O slaves of material things, what is Faqr ?–


a penetrating insight and a living heart.


Faqr 1 is to sit in judgment over one’s own work,


and to envelop oneself round the words there is no deity.


Faqr is conquering Khaibar and living on barley meal,2


kings and nobles are tied to its saddle-straps.


Faqr is ardour, ecstasy and submission to the will of God.


It belongs really to Mustafa; we are only its trustees.


Faqr makes a nightly assault on the angelic hosts,


and on the hidden forces of Nature;


it transforms you into a different man,


and turns you from a piece of glass to a diamond.


Its whole equipment is derived from the Great Qur’an.


a dervish cannot be contained in a blanket.3


Although he speaks very little in the assembly of people,


yet this little enlivens a hundred assemblies.


It gives to the wingless the ambition to fly,


and the majesty of a falcon to a gnat.


When a faqir falls out with kings,


the throne trembles before the mat’s majesty.


He sets the whole town in tumult through his madness,


and frees the people from tyranny and oppression.


He does not settle but in places


where a falcon runs away from before a dove.4


His heart’s power flows from ecstasy and sobriety.5


his slogan before the king is no kings.


It is through his dust that our fire glows and burns,


the flame trembles before the meanest particles of his dust.


No nation suffers defeat in the battle of life


as long as it has a single dervish.6


Our honour is due to his lordly contentment,


our yearning is due to his carefree zeal.


Look at yourself in this mirror,


that God may bestow on you clear authority.7


The essence of faith lies in the graciousness of Faqr;


the might of faith flows from its highmindedness.


The King of the Faith said to the Muslims:


“The whole earth is my mosque.”8


seek protection from the revolution of the nine heavens,9


that the Muslim’s mosque remains in the hands of others.


The person of pure faith tries hard


to take back the mosque of his beloved Lord.


O you who talk of renunciation of this world, don’t talk of it,


renunciation of this world lies in conquering10 it.


To be its rider is to free oneself from its bondage:


it is to rise above the status of water und clay.


This world of water and clay is the Muslim’s quarry,


would you advise a falcon to give up its prey?


I am unable to understand


why a falcon11 should flee from the skies.


Alas! for a falcon that does not follow its nature,


that recoils from inflicting pain on little birds,


that remains confined to its nest, afflicted and depressed,


and does not wing the azure expanse of the skies.


The Qur’anic Faqr is a critical examination of Existence:


it is not mere rebeck-playing, intoxication, dancing and singing.


What is a believer’s Faqr? It is conquering of dimensions,


the slave acquires attributes of the Lord12 through it.


The Faqr of an unbeliever is flight to the wilderness,13


the Faqr of a believer makes land and sea tremble


life for the former is solitude in caves and mountains,14


life for the latter flows from a glorious death;


the former is seeking God through renunciation of flesh,


the latter is whetting one’s khudi on the stone of God,


the former is killing and burning out of khudi,


the latter is to illumine the khudi like a lamp.


When Faqr becomes naked under the Sun,


the Sun and the Moon tremble through its fear.


Naked Faqr is the warmth of Badr and Hunain,15


it is the sound of Husain’s takbir.16


When Faqr lost its zest for nakedness,


the Muslims lost their might (jalal).


Alas! for us and for this ancient world!


neither you nor I possess the sword of negation.


O young man, free your heart of the other-than-God,


and barter away this ancient world.


How long can you live careless of the plight of your faith?


O Muslim, this kind of life is as good as death.


The man of faith renews himself;


he does not look at himself except in the light of God;17


he measures himself by the standard set by Mustafa,


and thus succeeds in creating a new world.18


Woe to a nation that has fallen so low


that it gives birth to kings and lords but not to a single dervish.


Do not ask me to tell you its story, for how


can I describe what is indescribable?


Tears choke my throat;


it is better if this commotion remains within the heart.


The Muslim of this land has lost all hope in himself,


for a long time he has not seen a true man of God,


hence he has grown sceptical about the strength of his faith,


and has started waylaying his own caravan.


