I’ve received a spate of inquiries from the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere about the poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal, widely known in his beloved homeland as Allama Mohammed Iqbal (b. November 9, 1877, d. April 21, 1938.) It was his poem I featured in my last blog that I entitled “Tulips – The Beginning of Spring” in my transcreation into English of his original Urdu verses.
PART II – Lawyer and Politician
Be it noted that Iqbal was also a lawyer and politician: he was highly educated in universities and law schools in both England and Germany.
On the political front, it was Iqbal – back in British India – who mooted the two-nation theory to up-and-coming lawyer and nationalist Mohammad Ali Jinnah; and, yet, it was Iqbal who came up with the popular sloganeering phrase:
“Our India is the Best Country in the World!”
That sounds much better in Urdu, because it is so poetically conceived:
Thus, in Roman Urdu it reads as:
“Sare jahan se achcha hindustan hamara!”
(literally, “Our Hindustan is better than the Whole World!”)
and the original Urdu is shown below.
سارے جَهان سے اَچّها هِندوستان هَمارا
PART III – The Poet of the East
I’m closing this week’s blog on Easter Day – April 5, 2015 – with an apolitical, lyrical description of nature entitled “God’s Creation” by Iqbal, who was labeled by the literati of the subcontinent as “The Poet of the East.”
In the following four lines Iqbal has wrought a miracle by employing economy of expression to achieve immensity of impression: the alliteration in the first and third lines, though using the same labial consonant m, gives rise to movements which seem quite different – one of grandeur, the other of power. In metapoeia the voice has been preserved, and I do believe that the feel of the original movements is likewise kept intact and transmitted through the majestic flow of the iambic pentameter.
Tiri dunya jahan-i murgh o mahi.
Miri dunya fighan-i subhagahi.
Tiri dunya men main makhkum o majbur,
miri dunya men teri padsahi.
The world of fish and fowl is God’s creation.
The world of man is daybreak lamentation.
Subjected and subdued am I in Thine,
But Thou has dominion over mine.
تِری دُنیا جَهانِ مُرغ و ماهی
مِری دُنیا فِغانِ صُبحگاهی
تِری دُنیا میں مَیں مَخکوُم و مَجبُور
مِری دُنیا میں تیری پادشاهی
One may perhaps conclude that the school of poetry inaugurated by Hali – one of the great masters of the Urdu ruba’i or quatrain – came to an end with Iqbal. Yet, there is nothing to prevent the progressive poet of today from finding inspiration in, say, modern English poetry and ushering in a vital new era in the history of the Indian ruba’i.
Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas