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Though the decline of the Muslim  world and society can be 
traced back to the replacement of Khilafah-i-Rashidah by the 
monarchist rule of special dynasties, the last three hundred 
years have seen the constant fall of the Muslim world, which 
reached its  lowest ebb after the  first World War. The latter 
period witnessed the crumbling down of the last vestiges of the 
Khilafah and the complete fragmentation and subjugation  of 
the Muslim world by its perpetual adversaries in the Western 

This deplorable state of affairs  touched the hearts of many 
Muslim intellectuals all over  the world, including the Indian sub-
continent. These intellectuals started probing into the  causes 
of the decline of Muslims and attempted to devise means of 
stopping and reversing it. Though these thinkers were richly 
endowed with Islamic learning and were fully aware of the 
virtues  and blessings of Islam  they were unaware of the 
poisons in the  Western thought and society which damaged 
Muslim society most. ‘Allamah Iqbal, helped  by the unique 
combination of the deep  and profound knowledge of Islam as 
well as that of the world affairs and Western learning, stands 
out prominently among Muslim reformers as the one fully 
conversant with the strengths as  well as the weaknesses of 
the Muslim world. The achievements  of the Muslim world in all 
fields during the first eight  centuries of the Islamic era and its 
ascendancy over Europe  are well known. This was the result 
of some qualities and  virtues of the Muslims of those times. 
When the downfall of  the Muslim world started it proceeded 
unabated till only very  recent years when the tide appeared to 
be turning. Determination of the causes of  this degeneration  
is the sine qua non for Islamic renaissance. ‘Allamah Iqbal, true 
to the epithet of Hakim-e-Millat  (the Millat’s sage or physician) 
spent the major part of his genius in investigating the causes of 
this  downfall and in creating the consciousness of the situation 
in the Muslim mind. In addition to the damage caused by the 
machinations of the West the Muslim world suffered from their  
own increasing back-sliding from their original high spiritual, 
moral and ethical pedestal. The ‘Allamah took great pains to 
elaborate these causes in the hope that the Muslim society 
would use them as the springboard for their revival. Though 
these thoughts are spread over this entire works in the form of 
poems and individual verses three long  poems in Bang-i-Dara 
have detailed them. These poems are the present one, “Sham
‘a-o-Shair ” (The Candle and the Poet) and “Jawab-e-
Shakwah”  (The Response to the Complaint), also in the same 
book. The present poem is  a complaint to God in which 
‘Allamah Iqbal describes the  sacrifices made by the Muslim 
Ummah in the cause of Islam, as well as their achievements. 
He pleads that in view of this the  present deplorable condition 
of the Muslim world is unfair. He prays for Divine help to 
Muslims to improve their  condition and get back their old  
status of prestige and glory.

Though several reputed thinkers and literateurs in the Indian 
sub-continent and other parts of the Muslim world had earlier 
attempted to probe into the causes and suggest remedial  and 
corrective measures for the poor condition of the Muslim 
Ummah ‘Allamah Iqbal’s two poems, viz Shikwah (The 
Complaint) and  Jawab-i-Shikwah (The Response to the 
Complaint)  stand out  as the ones with exquisite literary 
grandeur and beauty. For  this reason it was but natural for 
them to have special appeal  to all Muslims in general and to 
the Muslims of the Indian  sub-continent in particular. The 
poems did have this effect and  made ‘Allamah Iqbal near and 
dear to the hearts of the Muslims  everywhere. These poems 
have been translated and molded into music in Urdu as well as 
other  languages including Arabic and important European 


Why should I be destructive and remain reckless of betterment?
Think not of the future, remain occupied in today’s problems?

Should I hear nightingale’s  wails, and remain completely silent?
O companion! Am I some flower so that I may remain silent?

The strength of my poetry is encouraging to me
Woe be to me
1! My remonstrance is against God!

It is true  that  we are famous in the methods of obeisance
But we are relating our story of pain out of compulsion

Though a silent orchestra, we are full of complaint
If the wailing comes to lips we are excusable

O God! Listen to the remonstrance also from the faithful
Listen to some complaint also from the one accustomed to praise you

Though Thy Eternal Essence had existed since eternity
The flower existed in the garden but  fragrance had not dispersed

Justice is a condition, O Lord of Universal  Benevolence
How could flower’s  fragrance spread if zephyr did not exist?

