Though the decline of the Muslim world and society can be traced back to the replacement of Khil«fah-i- R«shidah by the monarchist rule of special dynasties, the last three hundred years have seen the constant fall of the Muslim world, which reached its lowest ebb after the first World War. The latter period witnessed the crumbling down of the last vestiges of the Khil«fah and the complete fragmentation and subjugation of the Muslim world by its perpetual adversaries in the Western world.
This deplorable state of affairs touched the hearts of many Muslim intellectuals all over the world, including the Indian sub-continent. These intellectuals started probing into the causes of the decline of Muslims and attempted to devise means of stopping and reversing it. Though these thinkers were richly endowed with Islamic learning and were fully aware of the virtues and blessings of Islam they were unaware of the poisons in the Western thought and society which damaged Muslim society most. ‘All«mah Iqb«l, helped by the unique combination of the deep and profound knowledge of Islam as well as that of the world affairs and Western learning, stands out prominently among Muslim reformers as the one fully conversant with the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Muslim world. The achievements of the Muslim world in all fields during the first eight centuries of the Islamic era and its ascendancy over Europe are well known. This was the result of some qualities and virtues of the Muslims of those times. When the downfall of the Muslim world started it proceeded unabated till only very recent years when the tide appeared to be turning. Determination of the causes of this degeneration is the sine qua non for Islamic renaissance. ‘All«mah Iqb«l, true to the epithet of Łakâm-i-Millat (the Millat’s sage or physician) spent the major part of his genius in investigating the causes of this downfall and in creating the consciousness of the situation in the Muslim mind. In addition to the damage caused by the machinations of the West the Muslim world suffered from their own increasing back-sliding from their original high spiritual, moral and ethical pedestal. The ‘All«mah took great pains to elaborate these causes in the hope that the Muslim society would use them as the springboard for their revival. Though these thoughts are spread over this entire works in the form of poems and individual verses three long poems in B«ng-i-Dar« have detailed them. These poems are the present one, “Sham‘a-o-Sh«‘ir ” (The Candle and the Poet) and “Jaw«b-i-Shakwah” (The Response to the Complaint), also in the same book. The present poem is a complaint to God in which ‘All«mah Iqb«l describes the sacrifices made by the Muslim Ummah in the cause of Islam, as well as their achievements. He pleads that in view of this the present deplorable condition of the Muslim world is unfair. He prays for Divine help to Muslims to improve their condition and get back their old status of prestige and glory.
Though several reputed thinkers and literateurs in the Indian sub-continent and other parts of the Muslim world had earlier attempted to probe into the causes and suggest remedial and corrective measures for the poor condition of the Muslim Ummah ‘All«mah Iqb«l’s two poems, viz Shakwah (The Complaint) and Jaw«b-i-Shakwah (The Response to the Complaint) stand out as the ones with exquisite literary grandeur and beauty. For this reason it was but natural for them to have special appeal to all Muslims in general and to the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent in particular. The poems did have this effect and made ‘All«mah Iqb«l near and dear to the hearts of the Muslims everywhere. These poems have been translated and molded into music in Urdu as well as other languages including Arabic and important European languages.
Why should I be destructive and remain reckless of betterment?
Think not of the future, remain occupied in today’s problems?
Should I hear nightingale’s wails, and remain completely silent?
O companion! Am I some flower so that I may remain silent?
The strength of my poetry is encouraging to me
Woe be to me 1! My remonstrance is against God!
It is true that we are famous in the methods of obeisance
But we are relating our story of pain out of compulsion
Though a silent orchestra, we are full of complaint
If the wailing comes to lips we are excusable
O God! Listen to the remonstrance also from the faithful
Listen to some complaint also from the one accustomed to praise you
Though Thy Eternal Essence had existed since eternity
The flower existed in the garden but fragrance had not dispersed
Justice is a condition, O Lord of Universal Benevolence
How could flower’s fragrance spread if zephyr did not exist?
This problem’s solution was the source of satisfaction to us
Otherwise was the Holy Prophet’s Ummah insane?
