The world is void of feelings [whereas] my heart is brimful of them


Apart from a number of religious and historical personages of considerable weight and significance and of varying dimensions we come across in Iqbal’s poetry who evoke our admiration and provide him stimulus for rethinking on diverse issues there are quite a few others who form part of a fictional structure and serve as media for articulating his insights into life. Character creation amounts in all essentials to the process of distancing and objectivation and these fictional beings help Iqbal in envisioning of things. Not needing any external scaffolding they cannot yet be detached from the fictional structure in which they are infixed. The creative writer builds up his own imaginative and fictional world that runs parallel to the material world in which we live and move from moment to moment: the former is in fact well integrated and has its own characteristics and enjoys a degree of stability of its own. It need not be tethered to any spatiotemporal limits, for the shadows of space and time have not as yet begun to fall in it. Yazdan, hypothetically equivalent to Demiurge, the despotic controller of the Universe, is one such character, and by far overwhelming all others because of his centrality. He occurs in a number of contexts. in a sort of mythical poem, entitled,تسخیر فطرت  [Subjugation of Nature] in Payam-e-Mushriq we are confronted with him at the climactic point, perhaps because of Iqbal’s focusing on him all the diatribe that is inherent in the poem. The poem is centered on the fact of alienation or ostracism, the appeal for empathy addressed to the denizens of the phenomenal world draws a blank: in utter desperation the speaker turns to Yazdan, the Supreme Deity, and this is what it all comes to:

شرم بہ  حضرتِ یزداں گزشتم از مہ و مہر
کہ درجہانِ تو یک ذرہ یم آشنائم نیست
جہاں تہی زدل و مشتِ خاک من ہمہ دل
چمن خوش است ولے در خوب نوائم نیست

تبسّمے بہ لب اور سید ہیچ نگفت

Turning away from the moon and the sun, I went up to the Overlord

[Saying] in your world not a grain of sand is my confidant

The world is void of feelings [whereas] my heart is brimful of them

The garden is in good shape, but is not accordant to my melody He just smiled and uttered not a word.

The entire cosmos is by and large unresponsive and callously indifferent to any appeal to harmony and concord, for it seems to be given to anarchic individualism: the last line insinuates the apathy, the withering scorn and appalling distance and objectivity of the super power despite the speaker’s briefing him about his sad predicament. The poem bears indubitably existentialist overtones. Yazdan may be any shrewd and calculating overlord, impervious to any kind of softening, living in his own cocoon of self-delusive contentment, positively disinclined to share the anguish of the speaker and do anything to relieve it. Occasional references to Yazdan are interspersed in Iqbal’s poetry, for instance:

یزداں بہ کمند آورا ہمتِ مردانہ

O, manly courage, put the noose in Yazdan’s neck Further,

کہ یزداں دارودو شیطاں ندارد

مزی اندر جہانِ کور ذوقے

Do not consent to live in a trivial, insipid world

That contains Yazdan but is void of Satan

and there is this simple line

یا اپنا گریباں چاک، یادامنِ یزداں چاک

Either break your own collar-strip or that of Yazdan

The point at issue in these and sundry other lines in Iqbal is stressing the fact that the finite self or Ego need not lose itself in the Absolute but aim at developing and preserving its own identity: Iqbal is not for Singularity but Pluralism.

Another fictional character, Iblees, is very firmly and unambiguously sketched in and we meet him in varying and significant contexts: he is gifted with ‘enormous potentialities: his posturings and bombastic utterances make us hold our breath in doubt and dismay and they also offer us pause for reflection. A kind of primordiality is predicated of him as is predicated of Yazdan, too: he was once at the summit of the hierarchy of angels as traditionally conceived. He scoffs to his heart’s content at the timorousness of Adam in his succumbing, in spite of his being created in the Divine image, to the Omnipotence of God. Iblees is doubtless an emblem of evil that he externalizes for achieving his various objectives: revolt, insurgence and rigid and bigotted adherence to everything that contributes to the undoing and despoliation of man are his coveted targets. In the beginning he stubbornly refused to prostrate before Adam and declined to concede the superiority of man over all created beings. Iqbal’s admiration for Iblees is evoked by his undaunting self-assertion as against the vulnerability and lack of courage to take any risk on the part of Adam. Strong and invincible courage and timorousness are thus juxtaposed to each other. Iqbal dramatizes the rival demonstrations of Adam and lblees as opposition between meekness, docility and lack of self-assurance on the one hand and reckless courage, insolence and capability of plunging headlong into the vortex oil the other. Not that Iqbal is not aware of Iblees’s attitudinizings but he is any way impressed by his colourful and kaleidoscopic personality and his pertinacity in disobeying and consequently forfeiting his right to occupy an exalted place in the heavenly kingdom.

