to the Muslim Nation
dedicatory epistle from 'Mysteries of Selflessness' (second part
of Secrets and Mysteries) is Iqbal's definitive statement
of his love for the soul of the Muslim nation (or "the Spirit
of Muslim Culture" as he would later call it).
Apparently it is addressed to individuals
of the nation but through them it also attempts to reach out to
that "spirit" which was ealier portrayed by Sir Syed Ahmad
Khan as a bewitching beauty in his short story 'Time Bygone' and
later became 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
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
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
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
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
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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