Sunday, December 20, 2009


In his Persian poem 'Mysteries of Selflessness' (1918), Iqbal stated that fraternity, equality and liberty were the aims of the mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He illustrated the last of these through the example of the sacrifice offered by the Prophet's grandson Imam Husain in Kerbala in Muharram, 61 A.H. (680 AD). The following is translation by famous British Orientalist A.J. Arberry published in 1953; it is inaccurate in parts where he misunderstands Persian words, but is a classic in its own right due to his legendary stature.
Whoever maketh compact with the One
That is, hath been delivered from the yoke
Of every idol. Unto love belongs
The true believer, and Love unto him;
Love maketh all things possible to us.
Reason is ruthless; Love is even more,
Purer, and nimbler, and more unafraid.
Lost in the maze of cause and of effect
Is Reason; Love strikes boldly in the field
Of Action. Crafty Reason sets a snare;
Love overthrows the prey with strong right arm.
Reason is rich in fear and doubt; but Love
Has firm resolve, faith indissoluble.
Reason constructs, to make a wilderness;
Love lays wide waste, to build all up anew.
Reason is cheap, and plentiful as air;
Love is most scarce to find, and of great price.
Reason stands firm upon phenomena,
But Love is naked of material robes.
Reason says, “Thrust thyself into the fore;”
Love answers, “Try thy heart, and prove thyself.”
Reason by acquisition is informed
Of other; Love is born of inward grace
And makes account with self. Reason declares,
“Be happy and be prosperous”; Love replies,
“Become a servant, that thou mayest be free.”
Freedom brings full contentment to Love’s soul,
Freedom, the driver of Love’s riding-beast.
Hast thou not heard what things in time of war
Love wrought with lustful Reason? I would speak
Of that great leader of all men who love
Truly the Lord, that upright cypress-tree
Of the Apostle’s garden, Ali’s son,
Whose father led the sacrificial feast
That he might prove a mighty offering;
And for that prince of the best race of men
The Last of the Apostles gave his back
To ride upon, a camel passing fair.
Crimsoned his blood the cheek of jealous Love
(Which theme adorns my verse in beauty bold)
Who is sublime in our community

As Say, the Lord is God exalts the Book.
Moses and Pharaoh, Shabbir and Yazid –
From Life spring these conflicting potencies;
Truth lives in Shabbir’s strength; Untruth is that
Fierce, final anguish of regretful death.
And when the Caliphate first snapped its thread
From the Quran, in Freedom’s throat was poured
A fatal poison, like a rain-charged cloud
The effulgence of the best of peoples rose
Out of the West, to spill on Kerbala,
And in that soil, that desert was before,
Sowed, as he died, a field of tulip-blood.
There, till the Resurrection, tyranny
Was evermore cut off; a garden fair
Immortalizes where his lifeblood surged.
For Truth alone his blood dripped to the dust,
Wherefore he has become the edifice
Of faith in God’s pure Unity. Indeed
Had his ambition been for earthly rule,
Not so provisioned would he have set forth
On his last journey, having enemies
Innumerable as the desert sands,
Equal his friends in number to God’s Name.
The mystery that was epitomized
In Abraham and Ishmael through his life
And death stood forth at last in full revealed.
Firm as a mountain-chain was his resolve,
Impetuous, unwavering to its goal
The Sword is for the glory of the Faith
And is unsheathed but to defend the Law.
The Muslim, servant unto God alone
Before no Pharaoh casteth down his head.
His blood interpreted these mysteries,
And waked our slumbering community.
He drew the sword There is none other god
And shed the blood of them that served the lie;
Inscribing in the wilderness save God
He wrote for all to read the exordium
Of our salvation. From Husain we learned
The riddle of the Book, and at his flame
Kindled our torches. Vanished now from ken
Damascus might, the splendour of Baghdad,
Granada’s majesty, all lost to mind;
Yet still the strings he smote within our soul
Vibrate, still ever new our faith abides
In his Allahu Akbar, Gentle breeze,
Thou messenger of them that are afar,
Bear these my tears to lave his holy dust.


  1. true!!!
    reason talks about destination....but love finds endless horizons..... love itself is pure and tries to purify everything around it..... any piece of art, any war, any big achievement is impossible without love and those who understands love r those who performs miracles and sets an example for the generations to come!!!! event of karbala shows Great love where Pure love speaks for the Purity in the society around it i-e freedom, equality and justice for every individual!!!!!!

  2. Many thanks for pointing out this poem full of love and devotion. I won't be writing any comments but sharing links to couple of recitations of this poem.

    The classic one

    The recent one

    Both recitations cover up selected verses of this poem. The complete text of this poem in Persian and English can be found on the links below.