For Iqbal and Blake, as for the Russian existentialist thinker, Nicholas Berdyaev, too, Reality has a spiritual basis.


Among those Western-thinkers and poets by whom Iqbal was palpably and directly influenced no mention is made of the celebrated British poet, William Blake: he is again not one among those few poets regarding whom he has communicated his response with great incisiveness and lucidity, briefly though, sometimes in just a flash of insight and in a single couplet. Apropos of the inspiration drawn from the British poets he specifically mentions Wordsworth in his personal diary, Stray Thoughts and towards the very end of the Persian collection پیام مشرق  Payam-e-Mashriq he speaks with conciseness about his response to some of them. No less intriguing is the fact that his intellectual affinities vis-à-vis themes and poetic motifs with Blake and the distinction between the two of them in emphasis (that reinforces the affinities all the more) is not easily traceable in any particular context. There is hardly any evidence to the fact that Iqbal acquainted himself, at any stage of his poetic evolution, with the complex and bewildering structure of Blake’s poetry and that variety of vision by which his mythic configurations are animated and sustained. Alongside this we are struck by the undoubted reflection of some of the components of existential experience in Iqbal’s poetry, though he doesn’t mention, either explicitly or by indirection, any existentialist thinker, and this despite the fact that some of them happened to be his near-contemporaries„ and Iqbal must have had an inkling of their basic postulates and life-attitudes. Anyway one ought to distinguish between two things: direct influence and parallelisms. To highlight the former one has to fall back on concrete evidence of the printed page that bears upon it the imprint of authenticity. Parallelisms may either be a matter of sheer chance or emerge from the intellectual and emotional like-mindedness of the two literary figures. Vis-à-vis Iqbal the latter is what we are confronted with in a valid and convincing evaluation.

For Iqbal and Blake, as for the Russian existentialist thinker, Nicholas Berdyaev, too, Reality has a spiritual basis. Outlining the various stages of his intellectual growth in his autobiography, Dream and Reality (New York, 1955) Berdyaev stresses man’s sense of alienation in the context of contemporary living. All three of them concur on the priority of the subject as against the object, the primacy of Intuition over Reason as inlets of knowledge, the precedence of Essence over Existence, preference of particularism and individualism as against generalities and desirability of co-ordination between the opposites. Iqbal and Blake seem to agree that no adequate approach to the Real is possible merely on the basis of materialistic premises. The two legitimate sources of knowledge adumbrated by Iqbal in the Reconstruction Lectures are history and Nature. Blake equates the emergence of the phenomenal world with the creation of Satan, and calls the former ‘this vegetable glass’, and Iqbal seems to speak in the same vein: ‘what we call Nature or the not-self is only a fleeting moment in the life of God’. Blake categorically rejects the thesis that any species of art is subservient to the physical matrix and this seems to conform with his contention that man is essentially a spiritual substance that is tethered to a decaying environment. In the poem اہرام مصر (Pyramids of Egypt) in Zerb-e-Kaleem Iqbal makes short-shrift of materialism and makes a fervent plea for setting art free from the thraldom of Nature. In this regard Iqbal and Blake stand poles apart from the Romantic poet Wordsworth whose major poetic output rests on the complex interactions between man and Nature in subterranean ways. One necessary implication of treating Nature as the primary source of Knowledge is to put heavy reliance on percepts. Neither Iqbal nor Blake puts any premium on sensory reactions: they emphasize the supra-sensible sources of knowledge, like intuition and imagination as they are revelatory of greater marvels. Blake’s poetry reflects the revolt registered against the intellectual premises evolved in the eighteenth century England by Newtonian physics and Lockean epistemology and for which considerable ground-work had been done in the seventeenth century by Bacon’s Inductive method. Here the whole edifice of knowledge seems to rest on the law of Causality and on the presupposed authenticity of the initial units of perception that fit into a sort of stringent mechanism. Newtonian physics may indirectly be traced to the seventeenth century philosopher, Hobbes, who believed in the reality of only two components of the universe, Matter and Motion, to Lockean epistemology which rests on the data provided by those perceptions that arise from the impingement of the senses on external objects. These impressions processed and modified at different stages, as if mechanically acquire ultimately the status of categories and concepts that provide the structural foundation of knowledge. Iqbal’s virulent attack on twentieth century materialism born of the culmination of scientism is not dissimilar to that of Nicholas Berdyaev, and remind us of both T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence who were unambiguous in their denunciation of the contemporary situation in the West. All these thinkers and creative artists reject materialism and the bane of the machine age. Iqbal declares explicitly and in a tone of finality:

احساس مروت کو کچل دیتے ہیں آلات

ہے دل کے لئے موت مشینوں کی حکومت

The reign of the machines is death for the life of emotions Sense of comradeship is suppressed by scientific instruments

Both for Eliot and Lawrence the deluge of materialism has eroded

sense of the sacred as also creativity, freedom and the ecstatic acceptance of life that are after all the most prized and coveted motivations.

