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Introduction

INTRODUCTION

(I)

I thank God that the self-imposed duty of rendering Iqbal's Zarb-i-Kalim into English has been fulfilled though I had apprehensions that it might remain unrealized due to my illness. May God shower his blessings on the Last Of the Prophets (Peace be *upon him and his immaculate progeny) through whose intercession alone, a sinner like myself, can attain salvation. The readers of this rendering into English are requested to pray for the soul of the translator, when he is laid to rest after passing through the mortal travails of earthly life. A large number of books on Iqbal Studies is available in the market, but some of his Urdu works are still untranslated into foreign languages, particularly into English. 'The Rod of Moses' has not been rendered into English so far and as such the translator has no hesitation in saying that the present rendering is an attempt to disseminate the message of the philosopher poet throughout the Muslim world. The translator has no ulterior motive save that of spreading the National Poet's message to the English knowing people of this country as well as to those of foreign lands.

(II)

English is not my mother tongue nor I have ever been abroad and I expect that the readers will be kind enough to bear this fact in mind. I have only paved the way and if any person desires, he is quite welcome to improve this rendering. Some persons, who have a meagre knowledge of Oriental languages (Persian and Arabic), think that FitzGerald's translation of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam is the last work on the technique of translation into English, though it does not be, the least resemblance to the original.

'The Rod or Moses' is the last collection in Urdu that was published during Iqbal's life time.. Unlike other Urdu collections, this book is dedicated to Sir Hamid Ullah Khan, the Nawab of Bhopal. During his last illness Iqbal stayed for some time in Bhopal's Palace of Mirrors and also at the residence of Sir Denisen Ross Masood. The Nawab of' Bhopal and lady Ross Masood were very solicitous about the health of the Celebrated Poet. 'The Rod of Moses' has a salient feature that the number of Ghazals in this collection is very small, whereas Qitu'ts (fragments) predominate. The book is distinguished by another peculiarity i.e., it is divided into specific sections e.g. Islam and Muslim. Education and Upbringing, The Weaker Vessel, Literature and Fine Arts, The Politics of the East and The West and Thoughts of Mihrab Gul Khan.

(III)

It is difficult to discuss each and every topic in the introduction. I will, therefore, confine my attention only to the selected topics so that the introduction may not become monotonous. The theme of all the poems is Ego or Selfhood. 'rile collection is of extreme importance for reference to contemporary events. The poetry of t philosopher poet, who s determined to inculcate the spirit of strife and struggle among human beings cannot be anything else than serious. However, it is necessary to point out that the collection has two poems, Flattery and High Offices that recall, Akbar Allabbadi's sarcastic humour. Akbar's poems about the fair sex are humorous, though reformative, whereas the poems of Iqbal on the 'Fair Sex' are composed in a very serious vein. He pays the highest tribute to the 'Fair Sex' and adds that though a woman is unable to declaim or write philosophic discourses, yet she is the procreator of all Prophets and eminent persons. He is of opinion that procreation is her First and foremost duty and the acquisition of knowledge, religious as well as worldly, is vis essential for her as for men.

The philosopher poet was a great educationist and played a prominent part in guiding and framing the syllabi of two Universities, the Punjab University and Kabul University, besides working as a professor of English, Philosophy and of Arabic at Lahore.

(IV)

He was interested in Jamia Millia, Delhi Lahore also. Consequently he had a profound knowledge of educational affairs and problems. He is critical of contemporary system of education, which was introduced by Lord Macaulay in India for the sake of producing low-salaried clerks. Iqbal says:

With free, hand Nature has bestowed
On you the eyes of hawk so keen :
But bondage has replaced them with
The eyes of bat devoid of sheen.

(Rod of Moses, page 83)

For things on which schools throw no light
And keep them from your eyes concealed,
Go to retreats of mount and waste
And get them by some Guide revealed.

(Rod of Moses, page 83)

The schools and colleges turn out thousands of book worms, who memorise everything without the development either of the intellect or the spirit

Respite from, books you do not get,
But Book Revealed too soon forget.

(Rod of Moses, page 81)

The poet emphasises the necessity of learning the Holy Quran, of reflecting over its teachings and acting upon its injunctions. He adds that the students are not taught the ways and means of developing the Ego. He ironically observes that they are not fit to learn the modes and high rank of die hawk. They have a. slavish mentality

This is the training that befits them well,
Painting, music and science of plants as well.

(Rod of Moses, page 78)

(V)

The philosopher poet is equally critical both of the teachers and the students. He observes that teachers, who ought to lead the rest of mankind, are themselves the slaves of customs and traditions.

They have miserably failed to inspire the Students
Those who deserved to lead the modern age,
Have worn out brains and others hold the stage.

(Rod of Moses, page 82)

The students are not taught the lesson of self esteem in schools and the teachers fail to infuse the spirit of self-respect among their students

The ways of teachers don't expand the heart,
Match stick can't light to electric lamp impart.

(Rod of Moses, page 78)

The chapter on Education and Upringing ends with, three poems offering advice to his son, Javid Iqbal.

