He borrowed radiance from the star, the heart-wound from the moon


Evocation of an archetypal or mythical world – ahistorical and unbounded by any limits of Time and Space – is a fascinating aspect of Iqbal’s poetry: one that has perhaps been inadvertently, but, nonetheless, sadly overlooked because of the common reader’s preoccupation with the more exalted and conceptualized world in which he ordinarily lives though the former’s fugitive glimpses are caught every now and then. Iqbal was, indeed, attracted and deeply impressed by historical personages like Nadir Shah Abdali, Tipu Sultan, Napoleon, Mussolini, Lenin, Shah Hamadan and has also created fictional or quasi-fictional characters like Khizr, Iblees, Jibreel, Yazdan, Zinda Rood and Zarwan. He has also envisioned states of being and existence that have no foothold in any concrete and palpable world. And yet, nonetheless, they hover over the edges of life, live from moment to moment in our consciousness and dilute occasionally the somberness and rigidity or intractability of the mundane world we inhabit. It is co-existent though partially and intermittently with the world of men and things: it is the construct of the mythopoeic imagination and is integral to man’s creativity. Iqbal was fully sensitive to the compulsions of the environing world and fully realized the requirements of the historical milieu and yet he also felt tempted from time to time to disengage himself from it and live in the world of phantasy to breathe in it freely and expansively. These two discrete universes, the realistic and the mythical , seem to run parallel to each other and absorb our attention: we are in a way required to keep alert and make our responses flexible. Such an archetypal world and the beings that freely move in it are flung up when the creative intellect is at the tips of the senses and the poet, in Shakespeare’s luminous and suggestive phrase, is seen ‘in fine frenzy rolling’, when he is in no sense tethered to the boundaries of Time and Space. There are states of heightened emotionality, complexes of moods and variations of inward life that are not commensurate with ordinary linguistic usage and cannot be mediated through the normal categories of speech. The creation of a specific fictional structure is, therefore, necessitated: it is not mere linguistic finesse but the feel of a definite texture, unwoven by the inner impulsion, that constitutes this peculiar and unidentifiable sort of matrix.

The salient feature of Iqbal’s creative process is the evocation of a historical perspective: the building up of a world that existed prior to our being subservient to the categories of Time and Space. In a rather neglected (owing to our lack of sensitiveness] though very significant poem, entitled محبت [Love] in Bang-e-Dara Iqbal vividly isolates components of this eternal and dynamic incentive in all human relationships and concerns. For the Persian poet Rumi, as no less for Iqbal, too, love connotes not merely physical passion shared by men and women [Iqbal is not very much interested in that] but it is primarily equivalent to a sort of creative urge and propelling force operative at all strata of the physical world. Where does it emanate from? When and how did it spring forth with other similar creative promptings? Iqbal conceives of a peculiar sort of conditioning that was needed for its emergence: some alchemist in the primordial world was presumably responsible for getting hold of a recipe that was likely to be more efficacious than the utterance of a pseudo-divine name:

چھپے گی کیا کوئی شے بارگاہِ حق کے محرم سے

پھرایا فکرِ اجزانے اسے میدان ا مکان میں

اڑائی تیرگی تھوڑی سی شب کی زلف برہم سے

چمک تارے سے مانگی چاند سے داغ جگر مانگا

حرارت لی تفس ہائے مسیحِ مریم سے

تڑپ بجلی سے پائی، حور سے پاکیزگی پائی

ملک سے عاجزی، افتادگی تقدیر شبنم سے

ذرا سی پھر ربوبیت سے شان بےنیازی لی

مرکب نے محبت نام پایا عرش اعظم سے

پھر ان اجزا کو گھولا چشمہٴ حیواں کے پانی میں

Thorough search for components made him explore the area of possibility

Nothing can be concealed from the devotee of the Divine Sanctum of Beauty

He borrowed radiance from the star, the heart-wound from the moon

Took a bit of darkness from the scattered hair-splash of night

He borrowed turbulence from the thunder and purity from the ‘houri’

He took warmth from the breathings of Christ, the son of Mary

Also took a bit of unconcern from the Divine sustainer

Humility from the angel and prostration from the dew-drop

Then he mixed up these elements in the Divine creative spring

This distillation came to be known as love by occupants of the highest pedestal. This is how the potency of love was brought into being by a sort of alchemical process. It may be of some interest to note that the employment of alchemical imagery, under the wide-spread influence of Paracelsus, is a much talked-of theme in contemporary discourses in Elizabethan England. Iqbal has very intriguingly surmised about the salience of this powerful motif in human concerns and relationships though no earlier Urdu or Persian poet had ever evinced such an interest in it. Mention may also legitimately be made of a short poem سیر فلک [Journeying through the Heavens] exordium to which is presented in a very attractive way thus:

