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A miscellany of writings 
on Pakistan 

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First published 1955 
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IN 1947 the British Indian Empire was replaced by two 
successor States, India and Pakistan. Of these Pakistan was 
a new name. Its two wings situated in the north-west and 
north-east of the sub-continent joined to form a State a State 
of sub-continental marches. 

West Pakistan, an area stretching from the Karakoram and 
the Western Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, is irrigated by the 
Indus and its tributaries. It corresponds in extent, more or less, 
to the region where the prehistoric civilization of Mohenjo 
Daro thrived, contemporary in antiquity with the Sumerians 
and the ancient Egyptians, over two thousand years before the 
Christian era. In historical times the empire of the Achsemenids 
stretched well into this region, and brought in its wake the 
Hellenizing influence of Alexander's conquest Here the art of 
Gandhara synthesized in a rare combination the serenity of the 
Buddhist faith with the representational beauty of Greek sculp- 
ture. Only once in history was the region which is to-day 
West Pakistan a part of a Hindu Empire that of the Mauryas 
which, however, in the third generation turned Buddhist under 
the zealous leadership of the Great Asoka. Soon North-west 
Pakistan became a centre of Buddhist faith, under the Kushans, 
who ruled from their capital at Parashpura (modern Peshawar) 
an empire that stretched from Turkestan to the Arabian Sea, 
Under their benevolent rule the Mahayana School of Bud- 
dhism was perfected and carried across Tien Shan and the 
Mongolian deserts to the Far East. 

With the advent of Islam, South-west Pakistan soon became 
a Province of a Muslim Empire that stretched from the Indus 
to the middle reaches of the Rhone. This was followed a 
couple of centuries later by the conquest of North-west 


Pakistan by Muslim Turks who built new empires across 
Northern India and conquered the Eastern marches which 
to-day constitute East Bengal. 

East Bengal, a land of many waters, fertility, and marshland 
throughout history, resisted the hegemony of the Hindu India. 
It became first a stronghold of Buddhism, then of Islam which 
was brought to its shores and estuaries by wave after wave of 
traders and saints who converted many other countries of 
South-east Asia to their faith, including Malaya and Indonesia. 

Pakistan is a new country, but it has an ancient background 
and an old culture which it shares with the Middle East. It has 
inherited the art of painting from the Moguls who in their turn 
derived their inspiration from the Chinese. The Persian 
language has deeply influenced its literature, languages, and 
dialects. It developed a classical pattern of music which was 
accepted as perfect all over the sub-continent. 

With the decline of the Moguls, the Muslim culture of the 
sub-continent received a set-back. The impact of Western 
civilization gave it, however, a new impetus after 1857 which 
culminated in the inspiring philosophy and poetry of Iqbal 
(d. 1938) and the political achievement of Pakistan by Moham- 
mad Alijinnah. 

This volume consists of contributions by a number of 
Western and Pakistani schokrs on various aspects of the culture 
and heritage of Pakistan. These articles have been reprinted by 
the kind permission of the authors. 



by Arnold J. Toynbee, D.LItt, Litt.D., D.C.L., 

Director of Studies in the Royal Institute of Inter- 
national Affairs. Research Professor of International 
History, University of London 


by V. Gordon Childe, DXitt, D.Sc., F.B.A., 
RR.A.L, F.S.A. 

Scot. Professor of Prehistoric European Archaeology, 
University of London. Director of the Institute of 
Archaeology, London 


by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, C.I.E., M.C., M.A., 
DXitt, F.B.A., F.S.A. 

Professor of Archaeology of the Roman Provinces, 
University of London. Sometime Adviser in Arch- 
aeology to the Dominion of Pakistan 


by Norman Brown, A.B., Ph.D. 

Professor of Sanscrit, University of Pennsylvania 


by Leslie Alcock 

Sometime Superintendent of Exploration and Ex- 
cavation, Archaeological Survey of Pakistan 


by M. Sprengling, Ph.D, 

Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages and Litera- 
ture, University of Chicago 




by Emily Polk 


by Winifred Holmes 


by S. Amjad Ali 
Editor, Pakistan Quarterly 


by Eric C. Dickinson, M.A. 

Late Principal, Sadiq Egerton College, Bahawalpur 


by Jalaluddin Ahmed 


by Ahmed S. Bokhari, OLE., M.A. 
Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations 


SCENE 120 

by Benjamin Gilbert Brooks, Ph.D. 
Professor of English, University of Peshawar 


WEST 131 

by Alessandro Bausani 

Professor of Muslim Institutions, Institute for the 

Middle and Far East 


by JJ. Houben, Ph.D. 

Professor of Arabic and Islamic Philosophy and 

Theology, University of Nijmegen 


by Alessandro Bausani 

Professor of Muslim Institutions, Institute for the 

Middle and Far East 



facing page 

Bust of a bearded man. Mohenjo Daro, third millen- 
nium B.C. ........ 22 

(Department of Archeology, Pakistan] 

Bronze statuette of a dancing girl found at Mohenjo 

Daro ......... 22 

(Archeological Survey of India) 

Copper bull from Mohenjo Daro .... 22 

Toy climbing monkey. Harappa, third millennium B.C. 22 
(Department of Archeology, Pakistan] 

Mohenjo Daro. View of a well, with drain beyond . 23 

Steatite seals from Mohenjo Daro .... 23 
(Department of Archeology, Pakistan) 

Steatite vessel from Susa with a fragment of a vessel 
from Mohenjo Daro . . . . . . 38 

(Louvre, Paris, and Archeological Survey of India] 

Painted pottery vase. Harappa, second miUentiium B.C. 38 
(Department of Archeology, Pakistan) 

Decorated clay tumbler and goblet, and a ladle. Balu- 
chistan ........ 39 

(Department of Archeology, Pakistan) 

Stone and bone implements unearthed near Kile Ghul 
Mohammad, Baluchistan ..... 39 
(Department of Archeology, Pakistan) 


facing page 

Babur holds the citadel of Andajan against the forces of 
Sultan Ahmed Mirza. An early Mogul miniature . 70 
(British Museum) 

A page from Sa'di's Gulistan with miniatures probably 
by Manohar. Mogul school ..... 71 
(Royal Asiatic Society) 

Page from MS. copy of the Akbar-namah illustrated by 
Basavan (outline) andDharmDas (painting). Mogul 

school, late i6th century 86 

(Victoria and Albert Museum, Crown copyright) 

Akbar inspecting a captured wild elephant. Mogul 
school, late i6th or early I7th century ... 87 
(Victoria and Albert Museum, Crown copyright) 

Falcon on a perch. Mogul school, about 1630-40 . 102 
(British Museum) 

Chenar tree, hunter and animals. Attributed to Abul 
al-Zaman. Early I7th century .... 102 
(India Office Library) 

Raven addressing the animals. An illustration to a 

fable. Mogul school, 1590 103 

(British Museum) 

"The Miracle of the Prophet Elie." An illustration by 
Mir Sayyid Ali from the Amir HamzaL 1 6th century 1 1 8 
(British Museum) 

"Ztibeida Khatoon", a good example of the highly 
wrought work of Chughtai up 

"Sisters" by Zainul Abedin 



\ /I r HEN ^ ^ o k at Pakistan, I see in her a characteristic sample 
f V of the contemporary world. Pakistan is the child of 
encounter and strife, and the rest of the contemporary world 
has been moulded by the same forces. 

The world as a whole is suffering to-day from the sudden 
confrontation, at close quarters, of races, civilizations, and 
religions that have lived in isolation from one another in the 
past. Suddenly as a result of 'the annihilation of distance' by 
technology we have been compelled to live together on 
intimate terms, before we have had time to get to know and to 
understand one another and to adjust our behaviour to our 
neighbours' behaviour. This is a dangerous situation, and it is 
bound to last for some time, since technology has brought us 
all into physical juxtaposition far more quickly than the human 
psyche can adapt itself to this new physical situation. The 
psyche has a pace of its own, and, like a goat's or a mule's pace, 
this is a slow pace that cannot be speeded up. 

-Now in Pakistan I see the modem world's situation and 
problem in miniature. Pakistan is a child of the strife that has 
arisen from the impact of Islam upon Hinduism. It is nearly a 
thousand years since Islam began to establish itself in India as a 
whole, and more than twelve hundred years since it gained its 
first footing in Sind and Multan. Yet the pace of the psyche's 



self-adjustment is so slow that, in A.D. 1947, the Muslim com- 
munity in the Indian sub-continent decided that there was still 
not enough common ground between Muslims and Hindus to 
enable the two communities to remain united under a single 
government; now the people of the former British Indian 
Empire were to be fully self-governing. 

This is no doubt in crude and over-simplified terms a true 
account, I believe, of the feeling that brought Pakistan into 
existence as a State. Now that Pakistan is a going concern, 
what is she going to live for and to work for? 

One thing that Pakistan obviously does stand for already is 
the transcending of physical and linguistic differences by a 
common religion. If, in Pakistan, political allegiance were to 
be decided on lines of race or language, Pakistan would imme- 
diately fall to pieces. Fortunately, a common adherence to 
Islam has proved itself a stronger spiritual force among 
Pakistani Muslims than differences which otherwise might 
have been disruptive. 

A common adherence to Islam is manifestly a force that 
binds a majority of the people of Pakistan together; but now I 
am going to venture onto more controversial ground. I should 
say that it would be a calamity if Pakistan were ever to become 
a Muslim state in an exclusive and intolerant way, for then 
Islam might become a far more disruptive force than the racial 
and linguistic differences which Islam at present overrides. For 
one thing, Pakistani Islam is not unitary; the Shi'ah and the 
Ahmadiyah, as well as the Sunnah, are represented in it, and for 
this reason, so it seems to me, Pakistan could never be identi- 
fied, as some Islamic countries can be, with some particular 
Islamic sect. And then Pakistan contains numerous and valu- 
able minorities particularly a Hindu minority and a Sikh one. 
The majority community and the several minority com- 
munities in Pakistan have the task of living together as fellow 
citizens and, more than that, as friends. In so far as they 
succeed in achieving this, they will be doing a piece of pioneer 


spiritual work, not only for themselves, but for the world as a 

Moreover, Pakistan cannot live without good relations, not 
only between her own citizens, but between herself and her 
neighbours. While there is a Hindu and a Sikh minority in 
Pakistan, there is also a Muslim minority in the Indian Union. 
If all goes well, these minorities across the frontier should 
be, not hostages, but ambassadors and interpreters, helping 
Pakistan and the Indian Union to live as good neighbours. 
Pakistan and the Indian Union are tied to one- another by 
unalterable facts of geography; for nothing can alter the fact 
that the Indian Union has portions of Pakistan on both sides of 
her, while, conversely, Eastern Pakistan is separated from the 
Indus Valley by the whole breadth of the Indian Union. 
Pakistan is, of course, also closely bound up with the Islamic 
countries immediately to the west of her. On her frontier with 
Afghanistan, the British bequeathed to Pakistan the unsolved 
problem of the Pathan highlanders. This problem which is 
perhaps, at bottom, not a military but an economic one is a 
common concern of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The high- 
landers along this frontier are, I suppose, to-day in much 
the same stage of social development as the Scottish high- 
landers were in, let us say, 1753. At that date the Scottish 
highlanders were on the eve of a rapid social transformation. 
Perhaps the same destiny is awaiting the Pathan highlanders 

When I look at the present political map of Pakistan and her 
neighbours, I am reminded of older political maps of the same 
region. Pakistan and Afghanistan, between them, cover much 
the same area as the Kushan Empire in the first and second 
centuries of the Christian Era and as the Bactrian Greek Empire 
in the second century B.C. A landlocked country astride the 
Hindu Kush finds its easiest outlet to the sea at the mouth of 
the River Indus. I should guess that Karachi has a great future 
as a port with a vast economic hinterland, besides her future as 



the political capital of a country of eighty million inhabitants 
whose population is still rapidly increasing. 

Perhaps this population problem will be the most serious one 
that Pakistan will have to grapple with in the next chapter of 
her history. The pressure of population is, I suppose, already 
acute in Eastern Pakistan, and even in "Western Pakistan the 
future possibilities of water conservation and irrigation are not 
unlimited. This, too, is a problem that is common to the whole 
world, and we have no hope of solving it without world-wide 



FOR archaeology and ancient history the disinterment of the 
Indus civilization is still the most important event of the 
twentieth century. Till 1918 no one had dreamed that in the 
valley of the Indus existed a literate civilization fully compar- 
able to those that flourished in the valleys of the Nile and the 
Tigris-Euphrates between 3000 and 2000 B.C. History, if such 
it could be called, seemed to begin with the unwritten hymns 
of the apparently illiterate Aryans who invaded the Punjab at 
some indeterminate date long after 2000 B.C. "Cities* (gurah} 
were indeed mentioned in the hymns, but purah were inter- 
preted in the light of the hill-top refuges and fortified villages 
built by the barbarian Celts in Britain before the invasion of 
Julius Csesar. Yet these illiterates were supposed to have 
brought to the Indus Valley from the west such rudiments of 
higher culture as metallurgy and the wheel, if not also such 
primary requisites for any progress as stock-breeding and 
agriculture themselves. 

Thereafter a few words in Assyrian tablets (800-650 B.C.) 
gave evidence of some intercourse with the literate West* 
And Darius of Persia about 500 B.C. mentions the Seven River 
Land (Hapta Hindava) as a province of his far-flung Empire. 
But it was only after the annexation of that Empire by Alex- 
ander of Macedon (c. 325 B.C.) that the great sub-continent 
began to figure effectively in the general stream of Ancient 


istoric sites 



o n 

t s"\ k 



The excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro completely 
transformed the scene. They exposed vast, orderly and popu- 
lous cities giving every indication of huge accumulations of 
material and cultural capital, of formal government and of 
literacy that is taken as convenient criterion for distinguishing 
civilization from barbarism. In the sequel the recognition of 
distinctive products of the newly discovered civilization in the 
ruins of Ur, Kish, Eshnunna and other Mesopotamian cities not 
only enabled archaeologists to date these 'prehistoric cities' 
more accurately than any local monument before the Buddhist 
age, but also demonstrated quite regular commercial inter- 
course between these two widely separated areas. A vision of 
regular caravans crossing the mountains and deserts of Iran, of 
fleets of dhows following the coast across the Arabian Sea and 
of Indus merchant colonies established in Ur and Kish, is by no 
means fanciful. The Indian merchant colony at Babylon 
described in the Baveru-Jataka must have had precursors 
before 2000 B.C. and long before Babylon became a capital. 
By that time, then, Pakistan was already in a position to 
contribute to the great cultural heritage transmitted to 
modern Europe and enriched by the Babylonians, Greeks and 

To define that contribution is impossible. The Indus script 
is undeciphered and extant texts do not look as if they would 
be very informative when read. We know a priori that the 
Indus people, just as much as the Babylonians, must have 
organized some of their knowledge as science. A decimal 
numeral notation, a system of socially approved weights and 
measuring instruments afford direct evidence for the science of 
mathematics. They can give no indication whether or not the 
Indus mathematicians had anticipated the remarkable achieve- 
ments of the Babylonians in the direction of place-value, quad- 
ratic equations, series and 'Pythagoras* Theorem' (attested, 
be it noted, only after 1750 B.C.). In art the Indus sculptors 
and modellers may have anticipated the Greeks, but failed to 


influence the formalism of Mesopotamian and Egyptian 
Bronze Age plastic. 

The general outlines of the Harappan civilization will be 
familiar to readers of Sir Mortimer Wheeler s masterly sum- 
mary 5000 Years of Pakistan and Professor Piggott's fuller 
account in Pre-historic India (Pelican). It would be pointless to 
repeat what they have said with greater eloquence and fuller 
knowledge of the country and its remains. But I should like to 
emphasize a few points. 

The Harappan civilization extended uniformly over one 
thousand miles of country, an area four times as big as Baby- 
lonia and twice as big as Egypt where equally uniform cultures 
reigned about the same time. Piggott explains this remarkable 
uniformity of architecture, costume, art, pottery, cult, equip- 
ment and script in political terms. It would correspond to 
unification in a single empire with twin capitals, Mohenjo Daro 
and Harappa. The parallel uniformity of Egyptian civilization 
was demonstrably the counterpart of the unification of the 
Nile valley and delta under the Pharaonic monarchy. On the 
other hand, the equal uniformity of Sumerian culture in Meso- 
potamia was compatible with the political independence and 
jealous rivalry of a number of city states. Which analogy shall 
be applied to prehistoric Pakistan? 

Wheeler has discovered both at Mohenjo Daro and at 
Harappa powerful citadels dominating both cities. His excava- 
tions did not go far enough to decide whether the citadel held 
the palace of a human ruler or the temple of a god. It is not, 
therefore, possible to decide whether cultural uniformity did 
denote political unification. Effective means of communication 
and transport alone can be unquestionably deduced from it. 
In fact the Seven Rivers were moving roads, and the popu- 
larity of model carts and carriages as toys proves how common 
such vehicles must have been at a time barely a thousand years 
after the invention of the wheel itself 

If the political framework of the civilization remains uncer- 



tain, elements of the social structure can be recovered. After 
the first publication of the Harappa excavations the city plans 
themselves disclosed the contrast between a bourgeoisie of pros- 
perous merchants and a proletariat of artisans and labourers. 
The former inhabited commodious two-storeyed houses of 
many apartments, including bathrooms; most had a private 
well and shops or magazines on the ground floor like the 
modern merchants* 'godowns'. In one case such a room was 
fitted up as a water-seller's stall. The workmen's quarters on 
the other hand consist of rows of two-roomed detached 
cottages, each in a small yard. But prior to Wheeler's excava- 
tions one looked in vain for the royal tombs or the temples 
that disclosed the concentration of capital in Egypt and Meso- 
potamia. Yet it could be deduced a priori that concentration 
of wealth was a prerequisite for the transformation of a bar- 
barian village into a literate city. The citadels disclose that the 
social surplus was in fact concentrated in either the Egyptian 
or in the Mesopotamian manner. They enclose or dominate 
great granaries in which food, the indispensable primary form 
of capital wealth, was physically accumulated. To them was 
brought by carts and boats the produce of an extensive country- 
side and from them were supported the urban population that 
did not grow or catch its own food. We do not know how the 
peasant was induced to produce and hand over a surplus of 
food beyond the subsistence needs of his family, nor whether 
the product was paid out in wages to free workmen, as rations 
to corvee labourers or slaves, or on some other system. 

Yet, whatever the exact relations of production, the Indus 
economy certainly worked. It maintained a large population 
and kept going a complex system of production that was 
the basis for an efflorescence of art at a relatively high level 
for at least five hundred years. For judging both by the 
many building periods and the depth of debris in the Indus 
cities and by die time range assigned to typical Harappan im- 
ports in Mesopotamia, it must have lasted about that time. 



But the architecture and relics recovered at all levels are 
astonishingly uniform. Within the passage of even time thus 
represented, no significant progressive nor yet regressive 
changes can be observed in house plans, forms of tool, fashions 
in personal adornment, pot forms and decoration, plastic art, 
seals, script, nor yet in the techniques for their production. 

THs rather monotonous uniformity over a long period is, 
let us insist, really a tribute to the efficiency of the adaptation 
to the environment that the Harappan civilization had rapidly 
achieved. It need not change because it worked so well. At 
the same time it can be called stagnation and stagnation must in 
the end mean death. This stagnation cannot be attributed 
merely to isolation; the well attested commerce with Meso- 
potamia refutes that explanation. It is rather the nemesis of the 
concentration of wealth. Such is indeed essential for the ex- 
pansion of any industrial system from the barbaric stage of 
subsistence agriculture to the civilized level of specialization 
and differentiation of function. But once this has been achieved 
such concentration, by restricting effective purchasing power 
to a tiny closed circle, limits the internal market and prevents 
a demand for popular consumption goods and the labour- 
saving devices that have been the mainspring of technological 
progress further west. Egypt, Mesopotamia and Rome exhibit 
the same contradiction, but less dramatically, for they were 
more exposed to attack and subsequent revival by less civilized 
peoples on their borders. Even in Pakistan collapse came in the 
end. The latest Harappan buildings on several sites exhibit 
obvious sign of impoverishment and decay: the architecture is 
slovenly, the houses are slummy, the town planning regula- 
tions, formerly strictly observed, seem to be ignored. And 
then illiterate barbarians from the west plundered the cities 
and squatted among the ruins. Some band among the 
destroyers is doubtless to be identified with the Vedic Aryans. 
But archaeology alone cannot identify these as they have left 
no written documents to record their presence. 



Though the Indus script is undeciphered, the whole char- 
acter of the Harappan civilization implies that it was pre- 
Aryan; for instance, horse-drawn chariots are indissolubly con- 
nected with peoples of Indo-European speech in the Near 
East, but horses and war chariots are unrepresented in Harappan 
layers. Yet many of the fundamental achievements of the 
Harappan civilization survived the catastrophe and the ensuing 
Dark Age, and live on in the folk culture of modern Pakistan. 
The village carts of Sind are identical, even to wheel span, with 
those that rolled along the broad streets of Harappa and 
Mohenjo Daro, Village potters have preserved unchanged the 
technical traditions of building, embellishing and firing pots 
that were applied four thousand years ago, though they have 
varied shapes and patterns to suit the tastes of fresh customers. 
The same continuity could be illustrated by fashions of per- 
sonal ornament and dress and by surviving pagan cults. All 
exemplify the magnitude of the Indus people's achievement in 
the Harappan Age. 

The Harappan civilization was not brought ready made 
from outside and imposed on Pakistan. It was created in the 
Indus basin, in the environment to which it is so nicely ad- 
justed. But it was not created out of nothing, and the raw 
materials from which it was built up are not native to Punjab 
or Sind. The prime prerequisite of any civilization, the 
'Neolithic' economy of plant cultivation and stock breeding, 
could not have originated on the alluvial plains; for the wild 
grasses from which its wheats and barleys are derived and the 
wild ancestors of domestic sheep are natives of upland regions, 
most probably the Iranian plateau to the west. Metallurgy 
again could only be discovered in the hill countries where ores 
occur in nature. These and other elements must have been 
brought to the Indus valley from outside. But they were not 
introduced already harmoniously blended in a civilization. 

No doubt many of the elements from which the Harappan 
civilization is built up are shared by the contemporary dviMza- 


tions of Mesopotamia and Egypt. A long list of common 
elements could be drawn up, ranging from 'writing', 'wheeled 
vehicles' and the 'potter's wheel' to 'brick architecture', 'the 
metallurgy of copper and bronze' and 'mixed farming'. The 
words all denote bare abstractions. The signs of the Indus 
script are quite unlike Sumerian pictographs or Egyptian 
hieroglyphs; the construction of Harappan carts is peculiar to 
the Indus basin; the sizes of bricks are as different as the plans 
of the houses built therefrom. Even the simplest tools wrought 
by the Harappan copper smiths can be distinguished at a 
glance from those produced by their fellows in Elam, Meso- 
potamia, Egypt or Greece. No doubt these abstract terms 
really denote a diffusion of ideas, inventions and discoveries 
and of the material means of their realization through the 
Middle and Near East. In some cases it may be arguable that 
the Tigris-Euphrates valley can claim priority over the Indus 
basin. For instance, a good case can be made out on general 
theoretical grounds for thinking that the wheel was invented 
and applied to the mass production of pots and to transport in 
Sumer about 3500 B.C. Thence it would have been diffused 
to Iran and so at length to Pakistan. On the other hand, 
McCown would accord priority to Iran and a centre on that 
plateau might accord better with the distribution of the first 
wheel-made pots and wheeled vehicles. But priority in inven- 
tion is a chronological question. We possess a reliable relative 
chronology, i.e., a sequence of culture-periods for Meso- 
potamia, and others, quite independent and rather less precise, 
for parts of western Iran. But no regular interchange of manu- 
factures distinctive of culture-periods yet permits firm and 
precise synchronisms between any two regional sequences. 
McCown's scheme, according priority to Iran, relies on agree- 
ments in the patterns of locally made pots or similarities be- 
tween locally made pins and seals. But such parallels are rather 
ambiguous. There may be a great time lag between the crea- 
tion of a device in one region and its adoption in another, and 



it may likewise enjoy popularity in the one much longer than 
in the other. As a result very divergent chronologies have been 
proposed for Iran. 

The same sort of ambiguities apply to the origin and 
diffusion of intelligent metallurgy. Once more the social and 
economic conditions for the establishment of an organized 
metal industry existed earlier in Sumer than anywhere else, 
and this circumstance has been used as an argument for a 
Mesopotamian origin of intelligent metallurgy (i.e., as con- 
trasted with the use of native copper as a superior sort of stone) 
and in particular of alloying copper with tin to make bronze. 
McCown's chronology for Iran, on the other hand, assigns 
priority in this domain too to the plateau. Now the 'Sumerian* 
copper smiths very early devised some very distinctive and 
practical types of tools and weapons, in particular the shaft- 
hole axe. Now this device was not used in Pakistan in the 
Harappan phase, but was introduced to the Indus Valley by the 
barbarian invaders. In other words, the Harappans, like the 
Egyptians and most Bronze Age Europeans, stuck their axe- 
heads into the split shaft instead of fitting the shaft through a 
hole in the head as we do with iron axes to-day. Hence, if 
the metallurgy of bronze had been diffused eastward from 
Sumer, the process of diffusion must surely have started before 
the Sumerians invented the shaft-hole axe, ie., not much after 
4000 B.C. It is, therefore, perhaps more likely that the funda- 
mental discovery was made on the plateau and subsequently 
diffused both to the West and to the East 

The same sort of arguments will apply even to the Neolithic 
revolution the beginning of farming itself. If then the 
cultural elements enumerated above readied the banks of the 
Indus from the West, that does not mean they started on the 
Tigris; indeed the starting point must not be placed too far 
west. Because the pre-historic deposits of Mesopotamia are 
very deep and very well known and culminate in a precocious 
literate civilization with historical dates, we almost inevitably 



tend to imagine the culture sequence they denote started earlier 
than the village sites of Iran which is less well explored and 
remained illiterate very much longer. For the same sort of 
reasons and their greater proximity to the first sources of 
written history, the sites in the western end of the Iranian 
plateau are liable to be thought older than those on its eastern 
margin in Baluchistan, which have scarcely been explored at 
all But there is as yet no evidence to justify this prejudice. 
Baluchistan lies within the zone where the ancestors of the 
plants and animals on which the later, civilizations of the Near 
and Middle East and Europe are based, grew wild. Anywhere 
within, the Neolithic Revolution could arise. Now the earliest 
expressions of that revolution are the pre-pottery levels of 
Jericho and Jarmo in Kurdistan. But to-day we know a pre- 
pottery neolithic also from Pakistan, from Kile Ghul Moham- 
mad near Quetta! Again later on we have indications of 
neolithic culture in the Zhob valley whose domestic stock 
included specifically eastern zebu cattle (Bos indkus). 

Such observations tend to allow the cradle of Neolithic 
farming to be shifted or rather extended towards the borders 
of Pakistan. The same may turn out to be true of some of the 
later elements that eventually were blended in the Indus valley 
into such a vital organism as the Harappan civilization. At 
present the process of blending the stages in building up the 
Harappan civilization cannot be traced on the spot. Beneath 
the urban Harappan levels at Harappa and Amri are remains 
of simpler villages. The pottery from them suggests relations 
with the Zhob Valley in the first case, and with the Nal Valley 
at Amri. But it is already wheel-made in each case and that 
implies already an advanced stage of culture allowing an 
aggregation of population into large villages. 




PAKISTAN is a new Islamic State but is nevertheless, like its 
older neighbours, a product of historical processes of which 
Islam itself is only the most recent and emphatic. Of its two 
component parts, separated by several hundred miles of India, 
the western and larger can claim an ancestral unity rivalled 
only by that of Egypt. That unity was essentially the work of 
man but was set within a framework defined by nature: with 
the Arabian Sea on the south-west, now dominated by the 
port and capital of Karachi, the Baluchistan and Himalayan 
mountains in the west and north, and the Indian Desert in the 
south-east. The axis of this vast area a thousand miles from 
end to end is the mighty river Indus and its tributaries which, 
with the aid of artifice, fertilize great tracts of good alluvial soil. 
^7ithin this valley and along the coastal plains which flank its 
lower reaches, there flourished more than four thousand years 
ago, under climatic conditions moister and kindlier than those 
which prevail to-day, one of the earliest rivilizatioiis of die 

It was a civilization in the true sense, based upon highly 
organized and wealthy cities, of which two are outstanding. 
These are at Harappa in the Punjab, and Mohenjo Daro or the 
'Mound of the Dead', four hundred miles away in Sind, both 
originally riverside urban settlements some three miles in 
circumference. To-day, after many years of excavation, 



Mohenjo Daro is one of the most spectacular ancient cities of 
the world. Whether it was the undisputed capital of an Indus 
Empire, or whether it shared its leadership with Harappa, it 
was certainly a metropolis of the first order. Let us, with an 
imagination controlled by the results of archaeological excava- 
tion, visit it in its prime, two or three centuries prior to 
2000 B.C., long before time the Indus floods had bitten into its 
derelict streets and houses. 

Instead of approaching the city, as we do to-day, amidst 
sand and dusty tamarisk-bushes, we may suppose that we are 
passing through irrigated fields which in their season bear 
crops of wheat and barley, sesamum and field-peas, and a species 
of rai. Even a cotton plantation may lend variety to the busy 
scene; at any rate, cotton is certainly known to the Indus 
citizens. As we draw near to the suburbs, we pass the 
cemetery where slight oblong mounds, ranged north and south 
like those of Muslim cemeteries, indicate the resting place of 
the city forefathers. Beside and beyond them, smoking kilns 
begin to meet the eye, some for the baking of pottery, others 
for firing the millions of baked bricks used in the construction 
and reconstruction of the city's buildings and defences. And so 
we come at last to the great city itself, with its close-set houses 
and teeming streets. 

We find that the city falls into two somewhat distinct parts, 
a lower and an upper. The latter, towards the western out- 
skirts, is an oblong mound, four hundred yards from north to 
south and two hundred yards from east to west, and massively 
fortified. If for the present purpos6 we transfer to Mohenjo 
Daro the better-known details of the equivalent mound at 
Harappa, we shall see that die fortifications of this citadel for 
thus it may be described stand upon a bank or bund designed 
to protect the base of the defences from the floods which we 
know to have broken through occasionally into the town. 
Merchants from the distant city of Ur in Mesopotamia could 
tell us that their own city-walls stood in part upon a similar 



protective foundation. On the Harappa-Mohenjo Daro bund 
rises a thick wall of mud-brick, forty feet wide but tapering 
upwards to a height of thirty or forty feet, and faced on the 
outside by a skin of baked brick to protect it from the monsoon 
rains. At intervals along it, rectangular towers project, and the 
corners in particular are heavily reinforced in this manner. 
In the northern end the walls turn inward to flank a long 
approach up into the interior and (at Harappa, at any rate) 
other gates on the western side give access to external terraces 
designed for ceremonial. 

Within the walls, the building-level of the citadel is raised 
thirty feet above the plain by an artificial platform or infilling 
of earth and mud-brick; and on this platform, amongst build- 
ings of a more normal sort, stands a series of remarkable 
structures which we assume to be connected with the civic 
administration whether secular or religious or both. One 
of these buildings contains a well-built tank which probably 
serves a ritual function. Another, with solid walls and cloistered 
court, is seemingly the residence of a high official, possibly the 
high priest himself, or perhaps rather a college of priests. Yet 
another is a large pillared hall, designed obviously for cere- 
mony or conference. It is clear enough that this assemblage of 
unique and monumental structures, frowning from its pedestal 
upon the town below, represents the stern, masterful rule of 
which the lower city' also constantly reminds us. 

Before descending from the citadel, however, let us climb 
upon the eastern battlements and survey the lower city from 
above. At our feet, we see the houses and shops stretching for a 
mile towards the broad Indus, where another bund seeks to 
ward off the river that at the same time serves the city and 
threatens it. From beneath the two ends of the citadel, parallel 
streets, some thirty feet broad, stretch away from us and are 
crossed by other straight streets which divide the town-plan 
into great oblong blocks, each four hundred yards in length 
and two hundred or three hundred yards in width. Within 


these blocks, purposeful lanes subdivided the groups of build- 
ings and maintain the general rectangularity of the plan. It is 
clear that the city is no chance-growth. It is drilled and 
regimented by a civic architect whose will is law. 

Even from where we stand, we can see that the streets are 
lined with a remarkable system of brick-covered drains. In 
the nearer distance one of these is being cleaned out by a 
uniformed municipal sanitary squad, at a point where a man- 
hole has been built for the purpose. (Two thousand years later, 
archaeologists will find the heap of debris still lying beside the 
manhole,) But it is the 'hour of cow-dust', when the children 
are driving in the humped cattle and the short-horns and the 
buffaloes from the countryside for the night, along streets 
which, though well-drained, are unpaved; and the dust from 
the herds and from the solid-wheeled 'Sindhf carts and an 
occasional elephant that went amongst them rises high, amongst 
the houses and obscures detail. We can just see that many of 
the houses are of a normal oriental courtyard-plan, the rooms 
grouped round two or more sides of a court or light-well; and 
here and there we can catch a glimpse of a brick staircase lead- 
ing up to a flat roof or an upper storey. For the rest, we must 
descend into the streets themselves. 

There, if we come from some of the ancient cities of the 
West, we are at once struck with the uniformity and monotony 
of the street-architecture, with the absence of monumental 
sculpture or other divertisement. At the best, the severe brick 
walls are coated with mud plaster. In the main streets there are 
few doors and fewer windows; most of the houses are entered 
from the side-lanes, where pie-dogs lurk and chase occasional 
cats, and children play with marbles and with little terracotta 
carts and dolls. Through the doors of some of the better 
houses a glimpse can be obtained of furniture enlivened by 
inky of shell or green-blue faience, but of no great elaboration. 
Here and there a chute in an outside waU discharges waste and 
sewage into a brick-built soil-tank or into a large jar, pending 



the attentions of the busy sanitary squad. Meanwhile, at the 
shop besides us, another municipal squad the Inspectors of 
Weights and Measures is rigorously checking the shop- 
keeper's cubic stone weights against a standard set. All is 
orderly and regulated. At the same time, all is a trifle dull, 
a trifle lacking in the stimulus of individuality. The almost 
unvarying character of the city as a whole from century to 
century is reflected in this absence or suppression of personality 
in its details from street to street. 

