These valuable notes would have been lost to the literary world but for prof. Arthur J. Arberry, who by chance came across a copy of Dr. Nicholson’s Translation of Assar-e-Khudi containing correction and annotations in Allamah Muhammad Iqbal’s own hand writing. He found that some most interesting notes had not been included so far, which not only throw light upon important aspects of Allahma’s Philosophy and illuminated poetic art, but quite helpful to assist the future scholars for their undertakings.
After Professor R. A. Nicholson’s death in 1945 his library was sold to a well-known Cambridge book-seller. As I was looking through the volumes offered to the public, I chanced upon a copy of his translation of Iqbal’s Asrar-e-Khudi, in the first edition (London, 1920), and was immediately interested to observe that this copy was heavily corrected and annotated, in a hand other than the translator’s. On studying the character of the notes, it seemed likely to me that these (and of course the corrections) emanated from no other than Sir Muhammad Iqbal himself. This supposition was strengthened when I found a few lines of dedication in a copy of one of his publications which he had sent as a present to Professor Nicholson. Probability at last became a certainty when I shewed the book to Mr. Javid Iqbal, who is at present studying with me in Cambridge. He confirmed that the corrections and annotations were indeed in the handwriting of his revered father.
Meanwhile I had compared this corrected copy with the revised translation issued at Lahore in 1940 (reprinted 1944), and found that all the changes made by the translator in that edition were based upon Iqbal’s notes. I discovered furthermore that some of Iqbal’s most interesting notes had not been included, as these threw light upon important aspects of his philosophy, and illuminated his poetic art, it seemed highly desirable to collect and edit them. At the same time it would be instructive to draw up a list of all the passages where corrections had been made, so as to indicate the nature of these corrections and the exact relationship between the first and second editions of Professor Nicholson’s translation.
The most arresting fact which emerged from the study of this new material was the extreme difficulty of reaching a correct interpretation of many passages in Iqbals’ poetry. Professor Nicholson was at the height of his great powers when he made his translation of the Asrar-e-Khudi; it was shortly after the completion of this task that he began work on the Mathnawi of Jalaluddin Rumi, a labour which occupied the rest of his life and crowned his splendid achievements in the field of oriental studies. All who put their hands to translating Iqbal may therefore well feel humbled, when they consider how many times the inner sense of his poetry escaped Professor Nicholson’s deep and careful scholarship. But they may well rejoice, that fortune has preserved this unique example of Iqbal’s exegesis of his own writings, by studying carefully the material which is assembled in these pages, the future worker in this field will find much to assist his undertaking.
I have used the symbol N. to indicate the first (1920) edition of Professor Nicholson’s translation. The letter I. is appended to all the corrections and annotations in Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s handwriting. The phrase Cf. N. rev. invites the reader to compare the changes and additions made in the second (revised) edition of the translation. The material marked I. is printed exactly as it occurs in the original copy, including erasures.
Page xx. “The true person not only absorbs the world of matter; by mastering it he absorbs God Himself into his Ego.” N.
“The true person not only absorbs the world of matter by mastering it; he absorbs God himself into his Ego by assimilating Divine attributes”. I.
Page xxiv. “… as the Qur’an peaks of a barzakh, or intermediate state, which lasts until the Day of Resurrection.” N.
“… as the Qur’an speaks of a barzakh, or intermediate state, which, in the case of some individuals, will last until the Day of Resurrection.” I.
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