Nafas e Ayub – Reviewing Maariyah Siddique’s Maktoob

Nafas e Ayub

Reviewing Mariah Siddique’s Maktoob

Tired of the arduous journey in the heat of Hijaz[i] and with the enemy close behind to take his life, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companion Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (RA) took shelter in a cave at the rocky mountain of Thawr, within sometime those on the hunt for his life traced the blessed footsteps and were right outside the cave where the Messenger of Allah and his companion in life and death were taking refuge. Scared, Abu Bakr said “O Messenger of Allah, we have been caught”, “Grieve Not” the Divine Messenger said, “Lo! Allah is with us”. Mariah Siddique’s book Maktoob serves a similar soothing reminder to her brothers and sisters in faith, my lowly self being one of those.

The incident of Ghar-e-Thawr was mentioned by God himself much later than it took place in Surah Al Tawba, Verse 40:

If ye help not (your Leader) (it is no matter): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out: he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion, “Have no fear, for Allah is with us”: then Allah sent down his peace upon him and strengthened him with forces which ye saw not, and humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is exalted to the heights: for Allah is exalted in might, Wise.”
(Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s Translation)

  Maktoob is a beautiful reminder to the believers of the all-encompassing attributes of God through his names as mentioned in The Quran, Hadith, Sunnah and other traditions[ii]. In her own words, “’Maktoob’ is a self-help, a thought book that aims to instill the thought that thankfulness and submission to Allah’s plans will bring you the utmost peace…”, she speaks the truth indeed. These verses from the great philosopher poet of the East reverberate my mind as I type this,

Na kahi’n jahaa’n mein amaa’n mili, jo amaa’n mili toh kahaa’n mili
Mere jurm e khaana kharaab ko, Tere ufu e banda nawaaz mein

(Laden with sins my lost soul found no refuge in the wide world
 Except in the lap of thy Gracious forgiveness)

Maariyah’s writing style is poetic and from what I feel has a Quranic undertone to it as she continuously reminds and asks the reader to ponder and reflect. For instance, “To see his mercy, you must see the first drops of rain falling on parched lands, the twinkle in the eye of the hungry woman sitting by the corner of the street on receiving a piece of bread”. I exaggerate not a bit, but I get goosebumps every time I read this.

Similarly, her imagination is beautifully put to words when she elaborates on Al-Lateef, she writes “His subtle kindness shows in the sweet fruits of date palms, in the scented plants which He made food for his creatures in the form of husks and leaves and stems. In the blossoming flowers of endless colours in the meadows, and the differently coloured seas and oceans, Al Lateef, He is, the Gracious one, Kind enough to grow an oasis in a desert

Not just philosophically poetic but her tone changes beautifully throughout from poetic to direct, for instance, “Know that it is al Qadir who is able to do all things. The hardest tests are for the most intelligent ones, forgot the basic lesson from school?”

The text of the book is replete with apt verses from the Quran, sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and instances from the lives of Prophets (Peace be upon Them All). However, I think she could have elaborated better on Al-Hafeez and Al-Kareem. Nonetheless, perfection is reserved for only one book and that is the Quran.

Ms. Siddique was at the lowest ebb of her life when Maktoob happened to her and the world, she was paralyzed as a result of some rare nerve disease. Like the darkness of the cave of Hira that brought light to the world, her days of pain and suffering brought her close to her creator and benefactor and need I say anything else about how beautiful and soothing Maktoob is? NO

Knowing about her illness and recovery through her book, I was reminded of Prophet Ayub (AS) and his illness and loss of wealth and possessions, but it was his forbearance that God doubled his favours on him and blessed him with health, wealth and happiness. Thus, Nafas e Ayub.

As I mentioned earlier, that there is only one book that could lay claim on perfection i.e. the Quran, the prologue of Maktoob is a poem by the author, even someone with extremely basic knowledge of Urdu and/or Hindi would know that there is no word like ‘fir’ in the vast vocabulary of these languages and it is disturbing when learned and educated people use it instead of ‘phir’. I hope and pray that Lauh al Mahfooz includes a second edition of the book with this correction. Nonetheless, this transgression can be forgiven for now.

I am extremely grateful to Ms Sumaiya Ali for recommending me this book, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said “Convey from me, even if it is a single verse”. May God bless her for this in both worlds.

[i] The western region in modern day Saudi Arabia, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina lie within Hijaz

[ii] I write ‘other traditions’ because the author mentions about the name Ar Rasheed that it is not mentioned either in the Quran or the Sunnah, God knows best.SHARE

My Journey Through the Quran

Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1914-1999), also known as Shaikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in the Arab world and Ustad Ebul Hasan Nedewi in Turkey and central Asia; was a renowned scholar, a prolific writer, an avid traveler, a social influencer and also a played the role of a politician priest for the Muslims of India.

Maulana Ali Miya, as he is popularly known, authored more than 50 books. He was the first Chairman of ‘Center for Islamic Studies’ at the University of Oxford, a visiting scholar at Madinah University and many other institutes of higher learning across the world. He served as the rector at his alma mater Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow for nearly thirty years.

Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi was the co-founder and the first Chairman of All India Muslim Personal Law Board. His political stances often put him at loggerheads with governments in India, for instance the Shah Bano case during Rajiv Gandhi’s era and the Vande Mataram controversy during the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

(Late) Professor Mushirul Hasan, the former Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia and a vocal critic of Maulana’s political thought wrote in his obituary[1] for the latter, “ Ali Mian, as he was popularly known, is no more. But this spiritual and intellectual mentor of the north Indian Muslims will be remembered for his piety, his profound scholarship and erudition.……within the framework of traditional Islamic scholarship, Ali Mian was perhaps the most outstanding Muslim scholar in post-1947 India. He travelled far and wide in his quest for knowledge, pursued his intellectual probing…..and eventually prepared his own blueprint for a safe and secure future for his co-religionists……He has left behind a rich intellectual legacy, although it must be carried forth in the eclectic spirit that had guided the founders of Nadwa.

This article in Urdu by Maulana Ali Miya was published in the form of a short book titled ‘Mere Quran ke Motaale ki Surgushist’ in 2017. I have attempted here to translate it into English.

Muhammad bhi Tera, Jibreel bhi, Quran bhi Tera
Magar ye harf-e-sheeree’n tarjuma Tera hai ya Mera

(Muhammad (PBUH) is thine, Gabriel Thine and Thine is the Quran
But this charming rendition is Thine or Mine?)
– Sir Muhammad Iqbal

My Journey Through the Quran

My initiation to the Quran was in consonance with the traditions prevalent among Muslim households to this day. Once fluent at reading, I spent time reciting and re-reading the holy scripture. However much to the dismay of my elders, I struggled at being regular with my recitation and learning endeavors. This changed when I was finally inducted into learning the Arabic language, and I gradually started to somewhat understand the meaning of the verses recited.

My teacher Sheikh Khaleel Bin Muhammad Arab had an exquisite liking for and devotion towards the Holy Writ. During my childhood, I remember him often praying at our mosque. The Sheikh came from the tribe about which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had said, “The people of Yemen have the gentlest minds and softest hearts[2]. God had blessed my teacher with immense treasures of piety and sentiment; it was difficult for him to hold back his intense emotions while reading and reciting the Quran; his choked voice, the trail of tears covering his face, the melancholy and his beautiful rendition left a deep and lasting impact on me. I remember him well starting with one of the larger Surahs[3] derived from the last two of the thirty paaraas of the Quran, but often overpowered with the beauty and magnificence of the text he was forced to cut the prayers short – fellow worshippers were often left asking for more of his beautiful and powerful recital.

The beginning of my Quranic education was under his tutelage. A firm believer in the indivisible oneness of the Divine, the sheikh’s faith was pure and deep and he aimed to embolden the same conviction among his students. I am grateful to Allah for blessing me with a tutor of such impeccable integrity and pristine faith. Surah Zumar in the Holy Quran, that includes some very powerful and clear injunctions related to Tawheed[4] was sheikh’s most liked chapter of the holy book. He delivered lectures on this Surah when I started to proverbially walk with the language after the slow crawl; lectures on Surah Zumar were followed by Surah Momin and Surah Ash Shura. The sheikh had an inherent affinity towards some specific parts of these chapters. This was reflected in his enthusiasm and the emotions he personified while reading, reciting and teaching them; for example, one of these ‘parts’ were the last 10 verses (190-200) of Surah Al Imran (Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation)

190- Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, – there are indeed signs for men of understanding

191- Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting and, lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire

192- “Our Lord! any whom Thou dost admit to the Fire, Truly Thou coverest with shame, and never will wrong doers find any helpers!

193- “Our Lord! we have heard the call of one calling (Us) to Faith, ‘Believe ye in the Lord,’ and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, blot out from us our iniquities, and take to Thyself our souls in the company of the righteous.

194 – “Our Lord! Grant us what Thou didst promise unto us through Thine messengers, and save us from shame on the Day of Judgement: For Thou never breakest Thy Promise.”

