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‘Khudi’: Iqbal’s poetry and recreation of faith

February 21, 2024
WhatsApp Image 2024 02 21 at 08.17.31 63f9ac13

Tousif Raza

Iqbal’s poetry appeared in the twentieth century – a crucial time for the people of the sub-continent in the wake of British colonization and World War I. He was deeply concerned with the revival of the lost identity and status of the Muslims. Iqbal was despaired with the Muslim religious-philosophic tradition of his time which he termed in Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam as “worn out and practically dead metaphysics” (Iqbal 125) with its peculiar thought form and phraseology producing “a deadening effect on the modern mind” (Iqbal 125). His vibrant poetry stirred the dead into life and infused a renewing and rejuvenating sense of identity and self-manifestation in his readers. Urdu and Hindi-knowing people in the South Asian region regard Dr. Iqbal as the poet of the East.
As Alama Iqbal possessed a sensitive nature and his poetry had the strength to revive dormant spirits, serving as a beacon for Muslims across the subcontinent. This is why Iqbal’s works resonated globally, and the Muslims of the subcontinent study them with profound dedication to grasp his philosophy. Iqbal was the only poet of that time who infused a revolutionary fervor in the youth and underscored the grandeur of Islam in them. His poetry embodies the philosophy of courage, spirituality, and unwavering trust, inspiring the younger generation. In the below sacred verses of Alama Iqbal ‘khudi hey sirr e Niha,’ lies a profound exploration of faith, identity, and the pursuit of truth. Penned with eloquence and depth, these verses resonate with a timeless message that transcends the boundaries of time and space.
Despites many other thoughts in his poetry Iqbal emphasized the importance of self-realization and self-awareness. He encouraged individuals to explore their inner selves, recognize their potential, and work towards self-improvement. His concept of “Khudi” (selfhood) stressed the idea that individuals should strive to become the best versions of themselves. Let us go through a critical analysis and elucidation of these verses, delving into their literary richness and spiritual significance. But before moving ahead let’s read the verses:


“In the sacred sanctum of esteem, echoes ‘There is no god but Allah,’
Esteem wields the sword of destiny, ‘There is no god but Allah,’
This era has quests for its own Abraham
Amidst the idolatrous maze, ‘There is no god but Allah
What treasures have you bartered for the vanity of pride?
Mere illusions of profit and loss, ‘There is no god but Allah,’
Wealth and fortune, worldly ties and bonds,
Mere figments of imagination, ‘There is no god but Allah,’
Reason has unfurled the chains of time and space,
Where neither time nor place holds sway, ‘There is no god but Allah,’
This melody, unbound by the seasons’ ebb and flow,
Whether in bloom or withered, ‘There is no god but Allah,’
Though idols lurk within the folds of congregational robes,
My decree resonates, “There is no god but Allah.”
The invocation begins with the fragrance of ‘esteem,’ portraying it as a sanctum where the essence of existence reverberates with the declaration of monotheism. Here, ‘esteem’ symbolizes the inner sanctum of the soul, where the recognition of divine unity reigns supreme. The use of the term ‘echoes that I used in translation in addition evokes a sense of resonance, implying that the proclamation of divine union reverberates throughout the depths of one’s self.
The metaphorical imagery of ‘Khudi hai taig e Fasan’ signifies the power and agency inherent in acknowledging the divine truth. It portrays faith as a formidable force that shapes one’s destiny and guides one’s journey through the vicissitudes of life. Taig (The sword or the Blade) is a symbol of strength and resolve, underscores the courage required to uphold faith in the face of adversity.
The reference to ‘Abraham’ (One of the noble prophets) in this poem alludes to the archetype of unwavering faith and submission to the divine will. (Barahim ki talaash) Ibrahim’s quest for truth and his unwavering devotion serve as a timeless example for seekers of spiritual enlightenment. In the tumultuous landscape of contemporary society, the search for truth amidst the idolatrous maze resonates deeply with the human quest for meaning and purpose. Actually it is a symbol redirecting mankind towards a universal appeal that without a guide it is never possible to approach the sacred truth and its origin. Iqbal was a visionary person with a profound understanding of human nature through which he explored the actual path that a man needs to his actual destiny.
The verses then pose a poignant truth: Kiya hey tunai maat e garoor ka soda (it’s astonishing you have been traded for the ephemeral allure of vanity and pride?) This rhetorical puzzle invites introspection into the nature of worldly pursuits and the transient nature of material wealth. The juxtaposition of ‘profit and loss’ underscores the illusory nature of worldly gains and the fleeting nature of temporal pleasures. As a guiding beacon throws light on a fact that nothing is everlasting, nothing is timeless and even nothing is existing in the universe without divine exist. Wealth, fortune, and worldly (Fareeb e sood o ziyan) ties are depicted as mere figments of imagination, ephemeral constructs that fade into insignificance in the face of divine truth. The unraveling of ‘chains of time and space’ symbolizes the liberation from temporal constraints, wherein the eternal truth of divine unity transcends the limitations of human perception.
The metaphor of ‘Ye nagma fasl e gul o lala ka nahi hey paband’ melody unbound by the seasons’ encapsulates the timeless beauty and transcendental nature of spiritual harmony. Regardless of the changing seasons of life, the melody of divine remembrance resonates with unwavering clarity and grace. Whether amidst the bloom of spring or the withering of autumn, the declaration of divine oneness remains steadfast and immutable. In the final stanza, poignantly Iqbal acknowledges the pervasive presence of idolatry within the fabric of society. Despite the veils of illusion that shroud the truth, the decree of divine unity reverberates with unwavering clarity and conviction. It serves as a beacon of light amidst the darkness of ignorance, guiding seekers towards the path of enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment. In conclusion, these verses of Iqbal encapsulate a profound message of faith, truth, and spiritual awakening. Through their poetic beauty and metaphorical depth, they invite contemplation and introspection into the nature of existence and the quest for divine guidance. In a world plagued by uncertainty and disillusionment, these verses offer solace and hope, reminding humanity of the eternal truth that transcends the confines of worldly existence.

(Author is an English literature student from Tangmarg and can be reached at [email protected])

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