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An Offering to the Muslim Nation

This dedicatory epistle from 'Mysteries of Selflessness' (second part of Secrets and Mysteries) is the definitive statement of Iqbal's love with the soul of the Muslim nation (or "the Spirit of Muslim Culture" as he would later name it). Most directly it is addressed to the individuals of the nation but through them it is also an effort to address that "spirit" which was portrayed earlier by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as a bewitching beauty in his short story 'Time Bygone' and later personified in lyrics and modern love stories by "consensus poets" of Pakistan, such as Masroor Anwar.

An Offering to the Muslim Nation

Question me not when I speak of Love. If I may not have tasted this wine, someone else must have - Urfi of Shiraz

You, who were made by God to be the Seal of all the peoples dwelling upon earth, that all beginnings might in you find end;

Whose saints were prophet-like, whose wounded hearts wove into unity the souls of men;

Wwhy are you fallen now so far astray from Makkah’s holy Ka‘ba, all bemused by the strange beauty of the Christian’s way?

The very skies are but a gathering of your street’s dust, yourselves the cynosure of all men’s eyes;

Whither in restless haste do you now hurry like a storm-tossed wave,
What new diversion seeking?

No, but learn the mystery of ardour from the moth and make your lodgement in the burning flame;

Lay love’s foundation-stone in your own soul, and to the Prophet pledge anew your troth.

My mind was weary of Christian company, when suddenly your beauty stood unveiled.

My fellow-minstrel sang the epiphany of alien loveliness, the lovelorn theme of stresses and soft cheeks, and rubbed his brow against the saki’s door, rehearsed the chant of Magian wenches.

I would martyr be to your brow’s scimitar, am fain to rest like dust upon your street.

Too proud am I to mouth base panegyrics, or to bow my stubborn head to every tyrant’s court.

Trained up to fashion mirrors out of words, I need not Alexander’s magic glass.

My neck endures not men’s magic glass. My neck endures not men’s munificence;

Where roses bloom, I gather close the skirt of my soul’s bud.

Hard as the dagger’s steel I labour in this life, my lustre win from the tough granite.

Though I am a sea, not restless is my billow; in my hand I hold no whirlpool bowl.

A painted veil am I, no blossom’s perfume-scattering, no prey to every billowing breeze that blows.

I am glowing coal within Life’s fire, and wrap me in my embers for a cloak.

And now my soul comes suppliant to your door bringing a gift of ardour passionate.

A mighty water out of heaven’s deep momently trickles ‘er my burning breast, the which I channel narrower than a brook that I may fling it in your garden’s dish.

Because you are beloved by him I love I fold you to me closely as my heart.

Since love first made the breast an instrument of fierce lamenting, by its flame my heart was molten to a mirror;

Like a rose I pluck my breast apart, that I may hang this mirror in your sight.

Gaze you therein on your own beauty, and you shall become a captive fettered in your tress’ chain.

I chant again the tale of long ago, to bid your bosom’s old wounds bleed anew.

So for a people no more intimate with its own soul I supplicated God, that He might grant to them a firm-knit life.

In the mid-swatch of night, when all the world was hushed in slumber, I made loud lament;

My spirit robbed of patience and response, unto the Living and Omnipotent God

I made my litany; my yearning heart surged, till its blood streamed from my weeping eyes.

“How long, O lord, how long the tulip-glow, the begging of cool dewdrops from the dawn?

Lo, like a candle wrestling with the night O’er my own self I pour my flooding tears.”

I spent myself, that there might be more light, more loveliness, more joy for other human beings.

Not for one moment takes my ardent breast repose from burning; Friday does not shame my restless week of unremitting toil.

Wasted is now my spirit’s envelop; my glowing sigh is sullied all with dust.

When God created me at Time’s first dawn a lamentation quivered on the strings of my melodious lute, and in that note Loves’s secrets stood revealed, the ransom-price of the long sadness of the tale of Love;

Which music even to sapless straw imparts the ardency of fire, and on dull clay bestows the daring of the reckless moth.

Love, like the tulip, has one brand at heart, and on its bosom wears a singly rose;

And so my solitary rose I pin upon your turban, and cry havoc loud against your drunken slumber,

Hoping yet tulips may blossom from your earth anew breathing the fragrance of the breeze of Spring.

Translation is based on Mysteries of Selflesness by A. J. Arberry (1953)

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