THE TRAVELERS’ GUIDE
This long poem is an allegory prepared to convey ‘All«mah Iqb«l’s philosophy on several social, economic and political problems facing the world in general and the Muslim world in particular. It is based on an imaginary conversation with S. Khiîar A.S. on the model of that described in the Holy Qur’«n 18:60-82. The artistic perfection of the poet has made the parallel perfect. S. Mës« A.S. was guided through waéy to search for S. Khiîar A.S. for obtaining eternal secrets. The Holy Qur’«n uses the expression Majma‘ al- Baérain for the meeting of the two, which may mean confluence of two seas or two rivers. The consensus of opinion among exegesists is that this place was the Gulf of Aqabah. However, ‘All«mah Abu al-A‘l« Mawdëdâ has expressed the opinion that the meeting place could have been at the junction of the two tributaries of the River Nile, the “Baér-al-Abyaî” (The White Nile) and “Baér-al-Arzaq” (The Blue Nile) in Sudan. Baér also means a large river which agrees with the word Dary« used in this poem. However, irrespective of the meeting place the poem describes the questions posed by ‘All«mah Iqb«l in the first part and the answers he received in subsequent parts. These are clear and self contained in the poem. It is also a commentary on World War I and its influence on the Western as well as the Muslim world.
SHÿ‘IR ( THE POET )
One night at
the river-bank I was absorbed in contemplation
With a world of restlessness concealed in the heart’s recesses
The night was tranquil, air calm, river gently flowing was
My eye was amazed whether the river or a picture of water it was!
As the suckling baby falls asleep in the cradle
The restless wave had fallen asleep somewhere else!
With the spell of night the birds were confined in nests
The twinkling stars were caught in the moon’s spell!
Suddenly I saw that the globe-trotting Khiîar1
Whose old age contained youth’s color like dawn
Was saying to me “O seeker of the eternal secrets
If the inner eye be open world’s destiny would be unveiled”!
On hearing this an uproaring tumult rose in my heart
Being devoted to seeking the Truth I started talking thus
“O you whose world-encompassing eye sees those storms
Whose tumults are still sleeping quietly in the river
The “indigent’s boat”2 the chaste soul 3, the “orphan’s wall”4
Even the knowledge of Mës« before you is in amazement
Leaving habitations you remain wandering in wilderness
No day and night, no yesterday and tomorrow is in your life
What is the secret of life? What is imperialism ?
And what is this struggle between labor and capital ?
The ancient patched garment of Asia is being torn
The youth of parvenu nations are adorned with ornaments 5!
Though Alexander 6 remained deprived of eternity’s water
The nature of Alexander is busy still in merry-making!
The Holy Prophet’s progeny is selling his dân’s honor
And the struggling Turk is smeared in dust and blood 7!
There is fire, there is Ibr«hâm’s 8 progeny, there is Namrud 9!
Does someone desire someone’s test again 10
( THE RESPONSE OF KHI¿AR )
( Wandering in Deserts )
Why are you amazed at my wandering in the deserts ?
This incessant toil is demonstration of life
O the one confined to home, you have not seen that sight
When the call for battle march resounds in the desert air!
That care-free stroll of the deer on the mound of sand
That home without chattel, that journey without distance and destination!
That appearance of the fast-moving star at the dawn11
Or the forehead of Jibr«’âl manifest from the sky!
That setting of the sun in the silence of the desert air
By which increased the insight of Khalâl’s universe-envisaging eye12!
And that halting of the caravan at the stream bank
As the believers’ gathering round the Salsabâl 13!
The ardent Love is in search of an ever new wild land
And in city your effort is in farming and horticulture
The cup of life becomes more mature by revolving
O negligent one, this alone is the secret of life’s permanence!
Zindagâ ( Life )
above the fear of profit and loss is life!
Now the soul now the surrender of soul is life!
Do not measure it on the scale of today and tomorrow
Eternal, incessantly struggling, ever young is life!
