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Books > Philosophy > The Secrets of The Self: Asrar-I-Khudi (A Philosophical Poem)
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The Secrets of The Self: Asrar-I-Khudi (A Philosophical Poem)
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Introduction

The Asrar-i-Khudi was first published at Lahore in 1915. I read it soon afterwards and thought so highly of it that I wrote to Iqbal, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Cambridge some fifteen years ago, asking leave to prepare an English translation. My proposal was cordially accepted, but in the meantime I found other work to do, which caused the translation to be laid aside until last year. Before submivting it to the reader, a few remarks are necessary concerning the poem and its author.

Iqbal is an Indian Muslim. During his stay in the West he studied modem philosophy, in which subjects he holds degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and Munich. His dissertation on the development of metaphysics in Persia-an illuminating sketch- appeared as a book in 1908. Since then he has developed a philosophy of his own, on which I am able to give some extremely interesting notes communicated by himself. Of this, however, the Asrar-i-Khudi gives no systematic account, though it puts his ideas in a popular and attractive form. While the Hindu philosophers, in explaining the doctrine of the unity of being, addressed themselves to the head, Iqbal, like the Persian poets who teach the same doctrine, takes a more dangerous course and aims at the heart. He is no mean poet, and his verse can rouse or persuade even if his logic fail to convince. His message is not for the Mohammedans of lndia alone, but for Muslims everywhere: accordingly he writes in Persian instead of Hindustani- a happy choice, for amongst educated Muslims there are many familiar with Persian literature, while the Persian language is singularly well-adapted to express philosophical ideas in a style at once elevated and charming.

Iqbal comes forward as an apostle, if not to his own age, then to posterity-
I have no need of the ear of To-day.
I am the voice of the poet of To-morrow

and after Persian fashion he invokes the Saki to fill his cup with wine and pour moonbeams into the dark night of his thought.

"That I may lead home the wanderer.
And imbue the idle looker- on with restless impatience
And advance hotly on a new quest
And become known as the champion of a new spirit

Let us begin at the end. What is the far-off goal on which his eyes are fixed? The answer to that question will discover his true character, and we shall be less likely to stumble on the way if we see whither we are going. Iqbal has drunk deep of European literature, his philosophy owes much to Nietzsche and Bergson, and his poetry, often remains us of Shelly; yet he thinks and feels as a Muslim, and just for this reason his influence may be great. He is a religious enthusiast, inspired by the vision of New Makkah, a world-wide, theocratic, Utopian state in which all Muslims, no longer divided by the barriers of race and country, shall be one. He will have nothing to do with nationalism and imperialism. These, he says, "rob us of Paradise": they make us strangers to each other, destroy feelings of brotherhood, and sow the bitter seed of war. He dreams of a world ruled by religion, not by politics and condemns Machiavelli, that "worshipped of false goods," who has blinded so many. It must be observed that when he speaks of religion he always means Islam. Non-Muslims are simply unbelievers, and (in theory, at any rate) the Jihad is justifiable, provided that it is wages "for God's sake alone." A free and independent Muslim fraternity, having the Ka'ba as its centre and knit together by love of Allah and devotion to the Prophet-such is Iqbal's ideal. In the Asrar-i-Khudi and the Rumuz-i- he preaches it with a burning sincerity which we cannot but admire, and at the same time points out how it may be attained. The former poem deals with the life of the individual Muslim, the latter with the life of the Islamic community.

The cry "Back to the Qur'an! Back to Muhammad! has been heard before, and the responses have hitherto been somewhat discouraging. But on this occasion it is allied with the revolutionary force of Western philosophy, which Iqbal hopes and believes will vitalise the movement and ensure its triumph. He sees that Hindu intellectualism and Islamic pantheism have destroyed the capacity for action, based on scientific observation and interpretation of phenomena, which distinguishes the Western peoples "and especially the English." Now, this capacity depends ultimately on the conviction that Khudi (selfhood, individuality, personality) is real and is not merely an illusion of the mind. Iqbal, therefore, throws himself with all his might against idealistic philosophers and pseudo-mystical poets, the authors, in his opinion, of the decay prevailing in Islam, and argues that only by self-affirmation, self- expression, and self-development can the Muslims once more become strong and free. He appeals from the alluring raptures of Hafiz to the moral fervour of Jalalu' ddin Rumi, from an Islam sunk in Platonic contemplation to the fresh and vigorous monotheism which inspired Muhammad and brought Islam into existence.' Here, perhaps, I should guard against a possible misunderstanding Iqbal's philosophy is religious, but he does not treat philosophy as the handmaid of religion. Holding that the full development of the individual presupposes a society, he finds the ideal society in what he considers to be the Prophet's conception of Islam. Every Muslim, in striving to make himself a more perfect individual, is helping to establish the Islamic kingdom of God upon earth.