This sense of regimentation reaches its climax in a quarter 
where there are sixteen small, identical, two-roomed cottages 
for the housing of slaves or conscripts, reminding us of the 
coolie-quarter which lies between the citadel and the ancient 
river-bed at Harappa. There, again behind two rows of coolie- 
cottages, are serried lines of circular brick platforms for the 
pounding of grain in central mortars, and behind these in turn, 
significantly near to the river and its shipping, He parallel lines 
of granaries upon a brick-faced pedestal. At both cities we 
seem to see, as in Mesopotamia, the secular arm of an adminis- 
tration strengthened and straitened by religious sanction; a 
civic discipline rigidly enforced by a king-god or his priest- 

That being so, the more regrettable is it that in our tour of 
the city we have not found a single building which can with 
certainty be described as a temple. It may be that the dust 
has obscured, as to-day a much kter Buddhist stupa obscures, 
the highest point of the citadel, where the chief temple might 
be expected. Nor can we make good the omission at Harappa, 
since there a still more recent obstruction (a cemetery) will 
baffle the archaeologist. For the religion and ritual of these 
cities we must console ourselves with lesser relics. Thus terra- 
cotta figurines of women seem to show that a Mother-goddess 
played some part at least in domestic ritual, and there are sug- 
gestions of a form of phallus-worship. Seal-representations 
of a three-faced and homed male god squatting with legs 



bent double and surrounded, on one seal, by an elephant, a 
tiger, a rhinoceros and a buffalo, suggest a forerunner of the 
Hindu Siva. There are also many indications on seals and 
pottery that trees, particularly thepipal or sacred fig tree, were 
worshipped, as widely as in India to-day. Animals, notably 
the bull, which is sometimes accompanied by a so-called 'sacred 
brazier' or manger, were apparently objects of veneration, and 
composite animals, such as one with a human face, an elephant's 
trunk, the forequarters of a bull and the hindquarters of a tiger, 
presumably represent a synthesis of animal-cults. Snakes may 
also have been worshipped, and here again many parallels may 
be found in modern India. Altogether it is likely that the 
religion of the Indus civilization anticipated certain of the 
non-Aryan elements in the Hinduism of a long-subsequent 

But we have not yet left the busy street, with its seething 
population. The dress of the local citizens is notably scanty 
but, so far as it goes, ornamental. The women wear a short 
skirt held by a girdle which may be adorned with beads. 
Above the waist, the body is bare save for extensive necklaces 
which are usually of clay or stone beads but are sometimes of 
blue faience or green jadeite or even of gold. The most remark- 
able feature, however, is the fan-shaped headdress worn with 
grave, ceremonious mien by an occasional lady of rank and 
fashion. At the sides of the headdress are pannier-like cloth 
extensions, carefully stiffened and balanced and of grotesque 
aspect to the foreign eye. Of the men, less is to be said. The 
poorer classes are usually naked, the others may wear a loin- 
cloth, and a few, particularly the priests and high officials, are 
wrapped in embroidered cloaks. Many of them are bearded, 
but the seniors sometimes shave the upper lip in accordance 
with a hieratic fashion more at home in the neighbouring 
civilization of Sumer. 

Let us peer at the passers-by more closely. We find that 
about half of them are of medium height and slender build, 



witli olive complexion, dark hair, long Head and fine features. 
Similar men and women of this attractive appearance might be 
found in many places, from the western Mediterranean to 
southern Arabia and India. Amongst them are a few of smaller 
stature, dark, with curly black hair and pronounced lips, of an 
aspect recalling that of some of the 'aboriginals' of the Indian 
peninsula. Aja occasional passenger has a broad head with 
regular but rugged features. Of mixed type is a priest with 
beard and shaven lip and a woven fillet round his hair, whose 
advent is received with obsequiousness by all within range. 
And, striding amongst them in his Turkoman boots, is an 
almond-eyed Mongolian who came in this morning after a 
moonlight trek with a camel-caravan which has brought a 
mixed cargo of dried fruits and blue lapis lazuli and turquoise 
from Afghanistan and Iran. In brief, the human scene is as 
cosmopoEtan as such scenes are wont to be. 

One perennial feature of our surroundings continues to 
evade us: the language which many of these folk are speaking 
and which is indicated by clearly rendered but unintelligible 
characters upon goods in the shops and even on some of the 
pottery at the well. We nevertheless glance frequently at the 
seals and sealings bearing these unread characters, for they also 
bear vivid and beautifully engraved representations of animals 
cattle of various kinds, tiger, rhinoceros, elephant, crocodile 
and, as already remarked, the shapes of gods. Only ordinary 
mankind, it seems, is passed over as of no account. Once more, 
we find that the individual is of no great interest to this 
efficient but curiously detached society. 

And so for many centuries these cities endured, scarcely 
varying from age to age, self-satisfied and completely isolated 
from their neighbours outside the Indus valley, save for a thin 
trickle of trade. Sameness, isolation, centralization are the 
abstract qualities of the Indus civilization. It was a civilization 
within an Iron Curtain, which preserved it marvellously intact 


for a thousand years, more or less. Then, about 1500 B.C., 
something happened to it. 

We are once again on the eastern fortifications of the citadel of 
Mohenjo Daro. Before us He the familiar straight streets, stretching 
far away towards the Indus. But otherwise the scene is a very different 
one from the peaceful evening homecoming which we witnessed before. 
Now volumes of smoke and flame are rising from several of the houses 
below us. Led by a gesticulating man in an outlandish chariot drawn 
by two small ponies which are stretched at a fast canter, a horde of 
howling swordsmen is rushing down one of the main streets. By the 
chariot-pole crouches the charioteer, and every now and then the 
swaying figure beside him fits an arrow to a short, stocky bow and 
discharges it into the panic-stricken groups of fleeing citizens.. As we 
watch, a gang of desperadoes turns into one of the side-lanes where 
half a dozen wretched creatures, including a small child, have just 
emerged from a house and are seeking escape. In a moment their 
bodies are sprawling in the dust and their cries cease. A little further 
on, a rash refugee has returned for some treasured knick-knack, and 
he shares the same fate. At another spot a pathetic group of eight or 
nine figures, half of them children, is emerging heavily laden from 
the Quarter of the Ivory Workers. They are surrounded: their 
screams reach a brief crescendo and die away. Their treasures have 
been transferred to other hands, and the looters are thrusting upon their 
way. Elsewhere again, we look down on one of the public well- 
rooms, in which local house-folk were drawing water when death 
came to their city. For a time they have cowered beside the well as the 
screams and the shouting draw steadily nearer. Now they can bear 
the suspense no longer. Two of them are climbing the stairs, have 
reached the street, when the invading mob closes upon them. They 
drop, and are instantly trampled into the sand. A burly fellow with 
raised sword turns on to the well-house stairs and cuts down the 
cowering woman who is struggling up them. She falls backwards 
across the steps, and her companion, still beside the well, is struck 
down instantly. Laden with plunder, the ravening horde sweeps on. 


Bust of a bearded man, possibl) a priest. 
Mohenjo Daro, third millennium B.C. 

Bronze statuette of a dancing 
girl found at Mohenjo Daro 

Left: Copper bull from Mohenjo Daro. 

Right: Toy climbing monkey, made with out-of-alignment holes to check movement 
on a string, Harappa, third millennium B.C. 

Mohenjo Daro. View of a well, with drain beyond 

Steatite seals from Mohenjo Daro 


A part of it is already streaming up the long stairway into the citadel 
on which we stand. It is high time for us to take flight into the future, 
through thirty-four centuries during which the poor bones of the 
massacred will lie there in the derelict streets and lanes until twentieth- 
century archczologists shall dig and find them where they, with their 
age-long civilization, perished within the hour. 

It remains to expand this story a little in tke colder light of 
science and literature. Recent revisions make it clear that the 
Indus civilization was still living in the early centuries of the 
second millennium B.C. It was succeeded by a variety of 
(materially) inferior cultures, in some cases after a phase of 
violence. Into this picture it is difficult not to bring the evidence 
of the earliest literature of India, the Rig Veda, which is agreed 
to represent, from the Aryan point of view and in the vague 
way of a hieratic hymnal, the conditions of the invasion of the 
Punjab by the Aryans at a date which, on archaeological and 
other grounds, is now commonly ascribed to the fifteenth 
century B.C. The Vedic hymns make it clear that the mobile, 
city-less invaders differed at every point from the long-static 
citizens whom they invaded. The term used for the cities of 
the aborigines means a Tort' or 'stronghold*. Indra, the Aryan 
war-god, is called the Tort-destroyer*. He shatters a hundred 
'ancient castles' of the aboriginal leader. He 'rends forts as age 
consumes a garment'. 

Where are or were these native citadels? It has in the 
past been supposed that they were mythical or, at the best, 
mere palisaded refuges. But, since the discovery of fortifications 
at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in 1944, we know that at least 
the administrative nucleus of these great cities was strongly 
fortified. "We know too that lesser sites of the same civilization 
could boast defensive walls of stone, stone^-and-mud, or brick. 
The general showing, then, is that of a highly evolved 'abori- 
ginal' civilization of essentially non-Aryan type, now known 
to have employed massive fortifications, and known also to 


have dominated the river-system of Pakistan at a time not 
distant from the likely period of the earlier Aryan invasions of 
that region. What destroyed this firmly settled civilization? 
Climatic, economic, political deterioration may have weak- 
ened it, but its ultimate extinction is more likely to have been 
completed by deliberate and large-scale destruction. On 
circumstantial evidence, Indra and his Aryans stand accused. 
It is now generally accepted that the Indus cities were in fact 
those referred to in the Rig Veda, and that they were destroyed 
by Aryan invaders in or about the fifteenth century B.C. 



WESTERN Pakistan is a region which has been conspicu- 
ously important in the development of civilization. This 
is not merely because the Indus Valley and the adjacent areas 
west of it were the seats of early civilizations, "and rank in that 
respect only a little later than ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. 
Doubtless everyone is aware of the numerous archaeological 
sites of the third millennium B.C. there, the chief of which were 
first publicly reported in 1924 no more than thirty years ago. 
The importance also lies in the fact that in the area of Western 
Pakistan cultural blending, with the development of new forms 
of civilization, has been in progress throughout the entire 
period of its recorded history and doubtless in even earlier 
periods for which we lack historical documents but have 
archaeological data, of other sorts. The effects of this cultural 
blending have been felt not only in what is now Western 
Pakistan but throughout the entire Indo-Pakistan. sub-con- 
tinent. It is the purpose of this article to deal with this aspect of 
Western Pakistan's pre-history and history, making reference 
to the various periods in which cultures have met there. 

The basis of the phenomenon has been the constantly recur- 
ring intrusion into the area of new forces of civilization from 
the west and north-west. There they would meet a dvilization 
compounded of other forces which had altered previously from 
the same direction and the civilization which had been evolving 
in the main portion of the sub-continent. A fact of geography 
is influential in this connection. The Indb-Pakistan sub- 


continent is well protected at almost all points by natural bar- 
riers of mountain, desert, jungle, marsh, or sea. Only the 
north-western and western sides, in spite of notable mountain 
and desert protection, have passes penetrable by large bodies of 
men. These have left it vulnerable to a strong power, and they 
have been pierced, at least in historic times, by a number of 
invasions which have seriously affected the sub-continent's life. 

Further, the traf&c has generally been one-way. The passes 
have served for admitting elements of civilization to the sub- 
continent much more than for exporting it. West of the passes 
lay regions of low economic resources and development, which 
offered no attraction to the people of the sub-continent. But 
to the people of the western regions, the sub-continent was a 
perpetual lure. Hence through the passes came intrusions of 
many sorts, some ethnic, some for military conquest and rule, 
some for no more than plunder. The most important were the 
ethnic. Through the passes have come peoples from Central 
Asia urged on by hunger or by the pressure of other hungry 
and stronger peoples at their rear. Such movements might 
progress slowly since the people were bringing their herds with 
them. The greatest would eventually alter the whole nature 
of the culture, becoming the dominant elements in the blend, 
imposing their languages or their theology upon their pre- 
decessors. Sometimes an invasion would be checked shortly 
after debouching from the Afghanistan mountains upon the 
plains of the Punjab; sometimes it had a power which carried it 
to the east, the centre, and the south of the sub-continent, perhaps 
in a slow advance that continued for centuries or even millennia. 

When an invasion came through the Khyber or nearby 
passes at the top of the north-western frontier or less seldom, 
the passes lower down that frontier it occupied the first 
irable land below the mountains. Usually this was the upper 
part of the Indus plain. This area in itself did not satisfy most 
nvaders; they wanted more. The directions of further progress 
were fairly well standardized. Invaders who turned south into 



Sind found land of only mediocre araKlity, and, what was 
worse, they might be brought to a dead end against the sea or 
against the great Indian Desert on their left In a few cases they 
seem to have crossed from lower Sind to Cutch, and from there 
to eastern Rajputana and Gujarat. Much more attractive was 
the eastward course from the Punjab, following the Northern 
Indian plain, which extends for a thousand miles between the 
Himalayan range on the north and the hills of Central India on 
the south, varying in width from one hundred to two hundred 
miles, and probably always, as to-day, the sub-continent's most 
important agricultural region. 

An invading element entering the north-west might be 
superimposed upon a predecessor, which was still advancing to- 
wards the east or the south. This phenomenon gives civiliza- 
tion in the sub-continent its most basic feature, which is 
cultural overlap. This is least prevalent in the extreme south. 
It is most apparent in the north, where there exists, especially in 
Uttar Pradesh (formerly known as the United Provinces), the 
greatest amount of cultural mixture. It is less striking to-day in 
the north-west, now constituting Western Pakistan, where the 
latest invading culture, which is the Islamic, has been in 
possession long enough to achieve, through combined military 
domination, demographic operation, and cultural blending, a 
notable degree of homogeneity. 

The result of the process for the north-west has been that 
throughout pre-history it has tended to face two ways cultur- 
ally at once. When a new group entered, it was closer to its 
outside congeners than to elements already existing in the sub- 
continent. Yet, after entering, it was partly isolated by die 
facts of topography from those same congeners. The north- 
west, therefore, has always had double cultural sympathies, in 
part with the region east of it, in part with some region to the 
west or north. Let us see how this has worked during the past 
four thousand or more years, starting with the earliest period 
for which we have records of civilization. 



"We cannot say who were tie earliest inhabitants of the sub- 
continent; we do not know what peoples or people, if any, 
living there to-day, are the descendants of the group which 
first owned civilization there. Our first archaeological data for 
India comes from sites in the Indus Valley which we consider 
were occupied during a period from early in the third millen- 
nium to about the sixteenth century B.C. It belongs to a 
number of separate cultures, of which the most widespread, 
named after the sites where they were first discovered, are the 
'Axnri* or *Amri-NaT, which is probably the oldest, the 
'Harappa', which was the most important, the 'Jhukar', which 
was the last. No one of these closely parallels any culture out- 
side the sub-continent. Nor have we knowledge of corre- 
sponding or even contemporary cultures elsewhere within it, 
not even in the Ganges Valley, which is the place where one 
might be expected to have existed and where archaeologists still 
do not despair of discovering one. Nevertheless partial parallels 
exist, which are suggestive. 

The most important criterion for all is pottery, though the 
Harappa and the Jhukar also have other critical types of 
material. The Amri culture is known so far only in Sind and 
Baluchistan. Its painted pottery has been tentatively associated 
with Obeid ware in Iran of the fourth or third millennia B.C. 
It has no known contemporary or later parallels in India. The 
inference would be that this culture and the people owning it 
entered the Indus Valley from the west. It may have come by 
the passes of the extreme north-west and filtered southward, 
though so far we cannot support that theory by examples of 
Amri ware in the Punjab. Or it may have entered the Indus 
Valley through the Baluchistan passes. "We clearly know too 
little about the Amri culture and its relations to speak with any 
degree of assurance. 

For the Harappa culture, which is by far the most widely 
represented of all and endured by far the longest time, we have, 
much better data. It had commerce with the West. There are 



abundant parallels with the West in motifs of pottery decora- 
tion, designs on stamp seals, and pottery figurines. They exist 
especially with Mesopotamia but also with Egypt and Crete. 
We also find many parallels in pottery and seal motifs and in 
style of sculpture with historic Indian material, a thousand to 
fifteen hundred years later. The Harappa culture is known not 
only in Sind, but also in the eastern part of the Punjab at Rupar 
on- the Sutlej River, and in the south at Rangpur in Kathiawar. 
We do not know what people professed the Harappa culture; 
we cannot read their script, for they had a script, preserved 
chiefly on the many seals which they left us; we know nothing 
about their language; nor do we know precisely how to inter- 
pret the connections of that culture with Western cultures of 
the second millennium B.C. or with later Gangetic valley cul- 
ture of the first millennium B.C. Nevertheless it seems clear 
that it faced two ways at once, to Iran on one side and to India 
on the other, and that therefore the north-west in the third and 
early second millennia stood culturally midway between 
Western Asian cultures and native Indian, whatever that latter 
was like then or wherever it was centred. We have enough 
data to let us see that in the north the Harappa culture was pro- 
gressing eastward across the Punjab and in the south-east was 
advancing across Cutch towards Central India. Who or what 
stood in its way we cannot say. 

When we come to the Jhukar culture, which is inferior to 
the Harappa for example, it has no writing we are more 
poorly informed. There are fewer known sites, and these are 
all located in Sind. It lies above the Harappa strata at Chanhu- 
daro, has affinities in its seals with Elam and possibly Cap- 
padocia, and its pottery bears resemblances to that of the 
Obeid culture. It seems just as Western as the Harappa, aad less 
like later Indian. 

The cultural sequence of north-west India, as far as we know 
it in the third and early second millcnnk B.C., is thai, first, a 
period, perhaps brief, of relationship with Iran, then a long 


period of mixed Iranian, and later Indian affinities, followed by 
another short period of relatively close Iranian connection 

In our present state of knowledge, we may regard the period 
of the Indus Valley cultures as the first epoch in the history of 
civilization in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. The second 
epoch is again one in which the north-west figures basically. 
This is the period when the Aryans entered through the passes 
of the north-west, at a time assumed to be about 1 500-1200 B.C., 
and possessed the culture of the Rig Veda, which is the first 
and most important book of the early Indo-Aryans and was 
probably compiled by 1000 B.C. The book is religious in pur- 
pose and has very little historical information, yet it and the 
closely related Yajur with parts of some works composed a 
little later, tell us all that we know about the Indo-Aryans at 
that time. We have no material remains of these Aryans such 
as cities, burials, art, crafts. 

Incomplete as the data are, we can still establish certain 
general and suggestive facts. First, the area which the Aryans 
of the Rig Veda held consisted primarily of the Punjab; it 
seems likely also to have included a part of Afghanistan to the 
west; it may have extended a short distance in the east beyond 
the Punjab into the Doab of the Ganges and die Jumna. 
Second, these tide-Aryans regarded themselves as culturally 
different from, and of course automatically by their own 
definition superior to, the people whom they found in the 
land. The latter were enemies against whom the Aryans fought 
with the aid of Indra, the king of their pantheon and their 
patron in war. They disliked the ways of the non- Aryans, 
applied derogatory epithets to them, condemned their religious 
practices, denominated them sorcerers and adherents of the 
demons, and when they received any in their society, whether 
as captives or otherwise, made them serve without the privi- 
leges of citizenship and religion which they themselves enjoyed, 
an attitude generally considered to be one of the elements 
contributing to the formation of the caste system. Thirdly, 



the Aryans brought in a language unrelated to any akeady 
existing in the sub-continent. It belonged to the Indo-European 
language family, while the families already there were the 
Dravidian, now represented in southern India, and probably 
the Munda, now scattered in various parts of western Bengal, 
Bihar, and the Central Provinces. The result was linguistic 
clash, leading in varying measure, in different regions, to 
linguistic blending. As the Aryans have continued to live in the 
sub-continent, and have fused with the non-Aryans, the con- 
flict of knguages followed by blending, with the Aryan 
element being the dominant, has continued. 

The evidence of the Rig Veda shows that during the 
centuries when the Aryans were occupying the Punjab and 
composing the hymns of the Rig Veda, the north-west part of 
the sub-continent was culturally separate from the rest of India. 

The closest cultural relations of the Indo-Aryans at that 
period were with the Iranians, whose language and sacred 
texts are preserved in the various works known as the Avesta, 
in inscriptions in Old Persian, and in some other scattered docu- 
ments. So great is the amount of material common to the Rig 
Vedic Aryans and the Iranians that the books of the two 
peoples show common geographic names as well as deities and 
ideas. The Aryans took into the sub-continent names of 
streams which they had known before in Afghanistan and 
Iran, much as British settlers brought and used in America 
such names as Thames or Severn or Avon. In the Rig Vedic, or 
Early Aryan, period of civilization in the Indo-Pakistan sub- 
continent, the north-west was again marked off from the rest 
of India. Aryanism, which in later historic times became the 
orthodox definition of native Indian civilization, was, until 
some time after the beginning of die first millennium B.C., a 
foreign culture in the country. 

Following the Vedic period, Aryan civilization and non- 
Aryan blended in the valley of the Ganges, especially about the 
sixth century B.C., to produce characteristic native Indian civili- 



zation, marked by distinctive features of social organization, 
legal institutions, religious practice and philosophical specula- 
tion, and art forms. This was all enshrined in Aryan languages. 

During this latter period, that is, in the sixth century B.C., 
we pass from pre-history in the sub-continent to one for which 
historical records exist For that century we have a small 
amount of data concerning Magadha, in eastern India, where 
the founders of Buddhism and Jainism preached, and for some 
nearby regions. 

In that century also we have mention of the north-west in 
the accounts and inscriptions of the Achaemenian kings of 
Persia. These monarchs transgressed die line of mountains and 
highlands that lie west of the river Indus and won themselves 
territories in the Indus plain. Cyrus, founder of the dynasty, 
who reigned from 558-529 B.C., Cannot definitely be shown to 
have reached the Indus, though he conquered Afghanistan and 
part of Baluchistan. His successor, Cambyses, seems unlikely 
to have extended the Persian Empire to the east. But Darius I, 
who reigned 521-486 B.C., affirms in his inscriptions at Perse- 
polis and Naksh-i-Rustam that he conquered the territories of 
the Indus Valley. Herodotus adds further information concern- 
ing the Persian occupation, the enormous amount of tribute 
paid by the Indian satrapies, and other items. It seems that 
Darius I held the entire course of the Indus from the Upper 
Punjab to the Arabian Sea and some land to the east of the 
river how far east is not known, but most authorities seem 
to think that he had the sections of Sind west of the Rajputana 
Desert and had penetrated into the Punjab beyond the Indus. 
His successor, Xerxes 486-461, had Indian soldiers among his 
forces along with troops from regions in Afghanistan and 
Baluchistan. It seems that Persia continued to hold territory in 
India beside the river Indus through the period of decadence of 
Achaemenian rule and down to the defeat of Darius III in 330 
and the invasion of the Punjab by Alexander. 

So scanty is our information about the north-west during 


Achasrnenian times that we can say almost nothing about the 
cultural effects of the Persian domination. How close the Indo- 
Aryans were to their brothers the Iranians in Cyrus' time we 
have no record. Hints in Avestan literature tell us little. Indian 
literature, except for controversial Vedic passages, is silent. By 
deduction many conclusions have been drawn few of them 
can be demonstrated to be true. Some of the most impressive 
seem to be those concerning the palace architecture, sculptural 
techniques of official pillars, and practice of carving edicts on 
rocks under the emperor Asoka (c. 274237 B.C.) in post- 
Achasmenian times. These were evidently modelled upon 
Persian prototypes, and we may assume, therefore, that in the 
kingdom of Magadha in eastern India, which had been gaining 
prestige since the sixth century B.C., the fame of the great 
Achsemenian rulers to the west was well established and the 
institutions of Persia were known and counted worthy of 
imitation. Similarly, Kharosthi, one of the two Indian scripts 
which appear in the third century B.C., in India's first preserved 
inscriptions, very likely entered India from Iran for commercial 
uses at that time. But how much the upper north-west retained 
of its old Vedic character and how much it took from the 
Iranians of Achsemenian times we are in no position to say. 
The degree to which it felt itself allied to the West, that is to 
Afghanistan and Persia, as well as the degree to which it felt 
itself either assimilated to, or different from, eastern India we 
also have no means of ascertaining. The one generalization we 
can make is that politically the north-west was again separate 
from, central, northern, and eastern India. The fact seems 
clearly to have facilitated the invasion of Alexander and to have 
contributed to the cultural divergence between the north-west 
and the rest of the sub-continent in the centuries after his time. 
Alexander's invasion of the Punjab (327/26-325) is some- 
times mentioned as marking the beginning of Greek influence 
upon the sub-continent. Though this statement is in a sense 
true, it is probably more accurate to say that because the 



Acliscmcnian empire included the north-west and Alexander 
took It over in conquering that empire, it was natural that 
HeUenism, on developing in that empire after Alexander s 
time, should enter the north-west The history of the area after 
Alexander's time is for many centuries tangled and confused. 
The old Persian satrapies were at first part of the kingdom of 
Alexander's successor, the general Seleucos Nicator. But 
Chandragupta (321-297 B.C.), the founder of the Maurya 
dynasty at Pataliputra in eastern India, appears to have got most 
of the area from the Greek, but how much by war and how 
much by diplomacy is not certain. 

His grandson, the celebrated Asoka (probably ruled 274- 
247 B.C.), had his border in Afghanistan, though like the British 
in our own times his actual 'dominions' did not extend so far, 
possibly not farther than the present western edge of the 
Punjab, and he merely exercised influence without full rule 
over 'the border peoples' beyond. The Maurya Empire appears 
to have broken up some time around the year 200 B.C., and a 
number of kingdoms more or less Greek in character existed 
in Afghanistan and the north-west, in their turn followed by 
kingdoms ruled by peoples from Central Asia, of whom the 
most notable were the Sakas and the Kusanas. Most of these 
came through the passes of the extreme north-west, but at 
least one group of Sakas came from Seistan to Baluchistan and 
into lower Sind, then across Cutch and into Rajputana. 

During much of this time, the north-west had political 
affiliations with Central Asia and with Iran. The political status 
was partly paralleled by the cultural. There were cultural 
elements introduced from Central Asia, as by the Kusanas, 
but the great intrusive force was the Hellenistic. The Indo- 
Greek dynasties used Greek as well as Indian languages in their 
courts, and kings struck their coins in both. Art was hellenized; 
the temples had classical Greek and Roman characteristics 
which had been transmuted into Persian forms, and the sculp- 
ture was marked with Greek motifs and techniques, and 



adopted Greek iconographic types, though the subject matter 
was Buddhist. Meanwhile farther east India had her own types 
of sculpture. 

The expansion, then contraction, and final withering of 
Hellenism in India should probably not be detailed here. Some 
elements of Hellenism were assimilated by the native Indian 
culture. These were perhaps a few in mathematics, medicine, 
and especially astrology, possibly also some in literature and 
philosophy. When the Huns in the fifth century A.D. overran 
the Punjab, destroying as they conquered, Hellenism collapsedin 
thesub-continentforgood. The period of Hellenism, lasting 600 
or 700 years, terminated about A.D. 500 and native Indian cul- 
ture rolled back again over at least part of the north-west. 

Politically during the time when Hellenism in India was 
decaying and in the centuries afterward, the north-west 
remained separate from northern and central India. The 
Gupta Empire, which was at its height in the middle of the 
fourth century A.D., and the empire of Harsha in the middle 
of the seventh century A.D., barely reached into the Punjab and 
included none of Sind. 

In the century immediately after Harsha, that is, in the eighth 
century, new elements from the "West began to claim the north- 
western part of India. 

The invasion was military and was by Muslims. On the 
cultural side it was strongly religio-centric, as probably had 
been the Aryan invasion two thousand years before. It was 
unlike the Hellenistic, which never contended with the native 
Indian on religion or the social institutions sanctioned by re- 
ligion, but readily adopted Buddhism. Mam. was brought by 
Arabs from lower Mesopotamia to Sind at the beginning of the 
eighth century and established itself there firmly, never 
since to be dislodged. About three centuries later it entered 
the upper part of the north-west from Afghanistan, brought by 
Afghans and Turks. The first great incursions came from 
Ghazni starting at about the beginning of the eleventh century. 



These were raids rather than settlements. In the latter half of 
the twelfth century a further series of conquests began, this 
rime based on Ghor in Afghanistan. By 1161-1186 Islam had 
won Lahore in the Central Punjab; by 1193 it had swept across 
north India as far as Benares; by 1199 it had invaded Bihar; 
and in 1202 it took the western part of Bengal. Further Muslim 
conquests in succeeding centuries extended to almost every 
corner of India. The zenith of Muslim power and cultural 
magnificence was under the Mogul dynasty from the fifteenth 
to the early eighteenth century. 

Though Muslim power and with it Islamic culture were 
carried throughout the sub-continent, its strength varied widely 
in different regions. In some places, notably south India, the 
Muslim element remained minor, occasionally negligible. In 
some others, such as the present Uttar Pradesh, the division of 
the population was more nearly equal. In still other places 
there was a heavy preponderance in favour of the Muslims. 
One of these last was the north-west, where Islam had entered. 
There not only was the rulership Muslim, the people too almost 
all became Muslim as well. Once again, the north-west had 
become marked off from the rest of the sub-continent, with a 
characteristic cultural differentiation. 

Islamic civilization came into the sub-continent with the 
accumulated tradition of all Near Eastern cultures. It had 
behind it the cosmopolitanism that flourished under the Cali- 
phate and united the western Muslim world starting with 
Persia and stretching across the Near East, Asia Minor, and 
North Africa until it reached Spain. It had all the art and 
literature of Persia at its command. It was the heritor and 
developer of Greek astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. 
It had its own legal institutions and produced some of India's 
greatest governmental administrators, such as the Mogul em- 
peror Akbar. Noble and beautiful buildings adorned its cities. 
Intensely and uncompromisingly monotheistic it was, but 
within that limitation it fostered philosophy. In the sub- 



continent it promoted its own social democracy, which con- 
trasted with the Hindu caste system; it developed new schools 
of thought, and produced an extensive and often scintillating 
literature. At a Muslim court was cultivated the celebrated 
Mogul school of painting. The Muslims cherished their own 
music, which has come to dominate much of northern and 
north-western India. From the meeting of cultures came some 
synthesis, as in costume and in the language Urdu, the lingua 
franca of the northern part of the sub-continent, which owes 
much of its vocabulary to Persian and Arabic, though all the 
syntax is indigenous. 

Muslim power in India developed a characteristic type of 
civilization. Though the Hindu and Muslim cultures have had 
considerable effect upon each other, the process of blending, 
such as has been effected of Aryan with non-Aryan in northern 
India, is still relatively litde advanced. 

Periods during two thousand five hundred years of history 
when the Punjab, which is the most important section of the 
north-west, has been culturally assimilated to the rest of the 
sub-continent, or even to north India, are few if any at all. 
The centuries most likely to deserve the characterization seem 
to be the sixth to the twelfth A.D. The centuries in which the 
Punjab and any substantial part of north India have been 
politically united are also few. They are as follows: perhaps a 
part of the fourth and third centuries B.C. under the great 
Mauryas; possibly a brief period tinder the Indo-Greek Bud- 
dhist king Menander in the second century B.C., and another 
brief period under the Kusanas in the first or second century 
AJX (depending upon dating); a formal association tinder the 
Muslim kingdom of Delhi from the last quarter of the twelfth 
century, which however, frequently broke down in practice; 
a real association undo: die great Moguls during the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries; finally, another century of dose 
political association under the British, who after annexing 
Siad in 1843 took the Punjab in 1846, 


To-day Pakistan as a Muslim nation looks westward to the 
lands where Islam was born and became great. Western 
Pakistan especially illustrates the same phenomenon of associa- 
tion with Western regions which it has exhibited in the past. 
It feels itself culturally akin to those areas outside the sub- 
continent rather than to the areas east of it; though these are 
geographically close to it and economically its natural partners. 
It is trying to supplement the spiritual connections with the 
West with transmontane political and economic intercourse. 

This desire appears in Pakistan's foreign policy, of which a 
major feature is association with other Islamic nations. It has 
sided with the Arab nations on the question of Israel. It has 
aimed generally to cultivate pan-Islamic friendship. 

As Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Zafrulla Khan claimed of his 
country (18 August, 1951), "ft &as served actively ... in the 
cause of independence of Indonesia, Libya, Eritrea, and 
SomalilancL" Yet none of these nations has many ties with 
Pakistan other than the cultural. But promotion of Muslim 
culture, the late Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan said in 
Washington in May, 1950, ranks among Pakistan's national 
aims second only to the integrity of the state itself. He also 
said (4 May, 1950): 

"Culturally, we feel a natural affiliation with other Muslim 
countries and our relations with them are of the friendliest. 
We are keenly interested in the progress and development of 
the Middle East countries and in the maintenance of their 
independence, as they are in ours. When I talk of our friend- 
ship with the Middle East countries, I do not wish you to infer 
that I am talking in terms of any power bloc. I am merely 
talking of the natural and religious links, the common culture 
and the identity of economic outlook that exist between the 
people of these countries and our people links that will stand 
the strain of many a test and will I am sure prove a stabilizing 
factor in Ask," 


Steatite vessel from Susa with (inset) a fragment of a vessel 
from Mohenjo Daro showing the same motif 

W.I., r Mi 

Painted pottery 

vase, Harappa, 

second millennium 


Decorated clay tumbler and goblet, and a ladle probably used for 
measuring milk. Quetta Valley, Baluchistan 

Stone and bone implements 

unearthed near Kile Ghul 

Mohammad, Baluchistan 



E high barren valleys of northern Baluchistan have 
JL recently been making history. A party of Pakistani and 
American archaeologists, exploring the Quetta Valley, dis- 
covered what some scholars think is the oldest alphabet in the 
world. Rich artistic treasures were brought to light; among 
them was the oldest model of a horse discovered in this country 
and a number of female statuettes, exquisitely modelled, which 
seem to presage the later developments of Indo-Pakistani art. 
On one mound, the earliest settled village so far known in the 
sub-continent was discovered. It had been occupied by men so 
primitive that they did not even know the art of making pots. 
At other pkces settlements more than three thousand years old 
were found. 

I had the good fortune to take part in this expedition along 
with other members of the Pakistan Archaeological Survey. 
Our first task, in collaborating with the American archaeolo- 
gists, was to locate as many ancient sites as possible and to fix 
approximately their dates. Then, on the basis of this ground 
survey, we could pick out those sites which appeared most 
promising for excavation. So, for some three weeks we 
scoured Gwanden, BhaUa Dhast, Gulistan, Pishin, the Quetta 
Valley and its offshoots by trucks, by jeep and when even this 
failed, by foot. 

The country itself is fescinating. To left and right of the 
valleys bare and rocky hills tower majestically to graceful 

[39] B 


summits. The soil is very fertile and where the water is suffi- 
cient, crops and orchards are luxuriant. We found the grapes 
and water melons a luscious refreshment on our thirsty marches. 
But water is only obtained with difficulty from rare artesian 
wells or by the underground water channels known as karez. 
For the most part even the valleys give poor grazing and the 
ground is so dry that at midday dust-devils tower into the air 
on all sides. 

This, then, was the setting of our search for the mounds 
which tell of ancient sites. Some of these are high forts lite 
Sra Kala, Pishin, an artificial hill of mud some ninety yards 
square rising sheer for fifty feet, on which traces of kachcha 
brick walls fifteen hundred years old may still be seen. Others, 
and especially those which date back to pre-historic times, are 
lower, gently sloping mounds, covered with fragments of 
ancient pots: such was Dainb Sadaat, nine miles south of 
Quetta where, later, we carried out excavations. These dambs 
oighundis, as they are known locally, have accumulated over a 
period of centuries through the building, decay and later re- 
building of mud-walled houses. Several were already known 
to exist in the Quetta Valley: we discovered more than a dozen 
which had not previously been noticed. Some of the newly 
discovered sites proved to be large and of major historical im- 
portance. But we were as frequently deceived; we would 
tramp miles to inspect some likely hillock, only to discover 
that it was a natural outcrop of rock or gravel. The ancient 
sites occur side by side with die modern villages and they show 
that in early times the Quetta Valley was at least as fertile and 
as well populated as it is to-day. 

This exploration, strenuous though it was, formed only a 
prelude to the main work of excavation. This is itself an 
exacting task, for it meant standing long hours in the sun, 
guiding the labourers to see that no damage was done to 
precious pots or figurines. We endured bitter winds and dust 
storms, while with numbed fingers we drew up plans of the 


buildings which were uncovered. But the task was lightened 
by the excitements of discovery; even the uncovering of such 
seemingly dull objects as domestic hearths and ovens thrilled us. 
It was a pleasure too to come to know the people of Balu- 
chistan Brahuis, Pathans, Hazaras, Baluchis in all their rich 
variety, from the two Hajis who vied with each other in load- 
ing us with grapes, to the crabbed old sirdar who expected us 
to employ even the halt and the lame among his retainers, 
since he himself was too mean to provide for them. 