195 – And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another: Those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My cause, or fought or been slain, – verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them to gardens with rivers flowing beneath – A reward from the presence of Allah, and from his presence is the best of rewards.”

196 – Let not the strutting about of the Unbelievers through the land deceive thee:

197 – Little is it for enjoyment: Their ultimate abode is Hell: what an evil bed (To lie on)!

198 – On the other hand, for those who fear their Lord, are Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath; therein are they to dwell (forever), – a gift from the presence of Allah; and that which is in the presence of Allah is the best (bliss) for the righteous

199 – And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: They will not sell the signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account

200- O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper

As per Sahih (authentic) Hadith traditions, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would recite these verses from Surah Al Imran before Tahajjud[5] prayers. Another Rukuh (group of verses) that Sheikh Khaleel Bin Muhammad Arab would recite often with passion was from Surah Al-Furqan (Verses 63-75)

63- And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them (harshly) they say (words of) peace

64- And those who spend (part of) the night to their Lord prostrating and standing (in prayer)

65- And those who say, “Our Lord, avert from us the punishment of Hell. Indeed, its punishment is ever adhering

66- Indeed, it is evil as a settlement and residence

67 – And (they are) those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, (justly) moderate

68 – And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden (to be killed), except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty

69 – Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated-

70- Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful

71- And he who repents and does righteousness does indeed turn to Allah with (accepted) repentance

72- And (they are) those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity

73- And those who, when reminded of the verses of their lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind

74- And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”

75 – Those will be awarded the Chamber for what they patiently endured, and they will be received therein with greetings and (words of) peace.

It is as if I can still hear him reciting these verses with melancholy in his voice and eloquence in his articulation. Listening to him often, I started to like these verses too and thus started my intellectual journey with the Quran.

The furtherance of my noesis for Arabic language helped me develop an interest in reading and understanding the Quran. At that time, our family was faced with strangely atypical circumstances, where it seemed as if many verses of the Quran were manifesting themselves before my eyes and bearing testimony to God’s Universal and All-Encompassing attributes. It became evident that the rise and fall of nations, communities and tribes were in congruence with their characters and actions Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (With their own souls)” (Surah Ar R’ad: Verse 11).

I had reached a stage where I was convinced with utmost palpability and certitude, while reading the Holy Quran, that it is a living book of guidance for the life and times of those who are truly alive. It is like an album of life where each individual can not only see their own reflection but themselves too. The Quran says, We have certainly sent down to you a Book in which is your mention” (Surah Al Anbiyaa: Verse 10) – there have been multiple interpretations and commentaries on this verse. One of them is that it speaks directly to the reader; Hazrat Ahnaf Bin Qais (R.A), an illustrious Tabi[6]’ on hearing this verse is said to have asked for the Quran and said ‘Let me see in what words am I mentioned in the Book’. Turning many pages and reading through many verses, he stopped at a verse and said ‘I found my mention’. The verse was “And (there are) others who have acknowledged their sins. They had mixed a righteous deed with another that was bad. Perhaps Allah will turn to them in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (Surah At-Tawbah: Verse 102).

I was astounded by the profoundness of the Quran in its underlining of the causes and circumstances for the rise and fall of nations, tribes and individuals. Despite my intellectual cowardice, imperfect knowledge and limited exposure to the history of nations and tribes, this theme and the principles were conspicuous in my surroundings. This experience furthered my interest and affinity towards the Holy Quran. I remember reading with relish Surah Maaid’ahSurah Anaam and Surah Araaf in particular during those days.

I am not sure if it was just charming coincidence or a divine favor – I am inclined more to believe the latter, that my education, unlike most students pursuing religious studies, was not all clubbed into one. Also, I was introduced, taught and trained into each discipline independently. My teacher, Sheikh Khaleel, was a man of great intellect and vision. He introduced and acquainted us with the Arabic language through its literary and cultural treasures. Staring with the basic reader by the name of  Al Arabiya, we were also taught complicated texts such as Nahjatul Balaghat wa Hamasa [7] and Dalaael Al Ijaaz[8]I spent three years spending days and nights in understanding and learning Arab literature, culture and etiquette under the tutelage of my nous teacher, I thus started to develop an aptitude for deciphering the subtleties of a given text without much support. Thus was the gradual dawn of the mystifying and enchanting light of the Quran. It became a reality so distinct that no interlocution was further required. Each and every word of the text attests to its divine origins and even the collective spite and refusal of all mankind cannot alter this truth in any way.

Gaining knowledge on Arabic language and literature, I became affluent enough at Arabic to develop the right taste for the intricacies of the Quran and its uniqueness among all Arabic literary treasures I encompassed. I shall be grateful until eternity to my benevolent teacher and loving brother[9] for helping me trod this path.

Rooh e Pardam Shaad ke Farmood be Ostaaz
Farzand Mara Ishq Baya Moz Degar Haech

(Poet Unknown)

(May God bless my father’s soul who said to the teacher,
Teach nothing to my child but love)
[Translated by Akram Gholemi]

In my opinion, the teaching methodologies of our Arabic Madarsas (Seminaries) are lacking in leading to such results. The outworn existing curriculum lacks the life and soul necessary to instill this prowess. The witless and wanton syllabi at these institutions is a compilation of books ill-suited to develop the right taste for the language. It usually includes texts written by Non-Arabs in times when the prime of Arabic language, literature and culture was on the decline. It is practically unfeasible to encompass the efficacy and experience the serenity of the Holy Quran through the archaic rhetoric of these texts. Any exception to this is a mere coincidence in both logical and customary order of things.

 After graduating from Sheikh Khaleel’s course, I was lucky to gain the tutorship of Allama Muttaqi ud Din Hilaali Marakeshhi – a prominent scholar of contemporary Arabic Literature and I consider him to be the first among equals of all the masters of this genre. Later, I spent time learning Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama [10]and studied Hadith under Maulana Haider Husain Khan, a renowned DarsI Nizami [11]scholar. The maulana also taught me some parts of Tafsir Baizawi[12]Later, I travelled to Lahore to study Maulana Ahmad Ali’s exegesis of the Holy Quran directly from the man himself. Maulana Ahmad Ali was a distinguished disciple of the illustrious Maulana Abdullah Sindhi. Maulana Ahmad Ali’s elucidation and commentary of the Quran was donnishly fixated on the political philosophy of the scripture. His work did not leave much of a mark on me intellectually. However, I was deeply influenced by Maulana’s moral character and his vehement belief in the indivisibility of the Divine.

After returning from Lahore and completing my studies in Hadith, I dedicated all my time in reading and trying to comprehend various commentaries on the Quran. I forgot to mention earlier that I also scrutinized and scanned through some Quranic assessments of Sheikh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah[13] and the works of Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi [14]as a student. Most of my learning in these days was through tutoring myself; when in doubt, I referred to other commentaries for clarification. Prominent explications that I read word by word in those days include Al Baghawi[15]’s Ma’alim at-Tanzil, Jalal ud Din al-Mahalli[16]’s Tafsir al-Jalalayn (the tafsir was completed by al-Mahalli’s student Jalal ud Din as-Suyuti[17] after the former’s death), Allama Zamahshari’s detailed commentary of the Quran and Allama Nasafi[18]’s exegesis – I remember reading each word of the first half of his magnum opus; the other half, I glanced through.

While going through various commentaries, I realized that a single interpretation no matter how elaborate, could not suffice the grey matter for all and sundry due to the diversity in intellects and tastes. More often than not, a doubt faced by a proverbially less intelligent reader is overlooked by those with more accomplished intellects. Thus, the latter moves ahead without paying much attention to the details. Some of my qualms, while trying to understand the scripture, could not be addressed through renowned and celebrated commentaries, but through relatively obscure, little known and much less read books.  

When it fell upon my lowly being to give lectures on The Quran at Nadwatul Ulama, I had more time and good reason to dedicate my entity in reading and comparing various commentaries of the Holy Book. Allama Alusi’s commentary Rooh al Muani was of great help during this time. An experience that I would specifically like to highlight from this time was in regards with Tafseer al Kabeer[19], which has unnecessarily been infamous among the intelligentsia much to my dismay. The disgust from the commentary is such that it has also been said that ‘Everything else is true except this’. I say this with all sincerity that Tafseer al Kabeer does not deserve this disdain, and this commentary holds rare treasures that are not to be found in other less disliked and more renowned works. At this time, I happened to glance through many other writings on the Quran among which was Abu Hayaan’s [20]Tafsir Al Bahr Al Muhit, however, these did not leave much impression on my mind. Allama Rasheed Reza[21]’s Tafseer al Manaar is also an important and useful work worth mentioning here along with Arbab ul Quran, a commonly taught commentary in Madarsas.

 Maulana Abdul Majid Darybadi[22]’s exposition titled Tafseer e Majidi had not been published by that time, and the addendum in English language was being added. I happened to travel to Daryabad on certain occasions usually to discuss, clarify and seek clarity on affairs related to historical events and other religious and sectarian opinions; the excursions to Daryabad were intellectually fulfilling indeed. A lot of what was discussed with Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi has been recorded in his work Tafseer e Majidi; it is indeed a valuable resource for understanding the Quran, especially for those who do not have the time and convenience to delve deep into other traditional commentaries.