This problem’s solution was  the source of satisfaction to us
Otherwise was the Holy Prophet’s  Ummah insane?

The scene of Thy world was strange before us
Stones were adored somewhere, trees were worshipped somewhere

The eyes of Man were accustomed to tangible forms
How could they be amenable to accept the Unseen God?

Doth Those know who ever told Thy beads?
The strength of the Muslim’s  arm completed Thy task!

2 were living here and the Turanâs 3 also
The Chinese in China and in Iran the Sasanâs
4 also

The Greeks were also living in the same habitation
In the  same  world were the Jews and the Christians also

But who raised the sword in Thy name?
Who reclaimed the despoiled world in Thy name?

We alone were the marshals of Thy troops!
We were fighting now on land and now in the oceans

Some times we were calling adhans in the Europe’s cathedrals
And  sometimes in the scorching African deserts

We never cared for the  grandeur of monarchs
We recited the Kalimah
5 under the shade of swords

If we lived we lived for the calamities of wars
If we  died we died for the grandeur of  Thy name

We did not wield the sword for our kingdoms
Did we roam about the world fearlessly for wealth?

If our nation had been greedy of worldly  wealth
Why would we have been idol breakers  instead of idol sellers
6 ?

Once firmly standing in the battle we were immovable
Even lions in the battle against us would be in flight

We  were enraged if some one rebelled against Thee
Not to talk of sword we were fighting against canons

We impressed  Tawéâd’s picture  on every heart
We conveyed this message even under  the dagger

Tell us Thou,  by whom was uprooted the gate of Khaibar
By whom was conquered the city which was Qaisar’s 8 ?

By whom were the images of created gods destroyed?
By whom were the armies of infidels slaughtered?

By whom was the fire temple of Iran extinguished?
By whom was the story of Yazdan
9 restored to life?

Which nation did become Thy seeker exclusively?
And became embroiled in wars’ calamities for Thee?

Whose world-conquering sword did world-ruler become?
By whose Takbâr did Thy world enlightened become?

Through whose fear idols did perpetually alarmed remain?
Falling on their faces saying “Huwa Allah O Aéad
10 did remain?

If the time of prayer right during the battle fell
Hijaz’ nation in prostration facing the Ka’abah fell

Both Mahmud and Ayaz
11 in the same row stood
None as the slave and none as the master stood

The slave and the master, the poor and the rich all became one!
On arrival in Thy Audience all were reduced to one!

We continuously wandered all over the world
We wandered like the wine-cup with Tawéâd’s  wine

We wandered with Thy Message in the mountains, in the deserts
And doth Thou know whether we ever returned unsuccessful?

What of the deserts! We  did not spare even oceans!
We galloped our horses in the dark ocean

We effaced falsehood from the earth’s surface
We freed the human race from bonds of slavery

We filled Thy Ka’bah  with our foreheads
We put Thy  Qur’an to our hearts

Still Thou complaineth that we are lacking fealty
If we are lacking fealty Thou also art not generous

There are other ummahs, among them are sinners also
There are modest people and arrogant ones also

Among them are slothful, indolent as well as clever people
There are also hundreds who are disgusted with Thy name

Thy Graces descend on the other people’s abodes
Lightning strikes only the poor Muslims’ abodes

The idols in temples say ‘The Muslims are gone’
They are glad that the Ka’bah’s sentinels are gone

From the world’s  stage the éudâ
13 singers are gone
They, with the Qur’an in their arm pits, are gone

Infidelity is mocking, hast Thou some feeling or not?
Dost Thou have any regard  for Thy own Tawéâd or not?

We do not complain that their treasures are full
Who are not in possession of even basic social graces

Outrageous that infidels are rewarded with Houris and palaces
And the poor Muslims are placated with only promise of Houris

We have been deprived of the former graces and favors
What is the matter, we are deprived of the former honors?

Why is the material wealth rare among Muslims?
Thy omnipotence is boundless and inestimable

With Thy Will the desert’s bosom would produce bubbles
The desert’s rambler can be facing flood of mirage’s waves

Others’ sarcasm, disgrace and poverty is our lot
Is abjection the reward for Loving  Thee ?