The scene of Thy world was strange before us
Stones were adored somewhere, trees were worshipped somewhere
The eyes of Man were accustomed to tangible forms
How could they be amenable to accept the Unseen God?
Doth Those know who ever told Thy beads?
The strength of the Muslim’s arm completed Thy task!
Saljuqs 2 were living here and the Turanâs 3 also
The Chinese in China and in Iran the S«s«nâs 4 also
The Greeks were also living in the same habitation
In the same world were the Jews and the Christians also
But who raised the sword in Thy name?
Who reclaimed the despoiled world in Thy name?
We alone were the marshals of Thy troops!
We were fighting now on land and now in the oceans
Some times we were calling adh«ns in the Europe’s cathedrals
And sometimes in the scorching African deserts
We never cared for the grandeur of monarchs
We recited the Kalimah 5 under the shade of swords
If we lived we lived for the calamities of wars
If we died we died for the grandeur of Thy name
We did not wield the sword for our kingdoms
Did we roam about the world fearlessly for wealth?
If our nation had been greedy of worldly wealth
Why would we have been idol breakers instead of idol sellers6 ?
Once firmly standing in the battle we were immovable
Even lions in the battle against us would be in flight
We were enraged if some one rebelled against Thee
Not to talk of sword we were fighting against canons
We impressed Tawéâd’s picture on every heart
We conveyed this message even under the dagger
Tell us Thou, by whom was uprooted the gate of Khaibar7
By whom was conquered the city which was Qaisar’s8 ?
By whom were the images of created gods destroyed?
By whom were the armies of infidels slaughtered?
By whom was the fire temple of Iran extinguished?
By whom was the story of Yazdan 9 restored to life?
Which nation did become Thy seeker exclusively?
And became embroiled in wars’ calamities for Thee?
Whose world-conquering sword did world-ruler become?
By whose Takbâr did Thy world enlightened become?
Through whose fear idols did perpetually alarmed remain?
Falling on their faces saying “Huwa Allah O Aéad10 did remain?
If the time of prayer right during the battle fell
Hijaz’ nation in prostration facing the Ka’abah fell
Both Mahmud and Ayaz11 in the same row stood
None as the slave and none as the master stood
The slave and the master, the poor and the rich all became one!
On arrival in Thy Audience all were reduced to one!
We continuously wandered all over the world
We wandered like the wine-cup with Tawéâd’s wine
We wandered with Thy Message in the mountains, in the deserts
And doth Thou know whether we ever returned unsuccessful?
What of the deserts! We did not spare even oceans!
We galloped our horses in the dark ocean12!
We effaced falsehood from the earth’s surface
We freed the human race from bonds of slavery
We filled Thy Ka’bah with our foreheads
We put Thy Qur’«n to our hearts
Still Thou complaineth that we are lacking fealty
If we are lacking fealty Thou also art not generous
There are other ummahs, among them are sinners also
There are modest people and arrogant ones also
Among them are slothful, indolent as well as clever people
There are also hundreds who are disgusted with Thy name
Thy Graces descend on the other people’s abodes
Lightning strikes only the poor Muslims’ abodes
The idols in temples say ‘The Muslims are gone’
They are glad that the Ka’bah’s sentinels are gone
From the world’s stage the éudâ 13 singers are gone
They, with the Qur’«n in their arm pits, are gone
Infidelity is mocking, hast Thou some feeling or not?
Dost Thou have any regard for Thy own Tawéâd or not?
We do not complain that their treasures are full
Who are not in possession of even basic social graces
Outrageous that infidels are rewarded with Houris and palaces
And the poor Muslims are placated with only promise of Houris
We have been deprived of the former graces and favors
What is the matter, we are deprived of the former honors?
Why is the material wealth rare among Muslims?
Thy omnipotence is boundless and inestimable
With Thy Will the desert’s bosom would produce bubbles
The desert’s rambler can be facing flood of mirage’s waves
Others’ sarcasm, disgrace and poverty is our lot
Is abjection the reward for Loving Thee ?
