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The Secrets of the Self, by Muhammad Iqbal, tr. by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1920], at

p. 122


Precepts written for the Moslems of India by Mír Naját Nakshband, who is generally known as Bábá Sahrá’í1

O thou that hast grown from earth, like a rose,
Thou too art born of the womb of Self.
Do not abandon Self! Persist therein!
1390 Be a drop of water and drink up the ocean!
Glowing with the light of Self as thou art,
Make Self strong, and thou wilt endure.

p. 123

Thou gett’st profit from this trade,
Thou gain’st riches by preserving this commodity.
Thou hast being, and art thou afraid of not-being? 1395
O foolish one, thy understanding is at fault.
Since I am acquainted with the harmony of Life,
I will tell thee what is the secret of Life
To sink into thyself like the pearl,
Then to emerge from thine inward solitude; 1400
To collect sparks beneath the ashes,
And become a flame and dazzle men's eyes.
Go, burn the house of forty years’ tribulation,
Move round thyself! Be a circling flame!
What is Life but to be freed from moving round others 1405

p. 124

And to regard thyself as the Holy Temple?
Beat thy wings and escape from the attraction of Earth;
Like birds, be safe from falling.
Unless thou art a bird, thou wilt do wisely
1410 Not to build thy nest on the top of a cave.
O thou that seekest to acquire knowledge,
I say o’er to thee the message of the Sage of Rúm: 1
"Knowledge, if it lie on thy skin, is a snake;
Knowledge, if thou take it to heart, is a friend."
1415 Hast thou heard how the Master of Rúm
Gave lectures on philosophy at Aleppo?—
Fast in the bonds of intellectual proofs,

p. 125

Drifting o’er the dark and stormy sea of understanding;
A Moses unillumined by Love's Sinai,
Ignorant of Love and of Love's passion. 1420
He discoursed on Scepticism and Neoplatonism,
And strung many a brilliant pearl of metaphysic.
He unravelled the problems of the Peripatetics,
The light of his thought made clear whatever was obscure.
Heaps of books lay around and in front of him, 1425
And on his lips was the key to all their mysteries.
Shams-i Tabríz, directed by Kamál, 1
Sought his way to the college of Jaláluddín Rúmí
And cried out, "What is all this noise and babble?

p. 126

1430 What are all these syllogisms and judgements and demonstrations?"
"Peace, O fool!" exclaimed the Maulavi,
"Do not laugh at the doctrines of the sages.
Get thee out of my college!
This is argument and discussion: what hast thou to do with it?
1435 My discourse is beyond thy understanding,
It will not brighten the glass of thy perception."
These words increased the anger of Shams-i Tabríz
And caused a fire to burst forth from his soul.
The lightning of his look fell on the earth,
1440 And the glow of his breath made the dust spring into flames.
The spiritual fire burned the intellectual stack

p. 127

And clean consumed the book of philosophy.
The Maulavi, being a stranger to Love's miracles
And unversed in Love's harmonies,
Cried, "How didst thou kindle this fire, 1445
Which hath burned the books of the philosophers?"
The Sheikh answered, "O unbelieving Moslem,
This is vision and ecstasy: what hast thou to do with it?
My state is beyond thy thought,
My flame is the Alchemist's elixir." 1450
Thou hast drawn thy substance from the snow of philosophy,
The cloud of thy thought sheds nothing but hailstones.
Kindle a fire in thy rubble,
Foster a flame in thy earth!
The Moslem's knowledge is perfected by spiritual fervour, 1455

p. 128

The meaning of Islam is Renounce what shall pass away.
When Abraham escaped from the bondage of "that which sets," 1
He sat unhurt in the midst of flames. 2
Thou hast cast knowledge of God behind thee
1460 And squandered thy religion for the sake of a loaf.
Thou art hot in pursuit of antimony,
Thou art unaware of the blackness of thine own eye.
Seek the Fountain of Life from the sword's edge,
And the River of Paradise from the dragon's mouth,
1465 Demand the Black Stone from the door of the house of idols,
And the musk-deer's bladder from a mad dog,