The earliest traces of occupation which we uncovered were 
beneath a mound near the village of Kile Ghul Mohammad, 
a few miles north-west of Quetta. There, near the bottom of a 
shaft forty feet deep, we came upon the remains of an ancient 
people who had not known the use of pottery. So far as we 
could discover, their only tools were stone knives and bone 
needles and points. Their chief accomplishment was in archi- 
tecture, for they made themselves houses of sun-dried brick. 
Now, from several sites in Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Iraq 
we know that about six thousand years ago men, ignorant of 
the potter's craft, were making such stone tools, and were 
living in settled villages; but this is the first time such a site has 
been discovered in this sub-continent. From these Western 
Asian analogies, we may infer that the first occupants of Kile 
Ghul Mohammad had domesticated sheep, goats and cattle, 
and probably cultivated wheat and barley, 

When pottery making was first introduced at Kile Ghul 
Mohammad, its products were coarse, thick-walled and mis- 
shapen, so that it is difficult to say what kind of vessels they 
were. Improvements came gradually, and eventually two types 
of pots became popular which in their standards of manu- 
facture and the quality of their painted designs are the equal of 
any work of modem village potters. The first of these, known 
to archaeologists as Zhob Ware from its prevalence along the 
Zhob and Loralai Valleys, is distinguished by designs painted 
in black on a rich red bad^rouni Some of these designs are 


geometric, but the most attractive show animal figures, 
especially deer and humped cattle. The second type is known, 
from the place of its first discovery, as Quetta Ware. It 
differs from the Zhob type in having a pale brown not a red 
ground: animal figures are very rare, and in fact were dis- 
covered for the first rime by our expedition. 

There is adventure even in excavating pots. I had been 
removing the pieces of a large storage jar which, fractured by 
the weight of the overlying earth, had nonetheless retained its 
shape. Inside was a ball of compact earth which preserved the 
form of the jar. I picked this up, and remarked jokingly to the 
labourers 'Just look at my pot'. The ball of earth crumpled 
suddenly and out of its centre popped a little goblet completely 
undamaged. It was the most perfect of all our discoveries at 
Damb Sadaat. 

The people who used 'Quetta' Ware migrated to Baluchistan 
from south-western Iran, entering perhaps along the Nushki 
road which leaves the deserts of Afghanistan and, winding 
laboriously over the Nuskhi and Lak passes through die frown- 
ing Shaikh Wazil Gorge, debouches finally into the broad and 
fertile Quetta plains near Damb Sadaat. Here at least we un- 
covered, in a shaft some thirty-five feet deep, rich evidence of 
their occupation. In their migration they displaced whether 
peacefully or not we cannot say the earlier occupants of the 
site, whose connections were with the plains of the Indus. The 
Quetta people occupied Damb Sadaat for some hundreds of 
years, possibly about four thousand five hundred years ago. 
Their hearths and homes decayed and were rebuilt; their 
beautiful pots were cherished for a while then, broken, were 
swept aside till the archaeologist might find and reconstruct 
them. At length a new people appeared, at first as friends and 
traders, then with sudden violence wresting the village from 
its owners, overthrowing their houses and ovens, and setting 
up their own buildings upon the debris. Such is the history 
told us by dumb potsherds. What these newcomers called 


themselves we shall probably never know, but in honour of the 
site where their remains were first discovered, we have called 
them the 'Sadaat' people. Study of the sherds which we 
collected in the course of our survey shows that they, like their 
predecessor, settled widely in Quetta-Pishin. 

If we know nothing of the political history of these people, 
of their names or those of their rulers, we have at least a clear 
picture of their daily life. Their houses were small-roomed 
the rooms are usually only some 7 x 10 feet inside with thick 
walls of sun-dried brick. Occasionally stone too is used in 
building. Brick and stone-paved hearths frequently occupy one 
corner of a room, or even the centre of the floor. There are 
no signs of the wall niches or cupboards common in local 
houses to-day, but large earthen jars were used for storage as 
they still are among the lower classes. But an even more 
interesting survival is that of the tandur or hollow earthen oven. 
We found several of these, all unfortunately damaged, in the 
yards outside the houses. They were immediately recognized 
by our workmen who took us down the hill to see a modern 
tandur actually in use in the farm-yard by the site. And from 
numerous thin slabs of sandstone, fire-blackened on one side, 
we concluded that people four thousand years ago made them- 
selves chappathis just as their descendants do to-day. 

These Quetta and Sadaat people were great meat-eaters too, 
to judge from the bones of sheep and goat which littered the 
floor of their dwellings. Their fondness for drink is similarly 
shown by the numbers of beakers, tumblers and goblets, made 
with the finest clay, and frequently decorated with delightful 
painted designs. It is quite likely that the drink in question was 
some intoxicant: but the little day ladle illustrated (fac. p. 39) 
seems likely to have been used for measuring milk. Corn was 
not ground, as it is to-day, with a circular hand mill, but was 
placed on a slightly hollowed stone and was them pounded with 
a pebble. Nor had fanners and craftsmen the iron took and 
implements of their descendants. Copper and perhaps lead 



were the only metals used and those but rarely. Tools were 
usually chipped from chert, or carefully ground down from 
shale or from bone. 

We know nothing of the appearance, and very little of the 
dress and personal ornaments of these people. They used 
buttons to fasten their clothes, which suggests that they wore 
coats rather than flowing robes. The women wore simple 
beads of shell or stone, though these if we can take the 
evidence of the goddess figurines may have been arranged in 
elaborate strands. From the same figurines we may suspect that 
the womenfolk built their hair up on top in an elaborate 
fashion, and hung it forward over their shoulders in plaits; on 
another figurine the tresses run down behind to the waist. 
Finally, we found a few very tiny pots which were clearly 
meant for cosmetics most probably the ever-popular Kohl. 

Primitive though their material equipment was, art had 
reached a high standard of achievement. This is evident not 
only from the painted pottery which we have seen already, but 
also from the figurines of animals and goddesses which were 
modelled in clay. Most of the animals are humped bulls, 
similar to those found further south in the Makran; they may 
have been children's toys, but it is more likely that they were 
worshipped. The model horse gave us a great surprise, for 
though it is known that the horse had been domesticated at an 
early period by the nomads of the Zhob, this is the earliest 
image of it yet found in the sub-continent. Occasionally too, 
we found clay models of houses with tiny square-cut doors and 
windows and their exteriors gaily painted. 

But the most interesting of die figurines are those of the 
Mother-Goddess. These are so like stone and pottery figures 
of the Buddhist period that we began to wonder whether the 
site was really as old as we believed; arguments raged for days, 
but nevertheless we agreed in the end that both the site and its 
statuettes must be some four thousand years old. Mother- 
Goddesses were common at this period throughout the Middle 



East from Crete to the Indus Valley; tut the examples which 
we found here are especially interesting. They are distinguished 
firstly by the very fine modelling of the breasts, the hair, and 
the ornaments. Secondly, they fall in a category well known 
in the mythology of the sub-continent, that of the Goddess 
whose powers are exercised as much for destruction as for 
reproduction. From the full and beautiful bodies of these 
figurines, it is clear that they represent a bountiful goddess, 
overflowing with the abundance of Nature: but the faces, 
where they exist, are masks of hate, grotesque and terrifying. 
Such was the double nature of KaU, or of Hariri, the goddess of 
infantile epidemics who was also worshipped as a giver of 
children. The Goddess figurines which we found come prob- 
ably from a temple where they had been deposited as votive 
offerings. Similar statuettes are found throughout northern 
Baluchistan, and they throw vivid light on religious beliefs 
some four thousand years ago. 

But our most surprising discovery, of interest to scholars of 
all periods, is that of a series of potters* marks on many of the 
vessels used both by the Quetta and Sadaat peoples. These 
marks, which resemble the V's, W*s, A's, T's and other letters 
of the Roman alphabet, were incised either with a sharp stick 
or finger nail on the base or neck of the pot while the day was 
still damp. Perhaps they denoted the potter, or the prospective 
owner; alternatively they may be magical symbols. Only 
single signs have been discovered, so we cannot say whether or 
not they represent a primitive script: but clearly they could 
easily lead to the invention of writing. It is particularly im- 
portant that they are quite unlike the contemporary picture- 
writing of the Indus Valley or Mesopotamia and the Near 
East. If the date assigned by archaeologists to the Quetta period 
is even approximately correct, then we have hare in Baluchistan 
the earliest known example of a completely conventionalized 
non-pictographic script Certainly the discovery is an exciting 
and provoking one for scholars everywhere. 



Much, then, has been found, but much more remains to be 
done before we can even sketch the early history of Pakistan's 
western borderlands. Our potters' marks, for instance. We 
require many more examples of them, even some lengthy 
inscriptions, before we can begin to piece together an alphabet 
The temple which we found lay too near the surface, and had 
been too disturbed in recent times, to allow us to reconstruct 
it. We must, therefore, seek another site where it may be 
possible to recover the religious architecture of early Balu- 
chistan in all its detail. Finally we have not yet explored the 
relations between the peasant cultures of the hills and the great 
contemporary civilization of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa: but 
in our survey of Loralai we discovered a mound where this 
relationship may easily be examined. It is but right and 
natural that a young Islamic state should wish to concentrate 
its studies on the early Islamic settlement; but Pakistan should 
not neglect those earliest periods which link her so intimately to 
her western neighbour, Iran. And if the Archaeological Survey 
itself is pre-occupied, it is at least to be hoped that continued 
encouragement will be given to foreign expeditions, that 
Pakistan may retain her high place in international scholarship. 


As Mohenjo Daro's dwellings of the dead threw new light 
I\on a sector of Pakistan's deepest antiquity, so new source 
material and new work is rewriting early Sasanian times in 

Religiously the followers of Bardaisan and after them 
Mani's early mission appear there, reaching as far north as 

Politically the early Sasanian empire reaches farther east than 
was formerly supposed, though not as far as some, notably 
Ernst Herzfell, first thought. 

The new Shahpuhr I (Sapor) inscription in Parthian and 
Middle Persian Pahlavi and in Greek, and a new inscription of 
the high priest Kartir with a new reading of another, poorly 
legible, and two more welding these two together, all in wliat 
may be called a definitive reading, are now in the hands of the 
present masters of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, waiting 
for them to find means as they can and methods of publication, 
as they see fit. 

In brief form, with no literary or other aids at hand, this 
writer, who first read and published in preliminary form much 
of the new material, can say that early Sasanian history touch- 
ing Pakistan now shows: 

i. An early form of Christianity, poetically imaginative, 
Asiatic rather than Greek or Roman, was founded at Urfa 
(Urhai, Edessa) in Mesopotamia by Bardaisan (Bardesaes) just 



before the rise of the Sasanians. Bardaisan was interested in 
India and Indian lore. Probably as 'Thomas Christians', his 
followers made their way to India with the Acts of Judas 
Thomas and its beautiful 'Hymn of the Soul'. 

2. Influenced by Bardaisan (and others) Mani then founded 
his religion to succeed and displace Christianity and other 
religions just as the Sasanian empire was rising on the ruins of 
the Parthian. The climate seems not to have been healthy for 
such a venture in Iran (Persia) and Iraq under Ardashir I. 
Anyway, during his reign Mani followed the Bardaisanite 
'Thomas Christians' eastward, not as was once thought to 
learn, but to found a branch of his own church in or just north 
of what is now West Pakistan. Probably in this connection 
Mani or his followers appropriated the 'Hymn of the Soul' 
with minor changes to suit their ideas. 

3. This religious drift eastward into Pakistani area is con- 
nected with the expansion of the early Sasanian empire in this 
direction. How far Ardashir I went is not certain. Shahpuhrl 
clearly includes in his empire the greater part of "West Pakistan, 
drawing the boundary up through Peshawar as far north as 
Tashkent Shahpuhr's Coronation brought Mani back to Iraq 
to a pretty clearly tolerated position in the empire, perhaps 
even at the court of Shahpuhr I. 

4. With this the long unknown founder of Sasanian (Zoroa- 
strian) Mazdaism, the high priest Kartir (not to be confused 
with the courtier Kartir, son of Ardahan) rose to power and 
prominence. Under Shahpuhr he was charged with the spread 
of his reformed Mazdaism over the lands that Shahpuhr for a 
short or long time incorporated in his empire. Not under 
Shahpuhr, nor under his favoured son Hormizd-Ardashir but 
tinder the sideline of two (or three) priest-ridden Bahrans 
(Varahrans) Kartir tried to establish his religion alone in their 
empire and attempted to eliminate by harsh persecution 
Brahmirdsm, Buddhism, Judaism, two forms of Christianity, 
and Manichseism, here first called Zindikism. The Bahrans 



were followed, not without violence, by another Shahpuhr 
son, Marseh (Narses, Narsaios, Narisahi), who, as sort of heir- 
apparent like England's Prince of "Wales, had been made Shah 
of Seistan, Baluchistan, and Hind (Sind) 'to the seashore', that 
is, West Pakistan and a bit more. The as yet imperfectly pub- 
lished Paikuli inscription and other known facts show that 
Marseh defeated the Bahrams with Kartir and others and not 
only deposed them, but sought to cancel them out of history, 
in Kartir's case with astounding success for more than fifteen 
centuries. Marseh then renewed the war against Rome, neg- 
lected under Kartir's Bahrams, at first successfully, in the end 
disastrously. Shahpuhr (Sapor) E, * of the long reign*, did much 
to avenge the defeat of his grandfather Marseh and to stop 
Rome's aggressive advance eastward. 




?"Tpo us Thatta was a mystery. Thatta was a remote point in 
1 books on architecture. It was an outpost around which 
circled names in history's wind Alexander, Muhammed Bin 
Qasim, Akbar, Shahjahan and we resolved to visit it. 

One September morning, the sun already bleaching the air 
with heat, we began our pilgrimage to Thatta. Even though 
the day was a holiday and the hour early, our car was forced 
to move slowly through the frantic complex of Karachi's 
traffic. Bicycles, motor rickshaws, camel carts lurched, roared 
and dipped in and out among push barrows, trucks and lorries, 
trams, buses, donkey carts, bicycle rickshaws, motor cycles and 
every complexion of automobiles, large, booming, proud or 
small, squeaking and nervous. And everything was interwoven 
and defined by the bright activity of walking men and running 
children quite uncurbed literally. The ingredients of these 
streets would have taxed the systematics of any frail directing 
mortal, but the Karachi traffic policemen seemed to be imbued 
with divine imperturbability and stood at each intersection, 
at the very conflux of four or five distracting processions with 
a detached celestial air. "With sleight-of-hand and pivoting 
body they caused die processions to flow forward with a 
variety of order and some speed. 

We shuttled through all of this and approached the city's 
outskirts. We passed grey factory buildings sitting like holiday 
ghosts. Beside the highway stood self^onscious housing units, 



stark and greenless, and to the left could be seen concrete 
bubbles houses fact or fiction experimental concrete 
wombs for atom age progeny. 

Out here the desert seemed to run in like a hot tide between 
the buildings, the scattered bulkheads and sea-walls of the city. 
Men had made another island in one of the world's oceans. 
Here the ocean was a desert; somewhere else it would be a 
jungle, a sea, or even snow that was pushed back. By concrete 
and steel, men had enlarged their borders which would either 
be carefully planted with pleasant suburban flowers, or left to 
the weeds and refuse of neglect. 

The highway pierced through the desert ahead. A few bold- 
fisted houses were thrust up out of the dry earth. Two or three 
factory buildings were scattered across the landscape great 
boxes tossed there by a hot wind. Farther along, the airport 
lay across the plain like a vast envelope, stamped by orderly 
buildings, postmarked by adventure from the ends of the earth. 

The desert began to stretch out between each human struc- 
ture until it was all desert and our eyes were busy with subtleties 
of colour and form. Plateau and hillock traced pale moving 
lines against the paler sky. Shadow of contour flowed into 
shadows of tone. Buff, pink, lavender and shades of white, 
blended and moved in an earth rainbow, delicate as dust and 
as easily blown. The desert hummed with hot light. As there 
is always one particular natural force that flavours and colours 
the various surfaces of the earth ocean lands, rain lands, mow 
lands here every element and identity merged into one 

absorbing consciousness SUN Any creature daring to Ive 

under its penetrating government was forced to conform in 
colouring and habit to die sun's ways. Desert animals whose 
rain-land relatives wear dark glossy coats, are pale and unre^ 
fleeting move shadowless across a chalk brown ridge. Bkds 
are animated stones and straw in colour, die findi-lark pale as 
the dust. Sand and twigs, the gently whistling crested krk 
perched on a dod of earttu 


There was almost no traffic on the highway by now and we 
sped along enjoying the space and play of light. To the left the 
plateau appeared to be troubled. There were furrows and 
humps on its sun-browned brow. As we came abreast we could 
see that it was a community of ruined tombs, whittled by dry- 
wind and blowing sand, age defaced. A side road turned to- 
wards them but no signs were posted with names or explana- 
tions. We watched the changing perspective of their forms as 
we passed. Their colour was the earth's; they could have been 
ejected from it by eruption. How long they must have stood 
there! Our imaginations stirred. Their long endurance in the 
sim their place in memory after memory of men! Perhaps 
they were once the landmark of travellers, and at night around 
a caravan's camp-fire someone may have said, "In three suns' 
journey you will come to barren tombs in one more sun, 
the sea/ 

The tombs faded into moving heat, and on we sped. Soon 
the highway ran through a cluttered village. It seemed to be 
deserted. Its bazaar, pleasantly tree shaded, stretched in shabby 
disorder along the highway. A stray dust-coloured dog nosed 
through the litter. 

We left the village behind and raced ahead. Raced into the 
shimmering light, down a dry nullah, up and over a barren 
ridge and suddenly die world was a magic of green. Water 
easy and liquid! Had a mirage become substantial? Someone 
said, 'Here is the area where all the vegetables for Karachi are 
grown. The Indus is just over there.' 

This was the month of September and the river still bloomed 
in flood from the monsoon rains. It sent its water out into the 
low surrounding country to settle like a fertile fragrance and 
transform the receptive land into a paradise. It was a transient 
four-mondis paradise to be sure, 

but who counts Jays 

when fish leap among green dizzy grass, 


when tangled hummocks, green capped, 
float on glass-reflected sky 
and waterlilies? 
Where is the desert now? 
. Rioting parakeets ridicule the threat of deserts. 
Small fish Ieap 9 

men flash cobweb nets, circles in the sun, 
splashing traceries to trap silver laughing fish. 
Miracle Indus. 

A water wand waved over sand drops the seeds of water. 
Up spring the greens of river memory , 
patterns that began 

when young Indus pressed her virgin way 
through primeval clay 
pressed through desert-blistered rock, 
sun ached desert, 
to her beloved sea . . * 
and spread her bridal robes 
like water 
over eager land. 

There were miles of this charming area. One passing scene 
was unbelievable. In the middle distance a lustrous rolling 
meadow lay edged and embroidered with round green trees, 
and animated by placid cows serenely swinging their tails. It 
could have been England Hampshire or Kent 'spring' on a 

We turned into a side road and drove towards the river. 
The road was built up from the fields and was narrow and 
broken. It passed bedraggled reeds that thickened into a dense 
scum-draped fringe as we neared the river banks. The road 
had dropped away in places and squalid thatched huts had 
encroached the length of the last five hundred yards, crowded 
and littered with wild untidy childrm, chickens, dogs, goats 
and flies. Hie end of the road was built tout as a pier which 



was connected to the other bank by a ferry boat that plied 
patiently all day back and forth across the Indus. 

The Indus ... this mud-welted stretch of slow water! But 
the name as one said it, removed the stains of reality and as we 
turned back to continue towards Thatta, aU the accumulated 
connotations of 'Indus' blew around me. Blew me back to 
early classroom adventure. The 'geography' lessons when I 
sat at my desk with a tall thin book. The teacher said, 'Who 
can name the important rivers of the world?' Up my hand 
flew, 'Mississippi, Thames, Rhine, Seine, Tigris-Euphrates, 
Ganges, Indus . . / this Indus . . . Then 'History' out of a short 
fat book, *. . . And Alexander travelled down the Indus to its 
mouth establishing fortified posts at strategic points.' 

I remembered all this and looked towards the river. Perhaps 
just there by that clump of withered trees was a 'strategic point' 
fortified by a group of tired mercenary Greek soldiers. How 
they would have paced back and forth glaring at the desert that 
waited at their backs. How they would gather around the 
night fires and conjure up for one another visions of their 
gentle home land velvet hills, soft sky, flocks on grass, girls 
dancing. They were deeply burned, those Greeks, there on the 
smirking desert. Their ardent Grecian faces were bitter. Their 
youth that had leapt so joyfully to follow Alexander to the 
East was slowly being burned out of their bodies. What 
happened to them? So many things could have. One may have 
followed a young river woman, and fathered an ancestor of 
that man we passed back there walking on the road with his 
head wrapped in a high dark red sun-defying turban. Two 
may have fought over some trifling possession a trinket looted 
in battle claimed by two, who died together linked by dissolv- 
ing heat, the anger of discontent. Three may have offended 
the river men, seduced their wives, stolen their scanty treasure 
and, one night just over that ridge to our left, beside that crop 
of stone, the river men waited for them. Four may have 
dropped with fever, dropped in the accumulated fear of drying 



pools and endless desert. When ten go, twenty become fright- 
ened. When twenty are afraid forty then four thousand men 
rebel compel Alexander, shaken from his dream by the force 
of rebellion, to begin the fretting journey up river, over moun- 
tains home, the gods willing, home to Greece the Greece he 
would never see again. 

The car rushed on past the rocks and ridges of history. 
Suddenly I felt tired; the times were so great, too much to live 
those lives and mine, too. Someone announced, 'Look there, 
on the horizon the Makli tombs dozens of them!' We all 
laughed with anticipation. Weariness blew away on the 
breath of our laughter. The Makli Ridge the book had been 
explicit, '. . . the Makli Ridge along which, for mile after mile, 
extends an astonishing array of Muslim tombs, to a number 
which has been estimated at a million/ Earlier in the chapter 
the author had intrigued us with the words, *. . . but it is at 
Thatta . . . that the purest and completest examples of the 
Persian Mode survive/ 

Persia one more flavour that had been stirred into the rich 
cultural mixture of the Indus Valley. Approaching the tombs 
we thought of these ingredients; thought of the eternal puzzle 
who were the first men, the primitive wild creatures 
striking stone on stone, thinking thinking using man's 
divine ability to add thought to thought to strike stone on 
stone, to create and build on to his creation. These men had 
been here, they had walked the prehistoric earth of Sind a 
moist nuptial earth in those days with rains and rain-forests. 
Then behind them in time walked the men and women of 
Kulli; walked over from Baluchistan with thek carts and cattle 
to trade on the banks of the Indus with die men who came 
down the river from Mohenjo Daro, Vho brought bits of 
bronze and doth from Persia to exchange for the stone and 
alabaster objects, boxes and knife blades, that the Kulli people 

After these people came the exuberant Aryan hordes, with 



swords and chariots of war, overrunning, destroying but the 
KulH women became the mothers of Aryan children, children 
who contained the continuing primeval inheritance; children 
who passed on to Darius's men this ancient being when the 
Persians marched in claiming die Indus area and took the 
slender women, the primeval prehistoric Aryanic wpmen to 
bear their sons, sons whose daughters bore the children of 
Alexander's men, children who built Taxila, sons whose Greek- 
named daughters lay with the soldiers of Asoka the Ganges' 
sons, and daughters of the Indus whose children were born 
with the blood of ancient rivers in their veins. 

Other peoples swept through; spent their vigour here, add- 
ing their exotic qualities, their religions and memories 
Bactrians, Scythians, Parthians; the Kushan nomads from 
Central Asia; Arabs bringing the first shape of Islam the 
first mosque sprung from Arab hands near the moudi of the 
Indus. Then Persianized Turks with firm lasting energy to 
father the great Mogul Empire, to leave behind the lovely 
tiled mosques of Thatta, isolated on the fringe of the Sindhi 
Desert . * . Iranian architecture transplanted with scarcely any 
modification . . . 

The highway approached a small, official hut. A guard 
directed us up a stone-outlined road to the tombs. At the top 
of the ridge on which they stood we parked the car beside the 
road and got out. The sun blazed. Heat leapt up from the 
ground causing us to hurry around a wall, up a stairway, 
through a doorway and into a courtyard. Inside the courtyard 
the heat beat back and forth from wall to floor to wall. The 
light drained one's eyes of sight and sent us quickly into the 
great arch-shadowed doorway that welcomes one into the 
tomb. As sight flooded back one could begin to see the shading 
walls and sheltering dome above. One could look silently and 
allow the quiet tranquil colour to envelop him. The heat 
and the saturating light were left behind. An invisible curtain 
of cool air hung down from the massive arch of the entrance. 


The serenity lay in the liquid colour of the tile. Blues and 
white in a pointing pattern covered the walls and dome and 
ascended in succeeding radiating waves to an exquisite tiled 
apex. One was impelled to walk slowly around and around, 
to lean to the walls and look up, to expand in the ancient shade. 
But there was much to be seen and with a fleeting prayer of 
grateful pleasure we walked out into the sun again. 

A large drum-shaped building stood near by. It was an 
unfinished tomb. The walls reached up and in, but were 
completed by a dome of blue sky rather that the intended 
masonry. The effect was thrilling and disturbing as in the 
Pantheon at Rome; a sense of being enclosed but undefended, 
of being at the bottom of a pit; a sense of being watched in 
secret, of something about to happen, like Damocles at the 
mercy of unexpected sins. 

Further along the ridge to the left was a walled courtyard 
with an arched doorway that urged one to enter. Inside, a 
handsome tomb, as carved and fluted as a sandalwood fan, 
stood airily in the sun. Its domes gleamed like white bubbles 
against the white-hot sky. Its fagade was intersected by a 
delicate balcony. Tm going up/ one of us announced. *But 
look, the whole building leans to one side is it safe?' 'Safe 
enough for to-day/ the brave one answered. The narrow steep 
adventurous stair opened out on to the balcony. The air moved 
more easily up here, stirred through the open filigree of the 
balustrade. The explorer among us announced, 'The stair goes 
on up to the roof. The outlook will be wonderful/ and began 
to dimb. The steps led up into the stunning light among the 
white bubbles. The sun sang against the large dome, echoed 
against the small ones. Below, the ridge dropped away to a 
reed-filled ravine. On its other side another ridge lifted sharply. 
Beyond that and jost visible over it, was an intriguing jumble 
of square roofs. 'That's Thatta, ova: there/ The roof line 
must have changed but slighdy since Tfaatta was founded 
some time in the fifteenth century. The desert demands its own 



architecture, imposes such rigid conditions that neither whim 
nor innovation, products of easy fertility, can impose them- 
selves on the timeless desert forms. Perhaps the Governor of 
Thatta had stood here on the roof of his tomb which was 
undoubtedly built to be enjoyed during his lifetime, had stood 
here staring at the roofs of his capital city. But he could not 
have stayed long if the sun was as arrogant as this. He would 
have soon turned down the dark stairwell and into the shaded 
central chamber where to-day his gravestone rests. 

We turned the car down the hill. 'What about lunching 
over by those trees?' Here was a side road that would appar- 
ently take us there. It skirted around another part of the Makli 
Hill. On its crest loomed several imposing structures. They 
had to be explored. Up the slope the path at last approached 
the important looking tomb glimpsed on the way. 

In form it differed completely from all the others. It was a 
roofless square, tall and narrow. In the centre of the facade 
beside the door was fitted an intricately carved, rather wilfully 
projecting area, topped by a balcony. The surface of the 
building otherwise was flat, relieved only by simple geometric 
bands interspaced with smooth reddish stone blocks. It 
appeared to have been built as a means of using the elaborate 
treasure proudly ornamenting the facade, much as one might 
buy an early Dutch sideboard and have to build a house 
around it There were other stray bits of complex ornament 
attached to the tomb, window frames, parts of the doorway. 
Just inside and to the left of the entrance was the inner wall of 
the elaborate piece of furniture. And instantly the puzzle 
became clear, for a staircase was enclosed in it, mounting, by 
intersected angles, to the open balcony above. So it was a 
piece of furniture, an exquisite fanciful staircase from some 
earlier building, apparently of Hindu inspiration, that was too 
marvellous to be demolished and since it detailed no animate 
forms, was acceptable as a feature in a Muslim tonib. 

The openwork staircase came out on the balcony, the steps 



continuing to the roof level. Up here the walls which were 
seven or eight feet thick made a terrace around the roofless top 
of the building. As one walked along, one could look down 
into its unfinished interior. On the far side at the outer edge, 
the ridge could be seen to drop sharply away from the wall 
below, and plunge into a rich bed of reeds and water-rushes 
sprung from the high rain waters in their quarter year of 
greenery. At a distance to the left, and under the shadow of 
pale stone buildings on the overhanging ridge, the reeds and 
rushes retreated to form a wide luxuriant pool. Trees leaned 
tenderly over it, pale lotus flowers floated silently on the 
clear water, parakeets flashed above, and to crown the joy of 
the scene, herdsmen with their cattle and water buffaloes lay 
idly on the bank. Some of the men were swimming, they 
leaped in the water with shouts and laughter. This must have 
been an unexpected delight added to the original idea of the 
founders of Thatta . . . this lovely sympathy between silence 
and sound . . . the sun world and water world; between tran- 
sient water, and the high, abiding, sentinel tombs. 

The onslaught of the sun, the edge of height, the need for 
food after an endless morning suddenly was overwhelming. 
We turned towards the embroidered stairwell. Down around 
a hill, past a reeded waterway we turned on to a wide tree- 
lined road, banked by continuous pools of reeds and lotus. 
Lunch was served here, and eaten sitting on the car cushions 
which were pulled out on to die ground to cover tie long 
dangerous thorns that bristled on the banks. The water below 
die road bank was dear and flowing gently. WaterliBes lit the 
surface with pale blossoms. In die distance camels waded 
among the shrub-covered hillocks stretching their necks for 
the highest leaves. They moved deliberately through the 
grassy flood to recreate a primeval scene. LargQ Alexandrine 
parakeets tumbled through the air flashing their green and 
yellow tails as they whirled in circles through die trees. Groups 
of men and woman dothed in piercing vibrant colours pinks, 



dark reds, orange, crimson, yellow travelled along the road 
with their carts and animals. They stared politely at us, slowly 
turning their heads to watch as they continued straight ahead. 
The men rode in the carts, the women walked quickly beside 
them. Sindlii people, inheritors of old complexities, returning 
ancient answers to contemporary questions. This tranquil 
moment was difficult to leave, but there was Thatta itself to 
be seen as soon as the last delicious crumb had been eaten. 

The highway on its way to Hyderabad passes through the 
central part of Thatta then continues on through the desert 
About three miles outside the present city but at what was 
its very heart during Akbar's reign, stands die Dabgir mosque. 
The pictures of this most ancient of Thatta's mosques in its 
ruined state show its delicate form still apparent in spite of the 
changes of time, but one could hardly be prepared for the 
grotesque restoration that has taken place. Where charming 
structural recesses had been are now flat crude slabs of concrete. 
The fragile sensitive curves, domes, and edgings are overlaid 
with sharp edges and coarse blatant domes. The whole restora- 
tion has transformed a structure of rare spiritual charm into a 
puny Roman fortress. It was a major sin, this restoration, dis- 
torting forever a gift of great beauty and value, a gift coming 
into the present day from the time, perhaps the order, of Akbar. 
It points a disfigured finger at the important fact that restora- 
tions which are, of course, needed must be done by archaeo- 
logists and architects who are dedicated to the truths of anti- 
quity, of an antiquity whose builders worked close to the laws 
of nature and its infallible beauty, and not with the vulgar self- 
will or at best stolid indifference of to-day's unstructural 

The rile work of the interior of the Dabgir mosque com- 
pensates for the loss of the facade. The quality of its colours, 
the fantasy of the designs, the soaring arches, the walls and 
borders combine into a picture of exquisite light and shadow, 
depth and surface. Much is gone that cannot and should not be 



replaced, but the remaining parts create an unforgettable 

Near the centre of Thatta a narrow street turns off the high- 
way and penetrates into the complex of the city. The build- 
ings, tall square boxes set at uneasy angles to one another, rise 
on either side for several storeys. They appear so unsteady that 
one feels that the vibration of the motor might bring them 
tumbling down. After several blocks and just before crossing 
the intersection of the street and a small lane, one of us looked 
back. 'There's the Jami Masjid, in the lane!' The enclosing 
wall is whitewashed just as are the other buildings along the 
street and only a rini of brilliant tiles about the entrance betrays 
the mosque. 

The wide entrance arch was walled and ceilinged with tile. 
I looked closely at it. It was arranged in a most interesting 
pattern. The principal units appeared to be made up of ten 
points, two overlaid five-armed stars with a common centre. 
The lines which defined these arms continued past its own 
circular unit and intersected a subsequent unit in such a way 
as to form a point on its circumference, to form one of the star 
points, and having done this it continued on straight through 
the entire design forming one element after another in the 
design. The entire pattern continuing on over the ceiling and 
down the other side appeared to be made up of extended 
straight lines so subtly arranged as to form the complex order 
of circles and stars. 

The others had gone on into the courtyard. I foEowed. 
The sun poured itself down into the court and sent IB hurrying 
towards the shadowy domed corridors that circled the open 
centre. The walls and arches were tiled also. I looked carefully 
at them. I called to the others, 'Look at this tiling, it seems 
to be variations in emphasis on the pattern, in the entrance/ 
They looked. *Does it? 5 die others asked vaguely, burning 
more with the heat of the day than with interest in tie patterns. 

The impact of aidless designs, the series of domes and arches 


under which we walked finally overwhelmed us into silence 
until weary almost to boredom we walked into the prayer 
chamber. Perhaps I should say the prayer chamber captured 
us. It caught us up into a blue vortex and held us suspended in 
an atmosphere of blowing shadow, resting us in an air bluer 
than heaven because it was all around us. This was a blue like 
that ancient window of blue stained glass in the cathedral at 
Chartres, a blue that as you looked at it, particularly as we did 
on the late afternoon of a wild December's blizzard, standing 
in the darkening chill of the cathedral, wind wailing outside, 
a blue that seemed to surround you, seemed to send wave after 
wave of quivering living blue light to enter your being and 
lift you endlessly into itself. To experience this colour in 
circumstances of violent contradiction, extremes of heat and 
cold, was more than remarkable, it was a revelation. 'The 
stars* of the prayer chamber dome 'sang together*. We leaned 
there listening to their blue diapason. 

It must be time to go.* Out into sun, and into the car. 
We fell back against the cushions. 'I can't see any more,' I said. 
'If there's anything more to see, I don't want to see it/ 'There's 
an interesting bazaar with excellent pottery, and hand loomed 
fabrics. And they bottle a delicious sherbet here with silver 
flakes in it.' 'Let's not, it's too much/ We all sighed with 
relief at going home. 'We'll come again, won't we, because 
I must trace those tile patterns I really believe that the prayer 
chamber dome is worked out on the same basic design with . . / 
The others chorused, *. . . with variations in emphasis!* 

We stopped talking and drove ahead. The sun was low in 
the sky. Shadows lay across the flooded water-gardens. Birds 
flew in dark flocks over the lavender desert. The sun was down 
when we re-approached the day-deserted village. Night had 
brought it into giddy life. Lanterns and coloured lights were 
festooned from tree to tree the length of the bazaar. The stalls 
and barrows twinkled with customers. Dogs and children 
skittered under foot, a breeze stirred through the lighted trees. 



