Friday, August 04, 2006

Allama Iqbal : The Poet and Philosopher

(This article was written about 20 years back by my father, Sh. S.D. Khanna. At present he is serving as the News Editor in Daily Hind Samachar. In the field of journalism, he has the experience of almost 45 years. An M.A. in Urdu, he has keen interest in Urdu poetry and is himself also a poet in the language.)

Iqbal is probably the most quoted poet in world’s literary and intellectual circles. His admirers attach some sort of sanctity to his opinions and use his verses as arguments. Probably his most remarkable achievement was that he gave an abiding place to the teachings of Islam and patriotism in the hearts of the people. The language he used was one of rare beauty and charm. With its solid Islamic background, wealth of stirring phrases and telling epigrams, his verse can be memorized easily and recalled and reproduced effortlessly. Even moderately educated has a readily useable treasure of Iqbal’s wisdom on the tip of his tongue.

Allama Iqbal is the spokesman of reality. The limits of his poetry are unbounded and limitless. He used it as a source of his message, which he wanted to give to the nation. Iqbal was considerably influenced by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s thoughts. He sprang into prominence about the time of Sir Syed’s death. He studied the ups and downs of the culture of man very deeply. He dedicated Godly gift of his mind for only one work – spiritualism and patriotism. It was the only motive of his life. He lived for only this work. This work was to give message to the nation, which he gave in each and every way. He provided it with a philosophical and spiritual content and drove it deep into people’s consciousness.

To Allama Iqbal, we owe not only a poetry that stirs our soul and philosophy that serves us a clarion call for a dynamic life, but a message to his countrymen to fulfill their destiny as ordained for them in the Holy Qoran. For his exhortations, Allama Iqbal used the vehicle of poetry that he weaved with prophetic vision, religious, historical, psychological, social, cultural and political themes as if in a Kaleidoscope.

There are, indeed, countless facets of Iqbal’s message each replete with limitless truths, each capable of blazing a resplendent trail. But the quintessence of his message is best expressed in his own words in his lectures on “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”. Iqbal says, “Humanity needs three things today – Spiritual interpretation of the universe, Spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal impart directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis.”

Sir Abdul Qadir said, “There are so many things which are alike between Galib and Iqbal. If I were a believer in the transmigration of soul, I would have remarked that Mirza Galib had great love for Persian and Urdu poetry. This love did not let his soul take rest in paradise and compelled it to transmigrate again in someone’s body to irrigate the garden of poetry and he was again born in Sialkot – a city of Punjab. He was named Iqbal.”

The couplets of Iqbal symbolize the true teachings of Holy Qoran. He says, “Know Thyself. Everything in this world belongs to you. Remove fear and intimidation from your hearts. Dive into seas. Fight with tides and strike with rocks, because life is not a bed of roses, but a battle field.”

Iqbal also made some very pertinent comments on the rising generation. “The youth,” he said, “had been largely captivated by western ideas and was impatient to put them into practice in their immediate environment, little realizing the incalculable damage that exotic ideologies had done in the land of their birth. In trying to evolve a nationhood of the western pattern, the countrymen would be wiping out of the brightest achievements of Islam. Iqbal led an unrelenting crusade against all forces of disruption from the beginning to the end. Apparently coming from an overused pen and a tired mind, his last Urdu work published in his lifetime, lashes out at all the major evils that would banish from the kind of society he was advocating. What he branded as forces of disintegration including colonialism, western education, indifference to religion etc. All of these are more or less closely inter-related political slavery, in Iqbal’s reckoning, is the main spring of all evils; it brings out the most sinister side of human nature warps and minds of the rulers and the ruled alike and dehumanizes vast segments of humanity. Western education changes our habit of thought and scale of valves, intellectual serfdom leads to indiscriminate adoption of alien wonts and usages. Immitation kills initiative and discourages independent thought and effort. Much of what he said constitutes the warp and woof of our thinking. His idealism is a force that goes deep into our mental and moral make up.

Iqbal is not a poet of insurrection but a poet of man’s awakening. With reference to Sir Abdul Qadir, it can be said, with confidence and without doubt that except elementary practice, he initiated writing in Urdu before beginning of the 20th century. In 1897-98, he was seen in poetical symposiums. He attended a meeting in which the renowned literary personalities participated. There, he recited his poem Himalaya that was published in the first issue of MAKHZAN, after some days. When Iqbal started composing couplets, Daag Dehlvi was in high esteems. By the efforts of Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azaad, the base of new poetry was prepared. The Hexameter (a verse which consists of six metrical feet) of Hali was becoming popular among the masses. Akbar Allahabadi, in his special way, was criticizing social and political problems. The speeches and writings of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had done well in eradicating the darkness of minds and thoughts. Several religious movements had breathed their last. The light of the teachings of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Shah Wali Allah was quite new. The struggle for independence of 1857 had not vanished from the minds. Fifteen to twenty years had elapsed in coming into existence of the Congress. A great revolution was created in political and social life with the efforts of Surinder Nath Bannerji, Dada Bhai Naoroji, Sir Feroz Shah Mehta and Badr-ud-Din Tyabji. The roaring of Gokhale had shaken the foundations of the palaces of the government. Such was the background of mind when our world was feeling the necessity of a new culture. This was the environment when the spokesman of reality opened his eyes; he as totally of light saw the wall of India – “Himalaya”. At that time, he by making the Ganges a witness spoke lonely:
Jal Raha Hun Kal Nahin Parti Mujhe
(I am burning and find no peace and tranquility in anyway.)
Sone Walon Ko Jaga De
She’r Ke Aijaaz Se
Khirmane Batin Jalaa De
Shaula-o-Awaaz Se
(O poet! Rouse the people from sleep with the miracle of poetry. Set ablaze the internal nest by the voice of flame.)