کھودئے انکار سے تو نے مقاماتِ بلند

You have lost the claim to heights of eminence by your saying ‘Nay’

It looks as if man, in spite of being the vicegerent of God on earth, cannot withstand the onslaught of Iblees. His role in the Iqbalean universe is wholly negative in the sense that he does not refrain from rationalizing his rebelliousness, his taking the risk to irk God and be damned irrevocably and for ever because of it. He is the prototype for all those who are prepared to make the plunge into the uncharted seas of trouble and affliction, to plan things independently, according to their own scale of valuation and to be crassly oblivious of all that is regarded as sacrosanct and inviolable. Iblees is more or less identical to or created after the Eve’s toad in Milton’s Paradise Lost who enjoys the unenviable privilege of wooing her seducer and becomes the initiator of evil. He succeeds in tempting Eve who is not capable of sound judgment and Satan makes capital out of this weakness of hers. Both in Milton and Iqbal Satan or lblees is the pivotal character in the enactment of the drama of temptation, responsible for unleashing the forces of evil that eventuates in man’s total undoing. In Iblees’s personality several complexes of thought and feeling cohere in order to give birth to the charismatic figure who leaves its imprint on the mind. In Bal-e-Jibreel, the two fictional characters, Jibreel and Iblees are engaged in brisk, vivacious and pungent interchange of words, queries and replies offered by both. What Jibreel, as much a fictional character as Iblees is primarily concerned with is revocation of Iblees’s gesture of stubbornness and consequent loss of his pre-eminence in the hierarchy of angels. Could it be reversed and was the possible alternative worth entertainment? The spatio-temporal world is aglow with the verve of excitement, zest and exuberance as against the frigidity of the Eternal and thereby provides initiative for significant achievement: the hub of life here is in sharp contrast to the passivity and inertia characterizing life there. The main point made by Iblees is that the mundane life emerged in all vivacity, colourfulness and particularism only as a consequence of abandoning the frozen perfection of Eternity and his descent into this world. Iblees’s claim to superiority rests on two counts: the fecundity, radiance and exhilaration of the material world on the one hand and the seed of vitalism implanted in man (a mere handful of dust, though) on the other have both emanated from the courage of insolence, a sort of refractoriness exhibited by him in the primordial order of things. What is very obvious and also no less interesting is the shift of scenario from the frozen religion of heaven to the hectic atmosphere of the earth and this provides ample scope for the unfolding of human personality in all its variety and multiplicity of dimensions. Jibreel’s naivety is supposed to be piqued by this troublesome and naughty query of Iblees:

کون طوفاں کے طمانچے کھا رہا ہے میں کہ تو

دیکھتا ہے تو فقط ساحل سے رزم خیر و شر

Lapped in the security of the sea-shore, you are witness (in deed) to the conflict of good and evil

Who is, you or I, exposed to the buffets of the storm?

The concluding lines of the poem, entitled:جریل و ابلیس  (Jibreel and Iblees) are followed, with knife-edged sharpness and lucidity of the query, as to who he is who has enlivened the Satanic episode with his life-blood and makes Yazdan annoyed and consternated:

قصئہ آدم کو رنگین کر گیا کس کا لہو

گر کبھی خلوت میسر ہو تو پوچھ اللہ سے

تو فقط! اللہ ہو، اللہ ہو، اللہ ہو!

میں ک ھٹکتا ہوں دلِ یزداں میں کانٹے کی طرح

If you ever enjoy privacy with God, ask Him

Who is he whose life-blood has been infused into the variegatec veins of Adam’s episode

Yazdan’s heart is pinched by me as if by a thorn’s prick You are only engaged in chanting He is God, He is God, He is God.

