Muhammad Iqbal: The Mosque of Cordova (1932)*

Mosque of Cordoba” (c.1932)

Masjid  e- Qur-tubah

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab

In the flow of light to dark

the jeweller is hard at work.

In the spaces between light and dark,

in birth and death:

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab:

With coloured silken strands,

he works a royal robe.

In the flow of light to dark,

Azal: The pre-eternal sadness,

where the Jeweller speaks

or hisses his decisions,

Weighing you,

dangling me in the balance,

The master assaying

in the shadows, day to night.

If you are wanting–

If I am wanting:

Terii Baraat–

Marii baraat.

Death for the all the worlds

in the kingdom where

there is no day and night.

The works of our hand,

all glister and fashioning

will flash away–

Kaar e jahaa; N be-;  sabaat!

The world comes at last to this!

In the beginning was the end.

Within the form was its formlessness.

Inside the new, its destruction.

At the start of the journey, its end.


*This poem was written by Iqbal on a visit to Spain in 1931-32.  It consists of eight stanzas (the first of which has been translated here.)  The structure of the poem is discussed here, where there is also a very literal English translation that misses the assonance of the original Urdu text.  As the editor rightly observes, Iqbal’s sense of language suffers under any translation.  I have tried to capture some of the resonance by rendering his complex verse structure and internal rhyming, using English conventions.

r j hoffmann 2012 09

silsilah-e         roz-o-shab

sequence of day and night, shape-maker of events

= In silsilah there’s also the sense of ‘lineage’, and other complexities as well (*Platts*) silsilah-e roz-o-shab , naqsh-gar-e ;haadi;saat sequence of day and night, origin of life and death silsilah-e roz-o-shab , ;hayaat-o-mamaat 2) sequence of day and night, two-colored strand of silk silsilah-e roz-o-shab , taar-e ;hariir-e do-rang from which Being makes its robe of qualities jis se banaatii hai ;zaat apni qabaa-e .sifaat 3) sequence of day and night, wail/lament of the tone/instrument of eternity silsilah-e roz-o-shab , saaz-e azal kii fi;Gaa;N through which Being shows the treble and bass of possibilities jis se dikhaatii hai ;zaat zer-o-bam-e mumkinaat = More precisely, azal is the eternity before creation. 4) this one examines/assays you, this one examines/assays me, tujh ko parakhtaa hai yih , mujh ko parakhtaa hai yih sequence of day and night– the Jeweler of Creation silsilah-e roz-o-shab , .seraafii-e kaa))inaat = It’s apparently the Jeweler of Creation who examines the ‘sequence of day and night’, the way a jeweler would test the quality of gems. 5) if you would be of low quality, if I would be of low quality tuu ho agar kam-((ayaar , mai;N ho;N agar kam-((ayaar death is your assignment, death is my assignment maut hai terii baraat , maut hai merii baraat = This is the Arabic baraat , with no connection to the Indic one meaning “wedding procession.” 6) of your night-and-day, what other reality– tere shab-o-roz kii aur ;haqiiqat hai kyaa the movement of one age, in which is neither day nor night ek zamaane kii rau , jis me;N nah din hai nah raat ! = The “sequence of day and night” itself is doomed, and not only human works and accomplishments. 7) momentary, oblivion-bound, all the miracles of craftsmanship aanii-o-faanii tamaam mu((jizah’haa-e hunar the work of the world– without stability! the work of the world– without stability! kaar-e jahaa;N be-;sabaat ! kaar-e jahaa;N be-;sabaat ! 8) first and last– oblivion, inside and outside– oblivion avval-o-aa;xir fanaa , baa:tin-o-:zaahir fanaa whether it be an old shape or new, the final destination– oblivion naqsh-e kuhan ho kih nau , manzil-e aa;xir fanaa

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5 thoughts on “Muhammad Iqbal: The Mosque of Cordova (1932)*

  1. Hi Joe, Thanks so much for that. I am greatly impressed with the direction and depth of your thinking. I have avoided injecting comments to your discussions because of some seeming significant differences, mainly concerning abiding interest in rehabilitating Jesus of Nazareth from the Christ of faith image of Christianity based on the writings of the NT. I have the deep conviction that just here in the prospect of this interest, the real success of The Jesus Prospect lies. I am overwhelmed with what I see as the unique possibilities which this concern can bring, given your particular word skills and the direction The Jesus Prospect is taking. In the same vain as when I injected my March 24, 2009 letter to you about the Jesus Project, naming three of our top NT scholars: Schubert Ogden (once your intellectual hero), James M. Robinson, Hans Dieter Betz, and Merrill P. Miller, I express my deep concern that your Jesus Prospect become a success.
    I write on the strength of your generous Reply to my comment “A viable historical solution to the Jesus Puzzle – – “ on your post News From the Freethought Ghetto, and your comment elsewhere: “I can understand why Betz so understands the Sermon on the Mount.”

    • Your comments are always welcome Ed. Joe’s is a beautiful translation of Iqbal isn’t it? He seems to capture an eternal spirit of the poet. Very best wishes, steph.

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