A FEW WORDS TO THE ARAB PEOPLE
 

May your land prosper till eternity!

 

who raised the cry: no Caesars and Chosroes?1

730

In this world of near and far, fast and slow,

 

who was the first to read the Qur’an?

 

who was taught the secret of la ilah?

 

where was this lamp (of knowledge) lighted?

 

From whom did the world gain knowledge?

735

for whom is the (Qur’anic) verse revealed: “You became” ?2

 

It was due to the bounty of the one called Ummi3

 

that tulips grew out of the sandy desert of Arabia.4

 

Freedom (as a concept) developed under his care,

 

that is, the “today” of the peoples is from his “yesterday”5

740

he put a “heart” into the body of Adam

 

and removed the veil from his face,

 

he broke all the ancient gods ;6

 

every old twig, through his breath, grew a flower.

 

The excitement of the battles of Badr and Hunain,

745

Haidar, Siddiq, Faruq and Husain,

 

the grandeur of the call to prayer,

 

the recitation of the Qur’anic Surat al-Saffat, in the battlefield,7

 

the sword of Ayyubi and the look of Bayazid,8

 

the keys to the treasures of both the worlds,

750

reason and heart intoxicated with one cup of wine,

 

a mixture of dhikr and fikr of Rum and Rayy;

 

knowledge and science, Shari’ah and religion, administration of State9;

 

ever-dissatisfied hearts within the breast,

 

al-Hamra and the Taj, of world-consuming beauty,10

755

that win tributes from the celestial beings-

 

all these are moments of his time,

 

a single lustre of his manifold manifestations.

 

All these heart-pleasing phenomena are his outward aspects,

 

his inward aspect is still hidden from the gnostics.

760

“Limitless praise be to the Holy Prophet,

 

who gave to this handful of dust true belief in God.”

 

God made you sharper than the sword:

 

Lie made the camel-driver the rider of destiny.

765

Your takbir, your prayer and your war:

 

on these depend the fate of East and West.11

 

How good this dedication and selfless devotion.

 

Alas! for this grievous affliction and melancholy!

 

The nations of the world are promoting their interests,

 

you are unaware of the value of your desert ;12

770

you were a single nation, you have become now several nations,13

 

you have broken up your society yourself.

 

He who loosened himself from the bonds of khudi,

 

and merged himself in others, met certain death.

 

Nobody else ever did what you have done to yourself.

775

The soul of Mustafa was grieved by it.

 

O you who are unaware of the Frankish magic,

 

see the mischiefs hidden in his sleeves.

 

If you wish to escape his deceits,

 

turn away his camels from your ponds.

780

His diplomacy has weakened every nation

 

and broken the unity of the Arabs.

 

Ever since the Arabs fell into its snares,

 

not for one moment have they enjoyed peace.

 

O man of insight, look at your times,

785

recreate in your body the soul of ‘Umar.

 

Power lies in the unity of the true religion,.

 

religion is strong will, sincerity and faith.

 

As his heart knows the secrets of Nature,

 

the man of the desert is Nature’s14 protector.

790

He is simple, and his nature is the touchstone of right and wrong,

 

his rise means setting of a hundred thousand stars.15

 

Leave aside these deserts, mountains and valleys,

 

pitch your tent in your own being.16

 

Whetting your nature on the desert wind

795

set your dromedary onto the battlefield.

 

The modern age was born out of your achievements;

 

its intoxication is the result of your rose-red wine.

 

You have been the expositor of its secrets,

 

and the first builder of its edifice.17

800

Since the West adopted it as its own,

 

it has grown into a coquette, with no sense of honour.

 

Although she is sweet and pleasant,18

 

yet she is crooked, saucy and irreligious.

 

O man of the desert, make what is unripe mature

805

and refashion the world according to your touchstone

 

 


1.         This idea has been repeatedly expressed by Iqbal in the present book, in verses 254-55, 273-74, etc. In Javid Namah (p. 87), he says in the same strain:

[Himself broke the spell of Imperialism,
then assumed the mantle of Imperialism himself.]

In the footnote to this verse, Iqbal refers to the tradition of the Prophet: “When Caesar will be killed, there shalt be no Caesar; when Chosroe will be killed, there shall be no Chosroe thereafter.”

2.         Iqbal says that modern knowledge of sciences and arts is the legacy which Europe received from the Muslim world. “You became.” Reference is to the Qur’anic verse, iii. 102: “And remember Allah’s favour to you when you were enemies ; then He united your hearts, so by His favour you became brethren.”