Upon the completion of my teaching responsibilities and retiring from that capacity, I dedicated more time in furthering my understanding of the Holy Scripture. I thus chanced upon Tafseer e Tabari[23]. I was amazed at the extent of knowledge lying within those pages. Tafseer e Tabari is a profuse documentation of the history and culture of pre-Islamic Arabia, in addition to being a detailed commentary and interpretation of the Quran. In my opinion, it is the best resource to comprehend the circumstances, social environment, context and the various stages of Quranic revelation. The possession of this commentary can rightly be classified among the highest gifts of providence.

 It’ll indeed be an act of injustice and inequity should I not mention a brilliant scholarly work. This though is not an exhaustive commentary of the Quran, but a masterly rendition in Urdu language. I am referring to Shah Abdul Qadir’s[24] Muzeh al Quran. This Urdu translation is an exceptional treasure for sincere seekers of Quranic knowledge. My assertion would certainly ring a bell with those who have waded in detail various commentaries, interpretations and analyses of the Quran and are also familiar with the archetypal toil associated with presenting the right meaning in its true context; such people will truly value and appreciate the sheer brilliance of Shah Abdul Qadir’s delineation that lays bare such strains through pertinent words bringing out the true meaning. Almost all of Quran’s Urdu translators post Shah sahib, have taken more than a cue from his work. I remember well my teacher Maulana Haider Husain Khan used to tell us with interest that late Maulana Mazhar Nanautvi (RA), the co-founder and patron of Jamia Mazahir Uloom [25]at Saharanpur would make his students read Shah Abdul Qadir’s translation after teaching various other detailed commentaries.

 Now keeping my academic experiences aside, I believe that the doors to true treasures of the Quran are opened and the curtains are lifted when one ponders over the word of God with no interlocutors in between, through regular and sustained reading of the scripture, through voluntary prayers with virtuous intentions and deeds and in the righteous company of those who live by the Quranic values of rectitude and morality. It is important that the reader should feel as if he or she is the direct addressee of the Quran. The poet has said it right,

Tere zameer pe jab tak na ho nuzool e Kitaab
Girah kusha hai na razi shib e kashaaf

(Unless the book is revealed unto your heart
Interpreters though profound, cannot expound the subtleties) 
(Muhammad Iqbal)

[1] Frontline, January 22, 2000 (Print)

[2] Reference : Musnad by Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (on the authority of Hazrat Abu Said al-Khudri (RA))

[3] Surah: A chapter in the Holy Quran is referred as Surah

[4] Oneness of God

[5] Pre-dawn prayers

[6] Successors of Sahaba, each Tabi’s is said to have personally known atleast one Sahabi (Sahabi: Companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH))

[7] Nahjatul Balaghat (The way of Eloquence) is a collection of sermons, letters, Quranic explanations by Caliph Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the fourth Caliph of Islam

[8] Dalail al-Ijaz (Proof of the inimitability of the Quran) by Abdul Qahir al-Jurjani (d1078) a prominent Muslim thinker of the eleventh century

[9] Dr. Maulana Syed Abdul Ali Hasani (Writer’s elder brother)

[10] Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama: An Islamic university founded in 1893, located in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

[11] Dars-I Nizami – A study methodology originated and developed in the Indian subcontinent

[12] A popular classical Quranic interpretation composed in the thirteenth century by Al Baydawi

[13] Fourteenth century Islamic scholar, jurist and philosopher

[14] Twentieth century Islamic scholar from India.

[15] Abu Muhammad al Husain ibn Masud ibn Muhammad al-Farra’al Baghawi was an eleventh century Persian jurist, Hadith scholar, Quran scholar, philosopher and thinker

[16] Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Shahabuddin Jalaluddin al-Mahalli was a fifteenth century Egyptian scholar of Quran and jurisprudence

[17] Al-Suyuti was an Egyptian scholar, jurist, historian and theologian

[18] Abu Hafs Umar al-Nasafi was a twelfth century Persian historian, theologian and writer

[19] Al Tafsir Al Kabir – a 12th century exegesis and commentary on the Holy Quran by Muhammad Ibn Umar Fakhr al Din al-Razi

[20] Abū Ḥayyān Athīr ad-Dīn al-Gharnāṭī – A thirteenth century Spanish commentator of the Quran and Arabic grammarian

[21] (Allama) Muhammad Rasheed Reza (1865-1935) – An Islamic reformer and a proponent of Islamic Modernism

[22] (Maulana) Abdul Majid Daryabadi – An Indian Muslim scholar, writer and commentator of the Holy Quran

[23] An interpretation of the Holy Quran by Ninth century Persian scholar Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

[24] Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlvi (1753 – 1815): A renowned Islamic scholar and son of Shah Waliullah Dehlvi

[25] Established in 1866, it is among the largest Islamic seminaries in North India


A Biographical Narrative

By: Dr. Zia ul Haq Choudhary

Translated by: M. Navaid Hasan

Translator’s Note

The article in Urdu was published in ‘The Collegian’, the annual magazine of Lucknow Christian
College in 2003. Padma Shri Ishrat Ali Siddiqui (1918-2014) was a student of the College during
Ishrat Ali Siddiqui was my grandfather Choudhary Noorul Hasan’s cousin and during his days at
Lucknow University (1934-1936), he worked as the assistant editor at the latter’s Urdu weekly
The original author of this text Dr. Zia ul Haq Choudhary retired as a Reader from Lucknow Christian
College, where he taught organic chemistry at graduate and post graduate levels. Dr. Choudhary is
an avid reader and writer and has written on diverse subjects from chemistry to history and religion.
I am grateful to Dr. Zia ul Haq Choudhary allowing me to translate this, and to my uncle Syed Shoeb
and aunt Muneera Siddiqui for helping me understand the difficult words. My late grandmother Ms.
Habibun Nisa first read this article out to me 2003, I remember her admonishing me for not being
able to read Urdu, she’d be proud.

Mohammed Navaid Hasan

Padma Shri Ishrat Ali Siddiqui: The Shining Light of Urdu Journalism

Eminent journalist Padma Shri Ishrat Ali Siddiqui stands tall among the prominent alumni of
Lucknow Christian College. His spectacular and noteworthy career as a journalist started at the
young age of 22 and continues unabated to this day.

Realm, Birth and Education
A member of the famed Chaudhary family of Sandila – a prominent town in the erstwhile Awadh
province and now a part of Hardoi district in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Ishrat Ali Siddiqui is the 32nd
descendant of Hazrat Abu Bakr ‘Al-Siddiq’ – a distinguished companion of Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH) and the first Caliph of Islam. His ancestors migrated from Arabia to Persia (Iran) and settled
at Jam, a city in the region of Khorasan. After some years in Persia, the clan emigrated to Faaryaab
(Afghanistan) and eventually to Hindustan via Khyber Pass – taking the conventional route for
caravans entering the Sindh valley.
Shamshad Husain Faakir writes in ‘Ashfaaqnaama’ (published in 1998) that “Islam reached Sandila
and adjoining areas through Hazrat Peer Tajuddin which was likely towards the end or after
Shahabuddin Ghori’s (Muhammad of Ghor) conquest of India.” Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori first
assailed India in 571 Hijri (1175-76 AD) and died in 602 Hijri (1206-07 AD). It can thus be stated
based on evidence at hand that this first Muslim family of Sandila has been associated with and
inhabited the place for nearly eight centuries.
Raja Durga Prasad ‘Mehr Sandilvi’ in his book Taareekh e Sandila (The History of Sandila, published
in 1915) under the heading ‘ZIkre Daakhla Ehl e Islam’ (The emergence of the followers of Islam)
writes – “My exploration based on credible historical records and archives lead me to conclude that
the first Muslim settlers of Sandila were Sheikhs and Sufis. The first among them was Hazrat Peer
Tajuddin followed by Miraan Muizuddin, followed by Qazi Sirajuddin and Syed Mahmood
Shanuzaani, the eminent Sufi Sheikh Makhdoom Syed Alauddin Quds’ life at Sandila coincides with
the latter two. Other early Muslim inhabitants and visitants at Sandila were Qazi Burhanuddin,
Sheikh Ali Lahori Nabeerah, Wazir Hashim Shah and Junaid Rouhani, and Chishti Sufi Sheikh Hazrat
Fareeduddin Shakarganj. Many Muslim families living in Sandila today have descended from these
venerable early dwellers, I shall delve in detail about these clans further ahead.” (Page 204).
Later in his book, Raja Sahib writes under ‘Khaandaan Peer Tajuddin Quds Sirra Hu’ (The
descendants of Peer Tajuddin ) “..this family traces their origin to Peer Tajuddin, who came to India
from Faaryaab (Afghanistan) and spent a major part of his life in Sandila where he died and was
buried at a high spot on the eastern side of the town. Many branches of the family continue to
inhabit Sandila, the end of this clan’s sojourn at Afghanistan as scrutinized by Chaudhary Ataullah’s
branch of the clan was the starting point of my analysis, it must be mentioned however that a few
other branches of the family claim that their ancestors migrated to India directly from Persia without
a prolonged stay in Afghanistan. Thus, due to these divergences in claims one cannot affirm with
certainty the exact year of their advent or for how long they have been here when I write this. The
family is in possession of notably detailed and obliging documentary archives though along with the
shijra (family tree), which I’ve had access to while researching for and writing this book…..” Raja
Sahib thus deducing from the archives at his disposal and counting the generations passed writes
that “….by the math thus, the family established in Sandila nearly 757 years ago i.e. the time of