آسماں پر ہوا گذر میرا

تھا تخیل جو ہم سفر میرا

جاننے والا چرخ پر میرا

اڑا جاتا تھا اور نہ تھا کوئی

راز سر بستہ تھا سفر میرا

تارے حیرت سے دیکھتے تھے مجھے

اس پرانے نظام سے نکلا

حلقہٴ صبح و شام سے نکلا

As imagination was my fellow-traveller

I happened to traverse through Heaven

I was bent upon [my] flight and no one

Was my confidant in the skies

The stars looked askance at me

My flight was just an enigma

I travelled beyond the confines of day and night

Beyond the limits of this [known] domain

All this sounds pretty ambiguous [ambiguity is one of the modes of poetic creation] and intriguing, and further on we are landed in region covered by layer-on-layer of mystery:

ایک تاریک خانہ سردو خموش

دور جنت سے آنکھ نے دیکھا

اس کی تاریکی میں سے دوش بدوش

طالع قیس و گیسوے لیلٰی

کرہٴ ز مہر یر ہو روپوش

خنک ایسا کہ جس سے شرما کر

حیرت انگیز تھا جواب سروش

میں نے پوچھی جو کیفیت اس کی

نور سے نار سے تہی آغوش

یہ مقام خنک جہنم ہے

At a distance from Heaven was visible to the eye

A frozen region, frozen and quiet

The fortune of Qais and Laila’s hair

Were hand and glove with its [expansive] darkness

It was so cold, that overcome by shame

This cold region may withdraw into itself

As I queried about its reality

Angel’s reply was [just] awe-inspiring

This cold region is indistinguishable from Hell

Void of both fire and radiance

The specification of this region stands out for our contemplation: the state of being frozen and lacking in both fire and radiance, and over and above all this its locale is pretty difficult to determine. This fact of anonymity and indeterminacy is what provokes our curiosity and makes us believe that geographical boundaries cannot be predicated of it as these do not apply to a mythical order of things.

In a highly provocative poem entitled تسخیر فطرت [Subjugation of Nature] in Payame Mushriq Iqbal visualizes, at the mid-point, perhaps, between Infinitude and the Finite, emergence of some sort of identity, apparently unknown and unidentifiable and this is termed میلادِ آدم  [birth of the primordial man] thus:

حسن لرزید کہ صاحب نظرے پیدا شد

نعرہ زد عشق کہ خونیں جگرے پیدا شد

خود گرے خود شکنے، خود نگرے پیدا شد

فطرت آشفت کہ درخاکِ جہاں مجبور

حزراے پردہ گیاں پردہ درے پیدا شد

خبرے رفت زگردوں بہ شبستانِ ازل

چشم واکردو جہانِ دگرے پیدا شد

آرزوئے بے خبراز خویش بہ آغوش حیات

تامرا ازیں گنبد دیرینہ درے پیدا شد

زندگی فت کہ در خاک تپیدم ہمہ عمر

Love [or Ecstasy] screamed at the emergence of a wounded heart

Beauty was taken aback by one [possessed] of deep perceptiveness

Nature was struck dumb at the appearance in the domain of helplessness [or necessity]

Of one whose image is self-begotten, self-destroying and self-perceiving

Word travelled [passed] from Heaven to Infinitude

Take care, 0 [you] Self-involved, of one, who is the teaser of all veils

Desire, unmindful of itself, wrapped in the bosom of the created world

Opened its eye and saw a new world swim into its ken

Life avowed a sort of intensity it experienced all along

Till a new world opened within its earlier orbit.