Eventually we passed the airport its formal rows of im- 
personal lights. The new housing unit was softened by night 
and home-making; the concrete bubble houses seemed more 
humorous than distressing now. 

We re-entered Karachi. Its streets were serene. A few 
bicycle rickshaws turned absentmindedly into our path and out 
again at our honk. We drove unhampered towards home. A 
delicious breeze spun sea-cool air around us. 'Perhaps/ I 
thought, 'now is the only time, as the prophets say, and the 
miracles we saw to-day were fascinating dust/ 




ONE day in the second half of the sixteenth century an em- 
peror called upon one of his aunts to 'write down whatever 
she knew* of the doings of his grandfather and father, the Mogul 
Emperors Babur and Humayun. No one knew better than 
she, this lively and observant aunt, Gulbadan Begum, 'Princess 
Rosebody,' the inside story of the happenings of the two reigns 
from an intimate family point of view. Would she, who had 
already won a reputation for her poetry and who was known 
to be a connoisseur of books, write her own Memoirs of 
'Firdaus-mafcani' and 'Jannat-ashyanf ('Dwelling* and 'Nest- 
ling in Paradise')? She would. 

And so it came about that a Turki princess, descendant of 
Timur and Genghis Khan, daughter of Babur, sister of Hum- 
ayun, aunt of Akbar, wife of Khwaja Khizr Khan, came to 
write a book which, though little known outside the world of 
scholarship, is a minor classic. 

The MS. of the 'Ahwal-e-Humaynn', which is written in 
Persian in a fine and even nastalik handwriting very probably 
Gulbadan's own lives now in the British Museum. Although 
it covers part of Babur's reign, during which the author was a 
child, it chiefly concerns that of Humayun; with whose for- 
tunes hers were closely linked. Written from a woman's 
point of view it has delicacy and tact, humour and tender- 
ness, and the apparent artlessness of the writing conceals true 



Gulbadan's style is deceitfully simple and direct, and her 
refusal to be drawn into heroics Has led some scholars into 
believing that her Memoirs are of secondary importance, even 
of second-rate quality: mere women's gossip, being the im- 
plication. Yet her lack of cliches and verbiage and the gay 
freshness and hidden pathos of her descriptions of scenes and 
events, her ability to draw a living portrait in a phrase, are 
those of a born novelist of a high order, although she never 
wrote fiction. 

A new appraisal of Gulbadan Begum's book and of her 
quality as a writer is overdue.. Although her output was small, 
her kinship in art is with Jane Austen. Both women wrote of 
what they knew and were content to remain within their 
family and social circles. Neither questioned the established 
order of things and both hid a gentle irony beneath apparent 
guilelessness. Both, though their hearts were engaged and their 
lives touched tragedy at times, were too well-bred to do more 
than hint at emotional stress or to dwell on sordidness and evil, 
however deeply they were moved by them. 

Both had the detachment of the artist, while being greatly 
loved by those around them. Jane Austen played Country 
Dances on the piano for her nieces and was the centre of their 
world. Gulbadan Begum might easily have earned the affec- 
tionate tide of 'Dearest lady' that she herself gave to her own 
beloved aunt, Khanzadeh Begum, Babur*s eldest sister. There 
is not a. trace of egotism or vanity in her book and her gentle 
humour must have made her a delightful companion and have 
specially endeared her to the younger generation. It is not 
known whether Eke Jane Austea she too Md her manuscript 
when anyone came into the room! 

Princess Rosebody had much of her fathers humaiiity and 
independence of mind. She was one of the three daughters of 
Babur's wife, Dil-dar Begum, the "Heart-holding Princess*. 
The other two, Gul-rang, *Ro$e~hued J and Gutdbohra, *Rose^- 
facecT wore older than she. Her brother Hiadal was closest to 



her in age, being two or three years older only. Her little 
brother, Alwar, died in childhood, 

Babur was sriE lord of Kabul and the surrounding prin- 
cipalities when she was born in A, H. 929 A.D. 1523. Two 
years later he set out for the last time to cross the Indus and 
carve an Empire for himself and his heirs in Hindustan. Gul- 
badan was left in Kabul with the rest of his womenfolk and 
children under the nominal command of his twelve-year-old 
son, Kamran, whose mother was Gulrukh. His eldest son and 
heir, Humayun, son of Maham, his chief and most-beloved 
wife, was then seventeen and had the post of Governor of 
Badakhshan. Now he was ordered to bring an army and 
accompany his father to Hindustan. Gulbadan reports that 
Babur was much put out by Humayun' s keeping him waiting 
at the appointed meeting place. She suggests that it was his 
mother, Maham, who had kept him as she had been parted 
from him for so long. But as always, Babur forgave Hum- 
ayun, and they proceeded together to cross the mountains on 
their decisive adventure one of the greatest adventures of 

After a long wait, the news of the victory of Panipat reached 
Kabul, and rich presents were sent by the victorious Babur to 
his womenfolk, accompanied by his instructions to give thanks 
to God. Gulbadan writes that the treasure of five kings fell 
into his hands but that he gave everything away- 

The gifts of Valuable presents and curiosities of Hind' which 
he sent *to my elder relations and sisters and each person of 
the haram* included 'one special dancing-girl of the dancing- 
girls of Sultan Ibrahim, with one gold plate full of jewels 
ruby and pearl, cornelian and diamond, emerald and turquoise, 
topaz and cat's eye and two mother of pearl trays full of 
ashrafis and on two other trays $hahrukhis\ to be delivered to 
each begum. No doubt the small Gulbadan received some 
small gift herselfthough probably not of a dancing-girl! 

After Panipat, many of Babur' s relations followed him to 



Hindustan and were rewarded by being given lands and high 
appointments at the new court Among them were some of his 
'paternal aunts'. Babur seems to have been very considerate to 
his womenfolk and only the feminine and delicate pen of 
Gulbadan could have chronicled this amusing and revealing 
incident . . . 

'All through the four years that my father was in Agra he 
used to go on Fridays to see his paternal aunts. One day it was 
extremely hot, and Her Highness my lady (Maham) said, 
"The wind is very hot, indeed; how would it be if you did not 
go this one Friday? The begums would not be vexed." His 
Majesty said, "Maham, it is astonishing that you should say 
such a thing ! ... If I do not ckeer them, how shall it be done?" ' 

Babur seems to have won the worshipping affection at once 
of the little daughter he welcomed after her long journey 
from Kabul. This was after she and her brother Hindal had 
been taken from their mother Dil-dar and adopted by Maham, 
who had lost all the children born to her after Humayun. 
C A year later my lady, who was Maham Begum, came from 
Kabul to Hindustan. I, this insignificant one, came with her in 
advance of my sisters, and paid my duty to my royal father . . . 
At evening-prayer time someone came and said to him, 
"I have just passed her Highness on the road, four miles out!" 
My father did not wait for a horse to be saddled, but set out 
on foot He met her near the house of Maham's nanacka 
[nurse?]. She wished to alight, but he would not wait and 
fell into her train and walked to his own house.* 

Gulbadan's description of this milestone in her life is reveal- 

* At the time of her meeting His Majesty, she desired me to 
come on by daylight and pay my respects to him . . . My 
mama [old woman] had made me alight at the little Garden, 
and having spread a [small] carpet, seated me on it! There the 
child received the Khalifa and his wife, Sultanam, who gave 
her rich presents, money and right thoroughbred horses and 



entertained her to a banquet which they described as a "hasty 
meal*. 'There was a raised platform on a pleasant spot, and a 
pavilion of red cloth with lining of Gujrati brocade, and six 
canopies of silk and brocade, each of a differing colour, and a 
square enclosure of cloth with painted poles. 

'I sat in Khalifa s quarters. The meal drew out to almost 
fifty roast sheep, and bread and sherbet and much fruit. 
Having at length eaten my breakfast, I got into my litter and 
paid my duty to my royal father. I fell at his feet; he asked 
me many questions, and took me for a time in his arms, and 
then this insignificant person felt such happiness that greater 
could not be imagined.' 

The child seems to have remembered a good deal of her 
first impressions of the new country. She relates how her 
father loved to sit in a tur-khana, a pavilion, in the Sikri garden 
and "write his book', which we now know as being his own 
Memoirs. In this same place Gulbadan had an accident She 
relates that she and 'Afghani aghacha were sitting in the front 
of the lower storey when my lady went to prayers. I said to 
Afghani aghacha, "Pull my hand." She pulled, and my hand 
came out. My strength went and I cried. Then they brought 
the bone-setter and when he had bound up my hand, the 
Emperor went to Agra.' 

It was in another garden, the 'Gold-scattering Garden* of 
Agra, that Babur made his famous remark, 'My heart is bowed 
down by ruling and reigning; I will retire to this garden/ But 
Gulbadan, in recounting this episode, builds up the picture into 
a complete one of family life and affection. She writes that 
Babur went on to say that Tahir the ewer-bearer would be 
all he would want for attendance and that he would make over 
the kingdom to Humayuru 'On this my lady and all his 
children broke down, and said with tears, "God keep you in 
His own peace upon the throne many, many years." ' 

A few days after this she reports that her little brother 
Alwar fdtt ill and in spite of all the doctors' attentions grew 



worse and died. 'His Majesty was very sad and sorry, and 
Alwar's mother, Dil-dar Begum, was wild with grief for the 
child/ But, continues Gulbadan, when Dil-dar's lamentations 
were too great Babur was impatient with her and arranged an 
expedition by boat to Dholpur to create a distraction. 

Unfortunately one family misfortune was swiftly followed 
by another. News came that Humayun was seriously ill in 
Delhi and his mother's presence there was urgently requested. 
Maham was very upset, Gulbadan relates, and started at once 
for Delhi, and meeting with her son at Mathura on the way 
she found him far weaker and 'more alarmingly ill' than she had 
expected. She hurried their return to Agra, where they were 
visited by Gulbadan and her sisters. 

'He was then growing weaker and weaker. Every time he 
came to his senses he ... asked for us, and said, "Sisters, you 
are welcome! Come and let us embrace one another." 

'When Babur came into the sick-room to see his son his 
countenance became sad and pitiful . . . and showed signs of 
dread. On this my lady said, "Do not be troubled about my 
son. You are a king; what griefs have you? You have other 
sons. I sorrow because I have only this one," His Majesty 
rejoined, "Maham! Although I have other sons, 1 love none 
as I love your Humayun." * 

It was then that Babur made the affecting attempt to ex- 
change his own life for that of his eldest son. Gulbadan relates 
the story in her simple but dramatic way, reinforcing other 
accounts but giving details that only a woman would note. 
'During Humayun's illness his Majesty walked round him and 
. . . kept up that going-round from the Wednesday, and made 
intercession ... in anxiety and deep dejection. The weather 
was extremely hot and his heart and liver burned. While 
going round he prayed, saying in effect: "O God! if a life may 
be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and 
my being for Humayun." 

'That very day he fell ill, and Hranayun poured water on his 

A page from Sa'cil's Gulistan with miniatures probably 
by Manohar. Mogul school 


accomplishments, such as the making of thumb-rings and 
arrows, playing polo, and shooting with the bow and arrow/ 

While the gay proceedings were going on Humayun, 
Gulbadan relates, looking down from his gold-embroidered 
divan raised above the tank, in which the 'pretty ladies and 
sweet-reciters and others' were sitting, said to his aunt, Khan- 
zadeh Begum, the hostess, 'Dearest Lady! if you approve they 
might put water in the tank.* 

*She replied, "Very good," and went herself and sat at the 
top of the steps. People were taking no notice, when all at 
once the tap was turned and water came. The young people 
got very much excited. His Majesty said, "There is no harm; 
each of you will eat a pellet of anise and a bit of comfit and 
come out of there." ' 

Humayun was fonder of such jokes and of feasting and 
playing than he was of ruling. To add to this he was an opium 
addict. Although Gulbadan was perfectly aware of his short- 
coming^, she never allows herself to criticize, but only reports 
and illuminates with her fine gifts for selection, In her book 
the tragic story begins to unroll itself, of Humayun's loss of 
prestige and support, of his defeat and flight, his years of exile; 
of his brother Kamran's opposition and final, overthrow, of 
BfindaTs misfortunes. Gulbadan's own adventures and hard- 
ships are lightly touched on, but there is feeling in every line 
of her book. She was married about seventeen, it seems, to 
Khizr Khan, but of him she seldom writes. Her affections and 
cares seem to have been more with her own relations, with her 
mother Dil-dar, with whom she was reunited, with Efindal and 
'Dearest Lady* and with Hamida-banti, Humayun's most- 
beloved wife, and her little son, Akbar. 

Gulbadan's description of Hamida's refusal to see Humayun, 
much less to marry Mm, are amusing and not a little pleasure 
at the fact of a spirited girl defying an Emperor creeps into her 
account of his courtship. This was eventually successful, how- 
ever, as, after all, he was the Emperor, although in exile, and 


her hand could be forced. The marriage seems to have been 
not unhappy, however, and no suspicion of discontent creeps 
into Gulbadan's later accounts of Hamida. 

In fact her descriptions of the exiled Emperor's life at the 
Shah's court at Khurasan show that Hamida became very close 
to Humaytxn who had the propensity, like other Mogul Em- 
perors, of being completely devoted to a favourite wife as well 
as affectionate and considerate to the other womenfolk around 
him. Gulbadan writes that when Shah Tahmasp arranged 
hunting expeditions for Huniayun, Hamida-banu Begum 
'used to enjoy the sight from a distance in either a camel or a 
horse-litter'. Shahzad Sdtanam, the Shah's sister, however, 
'rode on horse back and took her stand behind her brother'. 

The story of the stolen rubies, though too long to recount 
here, brings out Gulbadan's gift of dramatic narrative to the 
full. Some valuable rubies were part of the imperial treasure, 
Humayun had brought with him into exile and these were kept 
in an amulet-case of which only he and Hamida knew. If 
*he went away anywhere, he gave the amulet-case into her 
charge. One day she was going to wash her head, so she 
bundled the case up in a handkerchief, and put it on the 
Emperor's bed. Raushan kuka thought this a good chance to 
steal five rabies 

'Whoa the begum came back from washing her head, the 
Emperor gave her die amulet-case, and she at once knew from 
its Eghtness in her hand that it had lost weight, and said so. 
The Emperor asked, "How is this? Except you and me, no one 
knows about them?" He was astonished/ 

The story ends with the discovery of the thief and the rubies 
by means of a clever ruse on the part of Hamida and her 
bmther Khwaja Mu*azzam, who played the part of a mis- 
chievous boy to some effect and won the Emperor's smiling 
approval when his tricks succeeded in their object, which was 
to unmask the thief and discover the whereabouts of the 


Humayun is on the whole dealt with gently by his sister, but 
here and there a hint of her real feelings about his character 
creeps into her writing. He could be impatient and petulant as 
well as affectionate and kind to the ladies of his entourage, 
exiled with him. When in Balkh he 'took up his quarters in 
the Heart-Expanding Garden' and it was there that the begums 
persuaded him. to let them have an expedition to see the 
riwaj (rhubarb?) growing. 

With a somewhat bad grace he agreed, but when small 
contretemps happened to the begums en route he grew annoyed. 
'There was a stream in the lower part of the garden which 
Afghani qghacha could not cross and she fell off her horse. For 
this reason there was an hour's delay/ When the cavalcade 
set out again another of the begums, Mahr-chuchak, found her 
horse difficult to manage and went on too fast up the hill. 
Perhaps her horse bolted: Gulbadan does not exactly specify 
what happened. But she does recount that Humayun was 
Very much annoyed about this*. He told them to go on and 
said that he would follow when he had taken some opium and 
got over his annoyance. When he did follow them, she said, 
'the look of vexation was entirely laid aside and he came with a 
happy and beautiful look on his face'. No doubt the opium had 
something to do with the restoration of his temper. 

Though always contained and disciplined, the book becomes 
charged with emotion towards the aid when it is dealing with 
treachery of Kamran and the death of her own beloved full 
brother HindaL In fact it breaks off abruptly at die point whore 
Humayun gave the order to 'blind Mirza Kamran in both 
eyes'. The last words of the book are these, 'The Sayyid went 
at once and did so. After the blinding, His Majesty the 
Emperor. . . / 

The manuscript is not illustrated and litde is known of its 
fate. No doubt it formed part of die imperial library and may 
have been used for reference by Akbar's historian, Abu4- 
FazL Gulbadaa is mentioned in his book, the 



and In Chapter XIV he describes her arrival with Akbar's wife, 
Miriam Makani, into India. Gulbadan lived tinder his pro- 
tection until she died at the age of eighty in February 1603. 
Hamida was with her during her last illness, and speaking her 
name *Gulbadan' in affection, the dying woman opened her 
eyes and spoke the verse *I die may you live!' 

Akbar himself helped to carry her bier for some distance and 
in her name made lavish gifts to the poor and needy, as in her 
own life she had always been generous to those less fortunate 
than herself She had also made the long pilgrimage to Mecca, 
recorded by Abu4-Fazl, during which she experienced ship- 
wreck and many hardships. 




A RT work among the Muslims has not been a form of self- 
/JLconscious sestheticlsm but a natural concomitant of the 
business of living. This was so everywhere in the world in the 
great ages of art production before the modern disintegration 
of culture. Now life has been so divided up that we are afraid 
to get work mixed up with recreation, the sacred with the 
profane, and articles of use with articles of beauty. 

The Muslim tradition has always been to expend artistic 
talent in the normal productive activity of daily life in the 
making of cloth and dresses, jewellery and armour, earthen pots 
and metal utensils, houses and gardens, floorings and curtains, 
and above all books and book covers. In studying Muslim 
painting therefore it must be remembered that it is only one of 
many similar forms of art expression using similar motifs and 
informed by the same spirit. The art of painting in particular 
found expression in many media, on paper, leather, walls, 
wooden trays and boxes and so OEL 

Hie advent of Islam proved to be momentous in die field 
of art. It released infinite constructive energy for work in all 
fields as was done by all great inspiring movements in history. 
Thus the local artists of the great conquered countries like Iran 
and Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt, not only found a pro- 
pitious atmosphere to work in but received full encouragement 
and patronage. Their work was however so canalized into new 
lines, and so influenced by a new spirit, that art in all the far- 



flung countries conquered by Islam soon acquired a distinctive 
and unmistakable character known as that of Muslim art. ^ 

Architecture and all the ministering arts including carving, 
sculpture, mosaic work, tilework and of course painting, were 
called upon to build new mosques and palaces, public and 
private buildings and indeed whole cities such as Kufa and 
Baghdad, Cairo and Samarra, and many more. 

Architectural activity began at once and there are great 
examples still to be seen of the first century of Islam in the 
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the Mosque of Omar in 
Cairo, and elsewhere. In these, much of the material and design 
is borrowed from local sources but even here the seeds of 
Muslim styles are discernible in arch and pillar, plan and 
interior decoration. 

Painting of walls, too, was much liked by the Arabs as large 
plain surfaces were anathema to them. If nothing else, they 
used coloured stone to break the monotony. Actually the 
vogue of mural paintings or frescoes started very early in 
Islam and examples have been discovered at Qusayr Amra in 
Syria going back to the beginning of the eighth century; at 
Nishapur in Iran, and Samarra in Iraq, dating back to die 
ninth century; and in Egypt near Cairo belonging to the tenth 
century. Hellenistic influence is predominant in the first; 
Sa$$anian and Central Asian influences have been discerned in 
the second; the hand of Arab Christians in the third and so 
forth. But it is also recognized that even in Qusayr Amra there 
are distinctly Oriental elements, while in Nishapur already the 
peculiar features of Muslim architecture are found developed, 
such as the niche, and the decorations done on them include 
vase motifs and scrolls with palmettes and half palmettes, 
which had already become established in the Omayyed period 
and are found in places as far apart as the alabaster capitals 
discovered at Rakka in Syria, and the wooden pulpit of the 
mosque of Quairwan in Tunisia, In Saniarra, even signed work 
by Muslim artists has been found and the growth of an all- 


pervading style is discernible. In Eygpt the geometrical inter- 
lacings, palmette scrolls and arabesques clearly bear die char- 
acter of Muslim art 

These stray discoveries of fresco paintings must be only a 
few of many more made, and serve to show that the art of 
painting received early encouragement, and while it was 
eclectic in receiving influences from all sides, it soon showed 
signs of an overriding character of its own which Islam 

This influence was not merely the negative one of pro- 
hibiting human forms and thus channelizing artistic ingenuity 
to invent abstract designs, which is often adduced. It was the 
positive affirmation of the reality and meaningfulness of the 
external world which is after all the religion of all art, since 
to the artist form and not matter is the essence of things, and 
die symbol of highest significance. Form and external appear- 
ances had however been discredited as unreal and illusory by 
certain religions and schools of thought. The Koran on the 
other hand constantly adjures us to contemplate the appear- 
ances of things and to wring from them testimony of deepest 

The unsophisticated sons of the desert took a naive and frank 
delight in the beauty of colour and form. The sensitiveness and 
wonder with which they beheld the glories of art and nature, 
when they stepped out of die barren deserts of their homeland, 
were contagious, and shook into acuter awareness the blunted 
minds and jaded senses of the nations they conquered. 

Above all, however, Islam contributed to the world of art 
the aE-important spiritual stability which comes from a satisfy- 
ing faith; that high seriousness and loftiness of thought and 
emotion from which alone great works of art can spring. It is 
for lack of this that the present age finds itself condemned to a 
dry cynical attitude in which artists do no more than throw out 
the froth and fumes of their minds in disjointed little poems and 
trivial works of art. With the .artists of early Main it was 



otherwise. Their values were certain, whatever their practice 
may have been. Beauty above all was held in high esteem as a 
spiritual ideal supported by the thought of the greatest poets 
and philosophers. The Traditions have it: 'God is Beauty and 
with Beauty is he well pleased/ Again, 'God has planted 
Beauty in our midst like a flag in the city/ sang Al~Shabistari. 
The great Ghazali wrote, "The heart of man has been so con- 
stituted by the Almighty that like a flint it contains a hidden 
fire which is evoked by music and harmony, and renders man 
beside himself with ecstasy. These harmonies are echoes of 
that higher world of beauty which we call the realm of the 
spirit; they remind man of his kinship to that world and pro- 
duce human emotions so deep and strange that he is powerless 
to explain.' (Quoted by A. U. Pope.) 

For a discussion of the nature of Muslim painting it would 
be worthwhile to have a rough plan of its development from 
earliest times. Very little miniature painting has survived from 
the first few centuries of Islam because of the perishable and 
slight nature of the article, but there is enough to show that an 
active school of miniature painters existed in Egypt in the 
eighth, ninth and tenth centuries. This evidence is pro- 
vided by fragments of papyri which are preserved in the 
Archduke Raimer Collection of the National Library of 
Vienna. One of these is the picture of a horseman signed by an 
artist called Abu Tamin Haydara (tenth century). Historical 
evidence is also provided by Maqrizi in his book Khitat in 
which he tells us of the Caliph Muntasir's great interest in 
painting and of the contest which he held between Al-Qasir 
and Ibn Aaz the latter from Baghdad, the former an Egyptian. 
Maqrizi also claims to have written a whole history of painters, 
which unfortunately has been lost 

The above evidence, however, is too meagre for drawing 
any conclusions about art styles and standards. It was in 
Baghdad under the Abbasids that Islamic miniature painting 
actually took its birth. Unfortunately, however, the only 



surviving manuscripts containing illustrations belong to the 
early thirteenth century, just before the deluge of the Mongol 
invasion destroyed the whole edifice of this culture with the 
conquest of Baghdad in 1258. These illustrations are found in 
manuscripts of books on medicine and mechanics, but more 
interesting are the pictures made in the popular story books 
Kalilah wa Dimnah, and Maqamat by Hariri, of which there are 
many copies. Of the last in particular there is a remarkable 
copy in the Bibliotheque Nationale called Shefer's Hariri dated 
1237, illustrated by Yahya Ibn Mahmud of Wasit or simply 
Wasti It contains graphic and realistic pictures of con- 
temporary Arab life, showing typical human characters and 
carefully drawn animals such as camels and horses. There are 
indubitable signs of Hellenistic influence in the facial forms, 
art conventions and drawing. The workmanship is crude but 
the effect is full of spirit and vigour. On the other hand the 
composition already shows those decorative tendencies which 
were to be developed later in our miniature painting, and the 
same decorative quality marks the treatment of the drapery. 
The palette, however, is drab though varied. These Meso- 
potamian painters may be said to hold the same place in our 
art as the Primitives of Italy in the art of Europe, but the former 
preceded the Europeans by about two centuries. 

The cataclysm of the Mongol invasions for a while cut short 
the progress of the arts of peace in the Muslim world. When 
the dust had settled and the conquerors were conquered 
themselves by the culture of their subjects, we find the art of 
painting reviving in an entirely new region namely Northern 
Persia, where the Mongol kings of Persia made their capital. 
Persian painting therefore begins late in the thirteenth century 
and no older examples than that are octant 

"While so far the dominant influence on all our art had been 
from the West, namely Byzantium or Greece, now the tide 
flowed from the East, namely Central Asia and China, because 
these regions had been brought under the rule of one family 



together with the Muslim Near East, Hulagu Khan ruling here 
and Kubiai Khan there. Now, these wild nomads first saw the 
light of civilization in China which was their first conquest, 
and they developed a deep and ahiding admiration for its 
culture. Of course cultural relations had already existed be- 
tween China and the Arab countries because of the coming of 
Chinese trading vessels in the seventh century, and the going 
of Arab in the eighth and ninth. Moreover the Arabs were 
already under obligation to the Chinese for teaching them the 
art of paper making which was so highly developed by the 
Muslims. This was first done by a Chinaman taken prisoner by 
the governor of Samarkand (middle of eighth century) accord- 
ing to Tha'abli's LatoifalMa'arif, quoted by Sir Thomas Arnold. 

Under the Mongols Chinese art acquired the status of the 
classical and the ideal. We know that Hulagu imported a 
hundred families of Chinese artists and craftsmen to decorate 
his new capital, while a constant stream of art goods continued 
to pour in for the use of king and courtiers. 

It is natural, therefore, that the landscape painting of the 
Yuan dynasty, which was flourishing at the time in China, 
should have exercised a strong influence on the new school of 
painting in Persia, These influences are not only very pro- 
nounced in the earliest manuscripts such as Ibni Bakhtishus* 
al Hayawan (c 1297, Maragha) but they bequeathed 
permanent features to Muslim painting such as the floating 
cloud forms or *taT, the fondness for pictures of birds and 
animals, particularly flying ducks; the rhythmic quality and 
flowing figures of men and women; the interest in landscape 
painted in subdued colours after the Chinese; and above all the 
caHgraphic quality of the whole line work, which last was not 
so much borrowed as reinforced, for the tendency was already 
present, due to the similar relation in China and Muslim 
countries between drawing and writing* 

Perhaps the most noteworthy work of this period are the 
illustrations of the Shahnama done in 1320 at Tabriz and 



known as the Demotte Shahnama, This is the work of an un- 
known artist and its parts are divided up between many collec- 
tions, public and private. The illustrations, which have been 
praised as superlative by competent critics, are done in the 
grand style, showing impressive processions and heroic deeds 
and dramatic situations. The spirited drawing, striking com- 
positions, the strong emotion and the rich colouring, are 
notable features of the paintings and are well suited to the 

Among other important works of this period are the many 
copies of Rashiduddin's Jami at Tavarikh* For help in com- 
piling this we know the learned author invited two Chinese 
scholars, who brought many books and much material with 
them that has obviously influenced the illustration work. 
Incidentally, the manuscript of this book which is partly owned 
by the Royal Asiatic Society and pardy by Edinburgh Univer- 
sity contains the earliest known pictures of the Prophet, eight 
in number. 

The next great political revolution which came over the 
Muslim world was the conquests of Timur. While these 
brought untold destruction in their wake, they also led to most 
fruitful patronage of all arts and sciences, because the family of 
Timur was a highly cultured one. Not only did Timur himself 
gather poets and artists and scholars at his brilliant court in 
Samarkand, but his successors in Persia and Transoxiana and 
India continued to extend the same enlightened patronage to 
art and science. 

No manuscripts have survived from Samarkand, but there 
are many from Shiraz which also was a great centre of culture 
in those times. Here were developed those qualities of tfee 
typical Persian miniature painting which were to have far- 
reaching effects on the Timnrid and the Mogul schools alike, 
Timur's son Shah Rukh made Ms capital in Herat, and gath- 
ered round Mm a galaxy of brilliant artists and sdbokrs, 
among whom was Khali! MIrza whose work when brought to 


Jehangir so impressed and delighted him that in his Memoirs 
he hazards the guess that Behzad perhaps learned painting from 

As against the epic and dramatic subjects of the Mongol 
school, the favourite themes of this school were romances and 
mystic poetry, especially the works of Nizami and Hafiz and 
Jami Among the most remarkable surviving manuscripts of 
this period are the Carrier Nizanii or the Khamsa of Nizami in 
the possession of Louis Carrier of Paris; and the Gulistan of 
Sa'adi in the Chester Beatty Collection now in India House, 

Characteristic features of this school are the delicately drawn 
small figures, decorative conventional landscapes with spongy 
hills and a special pattern of curves to symbolize water, and a 
high horizon. The colours are very varied and brilliant but 
harmonious. The atmosphere of the pictures generally is one 
of comparative calm as against the turbulence and bursting 
energy of the Mogul period. 

Included in the Timurid period but outstanding and apart is 
the school of painting that was initiated at Herat under the 
patronage of Sultan Husain Mirza and his great Vizier, Mir All 
Sher NawaL Here worked Kamaluddin Behzad, the greatest 
name in miniature painting, who has been compared to 
Raphael. They were contemporaries and died in the first 
quarter of the sixteenth century, but Behzad lived to be twice 
as old as Raphael, and exercised far greater influence on the art 
of his people. Not only did he influence the numerous artists 
at Herat who were his pupils and later became leaders of 
schools in other centres, as Muzaffar AH and Mirak and Mir 
Sayyid Ali, but he also helped to found the Safavid School 
himself, for when Shah Ismail Safavi conquered Persia and 
established his court in Tabriz in 1510, he took Behzad with 

Apart from the numerous spurious works attributed to 
Behzad, the most remarkable specimens of this great master's 



work are in the Bustan of Sa'adi in the Royal Egyptian 
Library in Cairo, and in the Khamsa of Nizami in the British 
Museum. A wider richer palette and new livelier colour com- 
binations are a feature of Behzad's work especially the use of 
many shades of red and the contrasting of them with a green 
background. But the most outstanding contribution of Behzad 
was to figure painting to which he gave a livelier quality of 
action; and the faces to which he gave individuality. Also he 
was the first artist to raise portrait making to the status of an 
independent art as apart from book illustrations. Portraits of 
course had been made before in abundance and were very 
popular with the royal patrons of art, but it was Behzad who 
taught for the first time the drawing of true likenesses with 
personality and character in them. 

The Safavid school developed during the sixteenth century, 
declined and then again showed renewed activity and life in 
the early seventeenth century under the influence of Riza 
Abbasi, and then petered out again during the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. Among the great exponents of this 
school were Sultan Mtihammed, Director of the Royal Art 
Studios under Shah Tahmasp, and his teacher, Mirak, pupil of 
Behzad, These two artists mainly were responsible for develop- 
ing the characteristic features of the Safavid miniatures, richly 
decorative, extremely refined and elegant in technique, 
sophisticated in subject and spirit. The influence of the sweet 
seductive mystic poetry of Persia, and the rather indulgent and 
aesthetic mystic philosophy, is dominant in these paintings. 
Dreamy idyllic scenes of feasting and love making in flowery 
gardens; foppish young cavaliers and thin lipped princesses; 
these are the sual subjects of Safavid painting. Hie cloying 
sweetness, the excessive ornateness, suggest a weakening of 
nervous fibre and are premonitions of the aid. Riza Abbasi 
made a gallant attempt to revive painting in Safavid Persia, 
but with his death in 1645 the great art practically died there, 
although it continued to be practised 


The basic character of Muslim painting had been established 
in Persia before it ramified into Bukhara, Constantinople, 
Lahore and Delhi. While these later developments form a 
fascinating study, the field covered above is enough to provide 
a basis for some generalizations. 

If realistic art may be said to have achieved perfection in 
Greece and Rome, then abstract art had its perfect flowering 
in Islam. This quality is a reflection of the Muslim mind which 
found fullest expression in architecture, the most abstract and 
non-representational of all arts, except perhaps music, with 
which too the Muslims found much affinity. In our carpets 
and tiles, fabrics and silver wares, there is the same use of 
geometrical patterns and floral interlaces and arabesque which 
shows the extreme form of the analytical tendency to abstract 
certain beautiful forms from real objects. This tendency is ia 
evidence in our painting also though in moderation compared 
with purely decorative work. In any case what is noteworthy 
is the overriding importance in our painting of the overall 
pattern of Hnes and curves, and above all of the areas of colours. 
TMs quality is sometimes referred to in modern criticism as 
'arabesque', which is itself a significant point, as it implies that 
this quality was a salient feature of our art, arabesque meaning 
in the Arab style. 

Thus, die famous critic Di San Lazzaro, in his book Painting 
in Frmtt 1905-50, speaks of the element of arabesque pattern 
in painting t 

*To~day Gisdbia, who is a rigorous and pure artist but not 
an abstract one, has the same problem as Magnelli, the abstract 
painter. It is a problem Delacroix foresaw (despite the many 
horrible pictures he was responsible for) when he spoke to 
Baudelaire of "Thpse mysterious effects of line and colour 
which, alas, are only felt by a few adepts: that musical and 
arabesque part which is everything and for many people is 
nothing." Gischia does not set out to represent or imitate a 
fruit He has assimilated the contribution of die Fauves and tEe 



Cubists and not in vain. For all that his work is not abstract, 
yet it is Hocked in its space, enclosed in its canvas, it is not 
objective but is an object itself as much as the abstract monu- 
mental work of Magnelli* 

The beauty of our painting too will be clear only when it is 
viewed as intrinsically beautiful forms making an abstract 
design rather than as representation though the latter quality 
is also there. At the back of it is the realization that the har- 
mony of a painting, by the very nature of the medium, must 
be based on a two-dimensional pattern, and hence all such 
things as solidity, depth and distance should be entirely ignored. 
Once the shapes of nature had been reduced to two-dimensional 
forms, according to certain conventions (for all art has conven- 
tions) the problem was to create significant forms and to 'block' 
them within the framework of the picture. This is the direction 
in which all modern art has been moving since the time of 
Gauguin, through Kandinsky and Matisse, to Alberte Magnelli, 
who have insisted upon the beauty of forms independently of 
their representational quality. The distribution of areas in our 
paintings if studied from the point of view of pure design is 
most remarkable. 

In the use of colour again, the harmony sought is not of 
intermingling tones, or atmosphere, but of pure brilliant dis- 
crete areas of colour juxtaposed in patterns, that play one hue 
against the other and create a rich polyphonic symphony of 
colour. There is neither shadow nor aerial perspective, neither 
mingling of forms nor dimming and receding planes. All is 
equally bright and fresh and vibrant ft is a musical conception 
of painting, as Kandinsky used to say, in whicE plastic values 
are transformed into patterns of zones of pure colour, that glow 
like lustrous jewels. In fact, many pigments used by the old 
miniature painters of the Moguls have been discovered to be 
ground-up jewels. 

