Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reaction against democracy in the West

Iqbal talked about “the reaction against democracy in England and France”, but the very phrase is met with great surprise whenever I mention it in my workshops:
  • When did England and France react against democracy?
  • Are those societies not the bastions of democracy?
  • Are they not the yardsticks by which we need to measure and judge our own democracy?
This is the kind of reaction I usually get, and this may show that the generation of Iqbal knew something that has not been transferred to us. The purpose of my recent posts was just to fill the gap.
Iqbal may have been referring to the following developments:
  • Democracy did not last for long in France after the famous French Revolution of 1789. Instead, Napoleon Bonaparte became “emperor” in 1804. The country did not go back to democracy even after Napoleon was ousted ten years later.
  • In 1830, a “basic” democracy was introduced in France. The king was subjected to a parliament, but the right to choose its members was restricted to a few of the wealthiest male citizens. Even this was met with sarcasm from writers like Stendhal who reportedly said something to the effect that in democracy, heads are “counted” but not weighed.
  • In 1848, most male citizens of France, including the work class, were allowed to vote. The elite reacted very strongly against this development. The poet Charles Baudelaire became their mouthpiece, with his anthology The Flowers of Evil in 1857.
  • In England too, the right to vote was restricted to the property holders. The Second Bill of Reforms, adopted in 1867, extended the voting right to almost the entire urban population, including the working class. Matthew Arnold was the most prominent intellectual to react against this with a set of lectures, Culture and Anarchy, beginning the same year.
In our times, even cigarette packs come with health warning but the works of writers like Stendhal, Baudelaire and Matthew Arnold are handed down to unsuspecting students in developing nations without the slightest clue that these writers were opposed to the basic idea of democracy and may have believed the masses to be “fit for stables”. Even the teachers in departments of literature and social sciences in our universities are often ignorant of these issues.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was an English poet, critic and educationist who proposed a division between “high culture” and “popular culture” as a safety walve against democracy.

Until 1867, the right to vote was restricted to land-holders but the Second Reform Bill, passed that year, extended the franchise to practically the entire urban male population. Arnold perceived it as “anarchy” and a threat to “culture”. Hence, in a series lectures starting that year and eventually published as Culture and Anarchy, Arnold suggested practical measures to check the development of democracy. Chief among them was the proposition that the culture of the educated elite should be different from the culture of the masses – something that would have been inconceivable to the greatest poets and artists in history, including Rumi, Shakespeare and Goethe.

Iqbal was apparently making an acute observation about such emerging trends when he wrote in his private notebook, Stray Reflections, in 1910: “The imperial ambitions of the various nations of Europe indicate that the Westerners are tired of Democracy. The reaction against Democracy in England and France is a very significant phenomenon. But in order to grasp the meaning of this phenomenon the student of political sciences should not content himself merely with the investigation and discovery of the purely historical causes which have brought it about; he must go deeper and search the psychological causes of this reaction.”

In another entry in the same notebook, the difference between the egalitarian worldview of Iqbal and the elitist propositions of Arnold are highlighted more explicitly: “Matthew Arnold defines poetry as criticism of life. That life is criticism of poetry is equally true.”

Iqbal’s comment about the poetry of Arnold, originally entered in the same notebook in 1910, appeared in its revised form seven years later in the journal New Era (Lucknow): “Matthew Arnold is a very precise poet. I like, however, an element of vagueness in poetry; since the vague appears profound to the emotions.”

See also Chapter 37, 'The Mind of Europe' in The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality (online revised edition)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stendhal according to Iqbal

Before you read any further, please try answering the following question.
Who made this famous statement: “Democracy is a form of government in which heads are counted but not weighed”?
The most likely answer is, "Iqbal". Technically, that is wrong. Take a look at Iqbal's poem (posted at the bottom of this post). The statement is preceded by two verses which can be translated as, "This secret was revealed by a European man, although the wise ones do no disclose it." Iqbal's footnote indicates that the reference is to Stendhal.

So, the correct answer is that the proposition came from Stendhal, and Iqbal cited him in a satirical poem. Since the line is quoted so often, perhaps we should know a little more about this Stendhal, and why Iqbal quoted him.

Stendhal was the pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), who was part of Napoleon’s administration and military. He remained skeptical about the struggle for the restoration of democracy after Napoleon. Apparently this attitude originated in an aristocratic bias and skepticism about the potential of the human being (two factors usually cited by Iqbal as the psychological reasons for the reaction against democracy in France and England).

The same skepticism seems to have prevented him from appealing to the nobler motives of his readers. Consequently, his fiction was starkly lacking in novelty, cathartic value and an appeal to imagination – elements that serve the basic purpose of all healthy stories in human society. Not surprisingly, his stories remained unpopular until a respectable word for the lack of purpose in fiction was found in the 20th Century: “realism”.

Poem by Iqbal, qouting Stendhal
With an astonishing insight, Stendhal had foreseen this at least a century earlier, predicting that he would be rediscovered in 1935 (his revival started just around that time in the West; and through Iqbal’s famous translation a year later he also became one of the authors most widely quoted in Urdu).

Despite his pessimism, Stendhal’s wit is disarming. In the final analysis he comes out as a visionary who may have been connected with his society's “reaction against democracy” at the level of collective consciousness.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Democracy, on a personal note

I could not have thought that “the Father of Hypocrisy” would evoke such strong reaction (and keen interest). From the feedback it seems that the connection between Iqbal, democracy and Pakistan has surprised some and shocked some others. Maybe a few basic points should be outlined here.

The purpose of my recent posts is not to voice my own ideas. They consist mainly of material that explains Iqbal’s point of view on various matters (and eventually it will go under the “Worldview of Iqbal” chapter in the Republic of Rumi Website.

There cannot be any ambiguity regarding Iqbal's opinion about the political ideal of Islam. “Democracy, then, is the most important aspect of Islam regarded as a political ideal,” he said in a lecture in 1909 and never changed his position on this issue. Even in his famous Reconstruction lectures, the final edition of which was published only four years before his death, he referred to a “spiritual democracy” as “the ultimate ideal of Islam”.

For the same reason he was a critic of Western democracy. His famous verses in Urdu and Persian, with which most of us are familiar, are a criticism of Western democracy – for instance, “democracy is a form of government in which heads are counted but not weighed":
جمہوریت اک طرز حکومت ہے کہ جس میں
بندوں کو گنا کرتے ہیں، تولا نہیں کرتے
[To be continued]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Father of Hypocrisy?

In the early nineteenth century, only the wealthiest citizens were entitled to vote in most European countries. In 1848, France extended the right to males from all segments of the French society, including the workers. This disgusted the young French aristocrat Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), who was going to note in his journal:
There is no form of rational and assured government save an aristocracy. A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy, are equally absurd and feeble. The immense nausea of advertisements. There are but three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create. The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged, they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practise what they call professions.
In 1857, he published his anthology, Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), and wrote in the prefatory poem, “Hypocrite reader! My mirror, my twin!”

The general public was outraged but the elite – social as well as intellectual – came out to patronize their child.

