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Excerpt from Javidnama, Chapter 7

Detail from painting by Tabassum Khalid illustrating Iqbal's encounter with the Ultimate Reality in Javidnama. © 2006 by Iqbal Academy Pakistan

Here is an encounter with the Ultimate Reality (God) in the final chapter of Javidnama (1932) by Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (note: "Zindah Rud" is a nickname given to the author by Rumi in the story).


Though Paradise is a manifestation of Him, the soul reposes not, save in the vision of Him. We are veiled from our Origin; we are as birds who have lost our nest. If knowledge is perverse and evil of substance it is the greatest curtain before our eyes but if the object of knowledge is contemplation it becomes at once the highway and the guide, laying bare before you the shell of being that you may ask, ‘What is the secret of this display?’

Thus it is that knowledge smoothes the road, thus it is that it awakens desire; it gives you pain and anguish, fire and fever, it gives you mid night lamentations. From the science of the interpretation of the world of colour and scent your eyes and your heart derive nourishment; it brings you to the stage of ecstasy and yearning and then suffers you like Gabriel to stand.

How shall love bring any soul to the Solitude, seeing love is jealous of its own eyes? Its beginning is the road and the companion; its end, travelling the road without companion.

I passed on from all the houris and palaces and hazarded the soul’s skiff on the sea of light. I was drowned in the contemplation of Beauty, which is constantly in eternal revolution; I became lost in the heart of creation till life appeared to me like a rebeck whose every string was another lute, each melody more blood drenched than the other.

We are all one family of fire and light - man, sun and moon, Gabriel and houri. Before the soul a mirror has been hung, bewilderment mingled with certainty: today’s dawn, whose light is manifest, in His Presence is yesterday and tomorrow ever present.

God revealed in all His mysteries, with my eyes makes vision of Himself. To see Him is to wax ever without waning, to see Him is to rise from the body’s tomb: servant and Master lying in wait on one another, each impatiently yearning to behold the other. Life, wherever it may be, is a restless search; unresolved is this riddle—am I the quarry, or is He?

Love gave my soul the delight of beholding, gave my tongue the boldness to speak:

"You who give light and vision to both worlds, look a little while on that ball of clay. Uncongenial to the free servitor, from its hyacinths springs the sting of thorns. The victors are drowned in pleasure and enjoyment, the vanquished have only to count the days and nights. Your world has been wasted by imperialism, dark night ravelled in the sleeve of the sun. The science of Westerners is exploitation; the temples have turned to Khyber without a Hyder. He who proclaims ‘No god but God’ is helpless; his thought, having no centre, wanders astray, slowly dying, pursued by four deaths— the usurer, the governor, the mullah, the shaykh. How is such a world worthy of You? Water and clay are a stain upon Your skirt.’


The Pen such images fair and foul wrote exactly as pleased Us. Do you know what it is, to be? It is to take one’s share of the beauty of God’s Essence. Creating? It is to search for a beloved, to display one’s self to another being.

All these tumultuous riots of being without Our beauty could not come to exist. Life is both transient and everlasting; all this is creativity and vehement desire.

Are you alive? Be vehement, be creative; like Us, embrace all horizons; break whatsoever is uncongenial, out of your heart’s heart produce a new world—it is irksome to the free servitor to live in a world belonging to others.

Whoever possesses not the power to create in Our sight is naught but an infidel, a heathen; such a one has not taken his share of Our Beauty, has not tasted the fruit of the Tree of Life. Man of God, be trenchant as a sword, be yourself your own world’s destiny!


What law governs the world of colour and scent, but that water once flowed returns not to the stream? Life has no desire for repetition, its nature is not habituated to repetition; beneath the sky, reversion is unlawful to life once a people has fallen, it rises not again. When a nation dies, it rarely rises from the grave; what recourse has it, but the tomb and resignation?


Life is not a mere repetition of the breath, its origin is from the Living, Eternal God. The soul near to Him who said ‘Lo, I am nigh’— that is to take one’s share of everlasting life.

The individual through the Unity becomes Divine, the nation through the Unity becomes Omnipotent. Unity produced Ba Yazid, Shibli, Bu Dharr; Unity produced, for the nations, Tughril and Sanjar.

Without the Divine Epiphany man has no permanence. Our Manifestation is life to individual and nation; both attain their perfection through the Unity, life being for the latter Majesty, for the former Beauty. The one is of Solomon, the other of Salman, the one perfect poverty, the other all power: the one sees there is One, the other becomes one—while in the world, sit with the former, live with the latter!

What is the nation, you who declare ‘No god but God’? With thousands of eyes, to be one in vision. The proof and claim of God’s people are always One: ‘Our tents are apart, our hearts are one.’

Oneness of vision converts the motes to the sun; be one of vision, that God may be seen unveiled. Do not look slightingly on oneness of vision; this is a true epiphany of the Unity. When a nation becomes drunk with the Unity, power and omnipotence lie in its grasp.

A nation’s spirit exists through association; a nation’s spirit has no need of a body. Since its being manifests out of companionship, it dies when the bands of companionship are broken.

Are you dead? Become living through oneness of vision; cease to be centreless, become stable. Create unity of thought and action, that you may possess authority in the world.


Who am I? Who arr You? Where is the world? Why is there a distance between me and You? Say, why am I in the bonds of destiny? Why do You die not, while I die?


You have been in the world dimensionate, and any contained therein, therein dies. If you seek life, advance your selfhood, drown the world’s dimensions in your self. You shall then behold who I am and who you are; how you died in the world, and how you lived.


Accept the excuses of this ignorant man; remove the veil from the face of destiny. I have seen the revolution of Russia and Germany, I have seen the tumult raging in the world of Islam; I have seen the contrivings of West and East, now present to me the destinies of West and East as well.


Suddenly I beheld my world, that earth and heaven of mine, I saw it drowned in a light of dawn. I saw it crimson as a jujube tree: out of the epiphanies which broke in my soul I fell drunk with ecstasy, like Moses.

That light revealed every secret veiled and snatched the power of speech from my tongue. Out of the deep heart of the inscrutable world an ardent, flaming melody broke forth.

‘Abandon the East, be not spellbound by the West,
for all this ancient and new is not worth one barleycorn.

That signet ring which you gambled away to Ahriman
should not be pledged even to trusty Gabriel.

Life, that ornament of society, is guardian of itself;
you who are of the caravan, travel alone, yet go with all!

You have come forth brighter than the all illumining sun;
so live, that you may irradiate every mote.

Alexander, Darius, Qubad and Khusrau have departed
like a blade of grass fallen in the path of the wind.

So slender is your cup that the tavern has been put to shame;
seize a tumbler, and drink wisely, and so be gone!’

Source: Based on translation by A. J. Arberry

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