The use of the line deserves separate mention. If the value 
of art lies in the unique emotional experience it provides, this 



is achieved by exploiting the different shades and types of 
emotion that nature has placed in different lines and curves, 
colours and tones. Now, by and large, Eastern art is linear, 
while Western art is plastic. Eastern art exploits to the full the 
beauty, strength and emotional value of the line, independently 
of other charms such as those of colour. Muslim art, however, 
is distinguished from Chinese by the fact that here the emphasis 
on line is counter-balanced by the equal insistence on colour; 
while as we shall find, in Mogul painting, the line gradually 
loses its importance and colour begins to dominate. 

The pre-eminent importance of the line in Muslim art is but 
natural as our painting is more or less a by-product of calli- 
graphy. The honour in which the art of writing was always 
held among us, as the means of recording the Word of God, 
influenced all our arts, which exploited the beauty of calli- 
graphic patterns. When manuscripts began gradually to be 
decorated with marginal patterns, and then floral designs and 
thai even animals and men, shyly these ornaments crept into 
the main page and intermingled with the text as panels or just 
as a beautiful punctuation. Thus painting appeared as a hand- 
maid of calligraphy and was led in by the calligraphers them- 
selves. As such, developed painting too retained the calligraphic 
quality of which the writing always remained a beautiful 

Again the fact that all our paintings were first made into 
carefully done drawings and colours were filled in later, pro- 
vided excellent opportunity for exploitation of the beauty of 
line. This fact has led some critics to call these paintings 
coloured drawings but that need not be considered derogatory. 
The work of Matisse has been compared by Roger Fry to 
tapestry and the comparison brings out the twofold beauty of 
colour and design that mark Matisse. 

Again, it has been observed justly by Sir Thomas Arnold 
that there is an air of impassivity and lack of emotional ex- 
pression in the portraits of Muslim minkturists. Event in 


^e from MS. copy of the Akbar-namah illustrated by Basavan (outline) and 
Dharm Das (painting). Mogul school, late 1 6th century 

Akbnr inspecting a captured wild elephant. Mogul school, 

late 1 6th or early I7th century 


scenes of stirring activity and excitement, of joy or sorrow or 
terror, the faces are blank and expressionless. This is certainly 
a weakness if judged by the standards of an art which presents 
figures as studies in psychology and character rather than as 
significant forms, and effective pieces of drawing or painting. 
But do we condemn the portraits of Cezanne which certainly 
do not come up to these standards of character study, and 
whatever other artistic qualities they might possess, are in this 
respect as impassive and lifeless as our miniatures? In this con- 
nection the practice of the Greeks too should be remembered. 
Firstly, they did not believe in depicting action except in the 
moments of perfect equilibrium, as in the Discus Thrower; and 
the same belief in calm, poise and repose, told them that in art 
the expression of the passions was indiscreet and unlovely. 
*The Gods admire the depth and not the tumult of the soul.* 
In short, what Bracusi said of his paintings may well be 
applied to Muslim painting, Do not look for obscure and 
mysterious formulx. It is pure joy that I give you. Look at 
them until you can no longer see them. Those who are closest 
to the Lord have seen them.* 





'Dans la personne de son nouveau protecteur, Y Emperor 
Jehangity fart Mogul possldait un admirateur passionne 

de la nature? 
La peinture Indienne: Ivan Stchoukine 

'History has magnificent strokes of chance. 9 

History of Art: Elie Faure 

IN the beginning the treatment of this visible world about us 
in the Western realistic style was a thing undreamed by the 
Mogul artist This was not at all surprising since Humayun 
returning from his exile in Iran in 1555 brought a group of 
artists into India who had long followed the two-dimensional 
convention in vogue at the court of the Safavids at Tabriz. 

In order that we should more fully appreciate the significant 
change that overtook Mogul painting a little later in the Akbar 
period in die search after verisimilitude it is necessary that for 
a moment we turn aside to elucidate briefly the raison d'etre of 
the Iranian Kalm as practised by the masters of the Safavid 

Its aim was purely decorative and any naturalistic aids such 
as shading or perspective could have no place. It submitted 
the surface of the miniature to a kind of chequer-board treat- 


ment resulting in a polychromatic effect of brilliant reds, greens, 
blues, and yellows, the whole glistening with the appearance 
of mosaic. Each division constituted an area of pure colour 
untouched by any shadow but covered with a wealth of archi- 
tectural and other delicate detail. Under a canopy of clouds, 
spiralled after the Chinese manner, against an emerald-green 
ground, in high-peaked turbans, the princes walk into a fairy 
land of day's perpetual meridian amidst a garnishing of vermil- 
ion, lapis-lazuli, and gold. Said a nostalgic medievalist, speak- 
ing of the Gothic missal, 'The very lack of plasticity was the 
means of achieving an almost magic vitality. How unspeak- 
ably much was lost when perspective, imposing its triumphal 
illusion of three-dimensional form, destroyed the truth of 
the miracle.* Without changing a word we may equally 
lament the loss of the Safavid miniature. But, as we 
shall see, the Mogul artist came and substituted another 

From Tabriz, Humayun brought with him Mir Sayyid All 
and Khawajah Abdus-Samad, two pupils of the famous 
Behzad, most famous ornament of the Safavid school. He 
allotted them a task. They were to prepare an illustrated copy 
of one of Iran's most attractive classics, the Dastan-i-AmiT 
Hamzah. As the task was to be a tremendous one twelve 
volumes, of one hundred folios, each to be provided with an 
illustration the two master artists joined with them some fifty 
Iranian and Indian, assistants. 

With the beginning of the Amir Hmzak we may place the 
inception of the Mogul school. But when we come to com- 
pare the illustrations of the Amir H&mzah with the work of 
the Iranian miniaturist, points of difference are at once dis- 
cernible. The Iranian decor remains, but the compositional skill 
is at times fumbling and uncertain, as though die often elab- 
orate subject-matter had proved beyond tie artist's powers so 
that the result is confosed. Colouring has also lost somedbing 
of its previous impeccable taste. But what is important for us 


is that in die treatment of trees and other accessories there 
appears a new naturalism. 

We must remember that just now we are not confronted 
with the detached miniature but with book-fflustrations exe- 
cuted on cotton-cloth measuring some 22 inches by 28^ inches 
Let us look at an illustration from the Amir Hamzah which 
bears the title of 'The Miracle of the Prophet Efie'. The com- 
positional axis is a diagonal. This the artists of the Akbar 
period had found very convenient to their purpose whose 
subject-matter was mostly concerned with the stirring chron- 
icles related in the Babarnama, the Timurnama, Akbarnama, 
or the fabulous adventures of heroes of romance. In this 
instance we find it is used with quieter but quite telling effect. 
The treatment, however, of the water and the trees affords 
evidence of startling innovation. No longer are the trees 
treated en masse as in the Iranian kalm, and the Mate forms, 
though rendered flat, and restricted to well-defined areas of 
space which they completely fill, succeed in establishing each 
tree's botanical identity. But the most naturalistic treatment is 
reserved for the trunks. The artist too has not just been con- 
tent to present his rocks in the manner of the Iranian and 
Chinese conventions, but with the aid of a rriinimum of shad- 
ing he has given them a plasticity totally foreign to the Safavid 
miniature. The decorative intention still remains but guided 
by ideals unknown to the artists of Tabriz. The water too 
bubbles and foams realistically against the oriental traditional 
precedent of interlaced hatching. The Safavid ideals are dis- 
appearing. To what extent we can see by comparing the above 
work with 'Leila and Majnun' by Mir Sayyid AH. This keeps 
well within the limits imposed by the two-dimensional. 

The year 1575 marks the commencement of a notable phase 
in the evolution of the Mogul school Akbar conceives the 
idea of establishing what is little less than an academy of art 
where Muslim and Hindu artists should find equal favour. 
The Safavid supremacy, already on the decline, is now hastened 



towards a final disappearance. In the picture 'Timur Receiving 
Turkish Prisoners* from a Timurnama, and attributed to 
Dharai Das, the qualities of the new Mogul style are already 
apparent a synthesis of Iranian, Hindu, and European. The 
figures are no longer stereotyped as in the 'Leila and Majnun* 
painting but betray a psychological interest on the part of the 
artist combined with a sense of drama. Accessories like archi- 
tecture and drapery are handled with the skill of things freshly 
seen. Only the cartouche here most tiresomely outsize mars 
the dignity of the whole. The immobility of most of the figure 
groups is artfully relieved by the feverish activity in the fore- 
ground of two attendants with a tame cheetah, who perhaps 
has decided not to be so tame. 

The growth of interest in architectural decor is rather over- 
elaborately illustrated in the scene, again from a Timurnama, 
'The Muezzin's Call to Prayer*. It is a pity the artists, for there 
are two contributors, decided to fill up every bit of their given 
space. This mars what would otherwise have been a most 
attractive painting with a quite Arabian-Nightish feeling in 
which the note of satire is not lacking, since despite the strenu- 
ousness of the muezzin, the somnolence of his audience finds 
no abatement Some of the properties of the Iranian miniature 
are here too, but there is much more that carries with it the 
imprint of the new schooFs way of seeing the viable world. 
The planes of the buildings are made to advance and with a 
careful regard to perspective thereby avoiding the flimsy 
appearance of a theatrical decor. 

Before the close of the Akbar period the introduction of 
examples of the work of Western painters caused an immense 
stride to be made in the realistic interpretation of nature. Two 
things could not have escaped the keen scrutiny of the Mogul 
artist about the European paintings: their balanced unity; and 
a carefully calculated colour-harmony in support of a pre- 
vailing tonality. But this was not all; these paintings had 
brought home to Mm the place of landscape. For the first 


time they beheld it as one of the most prized of essential 


In a miniature, painted by Basavan, he gives plasticity to his 
figures, atmospheric effect to his scene, as well as perspective. 
Almost, landscape, in this instance, has usurped the major ^for 
the subsidiary role and has become the painting's raison d'etre. 

We are confronted with a most daring excursion into 
realism. Its degree may be better realized when we learn that 
Basavan was a pupil of Abdus-Sainad. There is no question as 
to the extent he has freed himself from Iranian conventions 
beloved of his master. 

The Mogul portrait painter was the most prominent in 
taking advantage of the new appeal and placed his subjects 
against attractive landscape backgrounds often contrived with 
a true understanding of nature. But the greatest triumph of 
the realistic approach is the Very beautiful conception* of 
^Shooting the Deer at Night'. The original is one of the most 
prized possessions of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Exigen- 
cies of space preclude my praising it further, though I am 
strongly tempted. 

Under Jehangir a specialized school of miniaturists grew up 
whose tads: was the meticulous rendering of birds, beasts and 
flowers. The most accomplished among them was Ustad 
Mansur. One of Jehangir's favourite flowers was die tulip, 
judging from, that delightful phrase he has found to describe 
them in the pages of the Tuzuk~i-Jehangiri, 'Torches of ban- 
quet-adorning tulips/ The gem among the paintings of dais 
group is 'Red Tulips* by Ustad Mansur, A great admirer of 
tulips was D. H. Lawrence, who could declare, *The tulip in 
her titter redness has a touch of the opaque earth/ It is just 
this quality of opaqueness which Ustad Mansur has exquisitely 
succeeded in getting into his tulips. Among his bird studies his 
'Turkey Cock* is a work of the most accomplished merit. It 
stands with tail outspread against a background of hardly more 


than suggested landscape, whose tonality reflects the aridity of 
desert sands, but which serves as admirable foil for the subtle 
colour gradations of the bird's plumage and the daring calli- 
graphic red splash of his head and neck. For his proficiency in 
a highly specialized subject-matter of the miniaturist Jehangir 
conferred upon Ustad Mansur the title of Nadir~*al-Asr 9 or 
Marvel of the Age. 

The studies in genre, a further advance in naturalistic expres- 
sion, are highly varied and make a humanistic appeal we find 
absent from gorgeous durbar scenes of stiff official ritual. They 
combine to form a social document of the life of the humbler 
class of beings, where, listening quietly, we may hear the eternal 
voice of the people. The list is imposing: visits of young princes 
to the retreats of Pirs; half-naked sadhus sprawling indolently 
beneath the spare shade of trees in abatement of the noontide 
travail; night scenes where mullas sit in learned debate; a 
musician and his audience this last, a masterpiece by Bichitx. 
The quotidian passage of events has enabled the artists they 
are artist-poets to snatch the significant and profound from 
the seemingly familiar and trivial. It was from die quintessence 
of this paradox was bom that Far Eastern miracle in the art of 
genre the Japanese school of Ukipove, or Mirror of the Fleeting 

But exigencies of space, however, suggest it is time to sum- 
marize our conclusions, 

In the beginning we have seen how nature in the inception 
of the Mogul school was completely under the tutelage im- 
posed by the conventions of the Timiirid and Safavid schools. 
How from this tutelage it emerged to fine! a new identity, in 
which indigenous and Western elements reciprocate, resulting 
in a synthesis., a synthesis in which the indigenous element, 
however, never forfeits its position of controlling power. But: 
the stylizatioii of nature finds no sudden and precipitate aband- 
onment, and release from its trammels is only really accom- 
plished when tie artist has won himself confidence and 'ease in 



Ms newly-established three-dimensional world. This confidence 
finds its highest degree of accomplishment in the reigns ofjehan- 
gir and Shah Jehan, the unaristocratic^ewre subjects particularly 
expressing a high degree of naturalism and humour. But even 
here shading is restrained and shadow excluded. Again the 
men who paint the animal, bird, and flower studies are not 
merely the possessors of a meticulous technique but see their 
subjects also with the poet's vision. 

Finally out of his synthesis who can deny that the Mogul 
artist has forged for himself a splendid instrument, an instru- 
ment obeying the commands of the most powerful patrons 
whose chief delight is to have distilled and expounded the very 
quintessence of their colourful and animated milieu* 

'History has magnificent strokes of chance/ says Monsieur 
Faure in his very impressionistic unfolding of art history. In 
few instances do we think the observation can be more applic- 
able than in the case of superb zest for beauty, using a gift for 
the detection of everything exquisite in art as well as nature. 
They commanded; and to that 'magnificent stroke of chance* 
the artist put forth his luminous creations. To-day their glory 
remains tmdimmed and shines forth for us all to see who have 
the will to search, and are housed away in public and private 
treasuries maintained for our delight. 




E aim of this introduction to Pakistani painting is to 
JL discuss in some detail the prominent art trends and move- 
ments in this country, and to analyse any outstanding individual 
styles that are being evolved or acquired by our painters. 

The art of painting has had its roots deep in this country, and 
though political history would not allow Pakistan to claim 
more than a few years of independent national existence 
Pakistan came to be established in 1947 culturally her tradi- 
tions go much farther back, into many centuries of artistic 

The areas constituting Pakistan, being in closer geographical 
proximity, were the first to come into contact with the highly 
developed Muslim miniature painting of the thirteenth and 
subsequent centuries. Towards the middle of the sixteenth 
century, when Humayun, after years of exile in Safavid Iran, 
finally marched his triumphant armies into this sub-continent, 
he also brought in his train two distinguished Muslim artiste 
Mir Sayyid Ali and Khwaja Abdus Samad, both pupils of that 
great master, Behzad, The two joined with them a number of 
talented local artists who worked diligently throughout the 
Mogul rule, to constitute the school of pain-ling known after 
the Moguls themselves. 

The Mogul tradition in painting has since dominated the 
artistic scene of this sub-continent, with, its stress on pure 
stylization of nature as well as die highly developed: technique 
of realistic portraiture which flourished hare for many centuries, 



This tradition continues to inspire and inform the meticulous 
and stylized work of Pakistani classicists like Chughtai, who 
form a link in the same tradition. 

The existence of this tradition and its deep, healthy influence 
on the older generation of Pakistani artists, is very significant. 
Apart from preserving certain aesthetic and technical ideals, it 
also serves as a great stabilizing factor in our contemporary 
painting which is characterized by youthful enthusiasm and 
daring experiment. The majority of our artists are young men 
and women who are just feeling their way towards artistic 
expression. It is the adventure story of these young people that 
is even more fascinating than the triumphs of Chughtai's 
perfect colour compositions and his firm, confident lines. 

As we view the contemporary artistic scene of Pakistan, 
certain facts emerge prominently. One of these is the great 
and unprecedented interest evinced by the ordinary educated 
young man and woman in the fine arts. This has led to a 
generous* appreciative patronage being offered to even the 
promising beginner in art. The result of this encouragement is 
that, compared with the small number of amateur painters that 
took to brush, palette and easel five years ago, .to-day there are 
at least two to three hundred enthusiasts, professional as well 
as amateur, out of whom some at least are beginning to build 
what seems a lasting reputation. 

Of course, financially painting in Pakistan, as in many other 
countries of the world, is more or less an 'honorary' profession, 
one that obviously does not pay. Even the more promising 
painters must often turn to commercial art, designing and 
cartoonKkawfflg for their daily bread. In spite of these diffi- 
culties, however, throughout the country art exhibitions are 
held every other month. They range from one-man shows to 
group exhibitions, comprising Pakistani as well as foreign 
works. During the last four years, the Karachi Fine Arts 
Society which is just one of a number of Art societies func- 
tioning in Pakistan organized a dozen major exhibitions* 



Their subjects ranged from the works of individual Pakistani 
painters, to Chinese rubbings, Canadian silk-screen prints, and 
modern British and Western paintings. The Dacca Art Group, 
led by Zainul Abedin, has held a number of exhibitions in 
ComHla and Chittagong besides three large exhibitions in 
Dacca, which, brought together a wealth of works in water- 
colour, oils, tempera, charcoal and dry-brush, as also litho- 
graphs, woodcuts, dry-point and aquatint. 

In Lahore, epicentre of cultural activity of all kinds, the 
progress has been no less remarkable. Besides the Mayo School 
of Art, which has produced artists like Chughtai, Muhammad 
Husain and Allah Bux, there is the Fine Arts Department of the 
Punjab University which has made spectacular progress during 
the last few years. This is reflected in the increasing number of 
students and the rising standard of work done by them which 
has been exhibited from time to time. At their annual exhi- 
bition in 1952, more than two hundred selected works were 
hung, out of which about a hundred belonged to students 
themselves, and ranged from simple sketches to pastels, water- 
colours and ambitious oil paintings. Above all, there is the 
Pakistan Art Council, which is fast becoming the nucleus of a 
National Art Gallery. 

This sudden awakening of interest in art could be easily 
anticipated as a corollary to the social and political revolution 
that culminated in Pakistan. This momentous event naturally 
fired the imagination of artiste and spurred the ambition of 
youth to new endeavour. It is gratifying to note that while das 
cultural renaissance has deepened tie consciousness of our past 
traditions, it has also broadened our outlook, so that our artists 
are looking for inspiration wider afield and are eager to learn 
from the artistic achievements of the West as of the East. Our 
art during these years breathes in the fresh air brought from 
everywhere, and though the individuality of the artist is given 
full play in subjects and themes which are specifically drawn 
from the soil, modem Western styles- and tiniques have been 



sympathetically studied and judiciously incorporated in various 


Thus there are two broad groups the term can of course 
be applied very loosely among contemporary Pakistani 
painters. There is the elder group of veterans led by Chughtai, 
and broadly embracing such individual stylists as stand for 
tradition and academic manner: Fyzee Rahamin, who won 
laurels for his wonderful portraits and elaborate murals, Ustad 
Allah Bux, who is a master craftsman, Askari, whose oil por- 
traits are a most sumptuous feast of colour for the eye, and 
Sheikh Ahmad, whose knowledge of the theory of Art is 

Among the younger group of painters we find a large 
number of daring experimentalists who are trying everything 
from flat compositions to the most difficult forms of abstrac- 
tionist painting. There is Zainul Abedin who has recently 
adopted etching as a more effective medium than water-colour 
which has been his favourite medium for more than a decade 
now. There is Zubeida Agha, the most promising among our 
woman artists, who has gone over completely to abstractionist 
painting. There is Nagi who has fallen in love with colour, 
Sultan who paints vast landscapes, Safiuddin who has given us 
exquisite woodcuts, Ajmal who imparts a cartoonist's sharpness 
and exaggeration to his line and colour patterns, and Ozzir 
Zuby who is a painter as well as a sculptor. 

It is against this background that Chughtai's stabilizing influ- 
ence is all the more sharply felt and he has rightly been regarded 
as the most towering figure among Pakistani artists. Born in 
1897, he comes from a family which Tor generations has 
produced architects, engineers, painters and decorators'. Some 
of the most famous architects of the Mogul period belonged to 
this family, and while his father wanted him to be an engineer, 
Chughtai himself went in for painting. His interest in art dates 
back to 1918 when he was only twenty-one. He did not have 
much by way of strict 'schooling* in art techniques, and even 



his early association with Lahore's Mayo School of Art, was 

too brief to be really significant He learned much more on 
his own while at Calcutta, and later during his visit to the 
United Kingdom and the Continent. But Chughtai was too 
much of a son of the soil to accept foreign influences, and he 
eventually went for his inspiration to the great Muslim tradi- 
tion in painting which helped to produce the Mogul master- 
pieces in this sub-continent As James Cousins has pointed out, 
'Chughtai's conscious relationship to his art has never been 
narrowed down to an ism in either subject or technique. Not 
that he was aesthetically unintelligent He had ideas not 
mental notions or speculations, not any attitudinal claims of 
self-expression: but a deep sense of sharing in a mission for the 
discovery of the supreme achievement in creation/ 

At one of his recent exhibitions held in Karachi, more than 
three hundred odd works were hung, mostly water-colours a 
medium deeply enriched by Chughtai during the last thirty 
years of his actual life as painter. Some exquisite specimens of 
his pencil sketches and outline drawings were also on display. 
The exhibition attracted a large number of enthusiasts, includ- 
ing artists and art critics. Naturally enough, not all of them 
were equally appreciative. Divergent and vastly different views 
were expressed, but all were impressed by Chughtafs rich and 
powerful imagination, his superb draughtsmanship, and his 
exquisite colour-work* As the London art journal, The Studio, 
wrote some time back, 'Chughtai's work is not merely influ- 
enced by Persian painting of the past It is an avowed rebirth 
of that art, with some recognition of modem progress, and the 
stamp of individual genius . . . There is an exquisite refinement 
of mood and method, a lyrical fervour in every line. Effects 
are -economically achieved through concentration on the main 
theme of the picture.* That indeed is the secret of Chugjhtai's 
fatal charm fetal to the critical faculties of die spectator 
because there is something magical about the workings of Hs 
imagination, something phantasmagoric. There is seduction in 



every turn and twist of Ms drunken reeling lines, as they en- 
twine round one's heart; and finally the 'red, red wine' of his 
colours; they are the silken evening hazes shot with colour that 
make you too sentimental to judge rationally. 

Chughtai has his own ideal which should be taken into 
consideration when he is judged. He depicts life through 'stills' 
as it were. He transforms the particular and the momentary 
into something universal and abiding. 

Indeed, Chughtai revels in concentration in the sense that 
the moment depicted in the picture seems to epitomize the past 
and the future also. There is apparently no action in his 
pictures; all the figures are shown in repose, but there is a 
tenseness and a significant air about it which suggests that 
either something has happened or something is about to hap- 
pen. He depicts just one moment that burdens his picture with 
a lot more meaning and thought than it can easily carry. 
Look at his portrait gallery. Here is a girl absorbed in adorning 
her eyes with surma, and the artist seems to endow the passing 
moment with eternity. There, a dancer, apparently unaware 
of her surroundings and herself, is caught in a posture as if in 
her ecstasy she would rise and evaporate, becoming part of the 
universal spirit of beauty. There, again, is the 'Daughter of 
the Harem*, model of grace and dignity, symbol of an elevated 
mode of life that is no more. That is c Rhythmic Water', with 
its luscious colour scheme, mingling the rhythm of figure- 
curves with the flow of water-currents, and harmonizing the 
two in an atmosphere which spells peace and quietude. 

This meaning&lness and ideal grace found in his pictures is 
understandable. For one thing, Chughtai does not use models; 
not even for his character studies like 'The Reclining Nude', 
'Young Ghatan* or 'Nasreen*. He draws and paints mostly 
from memory. The artist's scrap-book, in his case, is his own 
mind and imagination. This is indeed a double-edged weapon. 
While it gives freedom it also encourages idealization and 


Chughtai is a great lover of nature, but lie Is a greater lover 
of humanity, of beauty that resides in the human form. He 
takes meticulous care in rendering the most intricate tapestries, 
carvings, garment borders, floor designs and so on, but his 
theme is humanity, 'My theme, and the main burden of my 
song/ as Wordsworth said. He sees nothing more beautiful 
than the human figure, nothing more expressive than the 
human face in the wide universe. 

Though Chughtai is primarily a water-colourist, he is equally 
at home in pencil work and outline drawings also, while his 
etchings are so remarkable that a great artistic reputation might 
be based on these alone. The simple, effective use of Hnes and 
curves in his own free felicitous style has yielded such beautiful 
specimens as 'Flight', 'In the College Compound', 'More than 
Shadow' and 'Spring Breeze*. 

As a critic writing in The Artist, of London, pointed out, 
*Chughtafs whole outlook is romantic; he works, as do most 
Orientals, by rule of thumb rather than observations; he sees 
through the spectacles of his ancestors, rather than with his 
own unaided eyes. Everything he touches is a superb piece 
of craftsmanship. He has almost swaggering command of the 
brush so common to the Japanese and Chinese Masters; his 
handling is- more akin to tie neat and precise style of Persian 
and Mogul painters. He uses die pencil with the delicacy of 
silver point in style. The European student on learn much 
from his remarkable economy of means and material/ 

Among Pakistani artists of to-day, Chughtai stands out as 
the creator of a separate school of painting. Not that Chughtai 
is too proud to learn; the progressive changes in his colour 
composition after his tour of Europe in the early thirties, the 
studied economy and strength of Ms line 'drawings, and the 
tremendous interest he showed in etohings, all indicate that he 
is most amenable to judicious criticism, and that he has aE 
along brought an open mind to bear on the problems of art 
But he knows that art is nothing if it is not individual, creative 



and original And that precisely is the secret of his^strength 
and stature as one of the greatest living artists of his time. 

Chughtai's most renowned contemporary, Fyzee Rahamin, 
has also been greatly influenced by the Mogul traditions of 
art. But unlike Chughtai, he has had a thorough, orthodox 
education in the Western methods of painting, at the Royal 
Academy of Arts, London, and worked for a considerable time 
under Western masters, including the well-known portrait 
painter John Singer Sargent, with whom his own work was 
later compared. Unlike Chughtai, too, he has a freer, larger 
style, painting life-size portraits and ambitious murals, as well 
as elaborate landscapes and pictures with symbolical motifs. 
His remarkable Kashmir paintings, his symbolic depiction of 
the seasons spring, autumn, winter and summer and of 
abstractions like Justice, Peace, Power, and War, are remark- 
able works. These paintings are not at all lavish in the tech- 
nical sense of the term: in fact they are extremely simple and 
bare, and even his oils are so subdued and thin that they give 
the impression of pastel or tempera. But the firm lines of 
steel in which he frames his picture combine strength with 
beauty in a way that only a master can effect; while the simple 
fiat colours are so judiciously selected and applied that the 
effect could not have been more colourful and satisfying if all 
the colours of the palette had been lavished on it. 

Fyzee Rahamin's earlier work mainly comprised portrait 
studies done in a Western manner so different from his ktcr 
style that the spectator finds it difficult to believe the two 
have come from the same hand. Xady in White', 'Miss 
Gainsborough', *Atiya Begum', 'Miss Catherine Hedges' and 
many other works all belong to this period, and won for him 
wide acclaim and recognition as one of the most powerful 
portrait painters of his time in the Western style. But as the 
artist grew in years and experience, he realized that art could 
not have individuality and freshness unless it belonged to the 
soil and exploited the social and cultural background of his 


,j- J>. 

"c m 

Raven addressing the animals. An illustration to a fable. 
Mogul school, 1 590 


own people. He had to unlearn a lot before he fully grasped 
the significance of die cultural and artistic traditions of this 
sub-continent. Gradually he returned to indigenous themes 
like his type faces of C A Tribesman*, *A Kashmir Craftsman', 
6 A Shaikh*, *A Musician', or his interpretative rendering of 
musical subjects like the *Rag* series Rag Megh, Rag Deepak, 
Bhairon, Ragni Gojri. Most finished examples of this period 
are his powerful studies of *A Rajput' and *Chand Bibf . His 
superb handling of colour and effective figure-work in 'Chand 
Bibi' shows a mature technique as well as an imaginative sym- 
pathy with the subject and its full comprehension. It is these 
qualities which have given such charm and meaningfulness to 
his murals which still decorate the interior of the New Delhi 
Secretariat domes. 

Fyzee Rahamin has spent the best part of his life painting 
and has succeeded in building up a reputation, both at home 
and abroad, which should be the envy of an artist anywhere 
in the world. His exhibitions have been held in Europe and 
America, at the Royal Academy, at the Gallery of George 
Petit in Paris, at Knoedler's Andersons, New York, and at the 
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco. His works have been 
acquired by some of the world-famous galleries of London, 
Manchester and San Francisco. In spite of all this, Rahamin 
is a quiet, shy and modest old man, still eager to leam and 
teach, to take criticism and give it, to advise young students 
and make them conscious of the great traditions which they 
inherit. Recently, along with his wife Atiya Begum and 
Begum Nazli of Janjira, he has presented to the nation a 
museum, called c Aiwan-e-Rifaat s , which contains a priceless 
coEection of paintings and art goods. 

Three other artists who belong to the older generation of 
Pakistani painters are Ustad Allah Bux, Hasan Askari and Sheikh 
Ahmad. Of course they have little in common except that they 
are veterans in this field, have developed distinct styles, aad 
are all traditionalists following the old academic ideak of art. 

[103] K 


Allah Bux is undoubtedly the most prolific of them all, and 
is also the most senior in age and experience. He started his 
career very early in life and soon made a mark as a highly 
imaginative painter. His figure paintings are all allegorical 
or at least have a fictional interest; and his landscapes have a 
marked element of design and also a certain symbolical sig- 
nificance. His curious and complex compositions based on 
tree forms are particularly interesting; complex but still 
astheticafly satisfying. Allah Bux is an accomplished crafts- 
man and, as one of his critics recently pointed out, the variety 
and piquancy of his media are infinite: water-colour diluted 
with milk, or thickly laid on and scraped with a palette knife; 
oil and water-colour mixed; poster, tempera and oils pure and 
simple. His subjects, too, 'have a wide variety ranging from- 
faithful, carefully thought-out scenes from everyday life 
through the intricate composition of his enchanted woods, 
the colours jewelled in their intensity, the pattern alive and 
flowing, to the subdued rock and earth formations of a world 
of almost Blake-ish anguish, an underworld of deeply rooted 
beliefs and moral precepts.' 

Professor S. H. Askari, who resigned from the Government 
School of Art, Lucknow, has travelled all over Europe and 
America and studied the rich art collections of those countries 
over a course of many years. He has illustrated books like 
die Elegies of Anees; designed stained glass windows for a 
chapel; painted murals such as a huge painting of the great 
battle of Karbala for the Nawab of Rampur; modelled relief 
panels and statues; painted landscapes; but above all his fame 
rests on his work as portrait artist Thus in the days of die 
British in India, he was commissioned to paint numerous 
portraits for the Viceregal Lodge and the War Office; and 
many of the ruling princes also were among his patrons. In 
Pakistan he has painted many remarkable portraits of the 
Quaid-i-Azam and also done a whole gallery of portraits 
of die Nawabs of Khairpur for die picture gallery of die 



state. His work is all done in the good old academic style, 
with a wealth of detail, meticulous drawing, and carefully 
graduated colours and tones. The dark palette and the reposing 
harmonies differentiate his work from latter-day styles. Most 
noticeable is the nature of his aesthetic ideal a delectable and 
somewhat dramatic kind of beauty. This makes him select 
such subjects as gorgeously dressed princesses, romantic scenes 
in a setting of fabulously adorned palaces; occasionally rustic 
belles as a poet would imagine them; great public dignitaries 
glimmering out of the dark panoply of their setting. As a 
corollary of the above, he lavishes all his care on the textural 
beauty of skins and stuffs, making them pretty and attractive. 
There is no hint of tragedy or bitterness or cynicism in his 
work. Everything is sweet and honied. It is a very different 
experience from that one gets from the paintings of these days 

Sheikh Ahmad, now in his forties, has had an interesting 
career, spending a number of his early years in the United 
States where he first started his study of painting. Later he 
went to Britain where he taught at the Central School of 
Art, before returning to Pakistan and working in the Mayo 
School of Art, Lahore. The strict schooling which he has had 
in draughtsmanship has given him that mastery in drawing 
which is the basis of success in art. His portrait studies have 
a rare technical finish, but perhaps his strength is best dis- 
played in book illustration work which he has done for a 
number of publishers in England and America. 

As has already been mentioned, these veteran artists repr&- 
sent the element of tradition, but not the contemporary trends. 
The Mogul tradition, both directly and through Chughtai 
and his class, are looked upon as part of a rich artistic heritage, 
but no one thinks that these styles are capable of fulfilling the 
demands of modern subjects, or expressing modem experi- 
ences. The speed and intensity of modern life, the complexity 
and many-sidedness of the modem world, the gteatotss of 



modem events, whether heroic or monstrous, sordid or glori- 
ous, cry for a new approach in art Our younger artists are 
answering this call. Just a glance at Zaimil Abedin's 'In Search 
of Food', Zubeida Agha's 'Clifton Lights', Nagi's 'Expectation' 
or Qamrul Hasan's 'After the Cyclone', will convince any- 
body that it is a far cry from the serene, soothing paintings 
of Chughtai to these abrupt, startling and extremely intelligent 
interpretations of life made by our younger artists. 