Shahabuddin Ghori’s successive invasions, the writer absolves himself of any shortcomings should the
estimate vary by a decade or two – I now desire to put in place a sequential memoir of this clan –
Peer Tajuddin’s son was Peer Ahmad, who was the father of Khwaja Imamuddin, Khwaja
Imamuddin’s son was Peer Bhole father of Miya’n Achhan, Miya’n Achhan’s son was Peer Ahmad,
Peer Ahmad was the father of Miya Laad whose son called Peer Tayyab rose to prominence and was
honored through an imperial decree giving an estate of the rural area adjoining Sandila, the
hereditary title of ‘Choudhary’ and the rank of magistrate during the reign of Mughal Emperor
Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar. The family to this day is in possession of a copy of the decree dated
Zeeqad 963 Hijri (September 1556) with the imperial seal.” (Page 208-209). Further under
“Choudhary Mansab Ali”, Raja Sahib writes “I have earlier written about the family of Chaudhary
Ataullah validating that his ancestors came to India from Jam or Faryaab, and the first of his
ancestors to settle in the burgh was Peer Tajuddin, Feroz ‘Khan’, a contemporary of ‘Miya’n Tayyab’,
an eighth generation descendant of Peer Tajuddin was awarded with the title of ‘Chaudhary’ and the
estate of Pargana in rural Sandila, and the title of ‘Khan’ was also bestowed to Sheikh Feroz at this
time. It is recorded in Tareekh-e-Taluqdarana-e-Awadh that his clan was also given the title of
‘Khan’ during the reign of Emperor Akbar…..the book also mentions that the title of ‘Chaudhary’ was
originally bestowed on the clan after Timur’s conquest of Delhi, however, Hafiz Chaudhary Shaukat
Ali, a revered scholar and a venerable man of Sandila and the son of Chaudhary Masnad Ali in his
book ‘Shumraat Aala Anzaar’ refutes the Timurid link to the grant of title and considers Chaudhary
Ataullah’s indagation as more profound and reliable which traces the title to the reign of Emperor
Akbar. Sheikh Feroz’s son was Sheikh Sadar Jahaa’n whose son was Pyaare who was the father of
Abdul Rasool whose son was Meer Daa’em, Meer Daae’m’s son was Muhammad Yaar, Muhammad
Yaar’s son was Abdullah who was the father of Chaudhary Mansab Ali who had three sons –
Chaudhary Masnad Ali, Chaudhary Hashmat Ali and Chaudhary Azmat Ali. Peer Tajuddin’s family
tree has many branches, I have already mentioned the offshoot of Chaudhary Ataullah, here I will
focus on another branch to which belonged Chaudhary Hashmat Ali, a renowned and honorable
man …..” (Page 211-213). Tawareekh e Taluqdarana e Awadh by Munshi Kishori Lal and Samraat Al
Anzaar by Hafiz Chaudhary Shaukat Ali were published in 1879 and 1881 respectively.
Timur invaded India in 1398 AD (800 Hijri) by when Peer Tajuddin’s era in Sandila had long passed,
and his progeny already held eminence among both the ruling and the ruled by virtue of their
scholarly pursuits and moral fiber, they already were bestowed with the title of ‘Choudhary’ and had
administrative and magisterial authority over the area, during the reign of Akbar, Sheikh Feroz was
also awarded with the honorary title of ‘Khan’ and his son Sadar Jahaa’n held prominent positions
during under the rule of Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir – a reference to which can be found
on page 162 of Syed Sabahuddin Aburrahman’s book “Bazm-e-Taimuri” (Published 1948). Raja Durga
Prasad in his book “Tareekh e Sandila” has estimated the clan’s history in Sandila to 757 years –
which comes down to 1158 AD while Ghori’s invasions started in 1175-76 AD. Raja Sahib wittingly
articulates in his defense “the writer absolves himself of any shortcomings should the estimate vary
by a decade or two”. Through this credential it can thus plausibly be determined that Peer Tajuddin’s
emergence in Sandila coincided with Ghori’s maneuvers in the subcontinent.
Through references mentioned above and information collected through other sources, I am
presenting here the family tree (Shijra) of Ishrat Ali Siddiqui
Ishrat Ali s/o Ehtisham Ali s/o Mohammed Rauf s/o Hashmat Ali s/o Mansab Ali s/o Abdullah s/o
Muhammad Yar s/o Meer Daa’em s/o Abdul Rasool s/o Sheikh Pyaare s/o Sadar Jahaa’n s/o Sheikh
Feroz ‘Khan’ s/o Muhammad Burhan s/o Mufazzal s/o Sheikh Hasan s/o Sheikh Maa’ruf s/o Sheikh
Nizamuddin s/o Sheikh Ahmad s/o Peer Tajuddin s/o Khwaja Naseeruddin s/o Khwaja Muhammad

s/o Sheikh Jahaa’n s/o Sheikh Muhammad s/o Sheikh Zayed s/o Sheikh Abul Hasan s/o Sheikh Asad
s/o Sheikh Asghar s/o Sheikh Amjad s/o Hazrat Ahmad s/o Hazrat Abdul Rahim s/o Hazrat Abdul
Rahman s/o Hazrat Qasim Faqih s/o Hazrat Muhammad (Muhammad Bin Abu Bakr) s/o Hazrat Abu
Bakr (Al Siddiq).
It is probable that in years to come someone may shed further light on the clan’s history and
genealogy. Ishrat Ali Siddiqui’s grandfather Chaudhary Mohammed Rauf’s elder brother Taluqdaar
Chaudhary Khaslat Husain (D. 1882) served as the secretary at Anjuman e Hind Subah Awadh
owing to his organizational and administrative capabilities and was also awarded with the honorary
title of ‘Raja’ in 1882. Among Ishrat Ali sahib’s other elders was Hafiz Chaudhary Shaukat Ali who
was not only a proficient scholar but an accomplished writer and an occasional poet using ‘Alam’ as
nom de plume. Hafiz Shaukat Ali also established a seminary named ‘Shaukat Ala Islam’ that
continued to impart religious education in Sandila for a long period of time. Hafiz Shaukat Ali’s father
Chaudhary Masnad Ali started the construction of Jama Masjid in Mohalla Mahatwana
(Chaudhraana) of Sandila in 1253 Hijri (1838 AD) but couldn’t see its completion due to his untimely
death in 1257 Hijri (1842 AD). The mosque was later completed under the supervision of his younger
brothers Chaudhary Hashmat Ali and Chaudhary Azmat Ali in 1259 Hijri (1844 AD). The mosque is
gorgeous and never fails to ingratiate the eye.
Adjacent to the Mohalla (Neighborhood) Mahatwana or Chaudhraana in Sandila lies Mohalla
Moulviana where lived the famous and respected Maulvi Hamdullah Sandilvi (Died 1160 Hijri- 1747
AD). About his respected family, Raja Durga Prasad in his book “Tareekh e Sandila” writes under the
heading “Khaandaan Maulana Hamdullah” that “the respected Maulana Sahib is also a descendant
of Peer Tajuddin” (Page 287-288). Among other works, Maulvi Rahman Ali’s “Tazkirah e Ulema e
Hind” (Published in 1894 AD) includes narratives on 26 other renowned scholars from Sandila, the
book is in Persian language.
Janab Ishrat Ali Siddiqui was born on October 11, 1918 in Lucknow where his mother had moved
before his birth. He attended DAV School in Sandila for primary education and passed high school
from Hardoi, he then got admitted to Lucknow Christian College and passed the intermediate
examination in 1934 and graduated from Lucknow University with Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936.