Poets and artists had usually upheld faith – Homer, Rumi, Shakespeare, Goethe and others. Some, like Hafez, Mir Taqi Mir of Delhi and the British Shelley, had celebrated unbelief but only to protest against the hypocrisy of the self-righteous. Why did Baudelaire and his elitist followers openly proclaim hypocrisy to be their literary ideal?

Iqbal seems to have answered this indirectly in his private notebook, Stray Reflections, in 1910:
The imperial ambitions of the various nations of Europe indicate that the Westerners are tired of Democracy. The reaction against Democracy in England and France is a very significant phenomenon. But in order to grasp the meaning of this phenomenon the student of political sciences should not content himself merely with the investigation and discovery of the purely historical causes which have brought it about; he must go deeper and search the psychological causes of this reaction.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mahdi of Sudan

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdullah, popularly known as Mahdi of Sudan (1844-1885), is one of the most problematic appearances in the works of Iqbal.

Historically, the Mahdi of Sudan was a Sufi master from North Africa who turned militant and claimed to be Mahdi, the long-awaited redeemer who would set the stage for the Second Coming of Jesus. He extended the kalima – Muslim proclamation of faith – to include, “Muhammad al-Mahdi is the Khalifa of the Prophet of God” and replaced the fifth pillar of Muslim faith, the pilgrimage to Makkah, with an obligatory jihad – mainly against fellow Muslims of Turkish and Egyptian origins – and used force for implementing a wholly uncritical vision of the past, especially in matters of law. Careful not to claim prophet-hood, he nevertheless asserted that he was inspired by Gabriel, the angel who used to bring revelation to prophets.

Since Iqbal was known to be irreverently skeptical about almost all of these ideas, readers may be shocked to find the spirit of Mahdi appearing on the Sphere of Venus in Javidnama (1932), and singing an anthem about the impending birth of Iqbal’s ideal world. However, precisely due to his famous eccentricities, Mahdi is of immense value as a focal point for an intensive study of the turmoil that exists in the heart of the Muslim world in modern times (and unlike some other modern mystics, his movement attempted to “extricate the individuals from an enervating present” rather than slavishly surrendering their souls to its dictates).

A Western counterpart, although incomparably more ignoble, is perhaps the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who also appears in the works of Iqbal, mainly to personify a spontaneous overflow of tendencies existing in the heart of the Western society.

After taking Sudan in 1898, the British conqueror Lord Horatio Kitchener (1850-1916) opened the tomb of Mahdi and scattered his bones. In Javidnama, Kitchener’s subsequent death in a torpedoed ship is mentioned as the revenge of Mahdi’s spirit, and compared with the drowning of the Pharaoh (according to the Quran, the Pharaoh drowned during the Exodus).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Faith and Envy

This is the second of the longer stories from the Masnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. The account is obviously fictitious, since it is meant to be a parable and not history, but Rumi might be sharing some insights about civilizations here.
“We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” (Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 285)
Soon after Jesus Christ there came a king who claimed to be a follower of Moses but an enemy of Jesus, and persecuted Christians in the hope of putting an end to the new faith.

Envy was the minister of this king. Persecution failed to eliminate Christianity because many Christians concealed their faith. Then Envy said to the king, “Cut off my nose and ears, and declare that I am a Christian who concealed his faith but now you have found out. Send me to the gallows and then get me rescued just in time.”

This was done. Thus Envy gained the confidence of Christians who appreciated the sacrifices it had offered, as they thought, for the sake of Jesus. It started delivering sermons that were full of esoteric wisdom but at the same time left a feeling of discomfort somewhere in the hearts of the listeners.

Six years passed by. The king became impatient and secretly asked Envy to hurry up. It obeyed, and wrote twelve edicts, each containing a doctrine contradictory to the other. Then it went into seclusion for forty or fifty days. Its followers became impatient and implored upon it to return but it called from within, “Jesus has asked me to leave everyone and I shall not speak a word after this.”

Then it called each of the twelve leaders of Christians separately, telling each one that he had been appointed its successor and all others should obey him. Each was given a doctrine but was told to keep it a secret until the death of Envy. After this, Envy closed its door again and killed itself after forty days.

Its followers became devastated and mourned it for a month. Then they gathered to nominate its successor. One of the leaders stepped forward, claimed to have been nominated the successor by the deceased and showed the edict. He was contradicted by another who was in turn contradicted by someone else, and so on. Soon they were fighting among themselves and Christian blood was shed by Christian swords.

In the Bible there was mention of the last Prophet. There was one group among Christians who respected his name and revered it. Members of this group remained free from discord and fear, and their descendants increased. Another group, which showed disrespect to the last Prophet upon reading his name in the Bible, became disgraced. Its members became unaware of themselves and of their faith.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heart and Soul

This is the first parable in the Masnavi of Rumi. I have retold it in a special style. I dedicate it to Pakistan, which is Heart and we are Soul.
Heart was a king who ruled over matter and spirit. One day, it went out hunting and got separated from its companions. That is when it fell in love with Soul, who first appeared as a maid working in a peasant’s home. Heart bought Soul and brought it to the palace, where Soul fell ill.

Physicians were called. Well-versed in science and philosophy, they promised to heal the patient even if God willed otherwise. They failed. When Heart feared that Soul would die, it turned to God and prayed for Divine help. Presently it fell asleep at an unusual hour and in a dream it saw a mentor.

The mentor arrived for real the next day. Avoiding the mistake of judging its guide by its own standards, Heart submitted completely. The mentor met Soul in private and promised to be like a caring fathe. Then he unlocked the secrets of Soul and learnt that it was in love with a goldsmith who owned it once but had sold it away since then. Burning silently in love of its former master, Soul had fallen ill. Physicians had declared it incurable because they did not know the cause and only observed symptoms.

The mentor started to set things right. He advised Heart to summon the goldsmith from his far-off city. On instructions from the mentor, Heart commissioned the goldsmith to prepare jewelry and even handed over Soul to him. Reunited with the goldsmith, Soul recovered soon.

In the meanwhile, the mentor prepared two potions. He gave one to the goldsmith and it made him grow weaker and uglier every day until Soul could not stand his sight anymore. “Alas! I have been murdered,” said the goldsmith. “Providence shall take my revenge.”

