Complaint and Answer (Shikwa and Jawab-i-Shikwa)

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Item Code: NAJ535
Author: A.J. Arberry
Publisher: Kitab Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 8171513018
Pages: 80
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7 inch X 4.5 inch
Weight 80 gm
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Book Description

The Shikwa and the Jawab-i-Shikwa, of which a new verse translation is offered in the following pages, are among the most popular of lqbal's poems; they are deservedly celebrated, for they were among the first to bring their author fame as an advocate of Islamic reform and rebirth. The date of their composition can be fixed very accurately by a reference to contemporary events contained in the second of them; when Iqbal wrote-"Now the onslaught of the Bulgars sounds the trumpet of alarm" he was commemorating the invasion of Turkey by Bulgaria in the late autumn of 1912, an attack which threatened at one time to penetrate as far as Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and the last home of the Caliphate. These poems were therefore composed four years after Iqbal's return from Europe. They mark the beginning of that remarkable career as philosopher and poet which brought Iqbal ever-increasing renown, until long before his death in 1938 he was recognised as the leading thinker of Islam in India and the greatest figure in Urdu literature. It is all the more interesting to find him adumbrating in these early pieces that theory of Selfhood (Khudi) and Selflessness (Bekhudi) which later played such an important part in his religious and political philosophy.

The central theme of both poems is the decay of Islam from its former greatness, and the measures to be adapted if it was to re-establish its authority and regain its vitality. The subject was, of course, no new one; ever since the decline and final extinction of the Mughul Empire, Muslims in India had been searching their minds and their consciences for the explanation of so lamentable a disaster. Nor were Indian Muslims alone indeploring the seeming collapse of Islamic civilisation; their coreligionists further West, from Persia to Morocco, had been occupied with the same self-examination. But in these two poems Iqbal stated the problem in singularly arresting directness; the literary form chosen for its exposition, a dialogue between the poet, as a spoke .an for Muslims the world over, and God- this dr. matic presentation of the common dilemma made an immediate and compelling appeal to Iqbal's public, an appeal moreover which has lost nothing of its force in the intervening years.

To make a worthy translation of these poems into English is certainly no easy task. To begin with, the present translator has to confess to a very inadequate knowledge of Urdu, the language used by Iqbal on this occasion. Left to his own devices, he would have been obliged to abandon the attempt: but the publisher, most kindly procured for him a literal rendering of the originals into English prose, ably executed by Mr. Mazheruddin Siddiqi, to whom the grateful and cordial thanks of the writer are hereby expressed. But that is by no means the end of the matter; Iqbal naturally illustrated his discourse with metaphors and references familiar enough to those accustomed to read Urdu poetry, but in many instances utterly strange, indeed outlandish, to an English audience. Rather than impose on the poet transformations, of which he would certainly and justly have disapproved, the translator has preferred to reproduce his model as closely and as faithfully as he could, appending notes to his version to light up the dark passages wherever they are found.


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