The Answer to the Complaint
|When passion streaming from the heart turns human lips to lyres,|
Some magic wings man’s music then, his song with soul inspires;
Man’s words are sacred then, they soar, the ears of heaven they seek,
From dust those mortal accents rise, immortals hear them speak;
So wild and wayward was my Love, such tumult raised its sighs,
Before its daring swiftly fell the ramparts of the skies.
|The skies exclaimed in wonderment, “Some one is hiding here,”|
The wheeling Planets paused to say, “Seek on the highest sphere.”
The silver Moon said, “You are wrong, some mortal it must be,”
The Milky Way too joined converse, “Here in our midst is he.’’
Rizwan alone, my plaintive voice began to recognise,
He knew me for a human who had lost his Paradise.
|And even the Angels could not tell what was that voice so strange,|
Whose secret seemed to lie beyond celestial wisdom’s range.
They said, “Can Man now roving come and reach these regions high?
That tiny speck of mortal clay, has it now learnt to fly?
How little do these beings of earth the laws of conduct know;
How coarse and insolent they are, these men who live below.
|So great their insolence indeed, they dare even God upbraid!|
Is this the Man to whom their bow the Angels once had made?
Of Quality and Quantity he knows the secrets, true—
The ways of humbleness as well if he a little knew!
That they alone are blest with speech how proud these humans be,
Yet, ignorant, they lack the art to use it gracefully.”
|Then spake a Voice Compassionate: “Thy tale enkindles pain,|
Thy cup is brimming full with tears which thou couldst not contain
Even High Heaven itself is moved by these impassioned cries;
How wild the heart which taught thy lips such savage melodies!
Its grace yet makes this song of thine a song of eulogy;
A bridge of converse thou hast formed ‘Twixt mortal man and Me!
|Behold, my hands arc full of gifts, but who comes seeking here?|
And how shall I the right road shew when there’s no traveller?
My loving care is there for all, if deserved but by few!
Not this the clay from which I can an Adam’s shape renew!
On him who merits well I set the brightest diadem,
And those who truly questing come, a new world waits for them.
|Apostate hearts and palsied hands your earthly lives debase,|
You all, to your great Prophet, are bringers of deep disgrace;
Those idol-breakers all have gone, you idolaters are,
Abraham was the father, you his sons, are but Azar;
Now stranger bands carousal hold, strange are both cup and wine,
A strange new Ka'ba you have reared, strange idols oh its shrine!
|The tulip of the wilds once reigned the queen of blossom-time:|
In this once lay the quintessence of loveliness sublime.
Once every true-born Mussalman by Allah set his store,
This fickle-hearted courtesan even you did once adore!
Go, seek some constant mistress now, to her a new bond sign,
Muhammad’s universal creed to narrow bounds confine!
|To pray to me at break of day you now an ordeal deem,|
Your morning slumber sweeter far— yet you would faithful seem!
The hardships of the fast oppress your natures—now grown free;
Such are your ways and you still would protest your love for me!
Unto a nation faith is life, you lost your faith and fell,
When gravitation fails, must cease concourse celestial.
|You love your homes the least among the nations of the earth,|
You are the most incompetent in knowledge and in worth;
You are a barn where lightning stays, where ruin idle lies,
Ancestral coffins long entombed your only merchandise;
In turning graves to profit, you have proved yourselves adept;
Should idol-trading offer gain of course you would accept.
|Whose striving, from this world of mine, its falsehoods did efface?|
Whose toil, from age-old ignorance set free the human race?
And whose the brows whose worship filled My Ka'ba’s hallowed shrine?
Or whose the breasts which fondly held My ‘glorious Book Divine’?
These were your great progenitors; you lack their brain and brawn;
You sit and wait in slothful ease for every morrow’s dawn.
|And did you say, for Muslims I mere promises dispense?|
Unjust laments at least should show some spark of commonsense.
Eternal is the Law of God and Justice is its name,
Should infidels like Muslims live the meed shall be the same.
|Your nation’s weal, your nation’s woe, in common you all share,|
Your Prophet and your creed the same, the same Truth you declare;
And one your Ka'ba, One your God, and one your great Quran;
Yet, still, divided each from each, lives every Mussalman.
