‘The Secrets of the Self’, M. Iqbal

I managed to get through ‘The Secrets of the Self’, author sir Muhammad Iqbal (sometimes seemingly published in English as ‘Asrar-e-Khudi’ apparently, which should be the Arabic transliteration).

I began the poem with a very positive outlook on it, and I have to say that I finished it with an even better one. Reading it on my Kindle, I marked entire sections of it for future reference, for though it is a deeply religious poem (and I not the most religious person) it also publishes the truths upon which the world works.

Aside from the very notable quote that has become the citation for my blog(s), Iqbal had many other noteworthy sayings put into it (fortunately, the edition I read came with footnotes etc so the Islamic legendarium that I would have missed out on my own was a bit more open to me — naturally, I did not understand any of the allusions to the great work of Rumi, the Masnavi but the footnotes were there to help me through).

When the Self is made strong by Love, Its power rules the whole world.

Do note that this love is more understood as “the power of assimilative action avoiding forms of asking (inaction)” as the introduction to the poem describes it contrary to our usual comprehension of the term (which is rather randomized in most instances).  This is, however, by no means a definitive understanding of the term (and my reading of the Introduction was, well, less than perfect, let me say) and he did seem to employ it at times in both the sensual meaning as of man-woman as well as spiritual through man-god.

Some chapters (or rather, mmm… yes, let’s name them chapters) included interesting stories (there was one which I quite liked about a sage and a sheikh which brought the Ganges and the Himalayas into the discussion as well, and another on tigers… I was pretty much sold on everything before the tigers came along, but that was everything I needed to confirm that all my good beliefs about the poem were true 😉 ).

The tiger-tribe was exhausted by hard struggles, They had set their hearts on enjoyment of luxury. This soporific advice pleased them, In their stupidity they swallowed the charm of the sheep. He that used to make sheep his prey Now embraced a sheep’s religion. ‘flee tigers took kindly to a diet of fodder: At length their tigerish nature was broken. The fodder blunted their teeth, And put out the awful flashings of their eyes. By degrees courage ebbed from their breasts, The sheen departed from the mirror. That frenzy of uttermost exertion remained not, That craving after action dwelt in their hearts no more. They lost the power of ruling and the resolution to be independent, They lost reputation, prestige, and fortune. Their paws that were as iron became strengthless; Their souls died and their bodies became tombs.

He goes on for a short while longer, but this perfectly illustrates the downfall of the tigers. Unfortunately the formatting here is not as strong and suitable as it should be for a poem, but it should serve.

All in all, what the book says in many different ways is to look into oneself deep and thoroughly. The message should be even more relevant in the present day.

Inasmuch as the life of the universe Comes from the strength of the Self, Life is in proportion to this strength.

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