For three centuries the Ummah has been wretched and helpless,


it lives on without an inner (spiritual) fire and ecstasy.19


Lowly in thought, mean of nature, vulgar in taste,


its teachers and religious preceptors are devoid of fervour;


its low thoughts have made it wretched,


and lack of unity has made it sick of itself.


As he (the Muslim) is not aware of his true station,20


the zeal for revolution has died in his heart.


For lack of contact with a man of knowledge, he has become


feeble and dejected, and incapable of accepting truth.


He is a slave who has been rejected by his Lord,


who has grown poor, indigent and absolutely careless.


He has no wealth which may be snatched away by a king,


nor has he any (spiritual) light that may be taken away by a Satan.21


His religious leader is a disciple of the Frankish lord,


though he boasts of the station of Bayazid.22


He says: Bondage gives splendour to religion,


and life consists in being devoid of khudi.


He looked upon the enemy’s political control as a mercy;


danced in adoration round the Church and died.23


O you who are devoid of spiritual zest and anguish,


do you know what this age of ours has done to us ?24


This age has estranged us from ourselves


and cut us asunder from the beauty of Mustafa.25


Since love for Mustafa departed from the breast,


the mirror lost its natural lustre.


You did not understand the real character of this age,


and have lost the wager in the very first move.


Since your mind got involved in its vortex,


no live desire appeared in your heart.


Subject yourself to examination and do not forget yourself;


be forgetful of the other-than-yourself for a while.26


Why do you give in to fear, doubt and melancholy?


Realise your position in this. country.


This garden (country) has many tall trees,


therefore do not make your nest on a low branch.


O man unaware of yourself you have a song in your throat,


recognise your true stock and do not fly with crows.27


Give yourself the keenness of a sword,


and then hand yourself over to Destiny.


You have within you an irresistible storm,


before which a lofty mountain is but straw.


The grandeur of the storm lies in restlessness;


for it to rest for a moment is to die.


I am neither a theologian nor a jurist with an analytical mind,


nor am I acquainted with the intricacies of Faqr.


For all my keen insight into the ways of faith, I am slow-footed ;28


all my work is incomplete and what to me


appears mature is unripe,


but God has given me a heart full of living passion


and thus enabled me to unravel one knot out of a hundred.


“Take your share of my fire and ardour,


there may not come after me as a faqir like me.”



1.         Faqr. See the Explanatory Note. Iqbal here recounts only two characteristics of an ideal man: his penetrating insight which refers to his psychological and intellectual accomplishments, and a living heart, which refers to his spiritual attainments.

2.         Reference is to ‘Au who succeeded, during the life of the Prophet, in subduing the fortress of Khaibar, the Jewish stronghold, after several unsuccessful attempts by others. It is said that ‘Ali’s usual staple food consisted of barky Iqbal has used the word sha’ir as well as jau, signifying barley, with ‘Ali to imply that his feats of valour were due not to nourishing and rich food but to spiritual factors, complete and absolute faith in God.

Payam-i M’ashriq, p. 210

[Not everybody who eats barley has Haidar-like attributes.]

Ba1-i Jibril, p. 9

[He whom thou hast given simple food of barley,
Maybe he is granted the strong arm of Haidar.]

3.         Shaikh Sa’di says in Gulistatan that two kings cannot co-exist in a kingdom while two dervishes can be easily accommodated in a single blanket. Iqbal has employed Sa’di’s phraseology to express his idea. For Sa’di, a dervish is simply a poor man who is forced by circumstances to be content with the least. A dervish, for Iqbal, is poor by choice and is ambitious for the highest in the world, highest of course not in the material sense.

Zabur-.i ‘Ajam, p. 13

[Nothing strange if two kings cannot rule over a single land,
strange it is that two work’s cannot contain a single faqir.]

Darb-i Kalim, p. 39

[An unbeliever is one engrossed in the world,
a believer is one in whom all the worlds are lost.]

4.         Iqbal seems to imply that as a result of such people, social justice is fully established and the weak (symbolised here by dove) are no longer afraid of the strong (symbolised here by falcon).

