Tuesday, 10 August 2010

‘To Javed’, by Allama Iqbal

Javed ke naam
Dayar-e-Ishq mein apna muqam paida ka!
Naya zamana, nae sub-ho-shaam paida kar

Khuda agar dil-e-fitrat shehnaz de tujhko
Sakoot-e-Lalah-o-gul se kalaam paida kar

Utha na sheeshah giran-e ferang ke ehsaan
Sifal-e-hind-se mina-o-jaam paida kar

Mein shakh-e-taak hoon, meri ghazal hain mera samar
Mere samar sein nae lala-pharm paida kar

Mera tareeq amiri nahi, faqeeri hain
Khudi na bech, ghareebi mein naam paida kar

(Translated) To Javed*

Create a place for thyself in the world of love;
Create a new age, new days, and new nights.

If god grants you a heart that can understand nature (fitrah)
Create poetry (Kalaam) from the silence of Tulips and roses.

Do not be beholden to the West’s artisans,
Seek thy sustenance in what thy land affords.

My ghazal (poetry) is the essence of my life-blood,
Create thy elixir of life out of this essence.

My way of life is poverty, not the pursuit of wealth;
Barter not thy Selfhood; win a name in adversity.

*Javed Iqbal, Allama Iqbal’s son

Allama Iqbal


It is difficult to translate Urdu into English directly, especially as the meaning can be lost when trying to make the poem make sense in English. I have included notes on word meanings to aid the reader. However, this may just be one interpretation of the poem, as it is unfortunate fact that when translating, the translator must imbed their own interpretation upon their work. Hopefully this is not too confusing and offers further insight. I do admit that my translation is poor and may sound feeble in English. Any of my translations that contradict the English translation offered above does not mean that either one of us is wrong-we simply hold a different view, a different interpretation.

  1.  Although Iqbal uses the word ‘Ishq’ which translates to ‘love’, in conjunction with ‘Dayar-e’ which translates to ‘the place of’, this does not necessarily mean that Iqbal means ‘love’ literally or ‘In the world of love’. In an alternative translation, the first line is understood as ‘In the realm of devoted commitment, create your identity’. So it is possible that by ‘Ishq’, Iqbal means passion for one’s work or dedication.

  2. Muqam’ can mean status, name, identity, making a mark or ‘a place for thyself’

  3.  ‘Zamana’ can also translate to ‘era’. 

  4.  The second verse can be understood in a number of ways. ‘Sakoot-e’ means silent. ‘Lala-o-gul’ is the name of a flower. So Iqbal is saying the flowers are silent- they do not speak. ‘Paida’, when translated literally, means ‘to give birth to’. He is telling his son that if God grants him the heart to understand the voice of nature, then may he be able to create a tongue for those flowers out of their silence.

  5. ‘Sheeshah giran-e’ translates to ‘the one who breaks the mirror’ (the mirror being symbolic-however I leave it up to the reader to deduce what the mirror is symbolic of). ‘Ferang’ is an old word that was used for the British, during the time that they had invaded India. So Iqbal is telling his son not to take favours from the British (the ones who break the mirrors). ‘Sifal-e-hind-se’ translates to the ‘earth of Hindustan (India)’. ‘Mina’ is alcohol, and ‘Jaam’ is the cup that it is drunk in. So Iqbal is telling his son to create his own cup to drink alcohol with by using the earth of India and not taking favours from or relying upon the West. (Alcohol is again symbolic)

  6. The next verse can be translated literally to (albeit, a very poor translation on my part) ‘I am a branch, my fruit is my poetry/From my fruit create a new flower’

  7.  The last line, ‘ghareebi mein naam paida kar’ can be understood as ‘create your name in poverty’. Iqbal is saying he does not pursue worldly wealth or ornament; his way of life is poverty. He is instructing his son to not sell himself (perhaps by saying this Iqbal means not to sell his morals and self respect), but to create his name in poverty. Poverty can be interpreted as a state of scarcity in which one does not have material wealth and thus is not superficial. Poverty can also be interpreted to mean the state in which one is close to God and thus does not pursue worldly pleasures. By saying ‘create your name’ this can be understood as creating a status within that world or state. However, this is very much open to interpretation and these are only my thoughts.
Finally, if you were to find and compare ten different translations of the poem, you will see that they will rarely agree with each other word for word but hold the same general message, just worded differently. For example, am alternative translation offers the last line as: ‘With your self respect intact, make your mark in adversity’. The translation above writes ‘Barter not thy Selfhood; win a name in adversity’ and I understand the last line as ‘Do not sell yourself, create your name in poverty’. All mean the same thing. The language may be different, but Iqbal’s beautiful ideas and messages are eternal and sustained. One can only be in awe of his command and depth of poetic excellence.

Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938) is a highly influential Muslim poet and thinker. Allama* Iqbal is important both in the fields of literature and history. His works are written in Urdu and Persian during the time before the Partition of India. Allama Iqbal is important both in the fields of literature, history and philosophy (particularly religious philosophy in the form of Sufi thought). Although it is plausible for one to call Allama Iqbal a poet, his career spanned far further than that one arena and dipped into the areas of Philosophy and Politics respectively. Allama Iqbal developed a close friendship with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and they together encouraged and inspired Muslims in India to seek partition. Allama Iqbal was highly educated, studying at Government College, Lahore, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Cambridge University, England and finally earning a PhD from Munich University, Germany.

Allama Iqbal commented on other thinkers and writers such as German philosophers and writers Schopenhaur, Nietzche, Goethe, Marx and Hegel; Persian writer and philosopher Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi- whom was a huge source of inspiration to Allama Iqbal; Russian novelist Tolstoy; famous thinker Einstein and English writers Byron, Browning, Shakespeare within his work. Iqbal’s epic poem ‘Enshrinement of Nature’ can even be said to challenge and offer an alternative perspective to that of Milton’s in his poem ‘Paradise Lost’.

Allama Iqbal is the national poet of Pakistan and to mark the anniversary of his birthday, Pakistan holds a national holiday annually on November 9th. Allama Iqbal is respected worldwide and his famous ‘Sare Jehan Se Acha’ (Translated to: ‘Better than the entire world’) poem has become the unofficial anthem of India. Although Pakistan has struggled for many years to discover its identity, the works of Allama Iqbal can be said to represent the theological stance of what the founders of a nation hoped for Pakistan to achieve and become.

*Allama means ‘Scholar’ and is used before Iqbal’s name as a mark of respect and as a title.

Alternative translations that were referred to in this article were found in:

  •  Farscape, http://map4lostsouls.blogspot.com/2009/08/javed-kai-naam-iqbals-poem-to-his-son.html
  •  Iqbal: Rhymed Translations of Selected Poems by Khwaja Tariq Mahmood
By Maahwish Mirza, student at Luton Sixth Form College and Guest Writer

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