The primary focus in Iqbal’s poetry and in Blake’s too, is however, consciousness: the material conditions neither initiate it nor are they responsible for its burgeoning: they undergo variations because of being subjected to it. This view-point is sharply at variance with the Marxist stance: consciousness is in a way linked to time as is borne out in Javaid Namah. In the perspective of bearing witness needed for determining the Divine pattern three forms of Consciousness have been identified thus:

خویشتن را دیدن بہ نور خویشتن

شاہد اول شعور خویشتن

خویشتن را دیدن بہ نورِ دیگرے

شاہد ثانی شعورے دیگرے

خویشتن را دیدن بہ نورِ ذاتِ حق

شاہد ثالث شعور ذاتِ حق

First witness is self-consciousness

Perceiving one’s self in the light offered by it

Second witness is the consciousness of the other

Perceiving one’s self in the light of the other

Third witness is consciousness of God’s identity

Perceiving one’s self in the light of God.

In Blake’s short, tantalizing poem, entitled The Fly the word ‘thought’ is synonymous with self-consciousness or Identity and its actualization depends upon the steady growth of consciousness and not on the hypothesis of Being or non-Being. Generally speaking consciousness may be equated with a sort of creative potency and it is responsible for the emergence and proliferation of the material conditions of life, for they are non-existent on their own. In both Iqbal and Blake consciousness is prior to existence: it will be more adequate to uphold that Nature is in a way identical with the frozen and ossified form of consciousness. Blake, too, like Iqbal posits a point of convergence between human consciousness and time: they offer manifestation or exteriorization of the same reality Since consciousness negates stasis and is capable, each moment, of extension, change and reification it shares the dimensions of time which is a dynamic concept. Consciousness assumes Protean shapes and Time and Consciousness are varying aspects of the self-same ‘ineffable Reality’. The mutual involvement of time and Consciousness is demonstrated, in the context of Ascension of the Prophet Mohammad thus:

ایں دو حال است از احوال جاں

چشم بکشا بر زمان و برمکاں

Cast your eye on Time and Space

These two are each a form of the Station of life.

Stations of life are, it hardly needs to be added, the same as Consciousness and Time, and it is further added significantly:

چیست معراج! انقلاب اندر شعور

از شعور است ایں، کم گوئی نزد و دور

وارہا ند جذب و شوق از تحت و فوق

انقلا اندر شعور از جذب و شوق

Consciousness enables you to distinguish between far and near

What is Ascension? It is a change in consciousness

Change in consciousness emanates from ecstasy

Ecstasy absolves you from (making) distinction between inward and outward.

This other couplet from Bal-e-Jibreel may also be focused on:

ہدف سے ہے بیگانہ تیر اس کا نگاہ نہیں جس عارفانہ

مرے خم و پیچ کو نجومی کی آنکھ پہچانتی نہیں ہے

My curves are hidden from the gaze of the astronomer

Anyone’s arrow, not gifted with vision, flies off the tangent

Juxtaposed here are the two perceptions of Time: time equated with eternal flux operates in the world of mutation and may be regarded as a mathematical proposition, the other variety is intuitional that can be grasped and apprehended only by spiritual or organic perception. These two are antithetical dimensions that can be determined by different scales: one can be measured by the help of Blake’s Single Eye, and the other can be envisaged by what he calls the Fourfold Vision.

Another significant motif in Iqbal’s poetry is Self or the Ego: the finite Self is equivalent to the unity of psychological impulses, motives and drives by which the momentum of life is sustained. In Blake the functioning of the Proprium or Selfhood is equated without any shimmer of doubt, with that of ‘the holy Reasoning Power’, for the former the unmistakable synonym is ‘Satan’ and since the denunciation is mediated through Reason it is also dubbed as the ‘Accuser’. It may not be amiss to uphold that a sort of narcissism is born owing to being continuously involved in the processes of rationalization: only by conquering the Self and the world of the contingent can one hope to move in the direction of the Absolute. The ‘holy Reasoning Power’ and the Imagination are as much at loggerheads in Blake as Reason and Ecstasy or Imaginative exuberance are pitted against each other in Iqbal. Neither of them is entirely opposed to Reason but they certainly look askance at their much-advertised glorification and triumphs. Iqbal’s Appreciative Self that operates in the world of Duration has the same status as Identity in Blake. It transcends the processes of what Wordsworth designates as ‘the meddling intellect’ (or Reason) and in Iqbal the ego or the Appreciative Self, is nourished on the food of love or prayer or self-renunciation. Very much in the vein of Blake, Iqbal maintains explicitly

‘But the acceptance of Selfhood as a form of life involves

the acceptance of all the imperfections that flow from

the finitude of Selfhood’. (cf. Lectures p. 88)