5.         Jadhb-o suluk. Jadhb, ecstasy, and suluk is travelling on the way and salik is traveller. Jadhb-o suluk are two different vocations of a sufi, corresponding to the states of sukr (intoxication) and sahw (sobriety) (R.A. Nicholson, Tm, Hujwiri’s Kashf al-Mahjub, pp. 184-85, 226-29; Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, ‘Awarif aI-Ma’arif, Chap. 4).

6.         Iqbal seems to think that nations rise and fall in relation to the treatment meted out by people to the men of God. In another place he has quoted (Bal-i Jibril, p. 181) Rumi’s verse to illustrate this point

[No nation meets its doom,
until it angers a man of God.]

See Rumi’s Mathnavi, ii, 3112. In Nicholson’s translation, the verse is differently quoted.

7.         Clear authority. sultan-i mubin. This phrase is used in the Qur’an mostly in reference to Moses, as, for instance, in xi. 96, xxiii. 45, Ii. 38 “And in Moses, when We sent him to Pharaoh with clear authority.” -In lii. 38 these words are used in a general sense. Sultan here means spiritual equipment necessary to meet different challenges of life adequately. In Reconstruction (p. 131), Iqbal translates the word sultan as power.

If we try to acquire characteristics described in verses 291-316 of the man of God, we can attain what the Qur’an calls sultan-i mubin, clear authority, which leads one to act decisively in a time of crisis.

8.         Cf. the following verses in Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 131:

[Through the bounty of the ruler of our faith,
the entire earth became our mosque.]

9.         For “nine heavens,” see note 7 to “Wisdom of Moses” above. “Revolution of nine heavens” is an idiomatic way of saying “vicissitudes of fate”. It is based on ancient belief that man’s fate is determined by the revolutions of the sky and other planets.

10.        Conquer, taskhir, control. Cf the Qur’an, xiv. 13: “He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all

Zabur-i ‘Ajam, p. 209

[If you become proficient in conquering self,
conquering the world will be easy for you.]

Cf. the following lines (Javid Namah, p. 152)

[Woe to the dervish who, having uttered a sigh,
closes his lips and draws back his breath.
He sought a convent and fled from Khaibar,
he practised monkhood and never saw royal power.
Do you possess God’s image ? the world is your prey;
Destiny shares the same reins as your design.]

Also Bal-e-Jibril, p. 186, and Darb-i Kalim, p. 47. See also lines 349-54.

11.        Falcon, shahin. As Iqbal states in one of his letters, he employs this word for a person who embodies all the characteristics of Faqr. Shah!,, is

(I) self-respecting and jealous of its honour and does not eat of another’s prey; (ii) lives a free life, for it does not build a nest (III) flies at high altitudes, (iv) loves solitude, and (v) has penetrating eyesight (Sh. ‘Ataullah, Ed., Iqbal Namah, II, 204-05).

12.        Reference is to the tradition: takhallaqu bi akhlaqillah “Create in yourself attributes of God”.

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

[Whenever a watchful soul is born in a body,
this ancient world trembles to its foundation.]

14.        Iqbal quotes (Bal-i Jibril, p. 136) from Rumi:

[The policy of our faith is holy war and glory,
the policy in Christianity: caves and mountains]

15.        Badr and Hunain are places where two famous battles were fought by Muslims against the unbelievers. The Battle of Badr was the first battle in which Muslims, only 313 in number, engaged the unbelievers who were one thousand. This battle laid the foundation of Muslim Ummah in Medina. The battle of Hunain took place in the eighth year of Hijrah, in the valley of Hunain, about three miles from Mecca.

16.        Husain, the son of ‘Ali the fourth Caliph. He died fighting Yazid’s forces and in Iqbal is often employed as a symbol of truth fighting against falsehood and deceit.

Takbir is the call: Allahu Akbar, God is great, which eventually became the battle cry of Muslims. The affirmation of God’s greatness is to deny, by implication, the efficiency of secondary causes.

17.        Cf. the following verse (Javid Namah, p. 14)

[The third witness: consciousness of God’s essence,
to behold oneself in the light of God’s essence.]

