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Kashmir specific poetic treatise in Iqbal's 'Javid Nama'



Dr Javid Iqbal How does Amir-e-Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani [RA] relate to Kashmir, probably nothing explains it in as fine a manner and with as deft a touch as exhibited by the art of Allama Iqbal [RA]. The art in Persian poetic form, the finest medium of human expression encompasses the entire spectrum of Amir-e-Kabir's thought vis-à-vis Kashmir. However general issues with implied Kashmir specificity do get addressed, if only to frame Kashmir in her various perspectives. The long poem is a part of Allama Iqbal's Persian classic...Javid Nama. In essence it means a recorded note or an account [Nama] which would be everlasting [Javid]. The other view that it is a recorded note for his son Javid Iqbal has not many takers.

'Javid Nama' is a spiritual excursion; call it a sojourn if you may. It is inspired by 'Meraj Nama' an account of Prophet Mohammad [A.S]'s journey to heavens, on the way to meet Almighty Allah [swt]. 'Meraj Nama' forms an important element of Islamic lore. It has been noted in linguistic forms related to Muslims all over the world. One of Islam's prime spiritualists—Hazrat Ibn-ul-Arabi [RA] was the earliest to make it a part of literary lore, as noted his spiritual excursion...a flight of spirit. On Prof. Austin's testimony, Dante's 'Comedia' written in 13th century was inspired by accounts of 'Meraj Nama'. By this time 'Meraj Nama' the Islamic lore was known in Europe. 'Comedia' however is criticised by Islamic scholars on various counts. One, he left a bitter note on Islam, the lore of which he had used in his literary form. Two, the note far from being a spiritual exercise relates to looking for 'Beatrice' the beloved he had seen twice, which was enough to leave a life long impression. 'Beatrice' however got engaged elsewhere and died young. Dante grieved though he married 'Gemima'. In 'Comedia' Beatrice ultimately is seen by Dante dwelling in heavens, she treats him arrogantly. He is made to bow and apologize for marrying 'Gemima'. Beatrice absolves herself of any folly in getting engaged to someone else. In the end Dante gets to meet 'Mother Mary' and 'Jesus Christ' and is advised not to reveal what he has seen. There is another Islamic scholar with a literary note on 'Meraj Nama' Egyptian blind poet...Abou-ala-Mozi.

Allama Iqbal's 'Javid Nama' is marked by the magnificence of its literary form, its comprehensiveness, its interaction with a galaxy of literates, soldiers of fame and spiritualists of yore. Iqbal's spiritual guide 'Murshid Rumi' accompanies him on his spiritual sojourn. And his assumed name is 'Zinda-e-Roud' a live stream or may we say a flowing one. In his journey through heavens, as he interacts, he seeks answers to his questions. The question answer sessions of various hues remain a literary treasure of immense significance. The sessions exhibit Iqbalian art in masterly exposition of his understanding of the life and works of masters of yore. Thus he is seen interacting with 'Vishwa Mitr' the Indian sage, with western literary scholars, with Tipu Sultan and ultimately he gets to meet 'Amir Kabir' and 'Ghani Kashmiri'.

Before this Kashmir specific poem, he is seen describing a heavenly castle—the lasting abode of Ashraf-ul-Nisa and her daring deeds. The noble lady was grand-daughter of Punjab Governor—Abdul Samad Khan during the dying days of Mughal Empire. Bhadur Shah Awal was ruling Delhi and 'Banda-e-Bairagi' the leader of 'Khalsa' [Sikh] forces had set-in a reign of terror in Punjab. The daring and pious lady used to stay in her chamber in the lawn of the castle housing the Punjab governor reciting Holy Quran with a sword by her side. On her deathbed, as the lore relates, she asked her mother that the Quran and the sword be kept by her side in the grave, in the same manner it used to be in her life. The legend has it that Khalsa forces ripped apart the grave of Ashraf-ul-Nisa comprehending that it might have a treasure and took the sword and Holy Quran. Banda Baragi's acts of discretion were extensive and knew no limits.

