In the mid 80's, most of my after school hours were spent rummaging through the vast collections of the old books sellers of Kandy. One rainy day, it was on a such expedition did I come across Iqbal's "Shikwa Wa Jawab-e-Shikwa" (The Complaint and The Response to the Complaint) from a seller located at "Ismail Lane".
Little did I knew at that time that it was the beginning of a most joyous journey which will influence me over the decades till the present.
The main theme of the poem Shikwa is that God is not fulfilling his promise to protect followers of the Prophet from loss and a decline in fortune. In Jawab-e Shikwa God answers directly that he has not broken his promise; instead it is the Muslims, his followers, who have turned away from the Path.
Allama Iqbal - A brief biography
Sir Muhammad Iqbal, fondly remembered as Allama Iqbal, was born on the 9th November 1877 in Sialkot which was, at the time, part of the Punjab Province of British-ruled India, but now lies within the borders of Pakistan.
He was educated at Sialkot and Lahore, and later at Cambridge. After receiving a doctorate from the Ludwig-Maximillian University at Munich in 1907 for his thesis The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, and bar at law from Lincoln's Inn in 1908, he practiced law for many years in Lahore, the city he had adopted as his home.
Iqbal’s writings were so influential during the early part of the 20th century that they were translated into a good number of European languages, with English translations usually the responsibility of R A Nicholson and A J Arberry. His body of work was substantial and it is estimated that he produced at least 12,000 verses of poetry, with well over half of these being in Persian.
Sir Muhammed Iqbal died on the 21st April 1938 at the age of 60.
An excerpt from Shikwa Wa Jawab-e-Shikwa
Shikwa (The Complaint):
We are not alone in error, other peoples have sinned as well.
Some amongst them modest and shy, some self obsessed.
Others lazy, callous, cunning,
And scores disdain your name.
Why must always your good grace seek out these other nations?
And why must lightning always strike upon our feeble stations?
Jawab-e-Shikwa (The Response):
How hard you find upon yourselves waking for the morning prayer,
Who says you have any love for me? Your sleep it is, you endear.
The burden of fasting in Ramadhan
bears heavily upon your carefreeness,
You be the honest judge yourselves:
Is this a sign of faithfulness?
Nations are defined by their religions; in religion lies their sanctuary,
Take your cue from what binds the stars,
No gravity, no galaxy!