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”