Chapter 1. Stopping by the Moon: Javid Nama by Allama Iqbal
Chapter 1. Stopping by the moon: Javid Nama by Allama Iqbal
A friend of everyone
Life means moving on, and therefore I moved on. As I rose above the earth, everything that I had always seen above me was now below. This universe belongs to God, and therefore we should look at it with love and affection. Nothing is alien to the human soul, since the human soul has a divine spark in it.
The silent moon was the first stop on our way, as Rumi informed me. Its surface was adorned with many volcanoes but there was neither air nor any sound to be heard. Its clouds never rained and there was no life on the planet. Rumi understood my amazement, and asked me to follow him into a dark cave.
Fear struck me dumb as I entered the cave. “Even the sun would need a lamp here!” I thought in my mind, but nevertheless, I followed my guide into this dark alley. As I moved on, I found myself beginning to doubt everything – maybe that was some strange effect of that mysterious environment. Finally, when I felt that I would perhaps begin to doubt the doubt itself, a new world dawned upon my mind.
It came like a surprise. Right there before me, deep inside that dark cave, there was a valley of eternal light. On our earth, the light is always surrounded by darkness. For instance, the light of the sky fills up the sky but its boundaries are drawn by the dusk that comes out at the end of the day. A candle spreads its light only up to a distance, but darkness survives beyond the candle’s range. This was not the case here. This valley was filled with a light that was absolutely, completely, utterly boundless. Even a shadow would illuminate upon falling on the land!
I began to survey the valley. The trees were huge, and spread out everywhere as if they were sacred threads cord worn by each stone, the way Hindus wear beads around their necks. Indeed, there was a Hindu sage sitting under one of the trees. Rumi told me that his name was Vishvamitra, which in Sanskrit meant ‘the friend of everyone.’
I looked at Vishvamitra. He wasn’t wearing much, and a white snake girdled his body. Just as I was looking at him in wonder, he opened his eyes and looked at both of us. Perhaps he knew Rumi, who now introduced me as a passionate wanderer, a philosopher and a poet.
“How do you prove the existence of God?” He asked me.
“I don’t need to prove it,” I replied. “He can be seen everywhere!”
Vishvamitra got extremely pleased upon hearing this, and shared his own words of wisdom with me. “It is always a fault of your own vision when you see evil in something,” he said to me. “The sun never sees darkness anywhere!”
Then he went on, “Those who don’t believe in God are as good as dead, then why fight the dead? A true believer fights instead with the demons within his own soul, and preys upon them the way the cheetah falls upon a hapless deer…”
I was listening to his wise sayings. “I once asked the flower, ‘How do you extract perfume out of dark soil?’” Vishvamitra was telling me, “And the flower asked me, ‘How do you extract thunder out of the silent lightening? We never hear any voices and we are amazed that you humans hear such loud voices from things that appear voiceless to us. Maybe its just the difference in our modes of life: you grasp what is obvious and we grasp what is not so obvious.”
The Indian philosopher paused, and I waited for him to say more, but then I realized that he had gone into meditation again. The light that had filled the valley a while ago now suddenly faded away, and that is when I realized its secret. The light was coming from Vishvamitra. Now it must be glowing inside him, and not outside, since his attention was now diverted within.
In the magical charm of the night appeared a woman so delicate, as if she was the star of that dark night. Her tresses reached her waist on either shoulder and from light radiated from her face, lending luminosity to the surrounding mountains and fields. Drowned in her own intoxicating beauty she was humming to herself. The light of imagination and vision revolved around her, bringing froth new ideas of artistic imagination.
I said to Rumi, “O gifted one! Enlighten me with this secret as well.”
“This silver portrait of a woman was a created in God’s mind,” said Rumi, “But in order to gratify her need for expression she came into this world. Like us, she’s a lonely wanderer, a stranger like you and me. She restores senses by taking them away! Our buds bloom from her dewdrop and the flame kindles from the heat of her breath. Because of her, a poet strikes the chords of his heart and rips the drape of his support. I saw my world in her song. Come and experience the passion of her voice within you.”
As I paid attention, I could hear within me the song she was singing:
Upon a mirage, I
Fear, thou dost row thy ark;
So sailed though veiled in life,
And veiled thou’lt death embark.
If thou fulfillment seek’st,
Extend thy deep desire,
Rose! As thou perfume claimed,
Now garden win entire.
This lovely melody
Is not from nature’s lute,
A houri far away
From heaven blows her flute.
