Book of Slavery
‘The Book of Slavery’,
constituting the final section of Persian
Psalms, marks a significant point in the
unfolding of Iqbal’s views about art and literature.
In the first book,
Secrets and Mysteries,
he differentiated between two types of poets: (a) those
presenting beauty and hope, who lead their followers to
success; and (b) those presenting ugliness and dead ideas,
who lead their followers to destruction. With some exceptions
like Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib and Bahadur Shah Zafar,
the poetry produced in the Muslim East since its political
decline in the eighteenth century was usually seen as belonging
to the second category, which needed to be shunned.
Therefore, in the second
book, The Message of the East
(1923), the readers are reminded in unmistakable terms
that the tables have turned since the World War I (1914-1918).
In the near future, the West was going to be the most likely
source of unhealthy trends in art and literature, and might
even become the greatest patron of that decadent mysticism
which was being expelled from the East for good reasons.
This is further elaborated in the third book, The
Call of the Marching Bell (1924), where the poet
shows how stepping aside from the downward movement of Western
art and thought enabled him personally to arrive at a fresh
vision of the destiny of the world.
Examples of the decadent
trends in painting, music and religion of “the slaves”
are listed in ‘The Book of Slavery’ in the next
volume. The title need not mislead us: “the slaves”
are not necessarily the peoples of the East who are enslaved
by colonialism. The colonial masters themselves –
who would not be the colonial masters for much longer in
any case – are equally entitled to be placed in the
category of “slaves” as used in this work (and
Iqbal drops a hint by saying, “The fetters are not
on feet, but on the heart and the soul – Oh, wonder!”).