Life as a Journalist
Mr. Siddiqui started his career as a journalist in 1936, by that time the independence movement had
gained good ground. Influenced by the anti-colonial sentiment he started working as an assistant
editor at “Hindustan”, a weekly magazine started by renowned freedom fighter and independent
India’s first Minister of Communications- Rafi Ahmed Kidwai. In 1942, Ishrat Ali Siddiqui moved to
Hyderabad where he worked as an assistant editor at “Payaam” an Urdu daily established and
managed by Qazi Abdul Ghaffar, an eminent correspondent and editor of his times. He spent some
of his days at Sevagraam, where he used to prepare a bulletin for Mahatma Gandhi from Urdu
newspapers and journals from across the country, to help gauge the latter about the prevalent
socio-political mood of Urdu speaking sections of the society.
In 1945, Qaumi Aawaaz was launched in Lucknow by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, at this time Janab
Ishrat Ali Siddiqui moved back to Lucknow from Deccan and joined the news daily as assistant editor.
The first editor of Qaumi Aawaaz was Hayatullah Ansari Firangi Mahli– a renowned writer and
journalist. During 1964-65, Janab Ishrat Ali Siddiqui served as the president of UP Working
Journalists’ Union and took over as the editor of Qaumi Aawaaz after the retirement of Hayatullah

Ansari in 1972. In 1980, Associate Journalists Limited decided on rolling out Qaumi Aawaaz in three
other cities – New Delhi, Bombay and Patna; Ishrat Ali Siddiqui sahib then took over as the National
Chief Editor of the daily and until his retirement discharged his duties with integrity and astuteness
that won him accolades from his contemporaries and readers alike. Two of his weekly editorials
“Duniya ka haal” (World Affairs) and “Hindustan ka haal” (Indian Affairs) were vastly popular
primarily due to their comprehensiveness, upfront tone and pristine editorial standards. The weekly
supplement of Qaumi Aawaaz called Zamimah was also very popular among the readers owing to
the literary and cultural themes it entailed; such was the popularity of Zamimah that other popular
journals and publications started to adopt and implement similar themes.
Awards and Honors
In recognition of his contribution to literature and education, Janab Ishrat Ali Siddiqui was conferred
with “Padma Shri” by the President of India in 1974. In 1975, he was nominated as a member by the
UP Government to a committee instituted for the reconfiguration of the state’s Communications
Department. A couple of years later in 1977 he was also appointed as a member of the Samachar
Committee and further in 1980, Ishrat Ali Siddiqui sahib was designated as a Special Member to the
Second Press Commission. Later in 1981, he was designated as the President of National Media
Center in New Delhi – a body collectively established by the governments of 21 Indian states and
Union territories.
In 1983, The Organization of Understanding and Fraternity awarded him for his role and
contributions in preserving and promoting social justice and equality. Further in 1988, he was
commemorated by All India Writers and Journalists Federation’s Patna chapter in recognition of his
efforts towards nation building and inclusiveness. In remembrance and appreciation of his
contribution to India’s freedom struggle through his writings the Uttar Pradesh Government in 1992
included his name in the official list of freedom fighters and awarded him with a lifelong pension. In
the years 1994 and 1997 Janab Ishrat Ali Siddiqui was given honorary awards by Uttar Pradesh Urdu
Academy and All India Meer Academy, Lucknow respectively. He was given the Lifetime
Achievement Award by Bharat Fankaar Association, Lucknow in 1999 – the felicitation ceremony
took place at the Gandhi Auditorium of Raj Bhawan (Governor House) in Lucknow on May 11, 2000.

Travels and Politics
As a journalist Ishrat Ali Sahab interviewed many people of prominence from across the world, the
interviews were much liked looked forward by his readers. He travelled extensively across India and
abroad and visited important landmarks across the world, which in my opinion contributed to his far
sightedness and broad vision. As a journalist Ishrat Ali Sahab not only travelled to countries like
Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, France, Pakistan, Switzerland, England and United
States but also took serious cognizance of their reportage and press. Despite being a part of media
entourages of former prime ministers Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Ishrat Ali sahib’s
credibility remains unblemished by virtue of his sense of responsibility towards his profession, sharp
mind and the ability to hold his own irrespective of the constraints. It is indeed something that as a
journalist his name and character have remained unblemished invariably.
Writings and Books
Journalistic and editorial engagements did not leave much room for Ishrat Ali Sahab to write books.
However, four of his books deserve a mention:

  • Leningrad T’a Samarqand [Leningrad to Samarqand] (Published in 1940 and 1943 from
    Lucknow and Hyderabad respectively)
  • Mumalik e Islamiya ki Siyasat [The Politics of Muslim Nation States] (Published in 1940 from
  • Gandhiji aur Zubaan Ka Masla [Gandhiji and the Predicament of Language] (1980, Uttar
    Pradesh Urdu Academy, Lucknow) – (It is a translation in Urdu of English articles and
    editorials penned by Mahatma Gandhi on the then pervading language question in India)
  • Urdu Sahaafat, Sadaaqat aur Aazaadi e Raae (It is the the Eleventh Abid Husain Memorial
    Lecture he delivered in April 1994 in New Delhi, the lecture was later transcribed as a book
    in the same year)
    In March 1999, monthly urdu magazine ‘Naya Daur’ dedicated a section to the memory of Late
    Wajahat Ali Sandilvi titled ‘Gosha Wajahat Ali Sandilvi’ (Wajahat Ali Sandilvi Section), where
    Ishrat Ali Siddiqui sahib’s article christened “Wajahat, Mera Bhai Mera Yaar” (Wajahat, my
    brother and friend) was published (Page 5). Chaudhary Wajahat Ali Sandlvi (1916-1996), the
    celebrated Urdu writer, humorist and satirist was Ishrat Ali sahib’s cousin and batch mate at
    Christian College in Lucknow. Ishrat Ali Siddiqui’s article started with the couplet:
    “Majnu and I were co-travelers in the sphere of love
    While Majnu left for the desert, I was condemned to the lanes of cities”

He further wrote, “We were members of the same family, I use “were” instead of “are” as my
knowledge of our ancestors was not as vast as Wajahat’s and after graduating from university, I
never got a chance to delve deep into family history. Though Wajahat had a lineage to boast of,
he never misused the power, influence and privilege associated with the family name…”.
This article is a good example of Ishrat Ali Sahib’s ability of articulating profound thoughts in
simple yet appealing words.

Current Engagements
At 85 years of age, Ishrat Ali Siddiqui sahib is as driven and enthusiastic about writing as he always
was. He is currently the Urdu editor at “Rashtriya Samachar Features and Network” and his famous
editorials “Hindustan ka Haal” and “Duniya ka Haal” are printed in various Hindi and Urdu
newspapers managed by the network. Ishrat Ali sahib greatly values time and is disciplined about
time management, perhaps an important reason for his success.

Personal Qualities
Ishrat Ali Siddiqui sahib is a man blessed with the virtues of faith, integrity and empathy. His words,
both written and spoken are not harsh on others but a lighthouse and a source of encouragement
for those seeking the right path. He indeed is a star among Lucconians (an informal term for the
students and alumni of Lucknow Christian College) . May his pen continue to enlighten and guide
and may his star continue to shine.

The next page includes the family tree (shijra) of Janab Ishrat Ali Siddiqui and other prominent
members of the family mentioned in the text.
(It should be noted here that the family tree thus presented is not exhaustive and includes the
lineage of only those mentioned in the article. For instance, only four of Hashmat Ali’s six sons are
included in the chart, similarly only two of Choudhary Ahmed Azim’s six sons find mention so on and
so forth. For those interested in looking into more detailed and exhaustive tree should reach out
over email to

Jibreel o Iblees – a simplified commentary


In this section of his highly-acclaimed “Baal-e-Jibreel” (Wing of Gabriel), Iqbal presents a fictional dialogue between the angel Gabriel (Jibraeel) and Satan (Iblees)


हम-दम-ए-देरीना कैसा है जहान-ए-रंग-ओ-बू ?
(Hamdam-e-derina, kaisa hai jahaan-e-rang-o-bu ?)

  • हम-दम-ए-देरीना/hamdam-e-derina: “hamdam” means close companion/friend. “Derina” (derived from the word देर) means ancient. So, “hamdam-e-derina” means “ancient friend”
  • जहान-ए-रंग-ओ-बू/jahaan-e-rang-o-bu: the material world, which can be perceived by humans through the properties of its constituent objects (colour/rang and smell/bu), unlike the divine realm which Satan and Gabriel have access to.

Interpretation: (Gabriel says:) “O old friend, how’s the physical world nowadays?”


  • ओ/o: and
  • सोज़/soz – burning intensity (like in love or pain)
  • साज़/saaz – musical instrument
  • जुस्तुजू/justuju – striving hard to achieve something

Interpretation: (Satan replies: ) (The world continues to consist of:) intense burning and melody, pain and blemish, of people striving incessantly and of uncontrollable desire”

हर घड़ी अफ़्लाक पर रहती है तेरी गुफ़्तुगू 
क्या नहीं मुमकिन कि तेरा चाक दामन हो रफ़ू

(har ghadi aflaak pe rehti hai teri guftugoo
kya nahi mumkin ki tera chaak daaman ho rafu?)

  • अफ़्लाक/aflaak: heavens/skies, plural of falak (sky)
  • गुफ़्तुगू/guftugoo: discussion
  • रफ़ू/rafu – to mend a torn cloth

Interpretation: (Gabriel says:) “O Satan, you’re an evergreen topic of discussion in the Heavens (because of your evil tricks and efforts to mislead humans). Is it not possible that you redeem yourself in the eyes of God, and return to His good graces?”