Both Blake and Iqbal reject the Buddhistic doctrine that the cleaving to the Self ends in death and that Truth (which probably means self-immolation) is the only life. It is interesting to note that neither Iqbal nor Blake regard Time and Space as possessed of any existential reality. They are, on the contrary, as Kant also endorses, mere forms of perception:

نہ ہے زماں نہ مکاں لا الہ الا اللہ

خرد ہوئی ہے زماں و مکاں کی زناری

Reason is highly enamored of Time and Space

There is neither Time nor Space, save God the One, the Alone

Blake also maintains that Time and Space are also amenable to shifts and changes in the human medium: he speaks of it to the following effect:

And all the great Events of Time start forth and

are conceived in such a period within a moment of

a pulsation of the artery. The sky is an immortal

tent built by the sons of Los. And every space that

a man views around his dwelling place standing on

his own roof or in his garden mount of thirty five cubits

in length: Such is his universe. (Milton: Book I)

Both Iqbal and Blake, not unlike Dante and Milton are, essentially and emphatically poets of religious consciousness and sensibility: this fact cannot be controverted. Yet it is also intriguing to note that with some slight variations, though otherwise quite orthodox in their faith, they feel greatly annoyed and scandalized by conventional Islam and Christianity and place great store by their individual approach and interpretation. Blake had his own heterodox and highly eccentric view of Christianity and of Christ’s personality that is by the way not permissible vis-à-vis the prophet, Mohammad. Many poetic motifs and images in Blake’s poetry are derived from the Bible, especially, the Old Testament, and they have been very dexterously transformed and interwoven into the texture of his poetry and this bears testimony to the subtlety and complexity of his mind. He holds a unique conception of Christ’s personality that is not likely to be shared by many fellow Christians among his audience. He speaks to this effect very forcefully:

The view of Christ that thou dost see

Is my vision’s greatest enemy.

He does not endorse belief in virgin conception nor in the concept of Christ’s humility and self-negation that have been associated with him over the ages and regarded his distinctive and exclusive attribute. He admires him, however, and legitimately, too, as a highly courageous, indomitable and revolutionary spirit and he is symbolized both by Lamb and Tiger simultaneously. It may be added that neither Iqbal nor Blake owe any allegiance to institutionalized religions: both are vehemently opposed to the Church as also the misappropriation of its credentials and sanctities. Iqbal does not recognize the Church as sacrosanct and denounces the mushroom growth of religious organizations around us. He also considers ‘Sufi’ and ‘mullas’ as self-deluded persons, emblematic of intellectual nullity and speaks of them with withering sarcasm thus:

ان کا سرِ دامن بھی ابھی چاک نہیں ہے

کیا صوفی و ملاّ کو خبر میرے جنوں کی

What cognition can Sufi and Mullah have of my ecstasy

As even the apron of their dress has not had even a scratch so far.

Both Iqbal and Blake were persuaded of the fact that man is directly accountable to God without any intermediary, and there is no denying the privilege of understanding and interpreting the scripture according to one’s light and quite independently of an established authority. No one has any right to be meddlesome and the average man need not bother about guidance in these matters. In three couplets Iqbal points out, in a felicitous and compact way, the distinction between one who is gifted with genuine religious insight and those who are inclined to toe the line in a mechanical fashion:

شاید کہ اتر جائے ترے دل میں مری بات

انداز بیان گرچہ بہت شوخ نہیں ہے

یاخاک کے آغوش میں تسبیح و مناجات

یا وسعتِ افلاک میں تکبیر مسلسل

وہ مذہب ملا و جمادات و نباتات

یہ مذہبِ مردانِ خود آگاہ و خدامست

Sophisticated though my mode of address is not May be my words may resonate in your heart

Either the recurrent over-tones of call to prayer in the immensity of the Heavens

Or counting rosary beads and God’s remembrance in the mundane world

This one is the religion of self-conscious and God conscious-men

That one is the creed of the laity and stones and men of the vegetable pedigree.

And in Zerb-e-Kaleem he addresses the keeper of the mosque, pouring upon him shafts of ridicule, thus:

تری نگاہ میں ہےپوشیدہ آدمی کا نظام

عجب نہیں کہ خدا تک تری رسائی ہو

تری اذاں میں نہیں ہے مری سحر کا پیام

تری نگاہ میں باقی جلال ہے نہ جمال

May be you achieve access to God

Man’s status is not (yet) disclosed to your view Your gaze is devoid of both sublimity and beauty

Your call to prayer is not vibrantly responsive to my morning message.

And Blake, in his poem, entitled The Human Abstract (emblematic of a sort of reductionism) argues with perspicacity and subtlety that the Church authorities, through their ingenuities have turned its teachings into the arcane designated by him as the Tree of Mystery. The self-appointed custodians of the Church depend for their sustenance on it and follow it out for their personal benefit. ‘Mullah’ and ‘Priest’ for Iqbal and Blake, respectively, are transparent symbols of exploitation in the guise of piety and hypocrisy: have been made targets of devastating irony all along.