18.        According to Iqbal, it was Prophet Muhammad whose religious experience resulted in -the creation of Muslim Community. He says (ibid., p. 76):

[Muhammad chose solitude upon Mount Hira’
and for a space saw no other beside himself;
our image was then poured into his heart
and out of his solitude a nation arose.]

19.        Iqbal here refers to the plight of the Muslims of the subcontinent who, according to him, are spiritually impoverished due to the non-appearance of a true man of God during the last two or three hundred years. It is through the efforts of such people that nations get spiritual renewal as a result of which they are able to act creatively in the world.

Bal-i Jibril. p. 17

[Since three-hundred years taverns in India have closed down,
it is time, O Saqi, your munificence be distributed among all.]

Armaghan-i Hijaz, p. 54

[I had a lamp in my breast
which went out during the last two hundred years.]

Ibid., p. 257

[The dervish whose morning groans awaken hearts
has not appeared in the nation since long.]

Darb-i Kalim, p. 55

[Two centuries’ slavery has destroyed their confidence;
think of some remedy for their mental confusion.]

20.        “His true station” may refer to the task assigned to the Muslim nation by God, as described by the Qur’an, iii. 100: “You are the best nation raised up for men: you enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.”

21.        He is impoverished, both materially and spiritually.

22.        Bayazid of Bistam (d. 2611874, a famous sufi. Iqbal recounts an event from his life to illustrate some point in his Asrar. See ‘Attar, Tadhkirat al-Awliya’, pp. 129-66, and R C. Zaehner, Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (Oxford, 1960), for an account of Bistami’s life and teachings.

23.        These lines refer to certain religious leaders of the subcontinent who justified theologically the alien political rule of the British and enumerated the so-called blessings of their administration. See Mahmud Nizami, Malfuzat, p. 41.

24.        Cf. the following verse (Zabur-i ‘Ajam, p. 136)

[I have seen in the cups of the Present Age
venom that serpents twist and writhe in pain therefrom.]

In Armaghan-i Hijaz (p. 135), Iqbal calls the Present Age as “lacking-in sincerity and ardour (of love)”

[Muslim managed to combine Faqr and rulership;
geniuc brought together ephemeral and eternal;
but I seek protection of God from the present age
which combined rulership with devilishness.]

25.        “Beauty of Mustafa.” It signifies cultural heritage of the Muslims which is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Western education, as planned by the British rulers, deprived the new generation of the inspiration that it would have derived from this heritage.

26.        In one of his addresses, Iqbal says, elucidating as if the verses here: “The Indian Muslim has long ceased to explore the depth of his inner life. The result is that lie has ceased to live in the full glow and colour of life. . . . The lesson that past experience has brought to you must be taken to the heart. . . . Expect nothing from any side. Concentrate your whole ego on your self alone, and ripen your clay into real manhood if you wish to see your aspirations realised. . . . The flame of life cannot be borrowed from others; it must be kindled in the temple of one’s own soul” (“Shamloo,” Ed., Speeches and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 54-56).

27.        These lines refer to the political situation obtaining in the Indian subcontinent after the Third Round Table Conference came to end in the beginning of 1933. A White Paper was published by the British Government in March 1933. It contained proposals for the solution of the communal problem. Efforts began to be made to arrive at some solution which envisaged Muslims giving up separate electorates. Those working on these lines were called the Nationalist Muslims who did not enjoy the confidence of the majority of the Muslims of the country. Iqbal here advises the Muslims not to become camp-followers of others, to trust in themselves and try to achieve art independent and honourable position for themselves in accordance with their mission in life, which Iqbal expresses in the following verse (Bang-i Dara, p. 30]):

[East’s salvation lies in the unity of the millat.]

28.        Cf. Iqbal’s statement : “I have given the best part of my life to a careful study of Islam, its laws and polity, its culture, its history and its literature. This constant contact with the spirit of Islam, as it unfolds itself in time, has, I think, given me a kind of insight into its significance as a world-fact” (“Shamloo,” Ed., op. cit., p. 3).