Talking about persons of kindred mind, Shakespeare said, “the poet’s eye in fine frenzy rolling, moves from earth to heaven and heaven to earth.” This literally applies to the poet-philosopher of the East, Allama Iqbal, not merely figuratively but as a matter of fact. Long before he wrote his magnum opus the Javid Namah or poema celestia, he wrote a poem in Persian titled “Musafir”, which may well be called the corresponding poema terrestia. The resemblance is so close that while reading it we feel as if we were on one of the heaven through which he passed during his celestial journey. We may well shift this journey and all he saw, felt and experienced during his stay and activities in Afghanistan, to Javid Namah for it is to this neighbouring country that He went alongwith two other outstanding persons of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent, both top-ranking educationists, on the invitation of King Nadir Shah who wished to overhaul the educational system of the country as a part of his ameliorative work for its uplift and bringing it into line with other advanced nations of the world. With the intense love he had for all Muslim countries and people, we can well imagine the ardour with which he undertook the journey to Afghanistan and the thrill he felt in breathing its air and feeling the exhilarating effect of its sights and scenes redolent with myriad historical associations and memories. His stay in the country was not that of a common visitor but one who knew the history of the land and its people for both of which he had great love and admiration. In fact, Afghanistan being a Muslim country, he felt himself to be absolutely at home in it. Not only that, his mind was that of a highly imaginative poet and he saw everything in the characteristic manner of a poet steeped in colour and beauty. Like that rose about which he wrote in one of his early poems, he looked at Afghanistan with the loving eye of a bewitched nightingale. Anyone in his place whose mind was not stored with information about its storied past, garnered from various sources, would have passed through the country without noticing many illustrious figures of its past, relics of its palmy days when it was the mistress of countries far and wide, and those striking historical events which mark its down-the-ages career for it is from this ancient land that people after people and conquerors after conquerors have been puring into the Indo-Pak Subcontinent from times immemorial through the Khaibar Pass. Looked at from the strategic point of view, we are forcefully reminded of the poem by late Abul Asar Hafiz who said about this pass:
“The air of the Khaibar Pass still eagerly awaits that some wild furious one should even now come forth.”
All through the poem we come across so many charming things about the land. Much of its charm is due to astonishing references which are not normally within the range of men; in fact few look out for them. These rarities have been described in such an alluring manner that we feel a fresh draught of breeze every moment. How fascinating the reference to the sage of Tus, the hallowed garment of the Prophet at Qandhar, enough to raise one’s mind to the highest pitch of ecstasy; founder of the state, Ahmad Shah Baba, who was a model of chivalry and generosity for he conquered land after land and gave it away without taking any thought. For all these references we have to read the history of Afghanistan thoroughly looking for interesting details. Even if we have never visited the country and do not hope to so, the details given by the poet provide packed information in a very graphic manner and we feel as if we were reading some purple patches in a wonderful Odyssey. Everything comes to us like a revelation and opens enchanting vistas which go on spreading as if a magician were bringing out one wonderful thing after another from his magichat, or to make it more apt, according to our own setting, ‘Umar the arch one were taking out one enchating thing after another from his fabulous zambil or magic bag. Do’nt we feel the magic wand of Miranda astonishingly at work heaping one wonder upon another? Take for instance the reference to the poet Saib who sang in praise of Kabul in one of his lines. How many of us were aware of this before? Incidently it shows how deeply staturated Iqbal was in Persian literature, a matter which comes out in a striking manner from a number of lines, images and ideas interspersed widely in his entire poetry. This makes his muse a veritable mosaic. It reminds one of the rich tapestries of Iran, particularly that mentioned in books of history as the wonderful carpet named Bahar acquired from the palace of the Iranian King. This again reminds me how the setting of the poem and its paraphernalia of wonders take us to one of the various firmaments of the Javid Namah. We are transported to an imaginative world which appears to be so real because of the poet’s graphic description. The twelve colourful gates of Jerusalem described in the Bible could not be more charming. We feel as if we were looking at a coloured transparency with a multitude of coral hues. Specially delightful is the description of the natural atmosphere and landscape of Afghanistan, a chequered college of paradisiac valleys, mountains, streams and verdant fields. The description in the subjoined piece defies all attempts to translate in any language because of the peculiar plural construction in Persian, a difficulty which one, for instance, feels in this highly musical line of Tenntyson:
mumring of innumerable bees.
