Who in the World Are You?
People today ask: Who in the world is or was Iqbal?
All kinds of people. Among them Muslims and non-Muslims.
Among them Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Americans, Europeans and others.
Among them educated and uneducated people.
Among them Shi’as, Sunnis and Others – people of a wide range of 'Aqeedahs and Maslaks and Madhhabs.
They all ask: Who in the world is or was Iqbal?
Well, let me put it to you this way: Who in the world are you?
In other words, you tell me who you are and I will tell you who or what Iqbal is or was.
Are you a Muslim? Are you a Pakistani or an Indian or a Bangladeshi?
Are you an Arab or an Iranian?
Are you a Shi’a, or Sunni or Ahl-e-Hadith or something else?
Are you a Turk or a Kurd or a Malay or Nigerian?
Do you have anything to do with the United Kingdom?
Are you in some shape or form connected with Europe, United States or any other part of the Western world?
Are you from just about any part of what people call the Muslim world – from Chechnya to Arabia, from Bosnia to Nigeria, and from Morocco to Malaysia?
And what is your language – and your culture? Is it Arabic? Is it Urdu? Is it Farsi?
Or is your language English, French or German?
Or is it Malay, Tamil, Hindi, Indonesian, Spanish, Swahili, Chinese or Japanese?
Just what and who in the world are you and where are you from?
You tell me that and I will tell you who or what Iqbal was, and is, and how Iqbal may turn out to be closer and more relevant to you than you ever thought.
Do You Care About the World and Its Wonders?
And then, tell me this, are you an educated person?
Are you thoughtful and cultured?
Are you someone who appreciates literature and poetry, science and philosophy?
Are you tantalized by the power of human language and expression? Are you at all moved or mesmerized by the magic that words hold?
Is your heart struck by the wonders of the world? Is it in awe of the majesty of God's Creation?
Does the motionless majesty of the mountains, the churning of the surf in the ocean, the soaring of the birds in the sky, the whispering of the winds in the branches of the trees and the dancing of water drops in pearly brooks and silver streams stir and awaken your mind and give your soul peace and serenity all at the same time?
Can you appreciate design, symmetry and color in things you see in nature, and in human artistry and creativity, and recognize rhyme and balance and cadence in the sounds you hear?
Are you one to be intrigued by the power of ideas and to be dazzled by the wonders of human reason, logic and imagination?
Are you one who cares about culture and civilization and about some of the higher and finer forms of human expression and achievement, linguistic as well as artistic?
Are you a lover of humanity, regardless of race or color, creed or culture, country or nationality?
And are you passionate about such nobler ideals of human life as Truth, Justice, Freedom, Fairness, Equality and Human Dignity and Decency – for each and all of God's Human Creation and Adam's Progeny?
Do You Love Islam and Muslims?
Do you love Islam, Muslims, Qur'an, Hadith, Allah and Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam?
Are there moments in your life when you find yourself thinking and wondering about what the real message of Islam and the Qur'an is to the world?
And about what the wonderful model of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was all about?
Are there times when you lie awake at night asking yourself what it was that propelled the Muslims with such spectacular rapidity to the pinnacle of power, wealth, virtue and glory in the world?
And how it is that Muslims seem to have descended, in our days, to the bottom of the pit of ignominy, humiliation, destitution, helplessness, crisis of character and powerlessness?
Or are you, at a more basic and rudimentary level, a human being who in some form or fashion cares about your fellow human beings and the sad and ignominious fate of poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance, economic and social backwardness and political bondage and subjugation that befalls them?
And is there in your heart a drop or two of what Shakespeare so beautifully and touchingly calls the Milk of Human Kindness?
And does it bother you, even a little bit, what human beings have done to God Almighty's beautiful planet earth: to its waters; to its forests; to its air and atmosphere; to its earth and soil; to its animal and plant life; and to its people?
Does it upset you, even a little bit, thinking about what we humans have done to our only Planetary Home, Earth?
Then Iqbal Is Your Man!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must know Iqbal, because Iqbal was, and is, your man.
And that means, absolutely, positively, you must know who Iqbal was and what he did.
And more importantly what he said.
For, it was in what he said, in his poetry, in his verse, in the magic pearls of his words, that Allah appears to have elevated Iqbal over a lot of others in the world and made him a very special manifestation of his power and glory on Planet Earth.
Maybe, God Almighty’s words apply to Iqbal as much as anyone else:
Wa Faddalnaahum Alaa Katheerin Mimman Khalaqnaa Tafdeelaa!
A Vox Dei in short: a Voice of God on Earth.
That is who Iqbal was! An echo and a reverberation of God’s own personal voice on Planet Earth!
Iqbal's poetry radiated the divine glory that bursts out of the Aayats of the Qur'an and permeates the words Iqbal spoke:
"The Most Merciful One!
He taught the Qur'an!
He created the Human!
And he taught him Expression" (Al Qur’an 55:1-4).
And the glory that shines through the blessed words of our beloved prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam:
Inna Minal Bayaani La-Sihraa!
"Some human expression can indeed be magical."
In short, that is who Iqbal was and is.
A Lover of Humanity and a Lover of This World
Iqbal was a lover of humanity and a lover of this world – blessed by God with an amazing understanding of Islam, and of the world. And blessed also with an equally brilliant ability to express that understanding in the form of some of the most powerful and imaginative poetry ever produced by the human mind – in any language or culture.
Did you hear what I said?
“In any language or culture!”