Zainul Abedin has the soft green and blue of paddy fields, 
lakes and rivers in his veins, and possesses an exquisite sense of 
colour and line rhythm. He has recently returned from a tour 
of Britain and the European Continent; and the exhibitions of 
his work held in London, Vienna and Turkey were very 
successful. He is best known for the remarkable collection of 
Ms brush drawings of the Bengal famine of 1943, which 
deeply impressed Mm. The horror of starving groups of 
human beings and of emaciated corpses surrounded by watch- 
ful ravens is dramatically caught in flowing brush strokes and 
by a variation of sensitive lines. Wrote Dr. Reiser, the well- 
known continental etcher and art critic who saw Ms work 
recently for the first time, 'Abedin has succeeded to an ex- 
traordinary degree in depicting the horrors of such scenes. 
No shading or washed-in planes were required to create an 
outstanding, artistic and human document In some ways 
these drawings remind us in their dramatic effect, of some of 
Goya's etchings although the volumes are entirely given here 
by the tension and variations of the brush lines. The influence 
of the great Eastern tradition of the pure line is distinctly 
visible in Ms work/ 

These famine sketches also struck Eric Newton as 'brilliant 
drawings, combining the Orient and the Occident. He is 
capable of observing and of contemplating at the same time, 
and the tempo of the brash that never hesitates, yet is never 
flustered, is exactly right for the purpose. It is as though 
the Oriental hand, holding the brush in the traditional Oriental 



way, and using nothing but fluent black ink and water on 
absorbent paper, had been guided by a European eye/ 

Stark, bare, and bizarre, Abedin's famine sketches were the 
culmination of the earlier lessons in realism which lie had 
learnt while painting his simple rustic scenes and figures. 
Sadness and introspection are discernible in Ms later work: 
but in paintings like 'Bengali Maiden' or the inspired "Way to 
Quaid's Grave', he has shown remarkable restraint and poise, 
'Here the need for urgency has disappeared/ wrote Eric New- 
ton, commenting on his recent water-colours and oil paint- 
ings. 'There is no longer any need to force the pace of the 
brush. The water-borne vegetable market is a joyful, colourful 
sight, full of details bound together by the rhythmic sweep 
of the boats. Here the artist's faculty for composition is 
called into play; and here again, East is fused with West. 
The spacing of the main masses is Oriental; the observed fact 
is Occidental. Again and again the placing of each feature 
is reminiscent of Asia, yet the detail itself might have been 
drawn by an English water-colourist/ 

Zainul Abedin, as has been so often remarked, is an astute 
draughtsman, and with bare economy of line and the use of 
empty space, he succeeds in creating astounding effects, full 
of emotion and power. Perhaps it is this quality which attracts 
him more and more towards etching and away from oiL 
*An artist who can draw like this, should etch/ wrote John 
Buckland Wright, adding, 'Abedin's drawings have the direct- 
ness and power which is inherent in all good etching. I believe 
that with dry-point, etching, soft-ground and sugar aqrntiat 
his already considerable means of oppression will be greatly 
increased and will provide him, with enormous benefit of the 
quite secondary advantage of etching: that of multiplication. 
Etching will 'give him the far wider pubHc which he deserves/ 

Safiuddin Ahmad is- another promising painter whose work 
has been seen abroad, in London, Paris and Singapore, As a 
growing artist, he believes in the ever-widening scope 



new techniques always bring. Like Zainul Abedin, he has 
also been experimenting in new media, and his subtle, effective 
use of aquatint and dry-point has given him remarkable 
control over line. While some of his paintings like 'Uplands' 
and 'Santhal Market' do not completely succeed in recapturing 
the full colour and rhythm of life, his brush sketches, wood- 
cuts, and etchings seem to have amazing depth and meaning- 
fulness. His recent works, like 'Portrait of Wazir Ali' (dry- 
point), "Golden Corn' and * Way Through Jungle' (woodcut), 
show a rare strength, and the final effect is that of an abstract 
composition of a very high quality. 'Santhal Girls', 'Journey's 
End', 'The Blue Drapery , 'Through the Trees' and 'On the 
Way to the Fair*, are some of his other outstanding studies. 
Seeing his work together in a composite exhibition, one gets 
the impression that there are certain details which recur, 
reminding us of the details in Zainul Abedin's sketches. 
Safiuddin's primary interest lies in technique: he seeks avenues 
for fuller self-expression and the theme is relegated to a 
secondary place. 

Unlike Safiuddin, Anwarul Haq has been concentrating on 
portrait painting and though he has used water-colour for 
his studies of boats and river scenes, he is most at home in 
oils portraits or still-life. His 'Cactus' and Portrait Study' 
are good examples of his colour work, and his impressionistic 
treatment. His composition is comparatively weak, but the 
choice of unusual subjects and the strange setting in which he 
paints them tend to make the viewer completely oblivious of 
the defects of his composition. His bold oil study 'Cactus* 
is a brilliant example of his use of colour variations and the 
effect of 'solidity* which he achieves by setting a lone cactus 
plant against the vast expansiveness of a fading horizon. 

The work of Qamarul Hasan is marked by the economy of 
lines with which he succeeds in imparting life to his sketches; 
'five Lines in Brush' and The Cobbler' owe their force and 
strength to the ruthless eEmination of all unnecessary detail, 



and to the bold sweeping brash-work. His more finished 
studies, like 'After The Cyclone', '"Waiting*, and 'Mother', 
are realistic and thoroughly typical of the land and people 
which they represent and to which they belong. 

Khwaja Shafique Ahmad has tried charcoal and lithographs 
for his charming head studies, mosques and waterfalls, but for 
his more elaborate works like *Arakan Hills' and *A View 
from Chittagong* he takes to water-colour. Shafique Ahmad 
is essentially a designer, but his paintings give the impression 
of a certain roughness. It is only after some time and reflection 
that the real spirit behind the sinuous lines and rambling 
pattern is discernible. 

A. S. Nagi has made his mark above all as a painter of 
portraits portraits of beautiful faces, colourful subjects, happy 
moods, romantic scenes. His work is very earthy and cor- 
poreal, if not carnal. The world of idea and philosophy is 
far away from him; he revels in form and colour. The study 
of the human form divine, with all its frank appeal of flesh 
and blood, is the 'main region of his song*. He has no theories 
of art and is little affected by new movements. All he seeks 
is beauty of line and colour in the most commonly accepted 
sense of the word, slightly sensuous, slightly romantic. Any- 
thing colourful and gay draws him irresistibly: fabrics, flowers, 
clouds, waters! And he paints them with great abandon and 
gusto. His recent visit to Paris and his stay at Beaux-Arts 
there has introduced him to the secrets of modem colour 
techniques and gives a new freedom and life to Ms drawing. 

S. M. Sultan, who has recently returned from the United 
States after a study tour, is essentially a landscapist with a 
special feeling for colour and he has chosen idyllic scenes from 
Kashmir and Bengal for the majority of his paintings. Bom 
and bred amidst strife, Sultan craves for peace: and he finds 
it only in nature, in deep waters 'stilled at even*, in timeless 
mountains and valleys, in the carefree poise of trees and the 
transparent expansiveness of boundless fields* He contrasts 


this 'inner peace' of nature with the struggle and strife which 
is the essence of human life. Sultan speaks with pride of his 
ambition to make nature more natural, to add more of autumn 
to autumn, more of spring to spring. Sultan is a diligent 
student deeply interested in modem as well as classical art 
movements. He is a lover of Constable, and in some of his 
best works, like the idyllic 'Bamboo Bridge in Bengal' and 
'Trees', he certainly achieves the perfect, refreshing results of 
that great English master. 

Ajmal Husain began his career as a cartoonist, and the 
temptation to distort, exaggerate and artificially heighten the 
effect comes naturally to him. Whatever his means, he does 
succeed in giving a certain vivacity to his pictures. Even Ms 
still-life studies are surcharged with a certain restlessness and 
inherent morivity. Like many other artists of his generation, 
AjmaTs draughtsmanship still leaves much to be desired, and 
there is yet a long way for him to tread before he wins the 
right to indulge in those liberties which attract him in the 
modem masters. But Ajmal has one great quality: he is 
patient and diligent, eager to learn and improve, to adapt and 
adjust. Slowly but steadily he is working his way up among the 
front-rank painters of this country where he is bound to find 
a place^ His recent exhibitions on the Continent were well 
received and his contacts with the West have given him 
brilliant new themes and fresh techniques. 

Mubarak Husain is another of our artists whose angles of 
vision are always slightly unexpected and therefore arresting. 
His eye picks out cool green spots, kgoons, glistening harbours 
and such delectable scenes that are a pleasure to watch and 
make one yearn for outdoor life. His treatment of these 
subjects has changed from the soft-graded tones and gentle 
contours in the beginning, to more vigorous treatment in 
oblong patches of colour in his recent work. 

Zubeida Agha, who can rightly claim to be one of the few 
women abstractionist painters, has exhibited her work in 



Pakistan as well as abroad in London and Paris. Some of her 
work appears at first glance to have been executed in a rush of 
impetuosity; but the fact is that whatever she does, she does 
slowly and deliberately. She seeks to achieve vivid personal 
expression of an imaginative state which is yet to find its 
precise equivalents in terms of line and colour. She insists that 
her paintings are not symbols; neither does she paint what she 
calls the 'embodiment* of ideas a face, figure, land or sea- 
scape. She goes directly to the Idea' itself, the idea of love, 
hate, beauty, motion, and the like, which is universally under- 
stood. And she paints the idea as she comprehends it. Indeed 
she has travelled to art through philosophy rather than through 
poetry and emotion. The coldness of her work is thus under- 
standable. Her subjects are abstract, as *Youth', 'Wisdom', 
'Creation', 'Future*; being themselves abstract, they could 
best be expressed in pure, abstract form. In her superb repre- 
sentation of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, for example, there 
is a strange and mystifying comprehension of the essence of 
the whole musical piece, and its expression in a plastic, almost 
architectural mould. We are not at all surprised when she tells 
us that while working up innumerable preliminary sketches, 
she played over the record four times a day for two months, 
in order to achieve this highly imaginative representation! 

Another outstanding abstractionist painter is Shakir AlL 
He does not invent bizarre forms - to express certain pre- 
conceived ideas, because he knows that is not the process of 
artistic creation. He rather contemplates objective reality and 
draws from it not only the pure abstract forms but the emo- 
tional content which centuries of human association have 'im- 
parted them. Shakir never abandons this source of strength; he 
keeps his feet firmly planted on the earth. But with what a giant 
grip he grapples with reality to make it yield its secrets! The 
apparent is pulverizedand wrung out of shape* as thereal and tie 
significant is drawn out oinningly and mastex&lly by the artist. 

Abstract art has attracted many otter young artists; among 



them are Haneef Raniay, Aimed Pervez and Safdar All. 
Ozzii Zuby, who made his mark as a highly realistic sculptor, 
has also tried his hand at abstractionist painting, and it is the 
pure sculpturesque quality of his work which primarily interests 
the viewer, 

An interesting aspect of the renaissance of art in Pakistan is 
that a large number of women painters have come to the fore, 
showing a keen interest and, in many cases, unusual promise. 
Zubeida Agha, who has already been mentioned, is, perhaps, 
the best known of them all, and the most prolific and brilliant. 
Razia Serajuddin is another senior artist, perhaps the most senior 
among women painters of this country. She chose oils for her 
earlier portraits, but soon changed over to watercolours, a med- 
ium which she has deeply enriched during the last fifteen years. 

Anna Molka Ahmed is Head of the Department of Fine 
Arts in the Punjab University and has collected round her a 
group of women enthusiasts to whom she is a constant source 
of inspiration. Herself a considerable painter in oils, she has 
to her credit some delightful life studies as weE as abstractionist 
compositions like 'Shock', "The Cousins' and 'Sunset'. Among 
her most promising students are Nazratun Nairn Farooqi, 
Zakia Dil (now Zakia Mullick), Anwar Afzal, Razia Feroz, 
Nasim Qazi, and Tasnim Mazhar. Nazratun Nairn Farooqi, 
who was conducting the Karachi Sketch Club until she went 
on scholarship to study modern art in the United States, is a 
realistic painter, and has done plenty of work in oils as well 
as water-colours during the last four or five years. 

That, then, is the beginning: modest but hopeful. The 
heritage of a rich tradition is there; the results of Western 
experiments in technique and communication are there; there 
also exists the requisite atmosphere of sympathy, talent, and 
the inherent urge to create, to express, to feel and to com- 
municate. And if the work done during the brief span of a 
few years is any indication of what is to come, painting in 
Pakistan certainly has a great future. 




WHEN Iqbd joined Ms ancestors in *the undiscovered 
country* eleven years ago, a number of friends, from 
centuries far and near, gathered round him. Ghalib and Mir 
were there, and Hali and ShibH and Girarai, and also Naziri, 
Rumi and Hafiz and the conversation flowed freely. There 
were a few awkward moments, of course. The learned dis- 
cussion on the Self, with Rumi, every now and then soared 
above the heads of the rest, and during IqbaTs monologue on 
the Destiny of Nations, Ghalib, alas, was heard to snore. But, 
on the whole, things were remarkably easy. There was much 
reading aloud, from books or from memory, of well-known 
passages, and wit and wisdom were happily intermingled 
through the timeless days and nights. There were many con- 
troversies and not all of them were resolved. But even the 
deadlocks discovered new and exhilarating patterns of under- 
standing. Iqbal was not of the Ancients, and yet to the Ancients 
he did not appear as a stranger, only as something rich and 

How would a young Urdu prater of to-day fare in this 
company, were he to be hastened upon die journey before his 
time? He would, I am sure, be received with courtesy and 
with affection but he would also, I fear, feel somewhat lost. 
Communication with the Ancients would not be easy. The 
new arrival would find a great gulf between him and his 
predecessors and would plan long visits, to the Elysian library 
to bridge it. For the ciscuinstaiicies of Ills life here have made 


it difficult for him to inherit his due share from Ms forefathers. 
There are, no doubt, exceptions. Rashid and Faiz, Firaq and 
Farliatullah Beg, Josh and Hafiz all these are on good terms 
with yesterday, although all of them in varying degrees have 
thrown in their lot with to-day or to-morrow. But they 
seem to be a dwindling minority, the last of their race which 
will be reborn one does not know when. For the majority of 
our writers of to-day, the links with tradition are quietly snap- 
ping. Madvi Nazir Ahmad, the novelist of fifty years ago, 
quoted the Prophets with reverence and the Poets with dis- 
taste; Ms villain quoted the Prophets with distaste and the 
Poets with relish. But both author and villain could quote. 
Both had inherited a common body of literature which was 
clearly inventoried in the mind of the age. The Urdu novelist 
of to-day would share with his hero only the inability to quote. 
He is a voracious reader but Spring Lists, Autumn Lists and 
Overseas Editions follow each other in such quick succession 
that there is no time to sort out or to read twice. The curri- 
culum of our times is confused. Least of all is there the urge to 
look back. To the Urdu author of our times belongs the 
future, perhaps; but not the past. 

The causes which contribute to this dissociation are varied 
and complex. As a first analysis, one may entertain the idea 
that the system of education under which the author was 
brought up did not give him a fair deal. During the last fifty 
years or so, formal education has veered away from the old 
ideal of urbanity and/ or piety which sought to equip the 
student for this world and/or the world hereafter with the 
help of the Poets and the Prophets in the proportion required. 
But the old certitudes have disappeared, along with their 
Prophets and their Poets. That is the one thing that the change 
in our educational system has definitely achieved. For the rest, 
our education, these many years, has been a series of experi- 
ments or rather gropings for a new ideal which should suitably 
replace the old. And the groping still goes on. 


This, however, would not be the whole truth. The ultimate 
reasons lie deeper and could perhaps be traced to the rapid and 
vast expansion of the world in which the author, along with 
the rest of his generation, now finds himself. For, this half 
century has been a rapid melting away of dykes and break- 
waters. Traditional values were useful as long as the com- 
munity which they sustained and stabilized preserved its con- 
tours. The contours are now fluid and unstable and are spread- 
ing out as the contours of oil spread out on the surface of the 
water. To the old community he can now no longer belong, 
for the old community is gone. Instead, he finds himself in a 
new and expanding community, to which he must one day 
belong if he is not to be adrift for ever. The new community 
is not yet defined in bis mind. He does not fully comprehend 
it, but he has already found out that the previous generation 
did not fit him for it. Many things from die past stand" in the 
way of achieving a satisfying life in the new world; and so, 
away with the past! The great urge of his generation therefore 
is to rebel against custom, against authority, against police, 
against parents, to turn away from the Prophets and the Poets. 
In fact, turn away from everything that is reminiscent of the 
umbilical cord. The battle is sometimes a little confused, the 
points of the compass occasionally get mixed up. But, then, all 
battles are like that. 

For the Urdu writer, the break with the past has involved at 
least one great sacrifice it has at one stroke deprived him of a 
vast collection of words and allusions, of myth and symbol 
which provide the writer-craftsman with his subtlest and most 
useful weapons. For, words are not mere noises or scribbles 
which if lost can be easily replaced. They embody the psycho- 
logical observations and emotional experiences of those who 
have gone before us. Each of them is a line discovered in the 
spectrum of human experience. If a line of the spectrum is lost, 
we cannot just draw another instead. We have to discover it 
all over again. The author of to-day has, therefore, not only 



to find new names for new things; lie has also set himself the 
task of identifying and naming things that have been known 
and felt before. By this renunciation he has imposed on his 
creative self a strain which has increased the difficulties of his 
craft enormously. This perhaps explains why we sometimes 
find him at once acute and crude, direct and involved, inarticu- 
late with many things on the tip of his tongue. Words that 
he betrayed are now betraying him. Denison Ross, knowing 
that living language embodied a national store of quotation 
and allusion which every educated individual acquired and from 
which he drew to lend colour and emphasis to the spoken and 
written word, tried to sketch the background of the English 
language in a book published a few years ago. In it, under the 
heading, 'literary Quotations', he included the Authorized 
Version, Shakespeare, Nursery Rhymes; under 'English Tradi- 
tion', Popular Titles of Famous Personages, Festivals, Famous 
Advertisements. And there was a section on 'Stock Phrases'. 
How easy would it have been, fifty years ago, to describe the 
physiognomy of Urdu along these lines! How difficult to-day! 
This is not the Urdu writer's only difficulty. There is also 
his bilmgualism, and what a formidable handicap that can be 
when the two languages are so widely different from each 
other as English and Urdu! Scholars and educationists will 
explain to us with many unanswerable arguments from history 
and experience, what a great boon it is for anyone to know 
two languages. Internationalists will point out how every 
foreign language acquired is twice blessed, blessing tie country 
that gives and the country that receives. And no doubt they 
would be right. For, every new language is another window 
in the mind, and perish all that fears the light! For the majority 
of mankind this would have no painful after-effects, but the 
writer, alas, has to do more than have a mind like a well-lit 
room. He has to communicate. What is more, he has to com- 
municate in only one language at a time. Now, whatever the 
number of languages that have fed his mind, he has only one 


mind. One window is green, the other red, but in the mind the 
two colours do not lie snugly side by side, each distinguishable 
from the other. They mingle and form a third colour which is 
perhaps a little more green near this window and a little more 
red near the other, but which is after all neither green nor 
red anywhere. He could revel in this mysterious and subtle 
light and feel the richer for it, but how difficult to pour it back 
through a filter which is only green or only red, and yet not 
falsify the colour. In a sense it would be true to say that a 
bilinguist can never speak his mind unless he speaks in the two 
him to give you, not half a mind that would be an impos- 
sibility but a mind that is only half articulate and constantly 
each other. But confine him to one language and you force 
him to give you, not half a mind that would be an impos- 
sibility but a mind that is only half articulate and constantly 
out of tune with expression. And yet that is exactly what the 
Urdu writer of to-day has to do. In the texture of his writing, 
you will see curious twists and turns, obscurities and frustra- 
tions, and worst of all, curious English phrases so thinly or 
clumsily clad in Urdu that only the bilinguist will understand 
them. Language here ceases to be a subtle weapon, dexter- 
ously handled by the craftsman. It becomes a series of approxi- 
mations, a gesture code. Words do not carry their meaning 
within them. The meaning lies outside of them and the words 
point to it from a distance with a thick finger. If lie feek 
unbearably thwarted, he stops being an Urdu writer and in 
despair takes to English instead. But whether he substitutes the 
red filter for the green or the green for tie red, the problem 

We noted earlier that our writer found himself in a new 
community to-day a sprawling community yet 1 undefined 
but bigger and more complex than, any his predecessors had 
known, to which, for dear life's sake, he must needs adjust him- 
self to achieve fulness and stability. We should not be sur- 
prised therefore, while tiie adjustment is yet incomplete, to 


find him seized with the restless energy of the lonesome person 
determined to find congenial company or make it. It is a 
symptom of this desperation perhaps, that the writers of to-day 
are ever ready to try any associations or affiliations that promise 
to dispel their loneliness and to keep on writing prefaces and 
forewords to each other's books. Seldom before did our 
writers manifest such a strong tendency to hold each other's 
hand, to form Societies, Anjumans, and Circles, as earnest and 
almost fanatical essays In community-building. In terms of 
creative energy, a writer has to pay a heavy price for such 
explorations and wanderings, but our writer seems to have 
resigned himself to this. His aim, though dimly perceived, is 
the achievement of a full life; and, being dispossessed, he must 
do a great deal of house-hunting first But while he is house- 
hunting, the business of living itself has to be frequently post- 
poned. He is a young root in search of a soil, but how keep the 
vital juice circulating till the soil is found? 

In a speech delivered at the Seventeenth International Con- 
gress of the P JB.N. Club, Arthur Koestler told us how Tur- 
geniev could write only with his feet in a bucket of hot water 
under his desk, facing the open window of his room. The 
hot-water bucket, Koestler said, stood for inspiration, the 
creative source; the open window for the world outside, the 
raw material for the artist's creation. He pointed out that the 
strongest temptation which the world outside exerted on the 
author was to draw the curtains and dose the shutters. But 
there was also a. temptation number two, in which the action 
of the open window was experienced not as pressure but as 
suction. Hie writer was tempted not to dose the shutters but 
to lean right out of the window, taking his feet out of the hot- 
water bucket. 

So great is the need for our Urdu writer for comprehending 
the events in the street, in other words for vision and focus, 
that we should be prepared to find him too frequently at the 
window and, fascinated by the spectade outside, even shouting 


"The Miracle of the Prophet Elic." An illustration by Mir Sapid Ali 
from the Amir Hamzah. i6th century 

"Zubeida Khatoon", a 
good example of the 
highly wrought work 
of Chughtai 


and declaiming and not returning to the desk for days and 
letting the hot water grow cold. But a new world has burst 
upon him. There are so many things to watch and understand, 
so much raw material to sort out. It would be somewhat 
exacting, therefore, to expect great works of art from him, to 
expect that he will not frequently be tempted to join the crowd 
in the street rather than keep his feet in the hot water. But as 
the main contribution of his generation to the fellow-craftsmen 
that will come after him, he will give you seriousness of pur- 
pose and the courage to look ahead and journey into the 
future if possible with the blessing of his forebears; if neces- 
sary, without. He is keen, aware, restless and desperate 
determined to find the new path and travel on it, indifferent to 
what he may drop on the way. We cannot pay him greater 
homage than to understand his difficulties and limitations, his 
pains and penalties, in order the better to appreciate his 
struggles and achievements. This is what I have here attempted 
to do. 




yt N impartial survey of Anglo-Indian fiction is apt to be 
/^excessively depressing. The subject forms a part of Eng- 
lish literature, or perhaps it would be more accurate t6 say of 
the English literary output, but practically all the material, 
even the most ambitious and effective, remains incorrigibly on 
the edge of things. The books recorded have mainly the 
quality of raw material for socio-economic or cultural re- 
search, which characterizes much of the novel even in metro- 
politan areas. They are written in second-rate styles for the 
most part, by people with no primitive urge either to create or 
write, people who are seeking out the sort of characters and 
situations which had appealed to the readers of their own so 
different cultural environment, dressing them in fancy costume 
for the pleasure of untrained and provincial-minded exiles, 
whose all-pervading nostalgia makes them even less worthy 
a public than they might have been had they been appealed to 
by some direct or naked attack on their sensibilities. 

It is a phenomenon, in its main outlines, at which we need 
not be surprised, once we realize how many literatures have 
presented it before. All the older vernacular literatures which 
sprang to life on the soil of what had been the Roman Empire, 
all the newer literatures which during the past three hundred 
years have been differentiating themselves from their parent 
stock of English, provide ^samples. Of the latter, the American 



has reached the stage at which a tone, a phrasing, a word-stress, 
and through these the differences of meaning and spirit, are 
discernible. The same has almost come to be true of the 
Australian, has long ago made itself out to be true of the Irish, 
and to some extent is coming to be the case with the Welsh, 
Canadian and South African. All these have progressed beyond 
Pakistan, in challenging a place with the English-speaking 
literatures of the world, not merely apologetically, but with 
the firmness of the experimentalist whose native vigour has 
given him the confidence of being in complete control of him- 
self, so that he is no longer compelled to seek the suffrages of 
another, and to him foreign, literature. 

Anglo-Indian fiction would seem to take us far from 
Pakistan, which has on the whole attracted rather less of the 
novelists' attentions than other parts of the sub-continent. But 
those attentions have, in compensation, been perhaps markedly 
more understanding. The three writers with whom I propose 
to deal have seen their subject as a section of the full Indian 
picture, and all are, to a greater or less degree, peripheral, in 
the sense that they have not sought out their own pattern, but 
have all felt the need to conform to some accepted pattern of 
the novel already prevalent in their day. Indeed, Rudyard 
Kipling in his short stories and in Kim, Mr. E. M. Forster in Ms 
A Passage to India, and A. E. W, Mason in his Hie Brokm Root, 
bear perhaps the same relation to the spontaneous and truly 
expressive Pakistani novel of our dreams' as "Washington Irving 
and Dickens, the native and the foreigner respectively in rela- 
tion to the U.S.A., do to Walt Whitman, or to the Hermann. 
Melville of Moby DicL Washington Irving conforms to die 
pattern of the Addisonian essay, Dickens follows that of Ms 
own Pickwickian novel. The three English writers on Pakis- 
tani themes whom I have just named work along the same 
lines, in terms of contemporary European writing. 

Rereading their works recently after my first direct contact 
with Pakistan, I must say I find myself as disappointed with. 


Kipling as I expected and feared, surprised at being so favour- 
ably impressed with the really very unpretentious Mason, and 
even more surprisingly dissatisfied with the one towards whom 
I had been, until coming out here, the most sympathetically 
inclined. AH three belong to different epochs and literary 
strivings. All three, unavoidably in the case of the last two 
but scarcely so with Kipling, show how inevitable it is that a 
writer should impose on the confusion of impressions he re- 
ceives from a new land into whose contours he can have very 
small insight, the pattern current in his own milieu and epoch. 
It depends very much on the quality of the reader's own mind, 
the sensitiveness of the world in which he has shaped that 
mind, and the receptiveness of the audience which he is pre- 
paring to address, whether the work of art gives him a feeling 
of truthfulness. All three of the novels under discussion stand 
on different levels in this matter. 

Kipling reacted first from within to his chosen environment, 
since he was born in the sub-continent. It is amazing therefore 
how little he seems to know of it, even when his vision is 
examined through the eyes of a comparative newcomer. 
We in England are very apt to think of his Indian tales as 
filled with authentic touches, even when we admit, as is usual 
nowadays, that he was wrong and cheap in his interpretation, 
and that his genius found a better field of action in the later 
tales of his own people. He was more fundamentally wrong 
about India than we had even dared to think, even after the 
corrective supplied by Mr. E. M. Forster. He saw the inhabi- 
tants of the sub-continent purely as a subject race, and therefore 
found them always placed, like Jane Austen's 'poor', or the 
working classes of Dickens, only in suitable and carefully 
allocated corners of his general pattern of life. 

His short-stories best isolate the Muslims from their Indian 
neighbours. Built up mainly under the creative influence of 
Browning and Poe, the pattern used in them combines the 
technique of self-revelation used by the one, with the em- 



phasis on strain, horror and sadism in the other. So that in 
both cases Kipling is led to exploit Pakistani characteristics 
which are in themselves unreal. In the former, the pattern 
means that the chief figure must have a subtly twisted moral 
angle which evolves itself through rambling confessions. 
Hence arises a favourite literary device of both Kipling and 
Browning, a 'lingo', based as it happens not so much on the 
idiom of English implicit in Urdu, which one might have 
expected, and which might have produced, though an un- 
reality, yet an unreality as genuine as that of Caradoc Evans 
in Welsh, or James Joyce in Irish, but a kind of oriental flum- 
mery reminiscent of the Bible of King James, or the imitative 
talk of the translations of the Arabian Nights. This would give 
it a Barrie-like falsity, and reduce it to a 'Wardour Street* level. 
The broth is thickened by more than a touch of that worldly 
wisdom and superficial savoir-vivre of de Maupassant, qualities 
much more easy to imitate by the would-be short-story writer, 
which Kipling was, than that truth to the inherent pattern of 
life in his own selected milieu, which constitutes the French- 
man's real claim to greatness. 

Kipling's journalistic qualities, which are of a very high 
order within their own category, were, and still are, impressive 
in their immediate appeal to the social group ready to respond 
to them: men and women busy with some active day to day 
struggle, compelled to see life in terms of a sort of shorthand 
which passes itself without rousing any 'difficulties into die 
administrative machine. But they do not demand from Mm 
or from his readers any depth of imderstanding or expressive- 
ness. Here Kipling is giving expression to nothing but his own 
lively, crude, angry, picturesquely simplified and conven- 
tionally sardonic formula of life, not to life itself. He, like lie 
journalist, is not absolutely called upon for depth of imder- 
standing. He needs to impose from without; only more 
brilliantly than most because he has genitis among his Eteraiy 
gifts, and therefore he does it the more deceptively in die first 



place, a pattern of interpretation lie has noted as succeeding 
elsewhere. Real expressiveness can only normally come from 
someone who works out a living instrument of speech, for 
what is to Mm not a thing just seen but his own life and breath, 
out of the plastic word-material around him. It is indeed 
doubtful whether a man using a language not native to the 
country of his choice can do it. Charles Doughty may have 
succeeded in the case of Arabia. It is generally accepted 
in English literary comment that in his Arabia Deserta he has 
done it: but, I wonder? 

AS I see them, most of the attempts at understanding, or 
presenting an understanding of, the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent 
seem to bear the same relation, to even such a book as 
Doughty's, as books like The English, are they Human! and 
How to be an Alien, at one end of the scale, and the 'Colonel 
Bramble* novels of the French author Andre Maurois at the 
other, do to a real expression of the character of the English. 
At their worst they are skits at which one's good humour can 
afford to laugh. At their best they offer a set of conventionally 
framed-up puppets, whose antics, in so far as they conform to 
patterns which we have grown used to recognizing as a con- 
vention meaning W, we do not find utterly repulsive. 

I happen to belong to a generation of readers who found 
Kipling and all he stood for repugnant, if not repulsive. To me, 
with my special interests, his literary slickness in individual 
short stories was, as an artistic tour deforce, attractive enough, 
especially when their subject matter did not concern 'India', 
though I quickly tired of them. I enjoyed Kim 9 too, as a sort 
of panoramic fantasia on the more picturesque elements of the 
then (to me) unknown land and its peoples. It was not unduly 
out of harmony with my delusive notions of the 'Orient*: 
its tartness and knowingness, combined with its moments of 
unexpected grace, gave one the feeling that inaccuracies in 
one's impressions were being rectified. It had of course all the 
elements of the popular *boy*s story* of the period, the serialized 


novels of papers such as Chums and The Scout, whose hey- 
day was in those early years of the twentieth century, and 
which are now, I suppose, moribund. It contained the char- 
acteristic boy hero, first given outstanding literary status by 
Stevenson in Treasure Island, and later sentimentalized for the 
consumption of the down-cushioned upper middle classes by 
Barrie in Peter Pan. Sapling's boy hero admittedly was more 
vital, purposeful and meaningful than either, but the quest, 
the disguises, the succession of mystery men, the one mystery 
man in especial who seemed to embody some outlandish ethos 
fascinating in its very vagueness and its hints of mystic pass- 
words, the secret documents and symbols: all these familiar 
elements were there, even to the extent that the last two 
seemed firmly to establish in the novel a doctrine of the 
superiority of contemplation over action, which is at variance 
with the ethos of his other works. Much of the story, incident- 
ally, takes place in what is now Pakistan, but beyond a few 
trimmings added to the chattering, half-comic, half-roman- 
ticized orientalism of the earlier stories to which I have alluded, 
there is little attempt at real interpretation. 

All this, such was my impression, Mr. E. M. Forster had in 
A Passage to India put under the test of his sub-acid and sensitive 
understanding, and reduced to the stage properties and fancy 
dress stuff that it was. But what did Forster put in its place? 
He Is, I find, rather a deceptive writer. At my first reading of 
him, which, quite frankly, did not occur until about fourteen 
years after the pubEcation of the novel, I felt that he had 
written a work wonderful in its real imderstandmg of India. 
It certainly presented a picture more Mattering, as we saw it, 
and conceivably more acceptable to local feelings of Mtislm 
or Hindu, though it played mockingly over weaknesses and 
personalities in a way that might have impired resentment It 
was far less flattering and in certain respects decidedly unfair 
to the British officials of the time, if one may judge from 
comments I have heard from Pakistanis since coming out here. 



After all, Forster was not trying to produce a judicial summary, 
and this treatment may have been inherent in the theme. At 
least the book bore all the stamp of an honest attempt at 
understanding, in its characterization of both Muslims and 
Hindus. It is arguable that Forster is more successful with the 
former than the latter, and perhaps it is an indication of this 
that his main character is a Muslim, while the chief Hindu 
figure is a fantastic, other-worldly and finally almost sym- 
bolical figure, rather than one of flesh and blood. 

Of one matter he gives a very convincing impression, a 
matter of which Kipling seems to have had no inkling, namely 
the sense Muslims here have of being not just nationals of a 
certain country, their immediate and beloved fatherland, but 
inheritors of and participators in a world-wide culture, in 
terms of a world extending from the Pillars of Hercules to 
East of Singapore, and from the southern tip of India to the 
Russian steppes. It is in fact *his own country, more than a 
faith, more than a battle-cry, more, much more . . . Islam, an 
attitude towards life both exquisite and durable, where his 
body and his thoughts found their home/ One symbol of this 
unity, before which in the book the Muslim characters, with 
their casualness in small things, and even in those which the 
West regards as big ones, their often crude, irritating jerky 
uneasiness under European contacts (which I must say directly 
contradicts my own experience of them, but which forms 
part of the picture given by Forster) stand united, is the poem 
of Ghalib which Dr. Aziz recites to his visiting friends from his 
sick bed. 'The silly intrigues, the gossip, the shallow discon- 
tent were stilled while words accepted as immortal filled the 
indifferent air/ And afterwards, when the thoughts 'flowed 
back' into the minds of the listeners, 'they had a pleasant fresh- 
ness. The poem had done no "good" to anyone,' adds Forster, 
"but it was a passing reminder, a breath from the divine lips of 
beauty, a nightingale between two worlds of dust.' 

The pattern of Forster's thirty-year-old novel is more adult 



than those of either Kipling or Mason. Its subtlety is such that 
it conies very near solving the problem of the European writer 
of Indo-Pakistan fiction. The motto 'Only Connect' suggests, 
in its humble phrasing and unpretentious mood, the intelli- 
gentsia of the early years of this century from whom Forster 
sprang. Into die context of this phrase, he swings with a tact as 
neat as that of Jane Austen, with her so much more minute 
material, a series of vast frescoes of Muslims, Hindu and Anglo- 
Indian life, comparable with that which we find in Kim in 
some respects, but much more of a tour deforce in itself, since it 
gives something nearer the truth, and is apprehended by an 
intuition which had an incomparably shorter period of time in 
which to work itself out to fruition. 

Where did this pattern come from? As one would expect, 
from Forster's own experience. The central oasis of the older 
English universities, whose idealizing atmosphere, freed in 
those early decades, as never since, from the clamour of our 
economic stresses encouraged abstract thought and aesthetic 
sensibility, fell on his emergence into the light of common day 
into sharp and brutal conflict with the world of violent and 
blatant approximations and vulgar inefficiencies, which H. G. 
Wells has satirized so fiercely for us in Tono-Bungay, a world 
in the midst of which Mason's The Broken Road is set, though 
his convention does not permit him to record it. Like D. H. 
Lawrence, who however had no such mental homeland as 
Forster, and hence lacked his nostalgic charm of manner, the 
latter sought the embodiment of the values he prized in all 
sorts of places outside the 'modem' world of his day. The 
Muslims here, in fact, are only perhaps valuable to him as 
reshapings, in a more propitious mental dimate, of his Dorset 
shepherds, his Italians, his cosmopoEtan intelligentsia, and 
here, as with them in the other novels, only rare and rather 
questionable flowers blossoming around them Kelding and 
Miss Quested, out of the worid of British officialdom can reach 
that contact with them which to Forstet is the crown of life. 



In A Passage to India, the skill of Forster's craftsmanship, his 
delicate irony, the poetic feeling touched with that slight vein 
of mockery which is the rarest of literary gifts, above all, his 
power of orchestration are working at full pressure. They 
remain supremely effective during the exposition of the char- 
acters and of their opening relationships. The wonderful 
opening chapter, apparently nothing but descriptive fact, 
resembles the prelude to a symphony. But with the drama of 
the trial, which exploits melodrama ironically, but sometimes 
comes dangerously near to being melodramatic itself, they 
seem to get torn to pieces, and then 'peter out' into delicate 
fantasy with the Hindu episodes at the end. Nevertheless, for 
the presentation of the Muslim characters, one of whom 
occupies a central place, it preserves that full power which 
brings it very near to the 'exquisite and durable' quality which 
Forster had already noted in Muslim culture, and which 
harked back to the idealisms of his early manhood. 