p. 129

But do not seek the glow of Love from the knowledge of to-day,
Do not seek the nature of Truth from this infidel's cup!
Long have I been running to and fro,
Learning the secrets of the New Knowledge: 1470
Its gardeners have put me to the trial
And have made me intimate with their roses.
Roses! Tulips, rather, that warn one not to smell them—
Like paper roses, a mirage of perfume.
Since this garden ceased to enthral me, 1475
I have nested on the Paradisal tree.
Modern knowledge is the greatest blind—
Idol-worshipping, idol-selling, idol-making!
Shackled in the prison of phenomena,
It has not overleaped the limits of the sensible. 1480

p. 130

It has fallen down in crossing the bridge of Life,
It has laid the knife to its own throat.
Having fire, it is yet cold as the tulip;
Having flame, it is yet cold as hail.
1485 Its nature remains untouched by the glow of Love,
It is ever engaged in a joyless search.
Love is the Plato that heals the sicknesses of the mind: 1
The mind's melancholy is cured by its lancet.
The whole world bows in adoration to Love,
1490 Love is the Mahmúd that conquers the Somnath of intellect. 2
Modern science lacks this old wine in its cup,
Its nights are not loud with passionate prayer.

p. 131

Thou hast misprized thine own cypress
And deemed tall the cypress of others.
Like the reed, thou hast emptied thyself of Self 1495
And given thine heart to the music of others.
O thou that begg’st morsels from another's table,
Wilt thou seek thine own kind in another's shop?
The Moslem's feast is burned up by the lamps of strangers,
His mosque is consumed by the Christian monastery. 1500
When the deer fled from the sacred territory of Mecca,
The hunter's arrow pierced her side. 1
The leaves of the rose are scattered, like its scent:
O thou that hast fled from thy Self, come back to it!

p. 132

1505 O trustee of the wisdom of the Koran,
Find thy lost unity again!
We, who keep the gate of the citadel of Islam,
Have become unbelievers by neglecting
the watchword of Islam.
The ancient Saki's bowl is shattered,
1510 The wine-party of the Hijáz is broken up.
The Ka‘ba is filled with our idols,
Infidelity mocks at our Islam.
Our Sheikh hath gambled Islam away for love of idols
And made a rosary of the zunnár1
1515 Our spiritual directors owe their rank to their white hairs
And are the laughing-stock of children in the street;
Their hearts bear no impress of the Faith
But house the idols of sensuality.

p. 133

Every long-haired fellow wears the garb of a dervish—
Alas for these traffickers in religion! 1520
Day and night they are travelling about with disciples,
And ignoring their religious duties.
Their eyes are without light, like the narcissus,
Their breasts devoid of spiritual wealth.
Preachers and Stiffs, all worship worldliness alike; 1525
The prestige of the pure religion is ruined.
Our preacher fixed his eyes on the pagoda
And the mufti of the Faith sold his decision.
After this, O friends, what are we to do?
Our guide turns his face towards the wine-house. 1530


122:1 This appears to be a pseudonym assumed by the author.

124:1 Jaláluddín Rúmí.

125:1 Bábá Kamâluddín Jundí. For Shams-i Tabríz and his relation to Jaláluddín Rúmí see my Selected Poems from the Díváni Shamsi Tabríz (Cambridge, 1898).

128:1 Abraham refused to worship the sun, moon, and stars, saying, "I love not them that set" (Koran, ch. 6, v. 76).

128:2 See p. 91, note.

130:1 In the Masnaví Love is called "the physician of our pride and self-conceit, our Plato and our Galen."

130:2 The famous idol of Somnath was destroyed by Sultan Mahmúd of Ghazna.

131:1 The pilgrims are forbidden to kill game.

132:1 See p. 110, note.

Next: XVII. Time is a Sword