The Chronicle of Pakistan
The Writings of
Khurram Ali Shafique

Join the Club

Read Blog
Subscribe to Newsletter
Visit Press Gallery
Send Email

The Republic of Rumi

The Nine Poetical Works of Iqbal

In ‘The New Garden of Mystery’ in Persian Psalms (1927), Iqbal presents nine questions and their answers. In my book The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality (2007) I have tried to show that these questions may be taken as the backbone of Iqbal’s system of thought.

Once we understand that, we are led to a rather startling discovery. The total number of Iqbal’s poetical works is also nine. If these works are placed in the order in which he published them, they seem to be answering the same nine questions, one in each work.


Question 1: First of all I am intrigued about my thought – why is it sometimes needed, sometimes shunned?

The first book is Asrar-o-Rumooz (Secrets and Mysteries) published in two installments in Persian in 1915-17. It elaborates the relationship between three forms of egos: individual, collective and God. The thesis is that the ego, and not the mind alone, is the means through which we acquire knowledge and since this faculty is organically connected with the collective ego and the Divine Ego, it is therefore possible to know the Ultimate Reality and even learn about the future.


Question 2: What is this ocean whose shore is knowledge, and what pearl is found in its depth?

The second book is Payam-i-Mashriq (A Message from the East) published in Persian in 1923. It aims to offer a vision of the world which Nature itself is creating in the deeper recesses of Life, and the new Adam who shall reside in it. This “new Adam” is neither from the East nor from the West alone but a creative synthesis of both. However, the East must take the initiative because the West is quite naturally tired from the travails of the Great European War (World War I).


Question 3: What is the union of the contingent and the necessary – what are near and far, more and less?

The third book is Baang-i-Dara (The Call of the Marching Bell) published in Urdu in 1924. It contains poems from the earliest period of the poet’s career (from even before the beginning of the first book) and hence it is a biography of the poet’s mind. It allows the reader to see where the poet is coming from, and to unite with the poet’s consciousness in more ways than one.


Question 4: How did the eternal and temporal separate so that one became the world and the other God – if the knower and known are the one pure essence, then what are the aspirations of this handful of earth?

The fourth book is Zuboor-i-Ajam (Persian Pslams), published in Persian in 1927. It consists of four parts. The first two parts present “the Seven Stages” and “the Five Wisdoms” respectively in the form of a puzzle (which was seldom taken seriously before my book The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality). The third part presents “the Nine Questions” and the fourth part is a versified treatise on the relationship between Art and the evolution of human civilization.


Question 5: What am I – tell me what ‘I’ means and what is the meaning of ‘travel into yourself’?

The fifth book is Javidnama, published in Persian in 1932. Here, Rumi takes Iqbal on a journey through the spiritual universe in search of immortality. The connection between the “question” and the corresponding poetic work is most undeniable in this instance.


Question 6: What is that part which is greater than its whole and what is the way to find that part?

The sixth book is Baal-i-Jibreel (Gabriel’s Wing), published in Urdu in 1935. It has an exceptionally complex structure and, as I have tried to show in The Republic of Rumi, the internal structure of the book is a reflection on the organic unity between the human soul, society and the world of Nature.


Question 7: Of what sort is this traveler who is the wayfarer – of whom shall I say that this is a Universal Human Being?

The seventh book is Zarb-i-Kaleem (The Rod of Moses), published in Urdu in 1936. It is subtitled “A Declaration of War against the Present Age”. The war is essentially moral rather than physical.


Question 8: What point does the claim, ‘I am the Creative Truth’ imply, and do you think that this ambiguity was mere nonsense?

The eighth book is Pas Cheh Bayed Kerd Aye Aqwam-i-Sharq (What Should Now be Done, O Nations of the East?), published in Persian in 1937. In it, the poet asks the nations of the East to unite like a single soul and body in order to bring peace and freedom to the world. A versified travelogue to Afghanistan (the country regarded by the poet as “the heart of Asia”) is also annexed with this book.


Question 9: Who was it that at last became familiar with the secret of Oneness – who is the wise one who is fully aware?

The ninth and the last book is Armughan-i-Hijaz (The Gift of Hijaz), published a few months after the poet’s death in 1938. It is the only of his nine books which contains poems in both languages, Persian and Urdu. It is filled with premonitions about the future of the world and about the poet’s impending death, and the atmosphere is a mix of this world and the Hereafter.

NOTE: The works of Iqbal as well as their translations can be read online at http://allamaiqbal.com