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Final Project – Introductory Essay


The Power of Religion

            At the outset of the course, I must admit that I knew very little about Islam or South Asia, let alone the relationship between the two.  As I have mentioned, growing up in a mainly Catholic suburb of Boston, I figured other major religions, such as Islam, operated in the exact same way:  You’ve got one book, one creed, one Church, and one Pope at the head of it, with all his cardinals and other administrators to keep it all organized and uniform.  Everything works out such that a Mass in Boston is just about the same as a Mass in Puerto Rico, and likewise the fundamental beliefs between both Parishes are more or less identical.  However, after having taken this course, and truly growing to understand what Islam is and how culture affects it so dramatically, I now see that I could not have been more mistaken.

For my project, I chose six of the readings spanning throughout the course that piqued my interest and, in my mind, taught me the most about Islam in South Asia.  These readings can be broken down into a few main categories: The influence of culture on Islam and religion in general, in particular the integration of certain aspects of Indic culture to the Turko-Persian Islamic culture and vice versa; organization of Islam within the Muslim community, including different reform movements and disagreements on how the religion should be practiced; and finally, the increasing politicization of religion in today’s world and the use of religion as a political tool and identity marker, especially in the case of Islam and Hinduism in today’s South Asia.

To begin, I was fascinated to learn how Persian and Hindu culture – which I assumed to be two completely different worlds – were actually very similar and in fact had profound effects upon one another historically.  I first looked at “The Two-and-a-Half-Day Mosque” by Michael Meister, in which Meister goes into detail about some of the first South Asian mosques built by Hindu workers just as Muslims rose to power in present-day India.  The thing that marveled me the most was how flawlessly some of the techniques and artistic ideas could be integrated between both cultures to create something new and beautiful, which inspired me to make my own clay creation of a mosque covered in different Hindu symbols, such as the lotus flower, the symbol for “Om,” and the Hamsa, the open palm with an evil eye that wards away evil.

I find that this article and the idea of cultural integration in the medium of architecture and aesthetics aptly encapsulates the general theme of cultural mixing in Muslim-ruled South Asia that we have discussed throughout the course.  Notions such as the Prophet Muhammad becoming an avatara of the Hindu god Vishnu, all the Hindu gods being viewed as prophets that came before the time of Muhammad, and even the mystical view of Akbar that Islam and Hinduism – and perhaps all religions for that matter – come from the same basic faith, but are just different pieces and manifestations of it, all reflect this idea that Muslim and Hindu cultures need not be separate, but instead can come together to create something new and perhaps better.

Another perfect example of the confluence of local Indic culture and that of the Turko-Persian world lies in the Asani article, “The Bridegroom Prophet in Medieval Sindhi Poetry.”  The article describes how the local Sindhi tradition of the story of a virahini, or “a loving and yearning young woman” (Asani 214) was combined with stories of the Prophet Muhammad and one’s relationship to God to create poetry that reflects one’s soul as a woman longing to be reunited and wedded to her bridegroom, Muhammad, such that she may grow closer to God.  I felt it quite fitting, in the theme of the mixing of cultures to create a common ground, to reflect a verse of this poetry by singing it to the tune of “Silent Night,” which of course discusses the story of Christ’s birth and God’s descent to Earth to atone for our sins and open the gates of Heaven to just believers.  As I had mentioned in my initial response to this reading earlier in the course, I find an interesting parallel between Jesus and Muhammad as being the sort of bridges between one’s soul and God, though they operate on different kinds of love to do so: in the case of Christianity, a Father-child relationship, while in the case of Islam, such as with the bridegroom, it is a more romantic love and longing for God.  Nonetheless, I think this exercise made me truly realize just how much each religion and culture can learn from one another, as the combination of seemingly different ideas sometimes makes all the sense in the world.

However, of course, as we have seen time and time again, things do not always mold together so nicely, as oftentimes people have disagreements on how to practice a religion or what the true nature of that religion is.  This became abundantly apparent in all we learned throughout the semester concerning Muslim reformist and revival movements in South Asia, as well as the different sects and schools of thought within Islam in general.  This was yet another new notion that had never occurred to me.  For instance, growing up all my life, it made complete sense to me that my faith, Catholicism, was not the same as Lutheranism, or Methodism, or especially Baptism, even though they are all just different forms of Christianity, but it never occurred to me that this could be the case for Islam – I suppose I just figured everyone followed the Qu’ran and lived happily ever after.

Naturally, I quickly found this not to be the case, first and foremost in “A Nineteenth Century Indian ‘Wahhabi’ Tract Against the Cult of Saints: Al-Balagh al-Mubin” by Mark Gaborieau.  Here, through a book Al-Balagh al-Mubin, supposedly written by a Muslim ruler Shah Walliulah, the issue of saint worship came to the forefront of the debate within the South Asian Muslim world, as members of the “Wahhabi” movement advocated against the cult of saints, calling them heretical by praying to anyone who isn’t God.  Furthermore, they suggested the practice was idolatry and polytheistic, likening saint-worshippers to Hindus, which is a further attempt to solidify the identity of what is truly “Muslim” as opposed to what is “non-Muslim.” In my response, a video involving a discussion on the matter between the Grinch, a Wahhabi, and his dog Max, a saint-worshipper, on the issue, I reach the conclusion that sometimes, just as is the case of the different religions within Christianity, people must agree to disagree, as people may choose to express their faith in a variety of ways that may or may not be exactly like those of others.  Considering especially that Shah Walliulah likely did not write the text, but instead took the approach that as long as the saint-worshippers were praying through the saints rather than to them, I would hope this conclusion at the end of the video of tolerance between practices of one faith can eventually be reached.

Yet another example of divisive reform movements lies in Freeland Abbott’s article, “The Jihad of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid,” in which Abbott describes how the Sayyid, in response to growing British power in South Asia and thus the decreasing prominence of Muslims in the subcontinent, led an unsuccessful reform movement of jihad against the Sikhs.  As power was generally believed to coincide with the grace of God, the gradual loss of Muslim power in South Asia to the British sparked a lot of debate about where and how Muslims had gone astray.  The Sayyid wanted to revert back to the pure form of Islam that Muhammad had created, without all the modern changes of his day, and tried to unite South Asian Muslims through jihad to regain power.  Thus, in a fashion very different to Wahhabism, which appears more ideological, Sayyid Ahmad Shahid took a more hands-on approach.  In making my response, a poem in the voice of the Sayyid offering a call to arms to all Muslim, I realized that I now understand jihad far better than I had before taking this class, for what was once a word I associated with hatred and terrorism due to today’s media, I now realized was a call for reform, for a cause far greater than just promoting violence.  So, given the Sayyid and the Shah Walliulah article, I now find that having taken this course I have a firmer grasp of the different views and opinions that have always persisted throughout the Muslim world, as opposed to just viewing Islam as one monolithic religion with lots of violent people, as it often seems in the media.

Finally, towards the end of the semester, we touched upon the relationship between religion and politics, particularly in the modern world, and how Islam and Hinduism fit in today’s South Asia with the advent of new media technology such as television and the Internet.  One major area in the realm of Islam and politics about which I knew surprisingly little was the formation and founding of Pakistan, the ideological basis of which fascinated me, as I did not know it was supposed to be a secular government as opposed to a theocracy.  What really piqued my interest, however, was the use of Islam in Pakistani politics once the country had already been formed.  This came about in Esposito’s article, “Islam and Democracy, ” which discussed the changes of power in Pakistan’s history.

Pakistan offers a unique look at an attempt to form a nation on the basis of a common religion, which brought about all sorts of issues and questions – If it is an Islamic Republic, does that mean a country the laws of which are governed by the Qu’ran, or a country that merely operates justly and offers up a safe and secure place for Muslims to live? If Islam is to be part of the government, to what extent, and considering no one can agree on what exactly “Islam” is, whose opinion does the government follow? What seems like such a novel idea – taking all the Muslims out of India to make a Muslim homeland in a new country – is clearly muddled with a lot of questions, and even though the majority of people in the country practice the same religion, the debates between these religious and political issues proved divisive nonetheless.  Islam became such a huge part of public discourse that by the time of Zia ul-Haq’s military rule in the 1970’s, Islam became a political tool of the state rather than merely a religion. As Esposito writes, “The politicization of Islam in Pakistan was evident in politics, law, economics, and social life. Islamic symbols and criteria were often invoked so successfully by the government that those who opposed Zia were forced to cast their arguments in an Islamic mold” (Esposito 109).  In this way, the state was able to control the people of Pakistan by somewhat turning their own religion against them, as evidenced in my response, a drawing of a huge mosque and the Pakistani flag looming over the shadows of citizens.  Thus, Pakistan offers a prime example of how the state, especially one that is founded as a religious homeland, can use religion to gain and retain political power, a notion that I find frightening as an American who believes church and state should not intertwine.

However, the politicization of religion does not just occur at the hands of the state, but also at the hands of the media to influence the masses. Such is the case in India, as exposed in the article “Modern Hate,” by Susan and Lloyd Rudolph.  The discussion in this article, which describes how the modern tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India does not necessarily stem from issues in the past, but rather issues in the present, truly opened my eyes to the issues of identity in the modern world.  Due to modern forms of mass media, so many people can be connected at once – and indeed, the world feels like a much smaller place because of it.  So what do people do? They see others that are similar to them, and others that are not, and everybody likes to be part of a team; thus, as evidenced quite literally in my response, a drawing of a divided India, identities form in the style of “us” vs. “them” in order to categorize one another.  Suddenly, whereas Muslims and Hindus largely lived in peace for long periods of time in South Asia, huge rifts are created that result in riots, deaths, the tearing down of mosques in the name of Lord Ram, retaliation and cross-retaliation, the cycle goes on and on. As the Rudolph’s suggest, it appears that a general trend is ensuing in modern times where politics is less about ideology and more about identity, as they write, “Directly and indirectly, religion, ethnicity and gender increasingly define what politics is about, from the standing of Muslim personal law and monuments in India to Muslim and Christian Serbs and Croats sharing sovereignty in Bosnia…” (Rudolph 29).  Therefore it would appear that, contrary to popular belief, even as the world is growing more “tolerant” of itself in this day and age, and may feel like a smaller place, it seems as though it has never been so divided.

In the end, if anything, I feel that this course has taught me how to be a good citizen of the world, as I feel that I now grasp how important it is to understand the religion and religious history of a country to understand it in the present day, whether it is India, Pakistan, or even America.  This course has shown me how diverse Islam truly is, how much debate has gone on concerning the practice of the religion throughout history and which continues to this day, and just how much religion influences our identities and the world in which we live.  Just a few more things to consider when going to Mass (usually) every Sunday.

Final Project – Silent Wedding


Bhatii text, to the tune of “Silent Night”:

Beloved, send for this beggar,

your little country girl

For God’s sake, O Mustafa,

my hero, give me courage!

…Beloved! Put out the fire

of biraha (viraha) with your own hands. (qtd in Asani, 213)


Original Silent Night text:

Silent Night, Holy Night,

Shepherds quake at the sight,

Round yon virgin, Mother and Child,

Holy infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Sleep in heavenly peace.


In response to the article “The Bridegroom Prophet in Medeival Sindhi Poetry,” by Ali Asani, I sang a verse by Abd ur-Ra’uf Bhatti, a Sindhi poet, to the tune of “Silent Night.”  The verse, as described in the article, involves the notion of a female soul that is waiting for her bridge-groom, the Prophet Muhammad, who will wed the woman-soul and thus bring her to God.  As explained in the article, Bhatti, a Sindhi poet, uses many themes and motifs from Sinhi culture to express his poetry, such as the concept of the viraha, which stands for a longing in separation.  In this case, the woman-soul has a longing for God and thus for the Prophet to connect her with Him; without the wedding to do this, she is merely one half of a whole, but when united with God, her soul can be full and at peace.  I chose to sing this verse to the tune of “Silent Night” for a few reasons: First, in Christianity, “Silent Night” describes the birth and coming of Jesus, and thus the coming of God down to Earth for the salvation of mankind.  This strikes me as a very similar notion to the woman-soul being connected with God, for in both cases the soul is not yet whole, but once the connection to God is made – either through a wedding with the bride-groom Prophet, or through the coming of Christ to atone for humanity’s sins and thus allow human souls into heaven – the soul is finally saved and whole. Furthermore, I find it very interesting to mash these two ideas together, as the relationship of Jesus to Christianity as compared to Muhammad with Islam fascinates me. “Silent Night” perfectly encapsulates the general relationship of Father and child between God and the soul, while the story of the bridegroom is another type of love, closer to romantic love between the soul and the Prophet.  Nevertheless, just as Persian and Sindhi cultures could come together to create the story of the bride-groom, so too can a Muslim and Christian story come together to express the same idea of being connected to God to complete one’s soul.

Final Project – How the Grinch Stole Wahhabism


How the Grinch Stole Wahhabism

Characters: The Grinch, Max (The Grinch’s dog)


Grinch: [Grinch goes up to Max] What’s that you’re doing?!


Max: Well, sir, I’m praying –


Grinch: Yes, I can see that.  But to whom are you praying?


Max: Well, to a Muslim Saint.  There’s a lot to be said abou-


Grinch: THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I THOUGHT. You’ve been caught in the act, bud.  Worshipping a saint… you know that’s heresy, right?


Max:  It most certainly is not! Saints provide very real and very important conduits between us and Allah Himself, just as Muhammad does as a Prophet


Grinch: Don’t you dare say His name!  By praying to these saints you are putting them at level with God, which the Qu’ran strictly forbids.  You’re making a mockery of our faith, of our MONOTHESTIC FAITH, just like those heathen Hindu’s.


Max: I beg your pardon!


Grinch: You must know as well as I do, as Shah Waliullah says in Al-Balagh al-Mubin, “…one must know that whatever the Hindu polytheists do for their idols, the tomb worshippers also do exactly in the same way in the name of tombs and saints” (qtd. In Gaborieau)


Max:  Ah, I see, we have a Wahhabi here


Grinch: That’s right.


Max: Look, my friend…




Max: …Look, you’ve got your opinion, and I’ve got mine.  I don’t see the cult of saints as heretical, but rather enlightening – by praying with the help of the saints, they help me grow closer to God by mediating my communication.  After all, do we not pray through Muhammad? In fact, that is what your Shah Waliullah actually believes on the issue – the Al-Balagh al-Mubin’s authorship is seriously in doubt.


Grinch: Is that so?


Max: Yes, it is.  And look, I have no problem with you – As I said, you have your opinion, and I’ve got mine.  There’s no one way to practice Islam – after all, what is “Islam” anyway?  We all submit ourselves to God in different ways, and this is mine.


Grinch: Well, I think I’ve learned something here today.

Max: Good, now go give back all the presents.


Grinch: Why, what ever do you mean about pre-


Max: You know what I mean you bum, all the presents we stole last night, give them back and your heart will grow or something


Grinch: Eh fine


Max: Happy Holidays, everyone.




This short, rather comical video represents a debate between a member of the Wahhabi movement (Grinch) and a member of the cult of saints (Max) within Islam, in response to “A Nineteenth Century Indian ‘Wahhabi’ Tract Against the Cult of Saints: Al-Balagh al-Mubin” by Mark Gaborieau.  In the article, Gaborieau describes a Muslim reformist movement, the Wahhabi movement, which criticized what was known as the cult of saints for worshipping and praying to Muslim saints.  The Wahhabis viewed this as akin to idolatry, as no on should be worshipped except for Allah, and to pray to anyone else was sinful and polytheistic.  This was manifested in the Al-Balagh al-Mubin, which was supposedly written by a nineteenth-century Muslim ruler, Shah Walliulah, in condemning the saint-worshippers. Later, however, as Gaborieau explains, it was discovered that Shah Walliulah was not likely the actual author, but that a political group that came about after his death may have written it under his name so that the ideas within the Al-Balagh al-Mubin would be legitimized – In fact, Gaborieau writes, Shah Waliullah’s views were actually more moderate, such that he believed praying to saints is acceptable on the condition that one prays through them as a bridge to God, rather than actually praying to the saints themselves.  These ideas are reflected in the video and the dialogue: The Wahhabist is the Grinch, aptly so since he is a bit cranky and is very strict in his views as he condemns Max for being a saint-worshipper. The Grinch tells Max he is sinful and that saint worship is polytheistic in the same manner as Hinduism, another idea brought up in the Gaborieau text.  Max retorts by informing the Grinch of the Shah’s actual likely views, and by saying that Islam is practiced in many different ways.  The Grinch backs down by the end, and agrees, at Max’s urging, to go give all those presents back to the citizens of Whoville.

Final Project – Sayyid Ahmad Shahid


A Call to Worship


Hark, my Sisters and Brothers,

True believers of justice and God,

Heed not the words of others,

whose false feet on our land now trod.


Heed not the language of England,

Nor the Christian faith it promotes,

But reclaim for Muslims our Hind-land,

To which we must devote.


Heed not the ideas of the impure, but

Return to the original, true faith –

That which Muhammad made perfectly whole,

Yet some would dare now to change.


So take arms! First we battle

‘gainst the nation of the Sikhs,

so truly we may show which faith

is strong, and which is weak.


In response to Freeland Abbott’s article, “The Jihad of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid,” I wrote this poem entitled “A Call to Worship.”  In the poem, the speaker, in the voice of the Sayyid, is calling upon his Muslim Brothers and Sisters to take up arms in jihad against the Sikhs, as well to reject the teachings of the English and of Christianity, to reclaim India for Muslims and return to the “true faith.”  This coincides with the article, which discusses the role of the Sayyid in a period of Muslim revival movements in the early nineteenth century.  As the British began to encroach into India and establish their rule, thus diminishing the rule of Muslims in the subcontinent, many Muslims in South Asia began to question their faith.  Until that point, political rule was though to coincide with proper faith, such that Muslims, following the proper faith of Islam and thus being God’s chosen people, were the rightful and just ruling class.  With the loss of political power, then, many Muslims assumed that they had strayed from the just path, and were being punished for it, thus advocating for reforms within Muslim cultural and religious practices. The Sayyid, however, disagreed with many of these reform policies, denouncing any changes to the religion, and sought to restore the original, perfect form of Islam that Muhammad had created. To do this, he advocated jihad, warfare in the name of Islam against Sikhs as well as any other non-Muslims that he believed would form a solid political unit and bring Muslims back to prominence.  Thus, the poem reflects all these sentiments in a form of rhetoric I believe he would use, in calling his fellow Muslims to arms.

Final Project – A Dual India



This picture, drawn using colored pencils, reflects a broken India, split in half by politics (quite literally).  On one half are Muslims, reflected by the Arabic symbol for Allah, and on the other is the likeness of Lord Ram, the Hindu god over whom much controversy was sparked in the 1990’s when the notion started circulated that a mosque had been built long ago over his birthplace.  This is in response to the article “Modern Hate,” by Susan and Lloyd Rudolph.  In a very literal manner, the drawing represents the “us versus them” mentality that has been brought about in recent years due to the politicization of religion, particularly in a place like India.  As the article explains, modern hate does not necessary stem from “ancient hatreds,” as Bill Clinton suggested in a comment  regarding ethnic tensions in then-Yugoslavia, but rather modern hatred is often very much contrived in the modern day.  A large part of this is due to the spread of mass media and the need for people form an identity, an “us,” and in order to do that, one needs an “other.” I found that Ram was a particularly apt symbol for the side of the Hindu’s, as the aforementioned controversy over the site of his birthplace, and the ensuing demolition of the mosque on that site by Hindu extremists, is a perfect example of religious tensions that can be politicized to a point where real damage and violence can occur.

Final Project – Islam and the State



This image, drawn with chalk pastels, is a response to Esposito’s article, “Islam and Democracy.”  In the article, Esposito goes through the history of how Islam and politics have been endemically intertwined in Pakistan since the country’s founding.  As he explains, since Pakistan was founded as a home for Muslims, the country has struggled with its identity as an Islamic state, what that means in terms of the relation of Church and State, and furthermore what and under whose authority are the official, state-sanctioned practices of the faith.  Thus, in the ensuing political debate about the nation should be organized and what Islam’s exact role was within it, Islam became more or less a political tool used by those in power – or at least those vying for power – in order control the masses and garner support for their party or faction.  One prime example of this lies with Zia ul-Haq, the general who staged a coup in 1977 and controlled Pakistan by martial law for years, all in the name of Islam – By using Islam as a political weapon and integrating it into every fabric of the country, he was able to keep power.  This politicization of Islam is reflected in the drawing, as a great mosque with a backdrop of the Pakistani flag, representing state power through the use of Islam as a political tool, is eclipsing the citizens in the forefront, as the state, through Islam, prevents non-Islamic discourse about the government and controls the people through their faith.

Final Project – Two and A Half Day Mosque


The Hindu Mosque

The Hindu Mosque

In response to Michael Mesiter’s article, “The ‘Two and a Half Day Mosque,'” I decided to use clay to create a mosque of my own.  In the article, Meister goes into detail describing the very first days of Muslim rule over the Indian subcontinent, and describes how, in the beginning, before many workers moved over from the Persian world into India, any buildings that were built by the new Muslim rulers – such as mosques – were built by Hindu workers.  Due to this, many Hindu motifs and styles, such as ceiling work, the style of pillars, and even some of the superficial work on walls can be found in mosques from this period, especially considering that the Indian workmen used the materials and building techniques to which they were normally accustomed before the Muslims took over.  This, as Meister explains, represents the combination of two very different cultures, coming together to make something beautiful and new. Here, with my mosque, I added some Hindu symbols to the Muslim place of worship: the word for “Om,” which is thought to be the original sound of the universe; the lotus flower (as part of the minaret), which represents beauty; and the Hamsa, the hand with an evil eye in the palm, which is meant to ward off evil and which is also present in Islamic traditions.  Thus, with this I am attempting to represent the notion in Meiser’s article that rather than being completely separate, as people might at first believe, Muslim and Hindu culture is and always has been intertwined, as cultural elements of each influence the other.

Response to Iqbal’s “Complaint and Answer” to tune of “Jerusalem”


Michael Paladino
Islamic Civilizations 178
Creative Response to The Complaint and Answer
November 5, 2014

An Imperial Response

For my creative response, I decided to sing a rendition of selected verses from The Complaint and Answer by Muhammad Iqbal to the tune of the hymn Jerusalem, which is considered a British Imperial Anthem and patriotic song of England.
I felt this mash-up was fitting for several reasons: First, it happens to be a staple in the repertoire of my acapella group, the Krokodiloes, so I know it very well and it means a lot to me – in fact, verses 2 and 4 in the recording mimic the bass line of the song when sung in harmony. More importantly, however, the song has many themes that relate to the circumstance and themes around which The Complaint and Answer was written. The original lyrics Jerusalem, written during the height of the British Empire during the late 19th/early 20th century, suggest that a New Jerusalem, here representing the idea of heaven, will be built in England, indicating that England is God’s chosen land as the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Combined with language of aggression such as “spear,” “chariot of fire,” “arrows,” and “sword,” the hymn as a whole can be construed as an anthem for British Imperial Rule, indicating that England is the chosen place and people of God and is therefore a justified and righteous conqueror.
On the other side of the same coin is The Complaint and Answer, which was written by Iqbal during the same time period in response to the loss of Muslim rule in South Asia at the hands of the British and the West in general. The “Complainer” of the poem complains to God about the loss of Muslim power to the West, and asks why He would forsake the chosen people, the Muslims, while rewarding the infidels. This mode of thinking is not very far off from the philosophy of Jerusalem: both works assert that a particular group, either Muslims or the English, are God’s chosen people, and as such they are justified in having and indeed deserve to have political and military power on Earth. Historically, both British colonial rule and the Muslim empire-building were justified using arguments along this vein – by conquering others in the name of spreading their faith, they claimed to “save” or “enlighten” their subjects. Thus, I find striking similarities in the rationale behind both the Muslim and British takeover of South Asia, and considering that the former lost power to the latter, I find it fitting that the Muslims’ lament in The Complaint and Answer be represented by a British song that encapsulates that self-aggrandizing imperial philosophy.
The recording itself showcases a call-and-response pattern of song, in which the first verse is sung by the “Complainer,” to which the “Answerer” responds with the second verse, and so on. I selected verses that particularly emulated the themes of Jerusalem: The first verse describes how Muslims did God’s work by spreading Islam through military strength, to places such as Europe and Africa; However, the second verse’s response holds that, indeed, the Muslims of old conquered the lands and worshipped God to spread Islam, but they are not the same as the current Muslims, who expect to reap the rewards of political power without putting forth the effort and dedication of their forefathers. The third verse is a rebuttal from the “Complainer,” now asking why infidels are rewarded while God’s chosen people, Muslims, are subjugated; to this, the fourth verse answers that even if infidels live like a true Muslim, such as being virtuous, praying to God, etc., they still “merit Faith’s reward.” This suggests that Muslims do not automatically earn or deserve anything just for calling themselves Muslim, but rather they must actively live by God’s will and worship Islam in the proper sense, to work towards the reward of power rather than expect it. Finally, in the 5th verse the “Complainer” essentially asks God to show the way to Him, and thus the way to regain power on Earth by carrying out Islam in a proper and just way; the answer in verse 6 holds that Islam has no boundaries on Earth, and if Muslims finally get their act together, they can regain prominence. In the actual singing, I tried as best as possible to convey a weaker tone of voice in the “Complainer” verses, and a stronger, lower, admonishing voice in the “Answer” verses, to suggest that the complainer is whiny and self-entitled in asking why he has no more power.
In the end I found this a very fulfilling way to get across Iqbal’s message in The Complaint and Answer: As Iqbal suggests, by merely expecting power to continue as usual, Muslims went astray from their perceived path as virtuous and just rulers, and therefore found themselves ruled by what is essentially their own imperial philosophy through the British. Thus, in seeking only power rather than seeking God and true faith, they lost that power. Truly, in looking at history, that sort of outlook in conquering people in the name of making the world a better place never holds up for very long – both the Muslim empires and the British Empire eventually ended. However, due to the true believers and carriers of faith, religions such as Islam have lasted for centuries upon centuries. Perhaps something can be learned from the “Answerer” of Iqbal’s work, as it would appear that true virtue and faith better withstands the test of time than false rationalization.

Original Text of the hymn, Jerusalem, often regarded as an anthem of Imperial Britain:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills.

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O Clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land!


Selected text from Iqbal’s Complaint and Answer, corresponding to the recording:

It was we and we alone who marched,
Thy soldiers to the fight,
Now upon the land engaging, now
Embattled on the sea,
The triumphant Call to Prayer in
Europe’s churches to recite,
Through the wastes of Africa to
Summon men to worship thee. (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 8)

…Who redeemed the human species
from the chains of slavery?
Clutching to their fervent bosoms the
Quran in ecstasy?
Who were they? They were your
Fathers; as for now, why, what are
Squatting snug, serenely waiting for
to-morrow to come true? (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 47)

But that infidels should own the
houris and the palaces – ah woe!
While wretched Muslims must with
Promises contended be.
Now no more for us Thy favours and
Thy old benevolence –
How and wherefore is Thy pristine
Kindliness departed hence? (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 18)

Did you say that Muslims must with
Promises contended be?
That is a complaint unfounded, and
By commonsense abhorred;
The Creator’s law is justice, out of
all eternity –
Infidels who live like Muslims surely
merit Faith’s reward. (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 48)

Far from the commotioned meadow
We sit silently and dream,
Dream, Thy lovers, of Thy coming,
and the cry of “He, the King!”
Reawaken in Thy moths the eager
joy to be aflame,
Bid again the ancient lightnings brand
Our bosoms with Thy name! (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 27)

From the dust of a fixed homeland is
Thy skirt forever free,
Thou a Jospeh art whose Canaan is in
every Egypt found; (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 64)
Be thou faithful to Muhammad, and
We yield Ourself to thee;
Not this world alone – the Tablet and
The Pen thy prize shall be. (Iqbal, trans. Arberry, page 72)

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