Jibreel, fictionalized and juxtaposed to Iblees, is a rather dim colourless and pitiably naive personality: Iblees, on the contrary, is both shrewd, self-assertive and knows how to make best use of his: armoury and at what specific point of time. We may as well uphold that whereas lblees is an emblem of Hellish torment and dismay, Jibreel symbolizes Paradisal bliss and sense of unbounded freedom and relaxation. What it all amounts to is the fact that whereas Jibreel is lacking in self-assertiveness and ambivalence of personality he is nevertheless an image of eternality and primordiality. With it is linked the notion that he represents the good that has been spared the chance of being entangled into and thus being tainted with evil. What is perhaps implied is that good, pure and unalloyed, and that has had no opportunity of being intermixed with evil has very little chance of survival in this world. Iqbal concedes that evil, as symbolized by Iblees is an incontrovertible dualism and is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. He, however, does not lay much store by uprooting it but transforming it through its juxtaposition with good and treating it as part of a whole: in Javaid Namah he puts it in his own idiom of speech thus:

زانکہ اُوگُم دراعماقِ دل است

کشتن ابلیس کارے مشکل است

کشتہ شمشیر قرانش کنی

خوش ترآں باشد کہ مسلمانش کنی

Suppression of evil is well-nigh difficult to accomplish

For it is deeply rooted in the depths of the human heart

Far better it is to Islamize it

Subdue it with the sword of Islam.

The viable preposition suggested by Iqbal amounts to this: not suppression or uprooting of evil but changing its potential through subjecting it to alchemy of God and incorporating it into the wider good-and-evil orbit. In one of the later poems, justly celeberated for reflecting Iqbal’s ultimate stance, entitled,  ابلیس کی مجلس شوریٰ (Iblees’s Assembly of Consultation) we come across a final glimpse of lblees. He interacts with his counsellors and associates, and they acquaint him with the contemporary situation in its manifold moral and political aspects and the predicament of the modern man who is confronted helplessly with the disintegration of that framework of values that probably sustained him in the past. The dilemma of man does not seem to be resolved and point the way in any positive direction. What is more alarming and unsettling is the economic and political set-up with all its compulsions and buttressed as it is by divergent and conflicting norms and ideologies, especially Capitalism verses Bolshevism, the former based on exploitation of the human labour power and denial of freedom and dignity of the actual producers and the latter one laying emphasis on regementation and thus blocking the way to creativity. lblees seems to be holding, vis-à-vis both these systems the reins in his hands, and indirectly dictating terms to them. On the premises of lblees both the systems, have led to the ruination of the human potential. The impression that lblees registers on the reader’s mind is that of a shrewd diplomat, of a person who is fully conscious of his powers, is well-versed in his strategy, and is cocksure that he can bring about dismantling of those systems that seem to be firmly entrenched in the present day milieu. He is also aware of the fact that the triumph of the October Russian Revolution will wreck the edifice of the Capitalistic system in all its essential traits because of the former’s emphasis on the creed of equalitarianism and the just distribution of wealth accruing from the state’s ownership of the sources of production. He foresees the eventual liquidation of the Capitalistic society because of its inherent contradiction and its denial of human equality, and subservience of the body-politic to the manoeuverings of a handful of people at the helm of affairs. He is also very well aware that neither Capitalism nor the socialistic system can bring about an adequate re-ordering of society at large because to neither of them is available that psychological and spiritual substratum that is needed for their proper implementation. It is very interesting to note that lblees is in no way over-awed by the imposing infrastructure needed for working out and enforcing either of the two alternative and mutually antagonistic systems. lblees scoffs at their tall claims of finality and self-sufficiency and refuses to entertain any kind of compromise with them, his anti-Bolshevistic stance is evidenced by the way in which he speaks disparagingly of their blustering thus:

یہ پریشاں روزگار آشفتہ مغز آشفتہ مو

کب ڈرا سکتے ہیں مجھ کو اشتراکی کوچہ گر

How can these Socialistic street-wranglers frighten me

These dazed, crack-brained, distracted babblers

And this despite the glowing tribute paid by him to Marx by calling him:

ہر قبا ہونے کو ہے اس کے جنوں سے تار تار

وہ یہودی فتنہ گروہ روح مزدک کا ظہور

That Jewish mischief-monger, the revelation of the spirit of Mazdak

Every gown is about to be tattered by his fit of madness.

lqbal, in his Development of Metaphysics in Persia calls Mazdak as ‘the remarkable Socialist of ancient Persia’. Iblees is, however, very uncanny in his apprehensions, and he betrays his forebodings thus:

جس کے خاکستر میں ہے ابتک شرار آرزو

ہے اگر مجھ کو خطرہ تو اس امت سے ہے

All my misgivings are engendered by that Community (of Believers)

Whose ashes have still the flame of ambition embedded in them.

