It strengthens the chains of the slaves;


the inexperienced call it “freedom”.


When it saw the people’s agitation,


it drew a curtain over the face of imperialism.


It characterised State as multi-national,


and thus covered its trickery under this naïve phrase.


One can hardly move about freely in its environment,


no door can be opened by its keys.


It said to the bird in cage, “O sorrow-stricken bird,


build thy nest in the house of the hunter;


he who builds his nest in meadows and gardens


cannot be secure from falcon and hawk.”


Under its spell, the self-deluding bird, enamoured of grain,


choked its wailings in its throat.


If you desire (real) freedom, do not get caught in its coils,


remain thirsty rather than pine for moisture from its vine.


May God protect you from its speech and its equivocal word!


The eyes (of the people), through its collyrium, become more blind,


and the helpless are rendered more helpless through its subterfuges;


may God protect us from the wine of its cup,


and from its gamester’s tricks.


The free man does not neglect his ego;


protect yourself, do not take its opium pill.


Speak the word of (truth like) Moses before Pharaohs1


so that your stroke may split the river into two.2


My heart is grieved at the dishonour suffered by the caravan,


I do not see the light of soul in its leader;


he is a worshipper of the body, ambitious of worldly honour and short-sighted.3


his heart devoid of the light of la ilah,


he was born a Muslim but is a disciple of the church,4


he rent asunder the veil of our honour;


to catch hold of his skirt is the height of foolishness,


his breast is devoid of a shining heart.


In this path rely on yourself, for nobody


goes hunting deer with the help of blind dogs.


Alas! for the nation that shuts its eyes from itself,


gives its heart to the other-than-God, and breaks loose from itself.


When khudi died in the breast of the millat,


the mountain became a straw and was blown away by the wind.


Although it has la ilah in its very constitution,


yet it gave birth to no true Muslim.


One who gives faith to the faithless,


whose self-prostration makes the earth tremble,


who utters “there is no god” at the risk of his life,


from whose blood grows (the flower of) there is no god;


that ecstasy, that ardour of longing, has disappeared,


no longer is there such a man of heart in the sanctuary.


O Muslim, in this ancient tavern,


how long will you remain in the snares of Satan?


Ask (of God) His blessing in your striving and delight therein,


nothing is attained without midnight supplications.5


How long to live in the ocean like a floating straw?


Become hard like a mountain through self-control.


Although the wise do not reveal the state of their heart to anybody,


I cannot hide from you my heart’s grief.


Being a slave and born in slavery,


I have wandered away from the threshold of the Ka’bah.


When I recite salutations in the name of Mustafa,


my whole being suffers acutely through shame.


Love says: “O slave of others,


your breast is like a temple full of idols;


so long as you do not have the colour of Muhammad


do not pollute his name by your salutations.”


Do not ask me about my inattentive standing in prayer


and about my prostration lacking in ecstasy.


God’s manifestation, although it may last but for a moment,


is enjoyed by free people alone.


When a free man falls down in prostration before God,


the blue sky revolves round him ecstatically;


we slaves are unaware of his might


and of his beauty and grace.


Do not seek the ecstasy of faith in a slave,


even if he be a hafiz of the Qur’an.


He is a Muslim but behaves like an Azar,


his religion and gnosis are all kufr (unbelief).


If you have life’s ardour in your body,6


you will know that the ascension of a Muslim is in his prayer.7


If you have no warm blood in your body,


your prostration is but conformity to an ancient custom;


the ‘Id of the free people is the glory of State and religion,


the ‘Id of the slaves is but a congregation of Muslims.



1.         Moses was ordered by God to go to Pharaoh to warn him of the wrongs being done by him. See the Qur’an, xxvi. 10-11, xl. 23-24, lxxix. 15-17. According to a well-known tradition, it is jihad to speak the truth before a tyrant.

2.         This refers to the well-known incident in the history of the Israelites when Moses threw his staff into the river which sundered its water giving way to his followers to cross it safely while being pursued by the army of the Pharaoh. See the Qur’an, xx. 77, xxvi. 61.

Darb-i Kalim, p. 24

[The story of Pharaoh and Moses is ever fresh in every age.]

3.         Contrast between body and soul is often met in Iqbal in reference to many problems of life, especially as the West looks at them. He states that Europe uncritically accepted the duality of spirit and matter from Manichaean

thought (‘Shamloo,” Ed., Speeches and Statements of Iqbal. p. 5). Iqbal thinks that both are intimately related and unless this truth is grasped fully, no programme of social Reconstruction can be expected to achieve any success (Zabur-i 'Ajam, pp. 216-17).

When, however, there is question of preferences, Iqbal favours spirit:

Bal-i Jibril, p. 49

[The world of heart is burning, love, ecstasy,
the world of body is gain, artifice and deceit.]

Zabur-i Ajam, p. 217

[The secret of universe lies in the soul,
body is one of the states of life.]

Iqbal’s criticism of the West and her culture is due to the same reason, her emphasis on the body. Addressing his son, Iqbal says (Javid Namah, p. 244):

[I fear the age in which you have been born
is immersed in body and knows very little of soul.]

He rejects socialism for the same reason (ibid., p. 69)

[The pure soul takes not colour and scent from body,
and socialism deals with nothing but body.)

4.         “Disciples of the church” refers to Muslim leaders who sided with the British rulers (Christians) and thus jeopardised the interests of the Muslim community. The best example was provided by some members of the Muslim Delegation at the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1931. See Muhammad Rafiq Afdal, Guftar-i Iqbal, p. 200, and Letters and Writings of Iqbal, edited by the present translator, pp. 8-9.

5.         “Midnight supplications.” See the Qur’an, lxxiii. 6 “The rising by night is surely the fiercest way to tread and most effective in speech.”

Payom-i M’ashriq, p. 197

[The root of this gem lies in midnight bewailings.]

Zabur-i ‘Ajam p. 152

[Sprinkle thy morning tears upon life’s desert plain.
New harvest scarce appears except thou sow thy grain.]

6.         “Life’s ardour.” It is the same thing which in some places (as, for instance, in line 530), Iqbal calls ‘light of God” and in other places (as, for instance, in line 674) “light of soul”. All these terms stand for spiritual’ orientation.

7.         Ascension (Mi’raj) is the direct experience of God which the Prophet had. The verse is a rendering of the famous tradition “Prayer is a Muslim’s ascension.”