Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal was one of the greatest literary figures of 20th century. His personality had the unique combination of the heart of the poet and head of a thinker. He had combined in himself both poetic imagination and philosophic genius. He was one of the worthiest sons of the soil sub-continent had ever produced. Regarding the literary worth and wit of Iqbal, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan has rightly remarked, ‘If the Peacock Throne is the pride of Persia, and the lustrous Koh-i- Noor the glory of the British Crown, Iqbal would surely adorn the court of the Muses in any country.’ The most striking characteristic of Iqbal’s personality was the charm of his conversation mixed with a sense of wit and humour: He was one of the most charming conversationalists and his talk was mostly adapted to the occasions and interests of his audience. About him Dr. Sachidanand Sinha has recorded his impressions in his book "Iqbal : The poet and his message", in these words: ‘Amongst my very large circle of friends, throughout the length and breadth of India Iqbal was beyond all doubt the most gifted as a brilliant conversationalist. Whether he spoke in English, Urdu or his mother-tongue Punjabi, he was equally felicitious in his expression in informal conversation in th the choice of language, fond of humour, and unpremeditated wit and repartee which combined with his general good-fellowship, tendered his company joyous and exhilarating.’
As Iqbal was educated at home and abroad he possessed the highest culure of both the East and the West. He was a giant scholar of many oriental as well as occidental languages. Though he was well versed in Arabic, English, German, Persian. Punjabi, Urdu and Sanskrit languages, yet his literary works are confined to three languages. i.e, Urdu, Persian and English. He has experssed his thoughts and views in these three languages with equal ease and excellence.
Iqbal was a man of sociable nature and was easily accessible to every one. There was a continuous chain of visitors at his residence and he was always ready to welcome everybody at his home. Amongst his visitors there were men of different status and strata of society.
His pleasing manners, sweetness of tongue, softness of heart, and nobility of nature, were some remarkable features of his personality. For him, courtesy was a cult of life. As courtesy costs nothing, he held, it should be adopted as a part of duty in life. Just as Iqbal was always ready to welcome every visitor at his residence, so he was prompt and courteous enough to reply to all letters received by him, irrespective of whether the correspondent was known to him or not. It was a matter of wonder for some people how a busy man like Iqbal could spare time to reply to each and every letter he used to receive daily. Amongst his correspondents there were big personalities like Mussolini of Italy, King Nadir Shah of Afghanistan. Dr. R.A. Nicholson and Prof. Mc Taggart of Cambridge, M.A. Jinnah, Sir Ross Masood, Atiya Begum, K.G. Sayyidain, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Poet Girami, Maharaja Krishna Prasad, Prime Minister of the Nizam’
Dominions Hyderabad, ete.
Sir Dr. Allama Mahammad Iqbal was a famous poet. ardent thinker and philosopher, a modern Islamic scholar and a reformist political leader. He was popularly known as the poet of the East. This great poet, Philosopher and political leader was born on 9 November 1877, 3 Zilquad, 1294 Hizri, in Sialkot in the Punjab. He descended from a family of Kashmirl Brahmins, who had embraced Islam about three hundred years fack. Iqbal has referred to his being a descendant years earlier. Iqbal has referred to his being a Brahmin family in some of his verses too. Iqbal’s first education was in the traditional Muktab. One of his teachers at Sialkot was the famous scholar Mir Hassan who by dint of his worth became shamsal ulema, who, recognising the undoubted talents of Iqbal, gave him every possible encounragement which Iqbal has gratefully acknowledged. Although still a school student, Iqbal began to compose poems to the delight of Mir Hasan. At this time, the great poet Dagh was the doyen of Urdu poets, and young Iqbal sent his poems to the great master for opinion and correcton. Often Dagh Dehlavi encouraged the young and enthusiastic poet by writing back and saying that his poem was so perfect that it needed no correction.
After completing his education at the Muktab, Iqbal joined the Sialkot Scotch Mission School, from where he passed his matriculation examination. He proceeded to Lahore for higher studies, and joined the Government College in that city to secure his Bachelor of Arts Degree, which he was able to obtain in 1897. Two years later, he secured his Master's Degree, and was appointed in the Oriental College, Lahore, as a lecturer in History, Philosophy and English. During his college days, Iqbal continued his boyhood hobby of writing poety, and he seemed to have caught the eye and ear of many connoisseurs a young poet of great promise. ‘About two or three years prior to 1901, he was seen to participate in a Mushaira in Lahore. He was brought to the Mushaira by some of his friends, who forced him to recite one of his ghazals. At that time the general public of Lahore was not acquainted with the poetry of Iqbal." Anjuman Himayat-ul-Islam had been doing excellent work in the field of educational religious and social service, and its annual meetings were held in an important date in the social calendar of Lahore city. It is on record that when the annual meeting of the Anjuman took place in 1899, Iqbal recited a poem Nala-e- Yatim, which was greatly appreciated for its depth of feeling and for its epical standard. After that year, it became a standing feature at the annual meetings of the Anjuman that Iqbal would recite a poem, especially composed for the occasion.
