Here is a prose translation of Chapter 4, Javid Nama (1932), the epic poem of Iqbal in Persian. The chapter presented here comprises the complete description of Marghdeen, the ideal world of Iqbal. As I would like to explain elsewhere, it is possible to read this chapter as an allegory about a great positive change that has been taking shape in our times but which we probably fail to perceive due to our unrealistic pessimism.
I have based my translation on the original Persian text but I happily acknowledge my debt to A. J. Arberry, whose translation served as a convenient resource. Scanned imges of this chapter from the first edition of the Persian original can be found in the image carousel at the bottom of the translation.
The Sphere Of Mars
I closed my eyes in the waters of the planet Venus. Breaking away from myself, I carried my baggage towards another world in another time and space.
Our sun was appearing on its horizons too but was creating a different kind of night and day.
The body dwells in time and is yet a stranger to time. It therefore does not know the wont and way of the soul, which does not grow old with the flight of time. The soul accords with every fire it finds and rejoices in every dimension of Time – some of them unknown to our bodies. In turn, those other dimensions of Time illuminate the world through the light of our soul.
Thus our very world, including the ceaseless revolution of day and night, is derived from this light of our soul and springs from it. Make that your journey.
I saw a broad meadow with tall observatory whose telescope could grasp Pleiades. It looked so much like the soil of our earth and yet also like the mythical nine-domed retreat of Khizr. It appeared to be boundless – its boundaries merging with the horizon, and into the expanse of heaven.
Maulana Rumi, the sage and the guide of the visionaries, said to me, ‘Behold, this world is Mars. It is a world of colours and scents just like our world, and it also has cities and habitations, mansions and streets. Its dwellers are skilled in many arts, like the Europeans. They excel us in physical and psychical sciences. They have greater dominion over time and place as they are far more advanced in the science of space. They have penetrated into its very essence, and have seen its every twist and turn.’
He added, ‘The hearts of the dwellers of the earth are bound to their bodies. Here, body is in bondage to heart. When a heart makes its lodging in body, it uses matter for creating what it wills – intoxication, joy, happiness. Due to this, we often fail to observe that these things do not depend on matter nor they originate in the body but they are ultimately determined by the soul, which even determines the absence and presence of matter itself. In our world, existence is a duality – soul and body, invisible and visible, respectively. Due to this duality, our souls are like birds in cages, which are our bodies. The thought of Martians is unitive. When the day of death arrives for a Martian, he or she becomes livelier – from the flame of separation. A day or two in advance, he proclaims his decease to his or her fellows. As you may see from this, the soul of Martians has not become habituated to the body. This is because it is not nourished by the body. Death is to draw in the body and thus to flee from the world into one’s self.’
He went on to say, ‘This discourse, however, is too high for your thought because your soul is dominated by your body. You must roam around here for a while. This is not an opportunity God gives to everyone.’
The Martian astronomer comes out of the observatory
An old astronomer came out of the observatory. His beard was white as snow and he was dressed rather like a Christian monk. In spite of his advanced age he stood tall and straight like a cypress, his features glowing like a Turk of Merv. He had expended many years upon science and wisdom, and was keen of eye like the Western sages, deep thoughts evident in his eyes as he appeared to be well-versed in the wont and way of every road. Seeing us approaching, he greeted us in the tongue of Tusi and Khayyam, as he said, ‘A form of clay has broken free from the prison of time and space without the aid of aircraft and has lent to the fixed stars the essence of the planet.’ His speech and comprehension flowed like a river but I was lost in surprise at seeing a Martian speak pure Persian.
He continued, ‘In the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), there was a Martian, a man pure of soul, who opened his eyes on your word and set his heart on visiting it. He traversed the vast expanses of being and alighted in the desert of Hejaz. He wrote down all that he saw in East and West, giving a picture more colourful than the Garden of Paradise.’
He went on, ‘I too have been in Iran and Europe. I have travelled in the realms of Nile and Ganges. I have seen America, and Japan and China, as I was investigating the metals of the earth. I have knowledge of earth’s nights and days, and have journeyed through its lands and seas. The tumults of humankind are open before me, though human being is not familiar with our work.