While praising the grand lady, Iqbalian art signifies that living with Quran, following its edicts ensures spiritual security and the sword the physical security. While he is still talking of Ashraf-ul-Nisa and ruing the fact that Khalsa in Punjab has taken the Quran as well the sword, implying the spiritual and physical security of Muslims, he gets to meet Amir Kabir and Ghani Kashimri. With Maulana Rumi as usual with him, he meets the twosomes sitting by the side of 'Houz-e-Kouser' the well in paradise. Iqbal says he was feverish in anticipation of meeting his friends, while dwelling in his worries. It was then that he heard a voice of despair relating that collecting thickets in the garden to set-up a nest puts the rose into a mistaken belief of an abiding abode coming-up in the garden, irrespective of the fact that such nests are blown away by lightening, quicker than it takes to put them up. The couplet saddens Iqbal. Rumi comforts him, the comfort implying that whatever has gone wrong in Kashmir will get rectified in time, and says, it was Ghani reciting the poetic note. Ghani whose poetic notes are colourful, his inner being [Batin] and his exterior [Za'hir] full of riches [Ghani in Persian means rich]. In this spiritual conference, Kashmir remains tuned in as the ecstasy in presence of Shah Hamdan heightens.

Iqbal relates the scholarly background of Shah-e-Hamadan whose ancestors were teachers of famed Imam Ghazali [1058-1112 A.D] whose classic view that faith being inherently logical does not need logical substantiation applied brakes on neo-Platonic and Aristotelian concepts that knowledge flows from reason. Imam Ghazali [Gazalez for occident] called the Greek philosophy as 'Incoherence of Philosophers'. Iqbal praises Shah-e-Hamdan as Salar-e-Ajam [leader of Persians] the one who shaped Kashmir's destiny and blessed the heavenly vale with knowledge [Alim] industry [Sanat] art and culture [Tahzib] and religion [Deen] and remained a consultant of sages and kings [Amir-e-Kabir was consulted in conduct of affairs of state by Shuhab-ud-Din Shahmiri, Kashmir's sovereign [1354-1373].

Iqbal [Zinda-e-Roud] gets into an interactive session with Amir-e-Kabir. In a query of general nature, he asks why good and bad is fashioned the way it exists in universe and the task of human beings rendered difficult in choosing between the two. The creator asks for good deeds, while making the 'Satan' as powerful as he is. Iqbal seeks an answer; assured that the one who has untied so many knots would provide it. Amir-e-Kabir says that anyone versed with living meanihfully knows how to make a distinction between what is beneficial and what is harmful. Becoming a partner in satanic endeavours is a disgrace, fighting it adds to grace. Satanic tendencies have to be overcome, as you are sword and the Satan the element of sharpening the sword [Sung-e-Fasan in Persian—the stone on which the sword is sharpened].

In an analogy in another one of Iqbal's couplets in Javid Nama, he calls the creator the fencer; man the sword and universe [Aalam] Sung-e-Fasan. The basic idea is to give full play to humanistic traits and overcome the satanic forces before these forces overwhelm the desirable traits. Otherwise, as Amir-e-Kabir says the fate may get darkened here as well as hereafter. The query and the answer though general is applicable to Kashmir situation as the inhabitants of the vale collectively, the leadership in particular has not been able to make a distinction between what suits our interests and what doesn't, hence satanic forces have overwhelmed, as they could not contained in time. This has led to darkening of the fate.

Iqbal [Zinda-e-Roud] comes-up with another set of questions. Under the canopy of skies one nation is over-riding the other, eating into its vitals. Kashmir specificity comes up as Zinda-e-Roud says people of the region with all the dexterity in their art, with their noble disposition, the gentleness of their demeanor are suffering, heart rendering cries are being heard, the notes of the flute connote the sadness that dwells in their being. His self-esteem stands shattered, he is an outsider in his own land, his wages are not self-sustainable, and the fish of his streams is being angled by others [denoting others devouring the economic assets]. Slavery has frozen his sentiment. However don't think he was always like that. He used to confront his adversaries, and break the enemy ranks. He had his days of bravery and was inspiring. Here Iqbal gets into highlighting the beauty of the vale.

Look at the shinning white of his mountains; look at the red glow of his Chinar as if a fire has been ignited, his spring is a panorama of pearls as the land sprouts forth the captivating greenery. Look at the play of clouds in the skies, the ilk of flying cotton flakes emanating from the spinning wheel of the weaver. The mountain, the river, the sunset; I saw the nature naked there. With all this, I was wandering in Nishat, humming Bishan-ou-Azani [Maulana Rumi's Masnavi]. A bird over a branch started a note, denoting a spring devoid of gaiety though the tulip stands noted by presence, so too the narcissus and the spring breeze could be felt. Ages have passed, the mountains, the land stand as they were; the dazzle of flowers exceeds the dazzle of the full moon. However the soul of the nation is lost, our land has not produced another Shuhab-ud-Din [alluding to the great king of Shahmiri dynasty whose geopolitical sense made Kashmir a secure kingdom by setting-up forward posts much beyond her borders].