During this period of his life, Iqbal came to be greatly influenced by Sir Thomas Arnold, who was the first to introduce him ‘to all that is best and noblest in Western thought, and at the same time initiated him into modern methods of criticism.’ The imagery of his poetry was becoming more and more vivid, and its thought-content more and more sublime. He wrote to a friend in 1903 that he was ‘yearning to write in the manner of Milton (Paradise Lost, etc)….I have been nurturing this wish for the past five or six yeares, but the creative pangs have never been so acute as now.’
He continued to work as lecturer in the Orlental College, Lahor, from 1899 to 1905, and in the latter year, under the advice of Sir Thomas Arnold, he proceeded to Europe for higher studies. He left Lahore for Bombay via Delhi, where he went to pay his homage at the tombs of the two great opets- Amir Khusro and Ghalib. During his stay of three years in Europe, Iqbal met and held discussions with leading savants of Europe and read avildly European literature in English and German. These years had a profound influence on his thinking. "He conceived an utter dislike for the narrow and selfish nationalism which was the root-cause of most political troubles in Europe, and his admiration for a life of action and struggle became more pronounced. Having obtained a degree at Cambridge, he later secured his doctorate at Munich, and finally he was able to qualify as a barrister in london.
London University invited him to each Arabic, which appointment he accepted for six months. He had won for himself a well earned reputation as a profound oriental philosopher, and was invited to deliver a number of lectures at Caxton Hall in London.
When Iqbal returned to Lahore in 1908, many offers came pouring in from a number of colleges, but he finally decided to work as part-time Professor of Philosophy and English literature at the Government College, being given the liberty of continuing his private practice as a barrister.
He found that professorship in a Government College indirectly hampered the propagation of his individual thinking and in the deliverance of his own message to the Muslims, which was in the process of formulation in his poetic mind. Somewhere in 1911, he is said to have told his trusted attendant, "Ali Baksh, I have a message for my people, and it cannot be conveyed if I remained in Government service. So I have resigned the service, and I hope that I will be able carry out my wish now. After resigning his professorship at the College, the Government of the Punjab offered him a high post in the Education Department but, determined not to be burdened with the crippling restrictions of Government service, he refused it with thanks, his only source of income at that time being his practice at the bar.
Allama Iqbal took his first important step in the realm of politics when, during his stay in England, he became an active member of the British Committee of the All-India Muslim Legue, started by Syed Ameer Ali. When in 1906, this Committee was active in making British public opinion and political leaders accept the principle of separate electorate for the Muslims of India, Iqbal was one of the staunch supporters of the Committee. When he returned to Lahore, he found that the provincial branch of the Muslim League was already functioning with Maulvi Shah Deen as its president and Sir Mohammad Shafi as its Secretary. Iqbal immediately became a member of the League, and was always active in its deliberations. His increasing interest in politics is evident from a letter he wrote on 14th December, 1911, to Atiya Begum Faizee, expressing his views on the partition of Bengal, making it quite clear that his sympathies and support were for the Muslims of Bengal.
In the meantime Iqbal's reputation as a poet stood very high, and poetry poured forth from his pen like the waters of Niagra Falls. He was knighted in the year 1922, and according to Sir Abdul Qadir there is an interesting story connected with it. An eminent Englishman was the guest of the Governor of the Punjab at the Government House, who had heard of the reputation of Iqbal as a great poet.
The Governor invited Iqbal to Government House, where the guest met the poet of the East. He was so profoundly impressed with his deep erudition, with the maturity of his thought, and his poetic excellence, that when Iqbal left Government House, the guest complained to the Governor it was a pity that such and undoubtedly gifed man had not been conferred a knighthood by that British. The Governor promised to do the needful and Iqbal became a knight in the next honours list.
He received some cases outside Lahore in his capacity as a barrister, and he was, therefore, occasionally travelling in the Punjab and beyond. Invariably he would take a holiday every year and visit Kashmir or some hill station.
By 1928 his reputation as a great Muslim philosopher was solidly established, and he was invited to deliver lecturs at Hyderabad, Aligarh and Madras. The series of lectures were later on published as a book, ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.’ In 1931 and 1932, he visited Europe and met many Western scholars and thinkers, the most notable among whom was Henri Bergson. He also went to Spain, with the specific purpose of visiting those places which were a reminder of the glorious period of Moor history in Spain. He also attended an Islamic Conference at-Jerusalem.