Although A. E. W. Mason's Tlie Broken Road is by an 
author not normally put into any other classification than that 
of 'best-seller*, it is the work of a man who has given serious 
thought to the art of fiction within certain limits, and gives 
one ground for reflection on the degree to which a preoccu- 
pation with the demands of a wide public taste may thrust 
a writer in the direction of higher literary values. It is 
considered worthy of mention in George Sampson's Concise 
Cambridge History of English Literature, an honour from which 
Mr. Aldous Huxley seems to find himself excluded. Neverthe- 
less, this novel, which gives a vivid picture of the North- West 
Frontier Province setting, together with characteristic anec- 
dotes, authentic atmosphere, and a very serious study of the 
dilemma of the Pathan prince, Shere Ali, who, mistakenly 
sent by the British Government to Eton and Balliol, returns 
home the most infuriated of the foes of its rule, is fundamentally 
neither a picaresque novel of foreign life, nor just a plain 
romance, but a tragedy. It is concaved as such and is 



carried out on grandiose but, on the whole, finely controlled 

The compulsion of his theme leads Mason to take an attitude 
near that of Forster in relation to his Muslim characters, but 
he is at the same time fairer to the honest, if imperceptive, 
and not always so imperceptive, British official. The spirit of 
the dying LufFe, who strikes the note of the tragedy in his 
comment on the one important matter of which 'Government* 
(to use a Pakistani colloquialism) is not aware, returns later 
on in the person of Ralston, who echoes him: and it is sym- 
bolical, with a genuinely tragic irony, that the signal for the 
insurrection is given by vows solemnized over Luffe's long- 
forgotten grave, unknown to them. The second theme in the 
tragedy is the obsession which the frontier road of the tide 
exerts over the Lindforth family, from the fantastic ancestor, 
long since disappeared, whom one always expects to hear of 
surviving among the hills as a beggar, but who never materi- 
alizes, to the Lindforth whose slaying opens the book, and the 
third Lindforth, his son, who is fated to complete the road, 
even to the destruction of his David-and-Jonathan friendship 
with Shere Ali. 

At the centre of the tale lies the figure of Violet Oliver, 
whose charm and weaknesses are humanly but not quite con- 
vincingly portrayed, but who provides the occasion for each 
new development of the tragic plot: the embitterment of Shere 
Ali, the inspiration of Lindforth, the possibility of abduction 
which is otherwise rather conventionally introduced. The 
damping down of any romantic element in her disposition and 
in her ultimate fate, very unusual elements in a novel of this 
class, add of course to the breadth of general treatment In 
matters of detail, the boxing match at Calcutta is good, so are 
the scenes of the collecting of information, the atmosphere of 
the hill-country episodes, the gathering of the Pathan nobles, 
the breaking of the pitcher at the mosque in Ajmere and the 
siege of Captain Phillips near die end. 


From the point of view of the modern reader it is queer 
to note that, true to life, for the period, the uniform social level 
of the public-school class of the old days is maintained. The 
more picturesque elements, which are never allowed to push 
the main theme out of focus, as so often with Kipling, are 
clearly subordinated to the spirit of the writer's world of 
country house, club, residency, to the characteristic society 
functions of London or Delhi. The story jumps its points and 
moves rapidly forward, all sorts of things being assumed to be 
known, or accessible to the reader without the author's having 
to concern himself with making them clearer. Compared with 
A Passage to India (1924), this 1907 novel, while noting 
AM's resentment at the idea that Vhat is good for us', mean- 
ing die British, is good for everybody else in India, does not 
show any awareness that many people of both races, as part of 
the authentic atmosphere of the time at least, shared Shere All's 
misgivings. About halfway through, the white-man-adven- 
ture and romantic elements get the upper hand, and the con- 
sequent emergence and acceptance as pattern at this moment 
of a conventional formula, complete with all its stage 'props' 
of mystery, disguise and high level politics, tends to lower what 
was conceived in an honourably tragic vein, and so nearly 
carried out in accordance with it, into a Masonesque novel. 
The tragedy pattern into which the novel is cast perhaps re- 
flects the influence on general novel-writing of the discussions 
on form and style which Henry James, Joseph Conrad and 
H. G. Wells were holding during the first decade of this cen- 
tury. This much may be said. The novel is an honest period- 
piece. Apart from its absolute value as literature, it has just 
enough subtlety to give it an added value as contributing to the 
literature of expression and understanding, which the others 





IQBAL does not like the term 'God*; this word can have a 
plural, 'gods'. Better for him is Allah, the personal name the 
Holy Koran gives to God, as Yahweh is the personal name for 
God in the Bible. In the Greek world, on the contrary, God 
in the general sense was an abstraction, to theion, 'divinity*, the 
Divine Principle or Substance, only the different gods having 
personal names Qupiter, Venus, etc.). All the philosophical and 
theological work of the great Pakistani thinker is centred on a 
defence conducted on modern and original lines of the 
Semitic idea of God as personality, against the Greek and classical 
one of God as substance. In other words we could describe his 
position as that of theism versus pantheism^ if these terms were 
not too vague. 'The result of an intellectual view of life says 
Iqbal in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is 
necessarily pantheistic' (p. 82). In his philosophy, then, 'heart' 
plays a very important role, heart not in the European 
sense but rather, as Persian dil 9 considered as the centre of 

Modern thought developed following the lines chiefly of 
Greek spiritual experience. The 'substance* of the ancient 
world called God in the Middle Ages became an all-em- 
bracing and all-producing 'idea* in Hegel. The Semitic idea of 
a personal God, which could have given, a different direction to 
European thought and which made its appearance with Chris- 


tianity, was very early distorted by interpretations based on 
concepts borrowed from Hellenistic culture, and the great 
Prophet of God as Loving Father became a Greek hypostasis, 
an incarnation of something divine. Islam especially early 
Islam, more near the Koranic world of thought gave a 
powerful impulse again to the idea of God as supreme person- 
ality with which man can come in contact, rather than a vague 
force with which it is impossible to come face to face but, 
unfortunately even the thinkers of Islam fell under the magic 
spell of purely intellectual philosophy, transforming the crea- 
tive power of the Living and Ever-working God (Kullu 
yarnm huwa fi shan, oU^> fj j J 5 " 'Every day He is in a 
new work/ says the Holy Koran) into an abstract pattern of a 
fixed universe. In this way many of the wonderful possibilities 
Islam had, to change the world, were lost. In any case Muslim 
thinkers were comparatively less affected by classical thought 
than the Christians, and Iqbal justly points out the importance 
of the Ash'arite 'atomistic' school of thought and of other 
champions of the purely Koranic conception of God against 
any compromise with static pantheistic thought. I wonder 
whether in our Occidental world such purely monotheistic con- 
ceptions were ever defended by a theologian or a philosopher 
as was done by Ibn Taymiyya. Aristotelian philosophy, 
adapted by St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) to Christian theology 
has been since then the official philosophy of the Roman 
Catholic Church, being even openly declared as such by Pope 
Leo XIII (1878-1903). The rebellions against 'classical' thought 
in our world were of a mystic rather than prophetic character, 
like the remarkable Franciscan school in the Middle Ages 
God remaining always an absolute principle or a rational 
ordainer of the Cosmos, rather than a creator, or, at the best, 
somediing very sweet in which, the human soul wanted to be 

Perhaps a more frontal attack on the Greek thought was the 
great Protestant Reformation, opposing the Semitic Bible to 


the philosophy of the schools. And this gave indeed good 
results: the reconquered personal and living God aroused again 
the spirit of activity in man and the so-called 'modern' world 
was born. But, the Greek germs contained in the New Testa- 
ment (I mean especially St. Paul's Epistles and the Fourth 
Gospel) constrained orthodox Protestantism into the fixed con- 
ception of personal atonement, giving sometimes to it a very 
narrow mental intolerance; and, on the other hand, the so- 
called liberal school became more and more a simply rational- 
istic theory on the main lines of the current philosophy of the 
age. This is now based chiefly on Hegel's thought, one of the 
most rigorous and perfect forms of intellectual pantheism 
which gave birth both to modern absolute idealism (taken to 
its logical conclusion by the Italian Philosopher G. Gentile, 
d. 1943) reducing all reality into 'thought thinking of itself*, 
and to Marxism a powerful giant with feet of clay, with 
"believing heart and atheist brain', as Iqbal wrote in his 

The kst attack on classical thought in Europe is represented 
by 'existentialism'. To some of the existentialists the same 
words Iqbal used for Nietzsche (considered by themselves one 
of their precursors) could be applied; they threw themselves 
away from God and so they cut away from themselves their 
own self, and they too, like Iqbal's Nietzsche, soar in a void 
space singing desperately: *No Gabriel, no paradise, no huri, 
no God, only a handful of clay burnt by the eternal longing of 
the heart!' (Javednama.) 

IqbaTs religious philosophy representSr in my opinion the 
most radical modern revindication of the old prophetic idea 
called 'monotheism*, and at the same time, implicitly, a radical 
criticism of the entire trend of European thought from Pkto 
to Gentile and existentialism. IcjbaFs philosophy of religion 
offers to us a new direction to ckoose. Against the ever-living 
instinctive polytheisin of our souls he offers the alternative of 
man (Faith): Iqbal calls Bis Superman a mumin, a believer, and 


here lies his basic difference from Nietzsche's rebellion and 
from all the modern Occidental anarchisms. 

But let us now enunciate the chief points of IqbaTs criticism 
of Greek thought, or better of classical thought and hence of 
the whole trend of modern thought. 

Against abstract dualism: 'Plato despised sense perception 
which, in his view, yielded mere opinion and no real know- 
ledge (p. 4). 'With Islam the ideal and the real are not two 
opposing forces which cannot be reconciled' (p. 12). "Islam 
says yes to the world of matter and points the way to master 

it' (p. 13). 

The dualism between profane and spiritual is still very strong 
in our world. For Iqbal 'all is holy ground ... the state, from the 
Islamic standpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal 
principles into space-time forces. It is in this sense alone that 
the state in Islam is a theocracy, not in the sense that it is 
headed by a representative of God on earth' (pp. 216-271), a 
typically pre-Christian idea adopted by the Roman Catholic 
Church and in more profane forms by dictatorial states. With 
perhaps the sole exception of the Jewish people previous to the 
establishment of monarchy by Samuel and the early Islam, 
humanity never experienced this original form of theocratic 
democracy, which developed on new lines could offer the 
only concrete alternative to the disorder of modern democracy 
and the tyranny of modem dictatorships, 

Against the Greek idea of the immobility of God: 'The Universe 
is so constituted that it is capable of extension. "God adds to 
His creation what He wills'* (Kor. 35/1)- It is not a clock 
universe, a finished product immobile and incapable of change. 
Deep in its inner being lies perhaps the dream of a new birth: 
". . . hereafter will He give it another birth" (Kor. 29/19)-* 
This, of course, is an ideal European thought borrowed 
from the Semitic religions, Christianity and Mam, only trans- 
ferring the attribute of motion from God to the World. It is 
in any case interesting to remark that for Islam the idea of a 


moving God, living, even changing his mind (this is the deeper 
sense of such concepts as the shi'ite bada, or the principle of 
an-nasikh wa ( I-mansukh, or the successive prophethood) is an 
orthodox one, whereas the dominating Aristotelianism of the 
Christian churches, fixing God as an almost impersonal sub- 
stance and giving to Christ a unique and fixed position in the 
series of the revealers of God, made of the idea of the 'changing 
God' almost a blasphemy. 

Against the classical proofs of the existence of God: Modern 
anti-religious thought profits by the obvious philosophical 
criticism of the classical 'five proofs* of St. Thomas in order to 
deny God. Iqbal, following in this the most traditionalist 
theological schools of Islam denies that God, the living God 
of the Koran, may be proved by means of the Cosmological, 
Teleological and Ontological arguments. 'The cosmological 
argument . . . tries to reach the infinite by merely negating the 
finite. But the infinite reached by contradicting the finite is a 
false infinite' (p. 40). 'The teleological argument he says 
gives us a contriver only and not a creator* (pp. 40-41). *All 
that the ontological argument proves is that the idea of a 
perfect being includes the idea of his existence* (p. 42). 

The living God of the Koran (and, I add, of the Bible too) 
is always something different from the purely intellectual God 
reached through those arguments, which would acquire life 
'only if we are able to show that thought and being are ulti- 
mately one* (p. 43). Iqbal doesn't give us an elaborate proof of 
the existence of God, die true God, but he only establishes die 
basis for a working proof. 'What we call Nature/ he says, Is 
only a fleeting moment in the life of God ... in the picturesque 
phrase of the Koran it is the habit of Allah" (p. 76)- Therefore 
proofs taken only from Nature do not prove anything about 
the true creator. 'But . . . intuition reveals life as a centralizing 

Personality of God: God is thai not a substance but an Ego. 
'In order to emphasize the individuality of the tiltunafie Ego 



the Koran gives him the proper name of Allah (p. 87). But 
does not individuality imply finitude? The answer is that God 
cannot be conceived as infinite in the sense of spatial infinity* 
(p. 89). True infinity does not mean infinite extension which 
cannot be conceived without embracing all available finite 
extensions- Its nature consists in intensity and not extensity 
(p. 164). 'The infinity of the Ultimate Ego consists in the 
infinite inner possibilities of His creative activity of which the 
Universe as known to us is only a partial expression' (p. 90). 
This is a very important point as in contrast to the classical 
conception of God it emphasizes the idea of a changing God, 
of a God for which Nature is a habit or to put it as a paradox 
a juvenile exercise of the creating God, in preparation of 
more and more wonderful works. In this lies also hidden a 
new solution of the old problem, the crux of theism, i.e., the 
problem of Evil. Nature is neither bad nor good in itself, it is 
one of the first exercises of God, who 'hereafter will give it 
another birth*. 

Creativeness of God: Among the attributes, sifat, of the 
Koranic God the most important is creativeness. Most of the 
modem European philosophers agree in admitting that the 
idea of the creativeness of Spirit is a great contribution of 
Semitic thought to Western philosophy, as it was unknown to 
Greek philosophy. But the Christian philosophers of the 
Middle Ages, imbued with Aristotelian ideas, accepted the 
idea of a created world only because it was stated in the Bible, 
without deducing from it the necessary philosophical conse- 
quences. St. Thomas even frankly admits that this idea is 
logically difficult to accept and believable only relying on the 
Bible. Muslim thought on the contrary has always given the 
utmost importance to creation, even going so far as to consider 
human acts as created in order to save the idea of the absolute 
creativeness of God* The Ash'arite school, with the aim of 
completely abolishing all those Aristotelian causae secundae 
which could compromise the freedom of the creative act of 


God, elaborated the highly interesting theory of atomism 'the 
first important indication of an intellectual revolt against the 
Aristotelian idea of a fixed universe' (p. 93). 'According to the 
Ash'arite school of thinkers . . the world is composed of 
what they calljawahir, infinitely small parts or atoms which 
cannot be further divided. Since the creative activity of God 
is ceaseless . . . fresh atoms are coming into being every 
moment and the universe is therefore constantly growing . , . 
Existence is a quality imposed on the atoms by God . . . What 
we call a thing ... is in its essential nature an aggregation of 
atomic acts' (p. 95). 'Nothing has a stable nature' (p. 97). 
This idea of a casual and atomically discontinuous universe, 
moving by jumps rather than by rational evolution, is con- 
sidered as the best adapted for God as a free creator and it is 
not only strangely similar to what some modern scientists 
think of the Cosmos, but, once admitted, forms a further step 
for the proofs of the existence of the true personal God: for 
only an 'artistic personality' could bring forth from a casual 
and purely fortuitous aggregation of atoms results impressing 
our souls as 'beauty'. This can be done by that supreme Ego in 
which 'thought and being are ultimately one' and to whom 
belong arm and khalq: khalq meaning the creative act of God in 
relation to the universe of extension (the world of matter) and 
amr the creative relation of God with the world of Spirit. 
All this, together with the Iqbalian idea of man as creator (see 
following point) gives to Man a sound aggressiveness towards 
things. The non-existence of things as hard and stony realities 
given for ever, and the possibility for the truly spiritual man 
(mumin, the believer) to create new counter-things, consider- 
ing die existing ones as habits or juvenile exercises of God, 
abolishes in Man every kind of melancholic and romantic 
passivity, which always results from considering the actual 
reality as definitive, and constitutes a true spiritual jihad (holy 
war). Man then, if centred in God, becomes a founder of 
ever new and unforeseeable realities. 


Man and his destiny: The idea of risk, so emphasized by 
modem existentialism, is clearly present in the Koran; '. . . 
man', says Iqbal, 'is the trustee of a free personality which he 
accepted at his peril/ Verily we proposed to the heavens and 
to the earth and to the mountains to receive the trust, but they 
refused the burden and they feared to receive it. Man under- 
took to bear it' (Kor. 33/72) (p. 134)- 'The Ego had its begin- 
nings in time and did not pre-exist its emergence in the spacio- 
temporal order. According to the Koranic view there is no 
possibility of return on this earth. Finitudeisnotamisfortune . . . 
It is with the irreplaceable singleness of his individuality that the 
finite Ego will approach the infinite Ego . . .' (p. 162). 'The 
Koran does not contemplate complete liberation from finitude 
as the highest state of human bliss . . / (p. 163). This point is 
connected with the Koranic and Biblical idea of the 'reality of 
Time and the concept of Life as a continuous movement in 
time, whereas the Greek time was either unreal as in Plato and 
Zeno, or moved in a circle as in Heraclitus and the Stoics', but 
'the movement itself, if conceived as cyclic, ceases to be 
creative (pp. 196-7). The Protestant theologian, O. Cullman, 
in his highly interesting book Christus und die Zeit (Christ and 
Time) discovered independently of Iqbal this very interest- 
ing anti-cyclical 'tension of time' in the prophetic religion, only 
giving it a peculiar Christian turn. In any case, from this point 
of view (and it is really strange that only now the modern 
world begins to appreciate this living thought so clearly repre- 
sented if not literally stated in those Holy Scriptures which 
ought to be and are not the basis of life for Christian people) 
the whole problem of 'immortality' presents itself in a new 
light. 'And then shall be a blast on the trumpet and all who are 
in the heavens and all who are on the Earth shall faint 
away (no special rights, then, even for celestial beings in 
front of the personal power of God!) save those in whose 
case God wills otherwise* (Kor. 39/69). 'Who can be 
the subject of this exception Iqbal adds but those in 


whom the Ego has reached the very highest point of inten- 
sity?' (p. 163). 

In his typical conception of Reality as a complex of egoes 
(matter itself being 'a colony of egoes of a low order' (p. 147) 
Iqbal clearly shows himself a disciple of the spiritual pluralism 
(very near to Leibnitz) of the former Hegelian McTaggart who 
was his master in philosophy. But McTaggart's arguments in 
defence of self as elementally immortal are weak. From the 
mere fact that the individual ego is a differentiation of the 
eternal Absolute Ego (Koranically speaking, an-nafsu min amri 
rabbi, the soul is from the direction of my Lord) it by no means 
follows that the human self retains the character which belongs 
to his source alone. According to Iqbal 'Personal immortality 
... is not ours as of right; it is to be achieved by personal 
effort. Man is only a candidate for it' (p. 165). 

Immortality is not something which can be proved as in 
Plato's Phasdon but a state to be conquered: here is the proof. 
For our modern world, which, abandoning God, is frantically 
looking for a cheap and sure personal immortality often 
through the most strange channels (spiritism, modern magics, 
etc.), Iqbal's warning is very strong; the idea that not all are 
immortal is in perfect agreement, I think, also with the spirit 
of the Old Testament which according to modern critics 
ignored the typically Greek thought of the Imn^rtality of the 
soul'. The old-fashioned Christian and Muslim dogma of the 
resurrection of the body is in its deep respect for our physical 
frame which is called by Iqbal in Zabur-i-Ajam hal az ahval~i 
hayat one of the states of life, a symbol of the idea of an 
immortality of the entire self. 

A modern Western mind can find in Iqbal's philosophy of 
religion not only an interesting mental or purely theoretical 
outlook on life and the universe and God, but, more than this, 
concrete proposals for a change of direction for building die 
future world on new lines. The rediscovering of the prae 
Koranic and BibEcal God can and must foe a new point of 


departure for the construction of a new history, a religious 
beginning of new realities. 

'Man is a creator/ This idea of Iqbal has strong attraction 
for modern Western minds, and could be given as the essence 
of Iqbal's philosophy of religion. Iqbal even defends^ it by 
quoting die famous verse of the Holy Kotanfatabaraka Ilahu 
ahsanut-khaliqin, 'Blessed be God, the best of creators.^ Of 
course modem Occidental thinkers had already proclaimed 
some of the ideas of Iqbal: names like those of Leibnitz, 
Nietzsche, Bergson, James "Ward, McTaggart come naturally 
to our minds. But they did so from an essentially 'profane 
point of view. Owing to the too strict connection between 
Biblical personal monotheism and Greek philosophy in Europe, 
the revolt to a 'fixed universe 5 in Western countries meant also 
a rebellion against the idea of the Biblical God: so that nobody 
in Europe recognized the great progressive and modern values 
implied in a really pure monotheism, which, I think with 
Iqbal, even in post-Koranic thought did not succeed in affirm- 
ing itself completely. A 'really pure monotheism' means 
totally divesting the forces of Nature of that divine character 
with which not only 'earlier cultures' (as Iqbal says, p. 177) but 
even in different and more perfectioned forms all modern 
cultures too have clothed them. It means moreover the radical 
invalidity and impossibility of every worldly 'authority', inas- 
much as only God is the real Lord; giving at the same time to 
democracy that organic character and Unitarian enthusiasm 
which only Faith can give and which unfortunately purely 
profane democracies lack. In "this really pure theocracy (I 
repeat this: the authority of the Pope, certain forms of Caliphate, 
etc., are not pure theocracies, because it is not only God who 
reigns in them) the 'slave of God' in the words of Iqbal's 
Javednama 'can dispense of any state and position. He has no 
servants; and he is servant of nobody. The slave of God is no 
more than a perfectly free man: his kingdom and law are given 
to him by God, by nobody else . . .' 



In this way, that is by adopting the standpoint of God, by 
being, in the words of the Koran, God's khalifa (vicegerent) on 
earth, man can develop a tremendous revolutionary force and 
yet avoid that frantic hysterical explosion peculiar to anarchic 
atheistic movements, and can in this way substitute the civiliza- 
tion of science as creation of values for one of simple vision of 
values. Obedience, itaat, (to God of course and to his laws) 
means very much for Iqbal: an entire section of Asrar-i-Khudi 
(The Secrets of the Self) is dedicated to it Not man as he is 
now, but man purified through obedience, self dominion, and 
detachment, can reach the high station of niyabat~i-ilahi, 
Divine Vicegerency. One could say that contrary to Occi- 
dental practice revolution is for Iqbal a final aim, not a means. 
The means consist in submitting himself to a strong and austere 
spiritual discipline. Be detached from the material world 
Iqbal says in order to become a real revolutionary! The 
sense of 'spiritual discipline' after the too other-worldly period 
of medieval asceticism has been completely lost by Europe. 
For Iqbal it lies in obedience to the simple laws enjoined by 
God in the Holy Koran. Only afterwards can man exercise 
the creative power he shares with God. And then unprece- 
dented things may happen. Because, in the words of the 
Koran, man's limit is not in the direction of the stars: 'and 
verily towards God is thy limit* (Kor. 53/43). 





A:CORDING to Iqbal the most fundamental fact of man's 
life is the absolute and irrefutable consciousness of his 
own being; the purpose of his life is to strengthen arid stabilize 
this basic feeling of ego-hood which Iqbal calls 'khudi'. Thus 
wrote A. G. Chagla in his article 'Some Aspects of IqbaFs 
Thought' (Triveni Quarterly, XVIII, June 1946, p. 5). It would, 
of course, be completely wrong to interpret IqbaTs doctrine 
in a mere naturalistic or rationalistic way. As we shall see later, 
this theory is wholly integrated within the framework of 
Iqbal's religious convictions. On the other hand it is of the 
greatest importance to enlarge on this basic doctrine and to 
make clear what it holds of deep and lasting thought for the 
only true acceptance of personality and democracy. 

In the following pages I shall try to explain and interpret 
what Iqbal succinctly wrote in The Reconstruction of Religious 
Though in Islam: 'Can the finite ego, as such, retain its finitude 
beside the Infinite Ego? This difficulty is based on a misunder- 
standing of the true nature of die infinite. True infinity does 
not mean infinite extension which cannot be conceived with- 
out embracing all available finite extensions. Its nature consists 
in intensity and not extensity; and the moment we fix our 
gaze on intensity, we begin to see that the finite must be 
distinct, though not isolated, from the Infinite' (Oxford 
edition, 1934, p. 112). Or as Iqbal wrote to Nicholson (Intro- 


duction to The Secrets of the Self, p. xv): 'Physically as well as 
spiritually man is a self-contained centre, but he is not yet a 
complete individual. The greater his distance from God the 
less his individuality. He who comes nearest to God is the 
complete person . . . The ego attains to freedom by the removal 
of all obstructions in its way. It is partly free, partly deter- 
minate, and reaches full freedom by approaching the indi- 
vidual who is most free God/ 

The distinction here hinted at by Iqbal between personality 
and individuality, but not brought to full clarity, is of great 
importance to understanding the real value of democracy for 
Muslims as well as for Western people. Why he does not 
clarify it more fully, he explains while discussing another prob- 
lem, intimately connected with it, namely the separation be- 
tween Church and State. Iqbal says: 'In Mam the spiritual and 
the temporal are not two distinct domains, and the nature of an 
act, however secular in its import, is determined by the attitude 
of mind with which the agent acts. It is the invisible mental 
background of the act which ultimately determines its char- 
acter* (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 146, 
also 216). 'In Islam/ he goes on, *it is the same reality which 
appears as Church looked at from one point of view and State 
from another/ A few lines further on he writes: * The point is 
extremely far-reaching and a full elucidation of it will involve us in a 
highly philosophical discussion. 9 (Italicized by the author.) 

This elucidation we propose to offer in this article, mean- 
while constantly referring to IqbaTs doctrine on the different 
points. This seems all die more necessary since the theory 
advanced by Iqbal is taken, up by other authors as final and 
conclusive though Iqbal himself referred to it as needing further 
elucidation. Iqbal, in the text quoted above, indicates what this 
elucidation would involve where he distinguishes between the 
'secular and the spiritual* as found in every human activity. 
This distinction is essentially connected with what the Koran 
calls sinfolness and virtue; it is connected with that which we 


all experience in actual human society, in Muslim society as 
well as in any other society, namely: peace and war, health and 
disease, sin and virtue, the spiritual and the material, Church 
and State. In the last resort it is connected with what Iqbal sees 
as the opposition between man's intention and the secular im- 
port of his act, the invisible mental background of his act and 
the act as it proceeds from him as from a man in body and soul. 
It might seem at first that in regard to the problem of human 
life in its present surroundings, Iqbal takes a different view from 
the one adopted by Christianity, where he says: 'In Islam the 
ideal and the real are not two opposing forces which cannot 
be reconciled' (Reconstruction, p. 9). Indeed, Christianity would 
wholly agree where he says: 'They can be reconciled in the 
perpetual endeavour of the ideal to appropriate the real with a 
view eventually to absorb it, to convert it into itself and to 
illuminate its whole being' (ibid.). The author, however, 
elsewhere admits those opposing forces, where he discusses the 
doctrine of Adam's fall: 'The experience of the finite ego to 
whom several possibilities are open expands only by method of 
trial and error' (Reconstruction, p. 82). Does not the Koran say: 
"Descend ye as enemies of one another'? Iqbal goes on (ibid., 
p. 83): 'This mutual conflict of opposing individualities is the 
world-pain which both illuminates and darkens the temporal 
career of life/ 

While discussing the problem of Church and State, Iqbal 
admits freely that his idea is only a personal one, while other 
doctrines could be held by Muslims. He says: 'Though person- 
ally I think it is a mistake to suppose that the idea of State is 
more dominant and rules all other ideas embodied in the 
system of Islam . - / (Reconstruction, p. 146). We fully admit 
Ms objection against giving to the State or to the temporal a 
higher status than the one given to the spiritual and the 
religious; this all religions do which believe in the opposition 
between virtue and sin. But once these are accepted we are 
forced to open the discussion on those 'far-reaching' points of a 


'highly philosophical' nature, which necessarily involve the 
problem of personality and individuality, of Church and State, 
of democracy and theocracy. 

Muhammad Natsir, discussing the theory about democracy 
and theocracy, makes Iqbal's doctrine his own, saying that 
Church and State in Islam are one and the same. He neverthe- 
less rejects theocracy in Islam, because, as he says: 'Islam has 
not got a priesthood* (Iqbal on the separation between 
Religion and State*, The Islamic Review, July, 1953, p. 5). This 
argument, however, does not seem to be convincing. Even if 
there is no official priesthood in Islam, theocracy may be exer- 
cised by caliphs and sultans and kings, as long as they are 
directly ordained by God to represent His power on earth, as 
the Ash*arite doctrine would have it. A real argument for 
democracy in Islam can be found in the fact that the Rashiduna- 
caliphs held only mediate and indirect power from God, in so 
far as they were chosen by representatives of the people and 
not as the later Ash' ante doctors would have it, that they were 
the direct 'shadow of God's power on earth'. Another argu- 
ment against theocracy in Islam is found in the doctrine about 
the individual and the person. These 'Secrets of the Self* have 
never been sung by any other Muslim author as clearly as they . 
have been sung in verse and prose by the great Iqbal. 

Man as a whole is an individual, but as a whole he is also a 
person. Nevertheless the focus of individuality is quite different 
from that of personality. If this stand is correct, and we shall 
see that it really is, it may be dear that the democracy of the 
individual in which the nineteenth century had placed its hopes, 
must, if the world is to be saved for dvilizatioii, be replaced by 
the democracy of the person. That means: the democracy of 
that holiest in man, which is his religious ego. This will prove 
to be of paramount necessity for every country and every 
civilization, if the world is going to be liberated from its all- 
embracing crisis. The philosophy* which we are going to 
propose here is to a great extent similar to the one contained in 


IqbaTs writings; It is opposed, however, to different kinds of 
philosophy which have embarrassed the world now for some 

I. The philosophical principles 

The period of critical theories, such as are expounded by 
authors like Kant, Hegel and the like, were a form of subtle 
European 'enlightment' in which reason sought to possess 
itself. They forgot, however, that the critique of knowledge, 
the reflection of reason upon itself, can be an abstract theory, 
as they claimed it to be, but that, in order to be real philosophy, 
it must be a living experience. However strongly knowledge 
may contrast itself to life, it is in itself part of life. This is what 
the most creative philosophers of our age, (creative in that 
sense in which Iqbal uses it where he says: 'One who does not 
possess creative power, to us is naught.' The Secrets of the Self), 
like Bergson, Scheler, Heidegger, and Iqbal have reminded us 
of thus bringing homage to the philosophy of those, who pre- 
ceded these harassed times and proposed a much more real and 
lasting philosophy such as that of Thomism. The point is, that 
the critique of knowledge, the reflection of reason upon itself 
in the schools of late, has been contrasted with life itself, while 
in reality knowledge is generated by life. Iqbal says: 'The view 
that ego-activity is a succession of thoughts and ideas, ulti- 
mately resolvable to units of sensations, is only another form 
of atomic materialism which forms the basis of modern 
science* (Reconstruction, pp. 101-102). Knowledge is a reality, 
it takes place in reality. Rationalistic philosophy of the past 
generations has treated knowledge as concerned with objects 
which lie outside life, while in reality it is an act in and through 
which something happens to reality, or better: reality is illu- 
mined by knowledge, is lit up from within. As Iqbal says: 
*When the Self awoke to consciousness, it revealed the universe 
of thought . . . Self-afErmation brings not-self to light* (The 
Secrets of the Self). The severance between knowledge and 



reality is the fatal result of rationalism which denies that the act 
of knowledge is an existential act. Yet if reality stands over 
against knowledge, there can be no inner connection between 
the two and knowledge does not form part of reality which 
cannot but be false. 

It is not difficult to see how this mode of rationalistic philo- 
sophy was part of the times in which it arose. This degraded 
philosophy which wanted to forget all that went before of real 
philosophy, coincided with the stage in which philosophy 
wanted to be a science and in which philosophy found itself in 
slavish dependence on the natural sciences. (v+ Reconstruction, 
p. 101.) Scientific philosophy, however, renounces wisdom 
and has even gone so far as to regard this as a gain and an 
achievement. But this is tragic. The claim of philosophy to 
be independent of life and to separate itself from life, is a false 
claim which can never be realized. Philosophy cannot be 
separated from life, because it must be life in order to be 

But just as philosophy cannot be separated from life, it 
cannot but be intimately connected with the life of the philo- 
sopher, so that the knower's faith and religious conviction of 
the ego are bound to benefit by the enlightening influence of 
his philosophy in the same way as the philosophy of someone 
professing to have no religion necessarily influences his con- 
clusions about the most vital questions. No philosopher can 
forget these essential matters or reduce them to mere abstrac- 
tions in his cognitive activity. Because philosophy is part of life, 
the spiritual experiences must lie at the basis of man's know- 
ledge. It has often been proposed by rationalist thinkers that 
this is a disadvantage. This is not so. On the contrary: the 
theological knowledge of the revelation of one's faith, for 
example, is an inner fact and therefore a philosophical experi- 
ence by which his philosophy is lit up from within so that the 
philosophy, which is essentially human, is nurtured by it. 

What we have called tie tragedy of the philosophy of the 


last centuries, against which Iqbal so vehemently reacted, is 
that having cut itself loose from the higher realms of religion 
and revelation it falls into a worse dependence, namely on the 
lower realms of positive science and scientific experience. By 
it philosophy for many lost its birthright and all proof of its 
ancient lineage. Philosophy is knowledge, but it is impossible 
to identify it with scientific knowledge, because as knowledge 
it is sui generis. Philosophy cannot wait for the discoveries of 
science. Science is in a perpetual flux; its theories and hypo- 
theses frequently change and become out of date; man continu- 
ally makes new discoveries. So during the last forty years 
there has been a revolution in physics which has radically 
changed its fundamental principles, (v. Eddington, The Nature 
of the Physical World.} But can it ever be said, that the meta- 
physical principles of Aristotle have been superseded by the 
discoveries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Those 
principles are far more stable than the 'discoveries', far more 
eternal, because concerned with what is eternal. The world is 
revealed to philosophy in a different way than it is to science. 
In spite of Husserl who did his utmost to make philosophy a 
pure science and eliminate from it all element of wisdom, 
philosophy always has been and will be wisdom. In spite of 
Hegel, who put his philosophy above religion and thus ex- 
ceeded the bounds, philosophy is always based upon spiritual 
and moral experience. 

It was against this trend of "Western rationalistic thinking that 
Iqbal reacted and very rightly so. While philosophy sees the 
world from the point of view of man, science sees the world 
apart from man, and that caused the tragedy of some of the 
schools of Western thinking by which they landed into 
relativity and uncertainty and into doubting everything but 
their own dogma of doubt. 