Create your own world if you claim to be among the living
The secret of Adam14 and the object of “Kun fik«n”15 is life
Ask the mountain digger for the reality of life
The canal of milk, the axe, the heavy rock is life16
In slavery it is choked to a mere trickling brook
And in freedom like the boundless ocean is life
It is manifested by its power of subduing
Though concealed in a body of dust is life
You have emerged from the existence’ ocean like a bubble
In this losing battle your examination is life
While you are immature only a heap of dust you are
On attaining maturity a merciless sword you are!
The heart which is restless for death in defense of Truth17
Should first life in his own body must create
Should burn down this borrowed universe
And from the ashes his own universe should create
Should demonstrate the potential power of life
So that this spark may the eternal light create
Should shine like the sun over the lands of the East
So that Badakhshan 18 the same invaluable rubies may again create
Should send heaven-ward the emissary of nightly wailing
And in the night’s stars its confidantes should create
This is the hour of Judgment you in the Judgement’s field are
O negligent one, present actions if some in your treasure are!
Salèanat ( Imperialism )
Come, I shall tell you the secret of the verse “Inn al-mulëk”19
Imperialism is an enchantment of the victorious nations
If the ruled from his stupor slightly wakes up
The ruler’s spell lulls him back to sleep again
From the effect of the spell of Maémëd20 the eye of Ay«z21
Sees the accouterments of loveliness round his neck
At last the blood of Isr«’âl 22 boils up with anger
The spell of S«mirâ 23 is smashed up by some Mës«
Sovereignty befits only that Peerless Essence24
Only He is the sovereign, the rest are ÿzar’s25 idols
Do not disgrace your independent disposition with slavery
So that you do not mold yourself into the master who would be a worse infidel than the Brahman
The Western democratic system is the same old orchestra
In whose frets is nothing different from the Qaisar’s 26 tune
The monster of despotism is treading in democracy’s robe
You consider it as the beautiful ferry of independence!
The legislative assembly, the reforms, the rights and concessions
In Western medicine the tastes are sweet, the effect is soporific!
May God protect us from the fervor of speeches of members of assemblies
This also is the capitalists’ sham quarreling to deceive the poor!
You have taken this apparent beauty’s mirage as a garden!
Ah ! O ignorant one! You have taken the cage to be the nest!
Sarm«yah-O-Meénat ( Capital and Labor )
Go and deliver my message to the laboring person
“Not only Khiîar’s message, this is the universal message!
O whom the fraudulent capitalist has destroyed
Your destiny has remained a fugitive for centuries
The wealth-creating hand had been paid wages
As the rich pay charity to the poor!
The magician of Alamut27 gave you the hashâsh leaves
And you, O negligent one, took it as a tuft of candy!
Race, nation, church, empire, civilization, color
This assortment of intoxicants is made by “imperialism”
The ignorant one gave up his life for mythical gods
You destroyed your life’s capital under intoxicants’ love
The capitalist has won with deceitful stratagems
Due to extreme naivete the laborer is checkmated
Rise, as the world’s assembly has adopted different ways
In the East and the West is the beginning of your age 28
Those with elegant courage do not accept even the ocean
O negligent one, how long would you hold dew in your skirt like the flower bud?
Music of masses’ renaissance is a means of pleasure
The soporific tale of Alexander and Jam how long ? 29
A new sun has arisen from the bowels of the earth
O Sky ! Mourning of stars which have set how long?
Human nature has broken down all the chains
Man’s eye would weep for the lost Paradise how long?
The spring says this to the helping gardener
You would apply ointment to the rose’ wounded heart how long?
O simple fire-fly, be free of revolving round the candle
And be living in the illuminated place of your own nature!
Duny«-i-Isl«m ( The World of Islam )
Why are you relating to me the story of Turks and Arabs
Nothing of the grief and joys of Muslims is hidden from me 30
The sons of the Cross have taken away the heritage of Khalâl
The soil of Hijaz has become the brick of the church’s foundation!31
The red cap 32 has become disgraced in the world
Those who were formerly proud are in need of others!
From the wine sellers of Europe Iran is purchasing
That strong wine by whose heat the decanter is melted33
The politics of the West has reduced the nation such
As gold is rendered to pieces by scissors34
The blood of the Muslim has become cheap like water
You are restless as your heart is unaware of their fate
Rumi 35 said that every old building that is to be rebuilt
Do you not know that the building is first demolished ?
