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Allama Dr. Mohammad Iqbal

Allama Dr. Mohammad Iqbal

(1876 - 1938)

Mohammad Iqbal, born in Sialkot was the most daring intellectual the Muslim world has produced. He is one of this century's great poets. The darling of his poetry is not nature or beautiful women but man in motion.

Iqbal turned to poetry at a young age of 19 and composed "Nala-i-Firaq"(lament of separation) in the memory of his teacher and mentor Mr. Arnold in Lahore University. But recognition to Iqbal's poetry came at the age of 22, in a 'mushaira' in Lahore, where he recited the verse: "his grace gathered them as pearls, so shining and bright-the beads of perspiration of my remorse". By 1905 he became famous with his poems like Nala-i-yatim (The Orphan's Cry), Abr-i-Gauhar Bar (Blessed Showers) dedicated to the Prophet. Taswir -i Dard (Portrait of Anguish), Tarana -i Hindi (Anthem of India) and Naya Shivala (The New Temple).

In Taswir, Tarana and Naya Shivala Iqbal cried for Hindu Muslim unity. Tarana is the widely popular song Saare Jahan Se Accha. The new temple is in India but it is not India. Iqbal conceived it not as the shrine of a new faith merging Hinduism and Islam but simply as an altar of love- of India and between Indians.

When his brother Atta Mohammad was implicated in false criminal charges, Iqbal composed a touching ode "Berg-i-Gul" to the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, beseeching him to intercede with Allah and rescue his brother from the snares of enemies, which became a regular feature at annual festivals of Sufi saint.

During his stay in Europe, Iqbal studied philosophy at Cambridge and law at London's Lincoln Inn. He also wrote a dissertation on "Persian metaphysics" for which Munich University awarded him a doctorate. In Europe's its vitality hit Iqbal and wrote, "by virtue of their will to action, the western nations are preeminent among the nations of the world". The west's vigour was admirable to Iqbal but not its merciless competition between man and man and nation and nation. Iqbal 's mind demanded a model for a New World. Iqbal saw Islam as "a successful opponent of the race idea, which is probably the hardest barrier in the way of the humanitarian ideal."

Iqbal did not or could not see the heterogeneous Indian society with its oft-conflicting communities growing into a great example. Shortly after his return to India from Europe, Iqbal "politely declined" to associate himself with an Amritsar based Hindu-Muslim- Sikh body. He explained.

"I have myself been of the view that religious differences should disappear from this country and even now act on this principle in my private life. But now I think that the preservation of their separate national entities is desirable for both the Hindus and Muslims. The vision of a common nationhood for India is a beautiful ideal and has a poetic appeal...but appears incapable of fulfillment".

Iqbal thought that in pure Islam there was no room for venerating tombs of Sufi saints. His research for his Munich dissertation "Persian metaphysics" seemed to tell Iqbal that "tasawwuf or sufism has no solid historical foundation in Islam". Iqbal wanted man to be a pearl, not a drop of water, a servant of God, not merged with God.

His philosophy of "khudi" (ego, self, or personality as it has been differently translated), Iqbal clarified that his "khudi" was not arrogance or vanity but "self reaslisation and self assertion". It was deep impulse with in man, "a silent force anxious to come into action".

In 1922 he was knighted by the British. This was a recognition of his poetry but Iqbal's acceptance of an English title at the height of the Khilafat movement symbolised his break with Indian nationalism and evoked caustic comments.

In 1926 Iqbal was elected to the legislative council from a Muslim seat. Three years later he made a significant and historic speech as president of the All India Muslim League. In 1931 and 1932 he took part in the round table conferences held in London to discuss political reforms for India. In 1930, Iqbal expressed a hope that seemed discordant to almost everyone who heard of it, but it was destined to be fulfilled. Presiding over a session in Lucknow of the Muslim League he asked for a seperate Muslim state.

The first world war had seen the liquidation of the Turkish empire; now thought Iqbal, it was upto the Muslims of India to raise the Islam's flag. Iqbal had in mind was, in his word as at Lucknow, "a Muslim India within India" and not one that would sever all links. The new state would be a Muslim state but "Hindus should not fear". Two other points associated with Iqbal's scheme are: one, he said that he was willing to exclude from it Punjab's Hindu majority eastern districts, something which Jinnah opposed. Two, the Muslim majority areas of the subcontinent's eastern wing were left out of Iqbal 's scheme.

Though Iqbal took politics seriously and also played a part in two major rounds of Talks in London, Iqbal was more a visionary than a politician. And his vision was a poet's vision. His intense concern with god, man and the world was a poet's concern.

"To reach no end. To travel on without a stop is everlasting life. Our range is from the ceiling of the skies to the sea's floor, and Time and Space are both dust lying in our path".

To some other poets and servants of God it is man who is dust, but, powdered with gold-dust, Iqbal's man in motion is proud- even as Iqbal himself was.

On April 20, 1938 Iqbal died shortly after reciting the following quatrain: "The departed melody may or may not come. The breeze from Hejaz may or may not come. The days of this faqir have come to an end, another wise one may or may not come."

Iqbal's "Eagle"

In the lifetime of many renowned and trusted Muslim leaders it was only the Quaid-e-Azam on whose capabilities Allama Iqbal relied. He believed that it was only Mohammad Ali Jinnah who could lead the nation, through all turmoils, to the shores of safety. Allama Iqbal's symbol of conquest was the "eagle". And here is a very interesting statement by Margarita Barns. The statement came out in the thirties. It is about the Quaid-e-Azam, characterised as an eagle. It reads thus:

"My friend Kelen, the distinguished Hungarian cartoonist, has a way of visualising his subjects in the form of a bird or an animal. Mr. Jinnah reminded him of an eagle. The symbolisation is apt."

Allama Iqbal's liking for Jinnah was not without a cause, especially in the last two years of his life. He had perhaps recognised his Shahbaz (Eagle) in him. He knew Jinnah was destined to cnquer all opposition and win for the Muslims of the subcontinent, a seperate independent state. Allama Iqbal bequeathed his political will to the Quaid-e-Azam and was satisfied that it was in safe hands.



India never was one, was never a nation, never was a country governed by one single power even with the sword. It is a sub-continent of different nationalities and peoples. It was never governed, in history, by one single power. Even today, when constitutionally and legally British are ruling over India, one third India is not British. The administrative oneness is entirely the making of the British. The government, which has been in this sub-Continent for 150 or 160 years, is not a government with the sanction of the peoples.... It is the sanction of British bayonets and not the sanction of the peoples.

Muslim League Council, November 9, 1942
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