The sad notes of the singing bird [soul of poet Ghani] stir the soul. An imaginative wanderer appears on the scene and relates notes on settings in the garden, the spell of colour and the fragrance, the flutter of the wings of the bird is but the soul of Ghani grieving over the craving which did not get realized; hence the note:

O! The morning breeze, were you to cross over Geneva;
Take it from the grieved ones to the 'League of Nations;
The cultivations, the streams, the avenues were sliced
A nation was wholly sold and how cheap was it priced?

A consoling advisory from Shah-e-Hamadan follows...May I tell you a secret, while physical self withers, spiritual self sparkles like a pearl, hence it may remain distinct as the pure ought to remain distinct from impure. The power of the spirit is unparalleled, nothing may be compared to it, and it may look caged, which in fact it isn't. Give it free play instead of suppressing it, doing that would widen the horizons. Material needs may be kept subservient to spiritual needs. Beauty lies in discovering the inner self, like the star of the night it sparkles, ugliness engulfs the one who fails to do it. Not realizing the self amounts to non-existence and caging of spirit, realizing it means getting hold of the self and freeing the spirit. Going beyond self preserves the spirit, self-interest kills it.

Shah-e-Hamdan's advisory though set in general terms implies predominance of self over community interests has harmed Kashmir in ample measure and there seems to be no end to it. Zinda-e-Roud thanks Amir-e-Kabir for the advisory, the words of wisdom, of making distinct the good and the bad, the desirable and the un-desirable. And comes-up with a new set of queries for the guide of the knowledgeable lot, the counselor of the kings, he asks...inspite of being divested of our possessions, we are being asked to pay obeisance and booty is demanded by overlords. Zinda-e-Roud asks...what is the essence of crown and the throne [governance]? Amir-e-Kabir's answer is highly revealing on issues of the government and the governed.

Governance in east or west, says Amir-e-Kabir could either be by the willing participation of the governed or by suppressive order. Obeisance could only be to paid to Allah [swt] and the messenger...Prophet Mohammad [pbuh] and also the one amongst you duly elected [Minkum in Quranic text alluding to chapter 59, verse (Ayah) 4]. An order of governance outside the prescribed format may not be acceptable. Setting up the desired order may entail deft handling of war and peace, of order and disorder. Good governance is not a purchasable commodity, purchasing it may be akin to purchasing highly fragile chinaware. Ideal governance springs from experience of exercising it and is akin to Cyrus's goblet of wine [Cyrus (Jamsheed) was the ancient king of Iran; Jam-i-Jam (Jamsheed's goblet of wine) symbolizes the accumulated experience in governance in oriental (mainly Persian) lore].

Ghani Kashmiri starts relating the Kashmir lore, the manner in which Kashmiris inspired the Indian independence movement. He calls them sons of Kashmiri Brahmins [Brahmin--Zadgan-e-Kashmir: implying wisdom of the wise] setting alight the political panorama of Indian sub-continent, and making the British [Farhangi—the occidental] think hard how to combat the hunted [Indians] getting to know the act of the hunter [the British] in spreading the net. The net that seeks to put an end to the freedom of hunted, restricting natural movement and ability to act. Ghani implies that inspiration inherent in the soil of Kashmir may not be taken as lost; it inspires the spring breeze, the fragrance and greenery of hills and hillocks, it inspires men.

Ghani says, a day came when one wave in Wular asked another—how long shall we dwell in the depth of this lake, it is futile to remain restricted by the coastline. Only the wave which breaks free of the coastline attains the wherewithal to run over any obstacle and attain strength as it moves on, fed by the milk of hundred mothers [sheer-e-saad-ma'dhar]. What it implies and the manner in which these poetic tunes get related to Kashmir situation is evident, self-explanatory and unmistakable. It is as evident today, as it was when Javid Nama was written [1929-1932]. Ghani consoles Iqbal relating the significance of his message to the East, the significance of his poetry and piety. The poetic tunes that sounded the bell for the movement of caravan after caravan, and implores him not to loose faith in the people of the region [ahl-e-khitah implying Kashmiris] whose spirit may seem to be frozen, however retains the warmth. Warmth that will show, as a nation shall rise from burial in graves [milat-e-burr'khaizad- az-khak-e-qaboor] and the raise it shall attain without the angel sounding the bugle [alluding to Sur-e-Israfeal in Quranic idiom].

Ghani's consoling tone continues, he implores Iqbal to wipe off his tears and stop heart rendering tunes, as the apparent strength of imperial setting is illusory. It may break with just an inspiring note of a man of faith. The right note may make-up a nation; a wrong note may mar it. Ghani says to Iqbal—your tunes have touched hearts though what dwells in your heart remains unseen [implying the pain it carries]. And your language may be poetic, though what you recite is not merely poetry. What it implies is the message that the poetic tunes of Iqbal carry. Ghani implores Iqbal to set-in inspiring and awakening tunes.