3.         Ummi. See the Qur’an, vii. 157. Usually it is translated as one who cannot read and write. According to some, it is the Arabic equivalent of the word “Gentile” which the Israelites used to designate all non-Jews,

4.         “Talip” lalah. Iqbal often employs this word, particularly lalah-i sehra’, to denote Muslim Community. Cf. Zabur-i ‘Ajam, pp. 106, 126, 178, 187.

5.         The concept of freedom (hurriyat), that is looked upon as a contribution of Western thought, was in reality given a concrete shape at the hands of the Prophet. At another place, he says (Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 120):

[Freedom was born out of his holy heart;
His vineyard flowed with that delightful wine.
The world’s new age, its hundred lamps ablaze,
Opened its eyes upon his loving breast.]

Eng. trans. by A.J. Arberry, Mysteries of Selflessness, p. 22.

6.         Cf. the following lines (ibid.):

[By his might he shattered every ancient privi1ege,
And built new walls to fortify mankind.]

7.         The Surat al-Saffat (xxvii.): “Those raging in ranks,” refers to the position of the believers while saying prayers during battle.

8.         Ayyubi, i.e. Salahuddin Ayyubi, the hero of the Crusades. Iqbal sometimes employs his name as a model Muslim ruler. See Payam-i M’ashriq, p. 5. Bayazid refers to the famous sufi, Bayazid Bistami It is the basic contention of Iqbal that the sword of Ayyubi and spiritual insight of Bayazid should be present in a single person. The idea of bifurcation of State and Church is foreign to the spirit of Islam. The term Faqr, in Iqbal, represents this integrative characteristic.

9.         These lines (752-53) enunciate Iqbal’s basic position with regard to the relative value of reason and intuition. An individual must employ both; whenever one of these is ignored, most often it leads to a warped personality. Cf. the following verses (Javid Namah, p. 71)

[When love is companioned by intelligence
It has the power to design another world.
Then rise and draw design of a new world,
Mingle love with intelligence.]

Eng. trans. by Arberry. Rum stands for Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi who represents love and Rayy is the name of a city which is now situated in the suburbs of Tehran, the birthplace of Fakhruddin Razi, the great theologian, Qur’an-commentator and philosopher. He stands for reason here.

10.        Cf. the following lines (Zabur-i ‘Ajam, p. 263):

[Just cast a glance on that pure jewel-
look at the Taj in the moonlight;
its marble ripples faster than flowing waters,
a moment spent here is more stable than eternity.]

11.        This in a nutshell is Iqbal’s advice to the Muslim of today, that be should aspire to seek the welfare of man, both material and spiritual, that be should endeavour to Eve his mundane life fully oriented to the spiritual reality. He should not shirk plunging into the hazards of war, though he must be attuned all the time to the Great Infinite.

12.        “Value of the desert.” Iqbal is referring to the strategic importance and the rich mineral resources of the Arabian deserts.

13.        Here Iqbal refers to the dirty game of the Colonial Powers, after he First Great War (1914.18), to divide the Arab land into small geographical territories and fostering narrow nationalism, which, as Iqbal states elsewhere, was the greatest danger to the. unity and integrity of the Muslim world. See Anwar-i Iqbal, p. 168. See also line 782.

14.        Nature (fitrat) here does not refer to what we usually call the world of Nature or the world of matter. We are not expected to preserve the world of matter as it is ; our aim should be to turn is into ought.

The word fitrat (nature) refers to human nature as mentioned in the Qur’an, xxx. 30: “So set thy face for religion, being upright, the nature made by Allah in which He has created man.”

Thus nature, interpreted in the light of this verse, would be Islam, the true religion, that enshrines the nature made by God which must be preserved and maintained at all cost.

When Iqbal says that the people of the desert know the demands of nature and can protect it, he means, in the words of the Qur’an (xxx. 30), “true religion,” i.e. Islam. He says:

Darb-i Kalim, p. 24

[The purposes of Nature are protected
by the man of the desert or mountains.]

Armaghan-i Hijaz, p. 120

[Body and soul become strong through desert winds,
rise of nations is from deserts or mountains.]

15.        “A hundred thousand stars” refers to the diverse systems of beliefs and attitudes current in the world, all of which will be superseded when true religion makes its appearance.

16.        In the development of khudi. this is the first stage, where the individual is expected to detach himself completely from the outside world and concentrate on his own self.

Zabur-i ‘Ajam, p. 216

[Reach within yourself and retire from this noisy world,
throw yourself into the inner recesses of your heart.]

17.        These lines (797-800) refer to the idea expressed earlier in lines 733-36 that modern knowledge is the legacy of the Arabs.

18.        Iqbal thinks that sciences and arts in the hands of secular West became destructive weapons for the annihilation of this earthly planet. There is nothing inherently evil in them, only they are cut off from their natural affinity to the spiritual values of life.

 [EXPLANATORY NOTE]