The Indian subcontinent had no shortage of intellectual thinkers in the 1900s and of them, one of the finest was Allama Mohammad Iqbal, the philosopher-poet. A highly learned man, with degrees in both law and philosophy, he was a crucial addition to the movement which led to a free and independent Pakistan. He is widely regarded as the one thinker who gave Muslim leaders in India the vision and direction of a separate and liberated, Muslim homeland.
In advocating for the two nation theory, and expressing a desire to see the Muslim provinces of the North West Frontier Province, Punjab, Baluchistan, and Sindh, as autonomous and merged into a single state, he became the first Muslim leader to call for a separate homeland. His core belief was that Islam came with certain political ideals and to practice those, the Muslims of India needed political independence from Hindu dominance.
Indeed, the influence of Iqbal’s poetry spread so wide that it not only influenced the leaders who founded Pakistan, but also inspired many influential proponents of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, notably including Khamenei and Shariati. Even the Soviets greatly admired his work, and applauded Iqbal’s determination and commitment to fighting discrimination in all forms, whether racial, religious, economic or political.
“Become somewhat acquainted with your own reality O man!
The grain, the cultivation, the rain, as well as the produce you are
Ah! Whose search keeps you aimlessly wandering
The path, the traveler, the guide, as well as the destination you are”
His poetry often dealt with philosophical topics such as metaphysics and the power of the self, as well as politics and religion. Critics consider him as the poet who awoke a sleeping nation through his dynamic verses.
Mohammad Iqbal, perhaps best known by his honorific Allama (learned, most knowledgeable), was also the East’s leading thinker of the contemporary New Thought Movement aka The Mind Cure Movement. This movement deals with the power of one’s own, of positive thinking, and the law of attraction, amongst others. Iqbal’s poetry often deals with the same questions of self belief, integrity, the law of attraction and so on. In his magnum opus, Asrar e Khudi, Iqbal discusses the ideas of self-realization and writes in favor of taking control of one’s own destiny. In poems with religious themes, Iqbal discusses the completeness of the way of life according to Islam, but also recognizes positive traits in other global religions.
The most unique thing about Iqbal’s poetry is the variety in its subject matter. His poem “Parinde ki Faryaad” (A bird’s prayer) is seen as quite an early discourse on animal rights. His most widely known works include Shikwa Jawab e Shikwa, Asrar e Khudi (Iqbal was knighted by the English following its publication), and Bang e Dara. A polyglot who spoke over six languages, including Urdu, Persian, English, German, and Sanskrit, his Persian language poetry is well-known in Iran, where he is referred to as Iqbal e Lahori (Iqbal of Lahore).
The time and poetry of Mohammad Iqbal reflect a period in history where the east and the west greatly inspired each other creatively, as seen in Iqbal’s “Message of the East”. This work of poetry was inspired by the German poet Goethe and his “West-östlicher Diwan”, which in turn was heavily influenced by the Persian poet, Hafez.
Iqbal’s poetry is very illuminating in the sense that it deals with many questions still relevant today and offers great insight into the concepts of the role of Islam, the law of attraction, slavery, and other issues related to human rights as well as animal rights. His “Bandagi Nama” gives the reader a window to understanding slavery.
Although he passed away in 1938, less than a decade shy of the creation of Pakistan, his role and legacy in contributing to a free homeland have never been forgotten, and he is named as Pakistan’s national poet. The ninth of November, Iqbal’s date of birth, is regarded as an important event in the country and is celebrated by reading and remembering his awe inspiring words. The country has immortalized his legacy by preserving and teaching his legal, philosophical, and poetic works.