Annual ‘Iqbal Day’ in Chicago
By Dr. Zafar M. Iqbal
TCCI, Chicago, IL
Allama Iqbal died on 21April, 73 years ago, a day commemorated in Pakistan and anywhere else he is fondly remembered.
Iqbal Society of Metropolitan Chicago, active for about 18 years, also remembered the revered poet-philosopher on Sunday, 17 April 2011 ( 11 AM - 4 PM) at a special event held in the auditorium of East-West University (EWU), 816 S. Michigan Ave. , Chicago, IL.
Prof. Liaquat Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law, Topeka, KS, was the keynote speaker. A few local speakers also participated in the program, attended by about 50 Iqbal scholars and admirers from the greater Chicago area.
During this five-hour event, the attendees were ‘sustained’ by a wide variety of homemade, healthy, delicious snacks and refreshments, amply provided in the adjacent hallway.
Dr. Arshad Mirza, a Vice-President of the Society, conducted the meeting, just as efficiently as we have known him to do.
The Secretary, Dr. Mohd. Wasiullah Khan, EWU Chancellor and host of the event, summarized the Society’s activities, along with educational opportunities at EWU, and reminded the audience that the Society continues to hold its regular meetings (3 rd Sunday afternoon, each month), as it has for the past several years, at The Islamic Foundation, Villa Park, IL 60181.
Before introducing the keynote speaker, the President of the Society, Dr. Teepu Siddique, elaborated on major themes in Iqbal’s philosophy, quoting a number of Iqbal’s Urdu and Farsi lines. He also dwelt on the ideological affinity between Iqbal and the Danish Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (the so-called ‘father of existentialism’) and Karl Barth, the 20 th century Swiss Protestant theologian (famous for his magnum opus, ‘Kirchliche Dogmatik’ or Church Dogmatics), both critical of certain aspects of modernism. He then contrasted their basic thoughts with those of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche who were highly suspicious of religion, and stressed that Iqbal’s philosophy included a healthy mixture of skepticism – critical of excessively affected piety, or religiosity, as well as certain aspects of modernism.
This served as a broad intellectual segue to the keynote speech on “Seeking Perfection Through Kalaam-e-Iqbal.” Prof. Liaquat Ali Khan, a civil engineer-turned-Law Professor and an expert not just in the Islamic Law but also on Iqbal, comes with a rare, diverse background. After his engineering and law degrees from Punjab University in his native Lahore, this first-generation Pakistani came to New York in 1976, got another set of his law degrees, and now teaches law at Washburn University.
Prof. Ali Khan expounded on these three different memorable Iqbal lines, each thoughtfully elaborated and merged into the theme of his talk: “Rukhs hai, aawaargi hai, joosthajoo hai, kiya hai yeh?” ; “Paywustha reh shajur say, ummeed-e-bahaar rukh”; and “Jahaan main luzzuth-e-purwaaz huqh nahin oska / wajood jiska nahin juzb-e-khakh say aazaad.” He generated an enlightened discussion with the audience on Iqbal’s philosophy with remarkable academic and logical rigor, and entertained various suggestions.
After a break, Dr. Habibuddin Ahmed, a Chicago scholar in ‘Iqbaliyath’, spoke on “Qur’an, Iqbal and Bedil,” a subject of his long-term interest. Mawlana Abul-Ma’ani Mirza Abdul-Qadir Bedil or Bedil Dehlavi, a noted Sufi philosopher (1642-1720) who wrote poetry in Persian, seems to have had significant influence on Iqbal’s thinking and poetry. He elaborated on some themes shared by these two poets, each guided by the Qur’an. To emphasize his points, he recited lines by Iqbal and Bedil, in light of relevant Qur’anic verses.
Prof. Aqueel Alam Khan, another Chicagoan and a respected Farsi scholar, spoke next on “Poetry – the tool of a messenger.” He used both Farsi and Urdu lines from various Iqbal poems to make subtle as well as intricate links to some of the major themes underlying Iqbal’s philosophy, expressed in both languages, in different ways and at different times.
This led quite logically to the next agenda item, “Poetic Tributes.” Two well-known Urdu poets of Chicago presented their original work for the occasion. Dr. Khursheed Khizer, also a vice-president of the Iqbal Society, recited his own poem ‘ Allama Iqbal’, of which this stanza was particularly noteworthy: “Allam Iqbal nahin thhay khaid-o-bund kay haami / thumseeli shaheen sarapa, aazadi kay payami / Deen-e-fithruth kay shaydaai, husan-e-sukhan il-haami / zor-e-bayaan ka jaadoo thha ya sahr-e- jawab-o-sawaal / ……… Allama Iqbal.” Then, Dr. Tawfeeq Ansari Ahmed, a popular Urdu poet and chief advisor to ‘The Osmanian’, presented “Zindagi Khwab Nahin,” a poem he had written, as a young man, following Iqbal’s style and meter. It included these lines: “Ilm say thujh ko atha hogi amul ki duniya / upnay kirdaar main kuch ilm-o-amul paida ker” and “Thoo hai shaheen, pahaarown ki bulandi thuk pahownch / thayri fithruth nay diya hai thujhay urhnay ka mizaaj.”
Finally, Dr. Zafar Iqbal recited his own English translation of a 70-year tribute in Urdu to Iqbal by another noted poet with the Sialkot-Lahore background, Faiz Ahmed Faiz (“Iqbal,” a poem in Naqsh-e-Feryadi , 1941). This translation, published in Pakistan Link last month ( http://pakistanlink.org/Opinion/2011/March11/18/05.HTM), is part of his forthcoming book, which includes his English translation of Iqbal’s poetry in Urdu and Persian. This also reflects the speaker’s continuing effort to make Urdu poetry accessible to non-Urdu readership, including the 1st and 2 nd generations of Indo-Pak community in the West, not quite comfortable with poetic Urdu.
Dr. Arshad Mirza, thanking the keynoter and other speakers, discussion participants and the audience, concluded the meeting shortly after 4 PM.
The entire event was recorded, courtesy Mr. Zafar Malik and EWU staff.