The Complaint and The Answer




While reading the work of Iqbal Muhammed, I was stricken first and foremost by his formatting of the poem. Splitting the poem into a very well defined ‘complaint’ and ‘answer’ made it incredibly moving to read, and the distinctive split is mirrored in my interpretive piece above. In particular, I felt like the splitting allowed me to directly connect with the purpose of the poet during each section, as well as giving me the authority to take on the role of the ‘complainer’ and ‘answerer’ in each instance.

Initially, I did not understand who the complaint was going out to or for what purpose. I understood the general gist of the poem, but it lacked a figure at which the complaint may be directed. Only later once I reached the ‘answer’ did I realize the complaint was to God. The overriding theme of the complaint which revolved around praising the actions of Muslims past seemed almost to be directed in a blaming fashion, as though questioning God why he choses to allow muslims to live in a state of social destituteness. In his desperate attempt to complain, the poet takes it upon himself to remind God of the past deeds of Muslims around the world, of goodness and bounties, of flashing sabers and victories, of kissing death as a beautiful bride, of the perfection of men from “Hijaz”, and then the present fall from grace, and the state of chaos, shame, defeat and tears.

Throughout my learning of religion, I was always told of the grandeur of the Islamic world during the time of the prophet. I was taught the tales of a time when Islam brought equality which far preceded its time, of rights for women and children, of tolerance, patience, love and brotherhood. However, it always seemed to me that those who taught religion, lived on the pride of their ancestors’ accomplishments. As I my understanding of the world grew, it not only seemed to be the case, but very apparently was; what is left in the present world is groups which represent Islam in a light which can only force the religion and its followers into a state of societal denigration. Hence, it is no surprise now that the poet complains of this state of affairs, asking in wonderment what could have gone wrong and sending out a plea as a reminder to the accomplishments of Muslims. However, the complaint has an inherent flaw.

Upon reading the second part of the work, the answer, one comes to the realization that God’s so called reply, is one of humbling capacity. The reply to man, who has become so arrogant that has forgotten his place and has dared to question God. Here man is told of his ancestors in a different light. What struck me, is that in the reply the ancestors were brought into consideration, not for their actions but their qualities. It is the virtue of pure men, who were true to their word, strong, chivalrous, with undaunted faith. Compared with today’s selfish, weak and almost idol worshippers, who wouldn’t mind selling their ancestors tomb for some money, as per the poem.

On the whole, there is a significant sense of warning from the poet, in an attempt to direct today’s muslims towards a ‘purer’ form of Islam. The issue I have with his calling is that it is one that many of today’s politicized Islamic scholars call for today. One must recognize the purely spiritual message involved and discern it from everything else. The warning sign is symbolized in the piece above by the red which almost engulfs the lamenting man, as ‘God’ speaks down in a waves of critique.

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