In the last post it was mentioned that there are five elements in the Islamic conception of God. The concept is not Iqbal’s own (as he himself points out that it is “the Islamic conception of God”). One of the earliest and the greatest exponents of this thouht in Muslim poetry was Maulana Nezami Ganjavi (1141-1209), the Iranian poet who lived in Baku (present-day Azerbaijan). He influenced almost every significant poet who came after him – including Maulana Rumi, Ameer Khusro, Mirza Ghalib, Iqbal and many others.
Nezami wrote five masnavis (long poems). Each of these aims at giving an aesthetic experience of a particular element in the conception of God.
1. The Treasury of Secrets (God is Eternal): In the first poem, Nezami summarizes the major points of Sufi wisdom, showing that only God is Eternal. Rather than encouraging the readers to renounce the world, he gives them a deeper insight into the worldly affairs and claims that his book contains “the resources for asceticism as well as kingship.” By realizing the Eternity of God in a healthy manner you come to rule the world rather than be ruled by it.
2. Shirin and Khsuro (God is Powerful): You must have heard about the love story of Shirin and Farhad, but you may not have known that it was Nezami Ganjavi who immortalized these characters through his second poem. The way Nezami has rendered this story in his poem, it becomes a parable about how the Power of God works in this world, how it overthrows empires and what do the human societies need to know about the Divine power in order to avoid destruction.
3. Layla Majnun (God is Knowing): This most famous love story of all times in the East was also brought to you by the same Nezami. However, in his version, Layla is the symbol of the collective soul of humanity and Majnun represents those who understand this. We rise above ordinary knowledge and begin to appreciate the Knowledge of God only when we sacrifice our individual ego for the sake of “the soul of all human beings”. This enables us to even develop an insight into the eventual destiny of the humankind (and Nezami’s Majnun is a symbol of such insight).
4. The Seven Beauties (God is Creative): Seven princesses, each living in a separate dome and reciting a different story, represent the seven stages through which all creation may pass in order to become real. Hence Nezami attempts to give us an insight into the Creativity of God. This poem has been less famous in the Indian subcontinent than the other poems of Nezami, but is one of the best-loved pieces in Iran, Central Asia, Turkey and Eastern Europe.
5. The Book of Alexander (God is the Infinite Ego): The last work of Nezami Ganjavi is one of the most ambitious undertakings in the history of world literature because here the poet weaves together the cultural icons from diverse cultures of the world: Plato, Aristotle and Alexander from the West; Zulqarnain and Khizr from the Quran; Darius and his dynasty from Iran; Vedantic sages from the Indian subcontinent; and many others beside. This is a vision of humanity as a single civilization where each individual and group retains their own identities while also realizing their relationship with the whole. Only through such magnanimous and grand vision can we begin to understand the Infinity of God.
Should we know more about Nezami?