This is how existence emerged, in mythical terms, out of nothingness, as a sort of gamble, and as a sequel to the fascinating exordium, is enunciated in an ecstatic, breath-taking gesture of exultation thus:

دلِ کوہ ودشت و دریا بدم گداز کردن

چہ خوش است زندگی راہر سوزوساز کردن

رہِ آسماں نورون بہ ستارہ راز کردن

زقفس درے کشادن بہ فضائے گلستانے

نظرِ ادا شناسے بحریم راز ک ردن

بہ گداز ہائے پنہاں بہ نیاز ہائے پیدا

گہے خارنیش زن راز گل امتیاز کردن

گہے جز نہ دیدن بہ ہجوم لالہٴ زارے

بہ گماں دہم یقین را کہ شہیدِ آرزویم

ہمہ سوزے نا تمامم ہمہ دردِ جستجویم

How pleasant it is to experience all excitement in life

To reduce the life of all mountain, hill and river to pure sensation

To open the door on to the atmosphere of the garden from within the prison-hole

To journey through the sky to whisper to the star

Through hidden interchange of words and open interaction suffussed with emotion

To peer through the experiential eye within the Divine Sanctum

Sometimes to perceive nothing except One in the midst of the variegated mass

And sometimes to distinguish between pricking thorn and the flower

I am all excitement, my whole self feels the sting of desire

I tend to speculate that I am a martyr of quest.

All these couplets throb with a prophetic tone and bear evidence to the fact that the poet’s vision ranges through a wide spectrum of possibilities. One can in no way identify any specific character or action or chain of events, only a voice seems to resound through the corridors of Existence. It is a specific type of consciousness that has been exteriorized and allowed to function in an ahistorical context, and it is also the fact of desire, quest and exploration that is presented here in all its concrescence.

In a celebrated poem; entitled  تنہائی(Loneliness) man encounters various elemental forces and seeks empathy from them in order that the intensity of pain he is experiencing because of his predicament may be relieved: these powers may be particularized as the sea, the sun, the moon, the skies and the mountains. They, however, turn a deaf ear to all his pleading. The speaker in this frigid and icy-cold atmosphere is reduced to a pitiable figure as he fails to receive any response to his appeal for fellowship. Having failed in registering any. impact on those who constitute the surrounding milieu he desperately turns at long last to the Deity who is supposed to govern this universe — equivalent to William Blake’s Jehovah and he addresses him in a crestfallen and somber way thus:

کہ در جہانِ تو یک ذرہ آشنائم نیست

شدم بہ حضرتِ یزداں گزشتم از مہ و مہر

چمن خوشاست ولے درخورِ نوائیم نیست

جہان تہی زدل و مشتِ خاکِ من ہمہ دل

تبسّمے بہ لبِ اور سیدوہیچ نگفت

Having traveled through the spheres of Sun and Moon, I went up to the Deity

(Saying) in your universe, not a single particle is my confidant

The world is all emotionless while the particles of my being constitute a feeling heart

The garden is fair-looking but not responsive to my complaint A smile passed over his lips but he uttered not a word.

In this shadow-play, arranged with meticulous care, characters, who are no more than marionettes seem to move quietly across the stage, sniffing with a sort of contremely, at the interlocutor. With callous unconcern and are only bemused by his complaint. The speaker is afflicted with a sense of alienation that is eating into his vitals but he is unable to make any impact because of the stoniness that is markedly emblematic of them. More than the speaker, the characters he, apostrophizes contribute in a nonchalant way to the deepening gloom that continues to be descending on him. The characters look so spell-bound by the Omnipotent Deity that they can hardly make any gesture for communion. No appeal, however, touching it be, can break the apathy and the supine cold-bloodedness exhibited by them.

A highly sensitized poem, included in Payam-e-Mushriq is entitled شبنم (Dew-drop) for which the perspective is provided by Iqbal’s mythical bias and in which only two character?  شبنم (flower) play pivotal roles. In fact the گُل Dew-drop has been assigned the main task of oration, and the flower, belonging to the primordial order, is emblematic of the phenomenal world. The axis on which the narrative or more precisely the self-revelation of the two characters turns is the juxtaposition of the two motifs: ascent and descent. The Dew-drop who virtually belongs to the skies has had, for indecipherable reasons, to descend into the world of matter but will in no way remain tethered to it. In her descent, she is obviously encountered by the flower and persuades him towards ascent. But before that crucial moment arrives she rejects outright the invitation extended to her by the occupants of the primordial world:

برخودزن و بابحرِ پرآشوب بیامیز

Strike into thyself and get drenched into the turbulent sea

This connotes renunciation of Identity or Ego in these words:

آں بادہ کہ از خویش ربایدنچشیدم

من عیشِ ہم آغوش دریانہ خریدم

I didn’t bid any stake for assimilation with the river

I didn’t taste that wine cup that isolates one from one’self.

