a peculiar use of the word in Iqbal. The Qur’an says (xli. 53): “We will show them Our signs in the outer world and in the inner world (of self).” The actual word used is anfus which the mystics regard as a region where they receive illumination and hence are able to arrive at the truth, mentioned in the above Qur’anic verse. This region of mystic experience may be called qalb (mentioned in the Qur’an, xxxii. 7-9) about which Iqbal says : “It is, according to the Qur’an, something which ‘sees’, and its reports, if properly interpreted, are never false” (Reconstruction, pp. 15-16).

If we succeed in exploring this region of the self ii the way the sufis have been able to do, we can come into direct contact with Reality and receive suitable illumination which helps us in arriving at the truth.

Javid Namah, p. 72

[If you possess the spirit of a true Muslim,
look into your heart and the Qur’an,
a hundred new worlds lie in its verses,
whole centuries are involved in its moments.]

Ibid., p. 225

[Break whatsoever is uncongenial,
create a new world out of your heart.]

Pas Chih Bayed Kard. p. 40

[If you wish to know the essence of religion,
look but into the depths of your heart.]

16.        Cf. the following verses (Javid Namah, p. 88):

[You have finished all the “idols”.
Pass on from “no” march onward to “but”;
pass on from “no” if you are a true seeker,
you are alive if you take the road to affirmation.]

For ideas expressed in verses 269-82, see Javid Namah, pp. 87-89.

17.        The idea expressed in these lines (269-82) was expressed in Javid Namah, pp. 87-89.

18.        Reference is to the life of Prophet Abraham. See the Qur’an, vi. 76-80 where Abraham’s experience of “the kingdom of the heavens and the earth” is described, involving denial of all false gods and attaining certainty by affirming his complete submission to Him “Who originated the heavens and the earth,” and he was not of the polytheists.

19.        Nimrod was the king of the Chaldees who decided to punish Abraham for preaching monotheism, which was, in its true implications, a revolt against his autocratic and irresponsible governance. See Genesis, x, 8-9. Here Nimrod stands for any haughty ruler whose authority is not based on consent and who rules autocratically.

Armaghan-i Hijaz, p. 104

[Be acquainted with the Nimrods of the present age.
we can act Abraham-like through their beneficence.]

Ibid., p. 201

[Abrahams are not afraid of Nimrods,
for fire is a test for the raw incense.]

Ibid., p. 90

[Nimrod is angry with me because
I have tried to rebuild the Sanctuary.]