Iqbal and Blake are equally keenly interested in the intriguing problem of man’s descent: for Blake the spatio-temporal world is, indeed, an exteriorization of the fact of fallenness but he in no way subscribes to the Christian myth of man’s expulsion from Heaven. In his metaphysics of the Fall, fallenness is the inevitable consequence of the imbalance that occurred in the human psyche: the four vital figures operating in his universe are named Zoas: they are Los, Urizen, Luvah and Tharmas who symbolize Imagination, Reason, Emotion and Instincts, respectively. Pascal and Blake are agreed on the point that Numbers, Time and Dimensions are external embodiments of the fact of fallenness. This assumption is surprisingly corroborated by Jung in our times. The bickerings and internecine conflicts among Blake’s four Zoas are initiated, among other things by Reason’s aggressive attempt to establish its hegemony over the other components of the human psyche. The act of aggression destroys the poise and equilibrium that ought to obtain in the ideal framework of things: the turning of the primordial harmony and concord into chaos is the real cause of man’s ruination. Iqbal, too, does not equate man’s descent from Heaven and his sojourn on earth with the Fall. This marks, contrarily, the initial stage of the process of evolution of human life spread over aeons. In one of the early Urdu poems, entitled  سرگذشت آدم(Man’s Episode) this view-point has been touched upon thus:

پیا شعور کا جب جامِ آتشیں میں نے

لگی نہ میری طبیعت ریاضِ جنت میں

I got bored and fed up with (life in) Paradise

Once I had swallowed up the goblet of the wine of consciousness

This represents the first mile-stone in the journey from innocence to experience or progress from Infinitude, or in other words, the region of perfect stasis, in the direction of turmoil and commotion of the spatio-temporal world that man was destined to undertake. This is brought out in a fervent, ecstatic, impeccable way in Payam-e-Mashriq thus:

دلِ کوہ و دشت و دریا بہ دمے گداز کردن

چہ خوش است زندگی راہمہ سوزو ساز کردن

رہِ آسماں نوردن بہ ستارہ راز کردن

زقفس درے کشادن بہ فضائے گلستانے

نظرے ادا شناسے بہ حریم ناز کردن

بہ گداز ہائے پنہاں بہ نیاز ہائے پیدا

گہے خارِ نیش زن راز گل امتیاز کردن

گہے جزندیدن بہ ہجوم لالہ دارے

ہمہ سوزِ خاتمانم ہمہ سوزِ آرزویم
بہ گماں دہم یقیں را کہ شہیدِ جستجویم

How delightful to turn life into utter ecstasy

To soften the heat of mountain and desert in one breath

To open a door from one’s prison house into the atmosphere of the garden

Journeying up to Heaven and whispering with stars

With hidden tete-e-tete and open interaction

To exchange glances with the sanctum

Sometimes not to perceive even a single bud in the galaxy of the tulips


Sometimes to be able to distinguish the prickly thorn from the flower

I am all endless and undying passion

I tend to believe in mere guesses, for I am stabbed (to death) by eagerness for quest

In a slightly differentiated idiom he speaks in the poem, entitled  روح ارضی آدم کا استقبال کرتی ہے (Earthly soul welcomes Adam) thus:

مشرق سے ابھرتے ہوئے سورج کو ذرا دیکھ

کھول آنکھ میں دیکھ، فلک دیکھ، فضا دیکھ

ایّام جدائی کے ستم دیکھ، جفا دیکھ

اس جلوہٴ بے پردہ کو پردوں میں چھپا دیکھ

بے تاب نہ ہو، معرکہٴ بیم ور جا دیکھ

Open your eyes towards Earth, Heaven and the whole phenomena

Cast just a glance towards sun-rise in the East

Look at the universal spectacle that at present (lies) fold-within fold

Take into cognizance the wrestle and pangs of the early manhood

Don’t be fidgety, observe , hope and fear bound up with the arena of conflict.

Blake’s dictum ‘Everything that lives is holy’ springs to mind at once and is worth pondering over in this context but only for one who lives in the glow of the Imagination and is not content with involvement in the humdrum of daily life: both Iqbal and Blake look askance at the conventional belief in the myth of the Fall: in spite of his firm faith in Christianity and regardless of the fact that this belief is deeply rooted in the Western cultural milieu and has percolated widely in literature, Blake rejects it outright. Both Iqbal and Blake are equally indifferent to the accepted conventional stance vis-à-vis Heaven and Hell: they do not treat them as ‘physical localities’ but as psychic states. As a self-contained entity the world of Blake’s own creation does not depend on harmonizing Heaven and Hell with the state of life after death but on such emotive and psychic reflexes that are in woven in man’s inner fabric. Heaven and Hell are not physical points but are more or less equivalent to plenitude and vacancy, respectively, and one is destined to get either according to one’s deserts. We ourselves create our own Heaven or Hell: this same view-point is held by Milton, too. This is so because we are inherently gifted with free will power in exercise of which we become architects of our own destiny. In Blake fallenness or descent is a comprehensive motif and so is regeneration: the former follows upon the entrance of chaos and disintegration into the human psyche and the achievement of the latter is an uphill task. Regeneration presupposes acquisition of a new kind of synthesis in man’s fragmented consciousness. A propos of life and death Iqbal tends to believe that it is not something pre-ordained nor does one have any prior claim on it: it is validated by one’s own sustained endeavour, and this brings along drastic change in one’s consciousness. Besides the Reconstruction Lectures, the Persian Collection Javaid Namah, too, throws light on it thus:

زادم اندر عالمِ بے ہاوہو

مردم اندر کائناتِ رنگ و بو

یک جہانِ تازہٴ آمد بہ دست

رشتہ من زاں کہن عالم گسست

تا دگر عالم زخاکم بردمید

از زیاں عالمے جانم تپید

چشمِ دل بینند و بیدار تر

تن سبک گشت و جان سیارتر

I died in the spatio-temporal world

I was reborn in the world devoid of din and commotion

My relationship with that ancient world was snapped

A new world slips into my ken.

My self was tormented because of the loss of (this) world

Till such time as another world was generated out of its ashes.

The body became lighter and the soul more pliant

The inner life became more cognizant and more alert.

It was pointed out earlier that Blake’s concept of Christ’s personality is unique and of much salience: he regards him as a man of spontaneous impulses, a symbol of revolt and a living and inspiring embodiment of the spirit of revolution. Blake seems to have dealt a death-blow to the perdurable beliefs of Christianity and he turns a blind eye to all conventional values. With an air of polite disdain Blake calls Christ of the accepted canon ‘vegetabled Christ’. He is very much scandalized by the accepted notion of redemption as if Christ took upon himself the burden of responsibility for the whole sinful humankind and is very much like a surrogate. The seminal notion of Crucifixion is doubtlessly at the back of his mind, intuited by him by some sort of revelatory knowledge and it is Blake’s icon of the Tree of Mystery that makes us turn our gaze towards the physical matrix for finding an analogue of the religious man in it. Crucifixion in a way connotes for Blake Christ’s descent into the Satanic world. In varying contexts he refers to Christ as an Artist who embodies in himself the poetry of the imagination in all its fecundity and luminosity :

‘Jesus and his Apostles and his disciples were all artists. Their works were destroyed by the Angels of the Seven Churches in Asia, Antichrist, Science.’

An equivalent term used by Blake is God-man or Divine Humanity: one who represents the acme of perfection, the essentialism of humanity and is so to say the point of interaction between the Divine and the human. Iqbal, too, regards the Prophet Muhammad as a paradigm of the perfect and in one whom all the human potentialities and possibilities have been realized to the optimum and yet in the light of Islamic perspectivism emphasis is as much laid on his human aspect, his vassalage vis-à-vis God and not disproportionately on his divinity and grace. It is intriguing to remember that since the day Blake caught God’s image across the window of his dwelling-place and saw a tree thronged with Angels he became thoroughly convinced of his own credentials as a visionary and his capability of apprehending the Absolute. When he underscores Christ’s creativity and the inexhaustible source of his goodness linked with it: he makes us realize his transcendence: this enables us to go beyond the limits of the individual Ego and blows up all-self-centredness and arrogance at one stroke. Iqbal’s mind was working along similar lines and the concept of Mard-e-Momin, who represents the combination of primordiality and universality was surfacing as he was formulating his moral and metaphysical premises. The image of the ideal man was activating the minds of Western thinkers and literary artists in various forms and some critics have toyed with the notion of Nietzsche’s superman as a very probable source of Iqbal’s speculation in this regard. Blake coined the term Albion for the archetypal man, some reflections of it are also visible in the perfect man as visualized by Al-Jili and Mohiuddin Ibn-e-Arabi. It stands to reason that following these two predecessors or may be quite independently, too, the pristine image of the holy Prophet was glimpsed by Iqbal in the depths of his being. In a way he represents the Islamic Logos: in him may be discovered the point of convergence between the Divine and the human or following Al-Jili the complete interfusion between the He-ness and I-ness. In the symbolic guise of “Zinda Rood Iqbal seems to be querying, with unabated eagerness about the nature of ‘that secret substance’, and emphasizes the distinction between ‘vassal’ and ‘His vassal’, the spokesman being no less than Hallaj, the emblem of infinite and unbounded love. It hardly needs any stressing that ‘His vassal’ is the significant symbol for the Prophet in the Quranic text, and the two epithets, ‘vassal’ and His vassal’ are as much commensurate as Knowledge and Sapience, Reason and Love, Thought and Emotion, and Son of the Book and Mother of the Book:

زانکہ اوہم آدم وہم جوہراست

عبدہ از فہم تو بالا تر است

آدم است و از آدم اقدام است

جوہر اونے از عرب نے عجم است

ما سراپا انتظار او منتظر است

عبد دیگر عبدہ چیزے دیگر است

His vassal is beyond the reach of your comprehension

For he is both Adam and Substance

In his essentials he is neither Arab nor non-Arab

Adam he is and yet is prior to him

Vassal is one thing and His vassal quite another

We are all waiting for him, and He is the awaited.