And not just in Urdu or Farsi. But in any of the thousands upon thousands of languages that permeate God’s Earth and help human beings communicate.
Iqbal was a lover of humanity regardless of race or religion, color or creed, class or gender, history or geography, language or culture, Maslak or Madh-Hab, Aqeedah or Jama'at.
Khuda ke bandey to hayin hazaaron, Banon main phirtey hain maarey maarey,
Mayin oos ka bandaa banunga jis ko Khuda key bandon sey pyaar hoga!
Thousands upon thousands of people wander the earth, Claiming to be God’s special creation, And looking for God in woods and forests;
I would want to be the slave of that very special person, Who is consumed by love for God’s creation!
So, Iqbal’s soul danced and sang at humanity's many triumphs.
And Iqbal cried tears of fire and blood for the sad fate of human beings in this world.
Consumed by the majesty and power of God's glory in his creation, Iqbal wrote and sang passionately and powerfully of that majesty and of that glory.
Those who knew Iqbal, or are familiar with his work, will easily call him Iqbal the Superman.
Yet he was merely an often-mustachioed beardless man, frequently in Western clothes, with a Ph.D. that Heidelberg, Germany, conferred upon him.
A Heart on Fire – And A Mind Sharp Like a Laserbeam!
Along with all this, Iqbal was blessed by a command over Arabic, Farsi and Urdu languages, cultures and history that evoked awe and defied comprehension.
And yet Iqbal’s heart and soul were on fire by a book that the Archangel Gabriel, Allah bless him, brought to an Unlettered Man, in a community of Unlettered People, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in Arabia, well over 1400 years ago.
As for Iqbal’s mind, it was nothing less than a razor beam, cutting through all the garbage and the fluff that surrounded human thinking in those difficult days, both Muslim and non-Muslim, both in the West and in the East.
I stood and stared long at the banks of the little waterways in and around Heidelberg, Germany, my little boy Ali on my shoulders. And I kept asking myself what was it about these waters, and about this air, and about this soil, that may have contributed to the forming of a mind and spirit like the ones Allah had gifted to Iqbal.
And now that some decades have passed since I did that, and much water has flown down the Neckar River in Heidelberg, and the larger River Rhine itself, and millions of Muslims from their natural habitat have flooded the European countries, including Germany, I still ask myself that question.
And I wonder why could not the same wind, water and soil produce more of a similar mind; similar soul; similar clarity of thinking; similar sharpness of focus and purpose.
And similar dedication to a cause, both Muslim and Human, and both Local and Global all at the same time.
Captivated by the Qur’an
Iqbal was captivated by The Glorious Qur'an! A most amazing book that was, in a most miraculous manner, a continuation and affirmation of the earlier Divine Books that Archangel Gabriel, Alaihis Salam, had also brought to Moses and Jesus, Allah's peace and blessings be upon them.
The same Qur’an!
Iqbal was held in thrall by that Qur'an. Iqbal was mesmerized by that book - that Qur'an.
Iqbal was both tongue-tied, as well as energized, galvanized and empowered by that book – the Qur'an.
A book that on the one hand rendered him dazed and speechless out of sheer awe and wonder and which, on the other hand, conferred upon him nearly superhuman powers of thought, analysis, understanding, observation, speech and articulation.
Few other thinkers or poets, in all of human history, could rival Iqbal in those superhuman qualities of head and heart.
As a result, Iqbal wanted the whole world to know about that book – that Qur'an. And he wanted the whole world to see the kaleidoscopic wonders of that book even as he himself was able to see them – and write his incredible poetry about them – over and over again.
A Lover of His Land
At the same time, Iqbal was also a simple and ordinary lover of his land and his people. A Patriot, in the finest and noblest sense of that expression.
But which land was his land, and which people his people?
Iqbal was anything but a mindless worshipper of territory, geography, language, race, color, culture, nationality or ethnicity.
On the contrary, Iqbal was a man whose brilliant mind had been touched by the wand of God's Grace and illumined and expanded by God’s Mercy to love and take in the whole universe.
As a result, to Iqbal, All Land Was His Land, for It Was His God's Land.
Not to abuse and exploit and pillage and plunder, as so many others did throughout history, but to love and to serve!
As Iqbal himself put it:
"Har mulk mulkay maast,
Ki mulkay khudaa-i maast."
"All land is our land,
For, it is our God's land."
So also, for Iqbal all people were his people, for they were his God's people – whom God had created from a common ancestor, Adam, Alaihis Salam.
As a result, Iqbal was a lover of all humanity and of all the world of Allah. And Iqbal sang about it all with a love, tenderness, power, eloquence, authority, pain, exuberance, joy, insight and passion that set on fire the souls and minds of those who read or listened to his poetry.
Something Iqbal’s poetry continues to do to this day in both the languages, Urdu and Farsi, that Iqbal chose in and through which to pour out his thoughts, feelings and analysis to the world.
Above all, a Muslim!
And above it all, Iqbal was a Muslim. Pure and simple, as they say.
And he was most unapologetic in the love of his Deen – and of his God, and of the Qur'an, and of the Messenger of God, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and of the spirit of “Liberty, Truth, Equality and Justice for All!” that they inspire.
And he wore this love on his sleeve. And he wrote and sang about it with a voice, energy, insight, sincerity, devotion and enthusiasm matched by few before him or since.
And Iqbal was a Muslim who loved and respected all Muslims, regardless of their Madhaahib and Masaalik – regardless of whether they were Bareilvis, Deobandis, Ahle Hadith, Hanafis or Shafi-'is.
