translated by M. Shahid Alam
Note: In the Qur’anic account of man’s creation, God asks the angels to bow down to Adam; they bow down, except Iblīs. God banishes Iblīs but, granting his request, gives him the power to tempt and waylay humans except those who submit in sincerity to their Creator.
Old friend, how is your time spent in banishment?
In fire wrapped, pain-swept, surging, toiling, unbent.
At our heavenly summits, we often talk of you.
Should you repent, seek grace, give us the cue.
Gabriel, you cannot ever grasp how, fatefully,
my shattered cup uplifts me, fires my fancy.
Your station does not tempt me now, nor ever
will: it lacks the strife, the tension I prefer.
Cast out, I propel the engines of creation.
Shall I beg for mercy? I thrive in opposition.
Great glory you lost with your insolence. In shame,
we sank a few notches in God’s presence.
My mutiny starts a fire this clod of dirt.
It spurs man to ambition: he stands tall, alert.
Safely, you watch the cosmic clash of opposites.
Who joins this battle? Who takes the hits?
Neither sages nor prophets can now quell
the fire in men brought under my spell.
Ask God, if you get time of day with him,
‘Why is man His masterwork, not seraphim?’
I trouble the Sublime with my thorny politics.
Your cohorts chanting Allah-hu make me sick.
More translations from Allama Iqbal –
Is the Sky Yours or Mine
–M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2006). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.