Life and Times of Allama Dr Muhammad Iqbal

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Died 21st April 1938
(1877 - 1938)

Allama Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Allama Muhammad Iqbal is generally known as a poet and philosopher, but he was also a jurist, a politician, a social reformer, and a great Islamic scholar. People even bestowed on him the title of "Shaere-Mashriq" (Poet of the East!). It may sound strange that Iqbal never considered himself a poet as is evidenced by his correspondence with Syed Sulaiman Nadvi [1885-1953].

"I have never considered myself a poet. Therefore, I am not a rival of anyone, and I do not consider anybody my rival. I have no interest in poetic artistry. But, yes, I have a special goal in mind for whose expression I use the medium of poetry considering the condition and the customs of this country."
(translated from the original in Urdu; Maktoobat, Volume I, page195)

Iqbal's contribution to the Muslim world as one of the greatest thinkers of Islam remains unparalleled. In his writings, he addressed and exhorted people, particularly the youth, to stand up and boldly face life's challenges. The central theme and main source of his message was the Qur'an. Iqbal considered the Qur'an not only as a book of religion (in the traditional sense) but also a source of foundational principles upon which the infrastructure of an organization must be built as a coherent system of life. According to Iqbal, this system of life when implemented as a living force is ISLAM. Because it is based on permanent (absolute) values given in the Qur'an, this system provides perfect harmony, balance, and stability in the society from within and the source of security and a shield from without. It also provides freedom of choice and equal opportunity for the development of personality for everyone within the guidelines of Qur'an. Thus, in Iqbal's opinion, Islam is not a religion in which individuals strive for a private subjective relationship with God in the hope of personal salvation as it is done in secular systems. Iqbal firmly opposed theocracy and dictatorship and considered them against the free spirit of Islam.

Humanity, as a whole, has never faced the challenge posed by the enormity and the complexity of human problems, such as it is facing today. The problems have taken on a global dimension now and transcend the barriers of race, colour, language, geography, and social, political and religious ideologies. Most of the problems of mankind are universal in nature and, therefore, require a universal approach to the solution. Iqbal's universal message is an attempt to address this challenge faced by humanity.

Through his travels and personal communications, Allama Iqbal found that the Muslims throughout the world had detached themselves from the Qur'an as a guiding principle and a living force. After the disaster following the Balkan War of 1912, the fall of the caliphate in Turkey, and many anti-Muslim incessant provocations and actions against Muslims in India (1924-27) and elsewhere by the intellectuals and so called secular minded leaders, Allama Iqbal suggested that a separate state should be given to the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent so that they can express the vitality of Islam to its fullest. In his 1930 Presidential speech delivered to the annual session of Muslim League at Allahabad, Allama Iqbal stated:

"I, therefore, demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam. For India, it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power; for Islam, an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilize its laws, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times."

Iqbal's "Deeda-war" (visionary), is like Iqbal himself. He could foresee what others could not. Whereas others only have a short term view of things, a visionary sees the problems in a long term perspective and develops some sort of cosmic sense. A nation is indeed fortunate if it produces a few such individuals in centuries. Such individuals, although very rare, change the course of history forever, as indeed Iqbal did. Pakistan owes its existence to Allama Iqbal. Thus, the people of Pakistan owe a great deal of gratitude to this extraordinary visionary.

Allama Iqbal's contributions are numerous and it is not possible to give even a glimpse of his work here. A brief outline of Allama Iqbal's life and achievements is presented below:

Allama Dr Muhammad Iqbal protrayed by Ajab Gull


Born at Sialkot (present Pakistan) on Friday, November 9, 1877. Kashmiri origin.


High School and Intermediate - Scotch Mission College, Sialkot.


B. A. (Arabic and Philosophy) - Government College, Lahore. Awarded Jamaluddin Gold Medal for securing highest marks in Arabic, and another Gold Medal in English.


M.A. (Philosophy) - Government College, Lahore. Secured first rank in Punjab state and awarded Gold Medal.
Reader in Arabic, Oriental College, Lahore.


Read his poem "Nala-e-Yateem," (Wails of an Orphan) at the annual function of Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam at Lahore.


Poem 'Himala' published in Makhzan.
Assistant Commissioner's Examination (didn't qualify due to medical reasons).


Assistant Professor, Government College, Lahore. Published his first book, "Ilmul-Iqtasad" (Study of Economics), Lahore.


Traveled to England for higher studies.


Ph.D., Munich University, Germany (Thesis: Development of Metaphysics in Persia).


Professor of Arabic, London University.


Bar-at-Law, London. Returned to India.
Started law practice on October 22, 1908.
Part-time Professor of Philosophy and English Literature.


Wrote and read famous poem "Shikwa" (Complaint) at Lahore.
Professor of Philosophy, Government College, Lahore.


Wrote the epoch-making "Jawab-e-Shikwa" (Reply to Complaint).


Wrote "History of India" for middle school students, Lahore (now out of print).


Published a long Persian poem "Asrar-e-Khudi" (Secrets of Self). Resigned from professorship to spread the message of Islam.


In counterpart to "Asrar-e-Khudi", published "Rumuz-e-Bekhudi" (Mysteries of Selflessness) in Persian.