“The homeland has been lost, the nation has been jolted
O negligent one, look deep as God has granted you insight!
Defeat is better than helplessly begging for màmiy«’â35
O helpless ant ! Do not take your requests to a Sulaim«n36
The salvation of the East is in organization of the Muslim nations
The people of Asia are still unaware of this mystery
Relinquishing “politics” 37 enter the fort of dân again
Country and wealth is only a reward for £aram’s defense
The Muslims should unite into one body for £aram’s defense
From the banks of the Nile to the City of K«shghar38!
Whoever would discriminate for color and race would perish
Whether he be the tent-dwelling Turk or the high ranking Arab 39!
If race would become more important than dân to the Muslim
He would be blown away from the world like the dust of the road!
To establish the Khil«fah’s foundations in the world again
The need is to bring from somewhere the ancestors’ mettle
O You who do not distinguish between the tangible and the intangible, beware
O the captive of Abë Bakr and ‘Alâ, beware 40”
Sh«‘ir ( The Poet )
Complaint was incumbent on Love and it has been lodged
With a cool heart now watch the effect of the complaint!
You have witnessed the zenith of the majesty of the river’s flow
Now watch how the restless wave becomes a chain in which it gets entangled
The dream of universal freedom which was seen by Islam
O Muslim, you should watch the interpretation of that dream today!
Its own ashes are a means of existence to salamander 41
You should watch the resurrection of this world after death!
With open eyes in the mirror or my discourses
You should watch a faint image of the coming age 42
The sky has one more tested trick preserved in its store
Watch the disgrace of planning in face of destiny’s strength 43
You are a Muslim keep your breast happy with Longing
Every moment keep your eye on “La yukhlif-ul-Mâ’«d”44
1. Khiîar - See Appendix I, No. 52.
2. Allusion to the Holy Qur’«n 18:71-73 and 79.
3. Allusion to the Holy Qur’«n 18:74-76 and 80-81.
4. Allusion to the Holy Qur’«n 18: 77 and 82
5. Allusion to the conditions after World War I in which the imperialist hold of Western countries over the rest of the world had become stronger and more secure than before the war. In India itself promises of gradual self rule were made during the war. However, on termination of the war and victory of the Allies Britain’s hold over India became tighter as is evidenced by the repressive legislation and suppressive actions of the British Government in the post-war period. In the Muslim countries the conditions were even worse.
6. Sikandar or Alexander - See Appendix I, No. 6.
7. This refers to the behavior of the Arab countries during and after World War I in staging what is known as “Arab Revolt”, and the courageous handling of events by the Turks during and after that War. During the War Arabs sided with the British and undermined the strength of ‘úthm«niya Khil«fah by waging war and sabotage. This is not only a general reference to all Arabs but also a specific reference to King Faisal I who was made the first king of the Hashimite Kingdom of Ir«q by the British as a reward for his betrayal of the‘úthm«niya Khil«fah during the War. As he claimed descent from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) he is referred to as the “Hashimite”. ‘Abd al-‘ÿzâz ibn Sa‘ëd (1880-1953), in his desire to rule the whole of Arabian Peninsula, managed to get British help. He used this help not only for establishing his own rule throughout the Arabian peninsula by subduing all the tribes, which could only be done after wholesale bloodshed. He also used it for ousting Sharâf £ussain, Sherif of Makkah Mu‘aïïamah (1908-1924). By this stratagem he succeeded in getting control over what is now known as Saudi Arabia, including the custody of the two biggest shrines of the Islamic world in Makkah Mu‘ïïamah and Madâna Munawwarah. This also could only be achieved after much bloodshed and inestimable damage to the glory of the Holy City and the Ka’bah. The Arab revolt was the most painful event of this war. It established complete British control over the heartland of Islam which continues till now. As the British have now ceased to be a superpower the control has passed to the United States. In contrast with all this, under the leadership of MuÅèaf« Kam«l P«sh« and Enver P«sh«, the Turks continued fighting the enemies of Islam, viz. the Greeks and the British who were helping them, even after the official termination of the War. As the Turkish armies were then extremely poor in war material and other requisites this War was very hard on them. This verse alludes to those conditions.
