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Khurram Ali Shafique

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The Republic of Rumi

The Seven Stages

Javidnama, published in 1932, was considered by Iqbal to be his greatest work, in fact he called it his “life’s work.” It is a fantasy epic in Persian verse in which the spirit of Rumi takes the Poet on an odyssey across the spiritual universe. They pass through seven stations – six planets and "Beyond the spheres" – before Iqbal is able to meet God and attain immortality. Accordingly, the epic is divided into seven chapters (minus three preludes and an epilogue), each dealing with one of the stations.

Interestingly, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, the prose work of Iqbal which was published first in 1930 and then in a revised edition from Oxford University Press in 1934, is also divided into seven chapters. In October 2006 I noticed that the chapters in both works complement each other, i.e. each chapter in the prose work covers the same topic as the corresponding chapter in the verse epic.

This initial observation led me to a thorough investigation of the entire canon of Iqbal’s writings on the encouragement of my senior colleagues, the renowned scholars Muhammad Suheyl Umar and Ahmad Javid (Director and Deputy Director of Iqbal Academy Pakistan, respectively). The outcome of that investigation was briefly stated in my book The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality (2007) and I am now elucidating here.

I would like to begin by explaining the three key concepts which I have formed for understanding the system of Iqbal’s work. These are the Seven Stages, the Five Wisdoms and the Nine Questions.

The Seven Stages are, of course, the seven “stations” which Iqbal and Rumi pass through in the spiritual odyssey of Javidnama. These are Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Paradise. Yet an interesting feature of Iqbal’s work is that if he ever offers us a set of seven items then invariably those seven items resemble the seven “stations” of Javidnama in one way or another. A glaring example is the seven chapters of the Reconstruction, as I have already mentioned. I shall now give some more examples.

In Bang-i-Dara or The Call of the Marching Bell (1924), there are seven “poems for children”. Each of these poems can be used as a parable for explaining the corresponding chapter of Javidnama, for instance the first poem “A Spider and the Fly” corresponds to the first “station” of Javidnama, and so on.

Likewise, in Zuboor-i-Ajam or The Persian Psalms (1927), the first part is preceded by a ‘Prayer’ consisting of seven couplets. The progression of themes through these seven couplets can be found to be similar to the progression of Rumi and Iqbal through the seven stations of Javidnama. Likewise, wherever in Iqbal’s poetry we find a poem of seven couplets, we find that the progression corresponds to the seven stations of Javidnama in some manner.

An interesting case appears in those poems which consist of many stanzas of seven or eight couplets each, e.g. ‘The Dawn of Islam’ (in The Call of the Marching Bell) consists of nine stanzas of eight couplets each. Likewise, ‘The Mosque of Cordoba (in Baal-i-Jibreel or Gabriel’s Wing) consists of eight stanzas of eight couplets each. In both these poems the last couplet (i.e. the eighth couplet) stands apart because it is printed in a larger font and follows a rhyme scheme different from the preceding seven couplets.

Invariably we find that in the first stanza of these poems, the first seven couplets correspond to the seven stations of Javidnama in the reverse order (i.e. “descending” order) and the eighth couplet (printed in a larger font) can be read as a summary or conclusion.

In the second stanza of each poem, the first seven couplets correspond to the stations of Javidnama in the correct order (i.e. “ascending” order) and the eighth couplet, again, is a summary or conclusion.

Hence it seems that the seven stations of Javidnama are a recurring feature in the entire canon of Iqbal’s writings. They recur invariably in every set of seven items.

After careful comparison of these sets I have observed a particular feature associated with each station and have assigned the following names to these features.

Station Feature ("Stage")
Moon Inquiry
Mercury Discovery
Venus Transcendence
Mars Freedom
Jupiter Action
Saturn Expansion
Beyond Creation

Hence inquiry, discovery, transcendence, freedom, action, expansion and creation are seven “stages” which can be observed in every set of seven items in the works of Iqbal. I strongly suspect that these seven stages may have an epistemological significance, i.e. they may be used as building blocks for understanding certain processes outside the writings of Iqbal. I have conducted such investigations in some other fields of knowledge and what I have observed in those disciplines is quite interesting, to say the least.

However, before I touch upon those observations I must explain the two other key concepts which I have formulated for understanding the system of Iqbal’s work. These are Five Wisdoms and Nine Questions.

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

With .