'It is pure dogmatism on the part of science to claim that the 
aspects of Reality selected by it are the only aspects to be 
studied/ Iqbal says. (Reconstruction, p. 107.) Knowledge of the 


reality in and through man has nothing to do with subjective 
idealism; this on the contrary confines man to the objectified 
world of nature. The German schools of epistemology of 
Windelband and Ricket refused to study man as a knower and 
abandoned him to psychology and sociology; they refused to 
accept that knowledge is a creative activity of man. Though 
Kant's services to epistemology are great, he was not able to 
solve its problems; nor did Hegel, according to whom it is not 
man who is the knower, but the world-reason or world-spirit 
or in the last resort the Deity itself. But the theory that in 
man the Deity comes to know itself and that the world-spirit 
attains its highest development in man's philosophy, may seem 
to be very gratifying to man's pride and sense of dignity, 
actually however in this doctrine man is merely a function of 
the world-spirit (which for those philosophers is not God) and 
loses his own spiritual reality. According to Husserl in order 
to know an object man must renounce everything human, 
become entirely passive. But that would mean that in the act of 
knowledge man would cease to exist as man. What a degrada- 

The mystery of knowledge is that in the act of knowing the 
knower transcends the object of his knowledge. Knowledge 
always means transcendence of the object and creative posses- 
sion of it. Knowledge must be a source of light which is shed 
over reality. This, however, is only possible because the 
knower is a personality capable of creative acts. Or as Iqbal 
expresses it, where he speaks of the Self: 

'A hundred worlds are hidden in its essence; 
Self-affirmation brings not-self to light . . . 
Subject, object, means and causes 
All these are forms which it assumes for the purpose of 


The Self rises, kindles, fells, glows, breathes, 
Bums, shines^ walks and flies . 


"Tis the nature of the Self to manifest itself: 
In every atom slumbers die might of the self/ 

(The Secrets of the Self, pp. 16-19.) 

It is because of all those conflicting trends of philosophical 
reasonings and confusions that Max Scheler, who is more 
interested in the problem of anthropology, says: 4 Zu keiner 
Zeit der Geschichte ist der Mensch sich so problematisch 
geworden, wie in der Gegenwart' (Die Stellung des Menschen 
imKosmos). Man is now feeling uneasy about himself. Psycho- 
logy, biology, sociology have not solved the problem of man 
in so far as he bears witness to the existence of a higher world. 
This man does by being a moral person. That means that the 
superhuman principle is a constituent element of man's nature. 
The very fact of the existence of man is a break in the natural 
world; it proves that nature cannot be self-sufficient but rests 
upon a supernatural reality. Man can only be explained and 
understood through his relation to God of whom he is the 
image in his personality, or as Iqbal called it: the "divine vice- 
gerency on earth of the human ego'. 

IT. The human person 

Our idea of man must be founded on the concept of per- 
sonality. Consequently it is essential to understand the relation 
between personality and individuality. It is what Iqbal would 
have elucidated if he had entered on a discussion of this 
'highly philosophical' question. 

Individuality is a naturalistic and biological category; per- 
sonality, however, is a religious and spiritual one. An indi- 
vidual is part of the species; he is produced by the biological 
generic process: he is born and dies. According to St. Thomas 
Aquinas the individuality of inanimate and animate things 
is rooted in matter; that means: in materia printa, pure poten- 
tiality. Prime matter or absolute matter is a kind of non-being, 
a simple power of receptivity and of substantial mutability. 


According to this doctrine the human soul constitutes with the 
matter which it informs a unique substance which is both 
spiritual and fleshly. Iqbal holds the same view. (v. Recon- 
struction, p. 99.) It is not as Descartes thought and many after 
him, the soul is not the thing (thought) existing as a complete 
being, and the body another being (extension) existing in its 
own way as a complete being. But soul and matter are two 
substantial co-principles of one and the same being, of a single 
and unique reality whose name is man. 

It is because each soul is made to animate a particular body 
(which derives its matter from the germinative cells from 
which it springs with all thek load of heredity); it is because 
each soul has a substantial relation, or rather is a substantial 
relation with a particular body; it is for these reasons that in its 
very substance it has individual characteristics which differ- 
entiate it from every other human souL So for man as for all 
corporeal beings (as for the atom, the molecule, the plant, the 
animal) individuality has its primary ontological root in matter. 

Personality,, on the other hand, is not generated; it is created 
by God; it is God's idea, His conception, and lives in eternity. 
In opposition to the wholeness as found in the individual, per- 
sonality is wholeness and unity possessing absolute and eternal 
worth, because personality is the image and likeness of God in 
man. This is why it rises above the natural life. Hare is a 
definition of personality: a person is a reality which, subsisting 
spiritually, constitutes a universe by itself, an independent 
whole (relatively independent) in the great whole of the uni- 
verse and facing the Transcendental Whole which is God, 
Iqbal explains this, where he says: 'The climax of this develop- 
ment (of man) is reached when the ego is able to retain fell 
self-possession, even in the case of a direct contact with die 
all-embracing Ego* (Reconstruction* p. in). (We would not 
agree with IqbaTs doctrine where he adheres to the theory of 
evolution, or where he says, on p. 113: 'Personal immortality 
is not ours as of right*) Personality is not a part of something, 


a function of the genus or of society. Personality is spiritual 
and presupposes the existence of a spiritual world. The value of 
personaEty is the highest hierarchical value in the world, a 
value of the spiritual order. That is why the Christian doctrine 
sees in God the sovereign personality, since God's existence 
consists in a pure and absolute super-existence of intellection 
and love; that is also why Muslim thinkers like Iqbal and 
Rumi, with whom he concurs, admit a personal God, of whom 
man is the image in his personality. 

Iqbal does not make the distinction between individuality 
and personality explicitly, though he certainly understood what 
we have explained above. Neither did Bergson in his 'Creative 
evolution'. Commenting on Bergson's sentence, 'Individu- 
ality, therefore, harbours its own enemy at home/ in which 
sentence individuality stands for man as a whole in whom the 
opposition between individuality and personality is said to 
amount to enmity, Iqbal, wanting to show how this imper- 
fection of man is absent in God, says: 'In the light of this pas- 
sage it is clear that the perfect individual (God), thought of as 
an ego, peerless and unique, cannot be conceived as harbouring 
its own enemy at home. It must be conceived as superior to the 
antagonistic tendency of reproduction (that is, of individuality 
as we have explained it above). This characteristic of the per- 
fect ego is one of the most essential elements in the Koranic 
conception of God (and of the Christian conception of God); 
and the Koran mentions it over and again, not so much with 
a view to attack the current Christian conception as to em- 
phasize its own view of a. perfect individual/ 

The notion of personality, therefore, does not refer to matter 
as individuality does. It refers to the highest and deepest 
dimensions of being. Personality is rooted in the spirit and it 
constitutes in the secret depth of our ontological structure, a 
source of dynamic unity and of inner unification., The spirit 
forms personality, enlightens and transfigures the biological 
individual and makes it the concrete fulness of life. 


Also personality means interiority to oneself, as Iqbal says: 
'The luminous point whose name is the self, is the life-spark 
beneath our dust' (The Secrets of the Self, ecL Nicholson, p. 28). 
But precisely because it is the spirit which (in a manner un- 
known to plant and animal) makes man cross the threshold of 
independence and interiority to oneself, consequently the sub- 
jectivity of the person has nothing to do with the monad of 
Leibniz, which has no doors or windows, (v* Reconstruction, 
p. 99.) The personality which is founded in the spirit of man 
demands the communication of intelligence and love. Because 
of the fact that I am a person and that I express myself to 
myself, I seek to communicate with that which is other and 
with others in the order of knowledge and of love. As a person 
I ask for a dialogue in which I can give myself and in which 
I am received really. Iqbal expresses this beautifully: 'By love 
it is made more lasting, more living, more burning, more 
glowing. From love proceeds the radiance of its (self's) being, 
and the development of its unknown possibilities' (Secrets, 
p. 38). Because this is not always actually possible, personality 
in man is linked with the experience of suffering even more 
deeply than to that of creative conflict Iqbal calls this Taqr', 
the attitude which demands full detachment because the person 
gets all the more conscious that it is relative to the absolute in 
which alone it can find its fulfilment It strives towards the 
absolute good, to God, with whom it not only bears the 
resemblance also found in other creatures, but whom it 
resembles in a peculiar fashion in that it is the image of God. 
For God is spirit and the person proceeds from Him in that he 
has as the principle of life a spiritual soul, a spirit capable of 
knowing and loving God Himself. This is the real greatness of 
the human person. 

Max Scheler has given us (Der Formalismus in d&r Ethik und die 
materielle Weltethik) an interesting theory of personality in 
which he develops a philosophical anthropology. According 
to Kim man is a being who transcends himself and die whole of 

[153] L* 


life. He regards man as undefinable biologically. The funda- 
mental opposition is not the one between man and animal, but 
between personality and organism, spirit and life. This view 
is essential for his doctrine. He criticizes with great subtlety 
the conception of autonomy in Kant, Fichte and Hegel and 
rightly says that it means the autonomy of impersonal spirits 
and not of personality. However, the fault occurs where 
Scheler distinguishes between personality and the self; where 
he says, that personality is self-contained. Our answer must be 
that personality, though it is the very core of self and a whole 
by itself, is a whole which from its very nature presupposes 
other persons. So that according to our view, personality is 
impossible without love and sacrifice, without going out to 
others, to the friend and to the loved one. 

At first sight, it might seem that Iqbal follows Scheler's 
view, where he says (v. supra, p. i): 'Physically as well as 
spiritually man is a self-contained centre.' But he certainly did 
not mean it in Scheler's sense. This can be shown from many 
texts. Let the following suffice: 'The luminous point whose 
name is self, is the life-spark beneath our dust. By love it is 
made more lasting, more living, more burning, more glowing' ; 
it is also Taqr', because this love entails sacrifice and rendering 
of self. This sacrifice and this rendering of self is the highest 
activity of love; the ego is fortified by love (Ishq'), which 
means the desire to assimilate or absorb as well as that of giving 
oneself completely in one and the same act. The rendering of 
self is the real 'begging' for the love of the other. This is so 
much so, that personality, were it self-contained, as Scheler 
thinks, would disintegrate and that even the Personality of God 
in all His unity must contain the fulness of knowing and loving 

Because a person cannot exist as self-contained, it pre- 
supposes the existence of other persons and communion with 
them. Personality is the highest hierarchical value and never is 
merely a means. But it does not exist as a value apart from its 


relation to God, to other persons and to human society. 
Personality must come out of itself, because narrow sdf- 
centredness ruins personality. As the individual is correlative 
to the genus, as we saw before, so the person is correlative to 
human society, because a person presupposes other persons and 
their intercommunion. Hence it may be clear how the narrow 
isolation in modern individualism is the destruction and not 
the triumph of personality. Another consequence is, that the 
struggle for the genus as fought by the individual, in Nazism 
with race-distinction as well as in Marxism with only material 
ends in view, does not leave any value for personality. Comte, 
Karl Marx and Durkheim denied personality and believed that 
only the individual is correlative to the social group; they, 
therefore, denied 'this luminous point whose name is the self'. 

III. The human person and society 

We have seen that it is essential for personality to tend 
towards communion. The person by virtue of his dignity as 
well as of his needs requires to be a member of society, of 
society proper, that is human society. The fact of his being 
open to communications of knowledge and of love requires 
the relations with other persons in order to super-abound from 
the very depth of his being in life, in intelligence, in love. His 
being in need, demands that he be integrated in a body without 
which it is impossible for him to attain to his full achievement 
and perfection. What is meant are not only material needs like 
bread and clothes, but most of all the need for others in order 
to be capable of acting according to reason and virtue. 

The aim of society is not the individual good of each person 
which constitutes it. That would mean the 'anarchy of atoms* 
as it was represented in the anarchic liberal conception of 
individualistic (mark: not personalistic) liberalism, according to 
which the duty of society consists in seeing that the freedom of 
each should be respected, although this permitted the strong 
freely to oppress the feeble. This is one of the reasons why the 


distinction between individuality and personality should be 
stressed so much. The freedom of the person must imitate the 
freedom of God, who is the most free and therefore the most 
bountiful to all His creatures. 

The aim of society is, on the contrary, its common good. 
That means the common good of human persons, because 
society is made up of human persons. It may be clear that this 
may lead to errors of the collectivist or totalitarian type. The 
common good of society is neither a simple collection of 
private goods, nor a good belonging to a whole which (as is 
the case of the species in relation to its individual members) 
draws the parts to itself, as if they were pure means to serve 
society alone. The common good is the good human life, 
capable of attaining its full perfection. It is, therefore, common 
to the whole and to the parts. Such a good implies and demands 
the fundamental rights of the person. It involves, as its chief 
value, the highest possible accession (an accession compatible 
with the good of the whole) of persons to their life as persons, 
and to their freedom of expansion, as well as to the com- 
munication of goodness which in turn proceeds from it. Only 
on the condition that the common good is in accordance with 
justice and with the moral good can it ensure the greatest 
possible development of the human persons. 

It may be clear from what has been said, that there is a 
typical paradox in social life. And here we will find once more 
the distinction between individuality and personality. For 
each man is altogether an individual and altogether a person. 

The person as such is a whole, generous and open, and if 
society were a society of pure persons, the good of the society 
and the good of the persons would be one and the same good. 
But man is as yet far from being a pure person. The human 
person de facto is also an unfortunate material individual and as a 
person he is full of needs. These are the reasons why it happens 
that, when such a person enters into society, he becomes a part 
of a whole a whole which is larger and better than its parts 


in so far as they are parts. According not to Ms entire self but 
to all the complements which he derives from society and 
without which he would remain in latent life, the human 
person is a part of a larger whole, a whole which surpasses the 
person in so far as the latter is a part and in so far as the common 
good is other than the good of each and than the sum of the 
good of each. In so far as the human person entering society 
is a material individuality, he enters as a part whose good is 
inferior to the good of the whole. As the whole of persons, 
society is a whole of wholes. But because of the person's 
destination to the absolute, and because he is called to fulfil a 
destiny superior to time, the human person as spiritual totality 
surpasses all temporal societies and is superior to them. And so 
it is to the perfect achievement of the person and of his supra- 
temporal aspirations, that society itself and its common good 
are subordinated under another order which transcends it. 

A single human soul is worth more than the whole universe 
of bodies and material goods. There is nothing above the 
human person except God. In regard, therefore, to the eternal 
destiny of the soul and its supra-temporal goods, society exists 
for each person and is subordinated to it While the person as 
such is a totaEty, the individual as such is a part. Therefore, 
while the person, as person or as totality, demands that the 
common good of temporal society should flow back to him, 
and while through his ordination to the transcendent whole, he 
even surpasses the temporal society mark well: not the 
spiritual and transcendent society of religion the same person, 
as an individual or as a part, is inferior to the social whole and 
must serve the common cause as a member of the whole. 

The first consequence is, as Iqbal puts it, that 'personality is a 
state of tension and can continue only if that state is maintained. 
If the state of tension is not maintained relaxation will ensue. 
Since personality or the state of tension, is the most valuable 
achievement of man, he should see that he does not revert to 
a state of relaxation. That which tends to maintain the state of 



tension tends to make us immortal', only for the last few words 
we must substitute: tends to make us perfect, because our soul 
is immortal and supra-temporal by itself. (Introduction to 
The Secrets of the Self, p. xvi.) 

Another consequence is: a state of tension and conflict which 
human society inevitably involves. Society naturally tends to 
enslave the person and to diminish him in so far as this person 
by society is considered as a simple part and therefore as a 
simple material individual. The human person, however, 
wishes to serve the common good freely while tending at the 
same time towards its own plenitude by surpassing itself and 
by surpassing the community in his movement towards the 
transcendent Whole, God. Yet in so far as he is a material 
individuality, the person is obliged to serve the community and 
the common good and even by constraint is surpassed by them, 
as the part by the whole. 

These tensions and paradoxes cause conflicts whose solution 
can only be dynamic, but never static. The double motion 
thus caused is of a much deeper nature than the dialectic motion 
of the Marxists. We could describe it as follows: 

Society moves to progression which operates most of all by 
the energies of spirit and freedom, but which is continually 
thwarted by forces of inertia and degradation; this movement 
tends to bring the law of personality to prevail over the law of 
individuality in social life, i.e., it tends towards the realization 
of man's aspirations to be treated in social life itself as a whole 
and not as a part. Here only love, which voluntarily assumes 
what otherwise would have been servitude, must transfigure it 
into freedom and free gifts. On the other side we have the 
notion of the life of free persons as part of the social com- 
munity. The person always wants society and yet always tends 
to surpass it. 

Let us briefly summarize the position: the human person is 
a part of the political community and is inferior to the latter 
according to the things which compensate in him the needs of 


material individuality, i.e., according to the things which in 
him and of him depend as to their very essence on the com- 
munity and which can be called upon to serve as means for the 
temporal good of this community. Yet on the other side the 
human person as a superior whole dominates the community 
according to the things which belong to the ordination of the 
person as such to the absolute, i.e., to something higher than 
society namely the supra-temporal achievements of the person 
as a person. Mathematical truths, for instance, do not depend 
on the social community and concern the order of absolute 
goods of the person as such. Therefore, a community will never 
have the right to force a mathematician to hold as true one 
mathematical system in preference to another. The same holds 
good for any other truth or value which concerns the spiritual 

IV. The person in democracy 

The community too easily only recognizes what belongs to 
the world of matter, meanwhile being blind to the reality of 
the spirit. It sees in man only the shadow of real personality, 
namely the material individuality. The consequence is that the 
person is enslaved to the social body. There are three types of 
doctrines which ignore the human person: 

(a) Bourgeois-liberalism which considered the individual 
(not the person) as a little god and which was based on 
die absolute liberty of property, of commerce and of 
pleasures of life. It ended inevitably in etatkme because 
the rule of numbers produces all too easily the omni- 
potence of the State. If man is only a material indi- 
viduality, therefore only a part and not a whole, the 
individual will finally find himself entirely subjected to 
the social whole. 

(b) Communism is a reaction against this liberalism and 
individualism, which both are so very opposed to dhe 


Christian spirit and to the spirit of any religion. It 
pretends to aim at the absolute liberation of man in 
order to make him the god of history; were this libera- 
tion to succeed it would be the liberation of collective 
man and not of the human person. 

(c) Dictatorship starts from the sovereign dignity of the 
State either in the name of the spirit, it may even be in 
the name of God in a kind of wrongly applied theo- 
cracy or of a people (Volksgeist) or in the name of 
race and blood in order to annex the entire person to 
the social whole, 

All three of them consider man as a material individuality 
and do not recognize in man the eternal and spiritual element. 
They are, therefore, incapable of furthering the real common 

Over and against these three types of society stands demo- 
cracy, not as something new, which has only started in our 
time, but as a system which akeady has a long history even 
though its records are not always clean and right. In his book 
on 'The two sources of morality and religion' Bergson em- 
phasizes the original religious character of the democratic 
ideal. This is true in general. But we must not forget that 
there are kinds of democracy such as that of Rousseau's which 
base everything on the native goodness and native freedom of 
the individual (not of the person), a fictitious individual like 
Emile, shut up in himself. Democracy of the individual arises 
from an anthropocentric inspiration; materialism, atheism and 
dictatorship are its fatalities. Did not Hegel say that the State 
Is the supreme reality, which possesses a plenitude and self- 
sufficiency of being, far surpassing that of the person? By 
saying to men, you are gods by your own essence and will, this 
kind of bourgeois-democracy has debased man; and the conse- 
quence was egoism and the excessive longing for material 



On the other hand, democracy of the person is a theocentxic 
inspiration and its aim is freedom in the social as well as in the 
spiritual order. We mean: freedom of expansion of the person, 
of exultation and of autonomy so far as it conforms to the 
image of God. Iqbal says: 

It is wrong to utter a bad word. 

The infidel as well as the faithful are God's creations. 

Humanity consists in respect for man; So acquaint thyself 
with the dignity of man. 

The man of love takes his guidance from God and is kind 

to the faithful and the infidel alike. 

True democracy says: you are gods by the gift and the calling 
of God; you are gods in becoming and in suffering and hope; 
gods by means of humanity, virtue and grace. The weight of 
man is the weight of love. This democracy dignifies the 
creature really in God and as made by God and for God, but 
not illusively as God itself. It knows the grandeur of man as 
well as his misery, his misery when he falls short of the ideal. 
It respects the human dignity not as something abstract but in 
each concrete person. 

If democracy is to succeed it must refine the sense of justice 
as applied to persons and not as applied to individuals, and also 
the sense of risk and heroism. 'Let love burn all thy doubts, be 
subservient only to the truth which will turn thee into a lion/ 
says Iqbal. Democracy must reject the materialistic philosophy 
of individualism and accept the true spiritual values which are 
born from the truth that man as an image of God has an inalien- 
able right of freedom of conscience, freedom of choice of 
religion, of spontaneity and initiative in all its dynamism and 
creative activity. 




**m /f AN in this many-coloured world is at every instant full of 
IVJL laments, like the lute ... the sea, the desert, the hills, 
and the grass, are dumb, deaf and dumb are the sky, the sun 
and the moon. Even though high up in the skies are stars with- 
out number, each one of these is ever more solitary than the 
rest; each is just as desperate as we are, like us vagrant in the 
blue expanse of the skies. How like a caravan that has not 
taken sufficient provisions for the long journey, for whom the 
skies are infinite and slow the nights. Perhaps this world is a 
prey and we are the hunters: or are we not perhaps only for- 
gotten prisoners: Oh, happy the day that does not belong to the 
time, whose morning has neither noon nor evening a day 
from whose light the spirit draws light and mysterious things 
become visible to its splendours/ 

The initial sadness of Iqbal's 'Celestial Poem' finds its 
parallel in Dante's 'Dark Wood': for Iqbal it is the feeling, 
I should call it the rage, of man conscious of his limitations 
when placed in front of the infinite; of impotent man who will 
not be satisfied with anything less than omnipotence of man 
shut in by high walls who aspires over All. That is the reason 
for which Iqbal starts on his voyage to the skies he goes to 
shatter them. 'How to get to the presence of God' he asks his 
Virgil, 'how to smash mountains of water and earth? He who 
commands and creates is beyond the order of creation and we 
are nearly throttled by the iron fist of destiny/ 



The aim of Dante's voyage is quite different: Dante seems to 
barely touch this problem in the song of Ulysses. Dante, in 
fact, starts on his voyage to purify himself so as to be able to 
arrive at a contemplation of God. 

I said 'different' , but in truth, looking deeper and more 
attentively, not so different as it at first seems. Because IqbaTs 
voyage of conquest is possible only after Dante has returned 
from his voyage of purification. Let not Iqbal, a profoundly 
religious spirit, be taken for one of those Godless existentialist 
progressives of which our world is full to-day. He says: 
'Carve another world according to thy desires: but give not 
your heart to colours, perfumes, the earth and its ways: the 
heart is sacred to Him, do not give it to anyone but Him/ 

And elsewhere he stressed the difference between a slave 
and a slave of God. The slave is despicable but without 
submission to God, without this divine slavery, man remains 
eternally impotent and limited. 

In Dante's world, so Greek and harmonic, man has under 
the semblance of Faust once again tried to feel his sense of 
slavery of God, and failed. Iqbal does not propose to return to 
Dante, but on the contrary starts on a new voyage, which is a 
frantic 'go' towards that God who is 'beyond order and crea- 
tion'. Thus Iqbal's impulse really becomes 'power' and not 
only agitation. 

Iqbal's celestial voyage has initially something which renders 
it different from Dante's. There is no voyage through Hell 
here, nor is there so much talk of sin. The itinerary, an 
itinerary of conquest which already presumes victory over at 
least the minor forms of sin, begins with a startling "Prolog in 
Himmel 9 in which, on the first day of Creation, Heaven re- 
proaches Earth for its heavy crass materialism and blindness, 
but the Earth nevertheless receives the consoling promise from 
God Himself who says that He to use the Koranic expression 
will establish there a Vicar, Man, the end of physical evolu- 
tion and the burning of a still more surprising spiritual evolu- 

[I6 3 ] 


tion. 'Still he entwists himself in nature the angels sing of 
him but he will be harmonic one day.' 

Dante's 'Prologue in Heaven' stands under the sign of 
redeeming femininity Mary, Lucy and that Beatrice of whom 
the poet sings 'her eyes glittered more brightly than the stars'; 
in Iqbal instead it stands under the hazy distant omen of the 
inimitable power of man. 

On earth Iqbal finds his Virgil in Rumi, the great mystic 
Persian poet of the thirteenth century, who is to be numbered 
among the greatest mystics of all times, and the poet starts on 
his voyage with the words of the so profoundly modern verses 
of the Master echoing in his ears: 

Alas, what we are searching for cannot be found 
But a voice within me said: 'It is just what is unfindabk that 
I desire . . .* 

And we see Iqbal, in his journey through successive heavens, 
surpassing the heaven of the Moon where he had discussed 
with the Indian sage Vishvamitra (Purified human wisdom) 
and pondered on the four grand manifestations of the Divine 
Power, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. In the 
heaven of Mercury, Iqbal has the opportunity of reasoning with 
the great Oriental politicians, such as Jamal-uddin al-Afghani 
and Said Halim Pasha, on capitalism and communism, on the 
Eastern and Western world. With remarkable balance he 
recognizes the positive function of communism, namely that of 
destroying an old and hypocritical world while contemporarily 
criticizing its impotence to shape a really new world, as the 
prophets had succeeded in doing because it is devoid of a 
superior spirituality. He sees in the democratic theocracy of 
Islam (God and God alone, Lord of everything; everybody 
equal in so far as all are slaves of God; nobody possessing any- 
thing because everything belongs to God) the only solution for 
the problems of the World. 


The sky of Venus is particularly anti-European, with its 
attacks against archaeologists, revaluators of the past paganism, 
and the attack on Kitchener for his cruelties against the Mah- 
dists in the Sudan. 

Having shattered this sky here is our poet on Mars, a sort of 
earth whose Adam had not given in to Satan's blandishments 
and had instead thrown him down, woe to us, on Earth. 
Afterwards he goes to Jupiter, one of the most beautiful skies, 
which is dedicated to the spirits of the three great 'heretics* of 
Islam Hallaj, Ghalib and the Persian poetess Qurratul Ain 
Tahira, who created says the Poet new worlds with their 
sacrifices. Tahira' s figure, in the discreet and modest beginning 
of her speech after the many disquisitions of the others, recalls 
Dante's 4 Pia de' Tolomei': 'Also from the sin of the crazy 
servant new creatures may arise: Limitless love tears every veil, 
takes away from sight every old thing. And at the end he has 
in sight rope and gallows: one does not return alive from the 
way of the Friend.' 

It is a strange coincidence that just in the same sky of Jupiter, 
Christian Dante also placed two pagan souls, Rifeus and Trajan. 
Pagans in Heaven! This is an important point of contact, this 
virile tolerance, better skill, understanding towards everything 
which is sincere, amongst the great spirits. Dante was just as 
good a Catholic as Iqbal was a Muslim: but the former gave 
way to the majestic generosity of the Roman Emperor and the 
latter, perhaps more heroically, as it is sometimes more difficult 
to understand a heretic than a pagan, gave way when con- 
fronted by the sweet figure of Tahira, throttled at Teheran in 
1852, and the martyrdom of Hallaj, who was crucified at 
Baghdad in 922. 

'Regnum Coelorum violenza pate 
Da caldo amore e da viva speranza 
Che vince la divina volontate* 


And it is just in this Heaven that Satan sings his lament, tired 
of man's cowardice. 

The next Heaven, that of Saturn, gives hospitality to the 
traitors, I was about to say 'traitors to their countries', but tnillat 
is for Iqbal something more than 'country' understood in the 
national sense. Like Dante, like any other religious man, 
Iqbal's 'country' is the great supernational community of be- 
lievers, something resembling the Holy Roman Empire. And 
IqbaTs contempt for the traitors of this ideal is just as strong as 
Dante's, who places them at the very lowest step of Hell. 

We are now on the boundaries of the Heavens: but the 
uneasy search sends Iqbal even 'beyond the Heavens'. And here 
a soul presents itself to him singing: 'Neither angels, nor 
Paradise, nor Huri, nor God, only a fistful of earth burnt by the 
diurnal desire of the heart.' This is the spirit of Nietzsche 
which, symbol of the reach towards the complete surpassing of 
every spiritual value, arises on the boundary of the created 
world and is stretched towards the great void of God. 

It is moving to see poor Nietzsche, so hated by all the falsely 
pious and hypocrites of every religion, at last welcomed, even 
though only on the tenuous wings of art, in heaven, nay, more, 
'beyond the Heavens'. And it is not through chance that this 
religious revaluation of Nietzsche has fallen on a representative 
of that religion which, perhaps more radically than any other, 
exalts the attributes of the 'Power' of God. 

'He was a Hallaj,' Iqbal says, 'stranger to his country: he 
saved his life from the priests and was killed by physicians!' 
Nietzsche never succeeded in surpassing says Iqbal the 
destructive phase of his thought to write something positive 
on that blank page which according to Schopenhauer is all that 
remains of all vain human chatter, but 'what he created is the 
stage of Divine power, and this sublime stage is beyond reason 
and wisdom'. 

After Nietzsche we find ourselves in the real and proper 
Paradise, with its phantasmagorical gardens, the palaces of 



Oriental Kings and the beautiful Hurts. And in the noble castle 
(the Dantesque expression conies natural in this case in spite of 
die distance of the two places: which fact has its significance) 
Iqbal stops to speak with the great spirits. But only the sight 
of the Eternal Beauty of God can satisfy him and he therefore 
abandons even Paradise, singing to the astounded Hurts: 

'Embrace once more the rose bush and absorb water and 
dew . . . Oh pale being, what are you looking for in the 

The last part of IqbaTs poem is particularly interesting; the 
few words exchanged with the Eternal Beauty, which at the 
end reveals Itself to the poet, end with a hymn in which there 
is a breath of that Oriental superiority over the world and the 
non-world, over the ancient and the modern, and that mystic 
detachment which Iqbal had so often criticized in his co- 
religionaries seems to return once more. But it is a detachment 
which leads to activity not to a sterile lack of interest. 

'Abandon the East and let not the magic of the "West enchant 
you, as all the ancient and the modern is not worth a grain of 
barley: Oh! you who form part of the caravan, free yourself 
from all and go with everybody. You have come here shining 
more brightly than the sun which lightens the whole world: 
live in such a way as to throw light over every atom of dust* 

It would be useless and unimportant for me to compare 
Dante and Iqbal on the artistic plane. Art cannot be com- 
pared. But in this divided world of ours the exchange of views 
between those great spirits, who are consolation to us by their 
very existence, places us, whether willing or not, before a 
world of real unity of thought. 

Deep differences certainly remain: Iqbal if nothing less, 
lived six or seven centuries kter than the Horentine exile, 
and belongs to a different religious tradition than Dante's. 
Aristotle's settled ordered world is by no means acceptable to 
Iqbal. On the contrary, Iqbal has words of harsh criticism for 
Greek philosophy, which according to him has ruined the pore 



theism of primitive Christian, philosophy by its rationalism, 
theologizing and pagan ritualism. 

But in a world which has nearly completely forgotten its 
religious sentiments and which, depersonalizing God, had dis- 
solved a more or less romantic divinity in things and History, 
Iqbal in his celestial poem once more makes us listen to a 
biblical voice. I should call it a voice which is certainly more 
similar to that of Dante than are certain voices of our world. 

Abdul Quddus of Gangoh, a mystic Muslim in referring to 
the mysterious voyage to heaven of the Prophet Muhammad, 
said: 'Muhammad of Arabia rose to the highest Heaven and 
came back. I declare that had I reached that spot I would 
not have again descended.' And the difference between the 
Prophet, the man who from contact with God receives a 
renewed creative impulse, and the Mystic who would have 
liked to prepare a tent for himself is obvious. Iqbal receives 
from the Eternal Beauty an invitation to action and his message 
is a message of a prophetic, not mystical, type. 

The desire to see his religious experience transformed into a 
living world force he writes in his Reconstruction of Religious 
Thought in Islam distinguishes the mystic from the prophet. 
Iqbal is not one of those tired mystics of the East, which too 
many of us Europeans admire, but neither is he an unreligious 
activist, a frenetic adorer of action for action's sake. 

Before acting he ascended to heaven, and we must be careful 
in taking his revaluation of self too literally and giving it a 
meaning which is only too habitual for us Westerners to give. 
Iqbal is a socialist because he is religious in that typical origin- 
ally Islamic seme, that Koranic sense, even Semitic I should say, 
with a too simple and, in our case, paradoxical racial trans- 
position, for whom a harmonic fixed order of the universe 
according to the Greek conception and also according to 
Dante's conception, does not exist. 

Ulysses, who after all is very little Greek in the Dantesque 
version, is certainly the character which Iqbal has liked most 



in the Divine Poem and is the joining link between the two 
poets. Ulysses who is perhaps Dante's most anti-classical 
character, being more Christian than Pagan, is placed through 
a strange destiny in Hell, sacrificed to that Christian Aris- 
totelianism which placed insurmountable barriers to that static 
universe which the first martyrs had smashed in their over- 
whelming joy of self-immolation, 

*In truth towards God is your limit/ This deep Koranic saying 
gives Iqbal an infinite view over the world. Nature is for him 
a 'Habit of God\ The radically theistic Islamic doctrine of 
successive and eternal creation, through atoms of time, of the 
entire universe ever and continually redestroyed, fascinates 
him. And in this he sees the radical liberation from every type 
of fatalism and slavery to matter. Dante's Ulysses is in a 
certain way IqbaTs precursor, and Iqbal would, I think, per- 
fectly agree with me should I say that all the Ulysses in Europe 
have developed themselves under the sign of atheism through. 
the fault of the strong tie of our religious tradition with the 
Greek pre-Christian form, the Aristotelian form, which was 
that which condemned Ulysses. 

Now Iqbal, a Ulysses redeemed by this Aristotelian con- 
demnation through the anti-classicism of the Koran (as he 
puts it) is about to start on his ascent to the heavens, and this 
time not Titanically, but with the approval and encouragement 
of God. The ascent is of a nature different from Dante's 
because in this Man plays the prevailing part but it is the 
complete Man who has behind him die purifying experience of 
Dante's voyage and the admonishment of Faust's damnation. 

And this new Man, put forward for us by Iqbal has, I think, 
also something to teach us; better still, the experience of these 
great celestial travellers like Dante and Iqbal has three lessons 
to impart to us: 

First: that tolerance and all those so-called virtues of modem 
man are not in contradiction to the simple strong faith, in the 
transcendental. 'Wherever you turn* to use a Koranic sen- 



tenet 'there the countenance of God stands/ and perhaps still 
better than anybody else he who Is near God can place in 
heaven Trajan, Hallaj and Tahira. 

Second: Man, who is merely an impotent being completed 
by Him., who is 'nearer to him than his jugular vein' becomes 
omnipotent and creator of new spiritual worlds. 

Third: to achieve this, a preliminary act of submission is 
necessary: in Dante's philosophy it is repentance, in IqbaFs a 
declaration of slavery but slavery of God and only of God. 
Of that God whose glory penetrates through all the Universe. 

And now, beyond those skies which are the many-coloured 
veils of dogmas and laws and which perhaps in the contingent 
world would have kept them apart, and for some shortsighted 
persons still does keep them apart to-day, the spirits of Dante 
and Iqbal will be able to exist in perfect harmony, which I 
hope may be the symbol and forecast of a still more visible 
harmony on this Earth, to exalt that only God with the words 
of the Koran (24, 35): 

God is the light of the heavens and the earth; His light is as a 
niche in which is a lamp, and the lamp is in a glass, the glass is as 
though it were a glittering star; it is lit from a Messed tree, an olive 
neither of the east nor of the west, the oil ofivhich would well-nigh 
give light though no fire touched it light upon light!