Allama Iqbal: The Man
On 21st April 1938, a man who was a poet, philosopher, lawyer, educationist, politician, and social reformer all molded into a single personality, left this world for his eternal abode. He was known as the ‘Poet of the East’, the ‘Architect of Pakistan’, the ‘Sage of the Ummah’. He was none other than Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
On his demise, at a public meeting Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said
Sir Iqbal was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets, philosophers and seers of humanity of all times. He took a prominent part in the politics of the country and in the intellectual and cultural reconstruction of the Islamic world. His contribution to the literature and thought of the world will live forever. To me he was a personal friend, philosopher and guide and as such the main source of my inspiration and spiritual support.
This statement by the Father of the Nation bears as a testament, that Allama Iqbal was indeed extraordinary in character and intellect. Furthermore even his contemporaries admitted this fact for Lord Lothian (a British diplomat, newspaper editor and politician) once remarked
Not only in the Islamic World but in the entire East, there is no intellectual as effective as Iqbal. The thoughts of Iqbal will change the course of history. Political minds fail to understand how inspiring poets like Iqbal can be.
Allama Iqbal: The Poet
For us he was an institution in himself, and above all his poetry remains our greatest asset. From 1915-36, ten thought provoking collections of poetry were published, out of which 7 were in Persian and 3 in Urdu, and his works have been translated in ten languages which include Arabic, Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish & Turkish.
He wrote on a wide range of topics having a vast exposure of Europe and the opportunity of observing people and cultures; but the Holy Quran remained his major inspiration. Among his many themes, I think that the most important ones which we should really study and try our best to apply; is his concept of ‘Selfhood’. This appeared in his first and perhaps best work in Persian entitled “Asrar-e-Khudi” (1915) which was translated into English (known as ‘The Secrets of the Self’) in 1920 by a renowned British scholar; Professor Reynold A Nicholson. And the other is the relationship between the self and the society. This he first presented in “Rumuz-e-Bekhudi” (1917) which was also translated into English (known as ‘The Mysteries of Selflessness’) in 1953 by another renowned British scholar; Professor Arthur J Arberry.
Following is a brief introduction to these truly inspiring themes:
Allama Iqbal on Selfhood
His philosophy of ‘Selfhood’ is very profound, yet its essence is simply to ‘create in ourselves the attributes of Allah’. Now He has already granted us the best of faculties and a status above all his creations in this world. However that high rank can only be preserved through action, so our life has to be a continuous effort of acquiring ‘self-knowledge’ (the desire to learn the knowledge that would guide us in developing ourselves) which would lead to ‘self-realization’ (reaching one’s potential to the fullest).
The ambiance of the Divine Light
Is shrouded within this very (body of) clay,
O you heedless person…
You are much more than a sentient being!
He thought that specific attributes could strengthen the human character, which are:
- Compassion and respect for each other
- Engaging in creative activities consistently
- Lawful earnings
- Non-materialistic approach towards life
Allama Iqbal on the Individual & Society
He laid great emphasis on the bond between the self and society, because the society is a reflection of the individuals that constitute it. So if individuals develop themselves to the best of their capabilities, ‘Selflessness’ will emerge. This creates a spirit of sacrifice and the commitment to work for the collective good of the society. Consequently a common set of spiritual and material values would be shared among the members and in turn a cohesive society can take shape.
The individual a Mirror holds
To the Community, and they to him;
He is jewel threaded on their cord,
A star that in their constellation shines;
And the Society is organized
As by comprising many such as he
However he has asked us to avoid certain factors that can really hinder a society from developing, which are:
- Social inequality
- Religious intolerance
- Outdated traditions
- Distrust & hostility amongst each other
Therefore we can see that he has practically guided us on how we can become the kind of person Allah asks us to be and how to progress as a nation. This would enable us to live a successful life not only in accordance with the principles of Islam, but we can advance and adjust to the changes in the rest of the world as well.
It is indeed our greatest honor to be associated with him and we shall remain indebted to Allama Iqbal for leaving us an everlasting legacy.