Rumi said to him, ‘I’m of the skies and my companion is of the earth. His name is Zindah Rud – the Living Stream. He is intoxicated without wine, and derives his drunkenness from contemplating existence. We who have chanced thus upon your city are in the world, yet free from it. Please be our companion for a while in our quest for ever new apparitions.’
The Martian Sage replied, ‘These are the environs of Barkhia – named after our ancestor. Farzmarz, the tempter to all evil, came up to him once in Paradise and said, “How can you remain content here! You have long been dominated by God. There is a far better world to which Paradise itself is but a momentary Spring. That world is loftier than all other worlds – more sublime even than the Dimensionless Domain. God Himself knows nothing of that world. I have never seen a world freer: God does not interfere in its ordering. It has no Book, no Prophet, no Gabriel, no pilgrimage, no worship and no almsgiving.” Barkhia replied, “Go away, Sorcerer! Pour your own image upon that world!” Since our ancestor did not get tempted by Farzmarz, God entrusted us another world. So enter this God-given kingdom. Behold Marghdeen and its laws and customs.’
Tour of the city of Marghdeen
Marghdeen and its tall buildings – what can I say of that noble city! Its inhabitants sweet of speech, comely their faces, gentle their manners, simple their apparel and their thoughts innocent of the burning fever of gain! They are intimate with the secrets of the sun’s alchemy: who so of them desires gold or silver gathers it from light just like we gather salt from the briny sea. The aim of science and art there is service. Nobody weighs work done against gold. Currency is unknown – that idol may not enter their sanctuary. The demon of machine does not have power over nature there and the skies are not blackened by smoke. The lamp of the hard-toiling farmer does not run out of light as he is secure from the plundering of the landlord. His work is not a struggle for water. His harvest is his own and nobody usurps it. In that world there are no armies and battalions, as crime is practically unknown and nobody gains livelihood by murder. In Marghdeen, pen does not win glory by writing and disseminating lies. In the market-places there is no clamour of the unemployed, and no whining of beggars afflicts the ear.
‘No one here is rich or needy,’ said the Martian sage, ‘There is no slave and master, ruler and ruled.’
‘Rich and needy are created by God’s decree,’ I said, ‘and so are the rulers and the ruled. God alone is the creator of destiny, and human design is powerless against destiny.’
The Martian sage replied, ‘If your heart bleeds on account of one destiny, petition God to decree another one. It is permissible for you to ask for a new destiny, since God’s destinies are infinite. Earthlings have gabled away the wealth of selfhood because they could not comprehend the subtle meaning of destiny. Its subtlety is contained in a single phrase: if you transform yourself, it too will be transformed. Be dust, and Fate will scatter you with the wind. Be a stone, and Fate will hurl you against glass. Are you a dewdrop? If so, it is your destiny to perish. Are you an ocean? If so, your destiny is to remain. You are fashioning new idols every moment. Oh inconstant one, do you look for consistency from idols? As long as your faith is non-conformity with yourself, the world of thoughts is your prison and all you understand by destiny is effort without reward, or reward without effort! Ignorant fellow, if this is the foundation of faith, the needy will continue becoming still more in need. Woe to a religion that lulls you to sleep and then keeps you in that state of sleep! Is this religion or black magic – or perhaps a grain of opium?’
He continued, ‘Do you know the source of penetrating wisdom – from where this houri came into your house of clay? Do you know from where come the power of intellect and the potency of worship? From where came this heart and its visitations, and these arts and miracles? If you have fire of speech or flame of action, they do not come from you. All these are the products of the springtime of Nature, which in turn derives from its Creator. Life is a mine of gems but you are just the trustee while the owner is Another. The aim of the servant of God is to serve humanity, and this is what gives him or her the penetrating vision for which he or she is respected so much. To serve is to follow in the footsteps of prophets; to charge a fee for service is to follow the way of the merchants.’
