GULSHAN-I RAZ-I JADID, which forms part of Iqbal's Zabur-i 'Ajam, occupies a very significant place among Iqbal's works, because it deals with all the important problems of his philosophy. It was written after the book of the same name by Mahmud Shabistari who was born in the middle of the seventh century A.H in Shabistar, a town near Tabriz in Adharbaijan.. Very few details of Shabistari's life are known but the period in which he lived witnessed catastrophic changes which brought about a steady decline of Muslim culture. The fall of Baghdad in 656/I258 at the hands of Halaku Khan was not a mere political defeat or the termination of a particular dynasty of Muslim kings. Only forty years after this fateful event, Islam won converts from among the grandsons of Halaku and thus politically Muslims were able to regain their lost position. But in the cultural sphere the loss was so tremendous that later revival in the political field could not make up for the destruction of books and the indiscriminate killing of- the scholars. The moral and spiritual impoverishment was so great that the people lost all confidence in themselves. Ibn al-Athir says that the panic (during the Mongol devastation) made the people, extremely cowardly, He quotes the instance of a man who, in obedience to the command of an unarmed Mongol soldier, kept lying where he was till the soldier returned with a sword and killed him. Shaikh Sa'di (d. 690), the elder contemporary of Mahmud, describes this awful tragedy in the following verse:
O Muhammad ! you will get out of
your grave on the Day of Judgement,
Arise now and witness the same among the people to-day.
His natural reaction to these horrible events is thus expressed :
One should not care much for,
For fate is sometimes kind and sometimes unkind.
The sky, and the earth are two stones of the grinding-mill,
Between which, day and night, are the hearts of men ground.
It was in this atmosphere of mental frustration and physical torment that Mahmud Shabistari wrote his book. In 710 A.H. he received a set of twelve questions from an inquirer in Khurasan. The last three deal With the allegorical expressions often employed by the mystic writers, such as wine, idol, love, beauty, eye, etc. The first nine questions, however, are really important, for they deal with the. main problems of all metaphysics culture of the individual, of Reality and their relation, and the problem of knowledge.
The language of the questions clearly betrays a bias towards pantheism, a theory of life first propounded by Ibn, al-'Arabi. Questions 6 and 8, for example, imply that the inquirer took this theory as granted and only wanted Mahmud to explain the position in detail for the benefit of those who were not conversant with it. It is not a mere coincidence that this theory first made its appearance among Persian poets and prose writers during the period which coincided with the Mongol invasions, first of Chengiz and then of Halaku and his successors. 'Attar, 'Iraqi, - Awhad al-Din Kirmani, and Mahmud Shabistari lived during this turbulent period and popularised this theory among the intellectuals as well as the masses. According to this theory true being and existence belong only to the One, ;While plurality or Many is devoid of any effective being.. From this basic position follow all the main tenets which universally characterise the-teachings of pantheistic mystics. God- alone is the real doer while man is nothing but a plaything in the hands of fate: the sense of individuality or ''1-ness'' is an illusion which should be dissipated as early as possible; any interest that man takes in the affairs of this life will be tantamount to neglecting his primary , duty of achieving freedom from bondage to this illusory existence on the earth for the sake of salvation which consists in unity with the One- at the time of death. Even in this life it is possible to achieve partial unity, provided we succeed in sealing off all our sense-organs and deaden our sensitivity towards the affairs of this mundane existence.
In their theory of knowledge, the pantheistic mystics Usually condemn the empirical sources of knowledge and rely only on mystic experiences. For them intuitive insight is the sole standard by which they judge the validity of prophetic traditions and rational judgements. In the moral sphere, they refuse to accept the usual standards of good and evil. If all Being is One and there is no duality in any real sense, there can be nothing which people usually call evil. With the disappearance of this distinction, all the moral values vanish into nothingness. It is not moral life, they allege, that leads to salvation; it is rather the attainment of true knowledge in the sense of mystic intuition that alone can liberate man from bondage to phenomenal existence. Similarly, in the religious sphere, the sharp distinction of kufr and Islam appears meaningless for, according to them, all are traversing different paths on their way to the same goal:
Kufr and religion are all
travelling towards You,
Uttering "He is one without a partner."
