The sky of Jupiter, Iqbal in conversation with the Devil and heretics

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New stage of Iqbal’s journey will be Jupiter, where he will meet 4 of the greatest “heretics” in the Islamic world: Hallaj, Tahirih, Mirza Ghalib and Shaytan himself


I: Why go away from the house of believers? What does this mean separating you from Paradise?

H: The spirit of a free man, who knows good and evil, cannot be contained by a paradise! The priests’ paradise is wine, huri and beautiful boys, the paradise of the free is an eternal motion of discovery! The priests’ paradise is eating, sleeping and singing, the lover’s paradise is the contemplation of Being. The universal judgment of the priests is the splitting of the sepulchres and the ringing of the trumpets, the impetuous love is itself the Dawn of the Resurrection.

[…] Our love is free from fears, although it is not foreign to tears of drunkenness. This heart of ours subjugated by destiny is not in reality subjugated; our arrow does not come from the gaze of the black-eyed maidens. Our fire is nourished by separation, separation suits us.

Living without a thorn in the heart is not living; you must live with the fire always under your feet! Living in this way is the fate of the ego, and it is precisely with this destiny that the ego is rebuilt; if an atom, due to its infinite desire, becomes an object of envy for the sun, the nine heavens enter its breast! When desire makes impetus on the world, contingent beings makes them eternal and immortal!


With this passage we immediately become aware of why these characters are not in Heaven but on Jupiter: because of their going “beyond Good and Evil”. All those who will be presented to us on this star are in fact figures who, according to the Poet, rejected the Celestial Hermitage. Hallaj, in particular, is considered a sort of “great heretic” in Islamic history, in that, in the midst of a mystical ecstasy, he pronounced the phrase: “Ana l-Haq”, which even led him to a violent capital punishment.

This statement has several possible translations, the most correct of which is, however: “I am the True / the Truth”. Why so much violence for a trivial sentence? Because al Haq is also one of the 99 names of Allah, this, according to the jurists of the time, therefore means to claim to be “God”, probably one of the most serious sins of all Islam. It must be said, however, that it was immediately clear that al Hallaj was not referring to the fact that “his physical person” is God, but to something deeper and that kept some of the major theologians of the world engaged for 7 months Islamic.

According to the most widespread opinion today, he meant that his soul, in that precise moment, had an experience of such great closeness to God that it almost merged with that of the Creator. For much of the Sufi world, in fact, the soul is basically that part of Allah that has placed in us, a continuous and constant link with the divine which, if cultivated, allows experiences of the latter almost union. In this light, however, the reason for his presence on Jupiter is clear: the one who first went “further”.


Even from the sin of the mad servant new creatures may arise; unlimited love tears every veil, kidnaps every old thing! And in the end he has a rope and a gallows: one does not return alive from the Beloved! Look at the reflection of your face in the cities and in the countryside, do not think that you have disappeared from the world! It is hide in the intimate bosom of each era: how could it be contained in this solitude?


Like every character in this chapter, a brief introduction is also needed for Tahira in order to fully understand its message and its presence here. She was in fact one of the fairs belonging to the Bab and Baha’i movement, of which Alessandro Bausani, translator of this book, was part. This movement arose in Persia in the first half of the nineteenth century and saw as its firm point: “the affirmation of the successive revelations of the Divine through the various Prophets, whose line is not closed, but will continue indefinitely in ever more refined and less religious rituals.

Given this premise, everything becomes absolutely clear, including the reason for their “heresy”. According to Islam, in fact, Muhammad was “the Seal of the Prophets”, or the last to be able to bring the divine Message. It is no coincidence that in the last revealed verse it is written: Today I made your religion perfect, I completed My grace for you and I liked to give you Islam as a religion. The Bahai and Bab movement was considered “heretical” precisely because of his belief in a revelation equal to that of Muhammad but after his departure.

Mirza Ghalib

I: Hundreds of worlds are found in this blue expanse: perhaps that every world has its saints and its prophets?

Gh: Consider this being and non-being well: the worlds come to light chasing each other, and wherever the tumultuous clamor of a world rises, there is also the one who is “mercy for the world” [.

I: I have not yet discovered the face of the meaning of all this secret: burn me, if you have fire!

Gh: Oh you, who like me see with sharp eyes the secrets of poetry, know that these things are far beyond the summit of sweet verses. The poets have adorned the banquet of the word, they are Moses who speak with God, but without having the “white hand”. What you ask me is blasphemy and disbelief is beyond poetry!

Mirza Ghalib

In this passage there is a close dialogue between Iqbal and what, at least in some respects, was his teacher: Mirza Ghalib. The latter lived in the early part of the nineteenth century and was considered one of the most unique characters in the entire Islamic world, so much so that he is still considered one of the greatest poets of Indo-Persian literature. Among his most famous thoughts, and certainly his reason for his presence here, there is for example the alleged boredom that would lodge in Paradise, which would have pushed him, according to Iqbal, to move away from it.

In this particular text, the theme previously seen with Tahira is taken up, although it refers to different concepts by virtue of the nature of Mirza Ghalib. The faith of the latter was never doubted and it is in fact very probable, even as the speech proceeds, that the first part refers to pre-Islamic prophets (such as Buddha, Zoroaster etc …) and the second just remind the reader that “the Prophecy has closed”.

The Devil

I said to him: “Give up your cult of separation, since it is written:” the most hateful thing to me is divorce! “He replied:” Separation is part of the essential patrimony of life: how beautiful the thrill of the day of separation! The word “union” never forms on my lips, if I desire union there is no longer me or him! “The word” union “made him come out of himself, burning and painful ardor was renewed in his chest. He wrapped himself a little in his smoke, then disappeared among thick black twists, but a lament arose from that smoke: O happy soul who knows how to be grieved!

“Oh Lord of the Just and the Unjust, I am tired, annihilated by the company of Man! He never rebelled against my dominion; he closed the eyes of his I, he never found himself! His dust is foreign to the taste of the rebellious refusal, unaware of the spark of Power! The prey says to the hunter: take me! God escape us from an overly obedient servant! Free me, O Lord, from this prey, remember the obedience that I lent you yesterday!

A Marid

This sort of “heretic group” ends with “the Heretic” par excellence: Shaytan, the Devil. Like every character in Iqbal’s work (excluding the suffragette), the latter is also studied in depth from a philosophical point of view, immediately showing its function. Paradoxically, in fact, it is necessary for Evil to exist for Good to exist, and precisely to this the expression refers: “The word” union “never forms on my lips, if I desire union there is no longer either nor he! “ How could it be possible to distinguish the Just from the Wrong when both are One?

From this point of view, Iqbal’s Shaytan is very reminiscent of the Englishman John Milton who, in his Lost Paradise of 1667, first tried to humanize the Devil by giving him “his version”. Like that of his Anglo-Saxon predecessor, Iqbal’s Demon also proves intolerant for the task entrusted to him, but in this case the Indian poet goes even further, representing a figure who has traits at the limit of the comedian. Here Shaytan does not appear as much as a “hero of the evil one”, but rather as a servant able to perform an ungrateful and depressing task, with humans who, instead of facing him, fall into it like mussels, so much so that Evil itself cannot take any more .

A very interesting and singular image but one that should not push the reader to misunderstand the message; who, however, does not intend to take away from Shaytan the evil actions that the latter carried out in the past, but rather to contextualize him within a divine order of which he is the bearing mechanism.

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