I have undertaken this labour of love for the great admiration I have for the poet-philosopher of the East, Allama Iqbal, who worked with prophetic zeal throughout his life for chalking out an ameliorative programme for mankind. Born in very critical times when the world was cast on stormy waters of a magnitude unprecedented in history, he, with his apostolic spirit, harnessed himself to the arduous task of shaping a new the course of affairs and indicating the way for achieving human destiny. He wrote with unfailing inspiration and all the powers of his remarkable genius saturated with talents of the highest order. With consummate ability and keen insight he made a probing survey of present-day circumstances both in the East and West, past and present. synthesised the life and thought of both, and offered a line of action ensuring further, steady progress in a healthy way.
The Allama worked with a dedicated spirit and established the ground for a further leap forward. His poems are the outpourings of an inspired poet whose mind worked with equal passion in all his writings, big or small. We find his heartbeats in every line he wrote, breathing his soul into every word which pulsates with tremendous force generating a corresponding current in our hearts. His short poems are only nominally so. They have as much importance and forceful impact as the long ones, the difference lying mainly in range, scale and theme.
Considered from this point of view, his small poem, MUSAFIR (The Traveller), which relates to Afghanistan and in which he calls its valiant inhabitants Afghan-e-Ghayur (high-minded, with great sense of honour) is of absorbing interest in view of the historical background of the land and its people who, true to their indefatigable spirit, have fought stubbornly against a formidable superpower of the day for such a long time, close to decade.
Boundless love for Islam and its votaries made the Allama’s heart aglow with passion and made him burst out in numbers. The Afghans, among others, were invested with superlative love in his eyes and it was a happy chance when an invitation by King Nadir Shah for advice regarding overhauling of the educational system of the country along with a delegation consisting of top-notch figures of the then India — Allama Syed Suleman Nadvi and my reverend grandfather Nawab Masood Jang Sir Syed Ross Masood, the illustrious grandson of great Sir Syed — that took him with all the zeal of a passionate lover to Afghanistan in October, 1933 and brought him into touch with its varied attractions—hills and dales, historical places, people, the glorious departed, and past magnificence. Nothing could be more inspiring than this rare opportunity to have close-at-hand sight of this land of his dreams to which, among others, he looked forward to the uprise of Islam once again as a glorious faith with a glorious destiny.
The “MUSAFIR” is a fascinating record of the manifold sights and sounds, panorama, and varied impressions of the poet produced by all that Afghanistan had to offer to a keen and ardent observer. It is full of rich poetry studded with numerous purple patches, amid presents so many matters of interest with which few of us would he acquainted but for this miniature portrait of the country and all this poem contains.
It is this which impelled me to present this poem in English, for strangely enough, this pretty poem of Allama Iqbal has had no Nicholson or Arberry to bring it home to the West so far. The task was fraught with serious difficulties because of the linguistic and semantic qualities of the poem. I, therefore, sought the collaboration of my friend, Mr. Rafique Khawar, an experienced translator and outstanding Iqbalite, who has very ingeniously rendered a number of Allama Iqbal’s works into various language.
Mr. Khawar has imparted a Fitzgeraldian touch to my draft, adding much to its readability by writing a scholarly Foreword to the poem, for which I am grateful to him.
The poem though small has many interesting aspects which need elaborate elucidation. For one thing, the landscape is varied as that of the land it dwells upon, the natural pattern being markedly varied by interesting pieces, poetic wee bits or patches, in the main texture, imparting a complex, tapestried character to it.
It has been rightly pointed out by Mr. Khawar in his remarkable book in Urdu on Allama’s two poems. viz. “Pas Cheh Bayad Kard”1 and “Musafir”2 that the poem “Musafir” is an anticipation or forerunner of the monumental Javid Namah with its chequered character so far so that, it can be easily placed in one of the firmaments of the former. It has the architectonic character of the larger, renowned work on a small scale, really a miniature. In fact this vignette of poem is the earthly travelogue as compared with the celestial one of the Javid Namah which has far larger and crowded canvas iridescent in nature.
I hope these few remarks about my humble effort in the field of translation of one of Allama Iqbal’s remarkable poems will draw more visitors, intellectuals or otherwise, in this neglected region, and now unfortunately in the throes of struggle and plunged in a terrible war, but soon emerging from it with renewed strength and enable them to scan it more diligently, and appreciate and read the present work with relish, drawing both pleasure and benefit.
AL-JAMIL (Jamil Naqvi)
A-119, Block - J
1. Namely: “Pas Cheh Bayad Kard” into English as well as Urdu; “Payam-e-Mashriq” and “Javid Namah” into Urdu: “Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa” into Persian: and “Payam-e-Mashriq” and “Bang-e-Dara” into Punjabi.
2. Its varied literary historical and cultural aspects have been extensively spotlighted by Mr. Khawat in his “Pas Cheh Bayad Kard” and “Musafir” — Ek Jaiza-cum-appreciative study in Urdu, so fat the only hook in which these poems have been exhaustively discussed.