Or Shi’as or Sunnis!
And regardless of their racial, national and ethnic backgrounds and labels such as Sayyid, Shaikh, Afghan, Irani or Turani.
He chided the Muslims for their newly acquired narrow-mindedness and bigotry; for their factionalism, divisions and strife; for their laziness, ineptitude and incompetence; and for their ignorance of their Deen, their heritage and their culture.
And for their social, economic and political ineptitude and backwardness.
And Iqbal warned Muslims, in the starkest terms, against becoming worshippers of the idols of race, tribe, country, nationality, wealth and power.
Addressing the people of what used to be united India – a vast territory that today would comprise of the three countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – he said what I am paraphrasing here:
"O People of India!
You will be wiped out from the face of the earth, if you fail to understand the complexities of this world, or appreciate the precariousness of your own situation.
No one will even know or remember your story."
He said – in his most magnificent Urdu:
"Na samjhogay to mit jaa-o-gay ai Hindostan waalo,
Tumhari daastaan tak bhi na hogi daastaanon main!"
And how right he was!
Today, as the year 2021 draws to a close, after all these eventful decades since Iqbal issued his stark warning, Pakistan is still a nation in search of an identity and a future; Bangladesh a teeming mass of poverty; and modern India a rape capital and an open lynching ground for leftover Muslims, whose number exceeds 200 million!
A Pioneering Thinker and Trailblazer
The long and short of the story is that Iqbal was a pioneering thinker and a trailblazer in his analysis and approach to the world and its problems.
Iqbal was there, painting a powerful message of liberation, dignity, education and awakening on the horizon of Islam and Muslims, and the world, before a lot of others were there - standing tall and almost alone, right at the turn of the century - Ala Ra'si Kulli Qarn, as Allah's beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, once put it.
Iqbal was there before there was Hasanul Banna; or Abul Kalam Azad; or Muhammad Ali Jauhar; or Muhammad Ali Jinnah; or Abul A'la Maududi.
And they were all among the greatest Muslim personalities of the past two centuries and some of the world’s greatest thinkers, social reformers and revolutionary leaders in their own right.
And they were all affected and influenced by him, directly or indirectly, in one way or another.
For, before all these people made their mark on Muslim history, there was Iqbal.
And Iqbal's thinking, understanding, and Iqbal’s elucidation of the role of Islam and Muslims in human life and history, blazoned the pathway for others to follow.
Right at the top of the 20th Century, or the 14th Century Hijri, straddling them both like a colossus – 'Ala Ra'si Kulli Qarn, as the Hadith says – Iqbal valiantly, and almost single-handedly, sought to breathe a new life into the bruised and battered body and faltering spirit of the Muslim Ummah: the Muslim People or Muslim Nation.
The Global Muslim Community and the Human Race as a whole.
Iqbal Loved Allah and Loved Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam! And, above All, Iqbal Loved Allah’s People – All People! And Iqbal Loved All of Allah’s Creation!
The fact is that Iqbal was a man who was in love with Allah, and with Allah's Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and with the Qur'an, and with Muslims.
As a result, or as part of the same Cosmic Algorithm of Universal Love, Iqbal was in love with the entire world – and with all the people and denizens of the world that Allah created.
This was a man whose head burst with ideas, and whose heart brimmed with love, in ways that most cannot imagine or fathom. His mind was a most amazing combination of pure Love and Passion and Emotion at one level and of pure Thought and Cognition and Ideas at another level.
As a result, at one level, Iqbal was all Deen, all Qur'an, all Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, all Haqq, all Aakhirat – all the Next World.
At another level, Iqbal was all Humanity, all Muslim, all practical everyday Islam, all Dunya – This World – all at the same time and in the same breath.
Iqbal himself summarized this predicament of him being the One-of-a-Kind Human Colossus, born once in who knows how many thousand years, most beautifully, as only he could.
Iqbal said in Urdu:
Hazaaron Saal Nargis Apni Beynoori Pey Roti Hai, Badi Mushkil Sey Hota Hai Chaman Main Deedahwar Payida!
How many thousand years, Daffodils cry over a life,
That is lonely and forlorn!
Before the Garden and the Meadows are ever blessed
By the presence of a Worthy Admirer,
Wonderstruck by their beauty!”
The Grand Spectacle of Dancing Daffodils
Through the ages, generations had enjoyed watching Daffodils dance in the sun. But it took an 18th Century Englishman, William Wordsworth, to turn his admiration of Daffodils into magnificent verse and give voice to the joy and exuberance that the sight of Daffodils, prancing in the gentle breeze, evoked in the human breast.
Here, read and enjoy Wordsworth’s reaction as a poet, and as a human being, to the grand spectacle of Dancing Daffodils!
No wonder, the Botanical name for Nargis is Narcissus Poeticus – the Poet’s Daffodil!
And that Dance of the Daffodils that Wordsworth saw, and marveled at, is all part of the overall Dhikr of Allah that reverberates in the Aalameen, the Universe, every micro-, milli- and nanosecond of existence.
As Allah said:
Wa In Min Shay-in Illaa Yusabbihu Bi-Hamdihi!
“There is not a thing in the universe that does not sing his praises!”
And the Qur’an is a “Dhikr” for All the Worlds: Al-Aalameen!