Saying this, the goldsmith died. In the meanwhile, the other potion had been given to Heart, which had become stronger and more attractive by its effect. Soul was now able to recognize its true partner and fell in love with it. Thus they became united in health and happiness.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

39. Glory

This is Chapter 39 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. It is a visualization of Part 1 of Iqbal's Urdu anthology, The Call of the Marching Bell (1924).
Coming out of the second enclave, you see a little forest in the Garden. It is dense but well-kempt and is teeming with variety. This is the third enclave, the Call of the Marching Bell. It was opened to public in 1924 but contains many items older than that.
After visiting two enclaves it is now the time to know the architect. Hence this enclave gives you a biography of his mind. It is open on one side, so that you may step outside the Garden and follow the downhill track to the point from where Iqbal first saw this hilltop where he was going to build the Garden. The Preface, contributed by a close friend, is a shortcut to that spot.
Ten thousand people are listening to Iqbal singing a long poem in a fundraiser. Those who can understand and those who cannot are equally moved. Spellbound, they make generous donations.
This is how Iqbal emerged at first. He was a voice of the masses equally acceptable to all segments of society. In Persian, his name meant ‘Glory’.
The highest mountain of the world stands guard over the Poet’s homeland, India. Its snow-clad peaks are intimations of immortality and the valleys a playground for the elements. The stream flowing down from it is a reminder of how Goethe symbolized the purpose of Islam. The Poet is haunted by the sound of the waterfall when night sets in.
“O Himalayas!” He can speak to mountain since his heart can communicate with Nature. “Tell us a tale from those bygone days when the grandparents of humanity settled down in your foothills. Amaze us by telling us something of that simple life unstained by the rouge of conditioning. Yes, O imagination! Show us those days and nights again. Turn back, O Wheel of Time!”
Mirza Ghalib
Mirza Ghalib, the poet who inspired Iqbal’s teacher Maulvi Mir Hasan, lies buried with the civilization to which he belonged. Even then he may show the expanse of human imagination to any who have the courage to confront the narrow breadth of their own.
Iqbal finds him to be the counterpart of Goethe in many ways but there is one big difference. He says to Ghalib, “Alas! You rest in the ruins of the devastated Delhi while your fellow-singer sleeps in the Garden of Weimer.”
  • Can these excerpts from the early period also be helpful in your search for Joseph?
  • What do you learn here about the mind of Iqbal as the architect of the Garden?

Monday, June 28, 2010

38. Joseph of the West

This is Chapter 38 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality.

Poets, thinkers and leaders of the West appear from an Eastern point of view in the gallery called the Western Images – John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Petofi, Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Kaiser Wilhelm, Vladimir Lenin and many more.

Past and present merge, and so do East and West. Western philosophers hold conversations with ancient Persians like the anarchist Mazdak and the stonecutter Farhad. Rumi debunks the philosophy of Hegel and the manipulative positivism of the French philosopher August Comte is shred to pieces by the plain common sense of an unschooled worker. In yet another corner, the poets Robert Browning and Lord Byron from England are exchanging autobiographical reflections with Mirza Ghalib of India and Rumi. Perhaps the most remarkable is a meeting between Goethe and Rumi in a corner of Paradise.
Jalal and Goethe
The playwright and the director come to a compromise at presenting something that is entertaining as well as thoughtful: Faust, a tragedy in two parts. It opens in Heaven where the Devil, as Mephistopheles, lays wager with God that the pious Doctor Faust shall end up in hell.
Faust agrees to give his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for a moment so fair that Faust should wish it to last.
This is difficult because Faust is insatiable. He ends up seducing his beloved Margaret a.k.a. Gretchen and ruining her life (although her soul is also saved by Divine Grace). He summons the spirit of Helen of Troy, provides advice to monarchs and goes on to launch voyages of discovery which unfortunately turn into colonialism – “then commerce, war and piracy are three in one and cannot be parted.”
Undeterred, Faust plans to reconstruct the world as a veritable paradise that shall have no traces of violence that is one of the undesirable remnants of the ancient world. Mephistopheles gets his chance of claiming the soul of Faust when the hero, while visualizing the perfect world of his own creation in the future, declares that such will be the moment to which he might say, “Abide, you are so fair!”
Mephistopheles still loses the wager because Faust only declared his intention of wanting a moment to last but such a moment did not arrive actually.
Rumi offers feedback to Goethe on his masterpiece. “Your thought has made its home in the inner recesses of the heart and created this old world anew," says Rumi to the German poet-thinker. "He who is blessed and is a confidant, knows that cunning comes from the Devil and love from the human being.”

Is it because of Joseph of the West that such a world has become possible where East should meet West in this manner?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Conspiracy theory against Pakistan's national anthem

Recently a conspiracy theory was floated from the Indian side with reference to the poet-scholar Jagan Nath Azad who died in 2004. Chandra Azad, reportedly the dead poet’s son, claimed that the poet mentioned to him that he was summoned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah just before independence and asked to write the national anthem of Pakistan, which got written and adopted, and kept being played from Radio Pakistan until the death of Jinnah, after which it was dropped because the author was non-Muslim.

The exponents did not produce any evidence but the theory still got presented as established fact in Humsafar, the glossy magazine of Pakistan International Airlines! (Yeah, great people to fly with). Soon it was all over the place, of course including the Wikipedia entry on Pakistan’s national anthem (modified since then) and also on some allegedly Pakistani blogs by alleged Pakistanis).

I was among those who were approached by friends and students for expert opinion. I could only say that it was mere gossip until some evidence was presented, and I was not comfortable discussing hearsay.

Dr. Safdar Mahmood has now done thorough investigation on the matter, for which the nation owes him gratitude. Painstakingly, he has gone through records of Jinnah’s visitors, lists of radio broadcasts and newspapers of the era as well as biographical material about the poet himself. He found no evidence that the poet ever met Jinnah, and some evidence to show that he definitely didn’t meet Jinnah in the initial days of the country’s existence. No national anthem was ever mentioned in any newspaper or contemporary record prior to the adoption of the present one at a much later date. His valuable article is available online (in Urdu).

May we expect that Pakistani writers who inadvertently became used in this dirty conspiracy against the nation’s self-image will now correct their error? They can also make some compensation by mentioning that Pakistan is proud of its national anthem, written by Hafeez Jallundhri, a poet loved by the masses, and the hymn which he wrote in honor of Lord Krishna used to be sung in the temples of Varanasi (Benaras) in the late 1920s, before the pundits decided that poetry written by a non-Hindu could not be given that place.

Next time someone from the other side comes up with such stuff, should we whisper the magic phrase: “Calcutta Congress, December 1911"? (In the Calcutta session of December 1911, Indian National Congress sung a hymn to King George V, describing him as “the ruler of the minds of all people, dispenser of India’s destiny”, and this is the Indian national anthem adopted on January 24, 1950, embarrassing many Indian writers such as the one who posted on the official website of Hamilton Institute, New York).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

37. The Mind of Europe

This is Chapter 36 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality.
Western Images is a picture galley on the other side of the Remaining Wine. It displays images of the West as they flashed upon the Poet’s inward eye. The first is called ‘Message’. It consists of nine stanzas of five couplets each.
Stanza 1
The Poet asks the morning breeze to take his message to the intellectuals of the West: “You have accumulated knowledge at the cost of the heart.”
Stanza 2
Philosophy wanders through the desert and mountains without catching a single prey. It roams around in the garden but gets no flowers. “Now let’s take our needs to the doorstep of Love,” the Poet invites his Western counterparts. “Let’s bow down to Love and seek expansion.”
Stanza 3
Reason turns dust into gold and then throws some of the dust into the eyes of Jesus. Constantly tying and untying knots on the heart, it sows ambers and reaps flames.
Stanza 4
The vulgar intellect becomes captive to its own thoughts but a penetrating intellect sees through the nine skies and combines the longing of Adam with the light of the angels.
Stanza 5
Humanity leaps forward from the isolation of Love and turns dark clay into mirror. It was a flame that broke into ambers and each amber acquired taste, longing and vision.
Stanza 6
Love has now turned to the ways of lust, plunging its sword into the breasts of friends and giving the name of empire to plain robbery. It is high time that a new tradition should be introduced and the heart should be washed clean.
Stanza 7
Monarchy is coming to an end and the age of conquerors is over. Joseph of the West comes out of the prison and sits on the throne after the accusations against him by Potiphar’s Wife are proven false. Old secrets are no longer restricted to the elite. Life is creating a new world and those who care to see can see this.
Stanza 8
The Poet sees that which is yet to come: a revolution too big for the universe’s mind. Blessed are those who see the rider in the dust and the essence of the song in the trembling of the strings.
Stanza 9
Life is a running stream and is about to flow faster. What has been but should not have been will not be anymore. What should have been but has not been will be.
The Poet puts out the candle by way of announcing the advent of dawn after a very dark night.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

36. Hafez of Shiraz

This is Chapter 36 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality.