आह, ऐ जिबरील तू वाक़िफ़ नहीं इस राज़ से 
कर गया सरमस्त मुझ को टूट कर मेरा सुबू
(aah, ae jibreel, tu waaqif nahi is raaz se
kar gaya sarmast mujhko toot kar mera suboo)

  • सरमस्त/sar-mast: the state of head-spinning, intoxicated
  • सुबू/subu: wine-cup

Interpretation: (Satan says:) “O Gabriel, you have no idea of the real reason I’m not coming back. You think that there’s still time for me to stop drinking the wine of this world’s sins and pleasures. But mate, I’ve already drained my pitcher; even the glass is long since empty and broken. I am now fully intoxicated with the passions of this material world. There is no coming back for me”

अब यहाँ मेरी गुज़र मुमकिन नहीं मुमकिन नहीं 
किस क़दर ख़ामोश है ये आलम-ए-बे-काख़-ओ-कू
(ab yahaan meri guzar mumkin nahi mumkin nahi
kis qadar khamosh hai ye aalam-e-be-kaakh-o-ku)

  • गुज़र/guzar: walk (through life)
  • आलम-ए-बे-काख़-ओ-कू/aalam-e-be-kaakh-o-ku : aalam (world), kaakh (palace), ku (street). So, the phrase means, “a world deprived of luxury and pleasure”

Interpretation: (Satan says:) “Returning to the divine realm isn’t possible for me now, as it appears uttely boring compared to the richness of the material realm, with all its sights and sounds, and luxury and sensuousness”

जिस की नौमीदी से हो सोज़-ए-दरून-ए-काएनात 
उस के हक़ में तक़्नतू अच्छा है या ला-तक़्नतू
(jis ki naumeedi se ho soz-e-daroon-e-kaaynat
us ke haq mein “taqnatu” accha hai ya “la taqnatu”)

  • नौमीदी/naumeedi: another form of “na-ummeedi”/ना-उम्मीदी (a condition without hope)
  • सोज़-ए-दरून-ए-काएनात /soz-e-daroon-e-kaaynat: soz (fire, intensity), daroon (interior, related to the word अंदर), kaaynat (universe) . As such, the entire phrase means, “the fire/passion burning inside the universe”
  • ला-तक़्नतू/la taqnatu: a Quranic phrase meaning “don’t lose hope!” (“la” means no, or in this context, “don’t”). “taqnatu” without “la” means, “lose hope!”

Interpretation: (Satan says:) “All the fire and passion in this universe is because of me, O Gabriel. Its my tricks that lead people to break the rules, and make the world an interesting place. The alternative would be a plain and boring existence, where everyone lives in accordance with rigid rules. Now tell me, wouldn’t it be better that I lose all hope of returning to God’s good graces (and continue inciting passion in human hearts), rather than (as you want), stop doing my work in the hope that God forgives me?”

खो दिए इंकार से तू ने मक़ामात-ए-बुलंद 
चश्म-ए-यज़्दाँ में फ़रिश्तों की रही क्या आबरू
(kho diye inkaar se tune maqaamaat-e-buland
chashm-e-yazdaaN mein farishton ki rahi kya aabru)

  • मक़ामात-ए-बुलंद/maqaamaat-e-buland: high places/positions (“maqaamaat” is the plural of “maqaam”)
  • चश्म-ए-यज़्दाँ /chashm-e-yazdaaN: “chashm” means eye. So, the phrase means, “sight of God”

Interpretation: (Gabriel says:) “By refusing to obey God (and prostrating in front of Adam), you gave up your elevated position. Your despicable act has disreputed all angels in God’s eyes” (Iqbal, like many others, regarded Satan to be a fallen angel)

है मिरी जुरअत से मुश्त-ए-ख़ाक में ज़ौक़-ए-नुमू 
मेरे फ़ित्ने जामा-ए-अक़्ल-ओ-ख़िरद का तार-ओ-पू
(hai meri jur’at se musht-e-khaak mein zauq-e-namu
mere fitne jaama-e-aql-o-khirad ka taar-o-pu)

  • जुरअत/jur’at: audacity (colloquially, the word is pronounced as “jurrat”)
  • मुश्त-ए-ख़ाक /musht-e-khaak: handful of dust (the phrase denotes humans, as they are said to be created from dust)
  • ज़ौक़-ए-नुमू/zauq-e-namu: “zauq” means taste or talent for something. “namu” means to grow. So, the term means, “impetus/ability for development”
  • फ़ित्ने/fitne: discords, unrests, but here, “devious tricks that corrupt people” (singular: fitnah)
  • जामा-ए-अक़्ल-ओ-ख़िरद/jaama-e-aql-o-khirad: “jaama” means garment, and “khirad”, intelligence. So, the phrase means “garb/cover of rationality and intelligence”
  • तार-ओ-पू/tar-o-pu: technical terms related to weaving patterns

Interpretation: (Satan speaks:) “I dared (jur’at ki) to question God’s command (to bow unto Adam), and promised Him that in return for my banishment, I’ll forever try to lead astray His beloved humans. I made Adam eat the forbidden fruit, so that they may be cast out from Heaven, thus paving the way for mankind to realise it’s true potential, and evolve in a way that would’ve been impossible in the static environment of Paradise.

What you pejoratively term as my “fitne” (devious tricks to mislead humans) are the very impetus that drive human cultural and philosophical evolution. The fabric of human rationality is woven from the strands of these “fitne“, and is inseparable from it”

देखता है तू फ़क़त साहिल से रज़्म-ए-ख़ैर-ओ-शर 
कौन तूफ़ाँ के तमांचे खा रहा है मैं कि तू ?
(dekhta hai tu faqat saahil se razm-e-khair-o-shar
kaun toofaaN ke tamaanche kha raha hai, main ki tu ?)

  • फ़क़त/faqat: only
  • साहिल/saahil: sea-shore
  • रज़्म-ए-ख़ैर-ओ-शर/razm-e-khair-o-shar: “razm” means battle, “khair” means good, and “shar” means bad. So, the phrase means, “battle of good and evil”

Interpretation: (Satan speaks:) “In driving man towards his destiny, I’m the one on whom God’s curse is invoked. You just sit on the sidelines, watching and decrying the battle of “good vs evil”, but it’s me who has to suffer in this grand cosmic battle”

ख़िज़्र भी बे-दस्त-ओ-पा इल्यास भी बे-दस्त-ओ-पा 
मेरे तूफ़ाँ यम-ब-यम दरिया-ब-दरिया जू-ब-जू
(Khizr bhi be-dast-o-pa, Ilyaas bhi be-dast-o-pa
mere toofaaN yam-ba-yam, dariya-ba-dariya, ju-ba-ju)

  • ख़िज़्र/Khizr: a legendary person known for his wisdom and immortality
  • इल्यास/Ilyaas: another wise person (and Prophet; Biblical Elijah), associated with semi-immortality.
  • बे-दस्त-ओ-पा/be-dast-o-pa: “dast” means hand, “pa” means leg. So, the phrase literally means “without hand or leg”. Metaphorically, it denotes helplessness
  • यम/yam: ocean
  • जू/ju: short stream

Interpretation: “(Satan says:) Even the wise Khizr and Ilyas are helpless in front of my guile and tricks. My attacks are multi-prong and irresistible like a torrent that advances ocean by ocean, river by river, stream by stream”

गर कभी ख़ल्वत मयस्सर हो तो पूछ अल्लाह से 
क़िस्सा-ए-आदम को रंगीं कर गया किस का लहू
(gar kabhi khalwat mayassar ho to pooch Allah se
qissa-e-Aadam ko rangeeN kar gaya kiska lahu)

  • गर/gar: short form of “agar” (if)
  • ख़ल्वत/khalwat: isolation/the state of being alone
  • मयस्सर/mayassar: obtaining something after difficulty

Interpretation: (Satan says:) “If you ever find yourself alone with God, ask him: who was the one that injected colour into the human story? Who sacrificed his eternity to transform God’s favorite creation from something bland and insipid, to a dynamic and unpredictable entity?”

मैं खटकता हूँ दिल-ए-यज़्दाँ में काँटे की तरह 
तू फ़क़त अल्लाह-हू अल्लाह-हू अल्लाह-हू
(main khatakta hoon dil-e-yazdaaN mein kaante ki tarah
tu faqat “Allahu Allahu Allahu”)

  • यज़्दाँ/yazdaaN: God
  • फ़क़त/faqat: only
  • अल्लाह-हू/”Allah-hu”: “hu” is the Arabic pronoun for “he”. The phrase is a common chant.

Interpretation: “(Satan says:) Its me who has the guts to challenge God and trouble His Divine Presence, whereas you spend your existence in lowly obesiance to Him, forever chanting Allahu Allahu”

Lenin khuda ke huzoor mein: A simplified commentary


In this section of his highly-acclaimed “Baal-e-Jibreel” (Wing of Gabriel), Iqbal imagines Vladimir Lenin , the influential communist leader of Russia (died 1924), defending his atheism in front of God, and complaining about rampant injustice in a world created by such a just being.