 

Contents

 

  Introduction v
  Prologue 1
1 Showing that the system of the universe originates in the Self, and that the continuation of the life of all individuals depen on strengthening the Self 12
2 Showing that the life of the Self comes from forming desires and bringing them to birth 17
3 Showing that the Self is strengthened by Love 21
4 Showing that the Self is weakened by asking 28
5 Showing that when the self is strengthened by Love its gains dominion over the outward and inward forces of the universe 31
6 A tale of which the moral is that negation of the Self is a doctrine invented by the subject races of mankind in order that by this means they may sap and weaken the character of their rules 35
7 To the effect that Plato, whose thought has deeply influenced the mysticism and literature of Islam, followed the sheep's doctrine, and that we must be on our guard against his theories 41
8 Concerning the true nature of poetry and the reform of Islamic literature 44
9 Showing that the education of the Self has three stages: Obedience, Self-control, and Divine Vicegerency 53
10 Setting forth the inner meanings of the names of Ali 63
11 Story of a young man of Merv who came to the saint Ali Hujwiri-Gcd have many on him!-and complained that he was oppressed by the enemies 71
12 Story of the bird that was faint with thirst 75
13 Story of the diamond and the coal. 78
14 Story of the Sheikh and the Brahmin, followed by a conversation between Ganges and Himalayas to the the effect that the continuation of social life depends on firm attachments to the characteristic traditions of the community 81
15 Showing that the purpose of the Muslims life is to exalt the Word of Allah, and that the Jihad (was against unbelievers), ifit be prompted by land-hunger, is unlawful in the religion of Islam 87
16 Precepts written for the Muslims of India by Mir Najat Nakhsbandi, who is generally known as Baba Shar ai 92
17 Time is a sword 100
18 An Invocation 106

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The Secrets of The Self: Asrar-I-Khudi (A Philosophical Poem)

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Introduction

The Asrar-i-Khudi was first published at Lahore in 1915. I read it soon afterwards and thought so highly of it that I wrote to Iqbal, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Cambridge some fifteen years ago, asking leave to prepare an English translation. My proposal was cordially accepted, but in the meantime I found other work to do, which caused the translation to be laid aside until last year. Before submivting it to the reader, a few remarks are necessary concerning the poem and its author.

Iqbal is an Indian Muslim. During his stay in the West he studied modem philosophy, in which subjects he holds degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and Munich. His dissertation on the development of metaphysics in Persia-an illuminating sketch- appeared as a book in 1908. Since then he has developed a philosophy of his own, on which I am able to give some extremely interesting notes communicated by himself. Of this, however, the Asrar-i-Khudi gives no systematic account, though it puts his ideas in a popular and attractive form. While the Hindu philosophers, in explaining the doctrine of the unity of being, addressed themselves to the head, Iqbal, like the Persian poets who teach the same doctrine, takes a more dangerous course and aims at the heart. He is no mean poet, and his verse can rouse or persuade even if his logic fail to convince. His message is not for the Mohammedans of lndia alone, but for Muslims everywhere: accordingly he writes in Persian instead of Hindustani- a happy choice, for amongst educated Muslims there are many familiar with Persian literature, while the Persian language is singularly well-adapted to express philosophical ideas in a style at once elevated and charming.

Iqbal comes forward as an apostle, if not to his own age, then to posterity-
I have no need of the ear of To-day.
I am the voice of the poet of To-morrow

and after Persian fashion he invokes the Saki to fill his cup with wine and pour moonbeams into the dark night of his thought.