Now, this world is the lover of others
For us it is only an imaginary world
We have departed, others have taken over the world
Do not complain now that devoid of Tawéâd has become the world
We live with the object of spreading Thy fame in the world
Can the wine-cup exist if the cup-bearer does not live?
Thy assemblage is gone, and Thy Lovers are also gone
The night’s sighs and the dawn’s wailings are gone
They had loved Thee, they are gone with their rewards
They had hardly settled down and they were turned out
The Lovers came but with tomorrow’s promise were sent away
Now seek them with Thy beautiful face’s lamp14 every way!
Lailah’s pathos is the same, and Qais’ bosom is the same
In the Najd’s wilderness and mountains the deer’s running is the same
The Love’s heart is the same, the Beauty’s magic is the same
The Ummah of the Holy Prophet is the same, Thou art the same
Why then this displeasure without reason is?
Why then this displeasure for Thy Lovers is?
Did we forsake Thee, did we forsake the Arabian Holy Prophet?
Did we adopt idol sculpture, did we idol breaking forsake?
Did we forsake Love, and did we forsake the madness of Love?
Did we forsake the customs of Salm«n15 and Uwais of Qur’«n16 ?
We have the Takbâr’s fire suppressed in our hearts!
We are living the life of Bil«l 17 tée Negro!
Granted that Love has lost its former elegance also
We may have lost treading the path of Love also
We may have lost the restless heart like the compass also
And we may have lost the observance of fidelity’s rules also
Thou art changing friendship between us and others
It is difficult to say but Thou art also unfaithful18!
Thou perfected the Dân on the peak of F«r«n 19
Thou captivated the hearts of thousands in a moment
Thou consumed the produce of Love with fire
Thou burned the congregation with Thy face’s fire
Why are not our breasts filled with Love’s sparks now?
We are the same Lovers, dost Thou not remember now?
The noise of Lovers’ chains in the Najd’s Valley has disappeared
Qais has no more remained longing for the litter’s sight
Those old ambitions, we, as well as the heart have disappeared
The house is destroyed as Thou art not present in the house
O that happy day when Thou with elegance will come back
When Thou unveiled to our congregation will come back
Others are sitting at the stream bank in the rose garden
Listening to the cuckoo’s call with wine-cup in their hand
In the garden on a side far from the riotous crowd are sitting
Thy Lovers are also patiently wanting for a Hë! 20
Again endow Thy moths with Longing for burning themselves
Give the command for consumption in Love to the old lightning
The wandering nation is riding again towards Hijaz
The taste of flight has carried the unfledged nightingale
The fragrance of humility is restless in every flower bud
Just start the music, orchestra is seeking the plectrum
Songs are restless to come out of the strings
ńër is impatient for burning in the same fire
Make easy the difficulties of the blessed Ummah
Place the poor ant shoulder to shoulder to Sulaim«n 21
Make the invaluable produce of Love accessible again
Change the idolatrous Muslims of India into Muslims again
A stream of blood drips from the frustrations mine
Wailing palpitates in the wounded breast of mine!
The rose’ fragrance took garden’s secret outside the garden
Outrageous that flowers themselves are informers against the garden
The spring is over, broken is the orchestra of the garden
Flown away from branches are the songsters of the garden
Only a nightingale is left which is singing still
In its breast overflows the flood of songs still 22
Turtle-doves from the juniper’s branches are gone also
Flower petals dropping from the flower are scattered also
The garden’s old beautiful walk-ways are gone also
The branches became bare of the cover of leaves also
But his nature remained free of the season’s restrictions
Would somebody in the garden understand his complaint!!
There is no pleasure in dying and no taste in living is
If there is any pleasure it in bearing this affliction is
Many a virtue is restless in my mirror!
Many an effulgence is fluttering in my breast!
But there is none in this garden to see them
There are no poppies23 with Love’s stain on their breasts
May hearts open up with the song of this lonely nightingale
May the sleeping hearts wake up with this very B«ng-i-Dar«
May the hearts come to life again with a new covenant
May the hearts be thirsty again for this same old wine
My alembic may be from `Ajam, but my wine is from Hij«z
The song may be Indian but my tune is from Hij«z
1. “Dust in the mouth”- This is the expression used in the original poem. This expression is used as a curse in Urdu and is pronounced when someone makes an exaggerated statement or request.