(VI)

In these poems Iqbal has also thrown some light on his mystic creed. The last chapter of' this collection consists of twenty stanzas on the meditations of all Afghan person, Mihrab Gul. In these, stanzas, the central theme, as usual, is, the Ego of- Selfhood. These stanzas are full or music and c harm, particularly the seventh stanza has an enchanting effect on. account of its refrain,. besides being didactic and instructive.1

The poet thinks that mountaineers and nomads, are more appreciative 'of the beauties of Nature than

those dwelling in plains. The poet thinks that these Highlanders and Bedouins are very hard-working and industrious, because they have to derive their sustenance, either from rocky or barren terrain, or from sandy deserts full of dunes. These toils and hardships make them hardy and brave, which is borne out in present times by the Afghans. They tire locked in a life and death struggle with a neighbouring super power for the protection of their homes and hearths. Nearly three years have elapsed and the invaders have not gained any foot-bold in the country. The Afghans will sooner or later authenticate the poet's conception about their love of freedom and Selfhood :

How can I quit this mountain land,
Where my sires arc interred in rocks
My exile from this land so dear,
Is full of anguish, pain and shocks

(Rod of Moses, page 166.)

(VII)

As a matter of fact, the philosophy of Self-hood and the definition or terms like Faqr, Love, Dei-veshhood, Qalandar, Love versus Intellect and Symbolism is also necessary for the proper understanding of this collection, but these items are included in the revised preface to my translation of the first two parts of Bal-i-Jibril (Gabriel's Wing). If the book, is reprinted, it will have the explanation of such terms and extracts from the comments of eminent scholars. Moreover an attempt will be made to cleanse it from all sorts of defects such as errors, and defective cover which stains the fingers of readers.

The Chapter on 'The Politics of the East and West' is very illuminating and throws great light on the guile and tricks practised by the Franks, but 1 have not touched it in the introduction, lest the introduction should become inordinately long. The implications of this chapter will be dwelt upon in the notes appended to the translation at the end.

Right from Homer to the present day, the poets, writers, and artists have said some thing about their. Respective arts. Most of the English poets have left their theories of art in the form of essays. In the case of Iqbal, one has to rely upon his Foreword to Muraqqa-i-Chughtai and his poems scattered in different collections, particularly in the 'Rod of Moses' in which one complete chapter is devoted to Literature and Fine Arts. Actually the word 'Art' has a very wide connotation and Seulpture, Painting, Music and Prose as well Poetry can. be included in it. In brief, all those arts which are based on Mimesis can he included in it.

(VIII)

When he started writing poetry seriously two theories of 'Art' were in vogue. The first was 'Art. for Art's sake' and the second was, which attached more value to form tlitn to its social function. He,. opposes both these theories and prefers Functionalism. According to him the main purpose of poetry is to enrich human life so I hat man may successfully deal with the problems and impediments that crop tip in the course of life. According to him that 'Art' is true which fortifies the Ego and the 'Art' that fails to do so is worthless. Music without the content of volition, emotion and ideas is no better than dead fire.' declares the 'will' as the source or sentiments, feelings. emotions, ideas and ideal.

Plato and Aristotle both subscribed to the theory of Mimesis or Imitation. Plato thought that 'Art' was twice removed from reality and hence the poets were excluded from his 'Republic'. He was of tile opinion that poets told lies about the gods and the heroes and had a detrimental effect on the morals of young men. Like Iqbal, Plato condemns drama altogether. The poem 'theatre' in Rod of Moses, page 104, deprecates the drama oil account of its weakening effect on the Ego. lie agrees with Aristotle in approving poetry because creativeness is a divine quality. Me, however, disagrees with Aristotle and Plato in regarding it as mere imitation. For Iqbal 'Art' is not an imitation of Nature because nature blocks the way of creativeness. He wishes that 'Art' should be freed from the shackles of Nature.

Set your craftsmanship quite free
From Nature's chains that bind it tight
For men endowd with gift of craft
Aren't prey, of hunters need no fright.

(Rod of Moses, page 115)

(IX)

He wishes that a poet should rather improve upon Nature than imitate it

To God the angels did complain
'Gainst Iqbal and did say
That rude and insolent is he,
Nature lie paints much gay.

(Gabriel's Wing, page 102)

While rejecting the theory of Mimesis Iqbal seems inconsistent in his own doctrine when he advocates the development of divine attributes in human personality. He uses the word assimilation for this development. Opposed to those who hold the view of 'Art for Art's sake' are the Functionalists. They are divided into several groups and each group has its own views. The followers or Aristotle say that the purpose of 'Art' iss to afford pleasure by the purgation (Catharsis) of pent up feelings. Iqbal does not subscribe to this view of 'Art', He concedes the pleasure- giving qualities of Persian (classical) poetry but denounces it :

There is no doubt that Persian verse,
Like music of the lute and harp,
Is full of joy and has much charm,
Yet sword of Self it makes not sharp.

