Iqbal Complains to God

by Mohammed Iqbal

Why should I map my own loss,
not think of tomorrow,
forget my profit, lose my due,
grieve, ignore a nightingale’s wail,
be silent
as a rose?
Words give me courage
‑—dust be in my mouth
I’ve a complaint. God,
famous for praising You,
we now can’t help
but complain.
When a rose bloomed
it was unable to disperse
its scent.
We became the breeze,
we spread its essence.
Before our arrival
some bowed to trees,
others to idols—
not to a god
they couldn’t see.
Who called out Your name —
ancient Greeks, Jews, Nazarenes:
when things fell apart
did they draw their swords?
Who tore down the gates of Khaibar,
reduced Constantinople
to rubble,
turned Iran’s fire-temples cold?
Who stamped the crescent
on every heart,
who brought the idols to proclaim,
“There is no god but God?”

We were the only ones galloping,
our Call to Prayer echoed
in the shadow of swords
from the deserts of Africa
to the churches of Europe.
We didn’t roam “head in hand”
for worldly riches —we could’ve
bartered those idols we shattered.
Lion-hearted foes we routed.
We stood our ground against
canon fire.
In the heat of battle we prayed
facing Mecca,
a king and his slave-boy as equals
in a single line, no servant,
no master.
We uncorked the wine of unity
plunging our steeds into the Atlantic
freed mankind from bondage,
even then You babble
we are unfaithful. If we lacked faith,
what did You do
to win our hearts?
There are other sinners drunk with pride,
thousands who hate Your name.
On others You bestow mercy;
on Muslims,
lighting strikes. Do you care anymore?
“The Bedouin has gone,”
temple idols taunt,
“clutching his Koran?”
My complaint is not why others have riches,
but it’s an outrage: they’re gifted houris,
we only promises.
Is poverty a martyr’s wage?
Change a mirage into an ocean.
Let Muslims create wealth
espousing Your creed.
We celebrate the mind
yet the world loves others.
What use is the wine glass
when the server has vanished
as has the night’s sigh,
the morning’s lament.
We were promised a future,
now are estranged; yet
we’re still thrilled by the flight
of the gazelle
as much as Majnoon loves Layla,
trailing her riderless camel,
his eyes weary, where’s his dare?
We no longer pray with the past zeal,
the compass no longer points to Mecca.
You no longer flirt with us—
I know I shouldn’t be saying this,
if we’re weary,
You’re a whore.
With a single gesture
You enraptured thousands
revealed the True Faith.
Who now will stoke the embers?
Our house is desolate,
the gathering dull,
grace us with Your presence,
unveil Your face.
A dove coo-coos; others sip wine
at the garden’s edge
moths yearn
for a flame, a wingless nightingale
is renewed with desire,
the rose is eager to disperse its scent.
Play Your lute with passion,
inspire singed hearts with longing,
convert India idolaters
to Islam,
engulf Sinai with fire,
raise the ant as Solomon’s peer,
let Love be rich
not rare.

Translated from the Urdu by Rafiq Kathwari / @brownpundit