(Its recommended that the reader go through the entire poem once before trying to explore the meaning, so that they may get a sense of the poem’s “flow” first)

Iqbal (left) and Lenin (right)


ऐ अन्फ़ुस-ओ-आफ़ाक़ में पैदा तिरी आयात
हक़ ये है कि है ज़िंदा-ओ-पाइंदा तिरी ज़ात
(Ae anfus-o-aafaaq mein paida teri aayaat
haq ye hai ki hai zinda-o-pa-inda teri zaat)

  • अन्फ़ुस/anfus: plural of “nafs“, meaning soul or conscience
  • आफ़ाक़/aafaaq: plural of “ufuq“, meaning horizon
  • पैदा/paida: unlike its usual Urdu meaning of “born”, Iqbal uses the word in its Persian sense of “revealed” or “made manifest
  • आयात/aayaat: plural of “aayah“, meaning sign. A single Quranic verse is also called “aayah/aayat“, since its believed that each of them is a sign from God
  • हक़/haq: truth
  • पाइंदा/pa-inda: literally means, “having a leg (pa)“. Metaphorically, it means “stable” or “everlasting“. Same as “payedar” (we also use the word “pa” in “pay-jaama” i.e. “leg garment“, and in the phrase “kursi ka paaya toot gaya“)

Interpretation: “O God, the signs of your existence are clearly visible in our own bodies and in the natural world that you’ve created. The truth is that you’re both very much alive and existent, as well as eternal”

[Lenin’s insistence on God being alive, is in the context of a common notion at that time – that God had ceased to be relevant to humans, or (as those with flair liked to say) – “God is dead”]

मैं कैसे समझता कि तू है या कि नहीं है
हर दम मुतग़य्यर थे ख़िरद के नज़रियात
(main kaise samajhta ki tu hai ya ki naheen hai
har dam mutaghayyar the khirad ke nazariyaat)

  • मुतग़य्यर/mutaghayyar: changed, transformed
  • ख़िरद/khirad: intelligence. In the above context, it refers to intelligentsia
  • नज़रियात/nazariyaat: plural of “nazariya“, meaning opinion

Interpretation: “How could I have known, O God, that You exist, when the consensus among the people of wisdom – among our philosophers and scientists – keeps alternating between affirming Your existence, and denying it. What’s a working class person, who is far too busy to study their arguments in depth, supposed to do?”

महरम नहीं फ़ितरत के सरोद-ए-अज़ली से
बीना-ए-कवाकिब हो कि दाना-ए-नबातात
(mahram naheen fitrat ke sarod-e-azli se
beena-e-kawaakib ho ki daanaa-e-nabaataat)

  • महरम/mahram: acquainted with/familiar with
  • फ़ितरत/fitrat: nature
  • सरोद/sarod: music
  • अज़ली/azli: eternal
  • बीना/beena: one who sees (“beenayi” means sight)
  • कवाकिब/kawakib: stars (plural of “kaukab“, meaning star)
  • दाना/daana: one who knows/wise person
  • नबातात/nabaataat: plants (plural of “nabaat“, meaning plant)

Interpretation: “The astronomers who gaze into stars and the botanists who study the plant kingdom, are unaware of the eternal music that permeates the fabric of the universe – the divine tune that stands testimony to the unity of it all, and to Your Existence, O God”

आज आँख ने देखा तो वो आलम हुआ साबित
मैं जिस को समझता था कलीसा के ख़ुराफ़ात
(aaj aankh ne dekha to wo aalam hua saabit
main jisko samajhta tha kaleesa ke khuraafaat)

  • आलम/aalam: world
  • कलीसा/kaleesa: Church
  • ख़ुराफ़ात/khuraafaat: means myths and stories here (used in Urdu mostly to mean “stupid talk”, though in Arabic, the primary meaning is “myths”)

Interpretation: “Only now when I see this world of afterlife with my own eyes, does its truth dawn on me – the same truth that I used to dismiss earlier as myths and fables concocted by the Church”

हम बंद-ए-शब-ओ-रोज़ में जकड़े हुए बंदे
तू ख़ालिक़-ए-आसार-ओ-निगारंदा-ए-आनात
(ham band-e-shab-o-roz mein jakde hue bande
tu khaaliq-e-aasaar-o-nigaaranda-e-aanaat)

  • बंद/band: something that prevents you from moving freely, like chains or shackles (used here as a noun, not a verb)
  • शब-ओ-रोज़/shab-o-roz: night and day
  • बंदे/bande: slaves
  • ख़ालिक़/khaaliq: creator
  • आसार/aasaar: times, “zamaane
  • निगारंदा/nigaaranda: writer, sculptor
  • आनात/aanaat: moments

Interpretation: “Humans are stuck inside the perpetual cycle of day and night; we cannot think beyond the confines of time. In contrast, You, O God, are the very creator of time – the One who deliberately fashions every moment into existence. How could we have perceived your Exalted Existence from our limited perspective?”

इक बात अगर मुझ को इजाज़त हो तो पूछूँ
हल कर न सके जिस को हकीमों के मक़ालात
(ek baat agar mujhko ijaazat ho to poochoon
hal kar na sake jisko hakeemon ke maqaalaat)

  • मक़ालात/maqaalaat: articles or written opinions on a topic
  • हकीम/hakeem: a wise person (used in Urdu more in the sense of a doctor, who be default, is considered to be wise)

Interpretation: “By the permission of your Grace, may I ask a question – a question which the wisest of men have not been able to answer in all their lengthy expositions and elaborate articles?

जब तक मैं जिया ख़ेमा-ए-अफ़्लाक के नीचे
काँटे की तरह दिल में खटकती रही ये बात
(jab tak main jiya khema-e-aflaak ke neeche
kaante ki tarah dil mein khatakti rahi ye baat)

  • ख़ेमा/khema: tent
  • अफ़्लाक/aflaak: plural of “falak” which means sky

Interpretation: “In all the time I spent on Earth (“underneath the tent-like protection of the sky”), this question remained a thorn in my side”

गुफ़्तार के उस्लूब पे क़ाबू नहीं रहता
जब रूह के अंदर मुतलातिम हों ख़यालात
(guftaar ke usloob pe qaaboo naheen rehta
jab rooh ke andar mutalaatim hon khayaalaat)

  • गुफ़्तार/guftaar: speech
  • उस्लूब/usloob: rules or manners to be observed
  • मुतलातिम/mutalaatim: dashing against each other (usually used in the context of violent waves in oceans)
  • ख़यालात/khayaalaat: plural of “khayaal“, meaning thought

Interpretation: “Please forgive my audacity and the bluntness with which I present this question. When the mind is agitated and troubled by disturbing thoughts, it’s difficult to maintain the etiquettes of speech”

वो कौन सा आदम है कि तू जिस का है माबूद
वो आदम-ए-ख़ाकी कि जो है ज़ेर-ए-समावात
(wo kaun sa aadam hai ki tu jiska hai maabood
wo aadam-e-khaaki ki jo hai zer-e-samaavaat?)

  • आदम/aadam: Man, first human
  • माबूद/maabood: someone who is worthy of worship; God
  • ख़ाकी/khaaki: (of) dust
  • ज़ेर/zer: below
  • समावात/samaavaat: plural of “samaa“, meaning sky

Interpretation: “This is my question to you: Who is the Adam whose God You claim to be? Is it the same Adam who was created from dust and lives here on Earth (‘underneath the heavens’)?”

मशरिक़ के ख़ुदावंद सफ़ेदान-ए-फरंगी
मग़रिब के ख़ुदावंद दरख़शिंदा फ़िलिज़्ज़ात
(mashriq ke khudaa-vand safedaan-e-firangi
maghrib ke khudaa-vand darakhshinda filizzat)

  • मशरिक़/mashriq: East
  • ख़ुदावंद/khudaa-vand: God, Lord
  • सफ़ेदान/safedaan: plural of “safed“, meaning white
  • फरंगी/farangi/firangi: Persianized pronounciation of Franks (a European collection of tribes that gave its name to the country of France) used in the sense of Europeans.
  • मग़रिब/maghrib: West
  • दरख़शिंदा/darakh-shindaa: luminous, shining
  • फ़िलिज़्ज़ात/filizzaat: plural of “filiz” meaning metal; here it signifies machines

Interpretation: “If you’re really the God of us Earthly humans, then why is it that nowhere on Earth can I find you being worshipped? In the East, it’s the Europeans (on account of their superior technology and science) that people worship today. In the West, the dazzling glint of metallic machinery has been anointed as deos novos – the New Gods. Forgive me for saying this, but whose God then are You?”

यूरोप में बहुत रौशनी-ए-इल्म-ओ-हुनर है
हक़ ये है कि बे-चश्मा-ए-हैवाँ है ये ज़ुल्मात
(Europe mein bohot roshni-e-ilm-o-hunar hai
haq ye hai ki be-chashma-e-haivaaN hai ye zulmaat)

  • इल्म/ilm: knowledge
  • हुनर/hunar: skill
  • हक़/haq: truth
  • चश्म/chashm: eye
  • हैवाँ/haivaaN: animal
  • ज़ुल्मात/zulmaat: plural of “zulmat” meaning “darkness”

Interpretation: “Europe is considered to be the leading light in terms of knowledge and sundry form of art, but this appearance of “enlightenment” is merely the result of viewing reality through a mechanistic and materialistic lens. From the perspective of living, breathing humans, the state of affairs is quite bleak.”