English translation of "Asrar-e-Khudi" by Prof. R.A. Nicholson of Cambridge University entitled "Secrets of Self."
Visited Kashmir and presented his famous poem "Saqi Nama" at Srinagar.


Awarded knighthood "Sir" at Lahore on January 1, 1923. Published "Pay am-e-Mashriq" (The Message of the East) in Persian. It was written in response to Goethe's West-Ostlicher Divan.


Prepared an Urdu course material for Grade 6,7 students at Lahore. Published "Bang-e-Dara" (Call of the Caravan) in Urdu in March 1924.


Elected to Punjab Legislative Council, Lahore (1926-1929).


Published "Zaboor-e-A'jam" in Persian.


Delivered his famous six lectures at Madras, Osmania University at Hyderabad, and Aligarh. He made very thought provoking comments on the latest scientific and philosophical developments of the 1920s in the light of Islamic teachings.


President, All India Muslim League. Elaborated on the idea of an independent Muslim state in his presidential speech at Allahabad. [Refer to 1924-28 events in particular and 1912-29 in general in the Muslims in the Indian Subcontinent - V 1800 - 1950 CE].


Published "Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam," - a collection of six lectures, Lahore; it was also published by Oxford University.
Participated in Mo'tamar-A'lam-e-Islami (World Muslim Conference) in Palestine.
Participated in the Second Round Table Conference, London, September 7 - December 31, 1931.


Visited Paris and met French philosophers Bergson and Massignon. Bergson was astonished to hear his remark on the Islamic concept of time.
Published "Javed Namah" in Persian. It was a reply to Dante's 'Divine Comedy'.
Participated in the Third Round Table Conference, London, November 17 - December 24, 1932.


Allama Iqbal met Mussolini in Rome after Mussolini expressed his interest to meet him.
Visited Qurtuba, Spain and wrote the poems "Dua" (Supplication) "Masjid-e-Qurtuba." (The Mosque of Cordoba).
Served as Advisor to the Government of Afghanistan on higher education (October 1933).
Awarded Honorary D. Litt degree by Punjab University on Dec. 4,1933.


Musafir (Traveler) in Persian.


Published "Bal-e-Jibril" in Urdu.


Published "Zarab-e-Kalim" in April 1936, "Pas Che Bayad Kard" in Persian, and "Payam-e-Mashriq" in September 1936.


Ulema from Al-Azhar University visited Allama Iqbal at Lahore.


Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Allama Iqbal at Lahore in January 1938.
Allama Iqbal died at Lahore on April 21,1938. He was a versatile genius-poet, philosopher, lawyer, educationist, politician, and a reformer. "Armughan-e-Hijaz" published posthumously. It was a collection of Urdu and Persian poems.

Allama Iqbal's other famous poems include 'Zubur-e-Ajam' in Persian, and 'Shama-o-Shaer' (The Candle and the Poet), 'Taswir-e-Dard' (The Picture of Agony), 'Naya Shiwala' (New Temple), 'Tuloo-e-Islam' (The Dawn of Islam), all in Urdu. The last three were written to unite his countrymen for the common good.




"Shikwa" (Complaint) and "Jawab-e-Shikwa" (Reply to Complaint) translated by Altaf Husain.
Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam," - a collection of six lectures, translated by Prof Arberry, Oxford University.


"Zarab-e-Kalim" and "Payam-e-Mashriq" translated by Dr. Abdul Wahab Azzam, Professor, Al-Azhar University, Cairo.


"Payam-e-Mashriq" translated by Dr. Ali Ganjeli.


"Payam-e-Mashriq" translated by Professor Hell.


Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam," - a collection of six lectures, translated by Madame Eva Meyerovitch, Paris.


'Javed Nama' translated under the title 'II Poema Celeste' by Professor Alessander Busani.


Asrar-e-Khudi translated by M. Burhan Rangkuti.


Baang-e-Dara (1924)
First written in Persian, Bang-i Dara (Caravan Bell) was translated into Urdu by popular demand. It is an anthology of poems written over a period of 20 years and is divided into 3 parts.

Baal-e-Jibraeel (1935)
Baal-e-Jibaeel (Gabriel's Wing) continues from Bang-i Dara. Some of the verses had been written when Iqbal visited Britain, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, France, Spain and Afghanistan. Contains 15 ghazals addressed to God and 61 ghazals and 22 quatrains dealing with the ego, faith, love, knowledge, the intellect and freedom.

Zarb-e-Kaleem (1936)
This, Iqbal's third collection of Urdu poems, has been described as his political manifesto. It was published with the subtitle "A Declaration of War Against the Present Times." Zarb-e-Kaleem (The Blow of Moses' Staff) was meant to rescue Muslims from the ills brought on by modern civilization, just as Moses had rescued the Israelites.

Armaghan-i Hijaz (1938)
This work, published a few months after the poet's death, is a fairly small volume containing verses in both Persian and Urdu. The title means "Gift from the Hijaz." He had long wished to undertake the journey to the Arabian Peninsula to perform the Hajj and to visit the tomb of the Prophet, but was prevented from doing so by continuous illness during the last years of his life.

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