This behavior of the Arabs was a severe heart-ache to ‘All«mah Iqbal and he has not been able to conceal his feelings. He has expressed his disgust in many poems and individual verses, two of which are cited below:
(219) Short-sightedness of £aram’s “holy men” disgraced the £aram
Boundless insight by the Youth of Turkey was displayed!
(Appendix III, No.25)
(220) Time has arrived when I should re-open the tavern of
The £aram’s holy men in Church’s compound ecstatic I see
(Appendix III No. 30)
8. S. Ibr«hâm ÿ.S. - See Appendix I, No.43.
9. Namrëd- Though the Holy Qur’«n does not say so according to Muslim traditions Namrëd was the king of Ur who ordered the throwing of S. Ibr«hâm A.S into fire.
10. Reference to the world-wide calamities for the Asian and African countries resulting from the victories of the Western countries to which reference has been made in pervious notes. Of special concern to ‘All«mah Iqb«l was the plight of the Muslim world to which special reference is made in this verse.
11. This is a message of hope for the Muslim Ummah in the hour of their trial.
12. Reference to the Holy Qur’«n 6:75-79. This whole stanza emphasizes the evils of inaction and need for activism by Muslims. It also shows the value of studying the physical world as a means of understanding the Existence and nature of God, as is repeatedly emphasized by the Holy Qur’«n. This verse is the climax of this message and shows how the world of stars, moon and sun led S. Ibr«hâm A.S. towards recognizing the Unity, Uniqueness and Superiority of God.
13. Salsabâl - This is a spring in the Paradise and the stream ensuing from it.
14. S. ÿdam A.S. See Appendix I, No.3.
15. Reference to the Holy Qur’«n 6:73 in which God describes the creation of the universe as His Will and Command. As the Holy Qur’«n has repeatedly said the creation of the universe is purposeful. That purpose was the eventual creation of Man as the master-piece of His creation and Man’s subsequent perfection into “perfect man” (‘All«mah Iqb«l’s Mard-i-K«mil ) in the personality of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). This is supported by a £adâth to the effect that ‘God would not have created the universe if He had not created me’. God also created the Holy Qur’«n for the guidance of Man with which every person can be perfected. Perusal of the poem Mâl«d-i-ÿdam (The Creation of ÿdam in his book Pay«m-i-Mashriq (The Message of the East), and his book Asr«r-i-Khudâ is recommended for proper understanding of this subject.
16. Heavy rock - Reference to Farh«d in the epic of love known as “Shârin O Farh«d”. Farh«d is known as “mountain digger” because he successfully dug a canal through a mountain and filled it with milk in compliance with a requirement for getting the hand of Shârân, his beloved.
17. This stanza is a description of the pre-requisites to be acquired by a person who is prepared to struggle in the cause of God and Islam.
18. Badakhsh«n- This is a region in the present day Afghanistan which is famous for rubies and other precious stones.
19. This alludes to The Holy Qur’«n 27:34 in which the Queen of Sab« (Shâba), on receiving the letter of S. Sulaim«n A.S. inviting her to accept Islam, addressed her courtiers thus: “Kings, when they enter a country despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest. Thus do they behave”. This verse is a clear condemnation of imperialism in Islam.
20, 21.See Appendix I, No. 34.
22. The blood of Isr«’âl- This verse refers to the magic of the sorcerer S«mirâ (Note 23). During the period between the prophethood of S. Mës« A.S. and S. ‘Is« A.S. the people of Isr«’âl were the inheritors of the vice-regency of God and they are treated like “Muslims” in the Holy Qur’«n.
23. S«mirâ- This is an allusion to Holy Qur’«n 20: 85, 95-97.
24. Peerless Essence Reference to God.
25. ÿzar’s idols- See Appendix I, No 13.
