Iqbal: From Poet, Philosopher to Political Prognosticator
By Dr Zafar M. Iqbal
TCCI, Chicago, IL
I don’t know if Allama Iqbal, besides the poet and philosopher that he predominantly was, ever tried to be also a prognosticator but, perhaps unwittingly, he did eventually become all three, rolled into one. I am sure one can show how it happened, perhaps more persuasively than I can, but I doubt if Iqbal himself could have known how important aspects of his presidential address to the 25 th Session of the All-India Muslim League in Allahabad (29 December, 1930) would turn into reality less than a generation later. He did inspire countless millions, and continues to.
Regardless of how others may have taken that address at the time or over the decades since, he does let you into his mind at that historical stage. I don’t know if what did ensue in 1947, how and at what cost then or over the decades since, would receive his acceptance or blessing.
From that address (linked here: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_iqbal_1930.html ), I cite part of his concluding remarks:
[“…In conclusion I cannot but impress upon you that the present crisis in the history of India demands complete organization and unity of will and purpose in the Muslim community, both in your own interest as a community, and in the interest of India as a whole. The political bondage of India has been and is a source of infinite misery to the whole of Asia. It has suppressed the spirit of the East and wholly deprived her of that joy of self-expression which once made her the creator of a great and glorious culture. We have a duty towards India where we are destined to live and die. We have a duty towards Asia, especially Muslim Asia. And since 70 millions of Muslims in a single country constitute a far more valuable asset to Islam than all the countries of Muslim Asia put together, we must look at the Indian problem not only from the Muslim point of view, but also from the standpoint of the Indian Muslim as such. Our duty towards Asia and India cannot be loyally performed without an organized will fixed on a definite purpose. In your own interest, as a political entity among other political entities of India, such an equipment is an absolute necessity.
"Our disorganized condition has already confused political issues vital to the life of the community. I am not hopeless of an inter-communal understanding, but I cannot conceal from you the feeling that in the near future our community may be called upon to adopt an independent line of action to cope with the present crisis. And an independent line of political action, in such a crisis, is possible only to a determined people, possessing a will focalized by a single purpose. Is it possible for you to achieve the organic wholeness of a unified will? Yes, it is. Rise above sectional interests and private ambitions, and learn to determine the value of your individual and collective action, however directed on material ends, in the light of the ideal which you are supposed to represent. Pass from matter to spirit. Matter is diversity; spirit is light, life and unity.
"One lesson I have learnt from the history of Muslims. At critical moments in their history it is Islam that has saved Muslims and not vice versa. If today you focus your vision on Islam and seek inspiration from the ever-vitalizing idea embodied in it, you will be only reassembling your scattered forces, regaining your lost integrity, and thereby saving yourself from total destruction. One of the profoundest verses in the Holy Qur'an teaches us that the birth and rebirth of the whole of humanity is like the birth and rebirth of a single individual. Why cannot you who, as a people, can well claim to be the first practical exponents of this superb conception of humanity, live and move and have your being as a single individual? I do not wish to mystify anybody when I say that things in India are not what they appear to be. The meaning of this, however, will dawn upon you only when you have achieved a real collective ego to look at them. In the words of the Qur'an, "Hold fast to yourself; no one who erreth can hurt you, provided you are well guided" (5:104).”] [Emphasis added]
Since that address 74 years ago (almost to the day), the Indian subcontinent has been through many dramatic changes but in the historical denouement, parts of what Iqbal had envisioned may have gotten blurred for some, but his words still resonate.
One of his poems that many of us, originally from India, still fondly recall is “Saaray jehan say uch-cha Hindustan hamara.” Written before 1905, he included it in ‘Baang-e-Dara’(1924). Here is my translation:
Song for India (Therana-e-Hindi)
Better than any place in the world
is our India.
Its nightingales we are,
it is our garden. When away,
it is always in our heart;
we are where our heart is.
The highest mountain, close to the sky,
that’s our guard, our protector.
Thousands of streams in its valleys --
O, Ganges, do you remember the day when
our caravan stopped by your shores?
Religion doesn’t teach us hatred,
We’re all Indians, India is our country!
Greece, Egypt and Rome– all gone,
but our name and fame still alive.
We must live on for a reason;
the world has long been our enemy.
No real friends we have, Iqbal, in the world.
No one really knows our hidden pain.