It had dawned on Iqbal that the undercurrents of Indian philosophical thoughts had immensely influenced the Persian Sufis. This understanding stands as the vital link between Islamic and Hindu mysticism. He saw the wonderful similarity in Ibu-u-Arabis’ concept of Wahduthul wujud (the oneness of God’s existence) and the Advaida, professed by Sankaracharia. In the preface to the ‘Asrar-e-Khudi’, he deals on this, and points to this astonishing relationship between the two widely different religious and cultural thought processes. Persian and Indian spiritual thought processes could have areas where they do intersect and have visible oneness.
He earnestly believes the Persian Sufis have travelled the same roads, along with the Indian Sufi saints to reach out to God, and to comprehend and attain Godhood. Wasn’t it possible that the Sufi idea of six light centres in the human body has its roots in the mighty insights of Kundalini Yoga?
It has been said that Iqbal did at times follow the style of Indian saints in some of his poems. Coming from a different religious and cultural background, yet to be able to do this with a seeming level of perfection, is in itself a marvellous achievement. For, it comes with the grandeur of being the profound bridge, not only between two widely different cultural fountainheads, and but also to an antiquity that reaches out to the boundless past.
India has cradled varying cultures, of many hues and shades. Even Islamic culture, which should have been of an exotic quality here, has been buoyed-up. The Sufis, who steadfastly stood for the cause of universal wellbeing, were the creation of this intermingling of Islam and the local Indian cultural inputs. No one can say that the Sufis are non-Indians. They remain an indispensable element of Indian historical evolution, existing as strong stepping-stones of Indian cultural landscape. What they stood for was not for any mean ambitions, but for the emancipation of the huge mass of people who were living in trampled social conditions. What they said has remained since, as illuminating messages for the whole of humanity. If they are gurus, well then, they are not for the Indians alone, but for the whole world to heed.
There was Kabeer, a poet, a mystic, and much more. There were many others like him, who cannot be contained in a religious label. He had followers from both Hinduism as well as Islam. There is a strange story pertaining to his death. When he died, both his Hindu as well as his Islamic followers contested spiritedly to get to perform the rituals as per their own traditional methods. The Hindus want to cremate his bodily remains, while the Muslims argued for burial as per their custom.
The legend goes that his body turned into a bunch of flowers, which was shared between Hindus and Muslims. .
It is a fact that many non-Islamic saints and philosopher had been aware of the spell of Islamic mysticism. The celebrated Rama Krishna Paramahamsa was one among them. He did discern Islamic pathway as a means to reach God. The famous Sikh Guru Nanak travelled to Mecca on pilgrimage. There is a popular verse that speaks thus: ‘Guru Nanak, the king of fakirs, a Guru to Hindu and a pir to Muslims’.
In his lovely poem titled, ‘Nanak’, Iqbal sings:
‘Again from the Punjab the call of monotheism arose,
A perfect man roused India from slumber’
(Tr. By Mislansir Mir.)
In Iqbal’s poem, ‘The Secrets of the Self’, the influence of Indian Philosophy is quite apparent. The eminent Orientals Annamarie Scheimmel has delineated on the ever visible influence of the Indian philosophies on Iqbal. Iqbal was deeply impressed by the insights that Bhagavad Gita had on the concepts of Soul and deed (Atma and Karma). Gita calls of action in the face of inevitable events, without yearning for essential results or successes. One’s commitment to heed the call to action is the litmus test by which one’s commitment to God, and faith in Him is assessed. Gita does not condone idleness, when the time is to act. It exhorts ceaselessly against inaction and laziness. Divine support attends those who work and act. Divine retribution visits those who seek refuge in excuses. The industrious finds means to assuage the miseries of life, while the loafer gets his due.
Gita says. “Don’t refrain from work even for a moment Work incessantly and endlessly Act always without desiring any reward.” The Gita focuses on the importance of action. This remains the core of Iqbal’s poem, ‘The Secrets of the Self’. Prayers should go together with deeds. Otherwise prayers are in vain, says the poet in the ‘Pilgrimage of Eternity’. There was a striking difference between Iqual and the many other Urdu poets. While they eulogised the beauty of roses and tulips, and the sensual attractiveness of physical love, Iqbal talked about action, and ceaseless struggle against adversity.
Disinterested action is Gita’s theme song. There is Batruhari, the noted Sanskrit poet, who also sings about action, without concern for gains. Man must be act ceaselessly. There is a dream of a good society to be realised. This is to be achieved by hard work. Persons who can strive for such sublime goodness, alone deserve to be called a human being. Their minds are like glowing lanterns, and thus they remain as the soft lights that show the path in the crowding darkness.
The message dealt out here is really of wonderful magnitude.
Bhartruhari influenced Iqbal much. In ‘The Pilgrimage of Eternity,’ there is an imaginary interview with Bartruahari. It is the story of the imaginary travel along with his teacher Jalaluddin Rumi through the heaven. He chance to meet the enlightened souls of such persons as Prohpet Mohammad, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, Bhartruhari, Viswamitra, Saint Sankara, Jamaludhin Afgani, Saeed and Haleem Pasha. Iqbal’s uses the theme to bring out his philosophy to its hilt. He is guided in his expositions by the great thinkers he meets over there. What comes out is the burbling passion of the poet to achieve the pleasantry of a unified mankind. He experiences an encompassing spirit of bliss. Writing this poetry was a rapturous experience for him.