(Rod of Moses, page 127)

Iqbal belongs to the second group of Functionalists. This group is of view that Social Reform is the chief aim of 'Art' and Plato is the source of this type of'

(X)

Functionalism, which emphasises that 'Art' must serve ethical and instructional ends. Iqbal, though an avowed antagonist of Plato in his metaphysics, is his disciple in the theory of 'Art'. Poetry is meaningless without reference to life, man and society. Poetry keeps the field of life green and bestows everlasting life on humanity. The second aim of 'Art' is the making of men. The artist must create a yearning in the hearts of men for new ideals :

Devoid of Passion's roar
'I' can exist no more
What else can be this life
But Passion strong and strife

(Gabriel's Wing, page 36)

The third aim of art according to Iqbal is social progress. The poet is the 'eye' of the society. He sees the maladies or his community and interprets them for the sake of reform. Iqbal has criticised Mullahs, Pseudo Mystics, Leaders and Politicians in his poems :

Enough for me that I affirm
With tongue alone my faith. and creed
A thousand thanks for Mullah's claim
That he with heart avows, indeed.

(Gabriel's Wing, page 54)

The folk who showed the track
To stars, ere now, alack!
Now yearn to find a Guide
Who knows this desert wide.

(Gabriel's Wing. page 73)

(XI)

To Lover's glowing fire and flame
The mystic order has no claim
They don't discourse of aught
Save wonders by their elders wrought.

(Gabriel's Wing, page 45)

There is yet another important aspect of Iqbal's theory of art, namely Expressionism. Iqbal's contemporary, Croce, has given a new interpretation to this theory, which has in fact its origin in Plotinus

(i) that 'Art' is an activity, completely autonomous, and free from all considerations of- Ethics.

(ii) that the activity is distinct from the activity of the intellect.

(iii) that it consists in the upholding of the artist's personality and

(iv) that appreciation- is the re-living of the artist's experiences.

Iqbal is strongly opposed to the first part. He endorses the second part as far as intellect grasps reality only piecemeal, while intuition grasps reality in its wholeness. Regarding the remaining two parts, he is fully in agreement with Croce. It is clear that Iqbal's theory of 'Art' has more than one facet and each facet has its own significance. He is as much indebted to his predecessors as the coming generations will be indebted to him.

(XII)

As regards the opinion of the philosopher poet oil fine arts, one has to rely oil his present work. 'Rod of Moses'. There are many poems in this book which enshrine his thoughts oil Fine Arts As has already been pointed out, lie is opposed to the theory of Mimesis. He denounces dramatic performances in unequivocal terms

God save that alien Self
Seek shelter in your Shrine
The creed or idols shun,
Don't desecrate house divine.
Forgetfulness or Self
Imports the height of Art,
But with the loss of self
Both joy and warmth depart.

(Rod of Moses, page 104)

in Inother poem entitled 'Being', lie says that an 'Art' which fails to build up the self is quite useless

Alas ! such Art, verse and music of the flute
Are naught but source of much disgrace and shame.

(Rod of Moses, page 112)

The Pyramids of Egypt are one of the wonders of the world. The onlooker is amazed to see their grandeur : The grandeur of these Pyramids Puts lofty heavens to disgrace,

(XIII)

What hand did build, design and frame
They seem attired in lasting grace.

(Rod of Moses, page 115)

In, another poem, 'Creations of Art, he is much grieved to see the sad plight of 'Art' in India

You are a corpse and your Art
The leader of your funeral rite
In pitch dark room of the grave,
Or life, the fellow catches sight.

(Rod of Moses, page 116)

In another poem, 'The Painter' the poet expresses his feelings thus

I feel that Behzads of modern time
Have lost East's rapture sweet and joy sublime.

(Rod of Moses, page 133)

In the poem 'Craftsmen of India', the poet criticises the Indians and remarks that their writings are about sex only and they incite the lust of mankind for sex. Iqbal underscores the need of strife and struggle in attaining success in Art or Craft. He desires that 'Art' must reform and instruct Society. If it fails to fulfil this end, it is worthless. The poet has no sympathy for the art of dancing and feels that it leaves 'the palate athirst' and advises the Muslims to leave its twists and turns to the Franks. He believes that the poet is the creative descendant of the Prophets, and is expected to re-shape human societies and to save them from destruction.

(XIV)

I am much indebted to Professor Mazhar Mahmood Shirani, who has always encouraged me. Words are inadequate to thank Dr. Waheed Quraishi who kept on urging me to complete the translation of Zarb-i-Kalim. I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate Professor Mirza Mohammad Munawwar the new Director of the Academy.

Last but not least I am thankful to my son, Professor Anwar Hussain Syed for the help rendered by him in transcribing and proof-reading.

 

Syed Akbar Ali Shah1
Yakoob Street, Muslim Ganj,
Qila Sheikhupura.


1 Professor (Retd.) Syed Akbar Ali Shah, M.A. (English, Persian & Philosophy) died of heart failure on May 14, 1983, while the book was tinder process.



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