Owning Mohammad Iqbal

Posted on March 22, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Poetry, Urdu
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Adil Najam

To me, the 23rd of March is a day to reflect on the message of Mohammad Iqbal, just like the 14th of August is to ponder on the legacy of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

We, as Pakistanis, have not really been kind to the legacy of either man. We turned both into idols. And once we convinced ourselves that these were ‘supermen’ we conveniently absolved ourselves of the responsibility to learn from – let alone emulate – either. We are fond of celebrating but incapable of incorporating either the actions of Mr. Jinnah nor the thoughts of Mohammad Iqbal.

After all, once we turned Mr. Jinnah into the ‘Quaid-i-Azam’ and conferred near-divine status on him it became all too easy to say that we, mere mortals, could not be expected to act in the way – or even on the principles – that he did. His blemishes were to be denied, not just because we hold him in reverence but also because to acknowledge them is to accept that maybe ordinary – even flawed – human beings can stil have principles worth following. We have done the same to Iqbal. Because his the ‘the’ Allama, he is to be put on a pedestal. His work read with respect and honor; to be savored, but not really to be understood. Certainly not to be questioned, and absolutely not to be allowed to influence that we do. After all, he is an Allama; and we are not.

The Allama-ization of Iqbal, just like the Quaid-i-Azam-ization of Jinnah has been a disservice to both. For ultimately it has turned these two giants into mere statues; the iconography of the ‘Allama’ and the ‘Quaid’ have enabled us to turn them into dieties of reverence while at the same time distancing ourselves – if not outright disowning – the thought of the first and the actions of the later.

We at ATP have been rather remiss in not paying enough tribute to Mohammad Iqbal. This is a mistake I have been wanting to rectify. Today, the eve of Pakistan Day is a good time to begin doing so. The events and the idea behind the 23rd of March owes more to Iqbal than anyone else. And as a first offering of tribute to Iqbal I offer you this wonderful video. I found it on YouTube:

I do not really know who produced it although for some reason the voice sounds familiar. The selection of poetry as well as the pictures are excellent. Indeed, I wou urge you to focus on both. The pictures are not the ones you usually see of him and many of them evoke a humanness that is lost in many of our ‘official’ portraits on the man. But also focus on the ideas. This is a work less known that, say, Shikwa and Jawab i Shikwa, but it has ideas that are so contemporary that he may as well have been talking about the events of last week. For example:

anpay watan meiN houN kay ghareeb-ud-diyar houN
Darta houN daikh daikh kay iss dasht-o-dar ko meiN

60 responses to “Owning Mohammad Iqbal”

  1. Adeel Ayub says:

    His love to Persian language is evident in his works and poetry. He says in one of his poems:

    گرچہ اردو در عذوبت شکر است

    garche Urdu dar uzūbat shakar ast

    لیک پارسی ام ز ہندی شیرینتر است

    lék Pārsī-am ze Hindi um zabandi shairbintar ast

    Translation:

    Even though in sweetness Urdu* is sugar – (but) My Persian is sweeter than Hindi*

  2. Obaid says:

    Iqbal’s letter to Daily Times London;

    Sir,— Writing in your issue of October 3 last, Dr. E. Thompson has torn the following passage from its context in my presidential address to the All-India Moslem League of last December, in order to serve as evidence of “Pan-Islamic plotting”:

    I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Moslem State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Moslems, at least of North-West India.

    May I tell Dr. Thompson that in this passage I do not put forward a “demand” for a Moslem state outside the British Empire, but only a guess at the possible outcome in the dim future of the mighty forces now shaping the destiny of the Indian sub-continent. No Indian Moslem with any pretence to sanity contemplates a Moslem state or series of States in North-West India outside the British commonwealth of Nations as a plan of practical politics..

    Although I would oppose the creation of another cockpit of communal strife in the Central Punjab, as suggested by some enthusiasts, I am all for a redistribution of India into provinces with effective majorities of one community or another on lines advocated both by the Nehru and the Simon Reports. Indeed, my suggestion regarding Moslem provinces merely carries forward this idea. A series of contented and well-organized Moslem provinces on the North-West Frontier of India would be the bulwark of India and of the British Empire against the hungry generations of the Asiatic highlands.

    Yours faithfully,
    Muhammed Iqbal
    St. James’s court, S.W.1, Oct. 10.

    Image of the letter; http://i38.tinypic.com/29z7mn9.jpg

  3. usman says:

    Clebs like Iqbal are not available these days.He was a very passionate man,his work was outclass and luxurious as well.
    Pkis

  4. Faisal Hanif says:

    Most of us, poetry lovers or others, have read Allama Muhammed Iqbal at least some of him somewhere. To many he remained hard-to-understand philosopher poet. Iqbal has written pure poetry too which is equally remarkable. I like Dr Iqbal, one my favourite poets. I find his poetry the most interesting, most intriguing and most touching. It leaves an indelible mark on reader’s mind. I vitalize his style also his gift for conciseness and frugality.

