Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Allama Iqbal's Famous Poem " Masjid e Qurtaba "-Grand Mosque of Cordoba, Spain - English Translation & Commentary + Listen to Ghulam Ali with English Subtitles

Allama Iqbal's Famous Poem " Masjid e Qurtaba "-Grand Mosque of Cordoba, Spain - English Translation & Commentary 

Link to YouTube : Ghulam Ali singing this beautiful Poem with English Subtitles-

In 1933, Iqbal visited Spain and also went to see the Mosque of Cordoba. It was not an ordinary sightseeing trip by a tourist interested in ancient monuments but a pilgrimage to an outstanding symbol of faith by a faithful Believer and a warm-hearted poet. It was a pilgrimage of love and loyalty by a celebrated Muslim to pay homage to the spiritual legacy of Abdul Rahman el-Dakhil and his companions.

Iqbal was greatly moved by the magnificence and solemnity of the Mosque and the deep emotional responses its awe-inspiring sight evoked in him found expression in the immortal poem called Masjid-i-Qartaba (The Mosque of Cordoba). Iqbal saw it as a cultural landmark of Islam and in its architecture and engravings he saw a moving portrait of the Believer's moral excellence and aesthetic refinement as well his high-mindedness, sincerity, piety and devotion.

The Mosque reminded Iqbal of its builders and their keen appreciation of artistic beauty, and of the noble ideas and appreciation, call and message, they upheld in life and propagated in the world. Its tall, stately minarets revived the memory of the spellbinding Azan that once used to rise from them and which people heard every day at the beginning and the end of the stresses of life. The Azan is a symbol of the unity and solidarity of the Muslim Millet.

The call it gives and the message it conveys may, indeed, be described as the National Anthem of Muslims and it is unique to their community. At one time the soul of the universe trembled and the foundations of the citadels of falsehood shook at the sound of it. It was the Islamic Azan that announced the dawn of a new morning and dispelled the gloom that had enveloped the world in the 6th Century A.D.

Iqbal recalls the Divine message and the celestial guidance the Azans used to carry to the four corners of the world and the depth and intensity of their significance. The more he ponders over it the more is he convinced that the Millet which is endowed with this eternal call and lives according to this everlasting message is, also, imperishable.

The beautiful yet poignant scene, the historical monument, the splendid Mosque (whose pulpit for centuries had remained deprived of sermons, courtyard and arches of genuflexion and minarets of Azan) touched every chord of his heart and reactivised the unhealed wounds. The ocean of his feelings was stirred and waves if faith and awareness, ardor and eagerness and music and melody, mingled with those of pain and disappointment, grief and anguish, began to rise in it. It was in these circumstances that the enthralling poem, Masjid-i-Qurtaba, was conceived, part of which was written in Cordova itself and the rest was completed during his stay in Spain.

The poem is a masterpiece of poetic inspiration and artistic expression. For beauty of diction and richness of emotion it is unsurpassed. In it Iqbal says that the material world is not everlasting. It is transitory, and,

with it, all the wonders of art and architecture, historical buildings and ancient monuments, are heading towards ruin and destruction. But such constructions are an exception that are touched by the messianic hand of a man of God and a devoted Believer and shine with the radiance of his love.

Chain of days and nights-artificer of all events
Chain of days and nights –fountain of life and of death!

Chain of days and nights=thread of two-colored silk
Of which the Being makes the robe of His Attributes!

Chain of days and nights-sigh of eternity’s music
Where He of all possibility sounds the height and depth!

Thee it puts to test and me it puts to test,
Day and night in procession, testers of all this world.

If thou art of less value and it I am of less value,
Find in death our reward and in dissolution our wage.

Of your day and night what other meaning but this-
One long current time, devoid of dawn and sunset?

All those masterpieces of Art, transitory and impermanent;
All in this world is of sand, all in this world is of sand!

Death the beginning and end, death to the visible and hidden;
New be the pattern or old, its final halting-place is death.

Yet in this design of things, something unending endures,
Wrought by some man of God into perfection’s mould;

Some high mortal whose work shines with the light of love,
Love is the essence of life, death to which is forbidden.

Long current of Time, string and swift though it is,
Love itself is a tide, stemming all opposite waves;

In the almanac of Love, apart from the present time,
Other ages exist, ages which have no name.

Love is the breath of Gabriel, Love is the Prophet’s heart,
Love the envoy of God, Love the utterance of God;

Under the ecstasy of Love our moral clay is bright,
Love is an unripe wine, Love is a cup for the noble.

Love is the legist of Harem, Love is the commander of hosts,
Love is the son of travel, countless its habitations;

Love is the plectrum that plucks songs from the chords of life,
Love is the brightness of life, Love is the fire of life.

After this long prologue Iqbal turns to the Mosque and addresses these words to it: “O Mosque of Cordova! For thy existence and thy glory thou art indebted to love, to the tender passion that is immortal. In this way, thou, too, art eternal.

“Philosophy, art and poetry, or any other form of literary or artistic activity, is shallow and insincere if it is not fed with the blood of the heart. It is no more that an empty structure of word and sound, paint and oil, or brick and stone, possessing neither life nor beauty nor freshness. Works of art, of whatever excellence they may be, cannoth endure without the intensity of inner passion, depth of love and profundity of earnestness. When a drop of love’s warm blood falls upon a piece of marble it turns it into a bearing heart and if even a man’s heart is destitute of love it is a slab of stone.

“O magnificent Mosque! In love and eagerness we both are alike. There is a mystical affinity between you and me. Man, in his creation is a handful of dust but his heart is the envy of the ninth heaven. The human heart is also lit up with the luster of Divinity and the joy of Presence. Angels, indeed are famous for unending genuflexion but the warmth and delight of human prostration has not been granted to them.Referring to his Indian and Brahmin origin, Iqbal says, “Look at the fervour and earnestness of this Indian infidel! He was born and brought up in the house of infidelity but his lips and heart are constantly engaged in prayer and invocation, benediction and salutation. On meeting you in this strange land, he has become a picture of intentness and devotion. There obtains a complete uniformity and understanding between your soul and mine!”

Oh shrine of Cordova, thou owes; existence to love.
Deathless in all its being, stranger to Past and Present.

Color or brick and stone, speech or music or song,
Only the heart’s warm blood feeds the craftsman/s design;

One drop of heart’s blood lends marble a heating heart,
Out of the heart’s blood flow out warmth, music and mirth.

Thine the soul-quickening air, mine the soul-quickening verse,
From thee the pervasion of men’s hearts, from me the opening of men’s hearts.

Inferior to the Heaven of Heavens, by no means the human breast is,
Handful of dust though it be, hemmed in the azure sky.

What if prostration be the lot of the heavenly host?
Warmth and depth of prostration they do not ever feel.

I’ a heathen of Ind, behold my fervour and my ardour,
 And Durood fill my soul, Salat ad Darood are on my lips!

Fervently sounds my voice, ardently sounds my lute,
Allah Hu
, like a song, thrilling through every vein!

On beholding this marvel of architecture, Iqbal is reminded of the real Muslim, the true Believer, whom only Islam can produce and, with it, the mighty Ummat also emerges on the surface of his mind from which the splendour of the Mosque is.

In Iqbal’s view the Mosque of Cordova, in the totality of its appearance and effectiveness, is a material manifestation of the Momin. In its beauty and elegance, height and width, gracefulness and solidity, fineness and strength it is his exact replica. Its imposing pillars remind Iqbal of the oases of Arabia and in its balconies and latticed windows he sees the gleams of Heavenly effulgence. He regards its towering minarets to be the descending points of Divine mercy and the halting places of the angels. Overcome with the emotion, he cries out: “The Muslim is imperishable, he shall not die, because he is the bearer of the message of Abraham and Moses and of all the Divine Apostles.”

Study of Baal e Jibril with Professor

 Moin Nizami Session 7- Urdu - Excellent Commentary on above Poem:

Iqbal asserts that the Mosque of Cordova is a true symbol of the beliefs, thoughts and aspirations of the Muslim Millet, and just as the Muslim Millet is free from all the narrow and unnatural concepts of race and nationality it, too, represents marvelous synthesis of Arab and Persian cultures and typifies a remarkable supra-national fraternity. The Muslim is above territorial limitations. and his world is boundless. The beauty and warmth of his message is pervading.

The Tigris and the Euphrates of Iraq, the Ganges and the Jumna of Indiam the Danube of Europe and the Nile of Egypt are but a wave in his shore-less sear.

 His achievements are unequalled in history. It was the Muslim Millet that gave the command to the outworn ages to depart and ushered in the modern world. Members of the Islamic Millet are the torch-bearers of compassion and fellow-feeling and true specimens of faith and fraternization.

Thou, in beauty and dignity, man of God’s witness,
He is the beautiful and dignified, thou art beautiful and dignified.

Firm are thy foundations, numberless are thy pillars,
Soaring like ranks of palms over the Syrian desert.

Light of the Valley of Peace gleams on thy walls and roof,
On thy minaret’s height Gabriel stands in glory.

The Muslim shall not perish for by his Azan,
The secret of Moses and Abraham is revealed.

Limitless in his world, boundless his long horizon,
Tigris and Danube and Nile but a wave in his sea.

His times are wondrous, his legends are strange,
To the ages outworn he gave the command to depart.

 of men of taste, horseman of the realm of desire,
Pure and unmixed his wine, tempered and glittering his steel.

Warrior armed in the mail of La Ilah,
Under the shadow of swords succored by La Ilah.

The poet, again, says to the Mosque that “you are the interpretation of the Momin’s dreams in the world, the exposition his high-mindedness and the exemplification of his soul in brick and mortar.

“The hand of Momin, in power and dominance, in the dispersal of difficulties and the fulfillment of needs, is the Hand of God and an instrument of Providence. Apparently, he is born of clay but in reality, he has the nature of Light. There is the reflection of Divine Attributes in his being. He is indifferent to the allurements of the world. His desires are few but his aims are high. He is the embodiment of grace and strength, love and sternness. He is gentle of speech but warmth in quest. In peace he is soft like silk but in war he is hard as steel.
“The faith of the Believer is the pivot on which the world turns. His existence is the essence of creation and all the rest an illusion. In him thought and intellect and faith and love find their highest expression.

Strength and felicity in life and beauty and elegance in the world owe their presence to him. He is the end and object of the pilgrimage of love and heart and soul of the universe.”

Behold is thy stones are all the Believer’s secrets,
Fire of passionate days, rapture  of melting nights.

High is his station and great his thoughts are,
Ecstasy, burning desire, self-abasement and pride.

The hand of the Momin is the Hand of Allah-
Dominant, resourceful, creative, ensuring success.

Fashioned of dust and light, slave with the Master’s attribute.
His heart is indifferent to the riches of the worlds.

His earthly hopes are few, his aims are high.
Courtesy in his men, gaining all hearts with his glance;

He is soft of speech but fierce in the hour of pursuit,
In war and in peace, pure in thoughts and in art.

The point of God’s great compass the Believer’s firm faith,
All this universe else-shadow, illusion, deceit.

He is the goal of love, he is the end of Love,
He, in the circle of the firmament, sets all spirits aglow.

Iqbal proceeds to pay a tribute of never-fading charm to the Mosque. “Thou art the Mecca of the seekers of the Art.”, he says, “the place of pilgrimage for the devotees of love and the symbol of the glory of Islam. Thanks to thee, the soul of Cordova is vying for sacredness and elevation with the heavens. If anything can compare with thee it is the heart of the true Believer.” Here Iqbal loses control of his feelings. He looks in the distant past and centuries roll back in his imagination. He begins to live in the Muslim ascendancy in Spain. Combining romanticism with classicism he asks, “Where are the Moorish horsemen, the men of virtue, the embodiments of faith and the champions of truth? Where has their unrelenting caravan stopped? Where have the Arab rulers, the precursors of European Renaissance, gone whose government was another name for social justice and public welfare?”

Iqbal feels that Spain still bears the floral imprint of Arab blood. Oriental charm, hospitality and sincerity can even now be seen among its people. Its air is filled with the scent of Najd and Yemen and the the music of Iraq and Arabia reverberates in the atmosphere.

Shrine of the seekers art! Glory of the manifest Faith!
Thou Andalusia’s soil sacred as Mecca hast made,

If there is underneath the sky beauty equal to thine,
Nowhere shall it be found but in the Muslim’s heart.

Ah those champions of Right, those fearless horsemen of  Arabia,
Bearers of high morality, knights of the truth and faith!

By their rule this strange secret to all was revealed,
Men of pure hearts hold away, not to enslave but to serve.

East and West by their eyes gained instructions,
In the darkness of Europe their minds showed the path.

Even today Andalusia, rich with their blood, is seen,
Gay and friendly of heart, simple and bright of face;

Even today in this land, eyes like the soft gazelle’s,
Dart their glances, giving pleasure to the hearts;

Even today in its breeze fragrance of Yemen endures,
Even today in its song echoes subsist of Hejaz.

In the midst of these sorrowful recollections Iqbal’s imagination is fired with the desire for change. He says that through the land of Andalusia enjoys the high position of the heaven it has not heard the Azan for ages and in spite of the fact that winds of revolution are blowing in the world there is no evidence of a ripple in its stagnant waters. Martin Luther’s movement of Protestant Reformation in Germany not only led to the decline of Papal authority and the extinction of the hegemony of the Church but it also made its impact on language, literature and civilizations and paved the way for the cultural revival of Europe.

The philosophy of Rousseau and Voltaire brought about the Revolution of France and set the stage for the emergence of the industrial era. Conservative Italy, too is showing signs of regeneration. Against his background Iqbal yearns for an Islamic revolution. He believes that the revolutionary spirit of Muslims is also uneasy but one does not know when it is going to assert itself. To Vadi-El-Kabir (Guadalquiver)  he says: “On your bank a stranger is seeing the image of the future in the mirror of the past. Fascinating though the dream is, it is so intolerable to Europe that it cannot listen calmly to my plain-speaking.”

 The destination of nations is forged in strife and revolt. Those who watch their steps carefully and analyze their feelings and keep an eye on their mental process are successful in life and make their mark in history. About art and thought, poetry and literature, Iqbal once again emphasizes that a philosophy which is not written with the blood of the heart is no more than a mental exercise. The vital flame, the breath of life, is missing from it. Likewise, the greatest works of art fade into oblivion if the blood of the artist does not flow into them and music that does not spring from the depths of the soul is transient and superficial. This is Iqbal’s concept of art as well as of life.

Thy land is like the heavens in the sight of the stars –
For ages, alas, thy atmosphere has remained bereft of the Azan.

In what dale and glen, in what stage of the journey,
Love’s undaunted caravan now happens to be?

Germany saw, long ago, Change and Revolution-
Obliterating the old ways, sweeping away every

Holiness of the Pope fast became an erroneous word,
Thought in its fragile boat launched on its dangerous course;

The eye of France, also, has seen Revolution rage,
That overturned the world, the Westerners had known;

The Roman nation, old and tired with ancient traditions,
With the joy of Rejuvenation discovered again her youth

Now that tempest has seized even the soul of Islam,
A Divine secret it is whose meaning cannot be told by the tongue.

Watch! from the surface of this ocean what portents finally emerge,
What new turn the blue revolving dome takes!

Drowned in the twilight is the cloud in the mountain gorge;
The sun has left behind heaps of the rubies of Badakhshan,

Running water of Guadalquiver! on your bank is a stranger,
Lost in his thoughts, dreams of another age,

Behind the Destiny’s curtain the new world is yet concealed,
But to mine eyes its dawn already stands unveiled.

Were, I to lift the veil from the face of my thoughts,
Europe could not endure the burning heat of my songs.

Death, not life, is the life in which no revolution takes place,
Strife and revolt are the sustenance of nation’s souls.

Keen as a sword that nation is in the hand of Fate,
Which at every moment takes account of its works and deeds.

Works of creation are incomplete without the heart’s warm blood,
Music, an immature frenzy, without the heart’s warm blood.

Link to Full Article with Urdu Text of Poetry:


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