Now, this world is the lover of  others
For us it is only an imaginary world

We have departed, others have taken over the world
Do not complain now that devoid of  Tawéâd  has become the world

We live with the object of spreading Thy fame in the  world
Can the wine-cup exist if the cup-bearer does not live?

Thy assemblage is gone, and Thy Lovers are also gone
The night’s sighs and the dawn’s wailings  are gone

They had loved Thee, they are gone with their rewards
They had hardly settled down and they were turned out

The Lovers came but with tomorrow’s promise were sent away
Now seek them with Thy beautiful face’s lamp
14 every way!

Lailah’s pathos is the same, and Qais’ bosom is the same
In the Najd’s wilderness and mountains the deer’s running is the same

The Love’s heart is the same, the Beauty’s magic is the same
The Ummah of the Holy Prophet is the same, Thou art the same

Why then this displeasure without reason is?
Why then this displeasure for Thy Lovers is?

Did we forsake Thee, did we forsake the Arabian Holy Prophet?
Did we adopt idol sculpture, did we idol breaking forsake?

Did we forsake Love, and did we forsake the madness of Love?
Did we forsake the customs of Salman
15 and Uwais of Quran16

We have the Takbâr’s fire suppressed in our hearts!
We are living the life of Bilal
17 tée Negro!

Granted that Love has lost its former elegance also
We may have lost treading the path of Love also

We may have lost the restless heart like the compass also
And we may have lost the observance of fidelity’s rules also

Thou art changing friendship between us and others
It is difficult to say but Thou art also unfaithful

Thou perfected the Dân on the peak of Faran
Thou captivated the hearts of thousands in a moment

Thou consumed the produce of Love with fire
Thou burned the congregation with Thy face’s fire

Why are not our breasts filled with Love’s sparks now?
We are the same Lovers, dost Thou not remember now?

The noise of Lovers’ chains in the Najd’s Valley has disappeared
Qais has no more remained longing for the litter’s sight

Those old ambitions, we, as well as the heart have disappeared
The house is destroyed as Thou art not present in the house

O that happy day when Thou with elegance will come back
When Thou unveiled to our congregation will come back

Others are sitting at the stream bank in the rose garden
Listening to the cuckoo’s call with wine-cup in their hand

In the garden on a side far from the riotous crowd are sitting
Thy Lovers are also patiently wanting for a Hë!

Again endow Thy moths with Longing for burning themselves
Give the command for consumption in Love to the old lightning

The wandering nation is riding again towards Hijaz
The taste of flight has carried the unfledged nightingale

The fragrance  of humility is restless in every flower bud
Just start the music, orchestra is seeking the plectrum

Songs are restless to come out  of the strings
ñër is impatient for burning in the same fire

Make  easy the difficulties of the blessed Ummah
Place the poor ant shoulder to shoulder to Sulaiman

Make the invaluable produce of Love accessible again
Change the idolatrous Muslims of India into Muslims again

A stream of blood drips from the frustrations mine
Wailing palpitates in the wounded breast of mine!

The rose’ fragrance took garden’s secret outside the garden
Outrageous that flowers themselves are informers against the garden

The spring is over, broken is the orchestra of the garden
Flown away from branches are the songsters of the garden

Only a nightingale is left which is singing still
In its breast overflows the flood of songs still

Turtle-doves from the juniper’s branches are gone also
Flower petals dropping  from the flower are scattered also

The garden’s old beautiful walk-ways are gone also
The branches became bare of the cover of leaves also

But his nature remained free of the season’s restrictions
Would somebody in the garden understand his complaint!!

There is no pleasure in dying and no taste in living is
If there is any pleasure it in bearing this affliction is

Many a virtue is restless in my mirror!
Many an effulgence is fluttering in my breast!

But there is none in this garden to see them
There are no poppies
23 with Love’s stain on their breasts

May hearts open up with the song of this lonely nightingale
May the sleeping hearts wake up with this very Bang-e-Dara

May the hearts come to life again with a new covenant
May the hearts be thirsty again for this same old wine

My alembic may be from `Ajam, but my wine is from Hijaz
The song may be Indian but my tune is from Hijaz

Explanatory Notes
1. “Dust in the mouth”- This is the expression used   in the 
original poem. This expression is used as a curse in Urdu and 
is pronounced when someone makes an exaggerated 
statement or request.