And don’t you think that the dance of the daffodils is a part of that ever-lasting and ever-pervasive Dhikr of Allah? As Allah says in the Aayat we quoted above:
Wa In Min Shay-in Illaa Yusabbihu Bi-Hamdihi!
“There is not a thing in the universe that does not sing his praises!”
And that includes the Daffodils Dancing in the Sun?
William Wordsworth and The Dance of the Daffodils
As I said earlier, William Wordsworth was an 18th Century Englishman whose sharp eye, and wakeful heart, caught the Daffodils in the act of Dancing Allah’s Dhikr.
And if you don’t think that the Dancing Daffodils are doing the Dhikr of Allah, then what do you think they are doing when they abandon themselves to prance and frolic in the sunny breath of warm wind in the wake of a cold English Winter?
And how is their Dance not an inseparable part of the Universal Dhikr that permeates the Universe?
But how long do you think those Daffodils had to dance away, and wait, before a wandering Englishman, with a hungry heart, and an eagle eye, chanced their way and decided to throw his own heart, along with the Daffodils, in that eternal dance of Universal Dhikr of Allah, that generation after generation of Daffodils had been waging since Almighty Allah first fashioned their beauty on this earth?
Just as Wordsworth said:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils!
Read that whole poem by William Wordsworth now.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
In terms of geography, Iqbal was a child of that lovely land that so captivated the heart of the Mughal emperor Babar and which we all know as Kashmir. But he was also from Punjab, the noble land which Hazrat Baba Farid made his home.
Baba Farid was the Khalifah of Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki who was the disciple and Khalifah of Hazrat Mu’inuddin Chishti, Rahmatullahi Alaihi.
Iqbal was not a Pakistani – for he died before the creation of Pakistan – but he was the man who dreamed the dream that later became Pakistan.
Iqbal had wonderful Muslim parents but he never forgot his Hindu Brahmin roots.
His thought and poetry embodied the advice Hazrat Baba Farid is reported to have given to his Murid and Khalifah, Hazrat Khawja Nizamuddin:
"Be like a big tree under whose shade vast multitudes of humanity can gather and find shelter, rest and comfort!"
More than anything else – and Iqbal said so himself – his ideas and words were nothing but a reflection of the Qur'an.
To prove that point, he begged Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala and said:
"Humiliate and dishonor me on the Day of Judgment! ... "
"If my words contain anything other than the Qur'an ... "
And he said this in Farsi language:
"War ba-harfam ghair-e Qur'an muzmarast ..."
"Roozi mah-shar khaar-o ruswa kun mora ...”
His admirers have conferred upon him the title of Shaa'ir-e-Mashriq, meaning the Poet of the East, as if his poetry was limited to the East.
And as if the West had a greater poet than him!
Such as Goethe from Germany; or Shakespeare from England; or Whitman and Thoreau from America!
Those who look at Iqbal from the point of view of Islam and Muslims would call him Shaa'ir-e-Islam: Poet of Islam.
Or Shaa'ir-e-Ummat: Poet of the Timeless and Global Muslim Nation.
Or Shaa'ir-e-Deen: Poet of the culture and way of life that is Islam.
Or Shaa'ir-e-Qawm: Poet of the People.
Or Shaa'ir-e-Millat: Poet of the Muslim People.
And all these appellations would be most appropriate and fitting. For, Iqbal was all of those and more!
But those who would consider his work in the light of the work of everyone else in the world, and would consider the breadth, reach and universality of his vision and his concerns, would accept nothing less than Shaa'ir-e-Insaaniyat:
Poet Laureate of the entire Human Race, nothing less. But without a salary and without official rank.
But not that quickly. We are not done with Iqbal yet, and Iqbal is not done with us. Or with this world. For, Iqbal is the Poet of the Whole World. Nothing less.
So, to do any semblance of justice to him, we have to call Iqbal Shaa'ir-e-'Aalam!
Poet of the Entire Human Race that is.
And Shaa'ir-e-Kaa-i-naat: Poet of the Entire Universe.
Hear the scope of Iqbal’s thought and you would know why and how Iqbal deserves that title:
Sitaaron Say Aagay Jahaan Aur Bhi Hain!
“All kinds of new worlds await you,
Beyond the stars that lie in your path.”
Teyray Maqaam Ko Anjum Shanaas Kya Jaanay,
Ki Khaak-e-Zindah Hai Tu, Taabi’e Sitaarah Nahin
How can Astrologers chart your trajectory and your Destiny,
For, you are the Living Dust out of which God fashioned you,
And you are not locked into the orbit of this or that star.
Personally, when I read the Qur'an and then I read Iqbal's poetry, I ask myself, isn't his work really Qur'an in poetry? And shouldn't we all be calling Iqbal Shaa'ir-e-Qur'an: Poetic Voice of the Qur'an?
This becomes clearer when we understand why it is that some people find difficulty navigating Iqbal's poems. It is not because Iqbal’s language is difficult, which it is in some ways, and in some places, but it is more because Iqbal’s poetry is full of references to Aayats, passages, events, metaphors, imagery and expressions from the Qur'an and most people are not familiar with their Qur’an.
Qur’an and Iqbal: One Must Lead to the Other
If you say you love Qur’an, or you have anything to do with the Qur’an, and you do not love, or even know, Iqbal, then you simply do not make sense. You do not seem to know what you are talking about.
Without at least a cursory acquaintance with Iqbal, your claim of loving the Qur’an, or knowing the Qur’an, or of having anything to do with the Qur’an, is empty, without merit and without credibility.