रानाई-ए-तामीर में रौनक़ में सफ़ा में
गिरजों से कहीं बढ़ के हैं बैंकों की इमारात
(raanaai-e-taameer mein raunaq mein safaa mein
girjoN se kaheen badh ke hain bankon ki imaaraat)

  • रानाई/raanaai: splendour, beauty
  • तामीर/taameer: construction
  • रौनक़/raunaq: brilliance, brightness
  • सफ़ा/safaa: cleanliness
  • बैंकों/bankoN: plural of the English word “bank”
  • इमारात/imaaraat: plural of “imaarat” (building)
  • गिरजों/girjoN: churches (singular: girja, as in girja-ghar). Derived from the Portuguese word for church, “igreja

Interpretation: Bank buildings today are much more beautiful, radiant, and clean than most Churches in Europe. It’s a reflection of the spiritual rot in Western civilization, and an example of how money and materialism is the new God of the West

ज़ाहिर में तिजारत है हक़ीक़त में जुआ है
सूद एक का लाखों के लिए मर्ग-ए-मुफ़ाजात
(zaahir mein tijaarat hai haqeeqat mein jua hai
sood ek ka laakhon ke liye marg-e-mufaajaat)

  • ज़ाहिर में/zaahir mein: apparently
  • तिजारत/tijaarat: business
  • जुआ/jua: gambling
  • सूद/sood: interest (on money) – forbidden in Islam
  • मर्ग-ए-मुफ़ाजात /marg-e-mufaajaat: sudden death. “Marg” is the Persian word for death.

Interpretation: Interest is the backbone of modern economy, and this makes people believe that charging interest is simply part of everyday business. In reality, it’s nothing more than a gamble where you speculate on the other person’s capacity to return your money with a substantial surplus.

While being a bonanza for money lenders, interest burdens lakhs of poor people with unpayable debts, causing so many to suffer sudden untimely deaths via heart attacks, hyperanxiety and suicide. In this entire scheme, only a few at the top get rich while millions slide further into poverty

ये इल्म ये हिकमत ये तदब्बुर ये हुकूमत
पीते हैं लहू देते हैं तालीम-ए-मुसावात
(ye ilm ye hikmat ye tadabbur ye hukoomat
peete hain lahu dete hain taaleem-e-musaavaat)

  • इल्म/ilm: knowledge
  • हिकमत/hikmat: wisdom
  • तदब्बुर/tadabbur: ponder, carefully reflect upon something
  • तालीम/taaleem: education
  • मुसावात/musaavaat: equality

Interpretation: “All these claims of knowledge, wisdom, deliberation and superiority are just pretensions and egotistical vanities of these Westerners. In truth, they are hypocrites who suck the blood of subject nations while pretending to be paragons of fairness and equality”

बेकारी ओ उर्यानी ओ मय-ख़्वारी ओ इफलास
क्या कम हैं फ़रंगी मदनियत के फ़ुतूहात
kya kam hain farangi madaniyyat ke futoohaat)

  • उर्यानी/uryani: nakedness
  • मय-ख़्वारी/mai-khwaari: “mai” (alcohol), “khwari‘ (consumption)
  • इफ़्लास/iflaas: poverty
  • फ़रंगी/farangi: (explained above)
  • मदनियत/madaniyyat: culture, civilization
  • फ़ुतूहात/futoohaat: plural of “fatah” (victory)

Interpretation: “Europe is besotted with unemployment and poverty. Being piss-drunk is a social custom in those lands. And their women.. well, they strut down the streets half-naked and without shame.

The firangis are right. The ‘conquests’ of Western civilization are quite remarkable indeed!”

वो क़ौम कि फ़ैज़ान-ए-समावी से हो महरूम
हद उस के कमालात की है बर्क़ ओ बुख़ारात
(wo qaum ki faizaan-e-samaavi se ho mahroom
hadd uske kamaalaat ki hai barq-o-bukhaaraat)

  • क़ौम/qaum: people who consider themselves as a single whole
  • फ़ैज़ान/faizaan: blessings, favour
  • समावी/samaavi: of the Heavens (“samaa” means sky)
  • महरूम/mehroom: deprived
  • हद/hadd: limit
  • कमालात/kamaalaat: plural of “kamaal” (achievement)
  • बर्क़/barq: lightning (here, denoting electricity)
  • बुख़ारात/bukhaaraat: plural of “bukhaar”, meaning steam (here, denoting the technology behind steam-powered machinery)

Interpretation: “A civilization that is deprived of God’s blessings can never achieve the true heights of human potential. They are limited in their imagination, and can’t think beyond mere steam and electricity. These material technologies represent the zenith of their achievements”

है दिल के लिए मौत मशीनों की हुकूमत
एहसास-ए-मुरव्वत को कुचल देते हैं आलात
(hai dil ke liye maut mashinoN ki hukuumat
ehsaas-e-muravvat ko kuchal dete hain aalaat)

  • मुरव्वत/muravvat: take others’ misfortune into consideration while making a decision, leniency
  • आलात/aalaat: plural of “aala” (instrument), as in “doctor sahab ka aala

Interpretation: “This reign of machines and their replacement of human labour has engendered a certain coldness in people’s hearts. Interacting everyday with these lifeless automata has made them impervious to the plight of their fellow beings. It’s impossible to develop empathy when your only companions are gadgets and mind-numbing machines”

आसार तो कुछ कुछ नज़र आते हैं कि आख़िर
तदबीर को तक़दीर के शातिर ने किया मात
(aasaar to kuch kuch nazar aate hain ki aakhir
tadbeer ko taqdeer ke shaatir ne kiya maat)

  • तदबीर/tadbeer: planning
  • शातिर/shaatir: expert
  • मात/maat: defeat

Interpretation: “Despite the near-total domination of Europeans, there are hints that the winds are gradually changing direction. All the grand machinations and trickeries of Europeans (“tadbeer”) are finally losing steam in front of the inexorable force of destiny (“taqdeer”) – a destiny preordained by God in which His true message will ultimately reign supreme”

चेहरों पे जो सुर्ख़ी नज़र आती है सर-ए-शाम
या ग़ाज़ा है या साग़र-ओ-मीना की करामात
(chehroN pe jo surkhi nazar aati hai sar-e-shaam
ya ghaaza hai ya saaghar-o-meena ki karaamaat)

  • सुर्ख़ी/surkhi: redness
  • सर-ए-शाम/sar-e-shaam: start of evening
  • ग़ाज़ा/ghaaza: paint applied to the face as make-up
  • साग़र/saaghar: goblet in which wine is drunk
  • मीना/meena: wine bottle
  • करामात/karaamaat: plural of “karaamat”, meaning “miracle” or “benevolence”

Interpretation: “Don’t mistake the redness that you see on European faces for vitality or vigour. It’s more like an artificial red paint they’ve applied in order to hide the signs of decay. Or, maybe it’s just the red flush from a night of binge drinking”

तू क़ादिर-ओ-आदिल है मगर तेरे जहाँ में
हैं तल्ख़ बहुत बंदा-ए-मज़दूर के औक़ात
(tu qaadir-o-aadil hai magar tere jahaaN mein
hain talkh bohot banda-e-mazdoor ke auqaat)

  • क़ादिर/qaadir: having power over everything
  • आदिल/aadil: someone who is just
  • तल्ख़/talkh: bitter
  • बंदा-ए-मज़दूर/banda-e-mazdoor: labourers, who are the servants
    (bande) of God
  • औक़ात/auqaat: plural of “waqt“. It literally means “times“, but is generally used in the sense of the “conditions/circumstances” of a person or group

Interpretation: “You have power over everything O Lord, and you’re also undoubtedly fair and just. Why is it then that the conditions of the working class people are so horrible and abject? Why don’t You intervene and help them fight against injustice?

[Remember that Lenin’s Marxist ideology laid special emphasis on the working class]”

कब डूबेगा सरमाया-परस्ती का सफ़ीना
दुनिया है तिरी मुंतज़िर-ए-रोज़-ए-मुकाफ़ात
(kab doobega sarmaaya-parasti ka safeena
duniya hai teri muntazir-e-roz-e-mukaafaat)

  • सरमाया/sarmaaya: wealth (used here in the sense of “capital” of “capitalism“)
  • परस्ती/parasti: worship
  • सफ़ीना/safeena: ship
  • मुंतज़िर/muntazir: awaiting
  • रोज़-ए-मुकाफ़ात/roz-e-mukaafaat: day of retribution

Interpretation: “When will this evil system of capitalism come to an end – a system in which money is worshipped above all else? The world is waiting My Lord, for You to take vengeance upon those who have exploited the poor so shamelessly for wealth and power, and for so long”