The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality
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The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Chapter 2

The Second Coming


By Khurram Ali Shafique

Rumi was dead for 640 years when he appeared in the dream of a young Urdu poet in British India.

“Iqbal, get up. Write a masnavi,” said the master in the poet’s dream.

“Sir, that genre reached its perfection with you,” Iqbal replied.

“No, you should also write,” said the master.

Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) was the most popular Urdu poet of his times. His poems were unsurpassed in density of philosophical content and yet they moved even the most unschooled and illiterate in gatherings of up to twenty thousand listeners at a time. Apart from Urdu, he was acquainted with seven other languages – Punjabi, Arabic, Persian, English, Sanskrit, German and Latin. Out of these, he used English for serious prose, taught Arabic at prestigious institutions (including the University of London) and dabbled in German when necessary. Classical Persian literature and philosophy were subjects on which he was internationally recognized as an authority but Persian was still not a language he could speak. Until that night he had not attempted more than four and a half poems in it.

That night, as he woke up immediately after the dream he found himself writing in Persian. They were exquisite verses of excellent quality and in the same meter as the Masnavi of Rumi. Eventually they became his first book of poetry.

Thirteen years after the dream he got himself elected to the legislative council of his province. Four years after that in 1930 he proposed the concept of a unique state, a kind of spiritual democracy to be established through consensus of citizens. Despite the cold indifference of the intelligentsia and outright hostility of the clergy, the idea fired the imagination of the masses among the Indian Muslim community. Under the guidance of “Quaid-i-Azam” (“Great Leader”) Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the dream state of Iqbal came into being in 1947, some nine years after his death.

Pakistan is the only state that officially claims to have originated from the heart of a poet and Iqbal the only poet to have this dubious honor in the history of literature. As the highest example of a poet as politician, he should have been seen as the diametrical opposite of his mentor Rumi, who is the epitome of spiritual poetry in the East. Interestingly, this is not the case. A symbolic grave has been built for Iqbal inside the precincts of the mausoleum of Rumi at Konya, Turkey (the real grave of Iqbal is in Lahore, Pakistan). In the heart of Islam, Rumi and Iqbal have become inseparable.

Does this meeting of spirit and matter prove that transfer of power from kings to the Sufi has actually started in our times, at least in some ways? Quite possibly it is, but in order to understand that we shall need to approach Rumi through Iqbal. There is no other way.

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This chapter introduces Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal as a modern day disciple of Mawlana Rumi.