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A Prayer in the Desert (detail), by Jean-Leon Gerome [1864] (Public Domain Image)
A Prayer in the Desert (detail), by Jean-Leon Gerome [1864] (Public Domain Image)

The Secrets of the Self

by Muhammad Iqbal

tr. by Reynold Nicholson


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Muhammad Iqbal (b. Nov. 9, 1877, d. Apr. 21, 1938) was a prominent Islamic writer and politician. Born in the Raj, Cambridge educated, Iqbal is both the the intellectual founder of Pakistan, and its national poet. This poem was composed in Persian, using traditional Persian styles and tropes, and published in Lahore in 1915. The translator was the English orientalist Reynold A. Nicholson. Nicholson later went on to produce the first full critical translation of Rumi's Masnavi into English.

Title Page
I. The System of the Universe Originates in the Self
II. The Life of the Self Comes From Forming Desires
III. The Self is Strengthened by Love
IV. The Self is Weakened by Asking
V. Strengthened by Love it Gains Dominion Over the Forces of the Universe
VI. Negation of the Self
VII. We Must be on Guard Against Platonism
VIII. The True Nature of Poetry and the Reform of Islamic Literature
IX. The Three States in the Education of the Self
X. Inner Meanings of the Names of Ali
XI. The Young Man of Merv and Saint Ali Hujwírí
XII. The Bird that was Faint with Thirst
XIII. Story of the Diamond and the Coal
XIV. The Sheikh and the Brahmin, and the Ganges and the Himalaya
XV. On Jihad
XVI. Precepts of Bábá Sahrá’í
XVII. Time is a Sword
XVIII. An Invocation