This puts emphasis on the need for scrupulously cultivating and jealously guarding oneself against encroachment on one’s identity that may lead to its dissolution. And yet, nevertheless, attention is drawn to the desirability of God-like self-diremption, of generating the courage to dissociate oneself from the unity of things that existed in the beginning:

بزمے شیرازہٴ جدائی است

گفتم کہ چمن رزم حیاتِ ہمہ جائی است

I said that the Garden (smacks) of the arena of conflict in all its multiplicity

It is a congregation the essence of which lies in having a taste of separation.

In separation, it is implied, are contained the seeds of self-manifestation: this is a common feature of life shared alike by both the Dew-drop and the Flower.

از ذوقِ نمو است دمیدی کہ چکیدی

من از فلک افتادہ تو از خاک دمیدی

I have had a descent from Heaven, and you sprouted from the Earth

Descent and sprouting are alike and an index (or medium) of self-manifestation.

According to lqbal (and he holds this view in common with great thinkers and poets, for instance, Hegel and Milton) even God was committed to the gesture of self-diremption, as a consequence of which the universe came into being in which He could catch His own glimpse refracted from the primeval light. Separation does cause some moment of pain and anguish and it is integral to the whole process and may prove conducive ultimately to re-ascent:

خار است ولیکن زندیمان نگار است

در پیراہن گل شاہد سوزنِ خار است

In the dress of the beloved flower can be felt the prick of the thorn

This thorn, nevertheless, betokens the gift bestowed by the beloved’s messengers. Separation is indeed, something painful and it undoubtedly hurts, but it may also stimulate and serve as a prelude to ascent: hence the Dew-drop’s apostrophe to the Flower ends up with this precise injunction:

بالالہٴ خورشید جہاں تاب نظر باز

برخیز و دل از صحبت دیرینہ بپرواز

با اہل نظر ساز

داری سِرِ پرواز

چوں من فبہ فلک تازداری سِر پرواز

Stand up and set your heart on the erstwhile congregation

Set your eye on the refulgent Sun

Come to terms with the visionary

Travel like me upto the Heavens

Dare you undertake a flight?

it is thus apparent that the enactment of Being, the cycle of ascent-descent-ascent is visualized by the poet against the back-drop of an archetypal world: separation and manifestation both integral to it are attended upon by pain and pleasure and are interwoven into the texture of life. So are consciousness and understanding of things at different levels, and they vary in depth and intensity. What is particularly noticeable in this poem is that its central theme has been communicated through precise and luminous images: awareness of sense of both, life in the archetypal and phenomenal world, is mediated with a sort of immediacy and concrescence. This involves neither any rigidity or finality of verdict nor is any judgment passed in concepts and logical categories: it is the feel of the world and the ambiguity of expression that counts most.

One is intriguingly struck by a close and unmistakable similarity between Iqbal’s poem, entitled شبنم  (Drop of Dew) and the seventeenth century British poet Andrew Marvell’s poem, On A Drop of Dew: in the latter, as in the former, too, the drop of dew is symbolic of the Soul involved in the ritual of descent and re-ascent, the falling off from the realm of pure intelligence into hyle betokens sin and corruption but the dew is exalted by the Sun after it has had a brief and troubled existence here below. At the same time it wishes to be accommodated to the natural world (as in Iqbal, too): accommodation is perhaps, One of the prerequisites for the act of emanation and yet, in spite of being imprisoned in the sepulchre of the body, or may be precisely because of that, the soul is all the time looking back like an analogous object of Nature (cf. William Blake’s Ah! Sunflower) towards Eternity from where it had originated in the beginning of things:

But gazing back upon the skies

Shines with a mournful light.

The ‘skies’ obviously points in the direction of Nous and the ache of separation from the primordial source of origin is hinted at in ‘mournful light’. The soul, though situated at the apex of the Plotinian hierarchy, is yet the emanation of the Divine essence. It has two divergent modes of manifestation: the inner soul looks up and faces the Nous, and the other tending downwards, projects its own image- the world of nature on the sensible universe. One of the implied but fundamental terms for distress over sojourn in the spatio-temporal world is the constant and abiding fear of contamination: it is tantamount to the possible loss of that radiance that is associated with the intelligential act. The soul is not at home in the mundane surroundings: it feels on the contrary, disconcerted and fidgety and avoids being enmeshed into it. According to both Plato and Orpheus the soul is punished through its union with the body, and its pristine purity is thereby shadowed and discoloured.

