Allama Iqbal, Gabriel and Iblīs

Allama Iqbal, 1877-1938

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.

Gabriel

Old friend, how is your time spent in banishment?

Iblīs

In fire wrapped, pain-swept, surging, toiling, unbent.

Gabriel

At our heavenly summits, we often talk of you.
Should you repent, seek grace, give us the cue.

Iblīs

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.

Gabriel

Great glory you lost with your insolence. In shame,
we sank a few notches in God’s presence.

Iblīs

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.

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More translations from Allama Iqbal –
Is the Sky Yours or Mine

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–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 alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

2 thoughts on “Allama Iqbal, Gabriel and Iblīs”

  1. Satan (iblis) to God:
    “Whose blood has imparted color to man’s story?”

    “My boldness has imparted the handful of clay, yearning for growth, My temptations form the warp and woof of reason and intellect. You see the strife of good and evil from the shore. Who is facing the storm? You or I?”

    If Iblis did not have the arrogance/courage to speak against the Creator, who is Good, humanity would never have the courage to speak against evil.

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