British, French, Italian and Greek forces enter Constantinople. The Caliph, who is supposed to be the emblem of Muslim unity, hands over his power to the conquerors. Thus ends the Ottoman rule that had triggered the European Renaissance by sacking Constantinople almost five hundred years ago now comes to end. Having painted the Middle East red with the treachery of the Arab chieftains, the Allied armies now begin genocide of Turks in their own homeland. “Charmed by the pen, the human being seems to have put down the sword,” says the Poet. “Having built an idol-temple of world peace this slave of lust danced around it to the music of the pipes but when war tore off the veil, he stood exposed as blood-thirsty and quarrelsome.”

Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a veteran of the World War, appears from among the masses in Turkey and defeats the invaders. After regaining Constantinople, he refuses to give it back to the king. He gives it to the people. Declaring that the days of imperialism are finally over, he relinquishes all claims of his nation on lands that do not belong to it. He is the new type of leader in whom Life itself is struggling restless to solve its own problems.
Beyond this realm of ideas lies a tavern for restoring some madness to your method. The sign board on the entrance reads ‘Remaining Wine’ – a suitable name for such a place.

The Remaining Wine

The nomadic conqueror from Central Asia, Tamerlane, is flashing like lightning across empires, razing cities to rubble and erecting towers of severed skulls. Sitting beside clear blue ponds amid lush green meadows, the Persian poet Hafez of Shiraz is putting the sweet unconscious spirituality of the nightingale in words like cut jewels. His poetry is like narcotics that may sooth the nerves after prolonged periods of sustained activity and whether it further weakened the Persian will against the invasion of Tamerlane at that time is now beside the point. With the emergence of Mustafa Kemal Pasha more than five hundred year later, the worst days of the East are now left behind and there cannot be much harm in having a little taste of the powerful drug prepared by Hafez.
“Spring has spread out a banquet up to the Garden,” you hear a familiar voice as you enter the tavern. The ghazals served here are distinctly crossed with the brew of Hafez, whose effect on Goethe was to leave him shaken but not stirred. “Do not imagine that our clay was fashioned when the world was made,” you hear after you have taken a few drinks. “We are still a thought in Being’s mind!”

Music is heard, and then a voice: “O singer! Sing verses from the holy guide Rumi so that my soul may be immersed in the fire of Tabriz!” “Our goal is God,” the saying of Rumi comes like a flame.

“Your Beauty shines through the glass like the color of reflection,” the Poet offers a toast to the Almighty. “Just like wine, You too have veiled Yourself with a goblet’s wall!” It starts getting even heavier as he declares, “A true lover does not differentiate between the Kabah and the idol house. One is the Beloved’s privacy and the other His public appearance.” This is no altruism – not the result of a willing suspension of belief but the reward of a penetrating vision: “Learn how to put a rosary bead on the thread of the Brahmin, and if your eyes see double then learn how not to see.”

Then a tankard comes with an unusual label: ‘Addressed to a Sufi’. It goes on to say:

Do not talk any more about Joseph we have lost: the warmth of a Zulaykha’s heart neither you have nor I.
Zulaykha attempted to seduce Joseph and accused him falsely upon getting exposed. Secretly she still kept bragging about her passion in the company of her female friends. The Poet is identifying himself and other Sufis with this woman: the imprisoned Joseph would later interpret a significant dream for the Pharaoh but would refuse to come out until the women were asked to speak the truth. Then Zulaykha would confess even at a great risk to her life.

The Poet and the Sufis will have to stand witness and run some risk when their Joseph comes out. The timing is not right: “the warmth of a Zulaykha’s heart neither you have nor I.”

35. The Spirit of Muslim Culture

This is Chapter 35 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Some images in the Hall of Reflections are labeled with the names of Western poets especially Goethe. They are reflections on their works and one of them shows you why Goethe has been chosen as the guide for your induction into the present stage of your journey. The German poet turns out to be an admirer of Prophet Muhammad.

Near a signpost saying ‘The Stream’, you witness the journey of a beautiful stream. The Poet is standing nearby to inform you, “‘The Stream’ is a free rendering of Goethe’s celebrated poem ‘Muhammad’s Song’ (‘Mohamet’s Gesang’), which was composed long before West-Eastern Divan. The German poet has exquisitely brought forth the Islamic concept of life. In fact, it formed part of the planned drama on Islam which he could not complete. The translation is meant only to show Goethe’s point of view.”

‘The Stream’ has four stanzas and it is not impossible for you to discern parallels between these and the first four aspects of Time as depicted in ‘The Song of Time’. The fifth aspect of Time, i.e. Time as reward, did not require to be depicted separately since it is the overall picture that emerges from the poem.

Stanza 1
The stream is sound asleep in the cradle of the clouds until it opens its eye in the lap of the mountains. Linked with itself, unlinked with all, it merrily flows through the meadow, its graceful motion striking music from the pebbles. It is headed towards the boundless ocean.
Stanza 2
Spring has fashioned a fairyland along the track of the stream. Roses attempt to tempt it while the rose-bud laughs coquettishly but unmindful of these green-robed beauties the stream cleaves the desert and rends the breast of hills and valleys in its onward march towards the boundless ocean.
Stanza 3
Stricken with drought, a hundred feeble brooks from woods, meadows, valleys and gardens and villas cry for help. The stream, having evaded all charms of the earth-rooted flowers, opens its breast to the winds of the East and the West. It clasps its weak and wailing fellow-travelers. With a hundred thousand matchless pearls it flows on towards the boundless ocean.
Stanza 4
The stream is now a surging river surpassing dam dykes, narrow gorges of valleys, hills and glen. Made one like a torrent passionate, fierce, sharp, restless and heart-inflaming, it arrives each time at the new and goes beyond the old. Linked with itself, unlinked with all, it merrily flows towards the boundless ocean.
So Goethe was the pioneer of poetry praising Prophet Muhammad in modern Europe. This was the kind of man who could provide a reliable and lasting bridge between East and West but the spirit of his message, unfortunately, is now being ignored even in the West.

Monday, May 3, 2010

34. Creation Stories

This is Chapter 34 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. Here the reader is offered a few insights about the upcoming world.
Beyond the flowers of Sinai you see the House of Reflections. It contains diverse ideas from the Poet’s mind (good that you basked in the glowing warmth of Love before approaching this realm of ideas).

