Allama Iqbal Jawab-e-shikwa English Translation / Shikwa Jawab e sShikwa / Poetry of Allama Iqbal


When passion streaming from the heart  
Turns human lips to lyres,
Some magic wings man’s music then,  
His song with soul inspires;
Man’s words are sacred then, they soar,  
The ears of heaven they seek,
From dust those mortal accents rise,  
Immortals hear them speak;
So wild and wayward was my Love,  
Such tumult raised its sighs,
Before its daring swiftly fell
A song of eulogy;
A bridge of converse thou hast formed
‘Twixt mortal man and Me!
Behold, my hands arc full of gifts,  
But who comes seeking here?
And how shall I the right road shew  
When there’s no traveller?
My loving care is there for all,  
If deserved but by few!
Not this the clay from which I can  
An Adam’s shape renew!
On him who merits well I set
The brightest diadem,
And those who truly questing come,  
A new world waits for them.
Apostate hearts and palsied hands  
Your earthly lives debase,
You all, to your great Prophet, are  
Bringers of deep disgrace;
Those idol‐breakers all have gone,  
You idolaters are,
Abraham was the father, you  
His sons, are but Azar;
Now stranger bands carousal hold,  
Strange are both cup and wine,
A strange new Kaʹba you have reared,  
Strange idols oh its shrine!
The tulip of the wilds once reigned  
The queen of blossom‐time:
In this once lay the quintessence  
Of loveliness sublime.
Once every true‐born Mussalman  
By Allah set his store,
This fickle‐hearted courtesan  
Even you did once adore!
Go, seek some constant mistress now,  
To her a new bond sign,
Muhammad’s universal creed  
To narrow bounds confine!
To pray to me at break of day  
You now an ordeal deem,
Your morning slumber sweeter far—  
Yet you would faithful seem!
The hardships of the fast oppress  
Your natures—now grown free;
Such are your ways and you still would  
And one your Kaʹba, One your God,  
And one your great Quran;
Yet, still, divided each from each,  
Lives every Mussalman.
You split yourselves in countless sects,  
In classes high and low;
Think you the world its gifts will still  
On such as you bestow?
Who now forgetfully neglect
My Rasool’s Law sublime?
And whose lives write them clearly down  
As servers of the time?
To whom now other customs seem  
Far nobler than their own?
By whom your great forefathers’ ways  
Once followed, are forsworn?
Your hearts are now of longing void,  
Your souls now know no zeal,
You heed no more that message great  
Which Ahmad did reveal.
If any fasting’s hardship bear,  
It is the poor, today;
If worship’s echoes ring in mosques,  
It is the poor who pray;
It is the humble and the poor  
Who still my name esteem,
Theirs is the word, theirs is the deed,  
Yours the shame they redeem.
The rich are drunk with wine of wealth,  
Their God they hardly know,
It is because the poor yet live  
That wells of Faith still flow.
That judgment ripe is no more theirs  
Who play your preachers’ role,
Nor kindling accents from their lips,  
Reveal the flaming soul.
Azan yet sounds, but never now  
Like Bilal’s, soulfully;
Philosophy, convictionless,
Now mourns its Ghazzali,
Untrod by praying feet, the mosques  
Lament their emptiness,
For gone are those exemplars great  
Of Arab godliness
’Tis said: “The Muslims quit this world,  
Their days are on the wane,”—
The paths of Al‐Quran.
You roll the eye of mutual wrath,  
Their eye was ever kind;
You err, for errors look, while they  
Were generously blind.
Aspiring for the Pleiades,
How simple it all seems!
But let there first be hearts like theirs,  
To justify such dreams.
They reigned upon the Chinese throne,  
They wore the Persian crown:
Where is that honour that they knew—  
Words are your whole renown.
They fought for honour, self‐respect,  
Yours the self‐slayer’s knife,
You shun the ties of brotherhood  
They cherished more than life.
You can but weave the web of words,  
They did their deeds of might:
You pine after a bud: they basked  
In gardens flower‐bright.
The world remembers still the tales  
Which hymn their bravery,
And in their storied book of life  
Shines their sincerity.
Upon your nation’s sky you rose  
Like stars of brilliant hue,
The lure of India’s idols made  
Even Brahmans out of you;
Drawn by the wander‐lust, you went  
A‐roving ‘from your nests:
Slothful in good, your youth next learnt  
To doubt their faith’s behests;
‘Enlightenment’ ensnared you all,  
And all your ‘fetters’ fell,
The land of Kaʹba you forsook,  
In idol‐land to dwell!
If longing Qais roams no more,  
But seeks the town again,
Leaving the lonely desert wastes  
To share tile life 0f men,
Qais is mad: what if he dwells  
In town or wilderness?
Yet from him Layla must not veil  
Her face in bashfulness!
Complain ye not of heart unkind
Thou holdest the starting bells
Nought else is needed, if thy will
Thy onward march impels.
Thou candle‐tree! thy wick‐like root,
Its top with flame illumes,
Thy thought is fire, its very breath  
All future care consumes.
And thou shalt suffer no surcease  
Should Iran’s star decline,
‘Tis not the vessel which decides  
The potency of wine;
‘Tis proved to all the world, from tales  
Of Tartar conquerors,
The Kaʹba brave defenders found  
In temple‐worshippers.
In thee relies the bark of God,  
Adrift beyond the bar,
The new‐born age is dark as night,  
And thou its dim pole‐star.
The Bulgars march! the fiend of war
In fearful fury breathes;
The message comes: “Sleepers, awake!  
The Balkan cauldron seethes.”
Thou deemest this a cause of grief,
Thy heart is mortified;
But nay, thy pride, thy sacrifice,  
Thus, once again, are tried.
Beneath thy foes if chargers neigh?  
Why tremblest thou in fright?  
For never, never, shall their breath  
Extinguish Heaven’s light.
Not yet have other nations seen  
What thou art truly worth,
The realm of Being has need of thee  
For perfecting this earth.
If aught yet keeps world alive,
‘Tis thine impetuous zeal,
And thou shalt rise its ruling star,  
And thou shalt shape its weal.
This is no time for idle rest,  
Much yet remains undone;
The lamp of tawhid needs thy touch  
To make it shame the sun!

‘Starting bells…’ Or the ‘marching bells’—The
expression in Urdu is the same as the title of the

It swims perpetually!
Thy shield be wisdom, be thy sword
The flaming Love Divine,
My fond dervish! dost thou not know
That all the world is thine?
All else but God is at thy feet,
If sounds thy Takbeer great;
If thou a Muslim truly art,
Thy effort is thy fate.
To my Muhammad be but true,
And thou hast conquered me;
The world is nought: thou shalt command
My Pen of Destiny.
[Translated by Altaf Husain]


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an excellent website translating excellent poems