Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dr. Allama Mohammed Iqbal and his poetry



    Dr. Allama Mohammed Iqbal was a famous Urdu and Persian poet and philosopher, yes the same poet who wrote the famous national song “Saray jahan say achcha Hindustan hamaara, Ham bubulayn hain uski yah gulsitan hamaara” ( Our India is the best country in the world. We are its nightingales and it is our orchard) He was born in Sialkot on November 9, 1877. He was the most intellectual thinker and poet the Muslim world has produced in India. His poems like “Shikwa” (Conplaint) and “Jawab-e-shikwa” (Reply to the complaint) continue to inspire not only Urdu speaking people but intellectuals belonging to all communities and nations. His poems have been translated into most of the world languages.

    He was younger of the two sons of his father Shaikh Nur Mohammed and mother Iman Bibi. They were very pious, God-fearing and honest couple.

    Iqbal had his primary education in the madrasa of Maulvi Syed Mir Hasan. After sometime on the advice of the Maulvi sahib he was admitted to Scottish Mission School at Sialkot. Even before he passed his final examination, he was married to Karim Bibi, daughter of a physician, Khan Bahadur Dr. Ata Mohammed Khan.They had two daughters and a son. One of the girls passed away soon after birth and the other at the age of nineteen after prolonged illness. The son was Aftab Iqbal who became a corporate lawyer later. He started writing poetry in his Intermediate days in the upgraded Scottish Mission College.

    At the age of 19 years Iqbal joined Government College, Lahore in 1895 and studied Arabic, English literature and philosophy under the guidance of Sir Thomas Arnold who had shifted there from M.A.O. College, Aligarh after completing his book “The preaching of Islam” in which he has discussed in detail about Islam’s peaceful spread. Iqbal was very much impressed by his warmth and understanding of Islamic culture and civilization. He passed B.A. with distinction and got scholarship and gold medals for his excellent performance and getting highest marks in Arabic and English.

    Iqbal, according to many writers, was a simple and happy person with an alert mind. It is said that during his school days once he came late to his class. Asked by the teacher he replied simply “Sir, Iqbal (meaning glory) comes late.”

    Iqbal started his poetry in the tradition of Dagh Dehlvi, the language purist. Then he was attracted to the social perspective of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Hali. Actually he wanted to reform the society through his poetry. He was also a patriotic poet. He was a great exponent of modernism and social revolution in the Islamic world. His passion for modernisation and development was very strong. He was also a humanist. He moved his audience to tears while reciting his poems in the big gatherings of Anjuman-e-Himayat-e- Islam. He had a soft corner for the suffering lot.

    Iqbal had married Mukhtar Begum and Sardar begum also who had given him a son (Javid) and a daughter (Munira).

    In 1927 Iqbal delivered six lectures on “The Reconstruction of Islamic thought” in Madras, Hyderabad and Aligarh which are thought provoking even today. He was a genius in every sense of the word.

    Iqbal was exceptionally a natural and rational Islamic poet the like of whom is yet to be seen. He started writing Urdu poetry during his college days in Lahore as said earlier. He attended a “Mushaira” (poetical symposium) in Lahore’s Hakiman Bazar for the first time at the age of 22 years and recited his poetry. When he recited the couplet

    Moti samajh kay shaanay kareemi nay chun liyay
    Qathray jo thay meray arq-e- infiaal kay

    Divine forgiveness gathered them as pearls,
    The drops of my repentance and remorse,

    he was very much appreciated and a noted poet Mirza Arshad Gorgani who was present there applauded him whole-heartedly and wished him all the best.

    He was also an excellent philosopher and profound thinker. The community was dearer to him. He gave equal importance to the Islamic concepts of both “Huqooqullah” and “Huqooqul Ibad”The following poem is a shining example.

