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IQBAL, Allawa

The Complaint (Shikwa)

Why should I choose the loser’s role?

Forbear to seek what gain I may?

Nor think of what the morrow holds,

But brood o’er woes of yesterday?

Why should my ears enraptured hear

The plaintive notes of Philomel?

Fellow bard! a rose am I

To lose me in sweet music’s swell?

For I too have the gift of song

Which gives me courage to complain,

But ah! ‘tis none but God Himself  

Whom I, in sorrow, must arraign!

I grant that we have earned repute

As ever reconciled to Fate,

But to Thee still a tale of pain

I can no longer help narrate.

Though we may seem like voiceless lyres,

Within, imprisoned anguish cries;

Its urge compels, and I obey,

Framing these plaintive melodies.

Hear Thou, O God! these sad complaints

From those of proven fealty;

Beneath proud spires in Western lands,

And made that magic melody

Thrill over Afric’s burning sands.

The pageantries of mighty kings

To us were shows that mattered not,

Beneath the shade of blades unsheathed

In Kalima we glory sought.

Our only life was then to face

The perils 0f Thy holy wars;

To glorify Thy name we died,

Adorned with hallowed battle scars.

Not lust for power for our own sakes

Our drawn sword’s playfulness inspired,

Nor roamed we hand in glove with Death

For worldly riches we desired.

Our people, had they set their hearts

On this world’s riches or its gold,

Not idol breaking would have gone

But idols would have bought and sold.

We stood our ground like rocks when once

The foe had met our phalanx dread;

Before our might the bravest quailed

And, vanquished, from the battle fled.

And those who offered Thee affront

Our swift, relentless fury faced,

Their mightiest arms we set at nought,

Their insolence and pride abased.

On all men’s minds we set Thy seal,

Thy tawhid’s firm and sure impress—  

The selfsame message preached our lips

When swords danced high in battle’s stress.

Declare Thou whose fierce valour once

Did Khyber’s barriers overthrow?

Or whose resistless might once laid

Famed Caesar’s proudest cities low?

Who smashed to dust man’s handwrought gods,

Those things of straw and earth and clay?

And who did unbelieving hosts

To spread Thy name and glory slay?

And who was it that quenched and cooled

The fiery urns of fair Iran ?

Thy holy Ka ʹ ba s hallowed shrine,

Whose bosoms reverently held

Thy great and glorious Book Divine—  

If our meed still the obloquy

That we have shirked the Faithful’s part,

How then canst Thou make claim to be

The kindly faith compelling heart?

For there are those of other faiths

Among whom many sinners ,

Some humble, others puffed with pride,   

Drunken in their effrontery;

If some have vision, thousands are

Of little worth, neglectful, worse;   

And millions upon millions live

From Thy dear, glorious name averse.

Yet see how still Thy bounties rain

On roofs 0f unbelieving clans,

While strikes Thy thunder bolt the homes

Of all forbearing Mussalmans!

In idol houses, hark! they say,  

“Behold, the Muslim star sinks low!  

How glad they are that now at last  

Thy Ka ʹ ba s brave protectors go!

They say, “The world is well rid now

Of hymn reciting camel men,

Their Quran folded in their arms,

At last they hie them from our ken!

Thus they rejoice who own Thee not;

Yet still unmindful seemest Thou

Of Thine own One ness, Thy tawhid—  

Art Thou so unregarding now?

That ignorant men who lack the grace

To ope their lips in conclave high

Should have their coffers treasure filled,

Is not the burden of our sigh;

But O, that this world’s best should fall

To unbelievers from Thy hand

While we on promises are fed

Of pleasures in a shadowy land!

Where are those favours which Thou once

Upon our grateful hearts didst pour ?

Why cherishest Thou not, O Lord,

The Faithful as in days of yore?

Why from the bounties of this life

The Faithful now no profit gain

Though still Almighty Thou remainest

Did we forswear our faith to Thee?

To Thy dear Prophet cease to cling?

Of idol breaking did we tire?

Or take to idol worshipping?

Or did we weary of Thy Love,

Or Thy Love’s rapture ever shun?

Or turned we from the path which trod

Qaran’s Owais and Salman?

Thy Takbeer’s unextinguished flame

Within our hearts we cherish yet:

Aethiop Belal’s life, the star

By which our own lives’ course we set!

But even if a change hath been,

And we in Love are less adept,

Or out of resignation’s path

Our erring wayward feet have stept;

If, unlike trusted compasses,

Our souls respond not now to you,

And if to laws of faithfulness

Our roving hearts are now less true ;

Must Thou too play the fickle flirt

With us, with others, day by day,

We cannot help the sinful thought

Which shame forbids our lips to say.

Upon the peak of Mount Faran

Thy glorious Faith Thou didst perfect—  

With one Divinest gesture drew

A host of fervid first elect;

Thy flaming Beauty filled the world  

And set a myriad hearts on fire;

Then blew the quintessence of Love  

In Man to passion’s wild desire.

Ah, why within our deadened hearts

That holy flame today leaps not?

Though still those burnt out victims we

Which once we were, hast Thou forgot?

Upon the dale of Nejd is stilled

The clanging of the captive’s chains;

To glimpse the camel litter, Qais

No longer with his madness strains

The yearnings of the heart are dead,

The heart itself is cold; so we;

And desolation fills our house

For shines not there the Light of Thee.

O blessed day when Thou shalt come,

A thousand graces in Thy train

But yet there uncompanioned sits

A lonely bulbul, all day long;

Its throat a throb with music still

And pouring out its heart in song.

The darkening cypress sways no more;

From shadowy nests its doves have fled;

The withered blossoms droop and die,

And all around their petals shed;

Those memoried, old garden walks

Of all their former pride lie shorn,

Despoiled of raiment green, each branch

In nakedness now stands forlorn;

Unmoved by passing seasons’ change,

The songster sits and sings alone:

Would there were in this garden some

Could feel the burden of its moan!

This life no more its joy retains,  

Nor even death can bring relief;

‘Tis sweet to sit alone and sigh

And eat a sad heart out in grief.

Out from the mirror of my soul ‘

What gems of thought now strive to shine;

What visions splendid, dreams sublime,

Arise within this breast of mine!

But in this garden lives not one

To see and hear, to feel and know:

No tulip with its streak of pain,   

To sense my heart blood’s smarting flow.

May this sad bulbuls lonely song

To grief each listening soul awake;

The clangour of these rousing bells

Make drowsy hearts their sleep forsake!

Let Faithful hearts re plight their troth,

And forge afresh their bond Divine;

Let in the long parched breast of each

The old thirst wake for sweet old wine!

The blood of sweet Arabian vine

O’erflows this wine jar Ajamy,

Although the singer sings in Ind,

Of Hijaz is his melody

translation : Altaf Husain