Tuesday, March 9, 2010

12. The Divine Vicegerency

This is the 12th chapter in the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality
“Education of the self has three phases,” you see the heading of the next chapter. “They are (a) obedience; (b) self-control; and (c) Divine Vicegerency.”

Each phase is explained under a separate subheading.

Phase I: Obedience

The camel goes on in the desert without food and water, looking happier than its rider. Do not disobey rules if you wish to overcome obstacles.

Phase II: Self-Control

A rider requires some art in order to tame the camel, or else the beast would prefer going its own way. The five “pillars” of Islam are meant to help you tame the beast in you so that you may have an easy ride:

    • Proclamation of faith (“There is no god except God, and Muhammad is His Messenger”) liberates the pure essence of the human being from various forms of fear which had to be blended in order to form the body
    • Prayer, the pearl to be found inside the oyster that is the proclamation, helps overcome negative behavior by imposing
    • Fasting lays ambush on thirst and hunger, and breaches the citadel of sensuality
    • Pilgrimage illuminates the heart with Divine radiance, reminding the believer to rise above earth-rootedness and territorial identities
    • Almsgiving establishes distinction between wealth and the love of wealth in the depth of one’s soul, and perpetuates equality: “By no means shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of what you hold dear, and God surely knows whatever you spend,” says the Quran in Verse 92 of Chapter 3.

Phase III: Divine Vicegerency

The Divine Vicegerent is adept with mysteries of parts and the whole.

There is nothing to be found about kings or Sufis in the section about Divine Vicegerency. Dominions over the outward and inward forces have converged, and power and love are held together in an indivisible unity.

“A hundred worlds like this world of parts and wholes spring up like roses from the seed of this person’s imagination,” the Poet describes the power of the Divine Vicegerent. The imagination of the Divine Vicegerent seems to be connected with the secret of Time in some manner, since worlds spring up from the ocean of Time. “When that bold cavalier seizes the reins, the steed of Time gallops faster,” the Poet goes on. “The whole world is atoned and saved by the grandeur of such a person, receiving a new explanation of Life and a new interpretation of this dream.” The last line is reminiscent of Joseph, who was the best interpreter of dreams. The Vicegerent seems connected to Joseph, although he cannot be Joseph since the clues, such as kings and Sufis, are not mentioned here.


  1. This is an antithesis to the Superman of Nietzsche. Rather than an individual, Iqbal’s "Divine Vicegerent" is likely to be a nation, or even the entire humanity, organically experiencing the kind of Unity embodied in the verse of the Quran about the creation and resurrection of all human beings like a single soul. ("Collective ego" will start becoming increasingly more important from Chapter 27 onwards).

  2. hmmm....Shafique sahib...thank you.

    You mean that successor of Divine right is nation's collective ego.

    Which means democracy....


  3. "Let the Muslim of to-day appreciate his position, reconstruct his social life in the light of ultimate principles, and evolve, out of the hitherto partially revealed purpose of Islam, that spiritual democracy which is the ultimate aim of Islam." IQBAL: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930/34).

  4. What would you say about freedom of religion for an individual, in a country like Pakistan?
    While in most western countries choosing and debating one's religion is a basic right.

    Also in a religious collectivist society, how do you define self-actualization of an individual?

  5. Anonymous, thanks. Your questions are embedded in certain presuppositions that lie outside the present discourse :).

    For instance the term "religious collectivist society". Those words haven't been used here, so where do they come from?

    Likewise, we can discuss the evolution of rights in Pakistan and where we would like to be, but let's do that will distract from the present subject too much :).

    Here is a parable: birds set out in search of their unseen king, Simorgh. Only thirty reached the destination and when the veils were lifted each bird saw itself in a mirror. In Persian, "Si-Morgh" literally means "Thirty Birds", and every bird seeing its own individuality at the same made the "Simorgh" ("Thirty-Bird"), which was their collective ego. Yes, it was greater than all of them and had an entity of its own but it could be perceived only when EVERYONE saw their INDIVIDUALITY at the same time. Is that collectivism or individualism, or something beyond the narrow confines of both?

    THAT is what we are talking about here, whatever it is :).

  6. It’s a Very sleek description and it is beautifully moving forward. Reply to the Anonymous is interesting and very straight forward, and depicting the true character of KAS.

  7. I am avoiding Phase III for a more reflective time and space in my daily life..

    Yet tonight decided to try a part of this chapter and found the other parts quite enriching and clear to follow.

