Dr. Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal dreamed that Rumi was commanding him to write a masnavi (a long poem of rhymed couplets). Iqbal replied, “That genre reached its perfection with you.” Rumi said, “No, you should also write.” Iqbal stated respectfully, “You command that the self must be extinguished but I reckon the self to be something that should be sustained.” Rumi replied, “My intended meaning is also the same as what you have understood.”
He [Iqbal] found himself reciting the following verses as he woke up, and then he began to write them down…
This was Asrar-o-Rumooz (Secrets and Mysteries), the first book of Iqbal’s poetry, published in two installments in 1915 and 1918. Although Iqbal was an outstanding poet of Urdu for almost thirteen years by then, he had not written more than half a dozen poems in Persian, yet it was the language of Rumi, and the verses which flowed from Iqbal's pen when he woke up from the dream were in the same language, meter and style as Rumi's Masnavi.
Rumi as presented in 'A Parable Never Told' is how he appears in imagination after we have read Iqbal. In the works of Iqbal, we find the master from Konya in lively discourses with Goethe, Byron and Browning as well as giving expert opinions on Hegel and Nietzsche. Yet also, on occasions, we find him to be a catalyst for resurrection:
- The dream of 1913 is described in the prelude of the first book (the first part of which was published in 1915). In the rest of the volume as well as the next two, Iqbal revisits his cultural, literary and personal constructs from this perspective.
- In the second last poem of the third volume (Baang-i-Dara, or The Caravan of the Marching Bell, published in 1924), a character from the Quran delivers a message from Rumi, which transforms everything around the Poet. The old world “dies” and a new world is “resurrected” in the very next poem, ‘The Dawn of Islam’, a poem that a system of abstractions to be sustained throughout the next volume (Zuboor-i-Ajam, or Persian Psalms, published in 1927).
- In the prologue of the next volume (Javidnama, or the Epic of Eternity, published in 1932), the spirit of Rumi appears in person and reveals the secret of immortality. The abstract world of the previous volume disappears, the Poet is “born” in a new dimension, and is guided through a heavenly journey culminating in a meeting with the Creator.
- The next book (Baal-i-Jibreel, or Gabriel's Wing, published in 1935) presents yet another world, formed as an outcome of the heavenly journey and combining all genres from the previous volumes. A detailed "interview" with Rumi towards the end of the book is followed by a series of poems rejecting the contemporary world order and climaxing in “a declaration of war against the present age” in the sub-title of the next book (Zarb-i-Kaleem, or the Rod of Moses, published in 1936).
- In the prologue of the volume after that (Pas Cheh Bayed Kard, or What Should Now Be Done? published in 1937), Rumi tells Iqbal to reveal the secrets of government as well as religion. The intellectual “war” against the prevalent world order acquires a new urgency to be sustained through the next volume (the last book of Iqbal’s poetry, Armughan-i-Hijaz, or the Gift of Hijaz, published a few months after his death).
While the concepts behind this worldview are explained in prose works written in English (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam published in 1930/34 and the Allahabad Address published in 1930), changes in the form of poetry itself, always occurring through Rumi, suggest an equivalent transformation of the real world. For that, the key seems to be Joseph, a figure who keeps appearing and reappearing as mysteriously as Rumi himself: “You should not tell the secrets of lions to jackals, for even if the wolves take away our Joseph it is better than his getting sold to the unworthy,” says Rumi to Iqbal in the prelude of the eighth book. He has just commanded his disciple to reveal the secrets of politics and government. Therefore, the question is: Who is Joseph?
This is the third chapter in the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality (2007). Next chapter: Joseph.