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Allama Iqbal

21st April marks the 85th death anniversary of Allama Iqbal. Iqbal is called the poet of the East. He is the national poet of Pakistan and holds high esteem in academia. Born on 9 Nov 1877 in Sialkot, Iqbal was born in a well-reputed family. He got religious and primary education in his hometown. He got his B.A. (Bachelor in Arts) and M.A. (Masters in Arts) from Government College Lahore. He also went to Cambridge for his second B.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Germany. Iqbal was regarded as a reputable poet, philosopher, and to some extent a politician. He played an important role in the political stride of the All-India Muslim League. But he couldn’t live much to witness the subsequent struggle for Pakistan.

Iqbal at governmnet College, lahore


Besides his educational background and credentials, Iqbal had some great contributions towards his nation. Iqbal’s youth was spent in academic pursuits. Side by side he was trying his hand at poetry too. Iqbal wrote many poems and has some erudite compositions in his name. Some of them are Bang-e-Dara, Tarana-e-Milli, The Secrets of the Self, The Secrets of Selflessness, Message from the East, Persian Psalms, Javid Nama, Sare Jahan se Accha, Shikwa, and Jawab-e-Shikwa. Iqbal was also rewarded with a knighthood for his work in poetry. He has great proficiency in Hindi, Persian, Arabic, English, and German.


Iqbal is also considered a philosopher and a great thinker. Most of his philosophical thought was evident in his poetry. He talked about the grandeur and past glory of Muslims of the subcontinent. He was also a practicing Muslim and also wrote religious poetry. Iqbal’s motive was to change the thinking of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. His important philosophical work in this regard is “Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam.”


 Iqbal was greatly inspired by Western existentialists like Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus. He tried to capture the essence of Western philosophy in his work. But Iqbal’s approach was more religious. He tried to make a combination of these philosophies infused with religious thoughts. He was greatly inspired by German philologist Fredric Nietzsche. Nietzsche's “ubermensch” was an inspiration for Iqbal’s “Insan e Kamil” (a complete man). Nietzschean power and individualism were mimicked as “khudi” (self-esteem). So there was an effort on his part to introduce power through his words. But all of this was contained within the bounds of religious morality whereas Nietzsche completely threw away morality and asked the individual to make his own.


Allama Iqbal also wrote about political economy. He published a paper named “Ilmul Iqtisad” or political economy. As apparent from his philosophy, Iqbal kept morals in his economic theory. For him, morals are important, unlike his inspiration  Nietzsche. Iqbal had a great heart to present a solution for the economic problems of Muslims. So, he presented his ethical view in economics and discarded the normative view.


Iqbal also took great interest in the politics of the All India Muslim League which later became Muslim League. The most discussed contribution of Iqbal to the politics of India is his famous Allahabad Address in 1930. But there are a lot of misconceptions regarding this address.

Iqbal at round table conference


 Firstly, the date reads 1931, it should be 1930. Secondly, it is widely accepted without any challenge that Iqbal gave the idea of Pakistan via this address. But Iqbal didn’t make such a demand. These misquotations are addressed in a credible book written by Pakistan’s reputable historian KK Aziz, “The Murder of History”. Aziz stated that Iqbal wanted Muslim-majority provinces to be merged into the Indian Federation. Besides, Iqbal was delivering the address in English so many of the meanings were falsely translated. Through this address, one can know about the political acumen and political views of Iqbal. He was against secularism and wanted a Muslim state (note that there is a difference between Muslim and Islamic). Iqbal also corresponded with Jinnah via letters. He presented his views on political issues faced by the Muslim League.


Regarding the personal life of Iqbal, he was a pious and God-fearing man. All of this is evident in his work. He married three times however some quote four. Iqbal’s first wife was Karim Bibi and they had two children together. They were named Aftab Iqbal and Miraj Begum. Iqbal’s second wife was Mukhtar Begum but both mother and son died at the time of birth. Iqbal’s third wife was Sardar Begum. Together they had a son named Javed Iqbal and a daughter named Muneer Bano. Among his children, Javed Iqbal became a renowned Justice. Much about Iqbal’s family is also compiled by his daughter-in-law, Begum Rasheeda, wife of Barrister Aftab Iqbal. Iqbal also fell in love with Atia Fezi during his studies at Cambridge. But that love remained unrequited.

Iqbal with his son, Javed Iqbal

Undoubtedly, Iqbal’s work and the life he lived are an inspiration for many. While many people regard him as a good poet, saint, philosopher, thinker, and founder of Pakistan. Many other rationalists have something else to say. They prefer to dig out the events of history and then make their analysis. They prefer to view Iqbal critically and then decide what good can come out of his teachings. One point of contradiction is that rationalists tend to disagree with Iqbal’s “khudi”. As Iqbal declared the West to be gone astray of everything, the East should be intact with its norms. Iqbal also criticized Western political thinking, democratic structure, and secularism. So, there is a conflict of interest.

Nonetheless, there should be an open debate about Iqbal as a role model. Without critique and analyzing things, nothing fruitful can come out. There are several accolades to Iqbal’s name. There are many institutes and documentaries to his name as well. Iqbal Academy Pakistan was founded to preserve his works and to produce further research.


Iqbal remains a hero and an inspiration for many.


                                                                                                                                                                                            Edited By: Ritaja Kar

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