Allama Iqbal:The man and his vision
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Amongst some of the great men who shared the vision of Pakistan, Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal, stands apart as a man of great vision and wisdom. Born in 1873 into a family of Kashmiri Brahmins who had converted to Islam and settled in Sialkot, he was fortunate to have a father who wanted to educate his two sons, Ata Muhammad and Muhammad Iqbal.

He was educated at Murray College and with the help of a great scholar, Maulvi Sayyid Hassan, became well versed in Arabic and Persian.

His short connection with politics started with his attending the second session of the Round Table Conference in London. He was later convinced by his friends to stand for election as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council, which he won successfully.

Having a love and flair for poetry, he went from witty verses to ghazals. Being relatively young in the field, he used to send his ghazals to the famous poet, Dagh, who was in Delhi at the Nizam's court, for corrections.

When he came to Lahore for his bachelors, he took up philosophy as one of his subjects. Once again he was fortunate to have an exceptional teacher and with the assistance and guidance of Sir Thomas Arnold, as his philosophy professor, he became one of the greatest philosophers of our times. Allama Iqbal later went on to become a teacher of Arabic while he pursued his love for poetry. His recitations at mushairas drew large crowds and great applause.

He proceeded to England for further studies where he once again met with Sir Thomas Arnold who encouraged him to join Cambridge University and obtain a degree by writing a thesis. He selected Persian mysticism as the theme for his research and also studied for the Bar at Lincoln's Inn. The thesis was translated in German and submitted to the University of Germany, where it was greatly appreciated and won him his doctorate. He also had to live in Germany for three months in order to qualify for the doctorate, and further studied German literature.

It is interesting to note that along with all this studying he continued to write poetry in his spare time. Iqbal's poetry made him famous in literary circles and he later started writing poems to enthuse a spirit of self-improvement in the Muslims of the subcontinent. The sad state of affairs of the minority in India brought him to write poems that invoked a feeling of encouragement and insight into the plight of the Muslim community. His poems Taswir-i-Dard, Shikwah, and Jawab-i-Shikwah are some of his works, which are relevant even today for the awakening of the human spirit. He published a collection of his works in 1924 under the title of Bang-i-Dara, which means the Sound of the Caravan Bell. A title meant to awaken the people of his country to lead the caravan of their lives towards their betterment and progress.

His first poem in Persian was Asrar-i-Khudi, meaning Secrets of Self. This publication spread his fame internationally, wherever the Persian language was spoken. Professor R.A. Nicholson of the Cambridge University translated it into English, while portions of the book were also translated into German and Italian. It was followed by Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, ‘Mysteries of Self Denial’, which was a sequel to Asrar-i-Bekhudi.

The previous work lays stress and importance of the human ego or personality and states that power and courage should be the ideals to be followed by man to achieve his goals and destiny. Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, talks about the subjugation of the personality and power to the ideals of law, which invokes the service of mankind and justice as the highest ambitions of humanity. He promoted Islamic law as the best solution to the ailments and difficulties of mankind.

After these two original works, more poems followed in Persian like; Payam-i-Mashriq, Message of the East, Zabure Ajam, and Jawed Namah, which was named after the poet's son, Javed Iqbal. He was then asked by his admirers of Urdu poetry to write in Urdu again. As an answer to this call, he published two more of his works in Urdu namely, Bal-i-Jibril, meaning The wings of Gabriel and Zarb-i-Kalim, The stroke of the Rod of Moses, in 1936. The last work to be published by Iqbal in his lifetime was once again in Persian, "Pas Chi Bayad Kard Ai Aqwam-i-Sharq", meaning ‘What should we do, O nations of the East'. This was a kind of protest against the aggressive ways of the Western world towards the people of the Orient.

He had a great love of Arabia and would have visited the country but for his ill health in later years. His famous book on religious philosophy in English prose, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, is a tremendous contribution to the cause of Islam. It also earned him an invitation for the Rhodes Lectureship at Oxford University, to deliver a series of lectures. After having accepted the invitation he had to politely decline due to his ill health. He passed away in 1938 and it is said that his funeral would have been the envy of many kings. An interesting free translation of some of his verses in Persian stands as:

Weakness is a highway robber which destroys life:
Her real form has not been recognised.
People have placed different veils on her face,
Mildness and compassion are sometimes the veils across her face,
She dons the garb of humility at other times,
She is occasionally hidden under the plea of compulsion.
When analysed it is nothing but a love of ease;
It takes the heart out of an individual who could have been strong.

A simple explanation of the above verse could be that one can make many excuses and can cover weakness with many attributes, but the fact remains that it is nothing more than a waste of a good life and an excuse to be lazy.

The poet and philosopher drew great inspiration from the Quran and interpreted it according to his own wisdom. Because of his wisdom and philosophy, he was not a very dedicated politician; it may be due to the fact that he was a critic of the ways of many political doctrines. He believed that once the suppressed Muslims were shaken, they would stand up for their rights and freedom and would have a glorious future just like their glorious past.

 By Fatima Sajid

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