The ordinary candle is a world unto itself in Persian and Urdu literature. It is taken as an emblem of a beloved as well as that of a lover. As a beloved the moth circles round it and eventually dies in its love. As a lover it is presented as weeping in the agony of separation from its beloved. In this poem ‘Allamah Iqbal has equated candle with Man as both are afflicted with the agony of separation from the Creator and Beloved, i.e. God. There is, however, one difference. Man is endowed with "feeling", which raises him above the candle and, in fact, above all creation. This quality is a part of the attribute of Khudi 1 which has entitled Man to be endowed with knowledge, on account of which God has ranked him as the masterpiece of creation and His vicegerent on earth (The Holy Qur'an 2:30-34). Endowed with this attribute Man was transferred from Paradise to earth to witness the Jamal and Jalal of God as conveyed by the kaleidoscope of His creation and as communicated to Man through his qualities of knowledge and perception. However, this world is the temporary abode of Man and he has been charged with the mission of maintaining its beauty and protecting it from disturbances in the physical as well as spiritual spheres. To attain this goal he has been charged with the responsibility of struggling for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This commissioning of Man has been repeated at several places in the Holy Qur'an, reference to which has been provided previously.
The `Allamah says in this poem that the possession of "feeling" has endowed Man with compassion which is a very elegant quality. However, deceptive perception has made Man a captive of discrimination of race and color, which has resulted in his losing the joy of the universal peace which can be achieved only through the acknowledgment of the Universal Unity of God as well as that of Man and Love of both.
O Candle! I am also an afflicted person in the world assembly
Constant complaint is my lot in the manner of the rue2
Love gave the warmth of internal pathos to you
It made me the florist selling blood-mixed tears 3
Whether you be the candle of a celebrating assembly or one at the grave
In every condition associated with the tears of sorrow you remain
Your eye views all with equity like the Secret's 4 Lovers
My eye is the pride of the tumult of discrimination
Your illumination is alike in the Ka‘bah and the temple
I am entangled in the temple and the Haram's discrimination
Your black smoke contains the sigh's elegance
Is some heart hidden in the place of your manifestation?
You burn with pathos due to distance from Tajalli’s 5 Light
Your pathos the callous ones consider your light
Though you are burning you are unaware of it all
You see but do not encompass the internal pathos
I quiver like mercury with the excitement of vexation
As well I am aware of vexations of the restless heart
This was also the elegance of some Beloved
Which gave me perception of my own pathos
This cognition of mine keeps me restless6
Innumerable fire temples are asleep in this spark
Discrimination between high and low is created by this alone!
Fragrance in flower, ecstasy in wine is created by this alone!
Garden, nightingale, flower, fragrance this Cognition is
Root of the struggle of 'I and you' this Cognition is
At creation's dawn as Beauty became the abode of Love
The sound of "Kun" taught warmth to the spirit of Love 7
The command came Beauty of Kun's garden to witness
With one eye a thousand dreadful dreams to witness 8
Do not ask me of the nature of the veil of being
The eve of separation was the dawn of my being 9
Gone are the days when unaware of imprisonment I was
That my abode the adornment of the tree of Tur was
I am a prisoner but consider the cage to be a garden
This exile’s hovel of sorrow I consider the homeland10
Memories of the homeland a needless melancholy became
Now the desire for sight, now Longing for search became
O Candle ! Look at the excessive illusion of thought
Look at the end of the one worshipped by celestial denizens11
Theme of separation I am, the exalted one I am
Design of the Will of the Universe’s Lord I am12
He desired my display as He designed me
When at the head of Existence’ Diwan 13 He wrote me
The pearl likes living in a handful of dust
Style may be dull the subject is excellent
Not seeing it rightly is the fault of short-sighted perception
The universe is the show of effulgence of taste for Cognizance14
This network of time and space is the scaling ladder of the Universe
It is the necklace of the neck of Eternal Beauty
I have lost the way, Longing for the goal I am
O Candle ! Captive of perception’s illusion I am15
I am the hunter as well as the circle of tyranny’s net !
I am the Haram’s roof as well as the bird on Haram’s roof 16
Am I the Beauty or head to foot the melting love am I ?
It is not clear whether the beloved or the Lover am I ?
I am afraid the old secret may come up to my lips again
Lest story of suffering on the Cross may come up again17
2. Rue: A perennial evergreen shrub (Ruta graveolens, family Rutaceae) whose seed explodes when put in the fire. This property is shown in Persian and Urdu poetry as an expression of distress and lament and the restlessness it produces.
6. This verse and the two following it mean that Man's Khudi is the source of the proper perception of the phenomena mentioned in these verses, which constitute the working of the universe. Unless Man recognizes his high position in the creation of God as his vicegerent, he cannot appreciate the beauty and harmony of the universe.
10. This alludes to the several verses of the Holy Qur'an which describe the Command of God to the denizens of the transcendental universe to prostrate before S. Adam A.S., e.g. 2:30-34. ‘Allamah Iqbal derives his philosophy of the superiority of Man or Khudi from these verses. In this verse he refers to the fall of Man by forsaking his Khudi.
11. See Note 7. Creation of the visible universe was for the fulfillment of the Will of God, to exhibit his Creative Power, culminating in the creation of Man, whose climax was the specimen of what ‘Allamah Iqbal calls Insan-i-Kamil (the Perfect Man) in the person of the Holy Prophet S.A.W. Man has lost his high status by losing Khudi.
14. This means that Man has lost his way to Divine knowledge by being enslaved by the acceptance of only what he sees, and his non-acceptance of the "alam al-Ghayb" or the transcendental universe. If Man looks at the universe as required by the Holy Qur’an he will realize that the whole purpose of creation of the universe was to create Man. (See Note 11).
17. This alludes to the crucifixion (albeit apparent) of S. ‘Esa A.S., where he offered himself willingly to crucifixion for the Love of God in preference to changing his message. Notwithstanding the Grace of God which saved him from being crucified and raised him to the celestial world his sacrifice was complete. It also refers to the willingness of S. Ibrahim A.S. in obedience to the Command of God (The Holy Qur'an 37:101-07). The allusion can be extended to innumerable other persons who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of God in various ways just for His Love.