(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)
Iqbal and Vishwa Mitr
Allama Iqbal’s spiritual odyssey ‘Javid Namah’ a colossal poetic treatise in Persian is known to all Iqbal lovers, at least in name, if not in content and context, even in this age of fast declining Persian literary influence in the subcontinent. What is not known, except to those who dig deep in Iqbaliyat, the life and works of Iqbal that the odyssey starts with meeting the Indian sage; Vishwa Mitr in the lunar planet. Vishwa Mitr is a significant figure in highly spiritualised Indian mythological lore. Call it mythological lore, philosophical venture, spiritual odyssey; the fact stands that it constitutes the faith of millions in India. Iqbal was well versed with what constituted Indian thought and how it shaped up from times immemorial. He knew the seers and sages, being thoroughly versed with their philosophy and as a great spiritualist and he became a part of the lore. As is apparent in his poetry, he was proud of his Brahmin ancestry. Sheikh Mohammad Iqbal’s forefathers were Saprus, Kashmiri Brahmins, before they became Sheikhs on conversion. Sheikh in fact was the common family name of recent converts.
The account starts with the trademark ‘Shikwa-e-Iqbal’ a complaint, a note of distress on the stresses that humanity is subjected to. Iqbal expresses his distrust of the happenings of past and of past generations too. As it runs through Iqbaliyat, in a similar vein, Iqbal at the very start of ‘Javid Namah’ while shelving the past, which he says turned dark in East, due to listlessness of Easterners, pins his hopes on the younger generations. He prays earnestly for them to develop his vision. Next in focus is what the sky tells the planet Earth and how the planet we live on answers. The sky taunts the Earth, made of clay:
Clay may add up to be an Everest
Grandeur a la sky remains a quest!!
Planet Earth, upset over the taunt looks up to heavens to soothe the hurt. The relief comes quick and fast! Entrusted with the sacred possession of the supreme beings… the humans, what is there to be ashamed of! Endowed with reason and capacity to plan, the children of Adam could have had the universe, as their domain. To answer to the taunt, two great sons of Adam set out on an expedition skywards. It is in the context of East/West relations that in the ‘Lunar Planet’ nearest to ‘Planet Earth’ Iqbal and his Guru meet Vishwa Mitr. Amusingly Iqbal calls him Jehan Dost, the Persian version of his name… Vishwa (Jehan) and Mitr (Dost). The interaction at the very start of the monumental spiritual quest denotes the esteem, which Iqbal had for Indian seers. The spirit of kinship is amazing. It is in the context of East/West relations that in the ‘Lunar Planet’ nearest to ‘Planet Earth’ Iqbal and his Guru meet Vishwa Mitr. Amusingly Iqbal calls him Jehan Dost, the Persian version of his name; Vishwa (Jehan) and Mitr (Dost). The interaction at the very start of the monumental spiritual quest denotes the esteem, which Iqbal had for Indian seers. The spirit of kinship is amazing. Vishwa Mitr had an added qualification, apart from his high spiritual status in Indian mythology. The sage is believed to have taught Sri Ram Chander ji not only matters of spirit; but whatever pertains to matter, the secular education, as we call it in modern terms. Hence he finds a mention in Ramayana. The adoration in which Iqbal held Shri. Ram could be had from the couplet originally in Urdu:
Visionaries call him Imam-ul–Hind!
‘Imam’ is supposed to provide the lead, not only in a prayer and piety, but act as a guide too, in worldly matters. Shri. Ram Chander ji apart from providing the spiritual lead, established ‘Ram Raj’ya’ which is its essence denotes morality in statecraft, contrary to ‘Chankya-neti’ laid down in ‘Arth-Shastra’; a political treatise. In ‘Ram Raj’ya’ means are as important as the ends they lead to, while as in ‘Chankya-neti’ means do not matter, as long the ends, the desired objectives are attained. Means could be fair or foul. Your enemy’s enemy could be your friend, says Chanakya. ‘Arth Shastra’ became the forerunner of Machiavelli’s; ‘Prince’ which literally became the bible of later day politicians. The political art of Chankya and Machiavelli is widely practised.
Vishwa Mitr, though a Khishtary, the caste inferior to Brahmins, could hold his own against the most reputed Brahmins, in a debate. Vi’shast was one such Brahmin-Raj Guru of Raja Sur Das. Having attained the Brahminical status, though not a born Brahmin, Vishwa Mitr also became Raj Guru of Sur Das. Vi’shast and Vishwa Mitr engaged in debates to score points. These debates form a part of Rig Veda. Eventually Raja Inder feared; Vishwa Mitr by his Tapasaya might score over heavenly beings in ‘Dev Lok’. He sends two Damsels- Rambha Devi and Menaka Devi to disturb his devotional state. Though Rambha was more beautiful, Menaka was more enticing. It is to her wiles, that Vishwa Mitr ultimately fell and in his dazed state entered in to conjugal relationship. The result of the union after nine months was Shukuntula.
Vishwa Mitr emerges from a cave in the lunar planet and asks Rumi “who is accompanying you”? 1n Rumis answer the Iqbalian quest is laid bare. Rumi tells him, that the person with him is firm in knowing the truth, hence someone who cannot be moved from his stand. However in his search for truth, he is a relentless pursuer. These lines exhibit the deft shades of Iqbal’s art. Firm and unmovable in what is the proven truth, nevertheless ever on the move in getting to truth! Having known, who is he interacting with Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost takes a good look around and comments on the CREATION and the CREATOR (HAQ in Islamic lore). He calls the ‘Creation’ colourful with everything apparent in its assigned place. ‘HAQ’ on the contrary has no apparent form, hence invisible and indefinable. In the evolving interaction, Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost asks Rumi to comment on the shaping of Universe, the role of human beings and on the ultimate reality ‘HAQ’. Rumi says Admi (human being) is ‘Shamsher’ (sword) ‘HAQ!’(Ultimate reality/universal truth) is the fencer (sword wielder/ Shamsher’ Zan in Persian) and ‘Aalam’ (universe) is ‘Sang Fasan’ (Persian for the stone on which the sword is sharpened). What Rumi wants to emphasise is that ‘Admi’ (sword/shamsher) retains its value in the hand of wielder (Shamsher’ Zan) ‘Haq’ hence salvation lies in obedience, at the same time to sharpen his instincts he has to explore the universe (sword sharpening on the sang fasn).
Expounding this in the realm of East/West diversity; Rumi says East got lost in exploring what constitutes right and wrong, leaving the universe un-explored. West on the contrary concentrated on the universe, sharpening instincts to explore it to gain material advantage. In the process the means did not matter, hence lost touch with ‘HAQ’. Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost attests, what Rumi states, commenting that East lost its bearing in an avoidable debate, which resulted in pessimism and loss of initiative. However, counsels Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost there is no need to loose hope. He relates what he had heard from an angel, whom he noticed with his gaze set on East. The angel related that he could see a new dawn, the dawn of Eastern resurgence clearly. And when it does come about, it would spell ‘IDD’, the day of festivity and rejoicing for the heavens dwellers, of which he is one! What Vishwa Mitr predicted is coming true in a resurgent China and India and earlier Japan. Iqbal relates in another Urdu couplet:
China awakes from a slumber deep
Himalayan streams; a date to keep!
We shall, God willing continue this philosophical dialogue next Friday
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi
[Reunion is subordinate to survival]