by Zubair Lone

Allama Iqbal in one of his poemsPeer o Mureedan ideational dialogue between Maulana Rumi and Allama Iqbal” from his book Baal e Jibreel (Gabriel’s Wing; published in 1935) derives wisdom and guidance from Maulana Rumi on diverse subjects.

On the other hand, he was also a great admirer of Goethe, an 18th Century German poet, writer and polymath who is considered a supreme genius of modern German literature. Allama’s poem “Jalal-o-Goethe- Rumi and Goethe” from Payam-i-Mashriq (Message from the East; published in 1923) is the greatest tribute written by Allama to Goethe. In this poem, Allama imagines Goethe meeting Rumi and reciting ‘Faust’ to him. Faust is a play written by Goethe about a highly successful but dissatisfied scholar who makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Rumi listens and lauds Goethe as one who has understood the great secret. Rumi pays tribute to him in these words:

“O portrayer of the inmost soul
Of  poetry, whose efforts goal
Is to trap an angel in his net
And to hunt even God.
You from sharp observations know,
How in their shell pearls form & grow,
All this you know, but there is more.
Not all can learn love’s secret lore,
Not all can enter its high shrine,
One only knows by grace divine,
That reason is from the Devil,
While love is from Adam.”

On his celebrated work West-oestlicher Diwan (TheWestern-Eastern Divan) Goethe inscribed in his own handwriting in the Arabic script: “Ad Divan. Sharqi lil Muallif il Gharbi- An Eastern Divan by a Western Author.” To complete the full circle, in his foreword to Payam-i-Mashriq Allama in 1923 acknowledges that his work “owes its inspiration” to Goethe’s West-oestlicher Diwan.

In bringing Goethe and Rumi together, Allama brought together not only two of the greatest icons of the East and the West, but also the two men who have profoundly influenced him as a poet and a thinker. One more thread regarding the greatest spirits of the East and the West is visible in his first published collection of poems Bang-e-Dara (The Call of the Marching Bell; published in 1923) which contains a tribute to Mirza Ghalib with the lines:

Aah tu ujdi hui Dilli mein aramidah hai
Gulshan-e-Weimar mein tera humnavaa khwaabidah hai

“Alas, you lie buried in devastated Delhi,
While in the Garden of Weimar
sleeps your compeer.”

These lines provide a vital connexion between two of the greatest icons in Urdu and German literature- Ghalib and Goethe. But at the same time, Allama doesn’t forget to symbolize the historic divide between Europe and India by putting in opposition the devastated condition of Delhi and the garden of Weimar and emphasizing the decline of the East and the rise and expansion of the West. Goethe’s spirit, like Ghalib’s, is that of a poet, whereas Allama’s spirit, following in the footsteps of Rumi, is more of a prophetic nature. Therefore, melancholy is only transient in his poetry. It is replaced by a sense of mission and remedial approach.

Like Rumi and Goethe, Allama strongly disapproves inaction and believes in the striving for the goal, the will and energy for indefatigable endeavour, and the strength to always continue to remain a journeyer:

Tu Rah Na’ward-e-Shauq Hai Manzil
Na Kar Qabool
Laila Bhi Hum Nashin Ho Tou
Mehmil Na Kar Qabool
(Zarb-e-Kaleem- Sultan Tipu Ki Wasiyat)

“If you traverse the road of love, don’t yearn to seek repose or rest;

If Layla (all kinds of worldly glitters) be your companion, don’t accept that- shun it with great contempt!”

And Goethe writes on the similar lines, “Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction.”

Verily, there have been only few writers or poets who have acquired mastery in the knowledge and philosophies of the East and the West. German writer and a Nobel laureate  Herman Hesse, a contemporary of Allama, wrote of him, “Iqbal belongs to three domains of the spirit or intellect, the sources of his tremendous work: the worlds of India, of Islam, and of Western thought.”

Ultimately, it is worth mentioning that it was only Rumi who came to Allama ‘s aid at the highest of the poetical, philosophical, intellectual and spiritual levels. A question, asked oft times, is why Allama chose Rumi as his spiritual mentor and the most trusted guide. Surely, his own reply would be that he didn’t choose Rumi; instead Rumi chose him, as evident in his poem  Peer o Mureed. He calls his great master Peer-e-Rumi (The master from Anatolia); and he names himself as Mureed-e- Hindi (The disciple from Hind):

Mureed e Hindi: Padh liye maine
uloom e sharq o gharb
Ruuh mein baaqi hai ab tak dard o qarb
“I have mastered the knowledges of both the East and the West
My soul still suffers in agony!”
Peer-e-Rumi: Dast-e-Har Na-Ahl Beemarat Kunad
Soo’ay Madar Aa Ke Teemarat Kunad
“Quacks sicken you more;
Come to us for a cure!”

(Zubair Lone, email: [email protected])


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