IN the first decade of this century, Iqbal had become a name to conjure with in Indo-Muslim literature. In the context of the socio-political renaiscence of the Muslim community in the sub-continent, he was hailed as a veritable Messiah. It was however only in 1920 that he was first introduced to western readers, by the translation of his Persian work, the Aarar-i-Khudi, into English by the late Prof. R. A. Nicholson of Cambridge under the title "Secrets of the Self". He was later to become the ideological inspirer of the concept of Pakistan and to win wider recognition in Iran, the Middle East, Egypt, Italy, France, Germany, England, and Russia. The august assemblage of his translators includes Mr. Victor Kiernan and Prof. Arberry from England, Abdul Wahhab Azzam from Egypt, Prof. Baussoni from Italy and Prof. Anne Marie Schimmel from Germany. The latest to join this distinguished group is Mr. Hadi Hussain with his rendering into English verse of the major portion of Iqbal’s Persian Payam-i-Mashriq the Message of the East". The Payam-i-Mashriq was published in 1922. It was intended as the response of the East to Goethe’s "West Oestlicher Divan". During his productive period, extending over almost half a century, Iqbal was very much concerned with the human situation in the phenomenal world. The Faustian element in the human drama engrossed his attention no less than the voluntaristic urges manifested in the cosmos. His robust optimism, born of a lifelong study of his Islamic heritage, led him to formulate a melioristic philosophy of the perfectibility of the human ego in an existential setting of ceaseless struggle and striving. The egalitarian system of Islam, which cuts across the barriers of colour, race and geography, was regarded by him as the base for the emergence of a universalist democracy of unique individuals presided over by the most Unique Individual God. But his was not a mere dry-as-dust philosophy. Richly endowed with the poetic sensibility, his genius burst forth into songs of exquisite beauty and power. The Payam-i-Mashriq, par excellence, bears witness to his wide range of interests and sympathies. To translate the work of such a genius is an arduous enterprise and its difficulties can properly be appreciated only by one who has attempted to transmute the magic element of poetry in one language to that of another. The elusive quality of thought, peculiar diction and imagery steeped in eastern tradition, of the ghazal in the Payam-i-Mashriq would have been specially difficult to transmit in a form intellgible to the western reader. Mr. Hadi Hussain has therefore wisely omitted them from his translation and confined himself to the other verse forms.

It is a truism to say that a competent translator has to be fully conversant with the two languages he seeks to work in. For the genre of poetry, the translator must himself have the gift of poetic expression. Mr. Hadi Hussain fortunately possesses both these qualifications In abundant measure. lie is an acknowledged litterateur who is at home both in Persian and English. with a number of scholarly publications to his credit. He has also an established reputation as an accomplished poet. He is moreover an experienced translator. While preserving to a great extent the charm and grace of the original, he has produced an elegant translation which should be regarded as an achievement of a very high order. He has successfully avoided the twin danger besetting such a venture a literal and prosaic translation on the one hand and a free rendering which reeks little of the form and content of the original, on the other. His is a faithful translation which reads well. Indeed, at places in some of his rhymed translations he has attained Fitzgeraldian heights. I feel sure that his translation of the Payam-i-Mashriq will rank among the major efforts made to introduce Iqbal to sophisticated western audiences.

S. A. Rahman, H. PK.


21st June, 1977.