That is because the Qur’an which is God Almighty’s greatest miracle of all, directed toward all human beings, for all times, is, among all the other things that it is, a marvel of language, thought, diction, meaning, analysis, evidence, argument and syntax.!
It is not without reason that the Qur’an, unlike any other book on earth, begins with the Commandment Read: Iqra’!
And, also, it is not without reason that the Qur’an, unlike any other book of its kind, is full of any number of references to the concepts of Knowledge (Ilm) and Understanding and Reasoning (Aql).
And Iqbal, at a human level, is a marvel of all those wonders of language and thought and analysis and expression.
So, the claim of having a connection with the Qur’an, while being totally disconnected with Iqbal, is hollow!
In the same way, if you start out with Iqbal, there is no way you will not end up with the Qur’an. For, not only does Iqbal’s poetry drip with references to the Qur’an, Iqbal himself is nothing less than a clarion call and drumbeat inviting human beings to the miracles, wonders, teachings and principles of the Qur’an.
So, starting with Qur’an must naturally lead you to Iqbal, just as starting with Iqbal will automatically and smoothly take you to the Qur’an!
It is as simple and self-evident as that!
Iqbal Loved All People – Muslim and Non-Muslim
Iqbal was a poet who wrote powerfully in Urdu and still more powerfully in Farsi – Persian. But for anyone who has any sense of language and literature, Iqbal's poetry is among the finest in the world – in any language or culture.
Iqbal loved Muslims. But at the same time Iqbal also loved all people, Muslim and non-Muslim.
He was a Muslim who loved God, but he was also a human being who loved God's creation.
Iqbal was a visionary and a thinker, a poet and a philosopher, a leader and a reformer, of extraordinary sagacity, wisdom, open-mindedness, talent, reach, depth, perspicacity and insight.
Therefore, it does not matter who you are, and it does not matter where you come from, or what your personal, literary, linguistic, national, ethnic, political or cultural affiliation or identity is, you owe it to yourself to know Iqbal.
And if I did not want to get carried away, I would say we are all lesser human beings for not knowing Iqbal, regardless of our own linguistic, cultural, national and religious backgrounds.
Nor does it matter what your 'Aqeedah or Madh-hab or Maslak or Jama'at is or who your Shaikh, Peer, Murshid or Murabbi is. You still owe it to yourself to know Iqbal.
If you are from Kashmir, you must know Iqbal, for Kashmir had no greater son.
If you are a Pakistani, you must know Iqbal, for Pakistan owes its very existence to Iqbal.
If you are an Indian, you must know Iqbal, for Iqbal was an Indian who sang proudly and touchingly of India and its wonders.
If you are an Arab, you must know Iqbal, for it was Iqbal who sang about Arabia as perhaps few people were able to do.
He said – in paraphrase:
"My song may be Indian,
But my tune is from Hijaz."
As he put it in Urdu language:
"Naghmah Hindi hai to kya,
Lai to Hijazi hai mayri."
I think I got that one right?
If, on the other hand, you are from the United Kingdom, you must be particularly proud of Iqbal, for Iqbal was an alumnus of Cambridge University.
And if you are from any part of the Western world, you must admire Iqbal, for Iqbal's Ph.D. was from Germany – and the West.
If you love language and poetry, any language and any poetry, you must know Iqbal, for Iqbal was a master of both, in both Urdu and Farsi languages.
It was given only to Iqbal that he could be a Bird of Paradise for the Muslims, and be able to sing about Islam and Muslims with a sweetness, clarity and majesty that are not easy to match outside of the Qur'an and Hadith.
And at the same time, almost in the same breath you can say, it was only Iqbal who could play The Indian Nightingale – Bulbul-e-Hind – and be true to his Indian heritage and place of birth, and sing about his native land of India with a tenderness and passion that only he could do.
So, to the Muslims of the world, Iqbal sang:
Muslim Hain Ham Watan Hai Saara Jahan Hamaaraa.
"We are Muslim,
And the whole universe is Home to us."
But his message was not limited to Muslims.
In that one half of a Couplet – what should I call it, a Singlet? In Urdu it is called Misra', whereas two couplets together are referred to in Urdu, Farsi and Arabic as a Shi'r – in those few chosen words, no more than eight words if you count them, Iqbal has summarized Islam's entire philosophy of land, territory and country.
And in doing so, Iqbal has forever laid to rest the entire evil philosophy of Racism and Nationalistic Chauvinism.
And in those few words, Iqbal has clearly defined a Muslim’s National Identity as truly global and transcendental.
And in these few words, Iqbal has also summarized all of Islam, if you want to put it that way.
Royal Robe of Nationalism or Shroud of Religion?
For Iqbal, a Muslim is never a slave or prisoner of a country, or land, or territory, regardless of whether it is a Muslim-Majority country like Pakistan or Iran, or a Non-Muslim-Majority country like India or France or Norway.
Because, a Muslim's True Identity is defined by his Choice of Belief and Behavior, and by his Universal Human Fellowship, and not by Accidents of Birth, Color, Race or Gender, over which one has little or no control.
For, to be a Muslim is to be a slave of Rabbul Aalameen – the Master of All the Worlds. And not a slave of a little piece of land regardless of whether you were born on that land, or you immigrated to it, or you are just visiting it and passing through it.
See how effectively and how beautifully Islam nips in the bud so many Deadly Social Diseases and Evils of the World such as Rabid and Toxic Nationalism, Parochialism, Fanaticism, Chauvinism, Jingoism, Racism, Fascism, Nazism and the rest.