Lahore, the legendary city of united Punjab, blossomed at the turn of the century into a new centre of knowledge and culture. A galaxy of writers, litterateurs and educationists appeared on the literary scene. Among them were Mohammad Hussain Azaad, a first rank writer known for the first authentic history of Urdu poets, Aab-i-Hayat; Tirath Ram Ferozepuri, a noted translator; Lala Hans Raj, the saintly Principal of the local D.A.V. College, who dedicated his services to the Arya Samaj and the cause of education; and Principal Hakim Ali of Islamia College – an embodiment of simple living and high thinking. There were also Lala Lajpat Rai, the firebrand nationalist and Sir Abdul Qadir, a legal luminary, philanthropist, humanist, editor and many more. They slowly but silently brought about renaissance in thought and literature in the province. More or less, it was the time when Home Rule League was founded. In the struggle of independence of country, the Congress, in accordance with the demands of the circumstances, was changing its own strategy. The day had not come yet, when from the platform of the Congress, an open challenge should have been given to British Imperialism. Gokhale was about to demand the reduction and annihilation of new colonialism. Our angel Poet, Iqbal, warns us:
Yeh Khamoshi Kahan Tak
Lazzte Faryaad Paida Kar
Zamin Par Ho Too Aur Teri
Sa’daa Ho Aasmano Mein
(O man! How long will your silence continue? You should reveal your hardships and create such a situation that your voice should go from earth to sky.)
Utho Meri Duniya Ke
Garibon Ko Jaga Do
Kakhe Umra’a Ke
Daro Deewar Hila Do
Jis Khet Se Dekhan Ko
Muyassar Nahin Rozi
Us Khet Ke Har
Khosha-e-Gandam Ko Jala Do

(Rise and rouse the poor of my world. Strike and shake the palaces of the rich. A field that does not give bread to the farmer should be burnt completely.)

One of the great forums of literary and religious gatherings in Lahore was Anjuman-e-Himayat-Islam, which had the avowed object of promoting the cultural, educational and social interests of the Muslims. The Anjuman provided a ready platform to Iqbal to recite some of his famous poems, like Nalaa-e-Yateem (orphan cry), a pathetic verse lamenting the pitiable condition of the Muslims. “Shikwa” (the complaint) written soon after Italy had grabbed Tripoli from the Turks, voices the grievances of the Muslims against their God. Khizr-e-Rah (The Guide), a poem unmasking and dissecting the European civilization and statesmanship and Talu-e-Islam (The Rise of Islam), in which the poet glorifies the vision of the rebirth of Islam, of which Mustafa Kamaal Pash’a coup in Turkey, was in his opinion, the promise to flourish.

His verse invariably succeeded in generating the right atmosphere of emotional upsurge. “Hindustan Hamara” his short poem of nine stanzas pointedly refers to the citizens of the sub-continent as Indians and India as their motherland. It chides communalists by saying that “Religion does not teach bigotry.” (Mazhab nahin sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna) One critic hails it as the best patriotic poem written by any Indian in modern times. The last two stanzas of the poem require a special significance:
Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma Sab Mit Gaye Jahan Se
Ab Tak Magar Hai Baki Naam-o-Nishan Hamara
Kuchh Baat Hai Ke Hasti Mit’ti Nahin Hamari
Sadiyon Raha Hai Dushman Daur-e-Zaman Hamara.
(The civilizations of Greece, Egypt and Rome are dead and gone but the glory of India shines still. There must be something and some reason why we have not been wiped out of existence, despite the fact that for centuries the horrible winds have been blowing against us.)
Iqbal summed up for all times to come his and the nation’s emotions in lines of ineffable beauty and splendour.

Iqbal, the poet of world celebrity, played an important role in the history of the Indian Muslims. Though he supported the Liberal movement, he asked the liberal Muslims to be on guard so that the broad human principle, which Islam stood for, was not thrown in the background by emphasis on the nation and the race.

Iqbal described the European civilization as inhuman, rapacious, predatory and decadent. He even quoted such writers as Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Spengler and Karl Marx holding conflicting views to denounce in different aspects. He passionately attacked the European civilization in poems which are pearls of Persian and Urdu poetry. He was essentially a humanist and considered Islam as a religion of broadest humanism.

The Aligarh Movement, started under the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, played a significant role in bringing about awakening among the Muslims, especially among its middle classes. Chirag Ali, Syed Mehdi, Mustafa Khan, Khuda Bakhsh, Hali, Nazir Ahmed and Mohammad Shibli were the outstanding leaders and exponents of the ideas of the movement. They exhorted the Muslims to imbibe the western culture to interpret Qoran in the rational terms and in accordance with the needs of the Muslims in the present period and to revise their social system on more or less modern and democratic lines.

1 comment:

Mazhar said...

Thank you for writing this article. It touched and inspired me :)