Each idea is contained in a poem that takes life eyes as you concentrate on it. The one directly related to your present status in the Garden is ‘The Conquest of Nature’. It consists of five holograms with separate subheadings.

The birth of Adam
There is commotion in the universe. Love rejoices while Beauty trembles. Lying unaware in the embrace of Life, Desire opens eyes and a new world comes into being. Life declares that since it struggled restless in the darkness of the earth for many eons, a door has at least opened in the dome of the sky.
The Devil’s refusal
God bids angels to bow down to the newly created Adam. Since the Devil was born of fire, he considers himself superior to human being. He refuses to obey and says to God, “This short-sighted ignoramus creature was born in your lap but it will grow old in my arms.”
The temptation of Adam
The Devil avenges his expulsion from heaven by tempting the first couple. “A life of passion and longing is better than eternal quiet,” he says. “Do you not know as yet that passion fizzles out if union is achieved?”
Adam speaks on coming out of Paradise
The human being comes out and says, “How good it is to fill life with passion and longing: to open the door of the cage on to a spacious garden. I would exchange certainty for doubt, for I have become a martyr of the quest.”
The Dawn of Resurrection
(Adam in the presence of God)
Adam addresses the Almighty. “You whose sun illumines the star of life,” he says. “With my heart You lit the candle of the sightless world. My skills have poured an ocean into a strait, my pickaxe makes milk flow from the heart of stone. Venus is my captive, the moon worships me. Although his sorcery deluded me, excuse my fault, forgive my sin: the world could not have been subdued otherwise, for pride could not be taken prisoner without the halter of humility. Reason catches artful nature in a net and thus Ahriman, born of fire, bows down before the creature of dust.”
Adam’s address to the Almighty on the Dawn of Resurrection sounds like it is coming from you – the words printed in this book are like stones mentioned by him while your soul is hacking them to allow streams of life flow out of them and become this Garden – and that should not be surprising since Adam on the Dawn of Resurrection is most likely to be the new humanity, and that is represented by you.

The Garden is suddenly filled with the fragrance of the rose and you are told that a houri wanted to experience the world. She turned into the morning breeze, grow out of the branch like a bud, which then became a flower and withered after a time. Fragrance is all that is left of her now and it tells you that Time shall be less of a mystery for the new human being.

As you listen to the Song of Time, you notice that its five stanzas make a strange parallel to the five episode of the Creation Story you saw just now. The parallels require some effort to be drawn but once you draw the parallels they help you experience Time at five levels.

Stanza 1
Everything in the world seems to be pegged on the wall of Time, which itself appears to be nothing as you look at it but turns out to be your soul when you look within: the primary description of your life is the span of time you get to spend in the world. The birth of Adam – Time as yourself?
Stanza 2
Time paints its pictures with blood: Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, European colonialism and the greatest catastrophes of history appear like sparks shed by the flame of Time, which turns out to be a burning fire as well as the garden of Paradise. The Devil’s refusal – Time as a sign of God?
Stanza 3
Time appears to be passing but is also eternity and stays still: tomorrow can be seen in today except that the human eye cannot behold the effect of wine in the wine. Hence Time turns out to be the formless attribute by which you define Divine Life and, as you know, is also your soul. The temptation of Adam – Time as Truth?
Stanza 4
You are pitted against Time: while you propose your designs it disposes destiny beyond the spell of limited reasoning. You are free to choose only because the highest choice will merely take you to another dimension of Time but never possibly beyond it. You are the secret of Time just as it is yours: a secret that your soul hides as well as reveals. Adam speaks on coming out of Paradise – Relativity of Time?
Stanza 5
Time is the traveler that seeks you as its destination. You are the fruit of its labors – you are a song of thousand melodies but one heart and that heart alone is big enough to contain the ocean of Time as if it were a storm rising of your own tide. The Dawn of Resurrection and Adam in the presence of God – Time as your reward?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

33. Flowers of Sinai

This is Chapter 33 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. 163 quatrains on the subject of love are spread out like tulips from the Mount Sinai where Moses saw the Divine illumination

Bright red tulips are spread out as far as you see. Each flower represents a quatrain – a poem of four lines. Each one has been planted here after being transported from Sinai, the mountain on which Moses witnessed the Divine Manifestation on a burning bush. Each one is numbered – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on.

As you concentrate on a tulip, it turns into a hologram with voice. The first red flower shows you the all-illuminating Sun as a mark of worship on the forehead of dawn as you hear the flower saying to you in a bell-like whisper, “The banquet of life is a martyr to the Divine Beauty. Hence love and courtesy is the very foundation of existence.”

You see waves of oceans, flowers growing on mountain tops, fairy meadows spread out far and wide, conquerors of the world marching on to their glorious graves while the legendary guide Khizr drinks eternity on the Fountain of Life. The whispering tulips relate every vision to the working of Love until the heart becomes the center of the universe as well as its boundaries – there are no boundaries of the universe except in its center and that is the human heart.

“This world is a handful of earth and the heart is the crop we get out of it,” says the eighth tulip. “This drop of blood is the only riddle of the world. Our eyes have acquired a double-vision or else the world of everyone is contained in their hearts.”

“Give up faith and become the slave of doubt if you wish to rule the realm of knowledge,” says the forty-eighth. “However, if you desire action, then fortify faith: seek one, see one and be one.”

Eternity spreads out like a tapestry as you advance amid the flowers of Sinai. Thousands of years of human civilization are passing before your vision when the 121st flower whispers, “But the story of my entire life can be summed up in these few words: I sculpted, I worshipped and I broke.”

The little red flowers are inside-out representations of the human heart: the secrets contained in the heart that may not be discerned by the sharpest mind are being revealed by these blabbering creatures. Here you witness the very process through which perceptions of God, angels, idols, truth, falsehood, reality and superstition are formed in the depth of human consciousness – and how a world of stone, vegetable, animals, planets and heavenly bodies beyond the range of vision and imagination springs from this consciousness. Beyond good and evil, you witness the universe acquiring life through Love.

The second last flower presents the difficulty due to which these secrets could not be revealed in a sustained dialogue and required this series of disjointed quatrains. It says, “The love of speech filled my heart with blood and set me off on my quest but when I opened my lips to speak of love, words veiled this secret in a thicker shroud.” The very last flower presents the solution as it whispers, “At last from subtle reason he has fled and has turned his self-sustained heart into blood through Love. What are you asking of the sky-soaring Iqbal? Our wise philosopher has lost his head.”