Rumi, the master of passion and love whose word is like a heavenly spring to the thirsty, said to me, “Poetry that has a flame veiled within it has foundations in the warmth of God’s praise. It turns weeds into a beautiful garden and rises to rearrange the skies. It bears testimony to the Divine Truth, and endows sovereignty to the destitute. Because of it, the blood gushes swiftly through the body and the heart becomes more alert and learned than Gabriel. Yet there are plenty of poets who are highwaymen of the hearts and devils of the sight. May God have mercy on the poets of your sub-continent! Their soul is devoid of a yearning for true expression. They relegate the supremacy of love and are ever willing to teach an Abraham the art of making idols! Their poetry is charged with rhythm and verse but devoid of pain and passion. To those who contain compassion, your poets are numb and dead. The humming of someone in deep sleep is way better than a melodious voice that has no understanding of the depth of music.
“A poet’s nature is a quest from the beginning to the end. He shapes and nurtures love and desires. A poet is like a heart; without him, the body of a nation is but a mass of dust. The world is made up of pain and desire and therefore without them the poetry is merely mourning. But poetry aimed at civilizing a people is in fact heir to the mission of the prophets.”
The Valley of Prophets
Yearning can always find its way without a map, and hence I headed to the Valley of Yarghamid. The angels call it The Valley of Tawaseen because in this valley are inscribed the “Taseens,” or secret codes, of four prophets of God.
The beauty of the valley is hard to describe. No less than seven stars circle it at all times, and the light of the valley gives vision to humans as well as angels.
The first Taseen carried the teachings of Budha and a sinful woman’s response to them. There, one could see the Budhha holding out the gist of his teachings, “Nothing is permanent, and therefore you should let it pass. Do not give yourself to the dreams of the unseen; the right thing is to do is to live in this world and yet remain free of it. The beauties of the world are not worth your attention; the beauty of character and right thoughts are what you should aim for.”
The response of the sinful woman was, “Do not let me wander away once again. Hold me faster with the magnificence of your spirit. You are the light of my heart, and this light makes me indifferent to all the stars, the moon and the sun.”
The second Taseen belonged to Zarathustra. Ahriman, or the spirit of evil, was trying to dissuade him from going out to preach. “It is true that you have found the Truth,” Ahriman was telling him, “But do not go out to teach the world. Remember the sad plight of the prophets that have passed before you. Noah couldn’t convert his people and had to pray for a flood in the end. Others were tortured and killed by their people. One who has found God should give up the world and sit in a corner with his wisdom, his eyes closed in perpetual meditation. That is far better than prophet-hood.”
And thus spoke Zarathustra to Ahriman, “The light of God is like a sea, and I am the greatest storm born in its bosom so far. It is my calling to destroy the shores of darkness, and spread the light far and wide. This I must do. You cannot stop me by recounting the difficulties that may come with the task I have chosen. Love, in its perfection, cannot help reaching out to improve others.”
The third Taseen belonged to Jesus Christ, and it contained the dream of Leo Tolstoy, the Nineteenth Century reformer from Russia, who was immensely troubled with some of the things that went in the name of Christianity. His dream was about a valley in Mount of Seven Deaths, where no life existed. The dust was so dark and dense that even moonlight was turned into charcoal in this valley, and the sun died out of thirst for light. A stream of mercury ran gushing across the middle, frightful in its speed and force. There, Tolstoy saw a hapless man caught up to his waist in this stream, and desperately shouting for help. On the bank was a beautified woman, slim like a doll and crafty in her manners. Her name was Afrangine, and she had taught idolatroy to bishops. Now Tolstoy discovered that man who was struggling with the dreadful current of the mercurial stream was a companion of the Christ who betrayed him to the Romans. Just then, a powerful wave struck the miserable fellow and he gave out a horrible scream. The blow had broken his spinal cord. “Now, do you regret what you did to our Lord?” Afrangine asked the traitor, whose anguish increased many times at hearing this taunt.
“O Deceitful Enchantress!” He cried in pain, “Look at your crime, which is worse than mine. You tempt the people to forget God and give themselves to the worldly life. It is due to you that the followers of the Christ have done to his soul what I only did to his body!”
The fourth Taseen belonged to Muhammad, the last prophet. It contained the laments of Abu Jahl. Despaired at the Prophet’s success, this archenemy was wailing before the ancient gods in the premises of the Holy Kaaba, invoking them to rise up in his aid. “O, Lat, O Manat!” He was crying, “Muhammad has cleft my heart into pieces. He teaches equality, and he has corrupted out youth. The young no more listen to their elders, they are turning away from the old traditions. Muhammad has taught them to pray before an Unseen god, and deny the gods of our forefathers. He says that all humans are equal, and there should be no distinction of race, class or status. O gods of my forefathers, break the spell of Gabriel! Do not leave Kaaba, but if leave you must then at least stay in my heart.”
Continue to Chapter 2, Spirits of Mercury