    I smiled when I read this one part:

    "Pilgrimage illuminates the heart with Divine radiance, reminding the believer to rise above earth-rootedness and territorial identities"

    In your understanding of your tradition (anyone here) do you use the term pilgrimage for other than going to Mecca? Surely I could look this up yet would rather hear what you say first. I loved seeing a documentary on Mecca and hearing such a pilgrimage described for all the universal metaphors therein...

    And yet I find that in the wholeness of my life's journey thus far...there are the many little "pilgrimages" physical and non physical...and YES resoundly in my experience these do take me above within and beyond the territorial imprisonments...and what a freeing yet also paradoxically "obligating" experience.

    I would like to come back for a discussion about that or be guided somewhere else for that...

  8. Connie, thanks. Due to the vital importance of Kaabah for the collective life of Islam, the term pilgrimage is seldom used for other than going to Makkah and such usage would not appeal to Muslim tastes, but at the same time (and apparently due to this reason) the kind of "little pilgrimages physical and non-physical" you mention in your post definitely have parallels in Muslim culture in other ways of highlighting the importance of the Unseen God, His transcendence and the immeasurable vastness of the human spirit as underlying concepts of pilgrimage.

    Most Muslim children hear stories about saints, especially the woman saint Rabia of Basra, that when they went for pilgrimage the Kaabah itself came to receive them. Or, when such and such a saint went to Makkah for the first time, he just saw the black cube Kaabah but when he went the second time he saw the Owner of the Kaabah (God), and so on. Or, when such and such a saint went to Makkah he didn't "see" Kaabah and was told by angels that the black cube has gone so many miles to welcome that other saint who is coming to Makkah.

    Rumi even offers a parable about a great Shaykh who, when a traveller to Makkah met him on the way, said to the traveller, "Take your rounds around me and go no further. I am your pilgrimage."

  9. I'm deeply grateful for this gentle, clear and helpful teaching! All of this makes perfect sense to me. I intend to find another word for my little experiences besides pilgrimage as I am way past any hope to be a saint..yet I consider such saints that you have mentioned my universal mentors and bridges between this life and the life beyond boundary and walls.

    During the documentary and the radio interview on Makkah, the part that MOST intrigued me was the Kabbah for all kinds of reasons...unlimited hearing about these experiences only deepens those examples - realities...

    Second, what drew me to the experiences of the Kabbah was the collective community worldwide and culture free in many ways...

    What a gift to be able to come here in your midst to learn what are the right words, the unique expressing truths in your traditions and to be among each of you here...

  10. Salam Khurram Sahab,

    Each tool by which to reign ourself - for self control - would reveal wisdom of enormous depth the more one would ponder.

    Another device of a more psychological nature i've come across is our ability to pay attention or concentrate on the matter presented before us.

    The more one has an ability to concentrate the more control we have over the mind.

    If we thereby reign in the mind's wandering thoughts & impulses we develop a greater power of self-control.

    This ought to be the subject of cognitive science too.

  11. Dear Faraz,

    Would you please elaborate on this question/comment and explain it's relationship to the chapter posted here? :) I know I am quite illiterate about such deep understandings especially in relationship to Islam - Rumi - Sufism as ONLY you in Pakistan can know such concepts in your society. I also appreciate how much you try to connect with universal spiritual principles and almost the science of the same.

    While our host/teacher/mentor and the author of this revised RR is away, perhaps we can generate and keep going a conversation about this chapter and the comments here?

    If you are willing?

  12. Yes, I realize your day of celebration is almost over friends of RR yet I want to wish you a beautiful evening in closing.

  13. This comment relates to "Phase II: Self-Control".

    While the 5 pillars help us gain control over ourself.

    This tool "to be able to concentrate" is most fundamental as a tool for self control.

    At any time that we commit some sort of sin or ill it's because at the time we lack strong composure.

    Once having regained composure most things that are harmful we will stay away from them.

    So for example: I might be distracted by this beautiful car I want to have. If I somehow cognitively manage to convince myself that the car is not as important as I make it up to be [in my mind] then not having the car would not bother me.

    So it is with remedying greed, anger, jealousy.

    If we can enjoy what we have by giving it all our attention i.e. we give time to the responsibilies we are faced with then we won't be caught up by sin or ill.

  14. Shukriya, Faraz! I hope to revisit this comment in about a week.