MYSTICAL SYMBOLISM: Shabistari’s Interpretation vs. Iqbal’s Reformation

  • Nabiollah Masoumi Inter-Religious Studies Program UGM Graduate School, Jogjakarta
  • Moch. Nur Ichwan Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga, Jogjakarta
  • Dicky Sofjan Universitas Gajah Mada
Keywords: Mysticism, symbolism, Mahmoud Shabistari, Gulshan-i Raz, Gulshan-i Raz-i Jadid, wujudi school of Sufism, Allamah Iqbal, philosophy of self (khudi)


Gulshan-i Raz (Rose Garden of Mystery) is a masterpiece of Islamic mystical philosophy, written by Shaikh Mahmoud Shabistari (1228-1340) influenced by wujudi (existential) teachings of Ibn Al-Arabi (1165-1240). Beside answering basic doctrinal questions in this book, Shabistari ellaborates a set of oft-used mystical symbols of the Sufis. Almost six centuries later, Allamah Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) of Lahore, along his philosophical contemplation on ‘reconstruction of religious thoughts in Islam’ and particularly, in pursuit of reformulating theorical Sufism, answered the same set of doctrinal questions in Gulshan-i Raz-i Jadid (New Rose Garden of Mystery), but left the questions on symbolism unanswered. Therefore, this comparative study explores the use and denotations of Shabistari’s set of symbolic terms in poetry books of Iqbal, to verify if his usage of the same symbolic terms are in accordance with poetry of traditional mystics. For further clarification, some couplets from Ibn Arabi, Hafiz Shirazi, Fakhruddin Iraqi and Ayatollah Khomeini are contrasted with Iqbal’s verse lines. The research finds that Iqbal abstained from using popular mystical symbols such as female beauty and modified the wine related set of symbols. He also reformed the conventional wujudi allegories and finally, introduced a new set of symbols more applicable to his khudi (self) doctrine.


Download data is not yet available.


A’wani, G R. The Wine of Love, Mystical Poetry of Imam Khomeini., 2014.

Ahmad, Naeem. Iqbal’s Concept of Death, Immortality and Afterlife. Lahore: Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 2006.

Aqeel, Moinuddin. Iqbal: From Finite to Infinite: Evolution of the Concept of Islamic Nationalism in British India. Lahore: Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 2008.

Aminloo?, ?Hassan. “?Thousand Treasures: Description of Masnavi Golshan Raz, Composed by Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari Using Mafatih Al-Ajaz by Sheikh Mohammed Lahiji (RA).” Online. Tehran: Limiya?, 2005.

Aminrazavi, M, and S H Nasr. An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Vol. 4: From the School of Illumination to Philosophical Mysticism. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

Andrey Lukashev, “Faith and Infidelity in the Context of the Notion System in the Works by Mahmud Shabistari,” Politics and Religion • Politologie des Religions, 14(1), 2020.

Andrey Lukashev, “The Issue of Faith and Infidelity in “The Rose Garden of Mystery” by Mahmud Shabistari (1288–1321),” Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 329, 2019, pp. 993-994.

Angha, Molana Salaheddin. The Fragrance of Sufism. G - Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series. University Press of America, 1996.

Arberry, A J, and M Iqbal. Mysteries of Selflessness: Rumuz-i Bekhudi. Online edi. Kazi Publications Incorporated, 2001.

Azad, Hasan. “Reconstructing the Muslim Self: Muhammad Iqbal, Khudi, and the Modern Self,” Islamophobia Studies Journal, 2(2), Fall 2014, pp. 14-28.

Baghmolaei, Mohammad Kazem Muhammadi. Hadith Bi Kam o Bishi (Description of Gulshan-i Raz Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari) (Sharh Mohammadi Baghmolaei Mohammad Kazem), Preface, Explanatory, S.D., Lahiji’s Description by Mohammad Ka Zam Mohammadi with the Introduction of Jafar Hamid. Vol. 1. Qom, 2000.

Bernier, F. Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668. Asian Educational Services, 1996.

Dar, Bilal Ahmad. “Iqbal and Nietzsche’s Concept of Eternal Recurrence.” Intellectual Discourse 19:2 (2011), 281–305. Dar, R. Bilquees. “Iqbal and Nietzsche: Perfect Man versus Superman.” International Journal of English and Literature, 4(9), 2013: 449–50.

Dehsen, C von. Philosophers and Religious Leaders. Lives & Legacies. Taylor & Francis, 2013.

Feyzullah Yilmaz, “Overcoming Nihilism Through Sufism: An Analysis of Iqbal’s Article on ?Abd al-Kar?m al-J?l?,” Journal of Islamic Studies, 30(1), 2019: 69–96

Feyz Kashani, Mulla Mohsen Feyz. ?Meshvagh Treatise?. Manuscript., 2002.