    Qaum goya jism hai afraad hain aezayay qaum,
    Manzil-e sunath kay rah pa hain thasto payay qaum

    Mahfil nazm-e hukoomath chahra zaybayay qaum
    Shair rangeen nawa hai theetha-e beena-e qaum

    Mubtala-e-dard koi azu ho rothi hai aankh
    Kis qadar hamdard saaray jism ki hothi hai ankh

    Community is an organism and individuals are parts of its body
    Those engaged in industry are its hands and legs

    Those engaged in administration are it s face
    Poet of myriad sweet melodies is the eye of the nation

    The eye weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body,
    How sympathetic it is to the entire organism

    The community should act as the eye and consider the suffering of any section of the people as its own and find remedies for it is the message Iqbal wants to stress to the people. It reflects the divine ordain that the humanity should be valued, respected and helped in the best possible manner and one should not be self-centred.

    It is very unfortunate that in the present highly materialistic world there is very little room for camaraderie and nobody seems to care for anybody. There is an urgent need for us to grasp the Islamic lesson Iqbal expresses in his poetry. We have seen Ulema (religious scholars) quoting him extensively. His poems are power packed and full of meanings.

    Somebody has rightly said that a unique contribution of Iqbal to the contemporary Islamic thought is his bracketing modern science with 'God-consciousness' which he considers more precious than mere belief in God. He equates the scientist's observation of nature with seeking a kind of intimacy with God.

    Rajmohan Gandhi says that Iqbal had started becoming popular by 1905 when he left for Europe because of his poems like “Nala-e-Yatim” (The orphan’s cry), Abr-e-Gauhar Bar (Blessed Showers) dedicated to Prophet Mohammed (Sal-am), Parinde ki fariyad (The bird’s lament) in which he has portrayed a caged bird’s longing for freedom –about India’s survitude. He strengthened the Hindu-Muslim unity by his Tarana and other poems.

    Iqbal studied philosophy at Cambridge and law at London’s Lincoln Inn. He also received a doctorate for his research thesis on Persian metaphysics from Munich University. It reveals that sufism was an alien and unhealthy growth and it had no place in original Islam. He loved Persian language and wrote poetry in it with preference but disliked Persians like Sufi poet Hafiz of Iran. He adopted rationalism to reform the humanity in general and Muslim in particular) which was engrossed in many superstitious beliefs.

    Authors like Rajmohan Gandhi and Mujeeb have said that the West’s strength was admirable to Iqbal but not its merciless competition between man and man and nation and nation as is the case even now. He wanted a solution for all ills of the society and finally found Islam as the best remedy for all our problems.

    Dr. Mohammed Hasan says that “Iqbal’s poetry has a world perspective. He was primarily concerned with nothing less than human predicament. Searching for the hidden laws of human development, Iqbal propounded his philosophy of Ego ( Khudi ) with certain social checks and balances ( Bekhudi ). It is in this context that his contribution to world poetic thought remains invaluable.” He was a poet of the East and a manifestation of self-reconstruction and reformation and a poet of the East

    As a philosopher Iqbal reveals the mystery of life as follows:

    Gul is shakh say toot-thay bhi rehay, isi shakh say phoot-thay bhi rehay,
    Samajthay hain naadaan isay baysibath, ubharta hai mit mit kay naqshay hayaat

    Flowers fall off from this very branch
    and yet from the same they sprout again,
    Unwise take it as transient
    But the image of life emerges again after falling off

    Iqbal was proud that he was an Indian and rightly considered that it was a torch-bearer to world civilisation. He believed in the uniting force of Islam. Actually he wanted everyone particularly Muslims to understand the Indian plural society through his many poems. He did not participate in the Khilafat Movement.

    He passed away at Lahore on 21 April 1938 and buried adjacent to the “Badshahi Masjid” built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.


  1. I Congratulate you Mr. Khaleel Saab for writting on his poetry and chosing Dr. Allama Mohammed Iqbal as your choice of urdu poets. Mandi Aslam

  2. Assalamu Alaikum janab Khaleelur Rahman Sahab. I am Vanakar Ziaul Huda (Zakaria Hazrath brother's son). I am very greatful to you for your valuable comments for the great zakaria hazrath. Thank You