We begin the year with the poet, philosopher and politician, Allama Iqbal or Sir Muhammad Iqbal (9 November 1877 – 21 April 1938), who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature, with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages. Iqbal is admired as a prominent classical poet by Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, and other international scholars of literature. Though Iqbal is best known as an eminent poet, he is also a highly acclaimed Muslim philosophical thinker of modern times.
Here is an excerpt from the book “Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician” by Zafar Anjum:
“In order to understand Iqbal, we must see him at three levels: As an Indian, as a Muslim, and as a humanist advocating universal brotherhood. As an Indian, Iqbal’s patriotism is indubitable. ‘Saare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara,’ Iqbal declared blatantly. His poetry is full of patriotic fervor and a pride for India’s ancient civilization.
Iqbal died in 1938, nearly a decade before India was painfully partitioned and Pakistan created. With the march of time, Iqbal slowly disappeared from political discourse. His vision was forgotten in Pakistan as the country swung between birth pangs of democracy and the smothering grip of military dictatorship. Interestingly, that seems to be changing now.
But no matter how much we analyse Iqbal’s politics and poetry, and even his life, Iqbal the man remains veiled in mystery. This enigmatic mystic and seer had once said about himself:
Main khud bhi nahin apni haqiqat ka shanasha
Gehra hai mere bahr-e khyalaat ka paani
I myself am not aware of my own true self,
There’s a great depth in the ocean of my thoughts
Iqbal bhi Iqbal se agaah nahi hai
Khuchh iss mein tamashkar nahi, wallah nahi hai
Even Iqbal is not aware of Iqbal,
There is no joke in it, I swear by God
People may argue about Iqbal’s status as an Indian or Pakistani, as a Muslim poet or a communist, or even a humanist. But in his own lifetime, Iqbal had outgrown all categories.
Dhoondta phirta hoon aye Iqbal apne aapko
Aap hi goya musafir, aap hi manzil hun main
I keep looking, oh Iqbal, for myself,
As if I’m the traveler as well as the destination.