You split yourselves in countless sects, in classes high and low;
Think you the world its gifts will still on such as you bestow?
|Who now forgetfully neglect My Rasool’s Law sublime?|
And whose lives write them clearly down as servers of the time?
To whom now other customs seem far nobler than their own?
By whom your great forefathers’ ways once followed, are forsworn?
Your hearts are now of longing void, your souls now know no zeal,
| If any fasting’s hardship bear, it is the poor, today;|
If worship’s echoes ring in mosques, it is the poor who pray;
It is the humble and the poor who still my name esteem,
Theirs is the word, theirs is the deed, yours the shame they redeem.
The rich are drunk with wine of wealth, their God they hardly know,
It is because the poor yet live that wells of Faith still flow.
|That judgment ripe is no more theirs who play your preachers’ role,|
Nor kindling accents from their lips, reveal the flaming soul.
Azan yet sounds, but never now like Bilal’s, soulfully;
Philosophy, convictionless, now mourns its Ghazzali,
Untrod by praying feet, the mosques lament their emptiness,
For gone are those exemplars great of Arab godliness
|’Tis said: “ The Muslims quit this world, their days are on the wane,”—|
The Muslims died out long ago; such a lament is vain.
From Christians you have learnt your style, your culture from Hindus;
How can a race as Muslims pass who shame even the Jews?
You are known as Syed, and Mughal, you call yourselves Pathan;
But can you truly claim as well the name of Mussalman?
|The Muslim was sincere of speech, of fear his voice was free;|
Just, staunch, he scorned the slightest breath of partiality.
In nature, like a tree, kept fresh by modesty most rare,
Yet braver than the bravest he, intrepid past compare.
Like wine, upon the drinker’s lips, his joy, in losing, lay;
As the cup pours its liquor out, he poured his ‘self’ away.
|What the knife is to cankerous growths, to all untruth was he,|
His actions, in life’s mirror shone like light, vibratingly.
If he was confident of aught, it was his right arm’s might,
He feared but God, while thoughts of death your craven souls affright.
When sons, lacking their fathers’ worth are neither skilled nor sage,
With what deserving can they claim their fathers’ heritage?
|The love of ease, like fumes of wine makes sots of you today,|
How dare you pass as Mussalmans? that is not Islam’s way?
Nor Usman’s treasure-chest you own, nor Ali’s empty bowl,
With spirits of such great forbears, what kinship has your soul?
You live disgraced, as having left the paths of Al-Quran.
|You roll the eye of mutual wrath, their eye was ever kind;|
You err, for errors look, while they were generously blind.
Aspiring for the Pleiades, how simple it all seems!
But let there first be hearts like theirs, to justify such dreams.
They reigned upon the Chinese throne, they wore the Persian crown:
Where is that honour that they knew—words are your whole renown.
|They fought for honour, self-respect, yours the self-slayer’s knife,|
You shun the ties of brotherhood they cherished more than life.
You can but weave the web of words, they did their deeds of might:
You pine after a bud: they basked in gardens flower-bright.
The world remembers still the tales which hymn their bravery,
And in their storied book of life shines their sincerity.
|Upon your nation’s sky you rose like stars of brilliant hue,|
The lure of India’s idols made even Brahmans out of you;
Drawn by the wander-lust, you went a-roving ‘from your nests:
Slothful in good, your youth next learnt to doubt their faith’s behests;
‘Enlightenment’ ensnared you all, and all your ‘fetters’ fell,
The land of Ka'ba you forsook, in idol-land to dwell!
|If longing Qais roams no more, but seeks the town again,|
Leaving the lonely desert wastes to share tile life 0f men,
Qais is mad: what if he dwells in town or wilderness?
Yet from him Layla must not veil her face in bashfulness!
Complain ye not of heart unkind nor speak of tyranny!
When Love no bondage knows, then why should Beauty not be free?
|Each stack and barn it sets on fire, this lightning-like New Age,|
Nor bowling wild nor garden gay escapes its flaming rage;
This new fire feeds on fuel old,— the nations of the past,
And they too burn to whom was sent God’s Messenger, the last.