During the elections of 1927 to the Punjab Legistative Assembly, Allama Iqbal offered himself as a candidate and was duly elected to the Assembly. In July 1927, there were communal riots in the Punjab, and they formed the subject matter of an adjournment motion. Iqbal severely condemaned communal riots and said. "Some of the members are of the opinion that the gutter press of the Porvince is responsible for the existing state of affairs, others are of the opinion that the struggle for votes and posts is responsible for it." Speaking about a meeting of citizens convened to help restore amity between Hindus and Muslims. which he had attended, Iqbal said. ‘In this meeting I suggested that in oredr to evaluate the spirit of mutual hatred it behoves the committee to appoint a number of such sub-committees, whose business it should be to go about diffiernt parts of the city and impress upon the people the futility of mutual warfare… I suport Chaudhy Zafarullah Khan from the bottom of my heart that a round table conference should be held at the earliest possible moment in which Government shoud also be asked to participate." Iqbal was a great champion of adequate represntation to Muslim in Government service.
While Allama Iqbal was a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly he was elected Secretary of the All-India Muslim League. In 1930 he was invited to preside over the open session of muslim League at Allahabad. The speech that he delivered on that occasion constitutes a milestone in our struggle for freedom and has come to assume a tremendous historical importance. In his presidential address, we glimpse for the first time the final goal of the Muslims of this subcontinent, towards which they had been unconsciously striving for a long time. Iqbal said, ‘To base a constitution on the conception of a homogeneous India, or apply to India the principles dictated by British democratic sentiments is unwittingly to prepare her for a civil war… .The formation of a consolidated North-West Muslim Indian State appears to be the final destiny of Muslim, at least of North-West India….. I, therefore, demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam." The clarion call for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India had been sounded by Iqbal for the first time, and the Muslims of the subcontinent began to bestir themselves and to entusiastically respond to his call.
Allama Iqbal went to England in November, 1931, as a delegate to the second Round Table Conference, in which he played an important role, both as an advocate of the rights of the Muslims, as also of India's demand for an advance in costitutional reforms. ‘In London some Indians were staying there for the last thirty to thirtyfive years. At that time some Muslims formed an Iqbal Association in London, under whose auspices a grand reception was held in honour of Iqbal. Many leading literary figures of English and Important Indian leaders were present at this gathering, and Mr. Jinnah in his speech on this occasion paid very high tributes to Dr. Iqbal." In 1932, Allama Iqbal once again came to England as a delegate to the Third Round Table Conference. At this time, Quald-e- Azam was in England, and had given up active partichpation in Indian politics. The two often met, and Allama Iqbal, having observed developments during the discussions at the Conference, was pessimistic about the outcome of the deliberations. ‘It seems likely that Quaid-e- Azam and Dr. Iqbal felt they were in agreement with the conclusion that the Round Table Conferences were not to prove as conducive to Muslim interests as it had been originally anticipated.’ On his return, Allama Iqbal presided over the All-India Muslim Conference in 1932, and during his presidential address he said he was opposed to nationalism as understood in Europe, as in it there were the germs of atheistic materiallsm. What really mattered was man’s faith, his culture, his historical traditions. ‘These are the things, which in my eyes, are worth living for and dying for, and not the peace of earth with which the spirit of man happens to be temporarily associated.’ In the absence of an agreed formula on the minority problem, His Majesty’s Government was to announce the Communal Award. It was rumoured that diffiernces had arisen among the leaders of the Muslim Conference. On 25th July, 1932, Allama Iqbal Issued a statement, ‘There is no real split as far as the present Muslim attitude towards the announcement of the communal decision is concerned….Since the British Government had undertaken to decide the communal problem-practically at the request of the Indian communities-we must wait till that decision.’
When the Communal Award was announced, Allama Iqbal issued a statement on 24th August, 1932, ‘I honestly belive that no community has a more genuine grievance against the decision than Muslims. Indeed, I cannont explain to myself how the British conscience has tolerated this Injustice.’
When the White Paper was issued by the British Government, Allama Iqbal in a press statement on 20th March. 1933, said, ‘Muslims would be greatly disappointed by the proposed composition of the Federal Legislature. Under the new scheme ministers in the provinces will be as littel responsible to the legislature and as much responsible to the Governor as they are now. The special responsibilities of Governors cover a very wide field.’
