Home » All My Posts » Centenary of Some Quixotic Ideas

Centenary of Some Quixotic Ideas

Being the ardent lovers of Urdu verse, this ghazal was automatically retained by our young and imaginative memories when we were in 8th grade. I didn’t realise the significance of that month in those days and wasn’t sure why Iqbal chose to title this composition as such. Here is a tolerable translation by Dr M.A.K Khalil:

MARCH 1907

Time has come for openness, Beloved’s Sight will be common
The secret which silence had concealed, will be unveiled

now O’ Cup‑bearer! Time has gone when wine was taken secretly
The whole world will be tavern, everyone will be drinking

Those who once wandered insane, will return to habitations
Lovers’ wandering will be the same but deserts will be new

The Hijaz’ silence has proclaimed to the waiting ear at last
The covenants established with desert’s inhabitants will be re‑affirmed

Which coming out of deserts had overturned the Roman Empire
I have heard from the Qudsis that the same lion will be re-awakened

As the cup‑bearer mentioned me in the wine‑drinkers’ assembly
The tavern’s sage said, “He is insolent, he will be disgraced”

O’ Western world’s inhabitants, God’s world is not a shop!
What you are considering genuine, will be regarded counterfeit

Your civilization will commit suicide with its own dagger
The nest built on the frail branch will not be durable

The caravan of the feeble ants will make fleet of rose petals
However strong the ocean waves’ tumult be it will cross the ocean

The poppy, roaming in the garden, shows its spots to every flower-bud
Knowing that by this exhibition it will be counted among the Lovers

O’ Sight! That was the One you showed us as a thousand
If this is your state what will be your credibility?

As I told the turtledove one day the free of here are treading on dust !
The buds started saying that I must be the knower of the garden’s secrets!

There are thousands of God’s Lovers, who are roaming in the wilderness
I shall adore the one who will be the lover of God’s people

This is the world’s custom, O Heart! Even winking is a sin
What will our respect be if you will be restless here?

In the darkness of the night I shall take out my tired caravan
My sigh will be shedding sparks my breath will be throwing flames

If there is nothing but show in the aim of your life
Your destruction from the world will be in a breath like spark

Do not ask about the condition of Iqbal, he is in the same state
Sitting somewhere by the wayside he must be waiting for oppression!

These poetic reflections, though seemingly surreal, are very absorbing in terms of efficaciousness and as far as poet’s life and developement of thought is concerned. These were Iqbal’s last days in Cambridge and the true nationalist within him was facing complex paradoxes at the end of his two year stay in Europe. Though it is extremely difficult to sift the gradual development of his philosophy from poetry, the scholars on Iqbal agree that early 20th century political developments in Europe, for instance the Triple Entente, forced him to reconsider his nationalistic views and ultimately led him to drop his stand on Hindu-Muslim unity in Sub Continent.

This versification by a 30 year old Muslim Indian student was an ad lib outburst against European nationalism. I now realise why Iqbal, who was paying tribute to Giuseppe Mazzini’s patriotism while passing through Italian shores on his way to England, was remembering 100 years of Muslim civilization in Italy on his way back. However one thing that the poetic theme fails to express is why Iqbal resolved his philosophical paradoxes by way of Islamic political philosophy rather than subscribing to cosmopolitanism, humanism or socialism, each of which was equally against nationalist imperialism in those times?

In my view, although having been gone through a good deal of economics, rationalism and tasawwuf, Iqbal could not find a meaningful expression of his romantic political ideas by 1907. This composition in March 1907 was a prelude to that later idealistic vision that Tawhid can be the basis of all polity.

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