Iqbal [Zinda-e-Roud] gears-up to deliver what Ghani asks for...developing faith to tear apart the imperial edifice. The world may not be shaped the way you would like it to be, strive to re-shape it the way, you will like it to be. And in the company of stout hearted, keeping away chicken hearted. The way to re-shape it is in gaining collective strength and using that strength to tread the path of abiding faith [Ishq (love of almighty Allah)] and doing away with calculating ups and downs, highs and lows, profit and loss [venture of aqal (calculating mind)] that restricts taking the final call, the plunge to re-shape the world in the manner of your liking. Iqbal ends the narrative with a prayer implying that tears I shed result from my broken heart. They are highly valuable—ilk of pearls [Lal-e-Badakhshan] take all I possess if you may, but provide salvation.

In my travels in Iran for a decade of half, countless are the occasions I passed through Hamadan. I was posted in Kirmanshah, about 130 km's west of the city of Hamadan. Both Hamadan and Kirmanshah are provincial capitals. The two provinces have a hilly divide, coming from Kirmanshah the hilly track would take off at Asad'abad, a wayside town. The city of Hamadan was about 50 km's away from the hilly divide. Hamadan, the city with which Amir-e-Kabir's name remains linked did not keep a note of the illustrious son. Salar-e-Ajam dwelt in a period of historical change, in a west and central Asia devastated by Mongol hordes, a century earlier. But to say, he was running away from it, as was implied by some speakers in a recent seminar on the Salar-e-Ajam in Kashmir University is mere fallacy, historically unsubstantiated. I may add no one implied it in an authoritative tone, but merely on the basis of unsubstantiated narratives.
In a historical analysis we see Amir-e-Kabir coming to Kashmir in mid 14th century during the reign of Shuhab-ud-Din Shahmiri [1354-1373 A.D] a period when the Mongol hordes of Ghengiz Khan and Halaku were in the process of getting tamed by the sublime message of Islam. Many embraced the faith; as history records descendents of murderous hordes of Baghdad re-built Bukhara and Samarqand. The cities they devastated earlier, Samarqand emerged yet again as bride amongst global cities [Uroos-ul-Balad]. Tamerlene [Timur]'s era though not devoid of skirmishes aimed at subduing rebellious elements was mostly constructive. Timur's campaigns meant to streamline parts of West Asia and Central Asia was on a commencing path. But the run, marked feature of a century earlier—the 13th A.D was waning. The century that saw among others the budding Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi [1208-1273] in his teens depart from his native Balkh [a city in Mazar-e-Sharief, Afghanistan] with his father—Bahu-ud-Din Balkhi. The run made him Maulana Rumi a naturalized Eastern Roman, instead of what he originally was--Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi, as he settled in Konya near Istanbul, where the water line of Bosporus divides the orient and the occident. Turkey became Eastern Rome [Rome of the orient] as Greco-Romans settled there, after the fall of mighty Rome of occident.

Kashmir of yore due to efforts of Amir-e-Kabir remained tied to Iran in multiple ways—culturally, linguistically, religiously, and in the art of valley's artisans. Much treasured Persian language though is fast becoming a relic in Kashmir. Kashmir was called Iran-e-Sagir [miniature Iran]. Isfahan in Iran was called Kashmir-e-Sagir [miniature Kashmir]. And about Isfahan [with Shiraz, the cradle of Persian Culture] it is said 'Isfahan Nisaf-e-Jaha'n agar Tabriz va Kirmanshah na bashad' [Isfahan would be half the world had there been no Tabriz and Kirmanshah (elegant cities of Iran)]. Of Kashmir of yore, Hafiz Shiraz's love tunes related:
Az shair-e-Hafiz Shirazi mee goyand va mee ruk'saand
Turkan Samarqandi va siyah chashman-e-Kashmiri
It could be read as:
On Hafiz Shirazi's poetic tunes rock & roll
Samarqand Turks and brave Kashmiris
Siyah-chashman in proverbial terms means brave. Kashmiris of yore had it in abundance, in the present era they are on the trail to regain the bravery of spirit, long suppressed by tyranny of imperialistic era. Enlivening the era of Amir-e-Kabir, of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani forms the core of the trail.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(A practicing physician, columnists and writer with international exposure having worked in Iran and Libya- an exponent of Iqbal and Rumi)

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