In the meantime the anti-Muslim policy of the Government of Kashmir had brough in its wake untold hardships for the Muslims of Kashmir. Allama Iqbal issued a statement on 7th June, 1933, condemning the Government of Kashmir for its anti-Muslim attitude. ‘I hold no brief for any of the political parties in Kashmir. But the arrests of the leaders of the two parties and subsequent flogging of people and firing and lathi-charges on women and childern are likely to plunge Kashmir into the same condition from whcih it was rescued by Col. Colvin’s policy. I hope the Kashmir Government will try to discover the psycholgical bcakground of the present unrests and adopt an attitude which may bring peace and goodwill." On 20th June, 1933, he resigned his offices as pesident of the All-India Kashmir Committee. But even Thereafter he continued to take a keen interest in furthering the cause of the Muslims of Kashmir.
The Quaid-e- Azam, realising that the Punjab was the crucial province in the fight of the Muslims for their ultimate destiny, visited Lahore in April 1936. ‘When Mr. Jinnah came to see Iqbal at the latter’s house, at that time Iqbal was the President of the Provincial Muslim Leggue. Therefore, when Mr. Jinnah discussed the subject of setting up a Parliamentary Board to fight the elections, Iqbal immediately and wholeheartedly pledged his support to the idea.’
In may 1936 the Quaid-e- Azam was on a political mission in the Punjab. On 8 may, a meeting of the Punjab Provincial Muslim Legue was convened, with Allama Iqbal in the chair, in which he was once again elected President of the re-organised League. After a brief stay in Lahore, Quaid-e- Azam proceeded to Rawalpindi, and then to Srinagar, from where he announced on 21st May, 1936, the list of names of the Central Parllamentary Board. Of course, Allama Iqbal's name was first on the list of repersentatives from the Punjab.
Mian Fazl-e- Husain was far too committed to support the Unlonist Party, consisting of both Hindus and Muslims. The Unionist Party was at that time more powerful than the Muslim Legue, but Allama Iqbal more powerful than the Muslim League. Allama Iqbal continued to bear on his massive shoulders the burden of popularising the Muslim League in the Punjab at that difficult and decisive time in its history.
The meetings of the Central Parliamentary Board and of the Council of the League were to be held in Lahore n 8th June, 1936. The Quaid Azam was to attend these meeting. Rumours were afloat that the Unionists wanted to arrange a black flag demonstration, when Jinnah was to arrive in Lahore for the meetings. At this time, Allama Iqbal was in a bad state of health. In splite of his. Ill-health, he was doing his best to see that the two meetings become a great success. Disturbed at the rumours regarding the black flag demonstrations, Allama Iqbal sent Malik Lal Din as his personal emissary to Important Unionist leaders that if they arranged any such demonstrations, the consequences thereof would be very bad for the Unionists themselves.
On his intercession, the Unionists gave up the idea of staging a hostile demonstration on Quald-e- Azam’s arrival in Lahore. Lahore was in the grip of a heat wave and it was decided to hold these meeting in the Islamia College, where the delegates could get some relief due to the electric fans that were Installled there. The Islamia College was being run by the Anjuman Himayatul Islam, and Nawab Muzaffar Khan, a leading Unionist, refused permission although Allama Iqbal had sent to him a personal request in this regard.
In the absence of the Jinnah from the Punjab political scene, Allama Iqbal kept the Jinnah informad through letters about the state of affalrs in the Punjab, and his personal views on polltical problems of an all-India nature. These letters are dated from June 1936 to November 1937 and they now form important historic documents concerning our struggle for freedom. These letters of Allama Iqbal reveal how close the two great leaders stood to one another, and that there was complete unanimity between the two on the ultimate goal and destiny of the Muslims of the subcontinent.
His will to serve his people was growing every day, but his physical powers were rapidly declining. His eyesight was getting worse, and he wrote to jinnah on 20th March, 1937, "please excuse me. I have got this letter written by a friend as my eyesight is getting bad." By the middle of March 1938, his sickness took a turn for the worse. He was now in the hands of his doctors, who did all they could to prolong such a precious life. But the end came in the early hours of the morning of 21st April, 1938. A great Muslim, a poet, a philosopher, and a chamion of the rights of the Muslims had passed away, leaving behind him a rich legacy for posterity. He lies buried in the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, where a grateful nation continues to place at his feet flowers of homage and to shed tears of gratitude.
‘Iqbal hated injustice : his protest, first made in the name of India, continued in the name of Islam; in this form it was reinforced, rather than superseded, by a protest in the name of the common man, the disinherited of all lands…. . He was himself a part of a great historical process, the revolt of Asia.’
(April 21 is the death anniversary of Poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal who is equally, if not more, revered in India as in Pakistan)