Iqbal's Persian Poetry

Persian poetry stands acclaimed globally as a literary genre of high standing. In a widely accepted literary assessment, it occupies the highest pedestal, ranking with French prose, English drama and Arabic oratory. While as in the orient, Persian poetry was taken to be finest genre of literary expression, in the occident, eminent literates, such as Wolfgang Goethe saluted the literary effort of Persia.

Khawaja Hafiz Shirazi was the greatest attraction amongst Persian masters, with his mesmerizing sonnet. Omar Khayyam—the poet, the mathematician, the astronomer was another attraction, as Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of his work testifies. Saadi Shirazi and Firdausi were others to fill the poetic galaxy. Maulana Rumi, in Turko-Persian realm Moulvi/Mevlana stands tall, as 21st century torn by conflict alludes increasingly to his love notes. Mevlana, in fact translates to our guide. Rumi soothes the spirit. No wonder, he is the poet mostly read in the west.

Allama Iqbal, a poet in search for answers, swore fealty to Rumi, a century or more before scores in the modern epoch sought spiritual solace in Rumi’s love notes. Rumi became Iqbal’s Peer—the spiritual guide. It reflects in his poetry, Urdu as well as Persian. In Persian it touches heights, as Rumi provides answers to searching queries of Iqbal. Iqbal on his own admission took to Persian poetry on finding Urdu a linguistic realm not wide enough to absorb his wide ranging poetic thought.

Poetry with all its literary attractions did not constitute an end in itself for Iqbal, but as the finest medium of human expression, he strived to convey his innermost feelings in Urdu as well as Persian. Persian thought had influenced him deeply, much of it was embedded in Persian poetry. His doctoral thesis in Germany titled, ‘Development of Metaphysical thought in Persia’ testifies to the fact. In fact, while relating his self, he says:

Tanam Gule Ze Khayaban Jenat-e-Kashmir

Dil Az Hareem-e-Hejaz, Nava Ze Shiraz Ast

The couplet relates that physical self is a flower of the heavenly garden of Kashmir; heart holds the sacredness of Hejaz, while the voice alludes to Shiraz. Shiraz is alluded to, for the reason of being the cradle of Persian civilization—the abode of Hafiz Shirazi and Saadi Shirazi and other Persian masters. Iqbal was proud of his Kashmiri ancestry, a fact that remains a constant refrain in his poetry. He was highly conscious of Kashmir being Iran-e-Sageer (mini Iran).

Persian was not Iqbal’s mother tongue, nor was Urdu, hence Urdu speakers in the heart of India, the Persians as well approached Iqbal’s poetry with a touch of skepticism. However his wide ranging thought ploughed deep in the literary field of either of the two languages, his mastery was acclaimed. Iqbal’s Urdu poetry—Bang-e-Dara, Bal-e-Gabriel, Zarab-e-Kalim, Aramgan-e-Hejaz has enough sprinkling of Persian poetry and metaphysical thought to indicate that graduating to Persian was just a step away. The ultimate happened, widening his audience in the Persian lands, the dissemination of his thought as well.

In his exposition of Iqbal’s Persian poetry, Meem Darvesh, while assessing his work critically pays high tribute. In his treatise titled, ‘Ishar-e-Farsi’e Iqbal-e-Lahori (remembered as Lahori in Iran)’ Darvesh notes that Iqbal put Persian poetry on a modernistic swift pedestal. Darvesh calls it, ‘Maktab-e-Iqbal’ meaning, ‘Iqbalian school of thought’ or what is called ‘Iqbaliyat’ in evolving academic realm. Iqbalian thought evolved to pearls in Persian poetic realm. There is a galaxy to note—‘Israr va Ramouz’ denoting secrets of self (includes Israr-e-Khudi and Ramouz-e-Baykhudi) ‘Zabur-e-Ajam’ poetic notes on Persia ‘Gulshan Raz-e-Jadeed’ where questions are posed and answers provided’ ‘Payam-e- Mashiq’ an answer to Goethe’s western classics ‘Javid Nama’ the flight of spirit, in the literary realm compared to Dante Algiers’s ‘Divine Comedy’.

In a critical study however, while Dante leaves several questions unanswered, Iqbal accompanied by Rumi in his spiritual journey seeks and finds an answer to all the queries. Some western literary sources admit that Dante’s work was inspired by Islamic literary works, mainly of Mohi-ud-Din Ibn Arabi (RA). Prof. Yusuf Salim Chisti in his commentary on ‘Javid Nama’ alludes to the fact that while Dante’s work revolves round his childhood love for ‘Beatrice’ Iqbal in a literary comparison takes his work several notches higher in his quest for seeking the right answers.

‘Javid Nama’ holds an additional attraction, as it explores Kashmir in some depth. In a masterly poem, ‘Ziarat-e-Amir Kabir Hazrat Syed Ali Hamdani va Mulla Tahir Ghani Kashmiri’ the past and present of Kashmir is laid bare, and prospects of future weighed in philosophical realm. Deft poetic touches depict the pain of Kashmir, as Hazrat Syed Ali Hamdani (RA) sets to rest, Iqbal’s fever pitch worries vis-à-vis the land of his ancestors. The setting of the spiritual discourse is ‘Hauz-e-Kauser’ a well in paradise. Apart from Iqbal, his Peer-Rumi, we have Imam Ghazali (RA) and of course, the Persian master of Kashmir—Ghani Kashmiri. While Kashmir remains much in focus, Iqbal in his ‘Javid Nama’ holds spiritual discourses with the men who matter in Indian spiritual realm.

At the very outset, Iqbal and Rumi meets ‘Vishwa Mitra’ in the lunar planet, and in yet another spiritual discourse, following the one with Hazrat Syed Ali Hamdani (RA) Iqbal comes face to face with the Indian poet—Bartari Hari: a king turned spiritualist, still later with Sultan Shaheed Tipu. 

Apart from the Persian works noted above, there are other additions to the poetic galaxy, such as, ‘Bas Che Bayad Kard’ it is a guide to the path the dwellers of orient should take ‘Masnavi-e-Musafir’ a poetic travelogue relating to Afghanistan.

And, last but not the least ‘Aramgan-e-Hejaz’ which has a Persian poetic component, apart from the one in Urdu. It is the last treatise of Iqbal relating to Iqbal’s political, social and religious views. It may be pertinent to note that in Urdu ‘Aramgan-e-Hejaz’ multiple references to Kashmir relate to various shades. It is an ample testimony that while bidding adieu to this mortal world, Kashmir remained embedded in Iqbalian thought.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

Feedback on: iqbal.javid46@gmail.com