26. Qaiser’s tune- Reference to the imperialism of the Roman Empire which is famous for its atrocities.
27. Magician of Alamët- Reference to the £asan Bin Öabb«é (d. 1138 )who was a wizard of his age. He lived in Iran in the eleventh century C.E. He built a fort at Alamët, between Qazwain and Jâl«n. He furnished it’s interior with the state of the art furnishings and accouterment of comfort and luxury, including the most beautiful girls available. He designated this fort “Paradise”, and laid claims to prophethood. He had a body of followers who enticed unwary people in cities with administration of hemp and transported them to the Alamët Fort when they became intoxicated with hemp. On gaining consciousness they found themselves in strange surroundings which were the ultimate in luxury, including “hourâ’s”. When they thus became convinced of being in “paradise” they accepted £asan Bin Öabb«é as their prophet. He had built formidable strength which the State could not subdue with mere force. He was a contemporary of Ghi«s al-Dân Abë al-Faté Qamar Bin Ibr«hâm al-Khayy«m, the famous “‘Umar Khayy«m”: who was a mathematician, astronomer and poet (ca. 1050-1123). The latter ultimately subdued £asan Bin Öabb«é with better wisdom, based on righteousness instead of wizardry. Later this organization was destroyed by the Mongols about the middle of the 13th century .
28. Allusion to the labor movements all over the world starting at that time. These movements are usually credited to communism and general awakening in the West. However, in reality they owe their origin to the awakening kindled by Islam and Muslim scholars in Spain and Ir«q in the middle ages which brought about Reformation and Renaissance in Europe and which is an on-going movement of human liberation from the forces of undue domination. See also the poem titled Masjid-i-Qurèubah (The Cordova’s Mosque) in ‘All«mah Iqb«l’s book B«l-i-Jibrâl (The Gabriel’s Wings).
29. Sikandar O Jam- Reference to the Alexander of Greece and Jamshâd of the Persian Empire which were two most powerful empires of the ancient world.
30. This means that the whole history of the Muslim Ummah was known to S. Khiîar A.S. It also refers to the history of secession of the Arab world from the fold of the Uthm«niya Khil«fah and its aftermath, which has been briefly described in Note 7 above.
31. Reference to the upper hand of Christians in Islamic countries, particularly those with Muslim majorities and Muslim governments.
32. This refers to the Turkish cap which was red in color and had a black frill. It was used as a national cap by Muslims in greater part of the world. It lasted till the beginning of World War II.
33. Reference to the inordinate Western influence in the politics and, still worse, in social life of the people in the Muslim world.
34. Reference to the division of the Muslim world into a large number of secular nation states after World War I. However, our misfortune is that, in spite of the efforts of `All«mah Iqb«l and a large number of other reformers all over the Muslim world, the trend towards fragmentation of the Ummah is continuing un-abated.
35. Rëmi- See Appendix I, No. 65.
36. Sulaim«n- See Appendix I, No. 73.
37. This verse does not teach Muslims to withdraw from politics. It preaches only refraining from God-less Western politics, on the vices of which he is very emphatic. Cf.
(221) I have good insight into this God-less politics
It is Ahriman’s slave-girl, mean, corrupt and dishonest
(222) When it has its greedy eyes on the wealth of others
The advance guard of the army is the church’s priest
(Appendix III, No. 32.)
38. K«shghar- This is a large and important city in Chinese Turkistan. The second hemstitch of this verse means the entire Islamic world. Though neither the Nile River forms the western boundary nor is K«shghar on the eastern boundary of the Islamic world these names are used as an exigency of poetry.
39. This emphasizes the super-national nature of the Islamic State.
40. This is a stern warning to Muslims to refrain from Shi‘a-Sunni controversies and quarrels which are sapping the strength of the Muslim society and the Muslim world.
41. Salamander- This is a legendary animal which lives and flourishes in fire. This verse is a repetition of `All«mah Iqb«l’s message on Islam’s renaissance.
42, 43. This is a message of hope to Muslims. It reminds us of the promise of God that Divine planning and Help will be with us if we are steadfast in our mission. There are many verses in the Holy Qur’«n to this effect, e.g. 3:54 and 27:50.
44. Allusion to the Holy Qur’«n 3:9 which ends in “God never fails in His promise”.
a. Ahreman - The Evil Principle in the Zoroastrian religion. The devil.