As subsequent events proved, the propagation of this philosophy proved much more dangerous for the revival of Muslim culture than the physical destruction at the hands of the Mongol, invaders. Muslim society was able to recover its political power, but the mental confusion produced by this doctrine of negation of life remained unchecked and soon led to the total transvaluation of all Islamic values. In Rumuz-i BeKhudi lqbal refers to this unhappy state, of affairs in the following verses:
"He who would kill a lion as
if it were a sheep ,
Came to feel stings of sympathy at the trampling of a tiny ant;
He whose takbir used to melt even stone-hearted persons
Began to feel uneasy at the song of a nightingale;
He before whose will even a mountain, became a straw
Handed himself over to passive resignation
He whose steps created several new worlds
Adopted a hermit's life;
His endeavours and active life were given up for the sake of contentment,
So much so that he came to feel proud of his Bowl of Beggars."
It was for the purpose of undoing, this mischief that Iqbal strove all his life. He was face to face with a new situation that was fraught with grave consequences. The Mongol invasion, as we have stated, resulted in the destruction of Muslim political power. In the ideological field the Mongols had nothing better to offer in comparison with Islam. In the end they had to succumb to this superior ideology. In the early decade of the twentieth century, however, the situation of the Muslim world was not so simple it was a fight between two antagonistic ideologies: Islamic and Western. The action was not confined to the contending armies in the field; the mind and heart of every individual became the battle-ground. Unfortunately, the ideology of the West wsas not only coloured by materialistic outlook but was also positively anti-Islamic due to centuries of prejudice and ill-will created by political and religious conflict's of Christianity and Islam. This feature of the new ideology was a challenge to the very existence of the Muslims throughout the world. Iqbal realised this danger and made it a mission of his life to counteract the irreligious forces of Western culture. In the Introduction to Gulshan- i Raz-i Jadid, he refers to this fact:
That wise man of Tabriz witnessed
before his eyes
Calamities that resulted from the invasion of Chengiz.
I saw a revolution of another type
Appearance of a new sun.
Unlike Mahmud he met-the new challenge not by a philosophy of passive resignation to the unrelenting fate, but by the advocacy of the doctrine of Khudi, a centre of powerful will that bends everything else to its wishes; not of withdrawal from the world of matter into the dark regions of the soul, but of active immersion into the currents of time in, order to divert its course according to one's needs. It is this philosophy of dynamic activism which Iqbal presents in his Gulshan i Raz-i Jadid.
Bandagi Namah, another Mathnavi of Zabur-i 'Ajam, expresses in most poignant words Iqbal's reaction to the state of Muslim society under the political and Cultural bondage to Western imperialism. There had been contacts of cultures in the past and Muslim society in its long career has faced many such situations. I here had been political defeats in the past but in almost every case Muslims emerged stronger and succeeded in the end not only in gaining the lost ground but in winning greater glories in the field of culture. But their contact with the West was unique in one respect: here they lost not only their political independence but also failed to maintain their leadership in the cultural field. This two-fold. defeat naturally brought about a situation that called for greater and more comprehensive, effort on the part of the Muslim peoples all over the globe.
In this Mathnavi, Iqbal tries to bring to the fore-front the transformation of true Islamic values that has taken place as a result of decadence in the political -field and a sense of inferiority in the cultural field. In the last section, he contrasts this sorry state of affairs with the fruitful life of those free people who are true leaders of mankind in all fields of activity-political, religious, moral, and cultural. Gulshan-i Raz-i Jadid and Bandagi Namah form the closing parts of Iqbal's Zabur-i Ajam. Professor A J. Arberry's translation' of this book under the title Persian Psalms (Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1958) omits both these Mathnavis, because, as he says in the Preface, his main object was to introduce to the English readers Iqbal's "extraordinary talent for the most delicate and delightful of all Persian styles, the ghazal. The present translation thus completes the translation of Iqbal's Zabur-i 'Ajam. In the end I must express my thanks to the Honorary Editor of the quarterly Iqbal for allowing me to publish in book form this material that first appeared in its pages.
Bashir Ahmad Dar