And he closes with some amount of prescience and cocksureness, thus:

مزدکیت فتنئہ فرد انہیں اسلام ہے

جانتا ہے جس پہ روشن باطنِ ایام ہے

He who can prophesy times to come knows very well

Not Mazdakiat but Islam is the bum bear of the future

Iblees is gifted with a bi-focal vision: he can look before and after at a glance. In an enactment of dramatic gesturing and in spite of being an adversary of Jibreel and thus a partisan for evil he tentatively forecasts what is in store for the future generations:

حافظ ناموسِ زنن مرد آزما مرد آفریں

الحذر آئین پیغمبر سے سو بارر الحذر

نے کوئی فغور و خاقاں نے فقیر رہ نشیں

موت کا پیغام ہر نوعِ غلامی کے لئے

منعموں کو مال و دولت کا بناتا ہے امین

کرتا ہے دولت کو ہر آلودگی سے پاک و صاف

بادشاہوں کی نہیں، اللہ کی ہے یہ زمیڈ

اس سے بڑھ کر اور کیا فکر و عمل کا انقلاب

یہ کتاب اللہ کی تاویلات میں الجھا رہے

ہے یہی بہتر الہیات میں الجھا رہے

Save us hundreds of time from Muhammad’s creed

It safeguards women’s chastity, tests man and also moulds them

It holds Damocles’ sword for all forms of slavery

Neither any absolute monarch, nor any way-side dweller is immune from it

It cleanses all forms of wealth from any pollution

It enjoins the wealthy to safeguard the wealth

What else could revolution in thought and action mean

(But this) that wealth belongs not to king and emperor but to Allah (God)

Perchance it suits him at present to be involved in (subtleties of) Scholasticism

let him be engaged (or absorbed) in hair splitting interpretations of the Scripture

After specifying some of the major premises of Islamic scholasticism Iblees wonders if preoccupation with these may not suffice, and arrives at the conclusion that he may continue to be immersed in the world of speculation rather than that of active life.

تابساط زندگی میں اس کے سب مہرے ہوں مات

تم اسے بیگانہ رکھو عالم کردار سے

جو چھپادے اس کی آنکھوں سے تماشائے حیات

ہے وہی شعرو تصوف اس کے حق میں خوب تر

You keep him estranged from the sphere of action

So that all his moves on the stage of life are bedevilled

Only that variety of poetry and mysticism suits him

That may make him swerve from the spectacle of life

The climax necessitates a moment of reflection and also be-trays a sense of anguish:

ہے حقیقت جس کے دیں کی احتساب کائنات

ہر نفس ڈرتا ہوں اس امت کی بیداری سے میں  

Every moment I feel apprehension of rejuvenation of that Community

The authenticity of whose faith consists in the exploration of the (created) world

Khizr, another pivotal, fictional character, whose origin may be traced to the Quranic narrative, is introduced to us in this exquisite line:

جس کی پیری میں ہے مانند سحر رنگِ شباب

One whose old age is irradiated with colour of youthfulness like that of morning breeze

and he is also referred to as one:

کہ موسی بھی ہے تیرے سامنے حیرت خروش

Even Moses’s knowledge is eclipsed (in width) by yours

and these lines constitute a sort of exordium. They also bring home to us the salient features of Khizr’s personality and sapience or wisdom that are evidenced by the poem conspicuously. The exordium bears, in its linguistic finesse, or what the Polish novelist Joseph Conrad characterizes as the plasticity of sculpture, the nebulousness of the context out of which Khizr emerges as an enigmatic figure is very gripping, indeed. He is presented as a man of prescience, poised and unruffled, who attempts to unravel to the interlocutor the details of the dilemma with which man in the contemporary world is faced: specific queries are made regarding State and sovereignty, capital and labour and the decadent and tottering world of Islam with a view to eliciting information about some of the tricky and baffling problems of life from one who is preternaturally knowledgeable. The exordium is followed in hot haste by Khizr enlightening the speaker in respect of his own identity, his studied and splendid isolation from the company of men, thus creating a haven of refuge for himself and conscientiously developing the sort of sapience that is integral to his personality. Before engaging himself with explication and elucidation of the major issues of the contemporary life proposed by the interlocutor, Khizr characteristically and in the most persuasive manner dwells in the kaleidoscopic nature of life itself thus:

ہے کبھی جاں اور کبھی تسلیم جاں ہے زندگی

برتر از اندیشہ سود و زیاں ہے زندگی

جاوداں، پہیم دواں ہر دم جواں ہے زندگی

تو اسے پیمانہٴ امروز و فردا سے نہ ناپ

Life transcends all speculation about profit and loss

Sometimes one clings to life, at others succumbs to it.

Do not measure life in terms of interchange of today and tomorrow

It endures, and still endures, life flourishes for ever.

It may not be amiss to add that though later in the poem, in exposition of matters pertaining to the State, Capital and Labour vis-à-vis the vision of the destiny of the Islamic world vouchsafed to us, Khizr appears to be only a medium, yet his emergence in the role of a wise and benevolent counsellor and his observations on a fully developed consciousness save the poem from being a mere jejune narrative. He leaves upon us the imprint of a contemplative mind who is capable of envisioning things and putting them in the proper perspective.

Attention has occasionally been drawn to the fact that Dante’s Divina Commedia was modelled upon the accounts of and commentaries on Prophet Mohammad’s ascension to Heaven, passing through different heavenly abodes and ending with his return to Earth. Iqbal’s Javaid Namah in Persian also records memories of his sojourn to the different planets and here he is accompanied with the infallible fictional guide, Zinda Rood (paralleled with Dante’s Virgil). In this sojourn through the planets Iqbal meets a number of religious, historical and literary personages and his interaction with them opens a wide vista of speculation that would have remained unveiled. Zinda Rood may as well be paid attention to as lqbal’s  perspectivism is brought home to us in a tangential way. Iqbal’s assessment of a wide range of personages apropos of their ideologies and value systems is communicated sometimes through suggestiveness and sometimes through explicit comments. By and large Zinda Rood is a co-ordinate of the great sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi and he, too, is a hovering presence all along. Iqbal’s Javaid Namah belongs to the literary genre, Vision literature, and Zinda Rood is the axis round which the narrative moves are facts that ought to be kept spotlit in mind all along. He is the primary medium created by the poet for dramatizing his exploration of space and for mediating his valuation of those personages who contributed significantly to the corpus of knowledge in the manifold spheres of life. There is no denying the fact that sometimes a sort of abstractionism pervades the poem and sometimes even bald and unadorned statements also find their place in it and that detracts from its overall superb literary excellence and worth. But the juxtaposition of varying states of mind, the ambivalence of the poet’s attitudes and building up of contrary perspectives contribute immensely to its validity of a work of art. Figures, once walking up and down the corridors of history but wiped off by the dust of oblivion, crop up here and there and offer illumination to the distracted minds of the modern world. One of the most impressive fragments of the poem is the colloquy between Zinda Rood and the celebrated mystic Hallaj (the ostensible symbol of ecstatic love and one who proclaimed having completely identified himself with the Absolute), regarding the august personality of the Prophet. Three such couplets that contain the quintessence of the glorious tribute paid to him read thus:

خویش را خود عبدہ فرمودہ است

پیشِ تو گتی جبیں فرسودہ است

عبدہ جز سرّ لا الہ نیست

کس زسرِّ عبدہ آگاہ نیست

عبدہ راز درونِ کائنات است

عبدہ چند و چگونِ کائنات

The earth lies prostrated before him

He calls himself (His) bondsman

Who is he who is not aware of the secret of the bondsman

His bondsman is none else than one who knows the ritual of ‘none save God’

His bondsman is the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the world,

His bondsman is the innermost secret of the world

Zinda Rood may, in a manner of speaking, be identified with Tiresias in T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, The Waste Land who looks before and after and is cognizant of man’s secrets. He is a character who not only enjoys a semblance of stability and permanence as a self-contained identity but is largely responsible for man’s struggle to achieve escape from the fleeting and the transitory into a realm where these are not allowed any foothold: he always keeps a vigilant eye on the flux to which man’s life is anyway subservient.

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