The total number of flowers was 163. Since it is a prime number, i.e. it cannot be divided except by itself or by 1, it represents your ego or soul, which is indivisible but can be absorbed in Unity, or Oneness. The progression on the single theme of Love has turned out to signify your remaking as the new Adam: the self is strengthened through love.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

32. The King of Afghanistan

This is Chapter 31 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. Since the New Adam is likely to be perceived in Asia long before being understood in the West, the enclave is dedicated to the King of Afghanistan.
“I have dedicated these few pages to His Majesty the King of Afghanistan,” the Poet tells you. Beautiful images appear in each stanza of the dedicatory poem and the Poet goes elaborating the meaning of each image.
Stanza 1

The thirty-one year old Amanullah Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan since 1919, has given stalemate to the British in the Third Anglo-Afghan War and won the independence of his nation by revoking the condition imposed by the British in 1879 that Afghanistan will have “no windows looking on the outside world” except towards the British India. Just as the royal liberator is receiving tributes from rulers of the world, the Poet appears to offer a gift of verses that match the lofty ambition of the youthful king.
“O king, son of a king,” says the Poet. “Accept from me this humble offering.”
Stanza 2

The Poet comes into contact with the infinitude of Goethe’s imagination, discovers the narrow breadth of his own and then his soul discovers itself with the help of Rumi. He mentions Goethe to the Afghan king with due respect while complaining that unlike the Germans who made good use of their thinker’s gift, the East has not recognized the worth of the message of the Poet to whom God has revealed the truths of statecraft and religion both.
“So mean is fortune that it favours fools,” says the Poet to the king “Woe to the gifted, who defy its rules!”
Stanza 3
Arabs have lost their way in the desert, the Egyptians are being drowned in the whirlpool of the Nile and the Middle East is being painted red with Turkish blood. Iran has nothing of its old fire except ashes and the Indian Muslim is indifferent to everything except earning bread by serving foreign rulers.
“Muslims have lost the ways that charmed the world,” says the Poet to the king. “There are no more Khalid bin Walid, Umar the Great and Saladin.”
Stanza 4
Afghans are the proud sons of the mountains whose instinct makes him more fitted for democracy than any other people in Asia but they are yet to receive their share of the modern world. The young King Amanullah appears on the scene with an enlightened soul and a love of religion.
“Become a source of power for the religion,” says the Poet to him. “So that your name may be written among those rendered the highest service to the Muslim nation.”
Stanza 5
“Knowledge is the virtue that abounds,” says God. Europe acquires a new life by grasping the knowledge of things and enslaves the East where souls are without awareness of the wealth buried in their lands.
“There are pure rubies buried in your Badakhshan,” says the Poet. “The lightning of Sinai is dormant inside your mountains.”
Stanza 6

Devils roam around disguised as human beings. They are earning respect through noble pretenses.
Rumi, who was born in Afghanistan, now appears on the scene and addresses the modern king. “The nemesis of every nation that perished in the past was that it mistook stone for incense.”
Stanza 7
A traveler enters the Persian city of Ctesiphon and finds a porter to carry the luggage. When he tries to pay, the porter refuses and says, “It is my duty to serve. I am the governor of this city.” He is none other than Salman, the Persian companion of the Prophet and as governor of the ancient capital of the Persian Empire he is acting on the command of the Prophet: “The ruler of a people is their servant.” At night, Salman uses a stone instead of pillow and sleeps more peacefully than most other rulers ever could.
“Rise and serve the same wine of Love again,” says the Poet to the king. “Deliver once again the message of Love in the mountains.”
Through seven stanzas, the Poet has brought the King of Afghanistan to reconciliation between matter and spirit – or power and love. Ideals begin to move closer to reality as you move on into the enclave.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

31. Goethe

This is Chapter 31 from the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. With reference to the German “Thinker of Life” Goethe, the reader is informed here about the impending rise of the “New Adam” which is the reader themselves.

The second enclave is A Message from the East. It appeared in 1923 and much was added to it a year later.

The atmosphere changes as soon as you enter this part. In the previous part, you have seen that the Garden has been woven with the meanings of the Quran and it represents the secret life of the Muslim nation. Despite this, in the very introduction of A Message from the East, the Poet introduces you to a Western poet and thinker – Johanne Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

A Message from the East

It is Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The French conqueror Napoleon is ravaging Europe, Africa and India but living in the duchy of Weimer in his native Germany, Goethe is remained remarkably untouched despite his admiration for the genius of Napoleon.

Goethe’s many influences have included Persian literature – an elder poet has advised him to pay attention to Saadi of Shiraz who said, “Children of Adam are limbs to each other, since they are of the same pure essence” while a contemporary has dramatized the fourth story from the Seven Beauties of Nezami Ganjavi. Ferdowsi and Attar have also influenced Goethe but his love of Iran reaches a new height when he gets to read the Divan of Hafiz in German in 1812. Germany is in bad shape, Goethe is sixty-five but the music of Hafiz arouses in his imagination a mighty storm. In the songs of the nightingale of Shiraz, he perceives his own image and begins to hallucinate that he was Hafiz in an earlier existence, and that the knowledge of mysteries has somehow survived in him.

Still, he is not an imitator of any Persian poet and his glance rests only on those Oriental truths which his Western temperament can assimilate. He calls a book of his poems the West-Eastern Divan, and at the beginning of the next century, the book falls in to the hand of an Indian who has felt similar associations with Hafiz and knows the German language. He is Iqbal, the Poet, who is a knower of secrets like Hafiz and Goethe. He writes back to Goethe after one hundred years and calls his book A Message from the East. That is where you are now.

“The internal unrest of the world’s nations, which we cannot assess properly because of being ourselves affected by it, is the fore-runner of a great spiritual and cultural revolution,” the Poet tells you.

This observation is also true about the present stage in your journey through the Garden: just like “the internal unrest of the world’s nations” in the Poet’s times, there now seems to be an internal unrest in the Garden since chapters on the Muslim nation and Quran have been followed immediately by the glorification of a Western thinker, Goethe.
You cannot assess this internal unrest properly since you are yourself being “affected by it” just as the Poet’s generation was being affected by the internal unrest of nations. If that unrest was “the fore-runner of a great spiritual and cultural revolution” then the unrest of the Garden could be “the fore-runner of a great spiritual and cultural revolution” in your “self.” You may remember that such a revolution was the promise held out in ‘A Parable Never Told’ that started you in search of Joseph in the first place.

You had five clues about Joseph, whose meanings became evident in the chapter on Love. Now the ‘Introduction’ to A Message from the East seems to be modernizing them if you could read between the lines:
“Europe’s Great War was a catastrophe which destroyed the old world order in almost every respect, and now out of the ashes of civilization and culture Nature is building up in the depths of life a new Adam and a new world for him to live in, of which we get a faint sketch in the writings of Einstein and Bergson. Europe has seen with its own eyes the horrible consequences of its intellectual, moral and economic objectives and has also heard from Signor Nitti (a former prime minister of Italy) the heart-rending story of the West’s decline. It is, however, a pity that Europe’s perspicacious, but conservative, statesmen have failed to make a proper assessment of that wonderful revolution which is now taking place in the human mind.
“Regarded from a purely literary standpoint, the debilitation of the forces of life in Europe after the ordeal of the war is unfavorable to the development of a correct and mature literary ideal. Indeed, the fear is that the minds of the nations may be gripped by that slow-pulsed ‘Ajamiyat which runs away from life’s difficulties, and which fails to distinguish between the emotions of the heart and the thoughts of the brain. However, America seems to be a healthy element in Western civilization, the reason for which perhaps is that it is free from the trammels of old traditions and that its collective intuition is receptive to new ideas and influences.
“The East, and especially the Muslim East, has opened its eyes after a centuries-long slumber. But the nations of the East should realize that life can bring about no revolution in its surroundings until a revolution takes place in its inner depths and that no new world can take shape externally until it is formed in the minds of men. This ineluctable law, which has been stated by the Quran in the simple but eloquent words, ‘Verily, God does not change a nation until it changes itself’ governs both the individual and the collective spheres of life; and it is the truth of this law that I have tried to keep in view in my Persian works.
“In the present-day world, and especially in Eastern countries, every effort which aims at extending the outlook of individuals and nations beyond geographical boundaries and at reviving or generating in them a healthy and strong human character is worthy of respect.”
The Introduction has shown you that Joseph is connected with the New Adam and therefore belongs to the new world. No wonder that he wasn’t supposed to come out in the lifetime of the Poet and a “great cultural and spiritual revolution” is required for bringing him out:

