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The Secrets of the Self, by Muhammad Iqbal, tr. by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1920], at

p. 48


A tale of which the moral is that negation of the Self is a doctrine invented by the subject races of mankind in order that by this means they may sap and weaken the character of their rulers.

Hast thou heard that in the time of old
The sheep dwelling in a certain pasture
So increased and multiplied
540 That they feared no enemy?
At last, from the malice of Fate,
Their breasts were smitten by a shaft of calamity.
The tigers sprang forth from the jungle
And rushed upon the sheepfold.

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Conquest and dominion are signs of strength, 545
Victory is the manifestation of strength.
Those fierce tigers beat the drum of sovereignty,
They deprived the sheep of freedom.
Forasmuch as tigers must have their prey,
That meadow was crimsoned with the blood of the sheep. 550
One of the sheep which was clever and acute,
Old in years, cunning as a weather-beaten wolf,
Being grieved at the fate of his fellows
And sorely vexed by the violence of the tigers,
Made complaint of the course of Destiny 555
And sought by craft to restore his fortunes.
The weak man, in order to preserve himself,

p. 50

Seeks devices from skilled intelligence.
In slavery, for the sake of repelling harm,
560 The power of scheming becomes quickened,
And when the madness of revenge gains hold,
The mind of the slave meditates rebellion.
"Ours is a hard knot," said this sheep to himself,
"The ocean of our griefs hath no shore.
565 By force we sheep cannot escape from the tiger:
Our legs are silver, his paws are steel.
’Tis not possible, however much one exhorts and counsels,
To create in a sheep the disposition of a wolf.
But to make the furious tiger a sheep—that is possible;
570 To make him unmindful of his nature—that is possible."

p. 51

He became as a prophet inspired,
And began to preach to the blood-thirsty tigers.
He cried out, "O ye insolent liars,
Who wot not of a day of ill luck that shall continue for ever! 1
I am possessed of spiritual power, 575
I am an apostle sent by God for the tigers.
I come as a light for the eye that is dark,
I come to establish laws and give commandments.
Repent of your blameworthy deeds!
O plotters of evil, bethink yourselves of good! 580
Whoso is violent and strong is miserable:
Life's solidity depends on self-denial.
The spirit of the righteous is fed by fodder:
The vegetarian is pleasing unto God.

p. 52

585 The sharpness of your teeth brings disgrace upon you
And makes the eye of your perception blind.
Paradise is for the weak alone,
Strength is but a means to perdition.
It is wicked to seek greatness and glory,
590 Penury is sweeter than princedom.
Lightning does not threaten the corn-seed:
If the seed become a stack, it is unwise.
If you are sensible, you will be a mote of sand, not a Sahara,
So that you may enjoy the sunbeams.
595 O thou that delightest in the slaughter of sheep,
Slay thy self, and thou wilt have honour!
Life is rendered unstable
By violence, oppression, revenge, and exercise of power.

p. 53

Though trodden underfoot, the grass grows up time after time
And washes the sleep of death from its eye again and again. 600
Forget thy self, if thou art wise!
If thou dost not forget thy self, thou art mad.
Close thine eyes, close thine ears, close thy lips, 1
That thy thought may reach the lofty sky!
This pasturage of the world is naught, naught: 605
O fool, do not torment thyself for a phantom!"
The tiger-tribe was exhausted by hard struggles,
They had set their hearts on enjoyment of luxury.
This soporific advice pleased them,
In their stupidity they swallowed the charm of the sheep. 610

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He that used to make sheep his prey
Now embraced a sheep's religion.
'flee tigers took kindly to a diet of fodder:
At length their tigerish nature was broken.
615 The fodder blunted their teeth
And put out the awful flashings of their eyes.
By degrees courage ebbed from their breasts,
The sheen departed from the mirror.
That frenzy of uttermost exertion remained not,
620 That craving after action dwelt in their hearts no more.
They lost the power of ruling and the resolution to be independent,
They lost reputation, prestige, and fortune.
Their paws that were as iron became strengthless;

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Their souls died and their bodies became tombs.
Bodily strength diminished while spiritual fear increased: 625
Spiritual fear robbed them of courage.
Lack of courage produced a hundred diseases—
Poverty, pusillanimity, lowmindedness.
The wakeful tiger was lulled to slumber by the sheep's charm:
He called his decline Moral Culture. 630


51:1 These expressions are borrowed from the Koran.

53:1 Quoted from the Masnaví.

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