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

Chapter 41

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

By Khurram Ali Shafique

When European colonialism extinguished the light of Asia, the Indian historian Syed Ahmad Khan (later Sir) foresaw in that catastrophe the potential that is now unfolding in the Garden.

On your way up the hill there is a point from where the grave of Syed in the far off Aligarh in India can be seen with the inward eye.

The Tombstone of Syed

An invisible inscription on the tombstone becomes visible now and it summarizes the ethics that was going to yield the Garden at a later stage:

“If your purpose in the world is to teach religion, do not teach your nation to renounce the world. Never talk in a manner that promotes sectarianism, for a grave calamity is hidden in that. Let your writing facilitate union and your speech hurt no heart. Do not approach new listeners with old tales that cannot yield results anymore.

“If you practice statecraft, take it from me that courage is the specter of a true politician. It does not befit you to hesitate from expressing your point of view: why fear if your cause is just! The heart of a true believer knows neither despair nor deceit and is ever so bold in front of the ruler’s power.

“If your hand holds the pen like a magic wand and your heart becomes the Cup of Jamshid, guard the purity of your speech, because then you are God’s own disciple. Beware that your voice does not fall from Grace! Wake up the sleepers with the miracle of poetry and burn the house of falsehood with a fiery voice.”

Piety and Vice

A pious neighbor wonders about the lofty contradictions in Iqbal’s personality. Iqbal, who believes that sin has an educative value of its own, confronts the neighbor and says, “Iqbal himself doesn’t know Iqbal too well and I’m not even being sarcastic.”

The Picture of Grief

Indians are turning away from the vision of Syed, and consider this to be enlightenment. Iqbal says to them, “What good is it if you saw Joseph in the well? O ignorant soul, you confined that which was beyond definitions.”

The Indian Anthem

Iqbal writes an anthem. The nine couplets give a new identity to his country:

Our India is better than the whole world: we are its nightingales and this is our garden.

Our heart resides in our homeland even if we are in exile: consider us to be where our heart is.

That highest mountain and a neighbour of the sky, our sentry and our watchman,

Is cradle to thousands of streams that make our garden the envy of Paradise!

O Waters of the River Ganges, do you remember those days? When our caravan halted on your bank:

Religion does not teach us to be wary of each other. We are Indians and India is our homeland.

Greece, Egypt and Rome all vanished from the world but our fame and banner still remain.

It is for a reason that our life goes on, or else the changing times have been against us for centuries.

O Iqbal! What would the world know of our longing when no one there is privy to our secrets!


  • The homeland has been compared with Paradise throughout the anthem. What does it tell us about Iqbal’s worldview?

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The reader gets to see that Joseph was an ideal that was being created in the collective ego of the Poet’s society.
Urdu text
Urdu text

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