But if the faith of Abraham there, once again, is born,
Where leaps this flame, flowers will bloom, and laugh its blaze to scorn.
|Yet, let the gardener not be sad to see the garden’s plight,|
For soon its branches will be gay with buds, like stars of light;
The withered leaves and weeds will pass, and all its sweepings old;
For there, again, will martyr-blood in roses red unfold.
But look! a hint of russet hue, brightening the eastern skies,
The glow on yon horizon’s brow, heralds a new sunrise.
|In Life’s old garden nations lived who all its fruits enjoyed,|
While others longed in vain, while some the winter blasts destroyed;
Its trees are legion; some decay, while others flush with bloom,
And thousands still their birth await, hid in the garden’s womb;
A symbol of luxuriance, the Tree of Islam reigns,
Its fruits achieved with centuries of garden-tending pains.
|Thy robe is free from dust of home, not thine such narrow ties,|
That Yousuf thou, who Canaan sweet, in every Egypt lies;
The qafila can ne’er disperse thou holdest the starting bells
Nought else is needed, if thy will thy onward march impels.
Thou candle-tree! thy wick-like root, its top with flame illumes,
Thy thought is fire, its very breath all future care consumes.
|And thou shalt suffer no surcease should Iran’s star decline,|
‘Tis not the vessel which decides the potency of wine;
‘Tis proved to all the world, from tales of Tartar conquerors,
The Ka'ba brave defenders found in temple-worshippers.
In thee relies the bark of God, adrift beyond the bar,
|The Bulgars march! the fiend of war in fearful fury breathes;|
The message comes: “Sleepers, awake! The Balkan cauldron seethes.”
Thou deemest this a cause of grief, thy heart is mortified;
But nay, thy pride, thy sacrifice, thus, once again, are tried.
Beneath thy foes if chargers neigh? Why tremblest thou in fright?
For never, never, shall their breath extinguish Heaven’s light.
|Not yet have other nations seen what thou art truly worth,|
The realm of Being has need of thee for perfecting this earth.
If aught yet keeps world alive, ‘Tis thine impetuous zeal,
And thou shalt rise its ruling star, and thou shalt shape its weal.
The lamp of tawhid needs thy touch to make it shame the sun!
|Thou art like fragrance in the bud, diffuse thyself: be free.|
Perfume the garden breeze, and fill the earth with scent of thee.
From dusty speck, do thou increase to trackless desert-main.
From a faint breeze, a tempest grow, become a hurricane!
Raise thou, through Love, all humble to greatness and to fame;
Enlighten thou the groping world with dear Muhammad’s Name.
|If this fair flower blossom not, the bulbul will not sing,|
Nor rose-buds make the garden smile welcoming in the spring;
If he is not the saki, then nor jar nor wine will be,
Nor in this world will tawhid shine, nor thy heart beat in thee;
Yonder ethereal skyey tent, this great name still sustains,
And dancing to its music, flows the blood in Life’s own veins.
|’Tis in the forests and the hills, and on the tranquil plains,|
On the seas, in the arms of waves, in roar of hurricanes;
A music heard in China’s towns, Morocco’s desert-song,
And hid within each Muslim’s heart it makes his faith grow strong.
Let all the peoples of the world see till the end of time,
How I have made this glorious name beyond all thought sublime!
|That pupil of the eye of Earth, soil only dark men tread,|
That region where have always been your martyrs born and bred,
That land upon the hot sun’s lap, that land of al-hilal,
Which lovers fondly love to call the land of their Bilal,--
Is all a-quiver with this Name, like trembling mercury,
Like pupils dark, in pools of light, it swims perpetually!
|Thy shield be wisdom, be thy sword the flaming Love Divine,|
My fond dervish! dost thou not know that all the world is thine?
All else but God is at thy feet, if sounds thy Takbeer great;
If thou a Muslim truly art, thy effort is thy fate.
To my Muhammad be but true, and thou hast conquered me;
The world is nought: thou shalt command My Pen of Destiny.
Translated by: Altaf Husain