That is why Iqbal argues that the magnificent robe of Nationalism is nothing but a shroud in which the dead body of Religion is wrapped for burial, meaning where Nationalism is rampant, true Religion is dead.
In taazah khudaa-on main badaa sab sey watan hai, Jo pairahan us ka hai who madh-hab ka kafan hai!
Blind Love of Land and Country: Recipe for Wars and Herald of Doom for Human Race
Historically, human beings have used every pretext and every excuse to kill and destroy each other. And one of the most effective and powerful excuses humans have always used for mutual self-destruction has been, and continues to be, the supposed love of one's own land.
In modern times, it is called Country. And every human practice that was considered bad or evil or forbidden at one time or another throughout history, human beings today justify it in the name of Country.
Killing is bad – except when you do it in the name of your Country. In that case, it is the more the merrier.
Raping Women is wrong – except maybe when it occurs as part of your passion for your Country. Some have even used the name Weapon of War to the mass raping women in places such as Bosnia by Serbian men, under the watch of a United Nations force, Commanded by a British General.
Marauding and Pillaging other people's wealth and resources is wrong – except when you do it in the name of your Country.
Subjecting innocent and unsuspecting human beings from other lands and cultures, and poor people from your own land and culture, to all kinds of dangerous and deadly scientific experiments, is wrong - except when you do it in the name of your Country.
Killing Innocent and Unarmed Civilians and Bystanders in any War is wrong and forbidden by all the norms and canons of Civilized Warfare – except when you do it in the name of your Country.
Torturing People is morally reprehensible – except when you do it in the name of your Country.
And so on and so forth, ad infinitum! Meaning for ever and ever and ever!
That is as high as the Curve of Human Civilization has reached today. Just mention the word "Country" today and every Wrong becomes Right and every Evil becomes Good.
And every Buck stops there! At the Altar of Land and Country!
Wataniyyat, as Iqbal called it!
No more talk, no more discussion, no more argument. Just say Country and keep moving. That is how powerful, how deadly and how disastrous, the poison of blind, fanatical and senseless love of one's land and Country can be.
And if everyone in the world thinks the same, and claims the right to the same fanatical worship of one's own land and Country, then it does not take a genius to figure out that the result will be Every World War that the world can imagine, and some that no human mind can even contemplate or comprehend at this time.
If the World is mad enough to fight another World War, we can be sure that there will be no winners, losers or survivors left at the end of that war. Because such a new World War will be nothing short of a full-scale nuclear annihilation of the human race as a whole and the near-total destruction of the entire planet.
Defining a World War the Way It Really Is!
Now, here is my definition of World War: It is everybody in the world trying to kill everybody else in the world. That is what a World War is.
And my definition of War itself is this: Killing or Getting Killed. That is what a war is.
And that is because every war has only two outcomes: either you kill your enemy; or your enemy kills you. There is no third possibility.
What people call Injury is just another name for an Incomplete Job. An Injury is simply a Killing that was left unfinished. A botched up killing attempt.
Now imagine this. With the roughly 6000 nuclear weapons that Russia has, and another roughly 6000 nuclear weapons that America has, and with all the hundreds upon hundreds more nuclear weapons that Israel, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea all have, once these bombs start flying all over the world, what do you think will be left of this World?
What human beings and animals?
What trees and forests and what rivers and oceans and what mountains?
So, you see how dangerous, and how Evil, this Fanatical, Blind Love of Land could be?
And don't forget when one country, nation or society claims that right – to love its land without limits, beyond all reason, and not subject to any worldly or divine yardsticks of Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, True and False, Just and Unjust, Fair and Unfair, then everybody else is going to claim the same right for themselves.
So, what do you think is going to happen to you, to me and to everyone else, and to our world as a whole?
Do you see this madness of Limitless and Rabid Nationalism – Love of Land as it were – taking over our world already? And do you see our world already hurtling in a most inexorable way toward total global carnage and self-annihilation?
So, it was this Global Human Evil of Blind Patriotism that Iqbal was raising his voice against, when he called on Muslims – and by extension all Human Beings everywhere – to choose God over Country.
The truth is Iqbal fights the Evil of the Blind Love of one's land, country and territory as few people have ever done, and in fewer words than most others have ever tried. Often using no more than one single Shi'r, one Couplet I mean, as I heard it being called, consisting of no more than two short lines, each not even ten words in length.
That is a human miracle in less than 20 words. Just imagine that! It totally takes my breath away and leaves me speechless.
Now, let us read that most amazing Couplet by Iqbal that buries this Evil of Fanatical and Rabid Nationalism and Jingoism a million-foot deep. Iqbal says, addressing the Muslims on the face of it, but addressing all of humanity and the whole world at the same time:
Too Abhi Rahguzar Main Hai, Qaid-e-Maqaam Sey Guzar;
Misr-o-Hijaz Sey Guzar, Faris-o-Shaam Sey Guzar!
Your journey is still not complete, do not make yourself a Prisoner of Place;
Go past Egypt and Arabia, and leave Iran and Syria behind!
End of story! I don't think there is much to be said after this!
Human Life: An Incessant Journey to God
By "Journey" Iqbal is referring to the fact that Human Life is a nonstop movement channeled into an incessant Search for God and for Truth and for Justice for All!