Then he added, ‘The same is true of this wind, earth, cloud, field, orchard, meadow, palace, street, stones, bricks. All this belongs to God. You show your ignorance when you say, “Our property is of ourselves.” If you regard God’s earth as your own, then what means the verse, “Spread not corruption in the land”? The sons of Adam have given their hearts to the Devil, and from the Devil I have seen only corruption. None should convert a trust to his or her own use. Blessed is the one who renders God’s property up to God. You have carried off what does no belong to you. My soul sorrows for such an unworthy deed. You can say such a thing if you own a thing but how is it proper to say it when you do not the thing? Return to God the property of God the property of God so that you may untie the knot of your involvement. For why is there poverty and want under heaven’s arch? Because you say what is the Lord’s belongs to you. One who has not risen above one’s earthly roots has shattered their own glass with their own stone. The value of everything is measured by the regard – you cannot tell goal from path. So long as you give value to a gem, it is a gem. Otherwise it is a pebble and has no value. View the world differently, and it will become different. Heaven and earth will also readjust.’
Translation continues after the picture.
The Martian damsel who claimed to be a prophetess
Passing by streets and mansions, we came to a broad square at the edge of the city. There was a swarm of men and women, and amidst them was a woman with a tall stature. Her face was radiant but without the light of the soul – an expression devoid of meaning. Her speech lacked fire and her eyes lacked tears as they were not intimate with the joy of desire. Her heart was void of the ardour of youth, her mirror blind and unreceptive to images. She knew nothing of love and the laws of love – a sparrow spurned by the hawk of love.
The Martian sage said to us, ‘This damsel is not of the Martians. She was once simple and free of guile and had no artifice when Farzmurz kidnapped her from Europe and made her expert in the craft of prophecy. Then he let her loose upon this world. She declared, “I have come down from heaven. My message is the final message of time.” She speaks of the status of man and woman, and speaks quite openly of the secrets of the body. Let me translate into the language of the earthlings the destiny of life according to this End of Time prophetess.’
He went on to translate for us the speech of the false prophetess of Mars. It went like this: ‘Women! Mothers! Sisters! How long shall we live as beloveds? To be loved here is to be a victim. To be loved is to be dominated and deprived. We comb our tresses and think of the male as our prey but the male is a hunter in the guise of a prey, and circles about you to lasso you. His ardours are but cunning and deceit, and so are his anguish, agony and yearning. Although that infidel makes a shrine of you, he causes you to suffer anguish and grief. To be his companion is a torment of life. Union with him is poison and separation from him is sweet. He is a twisting serpent, flee from his coils. Do not pour his poisons into your blood. Maternity pales the cheeks of mothers. O happy to be free and without husband!’
Her speech went on. ‘The divine revelation comes to me every now and then,’ she said, ‘Renewing the delight I have in faith. The time has come when, by a miracle of science, it is possible to see the foetus within the body. You may gather from the fields of life a harvest of sons and daughters exactly as you choose, and it is quite in accordance with religion to ruthlessly slay the foetus if it is not according to what you desire. Other ages will come after will come and more secrets shall be revealed. Other types of foetus will be nourished, coming to see the light of the day without ever having passed through the night of the womb. That utterly demonic species will then become extinct like animals of prehistoric times. Tulips will rise from earth without having to do with the dewdrops – having no scars, nor their dresses torn like the ones we see now. Secrets of life will emerge of their own according and the string of life will yield melodies without a plectrum. Oysters, die thirsty in the river but do not except the drops that come from the cloud to become pearls! Rise and revolt against Nature so that your war may liberate the bonded woman. The unity of women is to escape from the union of two bodies. Guard yourselves, and do not tangle with men!’
Rumi commented on this speech by saying, ‘Look at the fruits of an irreligious civilization – this creed of the new-fangled age! Love is the law and ritual of life. Religion is the root of civilization, and the root of religion is Love. Outwardly ardent and fiery, inwardly the Light of the Lord of the Worlds! Science and art derive from its inward fervour and glow, and from its ingenious madness. Religion does not mature without Love’s schooling. Learn religion from the company of the lords of Love.’