Ghodratollahi, Ehsan. “The Doctrine of Khudi in Iqb?l?s Philosophical Thought Ehsan Ghodratollahi.” Hilosophical-Theological Research, 13(1), 2011: 63–88.

Hafiz Shirazi. The Divan I Hafiz.Vols. I. & II. Edited by Major H.S. (ed)., Clarke, Lieut.-Col. H. Wilberforce. (ed.1891) Jarrett. First. London.: The Octagon Press Ltd., 1974.

Hafiz Shirazi, and Gertrude Bell. Poems From the Divan of Hafiz. READ BOOKS, 2020.

Hafiz Shirazi, and Gertude Lowthian Bell. Poems from the Divan of Hafiz. London: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 1897.

Ibn al-?Arabi. The Tarjuma?n Al-Ashwa?q?: A Collection of Mystical Odes. Edited by Reynold A. Nicholson. London: HOYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY, 1911.

Ibn Arabi, M. The Seals of Wisdom?: From the Fusus Al-Hikam. Concord Grove Press, 1983.

Iqbal, "Islam as a Moral and Political Ideal," The Hindustan Review, Allahabad, 1909, as cited in Speeches Writings, pp. 97-117, p. 101.

Iqbal, M, and M S ?Umar. Iqbal: Collected Poetical Works (English Translation). Iqbal Academy, 2000.

Iqbal, Muhammad;, and A J Arberry. Persian Psalms: (Zabur-i ?ajam) Parts I & II. Online. Online Edi. M. Ashraf, 1948.

Iqbal, Muhammad, and Arthur J. Arberry. Javid-Nama. Online Edi. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1966.

Iqbal, Muhammad, and Hadi Husain. A Message from the East: A Translation of Iqbal’s Payam-i Mashriq Into English Verse. Online edi. Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 1977.

Iqbal, Muhammad, and J Majeed. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Encountering Traditions. Stanford University Press, 2013.

Iqbal, Muhammad, and Jamil Naqvi. “What Should Then Be Done, O People of the East: English Rendered of Iqbal’s Pas Chih Bayad Kard Ay Aqwam-ISharq.” online. Iqbal Academy, Pakistan, 1977.

Iqbal, Muhammad, and Reynold A. Nicholson. The Secrets of the Self (Asrar-i Khudi) a Philosophical Poem. Toronto: Macmillan and Co., 1920.

Iraqi, Fakhordin, W C Chittick, P L Wilson, and S H Nasr. Divine Flashes. Classics of Western Spirituality. Paulist Press, 1982.

Javed Iqbal. Zinda Rood: Allama Iqbal Ki Mukammal Sawaneh Hayat (Urdu Edition): Vol. 1. Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2019.

Kadivar, Mohsen. “Description of Golshan Raz Description, General Courses on Mysticism.” Culture and Wisdom Circle, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2016.

Lewisohn L, Beyond Faith and Infidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmud Shabistari, (Curzon Press, 1995)

Lewisohn L, (ed.) Classical Persian Sufism: From its Origins to Rumi, London: Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1993.

Lewisohn, L, and C Shackle. Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art of Spiritual Flight. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.

Lukashev A.A. “The Ontological foundations of the problem of sectarianism in Mahmud Shabistari’s ‘Rose Garden of Mystery,” East and West: common spiritual values, scientific cultural links. Baku: [2010]. P. 645 – 648.

Makan, Mohammad Baghaei. A ?Cup Book from Lahore’s Winehouse (Excerpts of Allameh Iqbal’s Poems with Descriptions of Words and Key Concepts). 7th ed. Ferdows, 2022.

Masoumi, Nabiollah, Mochmad Nur Ichwan, and Dicky Sofjian. “Mystical Symbolism of the Sufis in Gulshan-i Raz.” In International Conference Of Interreligious And Intercultural Studies (ICIIS), 163–78. Universitas Hindu Indonesia, 2022.

McClure, Christopher Scott. "Reconstructing Islam in a Post-metaphysical Age: Muhammad Iqbal’s Interpretation of Immortality". Muhammad Iqbal: Essays on the Reconstruction of Modern Muslim Thought, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015, pp. 142-166.

Meisami, S. (2021). “The Point of Reality and the Circle of Appearance: The Sufi Philosophy of Ma?m?d Shabistar?’s Gulshan-i r?z through the Lens of Shams al-D?n L?h?j?’s Maf?t?? al-i?j?z,” Journal of Sufi Studies, 9(1), 30-51.

Muhammad Iqbal, "Islam and Mysticism," The New Era, Lucknow, 28 July 1917, pp. 250-51, as cited in Speeches Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 154-6, compiled and edited by Latif Ahmed Sherwani, Lahore: Iqbal Academy, 1995.