    Aflaak se aata hay naloon ka jawab akher
    kartay hain khatab akher, uthtay hain hijab akher
    ahwal-e-mohabbat main kuch farq nahe aisa
    soz-e-tab-o-tab awal, soz-e-tab-o-tab akhir

    huwaida aaj apnay zakhm penhan karkey choron ga
    lahoo ro ro ke mehfal ku gulistan karkay choron ga
    jalana hay mujhay her shama dil ko soz-e-penhan se
    teri tareek raaton main charaghan kar ke choron ga

    This is the poetry of Iqbal very much in the usual sense. Looks like the great influence of traditional style of poetry exercised over Iqbal’s mind. This appeals to the lighter mood. Simplicity combined with reasonable depth..Isn’t it beautiful?

    Gharz nishat hay shughel-e-sharab se jin ke
    halal cheez ko goya haram kartay hain
    bhala nibhay ge teri hum se kyonkar ay waez
    ke hum tu rasm-e-mohabbet aam kartay hain
    ju be-namaz kabhi parthay hain namaz Iqbal
    bula ke deer se mujh ku imam kartay hain

    More of Iqbal.. simple and slightly coloured in mysticism. The thought is quie simiar to Ghalib’s where he talks ‘ada kia hay?’ ‘wafa kia hay?’

    wohi asal makan-o-lamakan hay
    makan kia shay hay? andaz-e-bayan hay
    Khizer kyonkar batayay kia batayay
    agr mahi kahey derya kahan hay?

    Iqbal was a philosopher poet, not a pure poet and he freely borrowed ideas from different schools and systems in accordance with the demand of his poetry. One of them is the transformation of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch into ‘shaheen bacha’ and ‘mard-e-mouman’ but they carry Iqbal’s very own colour. Borrowing ideas does not mean that his thoughts are incoherent or entirely visionary, in point of fact his poetry is a historic product rooted in the intellectual climate of an age which witnessed the Indian war of independence and new era for Muslims of India. To write about the regeneration of the Muslim ummah in such an age was by no means a quixotic venture.

    Preeshaan hoon ke meri khaak akhir dil na ban jayay
    ju muskhil ab hay ya rab phir wohi mushkil na ban jayay

    Why did we come into being.. See how Iqbal stabs on it..

    tu shakh se kyon phoota, main shakh se kyon toota
    ek jazba-e-paidai, ek lazat-e-yaktai

    I read somewhere that AbdurRehman Bajnoori said that there are two divine books of India: The holy Vedas and Dewan-e-Ghalib. But no doubt Iqbal as a poet is the greatest after the mighty Ghalib, and as a thinker and philosopher among the very greatest. His poetry is pure inspiration, a thing of lightness, melody and grace. His ideas are incomparable. He remains a philosopher poet, the greatest that sub-continent or perhaps the modern East has produced. There is no doubt that Iqbal’s poems represent the highest achievement of philosophical poetry.

    Iss kashmakash main guzri meri zindgi ke raatain
    kabhi soz-o-saaz Romi kabhi paich-o-taab Razi

    wi sher jis se larzta hay shabistaan ka wajood
    hoti hay banda-a-mouman ke azan se paida

    Below one is truly musical:

    Na aatay humain iss main takrar kia the
    magr waad’a kartay huay a’ar kia the
    tumharay payami nain sab raz khola
    khata iss main banday ke sarkar kia the

    A beautiful ghazal..

    Husn-e-kamel he na ho iss behejabi ka sabab
    wo ju tha pardoon main penhaan khudnuma kyonkar hua
    dhaiknay walay yahan bhe dhaik leetay hain tujhay
    phir yeh wa’ada hashar ka sabr azma kyonkar hua
    Parsash-e-a’amal se maqsad tha ruswai meri
    warna zahir tha sabhi kuch, kia hua, kyonkar hua

    mairy mitnay ka tamasha dhaiknay ke cheez the
    kia batyaoon unn ka mera samna kyonkar hua

    A unique way.. Iqbal’s way..

    Mouman

    (Dunya main)
    Ho halqa-e-yaraan tu barashem ke tarah narm
    rizm-e-haq-o-batil ho tu foulaad hay mouman

    (Janat main)
    Kehtay hain farishtay ke dilawaiz hay mouman
    hooron ku shekayat hay ke kam-amaiz hay mouma

    I am sorry for not writing more succinctly. It is difficult to show economy of words when writing about one like Iqbal.

    Kind Regards,
    Faisal Hanif
    Guzergah-e-Khayal Urdu Forum
    http://guzergah-e-khayal.groups.live.com/

  5. Faisal Hanif says:

    Most of us, poetry lovers or otherwise, have read Allama Muhammed Iqbal at least some of him somewhere. To many he remained hard-to-understand philosopher poet. Iqbal has written pure poetry too which is equally remarkable. I like Dr Iqbal, one my favourite poets. I find his poetry the most interesting, most intriguing and most touching. It leaves an indelible mark on reader’s mind. I vitalize his style also his gift for conciseness and frugality.

    Aflaak se aata hay naloon ka jawab akher
    kartay hain khatab akher, uthtay hain hijab akher
    ahwal-e-mohabbat main kuch farq nahe aisa
    soz-e-tab-o-tab awal, soz-e-tab-o-tab akher

    I’m opening this topic to share and discuss soft and less philosophical poetry of Dr Iqbal.

    Let’s talk!

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