2. Saljëqs- This was a Turkish tribe which inhabited Central 
Asia. Later they accepted Islam and produced famous 
Khalâfahs like Öalah-al-Dân Ayyëbâ.

3. Tëranâs- People inhabiting the tract north of the Oxus River.

4. Sasanids- This was a tribe inhabiting Persia. They ruled 
over a large empire east of the Byzantine Empire across the 
Euphrates River (ca. 226-641). They were followers of 
Zoroaster and worshipped fire. They were defeated by the 
Muslims in 641 during the time of S. ‘Umar R.A.

5. Kalimah-The Muslim creed of “La Ilaha Ill Allah O 
Muhammad al-Rasël Allah,” (There is no deity except God and 
Muhammad S.A.W. is His Prophet).

6. This alludes to Öultan Maémëd of Ghaznâ and his very 
favorite slave, Ayaz for whom see Appendix I, No. 34.

7. Khaibar- This was a stronghold of Jews in Hijaz, where they 
consolidated themselves after their expulsion from Madânah 
Munawwarah (625). Khaibar had six forts of which Qamës was 
the strongest. It was attacked by the Holy Prophet in ca. 630. 
The gate of the fort of Qamës was broken by S. ‘Alâ R.A. 
which is a very famous act of bravery in Islamic history.

8. City of Qaisar- Allusion to Qusèunèuäiyah (Constantinople) 
for which see poem 76 (Bilad-i-Islamiyah) Note 10.

9. Yazdan- This is the god of Virtue and Good in the 
Zoroastrian religion as opposed to the god of Evil and Sin 
represented by Ahirman. The word is also used in Persian and 
Urdu for God, as is done here.

10. Allusion to the Holy Qur’an (48:22-23 and 112:1).

11. Maémëd O Ayaz- See Appendix I, No. 34.

12. Allusion to the achievements of Khair-al-Dân Barbaràsah 
(1474-1546), for which see Appendix I, No. 51. This particular 
verse alludes to the expedition of Barbaràsah Brothers (Arouj 
and Khair-al-Dân Barbaràsah) in north-west Africa for 
expelling the Spaniards from those Muslim lands and 
establishing the suzerainty of the Islamic Ottoman Khilafah. 
About 1512 they conquered up to the north-western sea coast 
and in their zeal drove their horses to some distance in the 
Atlantic Ocean, saying that if the land of God extended beyond 
the African coast they would conquer it also in His name.

13. Hudâ- Songs  which camel  drivers sing when the caravan 
is marching.

14. The expression “searching something with a lamp in hand” 
is used in Urdu to search for something almost non-existent. 
The intensity of the search as well as a hint of taunt is added by 
‘Allamah Iqbal by including the part of the “lamp of the Beautiful 
Face of God”.

15. Salman Abë `Abd Allah Farisâ R.A.- See Appendix I, No l. 

16. Uwais  Qaranâ- See Appendix I, No. 78.

17. Bilal Ibn Rabaé- See Appendix I, No. 17.

18. This is a pun on the word “harja’â” used in the text. It means 
omni-present as well as a person who is not restricted to one 
person in love and fidelity.

19. Peak of Faran- Faran is the mountain on which the Cave of 
Hira is located. God, in His Infinite Grace and Mercy sent His 
prophets and messengers among all people of the world and 
at all times. The message of these prophets was confined to 
that nation and that period. However, the Holy Prophet S.A.W. 
brought Islam, which was sent as the Dân for all people for all 
times (see The Holy Qur’an 5:3).

20. Hë- This is an abbreviation for ‘huva’ which means ‘He’ 
and is used for God. Here it is used as part of the expression 
‘Allah Hë’ which means ‘Only God has real Existence’ and is 
used in TaÅawwuf’s spiritual exercises.

21. S. Sulaiman A.S.- See Appendix I, No. 73.

22. In this verse and those following it to the end of the poem 
‘Allamah Iqbal is referring to himself and his book, Bang-i-

23. The poppy flower has a black stain at the bottom of its 
corolla. This is poetically referred to as the mark of Love of 

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