Muhammad Iqbal, “The Doctrine of Absolute Unity as expounded by Abdul Karim al-Jilani,” Indian Antiquary, Bombay, September 1900, pp. 237-46, as cited Iqbal, Speeches and Writings, pp. 77-97, p. 78. 4 Muhammad Iqbal, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, Lahore: Bazmi Iqbal, nd.

Munawwar, Mirza Muhammad, and C.A. Qadir. “Gulshan-i-Raz and Gulshan-i-Raz-i-Jadid (The Nature and Role of Reason).” Iqbal Review, 83, October 1983.

Nasr, Hossein. Sufi Essays. State University of New York Press, 1991.

Nasr, S H. Islamic Spirituality: Foundations. Taylor & Francis, 2013.

———. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. K. Paul International, 1990.

Nasr, S H, and R Jahanbegloo. In Search of the Sacred: A Conversation with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on His Life and Thought. Praeger, 2010.

Nasr, S V R. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future. W. W. Norton, 2007.

Nasir Mehmood, “The Symbolic Significance of Iqbal’s Shaheen and Khushhal’s Baaz: A Comparative Study,” Bazyaft, 41(1), 2022.

Qadri, Mawlana Syed Moeenuddin Shah;, and Nazeer Ahmed. “Asma Wa Sifaat (The Names and Attributes of Allah) – History of Islam.” History of Islam - An Encyclopedia of Islamic History-. Xlibris Corporation, 2001, 2021.

Qaiser, Nazir. “Was Iqbal a Pantheist?.” In Iqbal Review, 24:3, 1983: 52–62.

Rahimi Nezhad, Mousa, and Seyed Jasem Pazhohandeh. “Gnosticism in the Words of Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari.” In Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 6(4), 2017: 1078.

Razak, Dr. Mohd Abbas Abdul. “Iqbal and Sufism (Part Five) - Islamonweb,” February 2023.

Rypka, J, P van Popta-Hope, and K Jahn. History of Iranian Literature. Springer Netherlands, 2013.

Saberi, R, and K Com. An Invitation to Persian Poetry. Ketab Corporation, 2006.

Sa'd Ud Din Mahmud Shabistari, The Secret Rose Garden of Sa'd Ud Din Mahmud Shabistari, trans. by Florence Lederer (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1920)

Sadaf Butt, Muhammad Rizwan, Saad Jaffar, “Hussain-A Symbol of Resistance to Authoritarianism: A Revival of Islam in the Light of Iqbal’s Poetry,” Journal of Academic Research for Humanities, 2(3), 2022

Sakina Khan, “Iqbal and Sufism,” The Dialogue, Vol. 5, No. 4 (2010)

Samira Mammadova, “Mahmud Shabistari and Western Orientalism,” The Journal of Academic Social Science, 2(5), 2014: 469-477

Schellenberg, A, and L Schwienhorst-Schönberger. Interpreting the Song of Songs: Literal Or Allegorical? Biblical Tools and Studies. Peeters, 2016.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Gabriel’s Wing: A Study into the Religious Ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1963.

Schimmel, Annemarie. “Sufism - Sufi Orders | Britannica.” Accessed June 10, 2023.

Shabistari, Mahmoud, and E H Whinfield. The Gulshan Ráz. Wyman & Company, 1876.

Sherwani, 97–117. Lahore: Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 2009.

Siddiqi, Mazheruddin. “A Historical Study of Iqbal’s Views on Sufism.” Islamic Studies, 5(4), 1966: pp. 411–27.

Soroush, Abdolkarim. “Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush and Masnavi’s Lecture Series 2 — ICCNC 2016-2021.” Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. 2016.

Soroush, Abdulkarim. “A Dive into Iqbal Lahori’s Sonnets Lectures (1-8) - YouTube.” Bonyad Towhid & ICCNC - YouTube, January 2021.

Umar, Muhammad Suheyl. “Contours of Ambivalence Iqbal and Ibn ‘Arabi: Historical Perspective, Part I.” In Iqbal Review, 34(1), 1993: 16–37.

Vladimir Ivanow, “An Ismaili Interpretation of the Gulshani Raz,” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JBBRAS), Vol. 8 (January 1, 1932), 69-78.

Y?lmaz, Feyzullah. "Iqbal, Nietzsche, and Nihilism: Reconstruction of Sufi Cosmology and Revaluation of Sufi Values in Asrar-i-Khudî " Open Philosophy, 6(1), 2023: 1-20.

Zarinkoob, Abdul Hossein. ?Search in Sufism in Iran?. Amirkabir Institute, 1997.

How to Cite
Masoumi, N., Ichwan, M. N., & Sofjan, D. (2023). MYSTICAL SYMBOLISM: Shabistari’s Interpretation vs. Iqbal’s Reformation. International Journal of Interreligious and Intercultural Studies, 6(1), 37-64. Retrieved from