(a)     Rumi and Iqbal: This first clue pointed to both great poets being followers of Prophet Muhammad but now surprisingly a non-Muslim poet Goethe has joined the club – Rumi, Goethe and Iqbal is the new order of things but can a non-Muslim join the club? Perhaps the “great cultural and spiritual revolution” that is coming up ahead will provide the answer.
(b)    Kings: They had been identified to stand for state, laws and government but the Great European War (World War I) has uprooted the states, laws and governments of the old world. Will the “great cultural and spiritual revolution” help construct a new model of state, laws and government?  
(c)     Joseph: Although still unknown, Joseph had become connected with overcoming the physical dimensions of one’s existence (as reflected in the secrets of the title of Ali, “the master of clay”). If the “great cultural and spiritual revolution” of the near future requires such unification of matter and spirit then Joseph is the key to such a revolution.
(d)    Sufism: You understood it as the opening of the door of the world with the key of religion and the “great cultural and spiritual revolution” seems to be just that – an age is coming when state, laws and governments shall be founded on the principles of Sufism if only Joseph could be found, since he is the key.
(e)     Time: You understood that eternity was less than a moment of Prophet Muhammad’s time, who also said, “Do not vilify Time, for God says: I am Time.” Blaming the modern times as evil can easily turn you blind to the “great cultural and spiritual revolution” and Joseph will tell you how to deal with the seemingly undesirable trends of modern times.

The Poet has said, “Europe’s Great War was a catastrophe which destroyed the old world order in almost every respect, and now out of the ashes of civilization and culture Nature is building up in the depths of life a new Adam and a new world for him to live in…” The selfhood that you acquired through interacting with that old world through the Garden has also been lost and now out of the ashes of civilization Nature is building you up in the depths of life.

The meaning of the five clues has changed because now you know who you are. You are the New Adam.

The Beginning

The first five chapters introduce the purpose of the book, the connection of Iqbal with Rumi, the mysterious character “Joseph” and five clues for finding him in “the Garden of Poetry” – a virtual reality based on the works of Iqbal.
  1. A Parable Never Told: This fictitious account about Rumi is an allegory about our times, giving an idea about what our world can be if the message presented here gets to be implemented.
  2. The Second Coming: This chapter introduces Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal as a modern day disciple of Mawlana Rumi.
  3. ‘Who Is Rumi’? In the works of Iqbal, Mawlana Rumi appears as a character with symbolic relevance to our times.
  4. Joseph: Joseph is an intriguing figure in the works of Iqbal and seems to be a mystery that could be solved by the discerning reader.
  5. Enter the Garden: The reader is given five clues for finding Joseph in the works of Iqbal (presented here as a virtual reality called the Garden of Poetry).

Part 1: Dilemma

In Part 1, comprising of Chapters 6 to 17, the reader finds that their "self" rather than mind interacts with the Garden of Poetry. The first stage, with the Poet himself as the reader's guide (Chapter 6), culminates on a vision of Rumi's mentor Shams Tabriz (Chapter 17).
  1. The Poet: The reader learns that all previous knowledge and learning must be held in abeyance while in the Garden.
  2. The System of the Universe: It is the reader’s self more than the mind that is engaging with the Garden.
  3. Love: The reader finds an interpretation of the five clues that were given for finding Joseph.
  4. Qalandar: This chapter defines the aim and scope of the learning that is being offered here.
  5. Plato: A parable describing some other forms of “spiritual teachings” that could be confused with the present message are followed by the Poet’s warning against the Greek philosopher Plato.
  6. Poetics of the Garden: The reader is offered a new kind of poetics that divides literature on the basis of desirable and undesirable effect on humanity.
  7. Divine Vicegerency: This is an interpretation of the basic tenets of Islam from the perspective of three stages in the training of the self.
  8. Ali: This is a unique interpretation of Bu Turab (“the Master of the Clay”), the title given by the Prophet to his cousin Ali.
  9. Hajveri: This parable about the eleventh century saint Ali Hajveri explains that threats can be turned into opportunities.
  10. Brahmin: A chapter about the role of collective life in the development of an individual’s personality also shows that speculation without action weakens the bond between the individual and the society.
  11. Jihad: A parable about the Sufi saint Mian Mir, showing that territorial conquest was no part of the original program of Islam.
  12. Shams of Tabriz: Here the reader discovers that although the Garden is a virtual reality, it has connected the reader with the real mentor of Rumi, the historic Shams of Tabriz.

Part 2: Reaction

In the second part of The Republic of Rumi, comprising of Chapters 18 to 30, the reader discovers that the  Garden of Poetry is capable of "remembering." It is interacting with the reader, who has now become "part" of the Garden. The Poet assumes the fictitious identity of "the Old Man of the Desert" (Chapter 18) and guides the reader to the link between the Garden and the Quran (Chapter 30).
  1. The Old Man of the Desert: A possible explanation is offered for the Poet’s assumption of a fictitious identity at this point.
  2. ‘Time is a Cutting Sword’: This is a unique interpretation of Time, one of the five clues for finding Joseph.
  3. Silent Tunes: The Poet’s prayer to God in which he is asking for a companion and it turns out that you are that companion.
  4. Selflessness: Here the reader discovers that the self attains perfection through selflessness.
  5. Prophets: This chapter offers an explanation of the role of prophets in the task of civilization and shows why only prophets could found nations.
  6. The Pillars of Nationhood: The two “pillars” of Muslim nationhood are (1) Unity; and (2) Prophet-hood. The purpose of Prophet Muhammad’s mission was to establish (a) equality; (b) brotherhood; and (c) freedom. This is explained here in the light of the reader’s journey.
  7. Kerbala: The Islamic concept of freedom is explained here with reference to the Prophet's grandson Imam Husain (and how it is different from other notions of rights and liberties). The clues that you have about Joseph are now reinterpreted through the five elements of the Islamic conception of nation (Unity, Prophet-hood, brotherhood, equality and freedom) presented in the previous chapter.
  8. Machiavelli: The concept of territorial identities, which can be traced back to the Florentine thinker Machiavelli in our times, practically reduces nations to tribes.
  9. Remembrance: Due to nine basic concepts, Muslim nationalism is different from other worldviews.
  10. The Collective Ego: The collective ego is formed when a people learns to remember its past. The Garden of Poetry is doing the same and hence it is acting like a collective ego of which the reader has become a part.
  11. Fatima: The daughter of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is a role model for Muslim women.
  12. Abu Bakr: A summary of the philosophy of Muslim nationalism is offered here in the light of Surah Ikhlas (Chapter 112 of the Quran).
  13. Quran: This chapter explains the connection between the Garden of Poetry and the Quran.

