The Mosque at Cordova (Muhammad Iqbal)

This poem was written by Iqbal on a visit to Spain in 1931-32.  It consists of eight stanzas (the first of which has been translated here.)  The structure of the poem is discussed here, where there is also a very literal English translation that misses the assonance of the original Urdu text.  As the editor rightly observes, Iqbal’s sense of language suffers under any translation.  I have tried to capture some of the resonance by rendering his complex verse structure and internal rhyming, using English conventions.

I.

Masjid  e- Qur-tubah

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab

In the flow of light to dark

the jeweller is hard at work.

In the spaces between light and dark,

in birth and death:

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab:

With coloured silken strands,

he works a royal robe.

In the flow of light to dark,

Azal: The pre-eternal sadness,

where the Jeweller speaks

or hisses his decisions,

Weighing you,

dangling me in the balance,

The master assaying

in the shadows, day to night.

If you are wanting–

If I am wanting:

Terii Baraat–

Marii baraat.

Death for the all the worlds

in the kingdom where

there is no day and night.

The works of our hand,

all glister and fashioning

will flash away–

Kaar e jahaa; N be-;  sabaat!

The world comes at last to this!

In the beginning was the end.

Within the form was its formlessness.

Inside the new, its destruction.

At the start of the journey, its end.

___________________________________

II

In this form*

eternity is formed,

this form made by

a man of God,

a man of passion

a beacon of divine light,

For passion is the center of life

and death cannot overtake it:

Passion forbids death.

Age comes quickly,

in a flash, but passion

is the flood that stops the flood.

In the chronicle of passion

there are nameless

ages beyond

the changing present time:

The breath of Gabriel

The oracle of Mustafa,

The chosen one,

The Prophet’s passion,

The passion of the Lord.

Drunk with passion

from the new made wine

the rose’s face is radiant.

Passion is the mercy

of the keepers of Kabbah

and the leaders of jihad,

the vagabond’s wandering:

It has a thousand resting places.

Passion is the zither and the string

upon which life is played.

Passion the light of life

and passion the fire.

__________________

*The mosque    

One thought on “The Mosque at Cordova (Muhammad Iqbal)

  1. I love it. Yours is a far more beautiful interpretation than the literal translation in the link above and another I found. The words flow sublimely, so simply evoking imagination as if it is memories recalled. It’s subtle and serene, sense of silence, time standing still and true solemnity. I love his poems and your translations.

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