The word "Rahguzar" means a road or a pathway. Remember the poem by the famous American Poet Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken? In many ways, it is the same road or pathway or "Rahguzar" that Iqbal also is talking about here.
It is the road that would put human beings, all human beings, on a tireless Search for God and for Truth and for Justice for All!
And eventually for Peace and Tranquility within the human souls, and within and between nations and societies and countries of the world.
And Yet, Iqbal Sings for His Native Land
Now, listen to the same man, Iqbal, turn around and tell the whole world how lovely and sweet and wonderful he finds his native birthplace of India that he calls by the name of Hindostan.
And that is India before it got divided into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
I don't know if a sweeter or more touching couplet exists anywhere on the subject of True but Sublime and Innocent Patriotic Love and Fervor than that.
Here is Iqbal in his own words:
Saaray Jahaan Say Acchaa Hindostan Hamaaraa,
Ham Bulbulayn Hain Is Ki, Yeyh Gulsitaan Hamaaraa!
"Our India is the loveliest land in the whole world;
We are its Nightingales and it is our own Sweet Garden."
No, people! The world, I don't think, saw another Iqbal, in any language or place or culture. At least not in my very limited knowledge and understanding.
And a Humanist above All Humanists
A lot of people in this world take great pride in their Humanistic Credentials, and, maybe, rightly so. Gandhi was certainly a great Humanist. And so was Dr. Martin Luther King.
I would also consider Thomas Paine and David Thoreau among the great Humanists of the world, in their own special ways.
But call it just my love of the Urdu Language, and my being overall enamored by Iqbal's entire gamut of thought and poetry, that I would rank Iqbal a cut above the rest of the humanists of the world.
And don't forget that all that Iqbal needs to work his magic is no more than a couplet or two, each no longer than 10-20 words!
Here, listen to Iqbal talk about Love of People vs. Love of God. It is the same couplet cited earlier.
What a concept! What a contrast!
Khuda Key Banday To Hain Hazaaron, Banon Main Phirtay Hain Maaray Maaray,
Main Us Kaa Bandaa Banunga Jis Ko Khudaa Kay Bandon Say Pyar Hoga!
"There are thousands of people in this world who claim to love God,
And who consider themselves Slaves of the Almighty.
Just behold how they roam the woods and the forests in search of him.
As for me, all I wish is to be a Slave of those who love the Slaves of the Almighty."
How can anyone embellish or add to these most magnificent words or to the most amazing concept of the Love of God vs. the Love of People that these words embody?
Most certainly I cannot. Nor will I even dare to attempt any such thing.
Allah, Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and Iqbal.
Or, Stated Alternatively, Qur'an, Hadith and Iqbal.
If you want to learn Islam the way Islam really is, and if you wish to imbibe the true spirit of Islam, and if you would like to understand some of Islam's larger dimensions, then the best, the first, and the very last source for you to go to is Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
And that means the Qur'an. For, Qur'an is Allah's own direct word in our mortal hands. It is divine from beginning to end. And there is nothing like it in this world.
And that means everything other than the Qur'an is of human origin, and patently and manifestly so. It is Hearsay.
To be sure, some good, and some, not so very good. As all things human are and would always be.
I am saying "First" as well as the "Last" source to know God and Islam, because that is what Allah says he is: He is the First and he is the Last.
In the words of the Qur'an:
Huwal Awwalu Wal Aakhiru!
And, then, after that, after Allah that is, or along with Allah, as the Qur'an frequently does, your source to know God and to understand Islam is Allah's Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
And that means the Hadith and the Sunnah.
Without getting too technical, in a general sense, Hadith is the spoken word of Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. It is what Allah's Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, said. It is his speech as it were.
Sunnat, on the other hand, once again speaking in a broad sense, and without too many technicalities, is the sum total of the actions of Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Qur'an and Hadith then are the eternal and forever-true sources of all knowledge, Islamic as well as what some people would call "Secular." They are the true and undying fountainheads of all human inspiration and understanding with regard to all things, worldly and other worldly.
For all time.
Then come ordinary human beings, as it were, all human beings. In different times and places.
And some of them are, and would be for as long as the world lasts, some of the greatest and most talented and gifted and blessed human beings this world has ever produced or will ever produce.
And they come and go, these great human beings. In all cultures and languages. And they all imbibe their knowledge and their inspiration from the twin sources of Qur'an and Hadith, Allah and his Rasul, Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
And these great men and women then interpret, transmit and render what knowledge and understanding Allah gives them to the rest of the world, to the people in their own time and culture, using their own language.
And the names of these remarkable individuals throughout the history of Islam are too many to count.
In our own times, in the 20th Century, and running into the 21st Century, Iqbal was one such great man whom Allah blessed with talent totally unmatched among his peers and contemporaries to understand his Deen, and the Sunnat of his beloved Rasul, Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and to render the same to the rest of the world in poetry that is truly breathtaking and inspiring both at the same time.
That is why in modern times, when it comes to understanding Islam, I say it is Qur'an, Hadith and Iqbal.
Muslims Must Know Iqbal – and So Must Non-Muslims!
Muslim or Non-Muslim, no one has an excuse for not knowing Iqbal! For, the truth is, Iqbal was everybody’s man!
If you are a Muslim, you must know Iqbal, for Iqbal was the best friend, fan and spokesperson Muslims had in a long time.
If you are someone who is actively engaged in serving Islam and Muslims – or the members of the Human Race – in some organized form or fashion in any part of the world, you must know Iqbal, regardless of your particular language, region or organizational affiliation, for as a true and dedicated servant of the Deen of Allah, Iqbal had few peers.
