Full Translation of a Letter by Allamah Iqbal

Discussion in 'Poetry' started by naqshbandijamaati, May 27, 2009.

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  1. 7th July 1909
    My Dear Miss Atiya!

    I am totally grateful for the letter I have just received. Today, since morning, my temperament has been uncommonly joyful. Therefore if you perceive the sweetness of jocularity in this missive consider it a compulsion. I have not changed my plan. You do not

    have the right to come to a different conclusion due to my absence. Sometimes I do feel afraid of the thought of two boats, one steamer, two legs and two quays. The journey is not less than a mighty labour, the completing of which could give me the fame of Rustam. Rustam’s need was urgent whereas I am not even sure of the extent of my own need. Whenever I intend to do something I usually leave myself in the hands of destiny and let the winds carry me where they will.

    Although you are probably unaware of your countless acts of kindness towards me I feel them so much that my pen is incapable of expressing it. This is because it is not possible to express indescribable feelings in words. Come, let us leave this matter here!

    You too say that you have come to an absolute decision and that there is no possibility of change in it. Please inform me too about those sweet complaints which you mistakenly attribute to one ‘contemptible man’. If these complaints are about me, then please do not leave them without giving me details!

    Doubtless, for everyone life is just the name for waiting for death. I too am desirous of journeying to the other world. When I get there, I want to see my Creator and ask him to explain logically my mental state and this will not be an easy task! You should have no complaint about me: I myself am an enigma to my self. Years earlier I wrote:

    Iqbal himself does not know Iqbal
    There is no jest in this, by God there isn’t!
    [Iqbal bhi Iqbal se aagah nahin hai
    Kucch is mein tamaskhar nahin, wallah nahin hai!]

    Many people have expressed similar views about me. And the truth is that when I am alone I have often laughed at myself. I am in the process of giving a final reply to these accusations and allegations. You will find this reply in the pages of 'Makhzan'. [1]

    I have expressed, in an excellent manner, what others have said about me but have still to write the reply in poetic form. I was saddened when I learnt that you felt deep sorrow at my loss of respect and following in northern Hindustan. Be sure that I do not care about the respect of others. I don’t believe in living for the praise of others.

    What life is that which is dependent on another soul?
    Leave aside too the reliance of a life of fame!
    [Jeena woh kya jo ho nafs e ghair par madaar
    Shuhrat kii zindagi ka bharosah bhi choR de.]

    People believe in ostentation and respect only it; I live a life without ostentation and am miles away from hypocrisy. If ostentation and hypocrisy are the means for me to achieve respect and a following then may God make me so alien and unconnected to this world that not a single tear is shed for me nor a single elegy written. Those people get public acclaim and following who live their lives according to the false notions of morals and religion of the masses. I cannot, for the sake of the respect of the masses, lower myself and suppress the natural freedom of Man, by accepting their points of view. Byron, Goethe and Shelley were not able to get the respect of their contemporaries. Although I cannot compare myself to them as a poet I am nevertheless proud that, at least in this regard, I can rightly be compared to them.

    Have I ever guided you? You have never even needed my guidance in scholarly matters. I do remember that I introduced you to Plato. That’s all. This introduction was so short and cursory that, in this matter, I do not consider myself as having the honour of your scholarly guidance.

    You say that I am guilty of not respecting your wishes.

    “The intellect is burnt in astonishment at how strange this is!” [2]

    I have always respected your wishes and have tried as much as possible to please you. However, when some thing has been out of my control I have been compelled. My nature has been guiding me in another direction. “Otherwise you would have been more careful” –I am sorry I have been unable to understand what you mean. Please kindly elucidate. About what should I be more careful? I am totally ready to serve you. I am in fact compelled by my very nature to worship. Why would someone worship me? But those thoughts which have created a storm in my soul—I am known to the common people and so I have strong certainty that after my death I will be worshipped. The world will conceal my sins and will present me tributes of faith with tears.

    The Lieutenant-Governor agreed to recommend me to the Secretary of State for a professorship at Government College Lahore but I have gone against the inclination of my temperament and decided to wash my hands off this post.
    My situation demands that I consider my finances in every matter; although I had rebelled against this very ideology a few years ago. Trusting in Allah, I have decided to continue with Law as my career.

    Can you send me a copy of that poem which I sent you from Munich? I don’t have a copy and wish to safeguard it. Give my greetings to the Nawab Sahib and the Begum Sahiba.
    Muhammad Iqbal.

    Translator’s Note:
    Atiya Faizi was the socialite daughter of a prominent Bombay trader named Hussain Afandi. She was born in 1891 and first met Iqbal in Cambridge in 1907. Their relationship has divided academia between those who limit it just to friendship (for example Javid Iqbal and most Pakistani critics) and those who claim they were lovers (e.g. Khushwant Singh and others.) However both sides agree that their relationship was extremely close.

    Excerpted and translated by me from: 101 Masterpieces of Allama Iqbal’s Letters. (Allama Iqbal kay 101 Shahkaar Khatoot); Compiled by Abdul Rabb Qurayshi [Beacon Books, Lahore, 2006].

    [1] Makhzan was an Urdu periodical.
    [2] This was a Persian hemistich: The original line of the Farsi hemistich in the main article is:

    Ba-sokht 'aql zi khayrat ke een che bu-'l-ajabi eest
    Last edited: May 27, 2009

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