In the very beginning of Bal-e-Jibreel Iqbal pays the following eloquent tribute to the Prophet:

غبارِ راہ کو بخشا فروغ و دائی سینا

وہ دانائے سبل ختم الرسل مولائے کل جس نے

وہی قرآن وہی فرقان وہی یٰسین وہی طاحا

نگاہِ عشق و مستی میں وہی اول وہی آخر

That knower of directions, the last of the Messengers, the Supreme Overlord

By whom the dust of the highways has been exalted to the status of valley of Sinai

He the eye of ecstasy, he is the First and the Last.

He is the Quran, he is the Furqan, he is the Yaseen, he is the Taha.

Further, the following couplet that occurs in Cordova Mosque in Bal-e-Jibreel is impregnated, with significance, through and through.

عشق خدا کا رسول، عشق خدا کا کلام

عشق دمِ جبرئیل عشق دل مصطفےٰ

Love is Gabriel’s breath, Love is the Prophet’s heart

Love is God’s messenger, Love is God’s Word

To the present writer the poetic genius concentrated in Christ’s personality and love and ecstasy epitomized in the holy Prophet’s personality are the self—same potential. The terms specially coined by Blake for Christ are Body of Imagination and the Universal Man. In other words he as person is not so significant (Blake is not much piqued by the historical figure of Christ) as a principle or form. The following lines from Jerusalem are worth more than just a glance:

Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God

As one man, for contracting their exalted senses

They beheld Multitude, or expanding they beheld as one

As one man all the universal family and that one Man

They called Jesus the Christ, they in Him and He in them

Live in perfect harmony, in Eden, the Land of life.

In Iqbal’s scheme of things unification of faith and practice or Love and Reason is of vital significance. Also he does not look forward to the emergence of the perfect man or Superman at the climactic point of the process of evolution in the continuous flow of energy or elan vital: he has already appeared on the stage of world history after being embodied in the splendid and august personality of the holy Prophet. An interesting sidelight on this fact is thrown by Iqbal’s reference to ‘Mehdi’ who, shorn of mythical accretions, may appear as the ideal (not the perfect) man, and who is primarily characterized by what he terms  زلزلہ افکار  or earth-shaking notions.

One conspicuous aspect of Blake as poet and thinker is that he accepts the whole of life, in all its fecundity and multitudinousness as well as deprivations and deficiencies. He equates asceticism with self-renunciation and rejects it as a plausible way of life. This way of thinking is shared by Iqbal, too. In fact there is hardly any room for self-denial and self-extinction in the Islamic way of life as it is projected in Iqbal’s poetry; it is not commendable at all. But Iqbal is not inclined to giving man unrestricted freedom: on the contrary he has to accept the surveillance of the Categorical Imperatives as defined by Islam so that the ultimate objective of inner purification is achieved and the doors of moral corruption and degradation are barred. In Blake one is faced with a paradoxical situation: on the one hand he is vehemently opposed to imposition of any kind of taboos and on the other he concedes the divinity of instructive urges and motivations. He does not approve unlimited indulgence in sexual pleasures. It is intriguing to observe that as against advocacy of Christian asceticism and life-denying regulations that amount to crushing the legitimate human promptings, Blake looks with implicit approbation on the sexual ethics of Islam.

Both Iqbal and Blake concede the superiority of intuition over the unfructifying premises of Reason, for whereas Intuition and Imagination help us apprehend things instantaneously, Reason seems to be haunted and hampered at each step. Though the functioning of Reason and its products in daily life elicit our admiration yet its reliance on the sensory material as the legitimate initial point is something that makes us skeptical of its value. Intuition and Imagination operate in the supra-sensual domain wherein the guidance of Reason is not needed but is distracting. Wordsworth, Iqbal and Blake share inkling towards the validity of mysticism or at least towards transcendence. Wordsworth is initially attracted by the wealth of sensuous experience but alongside that he is also fascinated by that mysterious state of mind which makes us look ‘into the life of things’ (cf. Tintern Abbey). Both Iqbal and Blake seem to glorify, not unlike Nietzsche, the cult of energy. Blake’s dicta:

The Road of Excess leads to the palace of wisdom

Energy is the only Life and is from the Body

Reason is the bound and circumference of Energy

Energy is eternal delight

are pretty self-explanatory. It may be added that not unlike Intellect Energy is also a crucial term in Blake’s grammar of symbols and both these are interchangeable with the Imagination. For both Iqbal and Blake the dawning of wisdom and experience of eternal delight have hardly anything to do with the processes of meddling Reason. Both of them go the whole hog in embracing life’s blessings and delights: they do not advocate either rejection or any Kind of reductionism that ,may turn life, into and unhappy episode. They are as much enamoured of exuberance and fecundity as of power and grandeur. This attitude towards life is affirmative and knowledge-yielding and not one of rejection and angst. One distinctive, poetic symbol used by Iqbal in this context is شاہین Eagle a propos of which he says:

جہاں رزق کا نام ہے آب و دانہ

کیا میں نے اس خداں سے کنارا

ادائیں ہیں ان کی بہت دلبرانہ

خیابانوں سے ہے پرہیز لازم

جوانمرد کی ضربتِ غازیانہ

ہوائے بیاباں سے ہوتی ہے کاری

مرا نیلگوں آسماں بیکرانہ

یہ پورب، یہ پچھّم، چکوروں کی دنیا

I turned away from the dusty world

Where sustenance is equated with just bread and water

Involvement in the pleasure of the senses must be avoided

Though orchard-dwellers are very enticing ill their manners

The desert air puts edge and sharpness

On the striking power of the youth

These boundaries of East and West (hardly matter)

For me the blue sky recognizes the limits.

For Iqbal Eagle is the two-fold symbol of creative energy and the aspiration for freedom, and Blake uses it as a metaphor for Poetic Genius. It may be noted that the renowned Persian poet, Firdausi, also uses it for those self-renunciatory spirits who choose the peak of the mountains as their habitat, and the eighteenth century British poet, James Thomson, visualizes the Muse of Poetry as a melodious bird: the Eagle is fond of scaling the mountain heights and is also sensitive to the urges of exaltation and sublimity.

Creativity as a major component of the human psyche is the focus of attention both for Iqbal and Blake and is closely linked to the concept of freedom. It was pointed out earlier that whenever Blake refers to Christ, his apostles and disciples as Artists he wishes to underline the fact that they are capable of transcending the puny limits of the ‘Mundane Shell’ and also nullifying self-centredness or I-ness or egoism. For Iqbal the figure of the holy Prophet possessed not only the cognition of the essence of Being but he also turned the tide of history and unfurled the flag of human freedom and initiative. Creativity is inexorably bound with the concept of freedom and in both Iqbal and Blake it is tantamount to outsoaring the outwardly existent. In other words it should not be confused with insertion into the finite but is capable of crossing all limits. Creativity flourishes only in the region of freedom, it is not determined by anything exterior to it and its exact nature is indecipherable. The first inkling of some of Iqbal’s poetic motifs may be got in his Urdu collection, Bang-e-Dara: in Khizr-e-Rah, for instance, it is discernible in the delightful and exhilarating couplets, cumulatively entitled  زندگی (Life) whose resonance makes an immediate impact on the reader:

ہے کبھی جاں اور کبھی تسلیمِ جاں ہے زندگی

برتر از اندیشہٴ سودو زیاں ہے زندگی

جادواں، پیہم دواں، ہر دم جواں ہے زندگی

تو اسے پیمانہٴ امروز و فردا سے نہ ناپ

سرِّ آدم ہے ضمیرِ کن فکاں ہے زندگی

اپنی دنیا آپ پیدا کر اگر زندوں میں ہے

اور آزادی میں بحر بیکراں ہے زندگی

بندگی میں گھٹ کے رہ جاتی ہے اک جوئے کم آب

گرچہ اک مٹّی کے پیکر میںنہاں ہے زندگی

آشکارا ہے یہ اپنی قوتِ تسخیر سے

Life is beyond the conscious computation of profit and loss

Sometimes it is equated with its own reality, at others it is but self-surrender

Don’t measure it in the scale of today and tomorrow It is eternal, ever-moving, ever young and spirited

Create your own world if you wish to be included among the living

Life is the secret of manhood, and the fountain-head of creation

In the condition of slavery the stream is reduced to a mere wave

In the milieu of freedom it burgeons into the wide expanse of the sea

It reveals itself through the power of self-manifestation Tethered though it is to an earthly medium.

