Monday, November 9, 2015

Iqbal Day - a dreamer's birthday

9 April is celebrated throughout Pakistan as the birthday of Dr Muhammad Iqbal - commonly known as Allama Iqbal. He was a poet, philosopher, politician and a visionary. It was he who first thought of a separated Muslim country to be carved out of the British India for he was a witness to the very hostile attitude of the majority Hindu population towards Muslims of the British India.

He then persuaded Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a congressman and a Muslim, to leave the All India Congress, join All India Muslim League and lead the Muslim struggle towards the final destination - PAKISTAN. For this alone, he is commonly known as "Mufakkar-e-Pakistan", the Thinker of Pakistan. 

However, Iqbal did not live to see the creation of an independent Pakistan as he passed away in 1938, but the movement he had stirred up picked its momentum and led to the creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947 when the British left India and their vast Indian empire came to an end.

He was born at Sialkot (present Pakistan) on Friday, November 9, 1877 and was educated at Scotch Mission College, Sialkot and later he did his graduation in Arabic and Philosophy from the famous Government College. Later he did is masters in philosophy from the Government College. As Assistant Professor, Government College, Lahore he published his first book, "Ilm-ul-Iqtasad" (study of economics) in 1903. He then went to England from 1905 to 1908 to earn a degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, qualified as a barrister in London, and later received a doctorate from the University of Munich. His thesis, 'The Development of Metaphysics in Persia' revealed some aspects of Islamic mysticism formerly unknown in Europe. From 1907 to 1908 he was Professor of Arabic at the University of London. In 1908 he returned to India as a Ph D and Bar at Law and started his practice as a barrister and a part-time professor of Philosophy and English Literature.

His poetry that imbued within the Muslims of India a deep sense of unity and and an urge to break away the yoke of slavery from their British masters and Hindu collaborators. To honour him for his vision and his unique poetry, he is also referred to as "Shaere-Mashriq" (Poet of the East!). Iqbal's contribution to the Muslim world as one of the greatest thinkers of Islam remains unparalleled. In his writings, he addressed and exhorted people, particularly the youth, to stand up and boldly face life's challenges. The central theme and main source of his message was the Qur'an. His poetry and philosophy, written in Urdu and Persian, stress the rebirth of Islamic and spiritual redemption through self-development, moral integrity, and individual freedom. His many works include "The Secrets of the Self"; a long poem; "A Message from the East" and "The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam".

The sufferings of the Muslims, specially in the Balkans, after the World War I, the end of the Ottoman Empire and slipping of ground under the Muslims' feet, and the sufferings of the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent and the unjust attitude towards them from the British and Hindus compelled Iqbal to enter the politics and was elected to the Punjab provincial legislature in 1927. He became the president of the all India Muslim League in 1930 and right away started its reconstruction and orientation towards the plight of the Muslims. Initially a supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity in a single Indian state, Iqbal later became an advocate of Pakistani independence. In 1930, Iqbal was invited to preside over the open session of the Muslim League at Allahabad. In his historic Allahabad Address, Iqbal visualized an independent and sovereign state for the Muslims of North-Western India. He said, "I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Balochistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India."

In 1932, Iqbal headed a Muslim delegate to England to attend the Third Round Table Conference. While in London, Iqbal was invited by the London National League where he addressed prominent scholars and politicians, foreign diplomats, members of the House of Commons, Members of the House of Lords and Muslim members of the R.T.C. delegation. He very forcefully put across the Muslim view point and their plight back home. He explained why he wanted the communal settlement first and then the constitutional reforms. He stressed the need for provincial autonomy because autonomy gave the Muslim majority provinces some power to safeguard their rights, cultural traditions and religion. Under the central Government the Muslims were bound to lose their cultural and religious entity at the hands of the overwhelming Hindu majority. He referred to what he had said at Allahabad in 1930 and reiterated his belief that before long people were bound to come round to his viewpoint based on cogent reason.

During these days, Jinnah was residing in London. Sensing the leadership qualities of Jinnah, Iqbal thought of none other than Jinnah to come forth and lead the Muslims' struggle. The following events were to prove how right Iqbal was in his vision to have selected Jinnah to lead the Muslims as Jinnah articulated the case of a separate homeland for Pakistan so brilliantly, that even the Hindus and the British could not stand in his way and had to succumb to his demands and gave way for the creation of Pakistan.

Who best can describe the theme of Iqbal's poetry other than Dr. Annemarie Schimmel (April 7, 1922 – January 26, 2003), a well known and very influential German Orientalist and scholar who wrote extensively on Islam and Sufism. She is remembered and revered in Pakistan for her life long research on the life and poetry of Iqbal. Her interest in Iqbal studies dated back to her student days. To quote her, “my long lasting love of Iqbal (which began when I was a student in Berlin during the war) has led me to publish a number of works which are more or less relevant for a study of his contribution to Muslim thought…… . In many articles I have tried to show Iqbal in the context of Islamic modernism, or deal with his imagery”.

The plight of Muslims in India today vindicates Iqbal's vision and dream as Muslims more than ever before are suffering so badly by the extremists Hindus and are seen beaten and forced to denounce their religion if they want to live in India. Even the slaughter of cow has been banned throughout India as Hindus worship it as a mother, while Muslims, like all other people around the world, consider it as an animal for provision of healthy beef. We owe so much to Iqbal for his vision of an independent Muslim country - an idea that was carried forward by Jinnah, which was released on 14 August 1947 with the creation of Pakistan.
References: Pakistanpaedia | Wikipedia

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