Everyone everywhere must know Iqbal, for Iqbal was a beacon of light in a foggy, moonless night that kept a near-solitary vigil over the stormy seas of Muslim and human life and events around the world.
Like Ibrahim, Alaihis Salatu was-Salam, Iqbal stood almost alone: he was very nearly the lone Islamic thinker, theorist, reformer and visionary, of his class and caliber, before many of the other thinkers, theorists, reformers and leaders made their appearance.
And like Ibrahim, Alaihis Salam, Iqbal was a nation – an Ummat – unto himself.
Therefore, how embarrassing, painful and disappointing it is, both as a Muslim and as a human being – and as someone blessed by God with a touch of taste for language and literature, and with a shade of concern for the Qur'an, Islam, Muslims and the people of the world – that anyone in the world today, Muslim or non-Muslim, Arab or Indian, Punjabi or Kashmiri, man or woman, from the East or from the West, should ask: Who in the world is or was Iqbal!
That Other Forgotten Muslim Genius: Ghalib!
So, who is or was Iqbal?
When someone asks me that embarrassing question, and trust me that question is both embarrassing and painful, I can do no better than turn to that other Muslim master of irony and eloquence, Asadullah Khan Ghalib – that other genius that Muslims and the world of Islam produced in the Indian subcontinent in the 19th Century.
And everybody, including the Muslims, conveniently forgot.
Like Iqbal, Ghalib too was a genius of unrivaled proportions. And Ghalib wrote some of the most marvelous and magical poetry that one can find in any language or culture in any period of human history.
And like Iqbal, Ghalib also wrote in both Urdu and Farsi – the two major Muslim and Islamic languages of the time after Arabic.
Here is how Ghalib addresses this situation with his characteristic sarcasm:
“Poochtay hain woh kay Ghalib kaun hai,
Ko-i batlaaye kay ham batlaayen kya?”
Paraphrased, it means:
“My Beloved asks me: 'Just who is this fellow they call Ghalib?’”
Will someone please tell me what exactly I should tell her.”
Ghalib's meaning is both clear and powerful. It is also a most incisive and devastating commentary on, and indictment of, what is going on: People who ought to know, not knowing, or feigning ignorance!
People who should know, pretending they don’t know.
Ghalib is trying to say, using the magical tool of Irony, here I am, meaning Ghalib, I love this person with all my heart and soul. And I spend all my days and nights at her doorstep, hoping to catch a glimpse of her going in or coming out. Or I try to slip in her presence, whenever her doorman allows me entry into her chamber.
So, she has every reason to know who Ghalib is – who I am, that is, and what I do. Because all I do is hang out outside her door or inside her chambers all day and all night.
So, what possible excuse could she have not to know me, or to ignore me in this heart-breaking way that she does? And feign and pretend that she never saw me or heard of me.
Basically, she has no excuse. None at all.
And then she turns around, and of all the people in the world asks me:
Hey Mister, do you by any chance know this fellow Ghalib?
Can you point him out to me, and tell me who he is and what he does?
So, Ghalib says what disappointment and what heartbreak can be more severe or more painful than this?
Using the same logic, one may ask:
Muslims of the World, and All Human Beings Everywhere!
What Is Your Excuse?
What excuse do you have for not knowing this man Iqbal, a man who devoted all his life, and all his poetry, to sing about you, and about your world, and about your Deen, and about your Culture?
And does it matter who you are, and does it matter what your religion, region, country, nationality, race or culture is?
And if you are a Muslim, does it matter what your Aqeedah or Maslak or affiliation or organization or Jama’at or background is?
And even your language. Does it matter what your language is?
And does it matter even if you do not know Farsi and Urdu, two of the greatest languages of the world in which Iqbal wrote his poetry?
For, Iqbal’s poetry is not about language, it is about Heart and Humanity. And Iqbal’s poetry is about every human child, man and woman everywhere.
For, Iqbal's poetry transcends not only your race, religion, country and nationality, it also, transcends the confines and limitations of your language.
For, ultimately, Iqbal's poetry is about the universal qualities of Human Passion and Compassion.
And it is about the most universal divine gifts and blessings of Courage, Love, Reason and Logic.
And it is about Truth, Honesty and Integrity, in all human affairs, which are the birthrights of all of Humanity.
So, when, and if, you ask me Who or What Is or Was Iqbal, just what do you expect me to say?
So, What Should People Do?
Iqbal himself put this question very nicely, and effectively, when he titled one of his poetry collections with these Farsi words: Pas Chi Baayad Kard?
Those of us reading this little monograph on Iqbal should ask the same question. We must not just read about Iqbal and move on muttering, “Wow, what an amazing man and what amazing verse he wrote!”
We should actually ask: Where do we go from here and what do we do?
So, here are some concrete steps that we all must take after reading this book. And it does not matter whether we are Urdu and Farsi Speaking or not.
First thing for all communities around the world to do, Muslim or non-Muslim, is to:
1. Form Community Committees on Language and Literature.
2. Establish Iqbal Academy for the study and propagation of Iqbal’s poetry.
3. Organize regular Sessions to teach, learn and discuss Iqbal’s poetry.
Dr. Syed Husain Pasha is an educator, scholar, mentor, organizer and community leader of exceptional talent, training and experience. His background combines authentic Islamic education and training with a Ph.D. from one of the premier research universities in the West.
(Source: Islamic Solutions)