A bridal procession of deep-damasqued moths and butterflies sails into our sight:
Rang-ha, bu-ha, hawa-ha, aab-ha
Aah-ha tabinda chun seemab-ha
Lala-ha dar khalvat-e-kuhsar-ha
nar-ha yakhhasta andar nar-ha,
Does not the recurring again and again of closely associated, fascinating words like rang, bu, aab, seemab, lala bar produce an effect like the thrumming of a guitar echoing the memoria technicia saa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, nee, saa of music? This combined with the stops of the repeated ha line after line, in quick succession, forming a series of soft, liquid vowel sounds, enhances the melodious, symphonic effect all the more. The charm of it is that the multiplication of sweet, harmonious notes does not prove cloying. The last line is specially full of charm like Shelley’s “the orbed maiden with moonlight laden”. The double meaning of nar (fire) and pomegranate works a wonderful magic. How fascinating to imagine the fire congealed in deep-red pomegranate seeds, particularly those of the pomegranates of Qandhar which really look like wee cinders! The fire magically live as well as extinguished or persisting brings into opposition two contrary things. The onomatopoeic effect of the piece is obvious. The interplay of words and expressions and dulcet sounds creating festooned chords tuned in a masterly manner is really entrancing. Above all there is the sweet, refreshing charm of nature so rare in our poetry. It recalls the poet’s other similar poem on Kashmir, the earthly paradise, in the Payam-e-Mashriq which reaches the saturation point of natural scenes and spontaneous touches.
We will again be missing one of the choicest pieces of poetry in the entire poetry of the world if we do not take note of the line captioned “Cry of a Frenzied one in the Wilderness of Ghazna”, the historic capital of the renowned king and master conqueror, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi. It is a cry wrung from the heart of the imaginary frenzied person, he may he anyone, may be the poet himself. The very conception of it is so novel, a fine flight of soaring imagination. The note struck is so plaintive that one is touched to the core by its melancholic tone and transported in imagination to the heart-breaking wilderness depicted, consisting of the ruins of the once splendid city with its multifarious wonderful sights and marvels heaped upon marvels.
Similarly affecting sentiments are those evoked by the garment of the passionately loved Holy Prophet at Qandhar.
The poem is full of many other beauty spots replete with charm. Seen in this perspective one cannot help saying that this jewel of a poem has hitherto received scant attention and has not been rendered into English and other languages. This must be done so that it should provide an addition to the various firmaments of the immortal Javid Namah, opening out more and more exhilarating vistas, magic casements all opening on fairy lands of infinite charm and will flash so many wonderful sights upon the vision.
We will again be missing one of the most delightful charms and master strokes of this poem if we do not mention a number of other lyrical pieces studded like beautiful gems at different places intensifying the effect and producing the tapestried impression of a fine mosaic reminding one of a remark by a connoisseur of art that the Moghuls conceived like giants but finished like jewellers although here a Kashmiri takes the place of the Moghuls the people of Kashmir whom the Allama calls or highly brainy have as keen an artistic sense. Particularly noteworthy is the ghazal or ode in it with a lilting measure beginning with the line:
“I come forth from the vintage of the Magians (matchless topers) entranced by the circulation of the goblet of wine.”
As I have said, this remarkable poem full of myriad charms needed to be put across in other languages. Such a presentation is all the more necessary because of what has happened in the historic land of Afghanistan in our own times after the demise of the Allama who wrote his earthly travelogue about it and had such fanciful dreams about its future. It was indeed a land of dreams and hopes for the poet as appears from his earnest invocation, a clarion call indeed, in the following passionate line of the poem titled Az khab-e-garan, Khab-e-garan, Khab-e-garan, Khez; Az Khab-e-garan Khez
(Awake, awake, awake out of your deep slumber, awake; arise, arise O, from Samarqand, Iraq and Hamadan.)
Needless to stay the three lands of Islam mentioned here cover all others as well, Afghanistan being one of them.
It would be recalled that Samarqand also formed a part of Afghanistan being one of the dominions of the vast Gahznavid realm.
No doubt what has befallen this storm-tossed country is very distressing but what is of cheer to us, and would have been to the Allama, is the heroic stand made by its stalwart people in resisting and knee-bending a super-power like Soviet Russia, a youthful David again confronting a Goliath, for the wagers of this crescentade made the assailant retrace his steps, thereby maintaining the prestige and glory of Islam and manifesting their traditional, invincible spirit.
Not for nothing did the Allama call the people of Afghanistan Afghan-e-Ghavur. With the end that the Soviet Afghanistan war has had, new vistas of a free, independent Muslim nation have opened and the prospects are as bright as one can visualise. It is perhaps a matter of few days that the Soviet invader, licking his wounds, would go back to his lair in the far-stretchings snows.
It is well that my friend, Mr. Jamil Naqvi, has undertaken to present this poem in English just at the time when the triumph of the Afghans and the establishment of a national government based upon the wishes of the people are in sight. I feel it has come out at the right time meeting a long-felt need. I hope the presentation would he greeted with the warm reception it deserves.