Though through this whole excerpt life is viewed as an impetus that outsoaring the limits of Time and space yearns to reach up to Infinitude yet here the fourth and fifth couplets specially invite attention to themselves. In Iqbal and some other poets, too, boundless sea is an emblem of Infinitude and access to it may be equated with the notion of freedom. In the fifth couplet the power to conquer is synonymous with creative force or energy that is capable of transforming the structure and substance of life completely. In these couplets are implicit in their nascent form the motifs that are fully articulated after passing through the medium of mature reflection and artistic finesse in Iqbal’s later poetry. Creativity, freedom and transcendence are closely intertwined, and the following verses from (Zaboor-e-Ajam) bear witness to it:

جولاں گہے وادی و کوہ و کمر بدہ

سلیم مرابہ جوئے تنگ مایہٴ ہیچ

جنونِ ما کجاوشورہائے ہاو ہو کجا است

نگاہِ مابہ گریبانِ کہکشاں می افتد

ایں رہگذر ما آں رہگذر ماست

شایانِ جنونِ ماپنہائے دوگیتی نیست

بہ دوشِ ماہ و بآغوش کہکشاں بوداست

خیالِ من تماشائے آسماں بود است

تو پِیش از عینی و بیش از عینی

بروں قدم زدورِ آفاق

عشق است امام من عقل است غلامِ من

من بندوٴ آزادم عشق است امامِ من

May not my soul entangle me within a narrow stream

Provide me anchorage within the range of valley and mountain

Our gaze is caught by the fringe of the rainbow

What relation is there between ecstasy and the noise of the Sanctum

The matters of the two worlds cannot be contained within my ecstasy

This tract is ours and that other is also ours.

Our speculation has travelled up to the limit of the Heavens

Has skirted up to the Moon and the bosom of the rainbow

Keep your ken away from the revolutions of the world

You are more than my ken, are beyond my reach

Love’s slave as I am, love is my vassal

Love is my guide, reason is my vassal.

In Bal-e-Jibieel, the acme of Iqbal’s poetic achievement, the theme is looked at from various view-points and this bears evidence to its saliency:

یہ مری خود نگہداری مرا ساحل نہ بن جائے

بنایا عشق نے دریائے ناپیدا کراں مجھ کو

آب و گل کے کھیل کو اپنا جہاں سمجھا تھا میں

اپنی جولاں گاہ زیرِ آسمان سمجھا تھا میں

اس زمیں و آسماں کو بیکراں سمجھا تھا میں

عشق کی اِک جست نے طے کر دیا قصّہ تمام

یا میں نہیں، یا گردشِ افلاک نہیں ہے

کب تک رہے محکمومئی انجم میں مری خاک

مہ و ستارہ ہیں بحرِ وجود میں گرداب

دل و نظر کا سفینہ سنبھال کر لے جا

کہ خاکِ زندہ ہے تو تابع ستارہ نہیں

ترے مقام کو انجم شناس کیا جانے

خدنگِ جستہ ہے لیکن کمان سے دُور نہیں

یہ ہے خلاصئہ علمِ قلندری، کہ حیات

کہ تیرے زمان و مکاں اور بھی ہیں

اسی روز و شب میں الجھ کر نہ رہ جا

یہ کہکشاں، یہ ستارے، یہ نیلگوں افلاک

عروجِ آدمِ خاکی کے منتظر ہیں تمام

اک جہاں اور بھی ہے جس میں نہ فردا ہے نہ دوش

کھو نہ جا اس سحرو شام میں اے صاحب ہوش

Love has turned me into a boundless sea

My self-centredness may not become my self-enclosure

I thought my retreat to be situated under the firmament

I looked upon the physical world as my universe

One leap of love settled the matter

I regarded this spatio-temporal world as limitless

How long will my love be subservient to the galaxy of the stars

Either I do not enjoy the privilege of freedom or revolution of the Heavens is illusory

Take your vessel of heart and eye vigilantly

Moon and stars are entangled within the sea of existence

How can your station be determined by the astronomer

For you are a living flame and not dependent on the stars

This is the quintessence of the science of mysticism

(You are) flying arrow but not much astray from the bow

Do not keep tethered to the succession of day and night

For your Time and Space lie elsewhere

All are looking forward to the re-ascent of man This rainbow, these stars and these blue skies.

Do not get confused in the diurnal succession 0 man of Destiny

There is another world in which the future and the past are irrelevant.

Despite many points of convergence, inclusive of cerebral processes and poetic motifs, Iqbal and Blake, however differ in one particular respect. Blake’s insights into life and his vision of human destiny are mediated through mythic configurations, that are fairly tantalizing and pose the difficult task of unravelling them. Iqbal’s mode of visualization and communication is opposed to that of Blake: it is much more concretized and tangible. Further, as pointed out earlier, too, Iqbal places particular emphasis on the assertion of the human will in his scheme of things, for Blake, human will and the Female will, in particular, smack of the fact of fallenness and utter dislocation in the re-ordering of human affairs. Moreover, Blake’s poetry can best be explicated in the perspective of that way of thinking that culminated in a sort of senseless materiality born out of a mechanistic approach to things. This muddled the sources of creativity and left them almost dry. lqbal was pretty cognizant of the intellectual climate and the consequential approaches to knowledge that rested on the nineteenth and early twentieth century scientism in Europe. He explicitly denounced it with the same rancour as was exhibited by Blake against the Newtonian physics and Lockean epistemology. This is expressed by both of them with verve and glow and made the shaft of ridicule and irony as their principal instrument.

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