One of the glimpses of the primordial existence is offered us in the poem, entitled فرشتے آدم کو جنت سے رخصت کرتے ہیں(Angels bid farewell to Adam on his quitting Paradise) and its sequel  روحِ ارضی آدم کااستقبال کرتی ہے(The Soul of the Earth welcomes Adam) in Bal-e-Jibreel. The primordial man has been purportedly and justifiably characterized as partaking a sort of benignity:

تری سرشت میں ہے کوکبی و مہتابی

You are quintessentially compounded of the starry (celestial) elements

It is further elaborated with an eye on cosmic purposiveness

کہ تری ساز کی فطرت میں ہے مضرابی

تری نوا سے ہے بے پردہ زندگی کا ضمیر

The inwardness of life is unveiled by your symphony

For your musical instrument has been geared and tuned up by Nature

This was the state of being before the poison of the canker of the Fall entered its bosom, despoiled it, so to say, of all resonance and purity. As the primordial man slipped down into the terrestrial world, from the celestial one, the soul asks him to look around and absorb the magic and the wonder of it within himself:

مشرق سے ابھرتے ہوئے سورج کوذرا دیکھ

کھول آنکھ، زمیں دیکھ، فلک دیکھ، فضا دیکھ

ایاّم جدائی کے ستم دیکھ، جفا دیکھ

اس جلوہٴے پردہ کو پردوں میں چھپا دیکھ

بے تاب نہ ہو، معرکہٴ بیم ورجا دیکھ

Open your eyes, look at the earth, the sky, and the whole environing veil

Look for a moment at the sun rising from the East

Look at the mystery of existence, wrapped up fold-within-fold

Take note of the affliction and agony of the days of separation

Do not lose heart (be level-headed) and be vigilant of the conflict of fear and hope.

In the last distich is contained the suggestion that one should not feel depressed or frustrated by the preponderance of evil in the scheme of things, for the prospect of hope, however, dim, hazy and indistinct cannot be ruled out altogether. Man epitomizes in his nature both good and evil and he has a chance, though slender and precarious it be, of overcoming the antagonistic forces by means of steady self-assertiveness. The climactic portion of the poem is preceded by these lines:

آباد ہے اک تازہ جہاں تیرے ہنر میں

خورشیدِ جہاں تاب کی ضوتیرے شرر میں

جنت تری پنہاں ہے ترے خونِ جگر میں

جچتے نہیں بخشے ہوءے فردوس نظر میں

اے پیکرِ گل کوشش پیہمم کی جزا دیکھ

The radiance of the refulgent Sun is contained in your spark

A unique world is hidden in your artifice

The worlds conferred gratis are not much worth

Your paradise is entrapped in your life-blood

O ye blossoming flower take cognizance of the reward of your incessant struggle.

Like the flower in the poem, entitled شبنم (Dew-Drop) in Payam-e-Mushriq discussed in some detail earlier, here the blossoming flower is an emblem of the man who has only lately made his debut in the terrestrial world: he has been endowed with the potentiality of formalizing the chaos of experiential reality into a coherent and ordered whole. What the primordial man was lacking in was, perhaps, the sense of Egohood, a sort of highly developed and organized I-ness, with all its positive implications and the range of possibilities ancillary to it. His potencies were the given data, his sensitiveness was acute and his responsiveness to the organic rhythms of life was fully intact, only he was not .yet in a position to focus his drives and impulsions on a rationally directed purposiveness: intellectus was there, the ratio was to emerge with the passage of time. This was exactly what was pointed out in the beginning: the mythical or archetypal world was not bounded by the categories of time and space.

Mythic configurations, whether objectified in terms of entities in the pervasive atmosphere, cannot be linked to ordinary determinations: the only scale of reference is the preceding imaginative pattern employed for their embodiment. They partake of both immediacy and concrescence at the same time. The comprehensiveness of Iqbal’s poetic vision with the wide range of his linguistic variations are brought out in the narrative poems, his experiment in ‘vision literature’ apropos of .Javaid Namah, his Persian and Urdu ghazal poems and also a handful of elegiac poems that are fed on both emotional exuberance and the alchemy of poetic resources. The mythic configurations that occupy a conspicuous place in his poetry prove conclusively that he could very well create structures of context in which archetypal characters move without any self-consciousness. They make us realize the shape of things man was familiar with before he managed to construct any conceptual framework or learn to indulge in emotive vocabulary or rhetorical flourishing.

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