"That I may lead home the wanderer.
And imbue the idle looker- on with restless impatience
And advance hotly on a new quest
And become known as the champion of a new spirit

Let us begin at the end. What is the far-off goal on which his eyes are fixed? The answer to that question will discover his true character, and we shall be less likely to stumble on the way if we see whither we are going. Iqbal has drunk deep of European literature, his philosophy owes much to Nietzsche and Bergson, and his poetry, often remains us of Shelly; yet he thinks and feels as a Muslim, and just for this reason his influence may be great. He is a religious enthusiast, inspired by the vision of New Makkah, a world-wide, theocratic, Utopian state in which all Muslims, no longer divided by the barriers of race and country, shall be one. He will have nothing to do with nationalism and imperialism. These, he says, "rob us of Paradise": they make us strangers to each other, destroy feelings of brotherhood, and sow the bitter seed of war. He dreams of a world ruled by religion, not by politics and condemns Machiavelli, that "worshipped of false goods," who has blinded so many. It must be observed that when he speaks of religion he always means Islam. Non-Muslims are simply unbelievers, and (in theory, at any rate) the Jihad is justifiable, provided that it is wages "for God's sake alone." A free and independent Muslim fraternity, having the Ka'ba as its centre and knit together by love of Allah and devotion to the Prophet-such is Iqbal's ideal. In the Asrar-i-Khudi and the Rumuz-i- he preaches it with a burning sincerity which we cannot but admire, and at the same time points out how it may be attained. The former poem deals with the life of the individual Muslim, the latter with the life of the Islamic community.

The cry "Back to the Qur'an! Back to Muhammad! has been heard before, and the responses have hitherto been somewhat discouraging. But on this occasion it is allied with the revolutionary force of Western philosophy, which Iqbal hopes and believes will vitalise the movement and ensure its triumph. He sees that Hindu intellectualism and Islamic pantheism have destroyed the capacity for action, based on scientific observation and interpretation of phenomena, which distinguishes the Western peoples "and especially the English." Now, this capacity depends ultimately on the conviction that Khudi (selfhood, individuality, personality) is real and is not merely an illusion of the mind. Iqbal, therefore, throws himself with all his might against idealistic philosophers and pseudo-mystical poets, the authors, in his opinion, of the decay prevailing in Islam, and argues that only by self-affirmation, self- expression, and self-development can the Muslims once more become strong and free. He appeals from the alluring raptures of Hafiz to the moral fervour of Jalalu' ddin Rumi, from an Islam sunk in Platonic contemplation to the fresh and vigorous monotheism which inspired Muhammad and brought Islam into existence.' Here, perhaps, I should guard against a possible misunderstanding Iqbal's philosophy is religious, but he does not treat philosophy as the handmaid of religion. Holding that the full development of the individual presupposes a society, he finds the ideal society in what he considers to be the Prophet's conception of Islam. Every Muslim, in striving to make himself a more perfect individual, is helping to establish the Islamic kingdom of God upon earth.

 

Contents

 

  Introduction v
  Prologue 1
1 Showing that the system of the universe originates in the Self, and that the continuation of the life of all individuals depen on strengthening the Self 12
2 Showing that the life of the Self comes from forming desires and bringing them to birth 17
3 Showing that the Self is strengthened by Love 21
4 Showing that the Self is weakened by asking 28
5 Showing that when the self is strengthened by Love its gains dominion over the outward and inward forces of the universe 31
6 A tale of which the moral is that negation of the Self is a doctrine invented by the subject races of mankind in order that by this means they may sap and weaken the character of their rules 35
7 To the effect that Plato, whose thought has deeply influenced the mysticism and literature of Islam, followed the sheep's doctrine, and that we must be on our guard against his theories 41
8 Concerning the true nature of poetry and the reform of Islamic literature 44
9 Showing that the education of the Self has three stages: Obedience, Self-control, and Divine Vicegerency 53
10 Setting forth the inner meanings of the names of Ali 63
11 Story of a young man of Merv who came to the saint Ali Hujwiri-Gcd have many on him!-and complained that he was oppressed by the enemies 71
12 Story of the bird that was faint with thirst 75
13 Story of the diamond and the coal. 78
14 Story of the Sheikh and the Brahmin, followed by a conversation between Ganges and Himalayas to the the effect that the continuation of social life depends on firm attachments to the characteristic traditions of the community 81
15 Showing that the purpose of the Muslims life is to exalt the Word of Allah, and that the Jihad (was against unbelievers), ifit be prompted by land-hunger, is unlawful in the religion of Islam 87
16 Precepts written for the Muslims of India by Mir Najat Nakhsbandi, who is generally known as Baba Shar ai 92
17 Time is a sword 100
18 An Invocation 106

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