2. Saljëqs- This was a Turkish tribe which inhabited Central Asia. Later they accepted Islam and produced famous Khalâfahs like Öal«h-al-Dân Ayyëbâ.
3. Tër«nâs- People inhabiting the tract north of the Oxus River.
4. S«s«nids- This was a tribe inhabiting Persia. They ruled over a large empire east of the Byzantine Empire across the Euphrates River (ca. 226-641). They were followers of Zoroaster and worshipped fire. They were defeated by the Muslims in 641 during the time of S. ‘Umar R.A.
5. Kalimah-The Muslim creed of “L« Il«ha Ill Allah O Muéammad al-Rasël Allah,” (There is no deity except God and Muéammad S.A.W. is His Prophet).
6. This alludes to Öult«n Maémëd of Ghaznâ and his very favorite slave, Ay«z for whom see Appendix I, No. 34.
7. Khaibar- This was a stronghold of Jews in Łij«z, where they consolidated themselves after their expulsion from Madânah Munawwarah (625). Khaibar had six forts of which Qamës was the strongest. It was attacked by the Holy Prophet in ca. 630. The gate of the fort of Qamës was broken by S. ‘Alâ R.A. which is a very famous act of bravery in Islamic history.
8. City of Qaisar- Allusion to Qusčunčuäiyah (Constantinople) for which see poem 76 (Bil«d-i-Isl«miyah) Note 10.
9. Yazd«n- This is the god of Virtue and Good in the Zoroastrian religion as opposed to the god of Evil and Sin represented by Ahirman. The word is also used in Persian and Urdu for God, as is done here.
10. Allusion to the Holy Qur’«n (48:22-23 and 112:1).
11. Maémëd O Ay«z- See Appendix I, No. 34.
12. Allusion to the achievements of Khair-al-Dân Barbarŕsah (1474-1546), for which see Appendix I, No. 51. This particular verse alludes to the expedition of Barbarŕsah Brothers (Arouj and Khair-al-Dân Barbarŕsah) in north-west Africa for expelling the Spaniards from those Muslim lands and establishing the suzerainty of the Islamic Ottoman Khil«fah. About 1512 they conquered up to the north-western sea coast and in their zeal drove their horses to some distance in the Atlantic Ocean, saying that if the land of God extended beyond the African coast they would conquer it also in His name.
13. Łudâ- Songs which camel drivers sing when the caravan is marching.
14. The expression “searching something with a lamp in hand” is used in Urdu to search for something almost non-existent. The intensity of the search as well as a hint of taunt is added by ‘All«mah Iqb«l by including the part of the “lamp of the Beautiful Face of God”.
15. Salm«n Abë `Abd Allah F«risâ R.A.- See Appendix I, Nol. 68.
16. Uwais Qaranâ- See Appendix I, No. 78.
17. Bilal Ibn Rab«é- See Appendix I, No. 17.
18. This is a pun on the word “harj«’â” used in the text. It means omni-present as well as a person who is not restricted to one person in love and fidelity.
19. Peak of F«r«n- F«r«n is the mountain on which the Cave of Łir« is located. God, in His Infinite Grace and Mercy sent His prophets and messengers among all people of the world and at all times. The message of these prophets was confined to that nation and that period. However, the Holy Prophet S.A.W. brought Islam, which was sent as the Dân for all people for all times (see The Holy Qur’«n 5:3).
20. Hë- This is an abbreviation for ‘huv«’ which means ‘He’ and is used for God. Here it is used as part of the expression ‘All«h Hë’ which means ‘Only God has real Existence’ and is used in TaĹawwuf’s spiritual exercises.
21. S. Sulaim«n A.S.- See Appendix I, No. 73.
22. In this verse and those following it to the end of the poem ‘All«mah Iqb«l is referring to himself and his book, B«ng-i-Dar«.
23. The poppy flower has a black stain at the bottom of its corolla. This is poetically referred to as the mark of Love of God.