World Bulletin / News Desk
Sir Muhammad Iqbal, commonly known as Allama Iqbal, is a celebrated classical poet, philosopher and politician whose vision inspired millions of people – not only on the Indian subcontinent but around the world.
Born November 9, 1877 to a middle-class family in Sialkot, a city that borders the Himalayan region of Kashmir, Iqbal is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu and Persian literature.
His poetry was instrumental in awakening the Muslims of united India, while his active participation in politics ultimately led to the birth of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Critics have divided Iqbal's poetry into three main phases.
The first phase came before his journey to Europe in 1905 and reveals an Indian nationalist who saw the future of Muslims in a united India.
His famous poem, "Hindi hain Hum watan hay Hindustan hamara," which roughly translates into "We are Indians and India is our homeland," remained the unofficial national anthem of India and the Congress – unified India's largest political party – for several years.
During this phase, Iqbal was a full-fledged nationalist who separated religion from state.
"But soon, Iqbal's thinking started to change," Mumtaz Omer, a Karachi-based critic and expert on the Iqbaliat (the poetry of Iqbal), told Anadolu Agency.
"In one of his poems, he reminded the Barahimans [the elite priestly class in the Hindu caste system] that their idols had failed to serve humanity or the people," he noted.
Iqbal says, "Kehdun main aye Barahamin gur tu bura na manay; Teray sanam kadon ka bhutt hogaye puranay," which roughly translates into: "Oh Brahamin, do not mind if I say truth; that the idols of your temples have gone old."
"Here, 'idols' means ideas and vision," Omer explained.
"Iqbal soon came out of the clutches of nationalism," he added, "as he understood that conventional nationalism and Islam could not go together."
Iqbal's poetry during this phase was a blend of color and objectivity, the critic said.
The second phase of Iqbal's poetic journey began following his departure for England in 1905 after qualifying for a scholarship from Trinity College in Cambridge.
In 1907, Iqbal moved to Germany where he earned his PhD from Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University one year later, writing his dissertation on "The Development of Metaphysics in Persia."
During his studies in Europe, Iqbal began to write poetry in the Persian language, which, he said, was the easiest way to express his thoughts.
"During this phase, Iqbal appeared to be appreciative of the materialistic development and progress of Europe," said Omer.
"But the lack of spiritualism and a gradual disappearance of religion from their [Europeans'] lives brought a huge change in his thinking, which was ultimately reflected in his poetry and political views," he added.
"From there," the critic went on, "Iqbal moved in the quest of new horizons and ideas."
After returning from Europe, Iqbal wrote almost all of his most celebrated books, which introduced new ideas and colors into Urdu- and Persian-language literature.
This was considered Iqbal's most prolific period.
His first book of poetry, Asrar-e-Khudi, appeared in Persian in 1915. Other poetry collections include Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, Payam-i-Mashriq and Zabur-i-Ajam.
Among his best known works in Urdu are Bang-i-Dara, Bal-i-Jibril, Zarb-i Kalim and a part of Armughan-e-Hijaz, a mixture of Urdu and Persian poetry.
His poem Iblis ke Majlis-e-Shura ("Satan's Consultative Meeting") is widely considered one of his finest works.
"If you ask me to name one poem that has the potential to overshadow the whole literary work of Iqbal, it is Iblis ke Majlis-e-Shura," poet and critic Shahnawaz Faruqi told AA.
In the poem, Satan frets about the love for Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the hearts of the world's Muslims, both devout and otherwise.
"The rhythm in which the Devil and his disciples converse is the heart of this ever-green poem," Faruqi said.
The period from 1908 to 1926 witnessed a number of political, social and economic developments on the subcontinent that had a profound impact on Iqbal.
"A former nationalist turned out to be a pan-Islamist during this era," said Omer. "For him, Islam was a complete religion on moral and political counts."
Critics believe that the change in Indian politics – especially after the 1920s, when differences between Hindus and Muslims grew deeper – also had an impact on Iqbal's poetry and politics.
"Here, the Indian concept of nationalism and geograhpicalism became a rejected idea for Iqbal," suggested Omer.
The critic added: "A [formerly] nationalist Iqbal says in [his poem], 'Taza Khudaon bara watan hay; Iska jo perahun hay wo muzhab ka kafan hay' ["Homeland is the newest God in this world; and His apparel is the shroud of religion]."
From 1926 to 1933, Iqbal focused on politics.
Although he had joined the All India Muslim League in 1920s during his stay in Europe, he became more active in politics upon his return home.
In November 1926, Iqbal was elected a member of Punjab's legislative assembly.
He successfully persuaded Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, to return from London and take charge of the Muslim League.
Iqbal saw Jinnah as the only person who, at that critical juncture, could lead India's Muslims.
In his famous 1930 Illahabad speech, Iqbal promoted the idea of an independent Muslim state on the subcontinent.
"A separate federation of Muslim provinces, reformed on the lines I have suggested above, is the only course by which we can secure a peaceful India and save Muslims from the domination of non-Muslims," he had declared.
"Why should not the Muslims of northwest India and Bengal be considered as nations entitled to self-determination, just as other nations in India and outside India are?" Iqbal asked the massive gathering.
His dream became a reality in August 1947, with the creation of Pakistan as an independent Muslim state.
For that, Iqbal – who died in Lahore on April 21, 1938 following a long illness – is celebrated as Pakistan's "ideological founder" and was soon after declared the new Muslim country's "national poet."