In the winter of 1931, Iqbal went to London to participate in the Round Table Conference. He was felicitated there by ‘Iqbal Association’. Such personalities as Mahatma Gandhi, Aga Khan and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru attended the function. N.M. Khan, one of the members of ‘Iqbal Literary Association’, interviewed the poet on Javidnama. At the end of the interview, Iqbal fell unconscious, purely due to the aesthetic frenzy which the poem caused. The spell lasted for 15 minutes.
The book opens with a Munajai. The poet is standing near the seashore. The soul of Rumi appears. The poet is in a mood of deep inquisitiveness. The Spirit is asked many questions. One major query was on how the Soul of man moves beyond the confines of Space and Time. The idea is to convey the philosophy of Mi’raj. The Spirit of Space-Time appears. This Spirit is depicted as a double-faced angel. One face is dark and sleepy. The other is bright and alert.
This Spirit casts a spell on the poet and he is lifted bodily to the upper echelons of the Space. Here the poet as well as the Spirit of Rumi and the Poet swim around. They do this till the towering mountains of the lunar landscape appear in their vision. A welcome song from the spheres of the stars reaches their ears. The song welcomes the human beings who dared to cross the boundless Space.
The poet and his companion reach the surface of the moon. They move to some caves. In one of the caves, they come across the Spirit of the great Indian saint Vishwamitra. The poet translates the Spirits name as ‘Jahan Dost’. This Spirit is in a state of deep contemplation. There is a white snake coiled around his head.
Vishwamitra recognises Rumi. He asks of Rumi, who the newcomer was. Rumi introduces his companion. Thereupon the poet is asked a few questions to so as to measure his spiritual attainments, and calibre. One of the questions asked was this: In what respect is man superior to God? The poet answers: ‘In his understanding of Death’. Vishwamitra is satisfied by the calibre of the answers. He shares a few profound insights to the poet.
The poet and his companion leave the cave. The move to the valley of the moon, where they chance to see a huge rock with four pictures carved on it. They are named as the Tablet of Buddha, the Tablet of Jesus, the Tablet of Zoraster, and the Tablet of Mohammad. In the poem, these tablets are vividly described.
After this, they move to planet Mars. Here they come upon a lady-Prophet, who had been kidnapped from Europe by the Devil. This lady was presently teaching a new philosophy of evolution. According to this, the world will eventually be ruled by the females. The lady-Prophet instructs the ladies of Mars not to marry. If at all they do marry and have children, they are to kill the male child and foster the female child. On hearing these views, Rumi gets the chance to criticise certain aspects of the modern world.
Moving from Mars, they reach Mercury. Here they find the spirits of Jamal-ul-din Afgani and Saeed Halim Pasha, who had lend leadership to the religious reform movement in Turkey. Afgani asks of the poet to convey his message to the people of Russia. He tells them that the spirit of Islam is contained in the spirit of Bolshevism, and Karl Marx is featured as a prophet without an angel.
Then they move to another planet, where they find three spirits. Mansur Hallaj, Ghalib, and Qurrat-ul-Ain. They had been offered a cosy place in the Paradise, which they had refused. For, they yearned for the freedom of movement through the length and breadth of the boundless Universe. They have a brief discourse here also. Hallaj explains his stand as a Muslim seer. There is some debate on the literary and religious aspects of Ghalib’s poetry. Qurrat-ul-Ain renders a song on her own.
When they reach another planet, they are to a see a contradictory scene. There are two spirits there, who sought earnestly for a home in the flaming hell. Hell refused to have them. They were Mir Jafar of Bengal and Mir Sadiq of Mysore.
In another planet, they find the spirits of Pharoah and Kitchener in deep conversation, at the bottom of a transparent sea. The themes attracts Mehdi Saoudani from Pradise. He comes down to depths and has a talk with Kitchner. After that the spirit of Mahdi, arouses itself up and addresses the whole of the Arabic world.
Once the various planets are over, the Poet enter Paradise. He meets saints and kings there. The palace of Sharaf-un-Nisa, the daughter of Abdu Samad Khan, Governor of Lahore is seen.
They meet many persons. One of them is Shah Hamdam, the patron saint of Kashmir. The history and people of Kashmir are discussed. He also meets King Nadir Shah of Persia, Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan, and Sultan Tipu.
When he was on the verge of leaving Paradise, the Houris of Paradise stop him, and insist that he stay with them for a while. The poet refuses. Here there is a symbolic meaning delivered. The Islamic paradise is not a final resting place, but rather a dynamic area of continuing spiritual development.
Yet, the Houris persevere and the Poet is compelled to make amends. The Poet should present them with a song. He does.
After Paradise, he continues his journey to reach the divine presence. Here Rumi has to leave him, for one can enter the divine presence only on one’s own. The poet poses a series of questions to God. He requests god to reveal the destiny of his own people. This is given to him.
The book is reaching its end. The finale is with one song from the spirit of the universe. (Thoughts and Reflections of Iqbal Ed. Syed Abdul Vahid).