Part 3: The Reversal

Part 3 of The Republic of Rumi, offered in the next fifteen posts, comprises of Chapters 31 to 45. Here, the reader will become aware of their own role as the protagonist. The German poet-thinker Goethe (Chapter 31) will become a guide to a biography of the Poet's mind that ends on recognizing the English playwright William Shakespeare as Western counterpart of Mawlana Rumi (Chapter 45).
  1. Goethe: In the second enclave, A Message from the East (1923), with reference to the German “Thinker of Life” Goethe, the reader is informed about the impending rise of the “New Adam” which is the reader themselves.
  2. The King of Afghanistan: Since the New Adam is likely to be perceived in Asia long before being understood in the West, the enclave is dedicated to the King of Afghanistan.
  3. The Flowers of Sinai: 163 quatrains on the subject of love are spread out like tulips from the Mount Sinai where Moses saw the Divine illumination.
  4. Creation Stories: Here the reader is offered a few insights about the New Adam.
  5. The Song of Muhammad: Free translation of Goethe’s poem in praise of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) offering the German poet’s perception of the ideal of Islam.
  6. Hafiz of Shiraz: The reader visits a tavern where wine extracted from the verses of Hafiz is served with a rather unusual reference to Joseph.
  7. The Mind of Europe: This is the Poet’s message to the intellectuals of the West.
  8. Joseph of the West: Here are a few reflections on brave new world that might come into being for the New Adam: Goethe meets Rumi and visionaries from the East and the West discuss issues of common interest.
  9. ‘Glory’: The reader enters the third enclave, The Call of the Marching Bell (1924), which is a biography of the Poet’s mind.
  10. The Inner Child: The reader learns that Joseph is the calling of the inner child of everyone regardless of race, country or religion.
  11. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: The reader gets to see that Joseph was an ideal that was being created in the collective ego of the Poet’s society.
  12. Brotherhood of the Tavern: By March 1907, the Poet was ready to say everything but the secret he wanted to share had no name in any language of the world.
  13. The Prophecies of Nezami: The twelfth century Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi had a vision about the future of humanity, which now becomes incorporated into the work of the Poet.
  14. Mother: The tomb of the Poet’s mother marks the point where the extended track of his personal discoveries leads back into the Garden of Poetry.
  15. Shakespeare: The English playwright is recognized as the equivalent of Mawlana Rumi in the Garden of Poetry.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

30. Quran

This is the 30th chapter in the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality.It concludes Part 2 (out of 7) of the narrative.

You have come to the end of the enclave. At the end of the first part, the Poet prayed to God and here he is addressing the Prophet.

Petition to the Mercy for All Worlds

“You gave me this lute,” the Poet is saying to the Prophet, who is Mercy for All Worlds. “You see all that is in the hearts. If my words are informed by anything but Quran, and if my heart is without luster, then expose me and guard your people against the mischief of my wickedness. Choke the breath of my life and disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection by stopping me to kiss your feet. However, if I have threaded the pearls of Quran’s sweet mysteries on my thread and spoken the truth to the Muslims, then pray to God that my love be reconciled with action.”

If the Prophet sees “all that is in the hearts” then the Poet has no need to inform him about anything, but this was his best way of informing you that the Garden has been based on Quran.

This means that the Garden is a literary representation of the Muslim, since it is based on the Quran too. As a literary representation of the Muslim nation, its structure is supported on the Pillars of the Muslim Nation: Unity, Prophet-hood, brotherhood, equality and freedom. It is not restricted to any time or space, and your entry is not subject to your domicile, showing that the Muslim nation is not bounded by space, country is not the foundation of nation and the Muslim nation is timeless too. The Garden, representing the Muslim nation, has been interacting with you and its structure has been based on the Quran, showing that a nation is organized only through a constitution, and the constitution of the Muslim nation is the Quran.

As a literary representation of the Muslim nation, the Garden has acquired power from the Divine Law, beauty from the manners of the Prophet and the ideal it is perpetuating is Unity. Just as you are controlling the “inward” and “outward” forces of the Garden, so the Garden is controlling you, showing that the expansion of national life depends upon controlling the forces of the universe.

These were “secrets of the self” and “mysteries of selflessness” that could not have been explained unless they were first experienced by you. In this first enclave, Secrets and Mysteries, you were not far removed from the prior experience of the outside world, including many which might be contrary to these truths, and hence you were asked to banish all previous knowledge and follow no thoughts except the clues which lead to what you are looking for, and the principle of non-contradiction – showing that in times of decadence, conformity is better than speculation. Those times are now behind you, since you have discovered the source of the Garden (“Strive and find yourself in selflessness,” Rumi had said. “This is the easy path, may God know better.”). What lies ahead may be a different world altogether.

Monday, April 19, 2010

29. Abu Bakr

This is the 29th chapter in the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality. It offers a summary of the philosophy of Muslim nationhood in the light of Surah Ikhlas (Chapter 112 of the Quran)

Abu Bakr Siddique appears in the Poet’s dream.

Abu Bakr was one of the closest companions of the Prophet, and the Prophet is reported to have said about him, “I am indebted to Abu Bakr more than to anybody else regarding both his companionship and his wealth.” He was also the first of the four rightly guided caliphs who succeeded the Prophet.

Now he offers four practical tips for Muslims through commentary on ‘Unity,’ Chapter 112 of the Quran, which consists of four verses.
Say: He is Allah, the One
“You call yourself Turk, Afghan and so on,” says Abu Bakr. “Become one, and let the Unity be seen.”
Allah is Self-subsistent
Harun Rasheed, the famous Abbasid Caliph has just defeated the Byzantine Emperor. Now he wants to study the sayings of the Prophet and summons Imam Malik, the renowned expert in the field, to Baghdad. Malik lives in Madinah, the City of the Prophet. He replies, “Love says to me, ‘Obey me and do not sign the article of service even to kings.’ I cannot wait on your door to teach you, but you are most welcome to come here and sit with the rest if you wish to learn.”
“You are Joseph,” says Abu Bakr. “Do not lower your value by accepting bounties. An individual attains individuality by becoming self-aware and a nation attains nationhood by spurning the whim of others.”
He has no offspring, nor was He begotten by anyone
Salman is a devoted Persian whom about whom the Prophet has declared, “He is a member of my family.” Arabs are extremely conscious about pedigrees, and fanciful stories are circulating about Salman’s background, some tracing it back to the nobility of Persia. People ask him his lineage. He replies, “I am Salman, the son of Islam.”
“Racial identity is related to the body and love to the soul,” says Abu Bakr. “Therefore, love is more permanent. If you love the Prophet, then do not take pride in race, color, tribe and territory.”
And there is none like Him
A solitary tulip has sprung on the top of a mountain. Its color has gathered fire from the morning breeze, so that the sky regards it as a star left behind, and offers itself as a backdrop. The first ray of the Sun kisses it and the dewdrop wakes it up by washing its face.
“This is an analogy of the Muslim nation,” says Abu Bakr. “Be unique in the world, for you have got the Quran.”