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Conquest of Nature

The following is a translation of the poem 'Taskhir-i-Fitrat' from Payam-i-Mashriq (A Message from the East), which is the second book in the canon of Iqbal's writings and was first published in 1923.

The poems seems to be narrating a course of destiny which is supposed to be fulfilled in the lives of individuals, nations and the entire humanity. Hence "Adam" here could mean a single reader, an entire nation or all of the humankind together. The five segments of the poem also lend themselves to be interpreted as "the Five Wisdoms".


Conquest of Nature

1. The Birth of Adam
2. Devil's Refusal
3. The Seduction of Adam
4. Adam Speaks on Coming Out of Paradise
5. The Morn of Resurrection (Adam in the Presence of God)

1. The Birth of Adam

Love exclaimed, ‘Now one has been born who would roll his heart in blood! Beauty trembled when she realised that one with a penetrating look had been born!

Nature was distraught because from the dust of a world without will, one had been born who could Make and unmake himself, and watch over himself.

From the heavens the news went out to eternity’s sleeping-chamber: Beware, you who are veiled! One has been born who will tear away all veils!

Desire, resting in the lap of life and forgetful of itself, opened its eyes, and a new world was born.

Life said, ‘Through all my years I lay in the dust and convulsed, until at last a door appeared in this ancient dome."

2. Devil's Refusal

I am not such a foolish angel that I would bow to Adam! He is made of dust, but my element is fire.

It is my ardour that heats the blood in the veins of the universe: I am in the raging storm
and the crashing thunder;

I am the bond that holds the atoms together, and the law that rules the elements; I burn and give form— I am the alchemist’s fire.

What I have myself made I break in pieces, only to create new forms from the old dust.

From my sea rises the wave of the heavens that know no rest — the splendour and glory of my element fashions the world.

The stars owe their existence to You but they owe their motion to me: I am the soul of the world, the hidden life that is seen by none.

You give the soul to the body but I set that soul astir. You rob on the highway by causing sloth, I guide along the right path with burning passion.

I did not beg paupers to bow down before me: I am mighty, but do not need a hell;
I am a judge, but do not need resurrection.

Adam — that creature of dust, that short-sighted ignoramus — was born in your lap but will grow old in my arms!

3. The Seduction of Adam

A life of passion and longing is better than eternal quiet; even a dove that is caught in a trap but keeps flapping its wings changes into an eagle.

You do no more than bow down in humility; rise like the tall cypress tree, you who are slow to act!

The waters of Kawthar and Tasnim have robbed you of the joy of action. Take wine from the jug, real wine clear as crystal, made from grapes.

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are figments of the imagination of your Lord. Take pleasure in action,
step out and take what you desire.

Come, rise up, so that I may show you a new kingdom! Open your eyes and go about
Seeing the sights the world has to offer.

Now you are a drop of water worth nothing, become a luminous pearl! Come down from the heavens and live in the ocean.

You are a flashing sword, strike terror into the world’s soul; come out of the scabbard and show your mettle.

Spread an eagle’s wings and spill the pheasants’ blood, for a falcon living in the nest spells death.

You do not yet know this but with union comes the end of longing: What is eternal life?
To burn-and keep on burning!

4. Adam Speaks on Coming Out of Paradise

How good it is to fill life with passion and longing; in one breath to melt the heart of desert, mountain and wild!

To open the door of the cage on to a spacious garden; to take the path to the heavens and speak with the stars in confidence.

To cast-at times with secret longing but with a show of humility at times – a knowing glance at the sanctum of His Glory.

At times to see nothing but the One in throngs of tulips but at times to tell the prickly thorn apart from the rose!

My whole being is a flame that burns for ever and is full of the pain of desire. I would exchange certainty for doubt, for I am dying to know and discover.

5. The Morn of Resurrection (Adam in the Presence of God)

You, whose sun gives the star of life its splendour, with my heart you lit the candle of the sightless world!

My skills have poured an ocean into a strait, my pickaxe makes milk flow from the heart of stone.

Venus is my captive, the moon worships me; my reason, which does great deeds, subdues and controls the universe.

I have gone down into the earth and been up into the heavens, both the atom and the radiant sun are under the spell of my magic.

Although his sorcery deluded me, excuse my fault, forgive my sin: if this sorcery had not taken me in, the world could not have been subdued.

Without the halter of humility, pride could not be taken prisoner. To melt this stone statues with my hot sighs, I had to don his zunnar.

Reason catches artful nature in a net and thus Ahriman, born of fire, bows down before the creature of dust!


Translation is adapted from Tulip in the Desert © Mustansir Mir

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